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EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED.
Quest. LXV. What special benefits do the members of the
invisible church enjoy by Christ? Answ. The members of the invisible church, by Christ, enjoy union and communion with him in grace
and glory. Quest. LXVL. What is that union which the elect have with
Answ. The union which the elect have with Christ, is the
work of God's grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably joined to Christ, as their head and husband, which is done in their effectual calling.
We have in the foregoing part of this work, considered
man as made upright at first; but not continuing in that state, plunged into those depths of sin and misery, which would have rendered his state altogether desperate, without the interposition of a Mediator; whose designation to this work, his fitness for, and faithful discharge thereof, have been particularly considered in several foregoing answers, wherein we have had an account of his Person as God-man; his offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, his twofold estate, to wit, of humiliation and exaltation; and the benefits which accrue to the church thereby. This church has also been considered as visible or invisible; and the former of these, as enjoying many privileges which respect, more especially, the ordinary means of salvation.
We are now led to consider the benefits which the members of the invisible church, to wit, the whole number of the elect, who have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, their head, enjoy by him. And these are contained in two general heads; namely, union and communion with him in Vol. III.
grace and glory; which comprise in them the blessings of both worlds, as the result of their relation to, and interest in him. First, they are united to him, and then made partakers of his benefits. All grace imparted to us here, is the result thereof; as the apostle says, of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of Godh is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Cor. i. 30. And elsewhere our Saviour says, He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, John xv. 5. And the contrary hereunto is inconsistent with the exercise of any grace: Without me ye can do nothing
Moreover, that communion which the saints have with Christ in glory, whereby they who are brought to a state of perfection, participate of those graces and comforts which flow from their continued union with him; and the first fruits, or foretastes of glory, which they have in this world, are also founded on it. Thus the apostle calls Christ in his people, The hope of glory, Colos. i. 27. and speaking of his giving eternal life to them, he considers them as being in his hand, from whence none shall pluck them out, John X. 28. or separate them from him. So that they shall enjoy everlasting happiness with him, inasmuch as they shall be found in him, Phil. iii. 9. which leads us more particularly to consider,
What this union with Christ is. The scripture often speaks of Christ's being, or abiding in his people, and they in him ; and assigns it as an evidence of their interest in the blessings he has purchased for them : and, indeed, it is from hence that all internal and practical godliness is derived."
This privilege argues infinite condescension in him, and tends to the highest advancement of those who are the subjects thereof. Now that we may understand what is intended thereby, let us take heed that we do not include in it any thing that tends to extenuate it on the one hand; or to exalt those who are made partakers of it above the station or condition into which they are brought thereby, on the other. : It is not sufficient to suppose that this union contains in it no more than that his people have the same kind of nature with him, as being made partakers of flesh and blood; he having himself taken part of the same, Heb. ii. 14. He is indeed allied to us, as having all the essential perfections of our nature : and this was an instance of infinite condescension in him, and absolutely necessary to our redemption : nevertheless, this similitude of nature, abstracted from other considerations, accompanying or flowing from his incarnation, contains in it no other idea of union, between Christ and his people, than that which they have with one another; nor is it a privilege peculiar to believers, since Christ took on him the same human nature that all men have, though with a peculiar design of grace to those whom he came to redeem. This I the rather take notice of, because the Socinians, and others, that speak of this privilege, inasmuch as it is often mentioned in scripture, appear to have very low thoughts of it, when they suppose nothing more than this to be intended thereby
Again, this union includes in it more than what is contained in that mutual love that is between Christ and believers, in that sense in which there is an union of affection between those who love one another; as it is said, The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David; and Jonathan loved him as his own soul, 1 Sam. xviii. 1. Iņ which respect believers are united to one another; or, as the apostle expresses it, their hearts are knit together in love, Col. ii. 2. being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind, Phil. ii. 2. or, as he adds, Let this mind also be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, ver. 5. I say it includes more than this, which is rather the fruit and consequence of our union with Christ, than that wherein it principally consists.
Moreover we must take heed that we do not, in explaining this union between Christ and believers, include more in it than what belongs to creatures infinitely below him, to whom they are said to be united: therefore we cannot but abhor the blasphemy of those who speak of an essential union of creatures with God; or, as though they had hereby something derived to them in common with Christ the great Mediator. *
But passing by this method of accounting for the union between Christ and believers, there are two senses in which it is taken in scripture; one is, that which results from Christ's being their federal head, representative, or surety; having uódertaken to deal with the justice of God in their behalf, so that what he should do, as standing in this relation to them, should be placed to their account, as much as though it had been done
• The first that seems to use this unsavoury mode of speaking, is Gregory Nazianzen ; who wid not consider how inconsistent some of those rhetorical ways of speaking, he seems fond of, are with that doctrine, which, in other parts of his writings, he maintuined. Those words Xpoolombia, and SOCROHIV, which he sometimes uses to express the nature, or consequence of this union between Christ, and believers, are very disgustful. In one place of his writings, (Vid. ejusd. Orat. 41.) exhorting Christians to be like Christ, he says, That because he became like unto us, geropera nos diavler, efficiamur Dii propter ipsum; and elsewhere, (in Orat. 35. de Folio.) he says, Hic homo Deus effectus postea quam cum Deo coaluit na yeyuas TCOSTOY Boos Crov EX ANOS ay$pextos oralin, ut ipse quoque tantum Deus efficiar quantum ipse homo. And sonie modern writers have been fond of the same mode of speaking, especially among those who, from their mysterious and unintelligible mode of expressing themselves, have rather exposed than defended the doctrines of the gospel
. We find expressions of the like nature in a book put forth by Luther, which is supposed to be züritten by Taulerus, before the Reformation, called Theologia Germunica, and some others, since that time, such as Parcelsus, Swenckfelt, Weigelius, and those enthusiasts, that have adhered to their untntelligible and blasphemous modes of speaking.
by them in their own persons: this is what contains in it their concern in the covenant of grace, made with him in their behalf; of which something has been said under a foregoing answer;
* and it is the foundation of their sins being imputed to him, and his righteousness to them; which will be farther considered, when we treat of the doctrine of justification under a following answer. +
Therefore this union with Christ, which is mentioned in the answer we are now explaining, is of another nature, and, in some respects, may be properly styled a vital union, as all spiritual life is derived from it; or a conjugal union, as it is founded in consent, and said to be by faith. Now there are two things observed concerning it.
1. It is expressed by our being spiritually and mystically joined to Christ: it is styled a spiritual union, in opposition to those gross and carnal conceptions which persons may entertain concerning things being joined together in a natural way; and, indeed, whatever respects salvation is of a spiritual nature.
It is moreover called a mystical union, which is the word most used by those who treat on this subject; and the reason is, because the apostle calls it a great mystery, Eph. V. 32. by which we are not to understand the union there is between man and wife, as contained in the similitude by which he had before illustrated this doctrine, as the Papists pretend, but the union that there is between Christ and his church. And it is probably styled a mystery, because it could never have been known without divine revelation : and as Christ's condescension, expressed herein, can never be sufficiently admired; so it cannot be fully comprehended by us. This is such a nearness to him, and such a display of love in him as passeth knowledge. However, there are some similitudes used in scripture to illustrate it. As,
(1.) The union that there is between the vine and the branches, John xv. 1, 2, 5. whereby life, nourishment, growth and fruit
See Vol. II. Quest. 31. page 167. † Quest. 70.
* This is the principal, if not the only scripture, from which they pretend to prove marriage to be a sacrament, and they argue thus The Greek church had no other word to express what was afterwards called a sacrament by the Latin church, but pausupov, a mystery: therefore since the apostle calls marriage, as they suppose, a mystery, they conclude that it is a sacrament; which is a very weak foundation for inserting it among those sacraments which they have added to them that Christ had instituted; for the sacraments are no where called mysteries in scripture, and therefore we are not to explain doctrines by words which were not used till some ages after the apostles' time : and if there were any thing in their argument, viz. that that which is called a mystery in scripture, must neeils be a sacrament, it does not appear that the apostle calls marriage a great mystery, but the union that there is between Christ and his church; as he expressly says in the following words ; I speak con. cerning Christ and the church