Christ Precious to All True Believers

XI.

CHRIST PRECIOUS TO ALL TRUE BELIEVERS.

" Unto you, therefore, which believe, He is precious."—1 Peter, ii. 1.

Yes, blessed be God ! though a great part of the creation is disaffected to Jesus Christ; though fallen spirits, both in flesh and without flesh, both upon earth and in hell, neglect him, or profess themselves open enemies to him, yet he is precious—precious not only in himself, not only to his Father, not only to the choirs of heaven, who behold his full glory without a veil, but precious to some even in our guilty world; precious to a sort of persons of our sinful race; who make no great figure in mortal eyes, who have no idea of their own goodness; who are mean unworthy creatures in their own view, and who are generally despicable in view of others; I mean he is precious to all true believers. And though they are but few com

Earatively in our world; though there are, I am afraid, ut few additions made to them from among us; yet, blessed be God, there are some believers even upon our guilty globe ; and, I doubt not, but I am now speaking to some such. My believing brethren, (if I may venture to claim kindred with you,) I am now entering upon a design which I know you have much at heart: and that is, to make the blessed Jesus more precious to you, and, if possible, to recommend him to the affections of the crowd that neglect him. You know, alas! you love him but little, but very little, compared to his infinite excellency and your obligations to him; and you know that multitudes love him not at all. Whatever they profess, their practice shows that their carnal minds are at enmity against him. This you often see, and the sight affects your hearts. It deeply affects you to think so much excellency should be neglected and despised, and so much love meet with such base returns of ingratitude.

To you that believe, he is precious.—He ?—Who ? Is it mammon, the god of the world ? Is it pleasure, or honor ? No; none of these is the darling of the believing heart. But it is he who is the uppermost in every pious heart; he who is first in the thoughts and affections; he whom every friend of his must know, even without a name; if it be said of him, he is precious, this is enough to distinguish him from all others. It is this heavenly jewel that is precious to believers.

" To you that believe, he is precious ;" i. e., he is highly valued by you. You esteem him one of infinite worth, and he has the highest place in your affections. He is dearer to your hearts than all other persons and things. "Toyou that believe, he ispreciousness;" preciousness in the abstract; all preciousness, and nothing but preciousness ; a precious stone without one blemish.

" To you which believe, he is precious;" that is to say, the value of this precious stone is, alas! unknown to the crowd. It is so far from being precious, that it is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; a stone disallowed of men, rejected even by the builders, but you believers, ye happy few, have another estimate of it. Faith presents him to your view in a just light and directs you to form a proper estimate of him.

Is it any wonder that Jesus should be precious to believers, when he is so precious in himself, and in his offices, so precious to the angelic armies, and so precious to his Father ?

1. He is precious in himself. He is Immanuel, Godman ; and consequently, whatever excellences belong either to the divine or human nature, centre in him. If wisdom, power, and goodness, divine or human, created or uncreated, can render him worthy of the highest affection, he has a just claim to it.—Whatever excellences, natural or moral, appear in any part of the vast universe, they are but faint shadows of his beauty and glory.

2. The Lord Jesus is precious in his offices. His mediatorial office is generally subdivided into three parts: namely, that of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king; and how precious is Christ in each of these!

As a prophet, how sweet are his instructions to a bewildered soul! How precious the words of bis lips, which are the words of eternal life! How delightful to sit and hear him teach the way of duty and happiness, revealing the Father, and the wonders of the invisible state! How transporting to hear him declare upon what terms an offended God may be reconciled! a discovery beyond the searches of all the sages and philosophers of the heathen world! How reviving it is to listen to his gracious promises and invitations; promises and invitations to the poor, the weary, and heavy laden, the broken-hearted, and even to the chief of sinners! But this external objective instruction is not all that Christ as a prophet communicates; and, indeed, did he do no more than this, it would answer no valuable end. The mind of man, in his present fallen state, like a disordered eye, is incapable of perceiving divine things in a proper light, however clearly they are revealed; and therefore, till the perceiving faculty be rectified, all external revelation is in vain, and is only like opening a fair prospect to a blind eye. Hence this great Prophet,—carries his instructions farther, not only by proposing divine things in a clear objective light by his word, but inwardly enlightening the mind, and enabling it to perceive what is revealed by his Spirit. And how precious are these internal subjective instructions! How sweet to feel a disordered, dark mind opening to admit the shinings of heavenly day; to perceive the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the beauties of holiness, and the majestic wonders of the eternal world! O precious Jesus! let us all this day feel thine enlightening influences, that experience may teach us how sweet they are! Come, great Prophet! come, and make thy Spirit our teacher, and then shall we be divinely wise!

Again, the Lord Jesus is precious to believers as a great High Priest. As a high priest, he made a complete atonement for sin by his propitiatory sacrifice on the cross; and he still makes intercession for the transgressors on his throne in heaven. It was his sacrifice that satisfied the demands of the law and justice of God, and rendered him reconcilable to the guilty, upon terms consistent with his honor and the rights of his government. It was by virtue of this sacrifice that he procured pardon of sin, the favor of God, freedom from hell, and eternal life for condemned obnoxious rebels. And such of you who have ever felt the pangs of a guilty conscience, and obtained relief from Jesus Christ, you can tell how precious his atoning sacrifice. How did it ease your self-tormenting conscience, and heal your broken hearts! How did it change the frowns of an angry God into smiles of love, and your trembling apprehensions of vengeance into delightful hopes of mercy!

Let us next turn our eyes upwards and view this great High Priest as our intercessor in the presence of God. There he appears as a lamb that was slain, bearing the memorials of his sacrifice, and putting the Father in remembrance of the blessings purchased for his people. Now how precious must Christ appear in the character of Intercessor ! That the friendless sinner should have an allErevailing advocate in the court of heaven to undertake is cause ! That the great High Priest should offer up the grateful incense of his own merit, with the prayers of the saints! That he should not intercede occasionally, but always appear in the holy of holies as the constant everliving intercessor, and maintain the same interest, the same importunity at all times, even when the petitions of his people languish upon their lips! What delightful reflections are these, and how warmly may they recommend the Lord Jesus to the hearts of believers! How just is the apostle's inference, Hvaing a High Priest over the house of God, let tt-s draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith ; and let us holdfast the profession of our faith without wavering.

Let me add, the kingly office of Christ is precious to believers. As king, he gives laws, laws perfectly wise and good, and enforced with the most important sanctions, everlasting rewards and punishments. As king, he appoints ordinances of worship. And how sweet to converse with him in these ordinances, and.to be freed from perplexity from the manner of worship which God will accept without being exposed to that question so confounding to willworshipers, who hath required this at your hands? As king, he is head over all things to his church, and manages the whole creation, as is most subservient to her good. And how precious must he be in this august character to the feeble helpless believer! But this is not the whole exercise of the royal power of Christ. He not only makes laws and ordinances, and restrains the enemies of his people, but he exercises his power inwardly upon their hearts. He is the king of souls; he reigns in the hearts of his subjects ; and how infinitely dear and precious is he in this view ! To feel him subdue the rebellion within, sweetly bending the stubborn heart into willing obedience, and reducing every thought into a cheerful captivity to himself, writing his law upon the heart, making the dispositions of his subjects a transcript of his will, corresponding to it, like wax to the seal, how delightful is all this! O the pleasure of humble submission! How pleasant to lie as subjects at the feet of this mediatorial king without arrogating the sovereignty ourselves, for which we are utterly insufficient! Blessed Jesus! thus reign in our hearts! thus subdue the nations to the obedience of faith! Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, 0 most Mighty ! and ride prosperously, attend with majesty, truth, meekness, and righteousness. Send the rod of thy strength out to Zion; rule thou in the midst of thine enemies, rule us, and subdue the rebel in our hearts.

3. He is precious to all the angels of heaven. Angels saw him, and admired and loved him in the various stages of his life, from his birth to his return to his native heaven. In every hour of difficulty they were ready to fly to his aid. He was seen of angels in his hard conflict in the garden of Grethsemane; and one of them appeared unto him from heaven strengthening him. With what wonder, sympathy, and readiness did this angelic assistant raise his prostrate Lord from the cold ground, wipe off his bloody sweat, and support his sinking spirit with divine encouragement ! But 0! ye blessed angels, ye usual spectators, and adorers of the divine glories of our Redeemer, with what astonishment and horror were you struck when you saw him expire on the cross!

But to bring his worth to the highest standard of all, I add,

4. He is infinitely precious to his Father, who thoroughly knows him, and is an infallible judge of real worth. He proclaimed more than once from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased ; hear ye him. Behold, says he, ray servant whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth. And shall not the love of the omniscient God have weight with believers to love him too ? It is the characteristic of even the meanest believer, that he is God-like. He is the partaker of the divine nature, and therefore views things, in some measure, as God does, and is affected towards them as God is, though there be an infinite difference as to the degree. He prevailingly loves what God loves, and that because God loves it. And, my hearers, what think you of Christ ? Will you not think of him as believers do ? If so, he will be precious to your hearts above all things for the future. Or if you disregard this standard of excellence, as being but the estimate of fallible creatures, will you not think of him as angels do ? he died for you, which is more than ever he did for them, and will you not love him after all this love ? Blessed Jesus! may not one congregation be got together, even upon our guilty earth, that shall in this respect be like the angels, all lovers of thee ? O! why should this be impossible, while they are all so much in need of thee, all so much obliged to thee, and thou art so lovely in thyself! Why, my brethren, should not this congregation be made up of such, and such only, as are lovers of Jesus ? Why should he not be precious to every one of you, rich and poor, old and young, white and black ? What reason can any one of you give why you in particular should neglect him ? I am sure you can give none.

If all this has no weight with you, let me ask you further, will you not agree to that estimate of Jesus which his Father has of him ? How must Jehovah resent it to see a worm at his footstool daring to despise him, whom he loves so highly!

But I am shocked at my own attempt. O precious Jesus! are matters come to that pass in our world, that creatures bought with thy blood, creatures that owe all their hopes to thee, should stand in need of persuasions to love thee ? What horrors attend the thought! However, blessed be God, there are some, even among men, to whom he is precious. This world is not entirely peopled with the despisers of Christ. To as many of you as believe, he is precious, though to none else.

Would you know the reason of this? I will tell you: none but believers have eyes to see his glory, none but they are sensible of their need of him, and none but they have learned from experience how precious he is.

1. None but believers have eyes to see the glory of Christ. As the knowledge of Christ is entirely from revelation, an avowed unbeliever, who rejects that revelation, can have no right knowledge of him, and therefore must be entirely indifferent towards him, as one unknown, or must despise and abhor him as an enthusiast or impostor. But one, who is not an unbeliever in profession or speculation, may yet be destitute of that faith which constitutes a true believer, and which renders Jesus precious to the soul. True faith includes not only a speculative knowledge and belief, but a clear, affecting, realizing view, and a hearty approbation of the things known and believed concerning Jesus Christ; and such a view, such an approbation, cannot be produced by any human means, but only by the enlightening influences of the Holy Spirit shining into the heart. Without such a faith as this, the mind is all dark and blind as to the glory of Jesus Christ; it can see no beauty in him, that he should be desired.

2. None but believers are properly sensible of their need of Christ. They are deeply sensible of their ignorance and the disorder of their understanding, and therefore they are sensible of their want of both the external and internal instructions of this divine Prophet. But as to others, they are puffed up with intellectual pride, and apprehend themselves in very little need of religious instruction, and therefore they think but very lightly of him. Believers feel themselves guilty, destitute of all righteousness, and incapable of making atonement for their sins, or recommending themselves to God, and therefore the satisfaction and righteousness of Jesus Christ are most precious to them, and they rejoice in him as their all-prevailing intercessor. But as to the unbelieving crowd, they have no such mortifying thoughts of themselves! they have so many excuses to make for their sins, that they bring down their guilt to a very trifling thing, hardly worthy of divine resentment: and they magnify their good works to such a height, that they imagine they will nearly balance their bad, and procure them some favor at least from God, and therefore they must look upon this High Priest as needless.

3. None but believers have known by experience how precious he is. They, and only they, nave known what it is to feel a bleeding heart healed by his gentle hand, and a clamorous languishing conscience pacified by his atoning blood. They, and only they, know by experience how pleasant it is to converse with him in his ordinances, and to spend an hour of devotion in some retirement, as it were in his company. They, and only they, have experienced the exertions of his royal power, conquering their mightiest sins, and sweetly subduing them to himself. These are, in some measure, matters of experience with every true believer, and therefore it is no wonder Jesus should be precious to them.

There is an interesting question, which, I doubt not, has risen in the minds of such of you as have heard what has been said with a particular application to yourselves, and keeps you in a painful suspense, with an answer to which I shall conclude: " Am I indeed a true believer ?" may some of you say, " and is Christ precious to me ? My satisfaction in this sweet subject is vastly abated, till this question is solved. Sometimes, I humbly think, the evidence is in my favor, and I begin to hope that he is indeed precious to my soul; but alas, my love for him soon languishes, and then my doubts and fears return, and I know not what to do, nor what to think of myself." Do not some of you, my brethren, long to have this perplexing case cleared up ? O what would you not give, if you might return home this evening fully satisfied in this point? Well, I would willingly help you, for experience has taught me to sympathize with you under this difficulty. O my heart! how often hast thou been suspicious of thyself in this respect? The readiest way I can now take to clear up the matter is to answer another question, naturally resulting from my subject; and that is, "How does that high esteem which the believer has for Jesus Christ discover itself? Or, how does he show that Christ is indeed precious to him ?" I answer, he shows it in various ways; particularly by his affectionate thoughts of him, which often rise in his mind, and always find welcome there. He dis122 CHRIST PRECIOUS TO ALL TRUE BELIEVERS.

covers that Jesus is precious to him, by hating and resisting whatever is displeasing to him, and by parting with every thing'that comes in competition with him. He will let all go rather than part with Christ. Honor, reputation, ease, riches, pleasure, and even life itself, are nothing to him in comparison of Christ, and he will run the risk of all; nay, will actually lose all, if he may but win Christ. When Jesus favors him with his gracious presence, and revives him with his influence, how does he rejoice ? But when his beloved withdraws himself and is gone, how does he lament his absence, and long for his return; he weeps and cries like a bereaved, deserted orphan, and moans like a loving turtle in the absence of its mate. Because Christ is precious to him, his interests are so too, and he longs to see his kingdom flourish, and all men fired with his love. Whatever has a relation to his precious Saviour is for that reason precious to him; and when he feels any thing of a contrary disposition, alas! it grieves him, and makes him abhor himself. These things are sufficient to show that the Lord Jesus has his heart, and is indeed precious to him; and is not this the very picture of some trembling, doubting souls among you ? If it be, take courage. After so many vain searches, you have at length discovered the welcome secret, that Christ is indeed precious to you: and if so, you may be sure that you are precious to him. You shall be mine, saiih the Lord, in the day that I make up my jewels. If you are now satisfied, after thorough trial of the case, retain your hope, and let not every discouraging appearance renew your jealousies again; labor to be steady and firm Christians, and do not stagger through unbelief. But, alas! I fear that many of you know nothing experimentally of the exercises of a believing heart, which I have been describing, and consequently that Christ is not precious to you. If this is the case, you may be sure indeed you are hateful to him. He is angry with the wicked every day. "Those that honor him he will honor; and they that despise him shall be lightly esteemed." And what will you do if Christ should become your enemy and fight against you? If this precious stone should become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to you, over which you will fall into ruin, O how dreadful must the fall be ? What must you expect but to lie down in unutterable and everlasting sorrow ?