Book traversal links for The Law, And The Gospel Of The Glory Of Christ
We learn here what a Christian is, and how a man comes to be one. First, we notice what introduces the subject; and next, the circumstance to which the apostle alludes as bringing out the true character of Christianity.
The apostle had been forced, by the attacks of those false Judaizing teachers, who said he was no apostle, to speak of himself, though he is grieved to have to do so. He began, in the end of the previous chapter to say a few words which lead to this: “We are not as many who corrupt the word of God,” etc. Then he asks, “Do we need letters of commendation to you, or from you? “He means just such letters of commendation as are given now. But he tells them, “Ye are our letter of commendation.” He had them so much on his heart, that, if people asked him for proof of his apostleship, he just said, Look at the Corinthians. At this time they were going on well; they had received the first epistle, and the apostle had seen Titus, and learnt that it had produced its effect. They were-brought back again to a right walk; his heart was enlarged towards them (chap. 7:11), and he could say, “Ye are our epistle.” He could hardly have said so in the first epistle, though he was the means of their conversion.
Next, he shews how or why they were his letter of commendation. “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ,” etc. (v. 3). They recommended Paul, because they recommended Christ. He then passes to a comparison of this with the law, which introduces the general subject of the chapter. “Written … not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” The law of the ten commandments, as we all know, was written on tables of stone; the Corinthian Christians, in contrast with that, had Christ graven on their hearts. This is what a Christian is: an epistle of recommendation of Christ to the world, by having Christ engraven on his heart by the power of the Spirit of God. It is spoken of the Corinthians collectively, though it is true also individually. He does not say, Ye ought to be the epistles of Christ, but “Ye are.” This was the position they were in. If I call myself a Christian, even without being one, I am in the position of an epistle of Christ. My profession, though it be merely profession, is a profession of Christ. The apostle could hardly have had the heart to say that of the Corinthians, when they were walking badly. Still they were in that position. They were before the world to shew out Christ, as it is expressed doctrinally in chapter 4, “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” At the end of this chapter he speaks of it as growth into the image of Christ. It is the same thing under a different figure. There, too, we see how it is brought about.
To return to how this is introduced. These Corinthians were a testimony to Paul’s ministry—a letter of commendation of him—because they were a letter of commendation of Christ before the world, shewing what the power of Christ’s life was in a man; his motives entirely changed, and above all that is in the world; a walk of holiness; unselfishness; self-restraint; the power of money gone; a conversation in heaven. He had alluded to the tables of stone on which the law was written, and he follows out that line of thought in the chapter. He refers to the fact that, when Moses came down from the mount the second time, his face shone, so that the people could not look at him, and asked him to put a veil upon his face. That veil is done away in Christ; nevertheless it is still upon the heart of the people when the Scriptures are read, but when they shall turn to the Lord it shall be taken away, just as Moses put off the veil when he turned to the Lord. They will look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn. When Moses came down from the mount the first time, it is not said that his face shone, because then he brought pure law; but the second time a certain measure of grace was added: God had been revealed as “the Lord, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” The way in which He spared Israel then was by His goodness, which He had caused to pass before Moses (he could not see His glory). The people could not look on the glory of God—not even at the reflection of it in Moses’ face.
It is a most touching history, shewing out again and again the grace, and forgiveness, and patience of God. First, Moses went up and got the law, graven by the finger of God on two tables of stone; but before ever he had brought it to the people, they had broken it. They had made a golden calf to worship, and thus broke the very first link with God: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Moses, seeing this, cast the tables of the law out of his hands, and broke them. Thus pure law never came into the camp at all. Law came in afterwards, when mercy was shewn too, but unmixed law never. How could Moses carry the tables of the law into the midst of a people who were serving other gods? How could he put the ten commandments beside the golden calf? When he comes within hearing of the voices of them that were singing and dancing, his indignation is kindled, and he casts down the tables and smashes them. That was where pure law ended.
Moses went up again, taking new tables, according to the word of God, who wrote the law upon them afresh. He had told the people, “Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin “; and it is lovely to see how he pleads for them, and how God answers in goodness and grace. He reveals His mercy in government, as “forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.” This is sometimes called the gospel, which it is not at all. God did indeed bear with Israel in patience, but still he adds, “In the day when I visit, I will visit their sins upon them.” It was not forgiveness as we know it now. He forgave them in not cutting them off, and putting Moses and his seed in their place, as He had threatened. Moses had said, in beautiful disinterestedness and love for the people with whom God’s name was bound up, “If thou wilt not forgive them, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book.” The Lord shews present mercy and forgiveness, but at the same time puts every one of the people on his own responsibility. “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”
This is the first part. Even this (law qualified with mercy), so far from being the gospel, is what the apostle calls the ministration of death and condemnation. Then, in contrast with this, he speaks of the gospel—of Christ’s work—as the ministration of the Spirit, and of righteousness. A person not in the presence of God may not find the law a ministration of death and condemnation, because his conscience is not awakened. He is like Paul, “touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless”; “alive without the law once.” But that is never found in the presence of God; there it is, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” The young man who came to the Lord asking, “What good thing shall I do?” and saying, “All these things have I kept from my youth up,” had not got a bad conscience, in a natural sense. He thought he was going on very well, and he came to know what was the best thing he could do; he did not ask to be saved. The Lord dealt with him as He dealt with Saul. He brings down the law upon the very motives of his heart. Saul might be satisfied that he was blameless touching the righteousness which is in the law, but when the law said, “Thou shalt not lust,” all was over; he was discovered and condemned. “I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Why? Not because the law is wrong, but because it is right, and I am not right. The Lord did not say to the young man that he had not kept the law. He told him to go and sell all he had, and give it to the poor. This immediately brought out the lust of money: “And he went away grieved, for he had great possessions.”
See, again, how the Lord uses the law in the case of the woman taken in adultery (John 8). The scribes and Pharisees bring her before Him in a most wicked way, hoping to entrap Him. If He said, Stone her, He was no more a Saviour than the law; if He said, Do not stone her, He was breaking the law. The Lord does not weaken the authority of the law, but He applies light to them all, telling them, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” They found they were in the presence of God, and they went out, one by one, owning practically that they had all sinned, and were under the condemnation of the law. They felt the detecting power of God—the veil was taken away, and they could not bear it.
Our consciences may be quite at ease while we are far from God and unawakened; but the moment we have to face what we are in the presence of God, we see that our case is desperate. We all know, more or less, what self-righteousness is, and we can go on with it well enough till we get God’s eye upon us. There is not a man in this town who is not washed in the blood of Christ, that, if called apart to answer for himself to God, would not try to get away as fast as he could. He may have an excellent character, and deserve it too, but he has not a perfect conscience. We may go on for a long time as decent natural men without anything to shock the conscience; but the moment God’s presence is recognised, the veil is off, God is seen, and His word searches the thoughts and intents of the heart: then we can understand the words of poor Job (and there was none like him in all the earth), “He cannot answer him one of a thousand.” “If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet Shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.” That is, though clean in the eyes of men, he would be in God’s sight like a man brought out of a ditch. Then he goes on to say, “Neither is there any daysman betwixt us that might lay his hand upon us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me.” That is what we have got in Christ; God has taken away our fear.
The law is most useful in this way to convict the soul, where known in its spirituality. It demands from us what we ought to be for God, as God’s law must do, and then tells us, if we do not answer to it, we are cursed. The apostle goes even a step farther in Romans 7. A man may be quickened, born of God, so as to say, I hate these evil things, that I do. The law says, So do I, and that is the reason I curse you. It is because the law is right, “holy, just, and good,” that it kills us morally because we are sinners. It is useful in this way, but it always ends in condemnation. The time will come when God will write it in the hearts of His people, and then the case will be different. The law will not curse, but bless. When the law comes to the conscience, saying, “Thou shalt not lust,” no man can stand it; the lust of the flesh is detected, and it is shewn to be not subject to the law of God. “So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” This is the sum of it. Sometimes the flesh may run to excess of riot, and sometimes it may be very respectable; but this is true of all, in their natural standing as children of Adam. Man is a bad tree, and cannot bring forth good fruit.
The law deals with our consciences. It is not an arbitrary thing. It takes up the relationships and duties which already existed among men before the law was given, and were owned of God, as father, husband, wife, child, etc. It comes with God’s sanction and authority to these relationships, and gives His rule for them, and says, If you do not maintain them according to it, you will be cursed. Conscience owns the propriety of it, and says it ought to be so. The law does another thing. It not merely says, “Thou shalt honour thy father and mother,” etc., but it says, “Thou shalt not steal,” “covet,” etc. It is an instrument and weapon in God’s hand to restrain and punish the evil propensities of men. But a man might not be a thief, or an adulterer, or in any other outward way offend against the positive prohibitions of the law, and yet it will take hold of him. Here comes in the great principle upon which all hangs: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.” Is it what you do? People can delude themselves sadly about it, and say they do love God thus, not knowing themselves. But then comes the second great part of the law: do you love your neighbour as yourself? Are you as sorry when your neighbour loses his fortune as if you lost your own? Oh! you say, you are expecting something supernatural. Just so—I am. You do not love your neighbour as yourself; you do lust. And if you do not love your neighbour whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen? If you are on the ground of the law, God comes, and demands (though you may be free from theft, murder, and the like), Do you love your neighbour as yourself, or do you lust in your heart? When the conscience is really touched by this, it cries out, “O wretched man that I am!” The use of the law is to bring us to this, and not merely to convict us of open sins, which it does. It adds this detection of lust to all its rules for human relationships, and all its prohibitions; for otherwise a man might be a hypocrite, and live outwardly very fairly, and so be righteous according to the law, which could not be. The law does not give life, and it does not give strength. Man’s great need is power to do right. I may know what is right well enough, and even have the desire to do right, and yet something else have power over my heart, so that I do wrong. Neither does the law give a motive to love. It tells me to love God with all my heart (and conscience owns I ought to do so), but why? Because I shall be cursed if I do not. But that will not produce love. Thus law gives neither righteousness, life, nor strength; for, though it puts an object before us, it gives no revelation of God to draw love out. In Christ we get all these. He sets His seal upon the law, as a perfect standard of what man ought to be. He charges Himself with our sins. He does give life, and strength, and God as an object. Conscience consents to the law that it is good, but feels that for this very reason it must condemn me because of what I am. There is no mercy, or salvation, or redemption in the law; it is a ministration of death and condemnation. Have you kept the law for a whole week? Have you loved God with all your heart? Has there been no love of anything else? Has nothing else possessed your heart at any time? Have you been thinking for your neighbour as for yourself? Have you not, perhaps, been thinking of getting on in the world? Well, that does not do for God—it could not; if there were such a state of things in heaven, it would not be heaven at all. What, then, can the law do but announce condemnation; for it cannot sanction sin? In the very nature of things it must be so. Men would like to be in heaven, because they think it is a happy place (and so it is); but if a man were taken as he is, and put there, he would get away if he could. Do you think he would find pleasure and delight in Christ being glorified, and in having nothing but Christ and the Father’s love to occupy his mind and heart? He could not bear it—it would be to him a most monotonous and tiresome thing. It is only deceiving ourselves to think that heaven is a place where a man in his natural state could be happy. I have dwelt upon this to shew where we are on the ground of law, but I turn now to the ministration of the Spirit. Let us see how God deals with us in Christ.
Men had been sinners, lawless sinners and law-breaking sinners, before Christ came. His coming brought an additional element of sin. God came into this world in goodness. What did it do to Him? Speaking of the ministration of the Spirit, a part of His mission was to convict the world of sin, because they believed not on Christ (John 16). His message to the world from God is, Where is My Son? He has been among you in grace and love: what have you done to Him? Just as He said to Cain, Where is Abel, thy brother? The unconverted heart is still the same; it would get rid of Christ, though it cannot kill Him now, of course. What did He do here? He healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead. But God was too close to men, and they took Him and crucified Him. I cannot even call myself a Christian, without saying, in effect, I am in a world in which the Son of God has been rejected and cast out. His murder was, of course, a deed of law-breaking, but it was a great deal more—it was rejection of God come in love and grace. It was the display of this, that the carnal mind is enmity against God. I insist upon this last point. When it is really seen and brought home to the conscience and heart, a soul is in a condition to receive blessing from God. He sees himself to be a lawless sinner, a law-breaking sinner, and one that preferred the world, and its vanity and dross, to Christ. When we see this, all our sins are out before God; we are law-breakers and God-haters. This we learn in the cross, though the law shewed it too. “For my love, hatred,” Christ would say.
But when I come to that in which my hatred for God is thus manifested, the cross, then I learn that Christ died for it. This is the fulness of the triumph of God’s love over my sinfulness. After God had tried man in every possible way, without law, and under law mixed with mercy and long-suffering, He sent Christ, saying, Surely they will reverence My Son; and we know what they did to Him. God came into the world to save us, that where sin abounded, grace might much more abound; and it was in that very act in which man shewed that he hated God, that the work was done which saves us, shewing that God’s love is superior to man’s wickedness.
What I see first in the blessed Lord, even in His life, is God coming down to men, and walking in grace and holiness through the world, in order to bring God’s love to every one in it. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” He brought divine love to those who owned what they really were. He tore off the mask of pretended righteousness from the Pharisee, but where he found a poor wretched soul—like the woman of the city, who dared not shew her face among decent people, much less to God—He said I will have you. To the proud and insensible Pharisee He said, “You gave me no water for my feet”—he did not even offer the common courtesies of life; “but this woman hath washed my feet with tears.” Thus the self-righteous man is exposed by the light, but the poor woman— a sinner confessed—finds divine love, and, more, forgiveness. All this is a great deal more than promise. There are blessed promises to believers, but God’s dealing with the soul of a sinner is not on the ground of promise. The Syro-Phoenician woman, for instance, being a Canaanite, had no promise, except to be exterminated. When she cried to the Lord as Son of David, He did not answer her; He did not know her in that way at all. She drops that, and the Lord graciously waits upon her till she gets down to her true place. “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He tells her “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs”: how can I give the things promised to Israel to Canaanites? What does she say? “Truth, Lord”—I am a dog— “but the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Her heart apprehends that God is good enough to feed people who are not children; He is good enough to receive a wretched sinner who has no righteousness, and not even a promise. God revealed in Christ shewed her there was love in God, even for a person who was entitled to nothing. Christ could not, would not, deny this.
Thus God brings down souls into their real condition before Him, where they have not a word to say, and not till then do they get the blessing. This is what I get in Christ as to salvation. It is not a promise only: He was the Messiah who had been promised; but He was there as God present with the sinner; and now we have got even more, for He died for us. Think of this, that God Himself came down to meet me, a poor sinner, when I could not lift up my head! And what did He bring? Perfect love; God so loved the world, that He gave His Son. He could not allow sin, but would put it away. I get a step further when I see that He was the Bread of life that came down from heaven. Then there must be eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
I turn now to the cross. It was the manifestation of goodness, in the midst of the wickedness of the world, in a way never to be found anywhere else. During Christ’s lifetime the heavens would open upon Him, and testify to His perfection and the Father’s delight in Him; and thus I learn the terrible evil of the heart that could resist such goodness. When I come to the cross—supposing I am thus convicted of sin—what a wretched creature I see myself to be; I have hated this blessed One, and, more than that, my sins brought Him there. But He is not there now I I come to the cross, and there is no Christ on it. Where is He? He is sitting at the right hand of God. But my sins brought Him to the cross; they were on Him there. Has He gone to God’s right hand in glory with them upon Him? No. What has become of them? I find in the cross that God has dealt with my sins, when they were upon Christ. It was when He had by Himself purged our sins that He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. i:3). This is the contrast in Hebrews 10. The Jewish priests were standing daily, offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down. He will rise up for judgment when the time comes; He is now waiting, not on His own throne, but on the Father’s, till His enemies be made His footstool. We get there this special work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. He was made sin for us there; He bare our sins in His own body on the tree, and in consequence had to drink the dreadful cup of God’s wrath. But it is all over, and now that I see Him seated at God’s right hand, I am bound to believe in the efficacy of that work once for all. The word used there is a very strong one; there is no interruption, nor discontinuance of its efficacy. Therefore the worshipper once purged has no more conscience of sins. He cannot come to God without finding that Christ, who bore his sins, is there, and entering into the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered, and to whom the Lord imputes not iniquity.
There is a great deal of looseness and unbelief at the present time (thank God, not so much in these countries) as to the immense value and import of the death of Christ. In that death God has been perfectly glorified in all that He is, and, at the same time, man’s need has been met. If God had merely manifested His hatred of sin in the destruction of the sinner, it would have been righteous surely, but where then His love? If on the other hand, sin was passed over, men allowed to keep sins, and no more about it, there would be no righteousness.
When I come to the cross, I find what could be found nowhere else—righteous judgment against sin, but perfect love to the sinner at the same time. The more we look into it, the more we see the value of the cross, the more precious will Christ be to us. I get in the cross man in absolute wickedness, hating what is good, hating God, who had come down in mercy to him, who had shewn love and compassion to him in all his sufferings and yet had for His love hatred. Satan had complete power over man— “this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Not one remained with the Lord in that hour, even the disciples ran away. I further get there, absolute perfection in Man—that is, in Christ—taking even the cup of wrath in perfect obedience, “that the world may know that I love the Father.”
I get there also God in perfect love towards the sinner, and in perfect righteousness against sin. Every question of good and evil, in their deepest and highest character, is settled there (I do not say for them that slight it). The first man stood upon his responsibility in the old, or first, creation, and he failed, and ruined all. The second Man glorified God in the midst of the ruin; the results are not all seen yet, but they are all secured—even the new heavens and the new earth depend upon His work on the cross. All that man is in evil, and all that God is in righteousness and love, are exhibited there. Thus it was the ministration of righteousness. The thing that manifested God’s righteousness was this, that, Christ having glorified God in the place of sin and ruin, God glorified Him at His own right hand. That is where I know Christ now; the cross is over once for all, though its value abides perpetually, and the man who was on it is at God’s right hand—the place which He had before the world was, in His own divine Person, but which He now occupies also in virtue of His work. He is there because He put all my sins away, and glorified God in doing it. On this the Holy Ghost comes down, and makes known that Christ is there; He makes known a great deal more, too, as dwelling in me. That is how it is the ministration of the Spirit.
Thus the gospel ministers righteousness for my soul— righteousness for those who had none for God. When man had nothing but sin, Christ was made sin, that we might become God’s righteousness in Him. All that is over, and righteousness has been testified in setting this blessed Man— not an ordinary man, of course, or he could not have done it— at God’s right hand. Such is my position now, as to my acceptance with God. This ministration of the Spirit was not merely the Spirit speaking in prophecy of a work to be accomplished, but the Holy Ghost come down because it had been done. There were promises before; the life, and death, and resurrection of Christ all clearly testified of; but the thing was not actually done. Saints then rested on promise, and God owned their faith; but I do not rest on promise now, but upon this, that Christ has finished the work which His Father gave Him to do, and that, having borne my sins, He is now at God’s right hand in righteousness. Therefore when I come to the cross, I find He is not there; He has been there, but He is gone up on high, and the Holy Ghost has come down to make known to those who believe that His work is finished, and their sins all put away. And, not only so, but that work has put a Man into the glory of God: He is entered as our Forerunner, and He will come again to receive us to Himself, that where He is, there we may be also.
We are not there yet; we have the treasure in earthen vessels, but the gospel we have received opens up heavenly scenes: it is the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We see the effect of this, for example, in Stephen individually. I am not now speaking of the work of the Holy Ghost to convict of sin, and to point us to the cross of Christ, but of His sealing of believers (Eph. 1:13). God gives the Holy Ghost to dwell in a man after he believes. A Christian is a person whose body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and therefore John is not afraid to say, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” The Holy Ghost thus dwelling in a man gives him to know that Christ has completed the work which saves and delivers him, and gives him also to look forward to the glory. What was the effect of looking at the glory in the face of Moses? They were afraid, because it convicted them of their sins. But when I look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, far more glorious than in Moses, does it alarm me? No, on the contrary it is the proof that I am brought to God; it is the testimony that I am saved, because I see it in the One who bore my sins on the cross. I see the love that He shewed in dying for us, and I see the efficacy of His work in His being there, because He is there and glorified as the Man who died for me and bore my sins. Instead of being terrified, “we all with unveiled 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 Lord the Spirit.” This glory is presented in three ways: the glory of God; the glory of the Lord; and the glory of Christ. I see it in the One who has put away my sins, in the One who did not spare Himself, but drank the dreadful cup for me; and I can delight to look at it. I have got an object that makes my conscience perfect before God (Heb. 9).
The effect of thus thinking of the Holy One who gave Himself for my sins is, that I am changed into the same image; it has this sanctifying power. I can look into the very glory of God with joy and delight, and know, moreover, that I shall be like the One who is there (1 John 3:2). As we have borne the image of the earthly, so shall we also bear the image of the heavenly. The heart is thus filled with Christ, and the effects are soon seen. Of course there is progress in this, and watchfulness in our ways is needed to preserve and manifest it; but how we get it is by contemplating the Lord Jesus Christ in glory. There is also the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise of what would take place when the Comforter was come: “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” People tell us you cannot know that you are in Christ; but my answer is simply, I do not believe you, for Scripture says ye shall know it. What did Zacharias say of even John the Baptist? “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.”
Then I am called to walk in this, and the more closely I walk, the more my heart is purified, and I see more clearly. The word of God, and all the helps that He has given us, come into operation, that we may grow up unto Him in all things. I am not trying to find out how I can get accepted; I am accepted. All that is settled, in order that I may be free to think of holiness. You cannot think of holiness really till you have peace about acceptance. You ought to think of being accepted first. It is the most solemn question possible, Can God have me? We are judicially before God according to the righteous requirements of His nature. But this is not holiness. Holiness is that I delight in good because it is according to God, and hate evil because it is contrary to God. Naturally I cannot turn to that until my soul is settled as to whether I am accepted or not. Then I can go on to follow holiness, not to get acceptance, but as that in which God delights, and I delight too, and bear more of Christ’s image every day.
A little further on, in this very epistle, the law is brought in as requiring righteousness from man, and man cannot give it, and therefore there must be death and condemnation. But when all that man is—lawlessness, law-breaking, Christ-hating —is manifested; when sin has come to its highest pitch in the cross, God’s wonderful grace comes in, and makes that cross the very means of salvation to sinners. When the soul is awakened to what it has done, and then finds that God has already dealt with its sins on Christ, once for all, that He has by Himself purged our sins, then the conscience is purged from dead works to serve the living God. I have a new nature in the light, as God is in the fight, and I look to have my heart answer to this in practical holiness, because the question of acceptance is settled. I am separated to God personally. I look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the testimony that I am a saved man, and I seek to walk in the Spirit, as I live in the Spirit. We must not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption. We are to be followers of God, as dear children, walking in love, as Christ also has loved us, and given Himself for us. We are to walk in the consciousness that we are God’s children, and to behave ourselves as God’s children. Thus we are the epistle of Christ. The soul has received this full and blessed truth, that, if I am in Christ, I am in perfect acceptance before God, and Christ is in me. Then let me take care that nothing else comes out of me.
I only add one word, which clears up many a difficulty. Very often, in divine things, we cannot see a ray of light, when the same principle in human things is as plain as ABC. Our duties always flow from the position we are in. It would be foolish to expect persons who are not my servants, or my children, to behave as my servants or my children; when they are, then they must behave as such. You must be a Christian, a child of God, before you can behave as one. You do not become a child by trying to act like a child; but when you are a child, you are bound to behave as such. But your being a child does not depend on your behaviour. Think of any one saying, You are my child, and you must try and continue to be my child still.
I just put this to each of our souls: are we the epistles of Christ, known and read of all men? Are we practically in the place which belongs to us? Take a heathen who has heard of Christianity, and what it is, and who expects that all Christian people are living for Christ. He comes here, and he sees people running after money, and pleasure, and honour, and what will he say? Why, that Christians are no better than the heathen; that people here are running after just the same things as in China. They are not epistles of Christ. Let our consciences consider this: how far we really are a letter of commendation of Christ before the world. It is an immense privilege. It should be like what the Lord said to the poor man who had been brought to his right mind: “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.” What a blessing and honour it is that He who loved us, and gave Himself for us, can use us poor worms as a practical, manifest, testimony for Himself before the world!