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I hope, Sir, I have now answered not only your question, but your expectation. And yet, that I may obviate all mistakes, I will endeavour to give you a review of the whole, in some plain, familiar, and practical directions.
If you suppose yourself in an unregenerate state, be found most earnestly diligent in the duties of religion, in the use of the means of grace, and in endeavours of a conformity of life to the will of God, as the way in which God will be inquired of by you, that he may bestow his converting and sanctifying grace upon you.
It is true, that God is the sovereign author and donor of his own special favours; but it is also true, that he has given you no encouragement to hope for them, in any other way but that of duty. In this way, therefore, do you be found; pleading with him for the influences of his Holy Spirit, to draw you to Christ, and to work the work of faith with power in your soul. In this way you may hope in his mercy, not indeed for the sake of your duties, but for the sake of Christ's infinite merits, and the boundless grace and goodness of the divine nature. But in the neglect of this way of duty, you have not the least encouragement from the word of God to hope for the renewing influences of the blessed Spirit, without which you are undone eternally.
However, though even an unregenerate man must thus 6 strive to enter in at the strait gate,” you must yet consider and realize to yourself, that you are utterly incapable of that obedience which the Gospel requires, without faith in Christ. Faith is the first act of evangelical obedience, the root of all
other graces, and the principle of all such religious duties as God will own and accept. For “ without faith it is impossible to please God.” You must live in the Spirit before you can walk in the Spirit. Your first business therefore is, not only earnestly to pray to God that he would draw you to Christ, but you must endeavour to look to this precious Saviour as to a sufficient fountain of all grace, trusting your soul in his hands, with encouraging hope of justification by his righteousness, and sanctification by his Spirit. If your faith be sincere, you thereby lay a foundation of spiritual and acceptable obedience; but if not, the best works that you can perform will be only external, hypocritical, legal, and slavish performances. You must therefore be brought to act faith in Christ for holiness, as the beginning of that salvation which you hope to obtain from him. You are not to look upon a life of holiness and spiritual obedience as the condition of your salvation, but as the salvation itself which you hope for actually begun in your soul; and you have as much warrant from the invitations and promises of the Gospel, to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for this renovation of your nature by his Spirit, as for the justification of your person by his blood, or for an eternal inheritance with the saints in light; and you must accordingly depend upon him for it, and ask it of him in faith, or never obtain it.
I have proposed these things to you, upon the supposition that you have not satisfying evidences of a converted state. Let us now then suppose the case to be otherwise, and you comfortably persuaded that you have experienced the happy change. An
humble dependence upon Christ for new supplies of grace, must still be the source of your persevering obedience. Go on, then, to trust in him, and you will find that he will not fail your expectations, you will find that his grace is sufficient for you. But do not deceive yourself with an imagination of your trusting in Christ amidst a course of sinful negligence and inactivity. Remember that good works are of indispensable obligation, and of absolute necessity, in the respects before mentioned. You must not only trust in Christ to fulfil his good pleasure in you, but you must live to him, in the exercise of that grace and strength which you derive from him. In an humble confidence in his sanctifying and quickening influences, you must take heed to yourself, and keep your soul with all diligence; you must see to it that your heart be right with God; that you “ delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man;" that you maintain a strict watch over your affections as well as conversation; that you neglect no known duty toward God or man; that you carefully improve your time, and other talents committed to your trust; and endeavour, in a constant course, to maintain a holy, humble, fruitful, and thankful life. And remember, that one instance of good works which God requires of you, is a daily repent
your sinful defects, and a daily mourning after a further progress in holiness. After, pousal to Christ by faith, this is the way, and the only way, of comfort here and happiness hereafter.
That I might set this important point in as clear a light as possible, I have laboured to represent it in different views; and thereby have necessarily run
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into some repetitions, for which I depend upon your candour. Now, that the Lord would bless my endeavours for your best good, is the prayer of,
THE NATURE OF THE BELIEVER'S UNION TO CHRIST
BRIEFLY EXPLAINED, AND THE NECESSITY OF
If you mean no more by your “ ignorance of the nature of that union to Christ, which I so often mentioned,” but that you cannot form any adequate idea of this incomprehensible mystery, it is nothing wonderful. There are multitudes of things, whose existence you are most intimately acquainted with, yet of whose special manner of existence you can have no idea. You have no reason, therefore, to doubt of the believer's union to Christ, because you do not understand the mode of it, any more than you
have to doubt of the union of your soul and body, because you do not understand the mode of it. It is a sufficient confirmation of the truth of this doctrine, that it is revealed in the word of God. It is sufficient, for our present imperfect state, to know so much of the nature of this union as God has been pleased to reveal in the blessed oracles of truth. It is your mistake to suppose, that “our divines do but occasionally mention
this doctrine, but do not pretend to explain it.” Numbers of divines have written well upon the delightful subject; though, I confess, it is too little considered by many of our practical writers, as it ought to be considered, as being the foundation of both our practice. and hope. Were it more distinctly considered, more particularly explained, and more frequently insisted upon, improved, and applied, both from the pulpit and the press, than it is, it would be a probable means to check the growth of those dangerous errors which prevail among us; and to give men a deeper sense of the necessity of experimental, vital piety, in order to a well-grounded hope of the favour of God. You have therefore reason to desire 66
a just, plain, and familiar view of this doctrine." And I shall endeavour, according to your desire, in as plain and easy a manner as I can, to give a brief and distinct answer to your several questions.
Your first question is, “ What is the nature of that union to Christ which the Scriptures speak of, and what are we to understand by it ?”
In answer to this question, it may be proper, in the first place, to give you a brief view of the various representations of this union in the word of God; and from thence proceed to take some notice of the special nature of it, as it is represented in the Scriptures.
It is sometimes represented in Scripture by the strongest expressions that human language can admit, and even compared to the union between God the Father and God the Son. Thus, John xvii. 11, 21, 22, 23. Holy Father, keep through