Christ Precious to Believers, Sermon 5Andrew Gray (1634-1656) - A Powerful Preacher Who Died at a Young Age
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Such is the universal stupidity and hardness of heart that has overtaken the people of this generation, that if Christ should come from heaven, as being there glorified with majesty, and should invite us to partake of that promised land, there are that would stop their ears, as with their finger, lest they should be overcome and led captive there, and lest they should be charmed with the enchanting voice of that blessed charmer. We shall say to these that sell Christ at so low a rate, that word, Lev. xiii, 46, “All the days wherein the plague shall he in them, they shall be defiled; they are unclean; they shall dwell alone, without the camp shall their habitation be.” When we consider the contrary practice that is betwixt the higher house and the lower house, how may we blush and be ashamed! The practice of the higher house is still to be singing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts”; our practice in this lower house is to undervalue Him. The reproaching of Him should he our complaint. If prayer could be exercised in heaven, the first prayer that we would put up when our feet were within the New Jerusalem would be, O precious Christ, pardon our undervaluings of Thee while we were below.
Have ye never been constrained to say, Who can show forth His Praise? David summoned all the angels in heaven, the souls of men, sun, moon, stars, beasts, birds, etc., to shcw forth his praise. Did ye never know what it was to be convinced of the remissness of that duty, and the coldness of your love? The love of Christ involves au everlasting obligation on angels to praise Him. The grace of love in a Christian is under a twofold sweet mistake; it conceives every hour’s absence from Christ to be an eternity, and an eternal presence to be but an hour. “How long wilt thou Lorget me, O Lord, for ever?” says David. And if we may allude unto these words, Psalm xc, 4, “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday.” You have in the words a Christian described. He has a dignity that is of more value than if he did derive his pedigree from a thousand kings, without an interrupted line. The word ‘therefore’ in the text relates to the preeeding verse.
There be two sweet proofs and advantages of faith that make Christ precious to the believer; it is not said unto you He was precious. It is said He is precious. There is a relative preciousness of Christ; it is to the believer He is precious; yet although ye be not a believer, it is bad divinity to conclude that ye are not within the compass of the decree of election. Christ’s preciousness to the believer is the foundation of our faith.
I shall not dwell long on this excellent and royal dignity of a Christian, only there is that one excellency, faith keeps a soul in most constant communion with Christ; Eph. iii, i7, ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” By the exercise of the grace of faith Christ becomes our husband, our householder, and indweller with us. It is a most sweet and desirable thing to have Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, and our souls dwelling with Christ by love; that is a sweet connection. Faith renders Christ more precious to a Christian than sense. This may he shown from faith’s estimation of Christ; it is built on his person. Sense looks to Christ’s feet and hands, and his outward parts, but faith looks to His person. Faith looks to what Christ was before the world began, or a cornerstone thereof was laid; sense alone looks to what Christ is at the present time. The grace of faith looks to the love that is in Christ’s heart: sense alone looks to the smiles of His face. The estimation of faith is more constant than the estimation of sense; when Christ withdraws, sense loses its opinion. When faith would have wisdom, it consults with Christ, whose name is Wonderful. Counsellor. Faith is as a sinew, that being cut, all our strength goes from us. Faith is an heroic grace; the crown of martyrdom is set upon the head of faith. A Christian that is under the excellency of this grace, is a most humble Christian.
By what law was boasting excluded? By the law of faith. Paul presseth this doctrine upon a Christian. Faith discovers to a Christian the excellency of God, and makes him take up his dwelling in the dust. Faith makes a Christian to have two contrary motions, one to ascend, another to descend, so to speak; it keeps all the graces of the Spirit in motion. Faith is the messenger of the soul, and discovers what Christ is; who being discovered, faith cries out, ‘‘It is good for me to he here,’’ and then love cries out, “Let us make a tabernacle.” Faith likewise mortifies corruption. Faith has a sweet influence on the work of mortification in a Christian. When Christ is discovered to a sonl, it will cast away its idols as a menstrous cloth, and will cry out,“Whom have I in heaven but thee?’’ The soul is more where it loseth than where it liveth. Being justified by faith, we glory in tribulation. Faith holds out the crown on the right hand to a Christian. having this motto written on it, ‘‘He that persevereth to the end shall he saved.” Moses was never at patience till be was at the topof the mount, where he did see the promised land. Faith makes out the promises to a Christian. Faith is a life-sanctifying grace. When faith goes abroad in the world, good works are the handmaids that accompany the queen. Faith has Rachel’s eye and Leah‘s womb. Faith has a sweet influence on our fruitfulness to Christ; John xv, 5, “He that abides in me shall bring forth much fruit.” See also 1 Pet. ii, 5. Faith is that spouse-like grace that marries Christ; and good works are the children which faith beareth. Faith is that superior grace, which, at the motion thereof, all the rest go. Faith is an intelligent grace; it is called the “mystery of godliness,” Col. ii, 2. Faith raiseth the soul to the highest pitch of reason. Faith is an heart-pacifying grace; peace is the daughter of faith, Faith is the dove that brings the olive branch of peace in its mouth. Faith is an empty hand that receives the precious alms out of Christ’s merits, and it is the instrument, or the channel, through which the blessed streams of life flow to us from Him. Faith is an heavenly plant, which will not grow in an impure heart. Faith is an heart-purifying grace, Acts xv, 9. it is a virgin grace of a pure and heavenly soil.
Now, for the use of the point – is it so that faith is such an excellent grace? O be pursuing after it. There is more guilt in the sin of unbelief, than in the sin of murder; Matt. xi, 24, “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom,” etc. Luke x, 13. There is no sin made mention of there, but the sin of unbelief. If once ye had that divine plant Faith ingrafted in your souls, it would have a kind of onmipotency. Unbelief passeth under the veil of humility, and so we embrace it, rather than decline it as a sin. Now, the effects of the grace of faith make Christ precious to a soul. It discovers to a sinner the extract [copyl of his pardon, and that he hath been loved from all eternity; “She loved much, because much was forgiven her.” A Christian that believes shall see Christ as He is. Faith lets a Christian see the accomplishment of the promises. Faith is a sister grace; hope is patient, love is impatient. Faith and hope are two sisters, but they differ thus; hope looks at the excellency of the promise, faith at the certainty of it. Faith can suspend fruition, but love cannot. When Christ and a Christian are trysted together, faith and love grow apace. The best way to improve your necessity, is to believe, although your faith be but in the swaddling-clothes or bands; be content to wait a while, till you have gotten such a vigorous faith as will carry you with full sails to heaven. We have the reversion (future possession) in heaven, when the lease of life is run out. A weak faith may be fruitful; the thief upon the cross had but a weak faith, yet how many precious clusters grew upon that vine? Luke xxiii, 43. Here was a young plant, but very fruitful. Faith is a grace that puts a commentary upon all the actings of Christ. When Christ seems to frown, faith will cry out, I know the thoughts of His heart are not war, but grace to me. Faith can prophesy at midnight. Let a Christian yield to the premises of unbelief, but deny its conclusions. This is bad logic, but it is Christian divinity.
Sirs, did ye never know what it was to use this medium for pardon, “Lord, pardon our iniquities, because they are great?” Christ strengthens love by the discoveries of Himself. Faith discovers the period of our afflictions. Love is written in illegible characters upon the cross; but if ye consult with faith, you may read it. Faith and love, they are pleasant in their lives, and in their death they are not divided. Faith and love are the jewels wherewith Christ’s bride is adorned. Love never ceaseth, 1 Cor. xiii, 8. In our sense, love is more excellent than faith. The spouse when she goes to heaven, shall put off her jewel of faith, but shall never put off her jewel of love. In heaven the smoke of desire shall he ever bathing itself in the pure and pleasant fountain of glory. That which makes the higher house have such a smell is, the floor and windows are all strewed over with the leaves of the Rose of Sharon. What joy shall there be when Christ shall take us to His banqueting-house, and kiss us with the kisses of His mouth!
When we shall come to heaven, we shall not know which of our senses shall be most taken up.
Firstly: The eye. What joy to see there the orient brightness in the face of Christ; there you may see the lily and the rose mixed, white and ruddy, Cant. 5:10.
Secondly: The ear shall be filled with melody; what joy to the spouse to hear Christ’s voice, to hear Him say, “My love, my dove, my undefiled!”
Thirdly: The smell shall be filled with sweet savour; what joy to smell that fragraney and perfume that comes from Christ! All His garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia; the sweet breath of His spirit blowing on thee, and giving forth His scent as the wine of Lebanon.
Fourthly: The taste shall be filled; O what joy is there to be drinking in the fountain of Christ, that is the water of life!
Fifthly: The touch shall be filled; the saints shall be ever in the embraces of Christ! “Behold my hands and my feet – handle me, and see,” etc. Luke xxiv, 39. That will be our work in heaven, when we shall arrive betwixt these sweet arms that were once stretched out upon the cross; there shall be no such inhibition as that to Mary, “Touch me not.” If Christ’s sufferings are so full of joy, what are His embraces? What joy will there be at the saints’ coronation, when they shall be eternally united to Christ Jesus! When we are in the glorious inheritance, what joy, what glory there in the chambers of His presence! If the streets of this inheritance are of pure gold, what are the furniture and hangings? What is the cabinet of jewels? What are all the rarities of the world, the cost of pearls, yea, what are all things to this place! What a rich place must this needs be, where God will lay out all this cost? This is a purchase worth the getting. What spring will that be, which will never dry up? I think I see the morning-star appear; it is break of day already; who would, for the indulging of a lust, forfeit so glorious an inheritance? Lay the whole world in the scales with it, it is lighter than vanity. There is the vine flourishing, there are the pomegranates budding, Cant. vi, 11.
While we are sitting at the table, Christ’s spikenard will send forth his smell, Cant. i, 12, There is the bed of love, there are the curtains of Solomon; there is the mountain of spices, and streams from Lebanon; there are the cherubims, not to keep out, but to welcome into paradise; there shall the saints be adorned as a bride with pearls of glory; there God will give us abundance of all that we can ask or think, Eph. iii, 20. Such is the excellency of that celestial paradise, that if the angels would take up their responsals to delineate it, they would stain and eclipse the glory of it. When thou wast sailing to hell, for we have both wind and tide to carry us thither, hath the north wind and south wind awakened thee? Have the gales of the Spirit blown upon thee, and turned thy course? Art thou sailing to a new port? Then I am speaking to thee all this while, this glorious inheritance shall be given to thee; but if thou art an old sinner, be assured Christ will never put the new wine of glory into old bottles. We shall add no more. Now, unto the King, eternal, immortal, and invisible, be everlasting praise. Amen.
Andrew Gray was an exceptionally gifted young preacher. This work is a set of 5 treatises to establish the heart of believers in Christ and give them assurance. Gray is one of the easiest Scottish puritans to read.