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“Israelites,” they will now prevail over the inward power of sin. Instead of “the praise of the Lord,” as indicated in the name “Judah," they will now be the anointed of the Lord—“Christians.” Not only separated -strengthened-offered; but actually filled with that holy unction from Christ, in which alone all these are fulfilled.
God's people did not, however, at once receive this name-Christians. There was a process here also, as in the Old Testament.
They were at first called “disciples-learners—which indicates their relation to Him as a Prophet, or Teacher.
When taught of Him, and having accepted and received His teachings, they were called “believers." This was an advance, for it was more to believe than only to be taught. Not all that were disciples” became “believers.”
They were then also called Saints-separated by baptism and holy obedience of life, and members of the holy Kingdou.
They were also called - brethren," - sisters," indicating their relation to each other.
All these names, however, fall short of designating the high position of honor, which awaited the people of God in the New Dispensation.
Those names in the Old Testament—Hebrews, Israelites, Jews, ind:cated merely their origin after the flesh; and show only their hope in the promise.
Those names in the New Testament-disciples, believers, saints, brethren, point out only a relation to Christ. This does not reach the depths of the New Testament, grace. Christianity is more than a relation—more than the relation of one thing to another—and more than a relation in nature, by blood, and natural descent. It is more than the relation of learner to teacher-disciple. It is more than something in man looking and leaning towards Christ, as faith--believers. It is more than separation-even sinless separation--s in the idea of saints. It is more than a relation between one and another, as in brethren. It is more—What more? It is union of life with Christ.
This is beautifully indicated in the Heidelburg Catechism. “Why art thou called a Christian?” Ans. Because I am a member of Christ by faith.” A "member of Christ,” points to a union, not of relation, but of life, with Him, such as exists in the union of members with the body, in our physical organization. The hand, or the eye does not only stand in a relation to the body-it is one with it. The branches are not merely related to the vine; they are one with the vine. The member of a family is not merely related to the family, but is one with it. The Christian does not merely stand in a relation to Christ, he is one with Him, in the power of one life.
As being His learner, believer, saint, heir-he is related to Ilim, but as bearing His name, he is one with Ilim. IIe is Christ, they are Ciristians-springing from Him, but still one with Him in their inward, spiritual life; as vines, out of the vine.
Those, therefore, that are truly called Christians must be united with Him in one life. This is the unwavering testimony of the Holy Scripture. As our death is in Adam, so is our life in Christ. “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”—John i. 4. “ Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”—2 Cor. iv. 10, 11.
('onsider, too, that wonderful saying of St. Paul, which enters into the inner depths of ('hristianity. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”—Gal. ii. 20. And that other of St. Paul: - If ye, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above * * * for ye are dead, and your life is bid with (hrist in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”— (ol. ii. 1, 5.
The Holy Scriptures hold a peculiar language when they speak of this mystical union of saints with Christ. Christians are not merely after Christmas His followers: Not under Him-as His servants: Not irith Ilim-as His companions: Not by llim-as an instrument or means: Not through Him--as by His influence: Not for Him—as though He were only the end. How then? In Him! "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new."'-2. Cor. v. 17. In other passages, too many to be referred to, or quoted, there is the same peculiar language employed.
This union of life with Christ, which entitles us to His Name, involves sameness of nature. Even in the world of nature, trees of diffe. rent natures cannot be brought into one life, so as to be covered by one name, by means of ingrafting. Only those having the same nature will join life.
Jesus took not to himself the nature of angels : this is, no doubt, the reason why fallen angels are hopelessly lost—they cannot become one with ('hrist. being different in nature.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God-one essenceone life; because they are one in nature-all equally divine.
Jesus, our Saviour, in order to unite us with Himself in one life, and thus in His triumph over death, sin, and hell in that life, to raise us from sin into eternal fellowship of holiness and life with Himself, took our nature," the seed of Abraham.” Heb. ii. 14, 16. “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”—Gal. iv. 4, 8.
Had lle come only as a teacher, ruler, example--such a union with our nature would not have been necessary. But to make us one with Himself in life, He must become one with us in nature.
Here now is the mystery! What was the nature of Christ? He was divine, and He assumed into union with it the human. So that after His incarnation His nature is neither alone human, nor alone divine ; but a union of both in one—a divine-human nature.
Here is then another mystery! Does our union with Him reach only His human nature, so that we are one only with Him in His human nature : Or does it reach also the divine, so as to unite us with the divine alsowith the divine-human ?
The Scriptures do not hesitate to answer, yes! In the incarnation, Jesus took our nature into union with Himself, never again to lay it down! He died, rose, and ascended with it. He continues in heaven with it; and will so come to judge the world. He will be, through all ages, the head of His body the church, of which we are members. Man
and God—God-man, forever. As such, we, as saints, are one with Him. As such, He is Christ, the anointed—and we, in union with him in His divine-human nature, bear His nature, and hence His name-Christians.
That this union reaches the divine, as well as the human, is directly asserted by St. Peter, 2 Pet. i. 2, 4. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according ag his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
Hence, also, saints are called the sons of God! 1 John iji. 1, 2.Children of God-brethren to Christ—and with him, heirs to the same Father.
Thus, in union with Christ, our nature is raised, above what it was in 'Adam.
“In Him the tribes of Adam boast,
More blessings than their father lost.” Our nature, in union with Him, does not become divine, but partaker of the divine. We do not become gods; but godly. The human is taken up into the divine as it never was before. This high, this glorious union with the divine-human Saviour--the anointed-Christ ! entitles us to the name Christians.
This union with Christ, which entitles us to His name, involves a change in us, which the Scriptures call birth.
These Christians, who are in union with the divine-human Christ are “ new creatures.” As Christ came into union with our nature by birth, so we come into union with His, by a birth. This birth is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”—John i. 13.
This birth, our Saviour himself tells us, is two-fold : “Of water, and the Spirit.”—John iïi. 5. “ The washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Baptism is a burying with Christ into the death of sin. It is a planting into his life. It is a putting on Christ. We are baptized into the name of the triune God. Being baptized into His name, we receive His name.
It is a recognition--though now unhappily an unconscious recognitionof a deep truth, when baptism is called “ Christening! It is a Christ-ening: the giving of the name of Christ to the baptized one.
The giving of a name in baptism, has its ground in the same venerable truth. It is called his Christian name.
Before that, the child had only one name—the name of its parentsthe name in nature—the name that comes by natural generation—the name in flesh and blood. Now it has an additional name-a new name a name in grace-a Christian name—the name of Christ—the name which designates that union with Him which has been initially, at least, effected by a baptism into His name.
This Christian name is the one which the child constantly hears,especially as long as it is a child—to remind it of its new relation to Christ. So it ought to be--alas ! how has familiarity, or something worse, destroyed the true meaning, and the sacred power of the Christian name in our associations! Would not Abraham, at first called Abram. whenever he heard his new name, think of the glorious promise by which his name was changed? Would not Jacob, when he heard his new name, " Israel," think of that God who suffered himself to be conquered by his prayer? Would not Peter, at first called Simon, be reminded of the Saviour's promise to the church in the giving of his new name? Would Paul ever hear his name, without calling, vividly and gratefully, to mind the wonderful transaction which changed his name from Saul, “ a destroyer," to Paul, “ a worker ? No! No! never! In like manner ought the Christian name ever call to mind that glorious birth by water, and the Spirit in which that name was received !
In this view, the giving of a name in baptism is not an empty form; or, a superstitious custom. It is a solemn pronouncing of the gracious fact--to be repeated by every one who afterwards applies that name to itthat the child is initiated into the Kingdom of grace, and bears the Christian name.
In this view, too, there is a Christian propriety in the beautifully simple and touching custom of using the Christian name in familiar Christian circles. To show a preference for titles and complimentary appendagesexcept when they are insignia of office—is something worse than vanity. Inismuch as it shows an undue prominence given to “the” spirit and element of the world over the spirit of child-like piety. Even when our Christian names are nobly and honorably covered by the badges of office, they ought still to fall upon our ears with a pleasant, holy charm-reminding us of "the water and the blood.” Such is the power, and such is the associations of the Christian name!
We must not fall into the error of supposing that this birth, which entitles us to the Christian name, is complete by water. To think that baptism alone saves, is as great an error as to suppose that we can be saved without baptism. Let us not separate what God has joined.
We must be born of water and the Spirit. The washing away is by water—the renewing is by the Holy Ghost. The putting off, the remission, the death of sin, is hy water; the putting on, the growth, the life of grace, is by the Spirit.-Rom. viii. 1-7, 9–18.
This union with Christ, which entitles us to the Christian name, involves the exercise of a life in us, which we call faith.
This, the lleidelburg Catechism as appropriately includes in its answer to the question : “ Why art thou called a Christian?” “Because I am a member of Christ by faith.” The life is in Christ-the assuming nature is in llim-the act of baptism and the gracious spirit are in Him; but the faith to apprehend and receive these is in us. The light is in, and from, the sun; but the organ which sees, is in us. The power to feed and strengthen, is in the food; but the appropriating organ is in us. So Jesus gives all-faith receives all.
Without eating, we die in the midst of stores of food ;--without faith we die spiritually with Jesus and His grace before us. “Thy faith hath made thee whole.”—Matt. ix. 22; Mark v. 34 to 52; Luke viïi. 47; xvii. 19. 66 Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.”—Luke vii. 50. “According to your faith, be it unto you."- Mat. ix. 29. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."-Eph. iii. 17.
Faith is the look of the heart to Christ, as the eyes of a child are
turned to its parents. Faith is the answer which Christ's true children give when he calls them by their name—their “ new best name of love.'' Faith is the spirit of adoption in our own hearts, by which we are assured that the name by which we are called, belongs truly to us. With such a name :
We would no longer lie
Like slaves beneath the throne;
And thou the kindred own.
Unwavering, I believe;
Nor can this sign deceive!
From this subject we see the great dignity of a Christian.
He holds a position which no earthly distinction can reach. Truly this is “ the highest style of man.” There is no name known on earth like this name. Angels do reverence to it, and bend before its mysteriously, glorious meaning. A king is raised higher by it-for it lasts longer than his power and glory. The most learned ascend to it; for its faith, hope, and love are above all reason, and knowledge, and science. It is a title to the highest fellowship, to the deepest knowledge, and the purest bliss.
In view of the deep significance of this name, how humiliating and sinful is it, in the present distracted state of the church, for Christians to bear the reproach of party names and even the names of men. It is a building beside the foundations. It always betrays a false idea of the nature of Christianity. It makes that central, which is not so. Is a reformation, central ? Is a form of government? Is a form of administering sacraments ! Is an order of officers? Is a prevailing virtue? Is a man? Is a location Eastern or Western? Is a nationality Greek or Roman? Is an attribute of the church Catholic ? But are not the names of the different actions of the church derived from these peripheric circumstances ?
All this indicates a remove from the heart of Christianity. A moving from the spirit towards the flesh. “For while one says, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?-1 Cor. iii. 4.
While we cannot, dare not, deny that life flows also in these extremities and among these divisions of the church, we are not allowed to regard this as the normal state of Christianity. We may tolerate another name, but it ought always to be under inward protest. To glory in any such name is worse than vanity. In the light of the true Christian name, there is something so monstrous in the use of any other, that it seems strange that any one can endure to call himself after a form of church government, an ordinance or sacrament, a nationality, or even the name of a man!