So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
~ Hebrews 9:28, Titus 2:13, Philippians 3:20, Jude 1:21
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD! Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.
~ Isaiah 31:1, Isaiah 45:22, Micah 7:7
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. ~ John 8:56
Looking Unto Jesus,
The Soul’s Eyeing of Jesus as Carrying On the Great Work of Man’s Salvation,
by Isaac Ambrose.
Two excerpts from the text.
To the Reader.
Amongst all the duties I formerly mentioned^ I omitted one, that look upon as chief and choice of all the rest: this is the duty I call Looking unto Jesus, and if I must discover the occasion of my falling on it, I shall do it truly and plainly. In the Spring, 1653, I was visited with a sore sickness, and as the Lord began to restore my health, would but restore my health, and prolong my life, I would endeavour to discover more of this gospel-duty, than ever yet I knew. And that my pains herein might not hinder my other necessary labours, my purpose was to fall on this subject in my ordinary preaching, wherein I might have occasion both to search into Scripture, several authors, and my own heart.
In process of time I began this work, begging of God that he would help me to finish, as he inclined me to begin, and that all might tend to his glory, and the church’s good. In the progress of my labours I found a world of spiritual comfort, both in respect to the object that I handled, Jesus Christ, and in respect of the act, wherein consisted my duty to him, in looking unto Jesus.
1. For the object, it was the very subject whereon more especially I was bound to preach: Christ in you the hope of glory, said Paul to his Colossians; and he immediately adds, whom we preach, Col. i. 27, 28. and. Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, is this grace given: what grace? that I should preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, Eph. iii. 8. Ministers ought in duty more abundantly to preach Jesus Christ. And I may feelingly say, it is the sweet- est subject that ever was preached on. Is it not as an ointment poured forth, whose smell is so fragrant, and whose savour is so sweet, that therefore all the virgins love him? Is it not comprehensive of all glory, beauty, and excellency, whether of things in heaven, or things on earth? Is it not a mystery sweet and deep? Surely volumes are written of Jesus Christ; there is line upon line, sermon upon sermon, book upon book, and yet such is the mystery, that we are all but as yet at the first side of the catechism of Jesus Christ. Solomon was but at What is his name f and I fear many of us know neither name nor thing. It is a worthy study to make further and further discoveries of this blessed mystery; and it were to be wished, that all the ministers of Christ would spend themselves in the spelling, and reading, and understanding of it. As some great point doth require the abilities of many scholars (and all little enough when joined together) to make a discovery thereof; such is this high point, this holy, glorious mystery, worthy of the pains of all the learned and if they would all bring their notes together, and add all their studies together, they should find still but a little of this mystery known, in comparison of what remains unknown.
2. For the act of looking unto Jesus, as it is comprehensive of knowing, hoping, believing, loving, so also of joying. How then should I but be filled with joy unspeakable and glorious, whilst I was studying, writing, and especially acting my soul in the exercise, of this looking ! If there be any duty on earth resembling the duty of the saints in heaven, I dare say, it is this, Mr. Rutherford writeth thus, ” An act of living in Christ, and on Christ, in the acts of seeing, enjoying, embracing, loving, resting on him, is that noon-day divinity, and theology of beatifical vision. There is a general assembly of immediately illuminated divines round about the throne, who study, lecture, preach, praise, Christ night and day.—Oh what rays, intellectual fruition, beholding, enjoying, and living in him, come from that face, that God-visage of the Lord God Almighty, and of the Lamb that is in the midst of them ! —And, oh, what reflections, and reachings forth of intellectual vision, embracing, loving, wondering, are returning back to him in a circle of glory f” Now if this be the saints’s duty, who are perfect in glory, do we not imitate them, and feel something of heaven in our imitation, in our looking also unto Jesus? I write what in some measure I have felt, and of which I hope to feel yet more; and therefore who- ever thou art that readest, I beseech thee, come, warm thy heart at this blessed fire ! Oh, come, and smell the precious ointments of Jesus Christ! Oh, come, and sit down under his shadow with great delight ! Oh, that all men (especially those into whose hands this book shall come,) would presently fall upon the practice of this gospel art of looking unto Jesus ! If herein they find nothing of heaven, my skill will fail me: only let them pray, that as they look to him, so virtue may go out of him, and fill their souls.
Reader, one thing more I have to say to thee: If thou wouldst know how to carry on this duty constantly, as thou dost thy morning and thy evening prayer; it were not amiss if every day, either morning or evening, thou wouldst take some part of it at one time, and some part of it at another time, at least for some space of time together. I know some, that in a constant daily course carry on in secret those two necessary duties of meditation and prayer. What the subject matter of their meditation is, I am not very certain only our experience can tell us, that be it heaven or be it hell; be it sin, or be it grace, or be it what it will if we are in exercise of the self-same subject either constantly, or frequently, we are apt to grow remiss, or cold, or formal; and the reason is, one thing tires quickly, unless that one be all now that is Christ, for he is all, CoL iii. 11. If then but once a day thou wouldst make this Jesus Christ thy subject to know, consider, desire, hope, believe, joy in, call upon, and conform unto, in his several respects of performing any redemption into his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, intercession, and coming again, and that one of these particulars might be thy one day’s exercise, and so every day thou wouldst proceed from first to last, in thus looking unto Jesus, I suppose thou wouldst never tire thyself: and why so? there is variety in this matter to be looked unto, and their is variety in the matter of looking on it. For instance: one day thou mightest act thy knowing of Jesus; the next day thou mightest consider Jesus in that respect; and the next day thou mightest desire after Jesus that respect; and the next day thou mightest hope in Jesus in that respect; and so on, till thou comest to the last day of the work. Now would not this variety delight? It is the observation of Mr. Lockyer, on Col. i. 16. that, ” An holy soul cannot tire itself in the contemplation of Jesus:’* how much less can it tire itself in looking unto Jesus, which is far more comprehensive than contemplating of Jesus! Come, try this duty, and be constant in it at least one year, and so every year during thy life; and then for thy meditations on any other subject I shall not take thee quite off, but leave the remainder of the year to thy own choice. If thou art so resolved, I shall say no more, but the Lord be with thee; and if sooner or later thou findest any benefit by this work, give God the glory, and remember him, in thy prayers, who hath taken these pains for Christ’s honour, and thy soul’s good.—So rests
Thy servant in Christ Jesus,
Looking Unto Jesus.
Looking unto Jesus, the beginner and finisher of our faith.
~ Hebrews 12:2.
The Division and Opening of the Words.
The most excellent subject to discourse or write of is Jesus Christ. Augustin having read Cicero’s works, commended them for their eloquence but he passed this sentence upon them, “They are not sweet, because the name of Jesus is not in them.”Indeed all we say is but unsavoury, if it be not seasoned with this salt. “I determined not to know any thing among you,” saith Paul, “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” He resolved with himself, before he preached among the Corinthians, that this should be the only point of knowledge that he would profess himself to have skill in, and that in the course of his ministry he would labor to bring them to. This he made the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, of his knowledge. Yea, doubtless, saith he, “and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” In this knowledge of Christ there is an excellency above all other knowledge in the world. There is nothing more pleasing and comfortable, more animating and enlivening. Christ is the sun and centre of all divine and revealed truths: we can preach nothing else as the object of our faith, which doth not some way or other either meet in Christ, or refer to Christ. Only Christ is the whole of man’s happiness; the sun to enlighten him, the physician to heal him, the wall of fire to defend him, the friend to comfort him, the pearl to enrich him, the ark to support him, the rock to sustain him under the heaviest pressures; “As an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of waters in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Only Christ is that ladder between earth and heaven, the Mediator betwixt God and man; a mystery which the angels of heaven desire to pry into. Here is a blessed subject indeed: who would not be glad to be acquainted with it? “This is life eternal, to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” Come then! let us look on this Sun of righteousness; we cannot receive harm, but good, by such a look. Indeed, by looking long on the natural sun we may have our eyes dazzled, and our faces blackened; but by looking unto Jesus, we shall have our eyes clearer, and our faces fairer. If the light of the eye rejoice the heart, how much more when we have such a blessed object to look upon! As Christ is more excellent than all the world, so this sight transcends all other sights. Looking unto Jesus, is the epitome of a Christian’s happiness, the quintessence of evangelical duties.
In the text we have the act and object. The act in the original is very emphatical, but the English doth not fully express it; it signifies a drawing of the eye from one object to another: there are two expressions; the one signifies a turning of the eye from all other objects; the other, a fast fixing of the eye upon such an object, and only upon such. So is it both a looking off, and a looking on. On what? That is the object, a looking unto Jesus: a title that denotes his mercy, as Christ denotes his office. My meaning is not to insist on this name, in contradiction to any other names of Christ. He is often called Christ, and Lord, and Mediator, and Son of God, and Emmanuel: but Jesus is all these; Jesus is Christ, as he is the Anointed of God; and Jesus is Lord, as he hath dominion over all the world; and Jesus is mediator, as he is the reconciler of God and man; and Jesus is the Son of God, as he was eternally begotten before all worlds; and Jesus is Emmanuel, as he was incarnate, and so God with us. Only because Jesus signifies Saviour, and this name was given him upon that very account; “for he shall save his people from their sins”: I shall make this my design to look at Jesus more especially, as carrying on the great work of our salvation from first to last. This indeed is the glad tidings, the gospel, the gospel privilege, and our gospel duty — looking unto Jesus.
The Duty of looking off all other Things, confirmed and cleared.
But first we must look off all other things. We must take off our minds from everything, which might divert us in our Christian race from looking unto Jesus. But what things are they we must look off in this respect? I answer; 1. Good things. 2. Evil things.
1. Good things. The apostle tells us of “a cloud of witnesses” in the former verse, which no question in their season we are to look unto. But when this second object comes in sight, he scatters the cloud quite, and sets up Jesus himself: now the apostle willeth us to turn our eyes from them, and to turn hither to Jesus Christ as if he had said. If you will indeed see a sight once for all, look to him. The saints, though they be guides to us, yet are they but followers to him; he is the leader of them, and of us all; look on him. There is a time, when James may say, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example”; but when Jesus comes forth, that saith, “I have given you an example,” an example above all examples, then be silent all flesh before the Lord. Let all saints and seraphim then cover their faces with their wings that we may look on Jesus, and let all other sights go.
2. Evil things. We must look off all that is in the world; and that the apostle compriseth under these three heads, “the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life”; or, pleasures, profits, and honours.
1. We must look off this world in respect of its sinful pleasures. Jude tells us, “such as are sensual have not the Spirit.”We cannot fixedly look on pleasures, and look on Jesus, at once.
2. We must look off this world in respect of its sinful profits. A look on this keeps off our looking unto Jesus. “Whosoever loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”Just so much as the world prevails in us, so much is God’s love abated both in us and towards us. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses,” saith St. James, “know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?”When we have enough of God and Christ, and yet desire to make up our happiness in the creature, this is plain spiritual whoredom.
3. We must look off the world in respect of its honours. What is this desire to be well thought of, or well spoken of? As if a man should run up and down after a feather flying in the air. It is a question whether ever he get it; but if he do, it is but a feather: such is honour; it is hard to obtain it, but, if obtained, it is but the breath of a few men’s mouths but what is worst of all, it hinders our sight of Christ. “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” Worldly honour keeps many back from Christ.
But why must we look off everything that diverts our looking unto Jesus?
1. Because we cannot look fixedly on Christ, and such things, at once. The eye cannot look upwards and downwards at once; we cannot seriously mind heaven and earth in one thought. “No man can serve two masters”; especially such as jar, and have contrary employments, as Christ and Mammon have.
2. Because whilst we look on these things, we cannot see the beauty that is in Christ. Our wishing looks on other things, makes Christ but mean and contemptible in our eyes.
3. Because all other things, in comparison of Christ, are not worthy a look; they are but poor, low, mean, base things, in comparison of Christ: “I count all things but loss,” saith St. Paul, “For the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. — I count them but dung that I may win Christ.”Some translate it, from the original, chaff, others dog’s meat, others excrements, dung: all agree, it is such a thing as men usually cast away from them with indignation.
4. Because it is according to the very law of marriage: “Therefore shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave unto his wife.”The Lord Christ marries himself to the souls of his saints; and for this cause the soul must forsake all, and cleave unto Christ.
5. Because Christ is a jealous God. Now jealousy is a passion in the soul, that will not endure any sharing in the object beloved. And so Christ cannot endure that we should look on any other things, so as to lust after them.
6. Because all other things can never satisfy the eye. “All things are full of labour,” saith Solomon, “man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing”: it is but wearied with looking on divers objects, and yet still desires new ones; but once admit it to that glorious sight of Christ, and then it rests fully satisfied.
Section I. — An Explanation of the Act and Object of Looking.
An experimental looking on Jesus, is that my text aims at: it is not a swimming knowledge of Christ, but an hearty feeling of Christ’s inward workings; it is not notions of Christ, but hearty motions towards Christ, that are implied in this inward looking.
2. For the object; you must look on Jesus. It is the blessedest object that the eye of the mind can possibly fix upon. Of all objects under heaven, Jesus hath the preeminence in perfection, and he should have the preeminence in our meditation. It is he that will make us most happy when we posses him, and we cannot but be joyful to look upon him, especially when looking is a degree of possessing. Jesus signifies Saviour, it is an Hebrew name; the Greeks borrowed it from the Hebrews, the Latins from the Greeks, and all other languages from the Latins. It comes from the Hebrew word Jehoshua, or Joshua, which in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (written after the Babylonian captivity) is Jeshua; and so is our Saviour’s name always written in the Syriac translation of the New Testament. This name, Jesus, was given to Christ the Son of God, by his Father, and brought from heaven by an angel , first to Mary, and then to Joseph; and on the day when he was circumcised, as the manner was, this name was given him by his parents, as it was commanded from the Lord, by the angel Gabriel. It includes both his office, and his natures. He is the alone Saviour of man; “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”And he is a perfect and absolute Saviour; “he is able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him; seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”I will not deny, but that the work of salvation is common to all the three Persons in the Trinity: it is a known rule, “All outward actions are equally common to the three Persons.” For as they are all one in nature and will, so must they be also one in operation; the Father saveth, the Son saveth, and the Holy Ghost saveth; yet we must distinguish them in the manner of saving: the Father saveth by the Son; the Son saveth by paying the ransom and price of our salvation; the Holy Ghost saveth by a particular applying of that ransom unto men. Now whereas the Son pays the price of our redemption, and not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost; therefore, in this special respect, he is called our Saviour, our Jesus.
Herein is set forth the offices of Christ, the two natures of Christ, the qualities of Christ, the excellencies of Christ. Oh! what variety of sweet matter is in Jesus! he hath in him all the powders of the merchants. An holy soul cannot tire itself in viewing Jesus. We know one thing tires quickly unless that one be all: Christ is so, and none else; he is all, and in all; all belonging to being, and all belonging to well- being. In things below Jesus, some have this excellency, and some have that, but none have all. Oh! what variety is in Jesus! variety of time, he is Alpha and Omega; variety of beauty, he is white and ruddy; variety of quality, he is a lion and lamb, a servant and a son; variety of excellency, he is man and God. Oh! where shall we begin in this view of Jesus? “Who shall declare his generation?” All the evangelists exhibit unto us the Saviour, but every one of them in his particular method. Mark describes not all the genealogy of Jesus, but begins his history at his baptism. Matthew searcheth out his original from Abraham. Luke follows it backwards as far as Adam. John passeth further upwards, even to the eternal generation of this “Word that was made flesh.” So they lead us to Jesus, mounting up four several steps: in the one, we see him only among the men of his own time; in the second, he is seen in the tent of Abraham; in the third, he is yet higher, to wit, in Adam; and finally, having traversed all ages, through so many generations, we come to contemplate him in the beginning, in the bosom of the Father, in that eternity in which he was with God before all worlds. And there let us begin, still looking unto Jesus, as he carries on the great work of our salvation from first to last, from everlasting to everlasting.
Section II. — The main Doctrine and Confirmation of it
But for the foundation of our building, take this note –
Inward experimental looking unto Jesus such as stirs up affections in the heart, and the effects thereof in our life, is an ordinance of Christ, a choice, an high gospel ordinance.
Or thus: inward experimental knowing, considering, desiring, hoping, believing, loving, joying, calling on Jesus, and conforming to Jesus, is the most precious ordinance of Jesus Christ.
Looking unto Jesus, is that great ordinance appointed by God for our most especial good. How many souls have blessed themselves in the use of other means, and though in them Christ hath communicated some virtue to them, yet because they did not trade more with them, they had little in comparison? Such a one as deals immediately with Christ, will do more in a day than another in a year; and therefore I call it a choice, a complete, an high gospel-ordinance.
1. Jesus is the object; and Jesus, as Jesus, as he is our Saviour, as he hath negotiated, or shall yet negotiate, the great business of our salvation. Looking unto, is the act; but such as includes all these acts, knowing, considering, desiring, hoping, believing, loving, joying, enjoying of Jesus, and conforming to Jesus. It is such a look as stirs up affections in the heart, and the effects thereof in our life; it is such a look as leaves a quickening upon the spirit; it is such a look as works us into a warm affection, raised resolution, an holy and upright conversation: briefly, it is an inward, experimental looking unto Jesus.
This was the Lord’s charge to the Gentiles of old; “Look unto me, and be ye saved all the ends of the earth. — And I said, behold me! behold me! unto a nation that was not called by my name.” And according to this command was their practice; “Mine eyes are ever towards the Lord,” saith David. “They looked unto him, and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed.” And according to this command is the practice of gospel believers; “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Instead of the vail of Mosaical figures, God hath now given to his church the clear glass of the gospel: and hence all believers under the gospel do, by contemplative faith, behold Christ, together with the glorious light of his mercy, truth, and the rest of his divine attributes; and by means thereof, they are made like unto him in the glory of holiness, and in newness of life.
Section III. — Use of Reproof
Well then! is inward experimental looking unto Jesus a choice, an high gospel-ordinance? How may this reprove thousands? how many are there that mind not this duty? The truth is, that as the whole world lies in wickedness, so the eyes of the whole world are misplaced. There are few that have a care of this choice, of this high gospel-ordinance. I shall therefore reprove both the ungodly and godly.
1. For the ungodly; not Christ, nor God, is in all their thoughts. Alas! they cannot tell what it means, to look unto Jesus. Nor speak I only of poor Indians, and other savages, who came into the world, not knowing wherefore; and go out of the world, not knowing whither; but of such as live within the Christian church, that have nothing to distinguish them from those Indian miscreants, but outward formalities, the charity of others, and their own slight imaginations. Why, alas!
these are they that the Lord complains of, that “they have eyes, and see not. My people have forgotten me days without number.”
You will say. Is there any such here? Can I tax any of you, that you do not look up to Jesus? are not your eyes towards Christ in your prayers, praise, public and private duties? nay, are not you now in the duty, whilst I am speaking, and you hearing? I answer. However you may deem that you do this or that, yet God reckons it as a thing not done in these respects: —
1. When it is not done to purpose: as, if our looking to Christ makes us not like Christ; if there be no effectual impression upon the heart, Christ takes it as if we had never looked towards him at all.
2. When it is done unwillingly. Let no man deceive himself; though he cast his eyes towards heaven all the day long, if he love not his work, he doth nothing; he looks not at Jesus.
3. When a man makes it not his course to look unto Jesus. A man may come unto a carpenter’s house, and take up his tools, and do something at his work, but this makes him not a carpenter, because it is not his trade. So, ungodly men may look and think of Christ; but because this is not their course and trade, they make it not their work to look to Christ; they are therefore said, not to look to him.
Consider, you that plead that you are Christians, and that you mind Christ at this very instant, that you are in the duty, even whilst I am speaking of it, and yet you neither do it to purpose, nor willingly; is it not with you as it is with them of whom Christ spake, “Many will say to me at that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name, have cast out devils? and in in thy name have done many wonderful works?” They will plead at the last day, as you plead now; but for all that, you know the answer, “I never knew you; depart from me ye workers of iniquity.”
2. For the godly, are not they careless of this duty? I know not whether through want of skill, or through want of will; but sure I am, this duty lies neglected of most of the people of God: their faults I may express in these respects:
1. In not pointing their minds towards Jesus; “I write unto you,” saith the apostle, “to stir up your minds, by way of remembrance”: it is in the original, “to awaken your pure minds”; and it was but need. Awaking, is a word that imports rousing, as birds that provoke their young ones by flight to make use of their wings: now how few are there who thus call upon themselves! It was the prophet’s complaint, “No man stirs up himself to take hold of God”; — O what a shame is this! Is it fit that our understandings, which God hath entrusted us with, should be no more improved? Is it fit that our minds (those golden cabinets which God hath given us, to be filled with heavenly treasure) should either be empty, or stuffed with vanity, nothing, worse than nothing? Oh! that such glorious things as our immortal spirits, should run after vanity, which, if rightly improved, should walk with angels, should lodge themselves in the bosom of the glorious God! Do we not see how Christ is sending out to us continually? The thoughts of his heart are love, eternal love. And shall not we send out our thoughts towards him? shall not we let our minds run out towards him?
2. In not bending of their minds to this work. It may be the mind looks up, but it is so feeble, that, like an arrow shot from a bow weakly bent, it reacheth not the mark. It is the wiseman’s counsel. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.” Oh! that God’s people should be so lazy, dull, sluggish, slothful, in this spiritual work! As Jesus said to the multitudes concerning John, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see?” so may I ask believers, in their looking unto Jesus. What went ye out to see? When you crawl, and move, as if you had no hearts nor spirits within you, whom go ye forth to see? Him that is the Lord of glory? him that is the “brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person?” What! are such heavy and lazy aspects fit to take in such a glory as this is? You see in what large streams your thoughts fly forth to other things; and are you only languishing, weak, and feeble, in things of so great concernment? Oh! that Christians should be cold in spirituals, and hot in the pursuit of temporal things!
3. In not binding of their minds to this object, in not staying the eye on Jesus Christ. Some may give a glance at Christ, but they are presently wheeled off again. But why doth not the eye abide there? Is not Christ worthy, on whom our souls should dwell? Certainly if we love our Jesus, that love will hold us: as the load- stone, having drawn the iron, keeps it fast to the object loved. Is Christ so tender in his love towards us that he ever minds us; and shall our minds be so loose to him? shall there be no more care to bind ourselves in cords of love to him who hath bound himself in such cords of love to us?
4. In not daily exercising this blessed duty. It may be now and then they are awakened, and they get up into heaven to see their Jesus; but it is not daily. Oh! consider, is this now and then going to heaven within the veil, to live the life of friends? is this to carry ourselves as children? What! to be so strange at home? there to be seldom, where we should always be? Is Jesus Christ such a mean thing, that a visit now and then should serve the turn? The queen of Sheba, hearing Solomon’s wisdom, said, “Blessed are those thy servants, that always stand before thee, and hear thy wisdom”: if she was so taken with Solomon, remember that “a greater than Solomon is here.” And shall we deprive ourselves of that blessedness, which we might enjoy by standing always in the presence of Christ, to hear his wisdom, and to behold his glory?
O my brethren, let us take shame to ourselves, that to this day we have been so careless in sending, bending, and binding our minds to this blessed object, Jesus Christ; yea, let us blush that we have not made it our daily business. David describes the blessed man by his “delighting in the law of the Lord,” and by his “meditating thereon day and night”; how then is he to be reproved, that neither meditates on the law of the Lord, nor on the Lord, the law-maker, day and night?
Section IV. — Use of Exhortation
Is inward, experimental looking unto Jesus, a choice and high gospel-ordinance? then I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ; I beseech you brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, to look unto Jesus; or, if my beseeching will not prevail, yet look on me as an “ambassador of Christ”; consider as “though God did beseech you by me.” I beseech, I pray you, in Christ’s stead; it is a message that I have from God to your souls, to look unto Jesus; and therefore set your hearts to all the words that I testify to you this day, for it is not a vain thing, but it is for your lives.
Oh! that I should need thus to persuade your hearts to look unto Jesus! What, is not your Jesus worthy of this? why then are your thoughts no more upon him? why are not your hearts continually with him? why are not your strongest desires, and daily delights, in, and after, the Lord Jesus? What is the matter? will not God give you leave to approach this light? will he not suffer your souls to taste and see? why then are these words in the text? why then doth he cry, and double his cry. “Behold me! behold me!” Ah! vile hearts! how delightfully and unweariedly can we think of vanity! how freely, and how frequently, can we think of our pleasures, friends, yea, of our miseries, wrongs, sufferings, and fears! And what! is not Christ in all our thoughts? Christians, humble and cast down your sensual hearts that have in them no more of Christ. O chide them for their willful or weak strangeness to Christ! O turn your thoughts from off all earthly vanities, and bend your souls to study Christ; habituate yourselves to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom or cursory, but settle upon them, dwell there, bathe your souls in those delights, drench your affections in those rivers of pleasures, or rather in the sea of consolation. Have your eyes continually set on Christ. Say not you are not unable to do thus; this must be God’s work only, and therefore all our exhortations are in vain. A learned divine can tell you, though God be the chief disposer of your hearts, yet next under him you have the greatest command of them yourselves. Though without Christ you can do nothing, yet under him you may do much; or else it will be undone, and you undone through your neglect. Do your own parts, and you have no cause to distrust whether Christ will do his. It is not usual with Christ to forsake his own people in that very work he sets them on. If your souls were sound and right, they would perceive incomparably more delight in knowing, thinking, believing, loving, and rejoicing in Jesus Christ, than the soundest stomach finds in his food, or the strongest senses in the enjoyment of their objects. Now, for shame never say, you cannot reach it: “I can do all things,” saith Paul, “through Christ that strengtheneth me.” It is our sloth, our security, our carnal mind, which is enmity to God and Christ, that keeps us off.
Looking Unto Jesus In His Birth
Section I. — Of the tidings of Christ
In this period, as in the former, we shall first lay down the object; and, secondly, direct you how to look unto it.
The object is Jesus, carrying on the work of man’s salvation, in his first coming in the flesh, until his coming again. But because in this long period we have many transactions, which we cannot with conveniency dispatch together; we shall therefore break it into smaller pieces, and present this object, Jesus Christ — 1. In his birth; 2. In his life; 3. In his death; 4. In his resurrection; 5. In his ascension, cession at God’s right hand, and mission of his Holy Spirit; 6. In his intercession for his saints; in which business he will be employed till his second coming to judgment.
1. First, For the transactions of Jesus in his birth. Some things we must propound before, and some things after his birth; so that we shall continue this period till the time of John’s baptism, or the exercise of his ministry upon earth. Now in all the transactions of this time, we shall especially handle these:
1. The tidings of Christ;
2. The conception of Christ;
3. The duplicity of natures in Christ;
4. The wonderful union, notwithstanding that distinction;
5. The birth of Christ; 6. Some consequents after his birth, whilst yet a child of twelve years old.
The first passage in relation to his birth, is, the tidings of Christ: this appears, Luke i. 26-28, &c. “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God,” &c. I shall a little insist on some of these words.
1. The messenger is an angel. Man was too mean to carry the news of the conception of God. Never any business was conceived in heaven, that did so much concern the earth, as the conception of the God of heaven in a womb of earth; no less, therefore, than an angel was worthy to bear these tidings; and never angel received a greater honour, than of this embassage.
2. This angel salutes the Virgin; “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.” Many men and women have been, and are, the spiritual temples of God; but never was any the material temple of God, but only Mary; and therefore, blessed art thou amongst women: and yet we cannot say that she was so blessed in bearing Christ, as she was in believing in Christ; her bearing was more miraculous, but her believing was more beneficial to her soul.
3. This virgin is troubled at this salute. She might well be troubled; for
1. If it had been but a man that had come in so suddenly, when she expected none; or so secretly, when she had no other company; or so strongly, the doors being probably shut; she had cause to be troubled: how much more, when the glory of the angel heightened the astonishment?
2. Her sex was more subject to fear: if Zachary was amazed with the sight of this angel, how much more the Virgin! But the angel comforts her; “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God.”
4. Here is the foundation of her comfort, and our happiness; “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” Never was mortal creature thus honoured, that her womb should yield that flesh, which was personally united to the godhead; that she should bear him that upholds the world. There is one wonder in the conception, another in the fruit; both are marvelous, but the latter is more mysterious, and fuller of admiration: the fruit of the womb is Jesus, a Saviour, the Son of the Highest, a King; God shall give him a throne, and he shall reign for ever; for “of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Here was a Son, and such a Son as the world never had before; and here was the ground of Mary’s joy: how could she but rejoice, to hear what her Son should be before he was? Surely, never was any mother so glad of her son born, as this virgin was of her son before he was conceived.
The ground of this joy lay more especially in that name of Jesus. Here, Christians, is the object that you are to look unto. The first title that the angel gives our Saviour, is, Jesus Saviour. Oh come! let us dwell a little here. Without Jesus we had never known God our friend! and without Jesus, God had never known us for any other than his enemies. This name Jesus is better to us than all the titles of God. Indeed, there is goodness and greatness in the name Jehovah; but we merited so little good, and demerited so much evil, that in it alone there had been small comfort for us; but in the name of Jesus there is comfort, and with the name of Jesus there is comfort in the name of God. In old times, God was known by his names of power, and of majesty; but his name of mercy was reserved till now, when God did purpose to pour out the whole treasure of his mercy, by the mediation of his Son. And as this name is exalted above all names; so are we to exalt his mercy above all his works. Oh, it is a useful name! In all depths, distresses, miseries, perplexities, we beseech God by the name of Jesus, to make good his own name, — not to bear it for nought; but as he is a Saviour, to save us: and this is our comfort, that God will never so remember our sins, as to forget his own blessed name; and especially this name Jesus. It is the highest, the dearest, the sweetest name to us of all the names of God.
The reason of this name was given by the angel to Joseph: “Thou shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” But why from their sins? We seem rather willing to be saved from poverty, ignominy, prison, death, hell. Sin is a thing that troubles but few: alas! sin, if we understand it, is the very worst of evils; there is no poverty but sin, there is no shame but sin; there is no prison, but that prison is a paradise without sin; there is no death that has any sting in it, but for sin; “the sting of death is sin”; take out the sting, and you may put the serpent in your bosom; nay, I’ll say more, there would be no hell, were it not for sin: sin first kindled the fire of hell, sin fuels it; take away sin, and that tormenting flame goes out. Had it not been for sin, the devil had no business in the world; were it not for sin, he could never hurt a soul.
What abundance of benefits are here in one word, “He shall save his people from their sins”! There is no evil incident to man, but it ceaseth to be evil when sin is gone. If Jesus takes away sin, he doth bless our very blessings, and sanctify our afflictions: he fetcheth peace out of trouble, riches out of poverty, honour out of contempt, liberty out of bondage: he pulls out the sting of death, puts out the fire of hell: as all evils are wrapt up in sin; so he that saves us from sin, saves us from all evils whatsoever.
This is that Jesus, the Son of God’s love, the author of our salvation, in whom alone God is well pleased; and whom the angel published before he was conceived: “Thou shall conceive, and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus.”
Section II. — Of the Conception of Christ
The conception of Christ, was the conclusion of the angel’s message. No sooner had the Virgin said, “Be it to me according to thy word”; but according to that word it was: immediately the Holy Ghost overshadowed her, and forms our Saviour in her womb. Now! brethren, now was the time of life. Well may we say, Now was it that the day broke up, that the sun arose, that darkness vanished, that wrath gave place to favour and salvation: now was it, that free grace came down from heaven, thousands of angels waiting on her; the very clouds part, as it were, to give her way; the earth springs to welcome her; the floods clap their hands for joy; the heavenly hosts sing as she goes along, “Glory to God in the highest, peace upon earth, good will towards man”: truth and righteousness go before her, peace and prosperity follow after her, pity and mercy wait on either hand; and when she first sets her foot on the earth, she cries, “A Jesus! a Saviour! — Hear, ye sons of men! — The Lord hath sent me down to bring you news of Jesus! — Grace and peace be unto you: I will live with you in this world, and you shall live with me in the world to come.” Here was blessed news: this is gospel, pure gospel; this is glad tidings: free grace proclaims Jesus; and Jesus is made up as it were all of free grace. What eternal thanks do we owe to the eternal God! How may we say with the angels, Glory to God for Jesus Christ!
But in this conception of Christ are so many wonders, that ere we begin to speak them, we may stand amazed: “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh.” Say, is it not a wonder, a mystery, a great mystery, that the Son of God should be made of a woman, even made of that woman which was made by himself? Is it not a wonder, that her womb then, and that the heavens now, should contain him, “whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain!” — Concerning this conception of Christ, I shall speak but a little: what man can conceive much of this? Our greatest light we borrow from the angel, who describes it thus: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee.”
Out of these words, observe,
1. The agent;
2. The effect.
1. The agent or efficient cause of Christ’s conception, is the Holy Ghost. This agrees with that speech of the angel to Joseph: “That which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.” This conception of Christ was by the operation, or virtue of the Holy Ghost; or by the energetical command and ordination of the Holy Ghost, whereby that part of the Virgin’s blood, or seed whereof the body of Christ was to be framed, was so cleansed and sanctified, that in it there should be neither spot nor stain of original pollution.
2. The effect was the framing of Christ’s manhood, in which we may observe the matter and manner. 1. For the matter: observe we the matter of the body, and of the soul, of Christ.
(1.) The matter of the body of Christ was the very flesh and blood of the Virgin: “he was made of a woman,” saith the apostle, i.e. of the flesh and blood, and substance of the woman; and, “he was made of the seed of David,” saith the apostle, “according to flesh”; otherwise he could not have been the Son of David according to the flesh.
(2.) The soul of Christ was not derived from the soul of the Virgin, but it was made as the souls of other men be, i.e. of nothing, by the power of God; and so infused into the body by the hand of God.
2. For the manner of forming Christ’s human nature, it was miraculous. The angel ascribes two actions to the Holy Ghost in this great work: the one, to come upon the Virgin; the other, to overshadow her: by the first is signified the extraordinary work of the Holy Ghost in fashioning the human nature of Christ.
The second action ascribed to the Holy Ghost, is, overshadowing of the Virgin: this teacheth us that we should not search overmuch into this great mystery. Alas! it is too high for us; if the course of ordinary generation be a secret, how past all comprehension is this extraordinary operation! “ I know the Word was made flesh,” saith Chrysostom; “but how he was made, I know not.”
Section III. — Of the Duplicity of Natures in Christ
The duplicity of natures in Christ appears, in that he was truly God and truly man. “To us a child is born,” saith the prophet; there is a nature human: “and he shall he called the mighty God”; there is a nature divine. “God sent his Son,” saith the apostle, therefore truly God; and that Son “made of a woman,” therefore truly man.
That Christ is true God, both apparent scriptures, and unanswerable reasons drawn from scriptures, evince.
1. The scriptures call him God. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” – “And unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever.” – “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord, and my God!” – “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” – “And hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” – “And we know that the Son of God is come. This is the true God, and eternal life.” – “And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifested in the flesh.”
2. Unanswerable reasons drawn from scriptures, prove him God: thus it appears —
(1.) From those incommunicable properties of the Deity which are ascribed unto him: He is eternal as God, Rev. i. 17. He is infinite as God, Matt, xxviii. 20. He is omniscient as God, Matt. ix. 4. He is omnipotent as God; “He that cometh from above is above all” – “He is able to subdue all things unto himself”–“He hath the keys of hell and death.”
(2.) From those acts ascribed to him, which are only agreeable to the divine nature; as, to hear the prayers of the people, John xiv. 14. To judge the quick and the dead, John v. 22. And thus he creates as God, John i. 4. He commands as God, Matt. viii. 26. He forgives as God, Matt. ix. 6. He sanctifies as God, John i. 12. He glorifies as God, John x. 21.
(3.) From all those acknowledgments given to him by the saints, which are only proper unto God; and thus he is believed on as God, John iii. 18. He is loved as God, 1 Cor. xvi. 22. He is obeyed as God, Matt. xvii. 5. He is prayed to as God, Acts vii. 59. He is praised as God, Rev. v. 13. He is adored as God, Heb. i. 6. Phil. ii. 10. Surely all these are strong demonstrations, that Christ Jesus is God. But why was it requisite that our Saviour should be God? I answer,
1. Because none can save souls, nor satisfy for sin, but God alone. “There is none,” saith the Psalmist, “that can by any means redeem his brother, or give a ransom for him,” – “But God will redeem my soul from the power of hell.”
2. Because the satisfaction which is made for sin, must be infinitely meritorious: and infinite wrath cannot be appeased, but by an infinite merit; and hence our Saviour must needs be God, to the end that his obedience and sufferings might be of infinite worth. 3. Because the burden of God’s wrath cannot be endured by a finite creature: Christ therefore must be God, that he might abide the burden by his divine power. 4. Because the enemies of our salvation were too strong for us: how could any creature overcome Satan, death, hell, damnation? Ah! this required the power of God; there’s none but God that could destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.
2. As Christ is God, so he is true man. He was born as man, and bred as man, and fed as man, and slept as man, and wept as man, and sorrowed as man, and suffered as man, and died as man.
But more particularly,
(1.) Christ had a human body: “Wherefore when he came into the world he said, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared.”
(2.) Christ had an human reasonable soul: “My soul is heavy unto death,” saith Christ; and again, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” “Surely,” saith Nazianzen, “either he had a soul, or he will never save a soul.”
(3.) Christ had all the properties that belong either to the soul or body of a man: nay, more than so, Christ had all the infirmities of our nature, sin only excepted: I say the infirmities of our nature, as cold, and heat, and hunger, and thirst, and weariness, and weakness, and pain.
But why was it requisite that our Saviour should be man? I answer,
1. Because our Saviour must suffer and die for our sins, which the godhead could not do.
2. Because our Saviour must perform obedience to the law.
3. Because our Saviour must satisfy the justice of God in the same nature wherein it was offended.
4. “Because by this means we might have free access to the throne of grace, and might find help in our necessities, having such an High-priest as was in all things tempted like unto us,” Heb. iv. 15.
A real distinction of these two natures is evident:
1. In regard of essence; the godhead cannot be the manhood, nor can the manhood be the godhead.
2. In regard of properties, the godhead is most wise, just, omnipotent, yea, wisdom, justice, omnipotence itself; and so is not the manhood, neither can it be.
3. They have distinct wills: “Not my will but thy will be done, O Father,” plainly differencing the will of a creature from the will of a Creator.
4. The very actions in the work of redemption are inseparable, and yet distinguishable: “I lay down my life, and take it up again.” To lay it down was the action of man, not of God; and to take it up, was the action of God, not of man: in these respects we say each nature remains in itself entire, without any conversion, commixtion, or confusion: there is no conversion of one into the other, as when he changed the water into wine; no composition of both, no abolition of either, no confusion at all. — It is easy to observe this real distinction of his two natures from first to last: as,
1. He was conceived as others, and so he was man; but he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, as never man was, and so he is God.
2. He was born as others, and so he was man; but he was born of a virgin, as never man was, and this speaks him as God. 3. He was crucified, died, and was buried, and so he was man; but he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and from thence shall come at last to judge the quick and the dead, and so he is God.
Section IV. — Of the Union of the two Natures of Christ in one and the same Person
The union of two natures of Christ, in one and the self-same person, is that great wonder, which now we must speak of as we are able. But, alas! how should we speak of this union, and not be confounded in ourselves? It is a great mystery, a secret, a wonder. Many wonders have been since the beginning of the world; but all the wonders that ever were must give place to this. Neither the creation of all things out of nothing, nor the restoration of all things into their perfect being; I mean, neither the first work, nor the last work, of God in this world (though most admirable) may be compared with this. This union of the two natures of Christ in one person, is the highest pitch of God’s wisdom, goodness, power, and glory.
In the explication of this union, that which I shall insist on, as the most necessary for our understanding, is, I. The union itself. II. The effects or benefits of it.
I. For the union itself we shall discuss,
1. Wherein this union consists.
2. The scriptural texts that confirm this union.
3. The person assuming; and the nature assumed: and of these as briefly as I may.
This union consists in that dependence of the human nature on the Word, and in that communicating of the person or substance of the Word, with the human nature that is assumed; so that it is such an union that both natures make one person of Christ.
2. For the scriptural texts that confirm this union: among many I shall only cite these: when Christ asked his apostles, “Who do men say that I the Son of man am?” – “Simon Peter answered, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now if but one Christ, then surely but one person: and if the Son of man be the Son of the living God, then surely there are two natures in that one person. Observe how the Son of man and the Son of God, very man and very God, concentre in Christ; as the soul and the body make but one man, so the Son of man and the Son of God made but one Christ: thou art Christ, saith Peter, the Son of the living God.
So Paul, speaking of Jesus the Son of God, tells us, “that he was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God, according to the spirit.” First, “made of the seed of David”; of the substance of the Virgin, who was David’s posterity. Secondly, “declared to be the Son of God”: the word in the original signifies a declaration by a solemn sentence or definitive judgment. “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son.” That which I point at: he is the son of David, in respect of his manhood; and he is the Son of God, in respect of his godhead; here be the two natures; but in the words before, these two natures make but one Son, Jesus Christ our Lord: and in the very words themselves he is declared to be the Son of God; he doth not say Sons, as of two; but his Son Jesus Christ, first before, and then after; to show unto us, that as before his making, so after his making, he is still but one Son, or one person of the two distinct natures subsisting.
To the same purpose is that text; “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily”; by the union of the divine nature with the human in the unity of his person, the godhead dwelleth in Christ as the soul in the body: “it dwelleth in him bodily”; not seemingly, but really; not figuratively, and in a shadow, as he dwelleth in the temple; not by power and efficacy, as he dwells in all the creatures; not by grace, as in his people; nor by glory, as in the saints above; but essentially, substantially, personally, the human nature being assumed into union with the person of the Word. Observe the passages: he in whom that fullness dwells is the person; that fullness, which doth so dwell in him, is the nature: now there dwells in him not only the fullness of the godhead, but the fullness of the manhood also; for we believe him to be both perfect God, begotten of the substance of his Father before all worlds; and perfect man, made of the substance of his mother in this world: only he, in whom the fullness of the godhead dwelleth, is one; and he in whom the fullness of the manhood dwelleth, is another; but he in whom the fullness of both these natures dwelleth, is one and the same Immanuel, and consequently one and the same person; in him, i.e. in his person, dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead, and all the fullness of the manhood: “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily.”
3. For the person assuming, and the nature assumed:
(1.) The person assuming, was a divine person: it was not the divine nature that assumed an human person, but the divine person that assumed an human nature; and of the three divine persons, it was neither the first nor the third, neither the Father nor the Holy Ghost, that did assume this nature; but it was the Son, the middle person.
(2.) The nature assumed was the seed of Abraham; “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” Elsewhere the apostle calls it “the seed of David”; he is made the seed of David according to the flesh: and, elsewhere, he is called the seed of the woman: “I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed”; “and when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.” No question she was the material principle of which that precious flesh was made, and the Holy Ghost, the agent and efficient; that blessed womb of hers was the bridechamber, wherein the Holy Ghost did knit that indissoluble knot betwixt our human nature and his deity: the Son of God assuming into the unity of his person, that which before he was not, even our human nature. Oh! with what astonishment may we behold our dust and ashes assumed into the unity of God’s own person!
These are the deep things of God, and indeed so exceedingly mystical, that they can never be perfectly declared by any man. Bernard compares this ineffable mystery of the union of the two natures, with that incomprehensible mystery of the trinity in unity. In the Trinity are three persons and one nature; in Christ are two natures and one person; that of the Trinity is indeed the greatest, and this of the incarnation is like unto it; they both far exceed man’s capacity; “for his way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known.”
II. For the effects and benefits of this union; they are either in respect of Christ, or in respect of Christians.
1st. Those in respect of Christ, are,
1. An exemption of all sin.
2. A collation of all graces.
3. A communication of all the properties.
1. We find that although Christ appeared as a sinner, and that he was numbered among the wicked, or with the transgressors, Isa. liii. 12, yet in truth he did no sin, neither was any guile found in his mouth, 1 Pet. ii. 22. The apostle tells us, he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners: he assumed the nature of man, yet by reason of this pure conception, and of this union, he was conceived, and born, and lived without sin; he took upon him the seed of man, but not the sin of man, save only by imputation.
2. The graces collated unto the humanity of Christ by reason of his union, are very many: I shall instance in some:
(1.) That the manhood is a peculiar temple for the deity of Christ to dwell in: it is the place wherein the godhead shows itself more manifestly and more gloriously than in any other creature: it is true, that by his providence he shows himself in all his creatures, and by his grace in his saints; but he is most gloriously, eternally, according to the fullness of his deity, in the humanity of Jesus Christ: “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” Some are of opinion, that as now in this life, no man cometh unto God but by Christ: so hereafter, in the next life, no man shall see God, but in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2.) That the manhood of Christ, according to its measure, is a partner with the godhead in the work of redemption and mediation: as he is Immanuel in respect of his person, so he is Immanuel in respect of his office. He must needs be man as well as God, that he might be able to send this comfortable message to the sons of men; “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.”
(3.) That the manhood of Christ, together with the godhead, is adored and worshipped with divine honour: not that we worship the manhood alone, as merely a creature; but that we adore the person of Christ, which consisteth of the manhood and of the godhead.
(4.) That the manhood hath an extraordinary measure of habitual graces poured into it. In this he excels the very angels, for to them was given grace only by measure; but to the humanity of Christ was given grace without measure; even so much as a creature is any ways capable of. Never was there any but Christ, whose graces were no way stinted, and was absolutely full of grace. Divines tell us of a double grace in Christ; the one of union, and that is infinite; the other of unction, (which is all one with grace habitual,) and that is in a sort infinite; for howsoever it be but a finite and created thing, yet in the nature of grace, it hath no limitation, no bounds, but includeth in itself whatsoever any way pertains to grace. The reason of this unlimited grace bestowed on the nature of man in Christ, was, for that grace was given to it as to the universal cause, whence it was derived unto all others. He is the fountain of grace, and of his fullness we receive grace for grace.
3. For the communication of the properties. It is a kind of speech peculiar to the scriptures, when the properties of either nature of Christ considered singly are attributed to the person of Christ. Thus we may say, that God was born of a virgin, and that God suffered, and God was crucified; not simply in respect of his godhead, but in respect of his person, or in respect of the human nature which God united to himself. And thus we may say, that the man Christ is almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, yet not in respect of his manhood, but in respect of the person which is God and man; or in respect of the divine nature of the man Christ Jesus: for here, man signifies the whole person of Christ, and not the human nature: but on the contrary, we may not say, that the godhead of Christ was born of a virgin, or suffered, or was crucified; nor may we say, that the manhood of Christ is almighty, omniscient, omnipresent; because the godhead and manhood are such words, as note to us the two natures of Christ, the one divine, and the other human, and not the person of Christ.
2d. The effects or benefits of this hypostatical union, in respect of Christians, are their spiritual union and communion with God and Christ.
1. There is a spiritual union of Christians with God in Christ. Oh, the wonder of these two blessed unions! first, of the personal union; secondly, of the spiritual or mystical union. In the personal union, it pleased God to assume and unite our human nature to the deity; in this spiritual union, it pleased God to unite the person of every believer to the person of the Son of God. This union is mystical, and yet our very persons, natures, bodies, souls, are in a spiritual way conjoined to the body and soul of Christ; so that we are members of the body of Christ, and of the flesh of Christ, and of the bones of Christ; and as this conjunction is immediately made with his human nature, so thereby we are also united to the divine nature; yea, the person of the believer is united to the glorious person of the Son of God.
Now, concerning this union, for our better understanding, observe these three things.
(1.) It is a most real union: it is not a mere notional union, that consists only in the understanding; it is not an imaginary thing, that hath no other being but only in the brain; no, it is a true, real union. In natural unions, I confess, there may be more evidence, but there cannot be more truth.
(2.) It is a very near union. You will say, how near? If an angel were to speak to you, he cannot satisfy you in this; only as far as our understanding can reach it, and the creatures can serve to illustrate these things, take it thus: whatsoever by way of comparison can be alleged concerning the combination of any one thing with another, that, and much more, may be said of our union with Jesus Christ. See how near the father and the child are, how near the husband and the wife are; see what union is between the branches and the vine, the members and the head; nay, one thing more, see what the soul is to the body: such is Christ and so near is Christ, and nearer, to the person of every true believer. “I live, yet not I,” saith Paul, “but Christ liveth in me.” As if he had said, As the soul is to the body of a natural man, so is Jesus Christ to my soul and body.
(3.) It is a total union; that is, whole Christ is united to the whole believer, soul and body. If thou art united to Christ, thou hast all Christ; thou art one with him in his nature, in his name; thou hast the same image, grace, and spirit in thee, as he hath; the same precious promises, the same access to God by prayer as he; thou hast the same love of the Father; all that he did or suffered, thou hast a share in it; thou hast his life and death; all is thine. So, on thy part, he hath thee wholly, thy nature, thy sins, the punishment of thy sins, thy wrath, thy curse, thy shame; yea, thy wit, and wealth, and strength, all that thou art, or hast, or canst do possibly for him. It is a total union: “My beloved is mine, and I am his”: whole Christ is mine, and all that I am, have, or can do, is his.
2. There is a spiritual communion with God in Christ. Both these are the effects of Christ’s personal union: first, union to his person, and then communion with his benefits. Union, in proper speaking, is not unto any of the benefits flowing to us from Christ; we are not united to forgiveness of sin, holiness, peace of conscience, but unto the person of the Son of God himself: and then, secondly, comes this communication of all the benefits arising from this union to the Lord Jesus — that as Christ was priest, prophet, and king; so we also by him are, after a sort, priests, prophets, and kings; for being made one with him, we are thereby possessed of all things that are his.
Section V.–Of the Birth of Christ
The birth of Christ now follows. A thing so wonderful, that it was given for a sign unto believers seven hundred and forty years before it was accomplished: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive and hear a son.” But come a little nearer; let us go to Bethlehem, as the shepherds said, and see this thing which is come to pass! If we step but one step into his lodging, heaven’s wonder is before our eyes: now look upon Jesus! look on him as in fullness of time he carried on the great work of our salvation. Here you may read the meaning of Adam’s covenant, Abraham’s promise, Moses’ revelation, David’s succession; these were but veils, but now shall we draw aside the curtains. Come, take a view of the truth itself. What a strange birth is this! Look on the babe, there is no cradle to rock him, no nurse to lull him, no linens to swaddle him, scarce a little food to nourish him. Look on the mother; there’s no midwives’ help, no downy pillows, no linen hangings, scarce a little straw where she is brought a-bed. Look on Joseph, his supposed father; he rather begs than gives a blessing; poor carpenter! that makes them a chamber of an ox-stall. Mary must bear a Son; an angel tells her, the Holy Ghost overshadows her; the days are accomplished, and she is delivered.
No sooner was Christ born, but righteousness looked down from heaven; she cast her eye upon earth, and seeing truth freshly spring there, she looked and looked again: certainly it was a sight to draw all the eyes of heaven to it. It is said of the angels, that they “desired” to look into these things. They looked wishfully at them, as if they would look through them. No question but righteousness looked as narrowly and piercingly as the angels. Some observe, that the Hebrew word, “she looked down,” signifies, that she beat out a window, so desirous was righteousness to behold the sight of Christ born, that she beats out a window in heaven. Before this time, she would not so much as look down towards the earth: righteousness had no prospect, no window open, this way. But now the case is altered: no sooner doth our vine bud upon the earth, but she is willing to condescend, and so willing, that she breaks a window through the walls of heaven to look down: and no marvel; for what could righteousness desire to see and satisfy herself in, that was not to be seen in Jesus Christ? He was all-righteous, there was not the least spot of sin in him: his birth was clean, his life was holy, and his death was innocent. Both his soul and body were without all sin; both his spirit and his mouth were without all guile: whatsoever satisfaction righteousness would have, she might have it in him. “Lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the balance,” and there is nothing in Jesus but straightness for the line, and full weight for the balance.
For the meeting and agreement of all God’s attributes as the effect of this, the verse before tells us, that “mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” — Many means were made before Christ’s time for this blessed meeting; but it would not be: “Sacrifice and burnt-offering thou wouldest not”; these means were not prevalent enough to cause it. Where stuck it? you will say: surely it was not long of mercy, she was easy to be entreated: she looked up to heaven, but righteousness would not look down; and indeed here was the business: righteousness must and will have satisfaction; either some satisfaction for sin must be given to God, or she will never meet more; better that all the men in the world were damned, than that the righteousness of God should be unrighteous. But our Saviour is born; and this birth occasions a gracious meeting of the attributes: such an attractive is this birth, that all meet there; indeed they cannot but meet in him, Christ is mercy, and Christ is truth, and Christ is righteousness, and Christ is peace.
1. Christ is mercy. Thus Zacharias prophesied; that through the tender mercy of our God the day-spring (or branch) from on high hath visited us: and God, the Father of Christ, is called the Father of mercies; as if mercy were his Son, who had no other Son but his dearly beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased.
2. Christ is truth. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”; that truth, in whom is accomplished whatsoever was prefigured of the Messiah. And this is his name, “The Lord, The Lord God, abundant in goodness and truth.” – “He is a God of truth,” said Moses; — “plenteous in mercy and truth,” said David; — “full of grace and truth,” said John. He is truth by name, and truth by nature, and truth by office.
3. Christ is righteousness. “This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.”
4. Christ is peace. “This is his name whereby he is called; Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” And according to his type, Melchisedec, as he was King of righteousness, so also he was King of Salem, which is King of peace. Thus Christ is mercy, and Christ is truth, and Christ is righteousness, and Christ is peace. Now where should all these meet, but in him who is them all? Surely there they meet, and at the meeting they all ran first and kissed the Son; and that done, truth ran to mercy, and embraced her; and righteousness to peace, and kissed her: they that had so long been parted, now they meet, and are made friends again. O the blessed effects of this birth of Christ! It is Christ that reconciled them, and reconciled us to them. He reconciled all things, saith the apostle, “whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Now is heaven at peace with itself, and heaven and earth at peace one with another; and that which glues all, and makes the peace, is this birth of Christ.
Section VI. — Of some Consequents of Christ’s Birth
Some consequents of the birth of Christ may be touched, till he was a child of twelve years old.
I. When he was but eight days old, he was circumcised, and named Jesus. In this early humiliation he plainly discovered the riches of his grace: now he sheds his blood in drops, and thereby gives an earnest of those rivers which he afterwards poured out for the cleansing of our nature, and extinguishing the wrath of God; and for a further discovery of his grace, at this time his name is given him, which was Jesus. This is the name which we should engrave on our hearts, rest our faith on, and place our help in, and love with the overflowings of charity, joy, and adoration; above all things, we had need of Jesus, a Saviour for our souls, both from our sins, and from The everlasting destruction which sin will otherwise bring upon our souls. Hence this name Jesus, and this sign circumcision, are joined together; for by the effusion of his blood he was to be our Jesus, our Saviour: “Without shedding of blood is no remission,” no salvation. Circumcision was the seal, and now was it that our Jesus was under God’s great seal to take his office: “Him hath God the Father sealed,” John vi. 27. It is his office and his very profession to save, that all may repair unto him to that end: “Come unto me, all ye that are weary”; “and him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.”
2. When he was forty days old, “he was brought to Jerusalem, and presented to the Lord; as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” O wonder! there was no impurity in the Son of God, and yet he is first circumcised; and then he is brought, and offered to the Lord. He that came to be sin for us, would in our persons be legally unclean, that by satisfying the law, he might take away our uncleanness. He that was above the law, would come under the law, that he might free us from the law. We are all born sinners; but O the unspeakable mercies of our Jesus, that provides a remedy as early as our sin: first, he is conceived; and then he is born, to sanctify our conceptions and our births: and after his birth, he is first circumcised, and then he is presented to the Lord; that by two holy acts, that which was naturally unholy might be hallowed unto God. Christ hath not left our very infancy without redress, but by himself thus offered he cleanseth us presently from our filthiness. Now is Christ brought in his mother’s arms to his own house, the temple; and as man, he is presented to himself as God. You will say. What is this to me, or to my soul? O yes! Jerusalem is now everywhere; there is no church-assembly, no Christian heart, which is not a temple of the living God; and there is no temple of God, wherein Christ is not presented to his Father. Thus we have the benefit of Christ’s fulfilling the law of righteousness: “God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
3. When he was yet under one year old, as some, or about two, as others, he fled into Egypt. As there was no room for him in Bethlehem, so now there is no room for him in all Judea. No sooner he came to his own, but he must fly from them: what a wonder is this! Could not Christ have quit himself from Herod a thousand ways? What could an arm of flesh have done against the God of spirits? but hereby he taught us to bear the yoke even in our youth: thus would he suffer, that he might sanctify to us our earthly afflictions. What a change is here! Israel, the first-born of God, flies out of Egypt into Judea, and Christ, the first-born of all creatures, flies out of Judea into Egypt. Now is Egypt become the sanctuary, and Judea the inquisition-house, of the Son of God. Surely he that is everywhere the same, knows how to make all places alike to his. He knows how to preserve Daniel in the lion’s den, the three children in the fiery furnace, Jonah in the whale’s belly, and Christ in the midst of Egypt.
4. When he was now five years old, say some, an angel appears again in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and return again into the land of Israel, for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.”
Herod, that took away the lives of all the infants in or about Bethlehem, is now himself dead, and gone to his own place. O the wonderful dispensation of Christ in concealing himself from men! All this while he carries himself as an infant; “take the young child and his mother.” He suppressed the manifestation and exercise of that godhead whereto the infant nature was conjoined: as the birth of Christ, so the infancy of Christ was exceedingly humble. O how should we magnify him, or deject ourselves for him, who himself became thus humble for our sakes!
5. When he was twelve years old, he, with his parents, goes up to Jerusalem, after the custom of the feast. This pious act of his younger years intends to lead our first years into timely devotion: but I shall not insist on that; I would rather observe him “sitting in the midst of the temple, both hearing them and asking them questions.” He who, as God, gave them all the wisdom they had, doth now, as the Son of man, hearken to the wisdom he had given them; and when he had heard, then he asks; and after that, no doubt he answers: his very questions were instructions; for I cannot think that he meant so much to learn, as to teach those doctors of Israel. Surely these rabbins had never heard the voice of such a tutor; they could not but see the very wisdom of God in this child; and therefore saith the text, “they all wonder,” or they were all astonished at his understanding and answers: their eyes saw nothing but a child, but their ears heard the wonderful things of God’s law.
But why did ye not, O ye Jewish teachers, remember now the star and the sages, the angels and the shepherds? why did ye not now bethink yourselves of Herod, and of his inquiry, and of your answer, that in Bethlehem of Judea Christ should be born? You cited the prophets, and why did you not mind that prophecy now, that unto us a child is born, and “unto us a Son is given, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace?” Fruitless is the wonder that endeth not in faith. No light is sufficient, where the eyes are held through unbelief and prejudice.
6. After this, from the twelfth to the thirtieth year of his age, we read nothing of the acts of Christ, but that he went down with his parents unto Nazareth, and was subject to them. As he went up to Jerusalem to worship God, so he goes down to Nazareth to attend his particular calling. This is the meaning of those words, “and he was subject to them.” Christ’s subjection to his parents extends to the profession and exercise of his life. Certainly Christ was not all that time, from twelve to thirty years, idle: as he was educated by his parents, so of his reputed father he learnt to be a carpenter; this, I take it, is plain in these words, “Is not this the carpenter , the Son of Mary?”
Oh, the poverty, humility, severity, of Jesus! It appears at this time especially, in his laboring, working, hewing of wood, or the like. Here’s a sharp reproof to all those who spend their time in idleness, or without a particular calling. What! are they wiser than Christ? Our Jesus would not by any means thus spend his time.
But concerning this time of his youth, because in scripture there is so deep a silence, I shall therefore pass it by.
Thus far have I propounded the object we are to look unto; it is Jesus, in his first coming, or incarnation, whilst yet a child of twelve years old. Our next work is to direct you in the art or mystery, how we are to look unto him in this respect.
Here is the full text of the work by Isaac Ambrose.