Christ Alone Exalted
With explanatory notes by John Gill
Christ the Only Way
“ I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father, but by Me,” John 14:6.
I have a word or two to speak more fully, if possible it may be, to satisfy such as are not fully resolved in the things I formerly delivered. Christ, I said, is the way from wrath, from the wrath of the Father; from wrath in its affection, (as I may so speak); from wrath in the fruits of this affection of wrath. I delivered this position indeed: “The punishment, or the rod of God, or rather chastisement, is not for sin, but from sin.” Some stumble at the expression, peradventure thorough mistake. In brief, therefore, beloved, to clear both myself and your judgments, if it be possible; when I say that believers are not afflicted for sin, I mean thus; God, when he afflicts a believer, he hath not an eye to the desert of his sin, and there upon doth lay part of this desert upon his back; for Christ hath borne the whole desert of sin upon his own back. Whatsoever desert of sin the believer doth bear, Christ did not bear it, or else God takes satisfaction twice for one thing. Mark it well, I pray, beloved, if the Lord will scourge a believer, as now pouring out upon him what his transgressions hath deserved, wherefore did Christ die? Christ died to satisfy for the fault of sin; and, in his death, God was actually satisfied, as you shall find it in Isaiah 53:11, “He beheld the travail of his soul, and he was satisfied with it.” With what was he satisfied? He was satisfied with “the travail of his soul;” with the burden his soul bare, with the punishment of sin that was upon him. If God was satisfied with the “travail of his soul,” how can God come to exact a new satisfaction by pouring out his wrath for sin upon believers? To be satisfied, and to ask more is a contradiction; either he was not satisfied, or, being satisfied, he could ask no more. In brief, therefore, beloved, consider this much, there is not the least action, or rather intention of any revenge, for a sin committed, when the Lord in any kind afflicts his people: all the revenge, that sin deserves, Christ hath taken away and hath borne it upon his own back; and, therefore, he is said to “save to the uttermost them that come to God by him,” (Heb. 7:25). He saves to the utmost, saith the apostle; he hath not left a dram, nor a jot behind, not so much as the least scatterings of wrath to light upon the head of a believer, for whose sake he bare the indignation of the Lord. Whereupon the very nature of affliction in general is altered and changed; as death in particular: it was the wages of sin at first; it is become the bed of rest now; “They shall rest in their beds, each in his uprightness,” (Isa. 57:2), saith the prophet. Afflictions were the rod of God’s anger; they are now the gentle purges of a tender father. God heretofore afflicted for sin, now God afflicts men from sin; “This is all the fruit,” saith the prophet, “to take away his sin,” (Isa. 27:9): not to take away the present sin, as if affliction did make an end, and so blot out transgression; this doth directly strike at the heart of Christ himself. 1
But “this is all the fruit to take away sin,” that is, to break off sin, to prevent sin. “Before I was afflicted (saith David) I went astray, but now have I learned to keep thy law:” therefore, (saith he) “It is good for me that I have been afflicted,” (Ps. 119:71); in this regard, because of prevention.
If you will but carry it clearly without carping, or a spirit that seeks contention and quarrelling, you never need to stumble at such a position as this; for afflictions are the smiles of God, as gracious as the choicest embraces. God never manifests loving stroking of a soul, more than he doth, when he afflicts it, to make his love appear in these afflictions. And the truth is, as Christ has purchased rest and peace for believers, so he hath likewise purchased afflictions for them too; the wisdom of God seeing afflictions as useful as dandlings [gentle rocking; Ed.] themselves: but still, I say, this remains firm, that Christ is a way from all wrath whatsoever, as it is the manifestation of God’s displeasure unto the creatures sinning; and thereby pouring out the desert of this sinfulness, or the fruit of the desert of this sinfulness, upon them; Christ is a way to the state of grace; grace in respect of favor, grace in respect of the fruits thereof; and this we have dispatched.
The next thing considerable is, “What kind of way Christ is to those that come to the Father by him?” I shall speak as briefly as possible. I may, take notice, in general, that the Lord hath laid out Christ as a way, with all the possible conveniences that may either win a people into this way, or satisfy and refresh a people that are in this way, (Prov. 9:1-3. Cant. 5:1); he hath so furnished Christ, the way, with all possible accommodations, as there cannot be devised what the heart of man himself can desire; but he shall find it in this way, Christ: so that all I shall speak of this subject is, that as it may give abundance of light; so you may apply it all along, by way of motive to stir you up, to quicken you to set footing into this way, in respect of those several conveniences that do accompany it.
In the first place, there is this great and ineffable excellency and accommodation in Christ, the way, that he is a free way for all comers to enter into, without any cause of fear, that they shall trespass by entering: he is a free way, I say: a way that costs nothing; a way barred up to no person whatsoever; a way whose gates are cast off from the hinges, (Ps. 112:16); nay, rather, a way that hath no gates at all unto it; a cheap way to us; a costly way indeed unto the Father, and to Christ too. O beloved! a man might study a while to find out, whether there be more preciousness in Christ himself, as he is our way, or in the fitting of Christ to be our way. The person of Christ is invaluable, there is nothing to be compared with him: but considering him as our way to salvation, whether there be more preciousness in that, or in the fitting of him for it, is not so easy to determine. Ye are bought with a price, saith the apostle, (1 Pet. 1:18, 19,) not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” Observe it, I pray, that Christ might be a fit way for us to the Father, it cost the Father, and Christ himself that, in comparison of which, silver and gold, and the most precious, things in the world, are called but corruptible things; which makes the apostle break out into a way of expostulation and admiration, rather than into a way of affirmation; “Oh! what manner of love is this, that the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God, (1 John 3:1)! Greater love than this can no man show, than to lay down his life for his enemies. What did it cost the Father? It cost him that, that was most precious to him of all things in the world; it cost him his Own Son, not a cessation of the being of his Son, but the bitterness of his Son: though a man doth not lose his child, yet it goes to heart of him to see his child tormented; much more when he himself must be forced to be the tormentor. Abraham thought God put him hard to it, when he must be the butcher, to slay his own and only son, his dear Isaac. God, the Father, was put to it as much, nay, much more: in Abraham the thing was but offered, God would not have him do it actually; yet it went to his heart that he should be appointed to do it; but it would have cut his heart if he had done it, if he had cut the throat of Isaac. If nothing could content him before he had a child, “What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless?” (Gen. 15:2). What would Abraham have said, if receiving a child, he should have been made a butcher to his own child? Yet the Father was put to this, to make Christ a way to believers: “He was his only beloved Son, in whom be was well pleased,” (Prov. 8:30). “I was daily his delight, (speaking of the Father and Christ under the notion, wisdom) I was his delight, rejoicing always before him in the habitable parts of his earth.” Must it not come near unto him to part with such a Son? Nay, must it not go near to him, that he himself must not only be a spectator of all that cruelty, but the principal actor himself in the tragedy? He doth not only leave Christ to men, but when men could not fetch blood enough, he takes the rod into his own hand, and will fetch it himself from his beloved Son: “It pleased the Lord to bruise him,” saith the prophet, (Isa. 53:10). It did not only please the Lord, that men should bruise him; but “it pleased the Lord” himself “to bruise him.” It was a strange apprehension, that God should look upon the anguish of the soul of Christ, and, instead of breaking out into furiousness against the instruments of cruelty, he himself should be satisfied with beholding it;. as much as to say, it did his heart good to see it; “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied;” not only satisfied towards men, but satisfied himself: it gave him content to see the travail of his Son. Certainly, beloved, the bowels of God must infinitely be beyond the reach of the creature, towards a poor sinner, that he could go so far in a contrary way to his own Son; that there might be the fruit of these bowels to his enemies. One would think, God should rejoice to see the confusion of his enemies;” and not rejoice to see the bitterness of the travail of the soul of his Son, that his enemies might escape scot-free: but this, it cost the Father; he must not only behold, or allow the suffering of his Son, but he must be an actor of it himself: nay, he must be pleased in it.
Certainly, the Father was exceedingly pleased with it, because it doth commend the great end of the Father: the main end he drove at was the salvation of sinners; and this, in his wisdom, he saw the fittest way; that it could not be done, but by this way; therefore it pleased him, in that his purpose should not be frustrated to his end. You know, when a man hath a great mind to a thing, if the way he goes in prospers not, he is displeased; if it prosper, he is contented in it, he delights to see his business succeed; so was it with the Father.
You may see what it cost Christ too, as well as the Father; the Father must resign his part in his Son; a great matter, not only to part with him, in respect of death, but in a manner to part with him in life too; “My God, my God, (saith Christ) why hast thou forsaken me?” Here, you see, God parts with him in life; and Christ must part with his life, as well as the Father must part with the Son; nay, in some manner, Christ must part with that which is better than his life, with the glory and majesty of his divinity. He did not part with the essence of his divinity, but with the glory of it; he parted, as “Though he thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet he took upon him the form of a servant, and made himself of no reputation,” (Phil. 2:6); he did empty himself, as the meaning of the word is; he did put off and lay aside the majesty and glory he had, that he might seem to be a mere carpenter’s Son. For a king all his lifetime to undergo the notion of a beggar, and not to recover out of this estate all his whole life, but even to lie down in this low condition in the grave, it would seem a great loss unto him: man would reckon this a great matter, for a king to debase himself so low; it cost Christ more than this; look upon all the sufferings of Christ; look upon death itself; together with the reproach and shame of it. The death he died, was called “A cursed death of the cross;” although he was not ashamed, that is, he despised the shame; yet shame and reproach he must bear. So, if we look upon God and Christ, as making a way for men, it is not a free way, it is not a cheap way, but looking upon ourselves, that have received the benefit of this way, and this Christ, it is a free way indeed, free for man, without any cost or charge; free, as he is a way to all sorts of men, none excepted, none prohibited; whoever will, may set footing in Christ. There is nothing can bar one person more than another, from entering into Christ as a way. I know, beloved, this seems harsh to the ears of some people, that there is no difference to be made among men, not only poor, as well as rich, but that the wicked, as well as godly, are admitted; that is strange. But let me tell you, Christ is a free way for a drunkard, for a whore-master, for a harlot, an enemy to Christ; I say, Christ is as free a way for such a person to enter into him,2 as for the most godly person in the world. But do not mistake me; I do not say, Christ is a free way to walk in him, and yet to continue in such a condition; for Christ will never leave a person in such a filthiness, to whom he hath given to enter in himself: mark; well what I say; but for entrance into him, Christ is free a way for the vilest sort of sinners, as for any person under heaven. If Christ hath given a heart to a sinner, to set footing into himself; that is, to receive, to take him for his Christ; if Christ hath given him a heart to take him for his Christ in reality, to take him truly and unfeignedly: Christ is a way for such a person to the Father, though he be the vilest person under heaven. And he is to him a way unto the Father, even while he is ungodly, before he is amended; and he may take his part in this Christ, as an ungodly person, as well as when he is righteous. In this regard I say, Christ is a free way; God looks for nothing in the world from the sons of men, be they what kind of men soever, he looks for nothing from them, to have a right to Christ; but he did freely give Christ unto them, without considering of anything that they might bring along with them.
Nay, more, God doth not only not look for anything, but he will not take notice, nor regard any discouragements in men, to keep them from the inheritance, to keep him off from giving unto them a right unto Christ.
I would fain have this point cleared, and fully and exactly proved, because, I doubt, many persons will not receive it; but; I tell you, we must not be afraid to set forth the praise of the glory of God’s grace, as fearing the squeamishness of some men: first, therefore, consider, that Christ is delivered over unto to be their way unto the Father, a mere gift, a free gift: what is freer than a gift? That Christ is delivered over to be a way to the Father, by a mere and absolute gift, is most plainly expressed, “I will give thee,” saith the text, “to be a covenant to the people.” In matter of gift, what is there in the richest man in the world, more than in the veriest beggar, to partake of it, supposing the thing that comes to him as gift? A beggar can take a gift as well as the richest man; nay, a thief, that is condemned to the gallows, may receive a gift of the king, as well as the greatest favorite in court; and, if anything be tendered as a mere gift unto a thief, his very being thief, and his being ready to be executed, is no prejudice in the world to bar him from participating of that which shall be stowed upon him as a gift: if Christ be a free gift unto men, then it must follow, to whom the Father will reach out Christ, there is nothing in that person to hinder the participating of him.
But some will say, though Christ be a gift, yet he is a gift upon condition.
I answer, I cannot say but there is a flat contradiction, to say he is a gift, and yet [there be] conditions required. What are the conditions in a covenant, but a mere bargain and sale? I will do this, and thou shalt do that; do this, and thou shalt have that: what difference is there between this, and a bargain and sale? That God should require conditions of men, is but to receive Christ’s upon bargain and sale; but Christ must be really and actually a gift. When the king gives a pardon to a thief, what are the conditions? Peradventure the thief can do his king service, if his life be spared; but if his life be spared upon service doing, it is not a gift, but a bargain, as much as to make contract, thus, do such a piece of service, then life is yours. I say it derogates from the nature of a gift, that there should be a condition required; and the gospel, that is, Christ given over to men, cannot be said to be freely given over to them, if man must buy him: mistake me not, I speak not all this while against holiness and righteousness, that becomes a people to whom Christ is a way; for holy and righteous they shall be; Christ will make them holy, and put his Spirit into them, to change their hearts and to work upon their spirits; but this is not the condition required to partake of Christ; Christ himself gives himself, and then he bestows these things when he is given. I say, Christ is given to men first, before they do anything in the world; and all they do, they do by Christ present in them; “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God,” (Gal. 2:20). We do not so much live, but by the life of Christ, which is life in us. All the actions of life proceed from the soul, now present; how then comes the actions of the soul to be a condition to partake of the soul, that gives life, and, by its presence, works such actions? Christ is the soul of every believer, that animates, and acts the believer in all things whatsoever; must not this life, Christ, be put into a believer, before he can actuate life, which is a stream [that] springs from that life? How then can this be a condition to receive, to have Christ, when Christ is first come, by whom these things, that are called conditions, are afterwards wrought, he himself being present to work them? So, say I, God bestows Christ upon men to be a way to bring them to the Father; he is an absolute and free gift: there is no other motive that Christ should be any one’s Saviour, than merely the good pleasure of the Father, the bowels of God himself; “Not for thy sake, but for my own sake; not for thy sake, thou art a rebellious and stubborn people, but for my own sake.” Here is the freeness of Christ, to a person coming to him, when be comes merely for God’s sake; and God merely upon his good pleasure will do it, because he will; “He hath mercy upon whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardeneth: it is not in him that willeth,” saith Paul, “nor in him that runneth, but in God that sheweth mercy,” (Rom. 9:15-16). So that Christ becomes a way unto them, not out of their will, not out of their disposition, not out of their holy walkings, but out of that mercy that proceeds out of the mere will of God; his own good pleasure is the only fountain and spring of it. Beloved, I beseech you, seriously ponder and consider, that the gospel is therefore called the gospel, because it is glad tidings unto men; and so the angel interpreted it, “Behold, I bring glad tidings.” Why glad tidings? In this respect glad, the poor sinner, he is a broken creature; nay more, he is a dead creature, “Ye, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” That life now is reached out unto such a person, that is a dead person; herein it is plain, that there comes forth that grace from the Lord, that a creature being dead, who can act nothing towards life, yet he shall receive life. “The time is coming that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear it, shall live,” (John 5:25). How come they by life! Is there any action of theirs towards life? They are dead; it is the voice of the Son of God [that] puts life into their dead souls; and it is glad tidings, that though the creature can do nothing, (John 15:5; Isa. 26:12), yet Christ brings enough with him from the fountain of the Father, to bestow upon them, to bring them to him. To show you a plain scripture, that Christ becomes a way to the Father, merely as a free gift, without anything in man required, look into Isaiah 55:1, “Ho, every one that thirsteth,” that is, everyone that hath a mind, “come to the waters, he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come and buy wine and milk without money, and without price,” saith the prophet; and then he falls upon an objurgation [To scold or rebuke sharply; berate; Ed.] in the next verse; “Wherefore spend ye money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which satisfies not? Eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness: incline your ear, hearken, and your soul shall live; I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David?” (Isa 55:2-3). Here is the closure of all; dost thou thirst, that is, hast thou a mind really to Christ, that Christ should say really to thy soul, I am thy salvation? It may be thou dost suspect, saying within thyself, Christ is not my portion; I am not fit for Christ; I am a great sinner, I must be holy first: this is bringing a price to Christ; but you must come without money, and without price: and what is this to come without money, and without price? It is nothing but to take the offer (Rev. 3:18; John 7:37), of Christ, these waters of life, to take them merely and simply as a gift brought, and this is a sure mercy indeed: these are the sure mercies of David, when a man receives the things of Christ, only because Christ gives them; not in regard to any action of ours, as the ground of taking them; I mean, in regard of any action of ours, that we must bring along with us, that must concur that we may partake of this gift. Christ speaks thus to his people, “I will heal their backslidings; I will love them freely,” (Hosea 14:4); that is, I will love them for mine own sake. The apostle speaks excellently concerning this free grace of God bestowed in Christ upon them; “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 3:23, 24). Mark, brethren, first he takes off all creatures, and all sin a creature can do, “all have sinned and come short or the glory of God;” then he shows how we should partake of justification, namely, freely through Christ. The apostle speaks at large concerning the participation of Christ, to be our Christ of mere free gift, where he makes a large comparison of our participation of sin from Adam, and of our participation or life from Christ; and still in every passage, speaking of participating of life from and by Christ, he comes in with these expressions of gift, and that it comes freely. “But not as by the transgression of one, so is the free gift; for if through the transgression of one, many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man Christ, hath abounded unto many,” (Rom. 5:15). There is grace, and the gift by grace; so running in this expression in the 17th verse, he saith, “For if by the offence of one, death reigned by one much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ.” Still, I say, observe it, that we partake of life in Christ, and by Christ; and it runs altogether upon this strain, that it comes by mere gift.
Do but look in Ephesians 2:4-10, and there you shall perceive how clear and full the apostle is in this business, that Christ is made a way to life absolutely and merely of free gift; “But God,” saith he, “who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; by grace ye are saved: and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Jesus Christ, that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Mark how he goes on; “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast; for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Still he runs upon mercy and grace, and works he excludes, that no creature might boast.
If anything were done on our part, to partake of Christ, we might have whereof to boast. So likewise speaking of Abraham, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he had whereof to glory,” (Rom. 4:2); we should have to glory, if we should have the least hand in the participating of Christ; therefore God would give Christ freely unto his creature; because man should have no stroke in participating of him, that so it might be to the praise of the glory of his grace; that we should not glory; yea, “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” And therefore the same apostle tells us, that from this grace “we have boldness, and access with confidence through the faith of him,” (Eph. 3:12). In regard that Christ is given unto men to be a way unto the Father, and merely of free gift, hence it is that we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Should we regard our own works or qualifications, there would be some mixture of distrust; we should have some fear that God would find out such and such a thought; therefore we could never come with boldness and confidence, if we did not come in Christ as a free gift bestowed upon us: for if there were one condition, (Rom. 11:6; 4:16) and the least failing in that condition, God might take advantage upon that default, and so possibly we might miscarry; and we being jealous and privy to it, that there are faults in all we do, we should be “subject all our lives to bondage,” (saith the apostle), and should fear that God will take advantage of all that which is undone on our part; and so not fulfill what he hath promised on his part. But seeing we have Christ bestowed as free gift of the Father, “we come with boldness and access to the throne of grace.” To establish, or a little more to clear this, look into Hebrews 10:18-20; “Now where remission of sin is, there is no more offering for sin; having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way that he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” How come we to have boldness? Through the new and living way made by the blood of Christ; not a new and living’ way by his blood and our actions, but by his blood; that is, only by his blood, merely by his actions; and so passed over freely to us; this is that which makes us come with so much boldness.
Look into the closure of all the Scriptures, you shall find there can be nothing imagined more free; nay, so free, as the participation of Christ to be the way to the Father; nothing so free as this, “Both the Spirit and the bride say, come; let him that heareth, say, come; and let him that is athirst, come; and whosoever will, (mark file expression) let him take of the water of life freely,” (Rev. 22:17). Hast thou but a mind to Christ? come and take the water of life freely; it is thine; it is given to thee; there is nothing looked for from thee to take thy portion in Christ; thine he is as well as any person’s under heaven: therefore, you shall find our Saviour exceedingly complain of this, as a great fault, “You will not come to me, that you might have life;” “He that comes to me, I will in no wise cast him off;” upon no terms. Thou mayest object a thousand things, that if thou shouldst come, and conclude Christ is thy Christ, he will reject thee, and that it will be but presumption; but, in so doing, thou rejectest thyself, and forsakest thy own mercy; but Christ saith, Whosoever he be, what person soever, “I will in no wise cast him off, if he come unto me.”
Secondly, as Christ is a free way, made
over to men by free gift, without anything in man to partake of this Christ, so
he is a safe way to those that do take him: I say, Christ is a safe way, a
secure way; here is no danger of miscarriage in Christ. Let men take any other
way in the world to heaven, but Christ, and there are thousands of dangers, and
thousands of ways to miscarry; but there is no way that a soul can possibly
miscarry, that takes Christ for his way. “Satan hath desired to winnow thee,”
saith Christ, speaking to Peter, “but I prayed for thee, that thy faith fail
not,” (Luke 22:31): nay, he undertakes so, for them that come to him, “that the
gates of hell shall not prevail against them,” (Matt. 16:18). Believers that
receive Christ, have not only the guard of angels to secure them, but they have
the guard of the Spirit of Christ, that shall lead them; not only lead them into
truth, but lead them into all truth. The Spirit will not take a believer and
lead him by the hand, and set him into the way, (as a friend doth, to lead one a
mile out of town, and then leave him alone to go the rest of the way,) no, but
the Spirit leads him into truth, and into all truth; he will be a companion of
the soul, to secure it; a conduct to the very harbor and haven itself. It is a
privilege of this nation, that merchants may have a convoy, a navy royal, it may
be to go out with them, but it will hardly come in with them; therefore there is
not absolute security in this convoy; but he that takes Christ, he hath the
Spirit to go in and out before him; to go forth, to come back, to be all the
way. with him; nay, he hath given himself to be his protector. I will never
leave thee, nor forsake thee,” (Heb. 13:4). In all other ways there may be
danger, in respect of rubs, in respect of difficulties or troubles that may
arise in them: but, do but look in Isaiah 35 you shall see what safety there is
in this way of Christ, unto those that make choice of him, in respect of any
danger that may lie in the way. Isaiah 35:8, the prophet tells us, “That a
highway, there shall be, and that way shall be called the way of holiness, and
the unclean shall not pass over.” And verse 9, (mark the security) “No lion
shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall be found there; but the redeemed of
the Lord shall walk there:” no lion, no ravenous beast, nothing to make them
miscarry. If a man haply travel through a wilderness, there may be bears and
lions; as in
Thirdly, As he is a safe way, so he is a lightsome way; Christ, I say, is a lightsome way to the Father. Solomon tells us, “It is a joyful thing for a man to behold the light of the sun.” It is a great heaviness and bitterness to the spirit of a traveler, to be benighted; to be overtaken with darkness is very uncomfortable; therefore, when we come to the summer-seasons, they are the best seasons for travelers, because lightsome and long. All ways to the Father, but Christ, are mere darkness; nothing but darkness; Christ is the light of the world; “I am come a light into the world: He is that light, that lighteth every one that cometh into the world,” (John 12:46).
Fourthly, Christ (and this is an
excellent consideration) is a near way; all that take him to come to the Father
by him, have a short way to the Father, in comparison of any other way
whatsoever: Christ is the string, other ways are the bow; all other ways are
compasses about; nay, they are labyrinths, in which men use themselves, after
they are wearied with toil; Christ is a near way to the Father; “He is nigh that
justifieth me; who shall condemn me?” (Isa. 50:9). But more especially observe,
how near a way Christ is to the Father; you have it excellently described in
Romans 10:6-8; “The righteousness which is of faith, (that is, of Christ) speaks
on this wise, Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven? That is, to
bring Christ down from above; or who shall descend into the deep? That is, to
bring up Christ again from the dead: but what saith it? The word is nigh thee,
in thy mouth, and in thy heart; this is the word of faith which we preach.”
Mark, when a man chooses Christ for his way to the Father, there needs no
clambering up to heaven to fetch down Christ, nor digging to the bottom of the
deep to fetch him up; Christ is such a way to the Father, that instead of
bringing the man to the Father, he brings the Father down to him; “The word is
nigh unto thee, even in thy heart,” (Deut. 30:14). Therefore, the apostle tells
us, “You who were sometimes afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ,”
(Eph. 2:13). Just as if there were such a course taken, that the Indies (whence
are all treasures) should be brought and set at the suburbs of London; just so
doth Christ bring the Father unto men, and becomes such a way, as if there is
but one step, from the lowest condition of sinfulness, to the highest of being a
son of God. There is but one step between the Father, and them that choose
Christ to be the way. And therefore the first thing Christ preached, was this,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand:” what is that? It is present. You
have heard much, I suppose, of your northern passage to the
Now, how near hath Christ made the way unto the Father? thus near, “He that believeth, shall be saved.” Let me be bold to tell you, You are in as full an estate of justification before God; you are in as true a state of salvation, you that are believers; as they that are now already in heaven:3 “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved;” such a near way is Christ.
Yet still people will be caviling, Where are good works all this while? What, justified by faith alone! Saved by Christ alone! Let me tell you, if Christ be the way, works are not the way, except they be Christ.4 But must not we work? Yea, but for other purposes; the Lord hath propounded other ends for which we are to work; “Ye are bought with a price, (that is done,) therefore glorify God in your bodies and spirits: Being delivered, (our safety it seems is past,) being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we serve in holiness and righteousness, without fear before him, all the days of our life.” Do we serve towards deliverance? Then deliverance is not before serving; but saith Zachariah, “Being delivered, we serve,” (Luke 1:74). First, we are delivered from wrath, before we step a step into any duties whatsoever; (we do not the duty to be delivered, but we do the duty because we are delivered).
And, seeing all things are settled by Christ for us, of free gift, all we do is for Christ himself; I say, that we do, we do for Christ, not for ourselves.5 If we do it for ourselves, we do but labor in vain. Suppose we could compass never so much good by doing, it is but labor in vain, it was compassed beforehand for us. If a man will run a hundred miles for money, if that money be proffered to him before he step out of his house, at his door, his journey is in vain; seeing he might have had it before he stepped out of his door; and that which was the end of his journey, might have been attained without troubling himself at all. Christ comes and brings justification, loving-kindness, and salvation, he lays them down, presents them, delivers them to the heart; when we are ungodly, he enters into covenant, that we should become his. What need than all this travel for life and salvation, seeing it is here already?
Obj. But, seeing we get nothing by it, this is a discouragement for men to work, may some say.
Ans. It is free, it is a discouragement to all selfish men to work; and whether a man work or work not at all, it is all one, if it be but for himself; if a man work never so much, if he be wholly selfish for himself, God rejects it; but when a man will work for Christ, that hath a touch of the loving-kindness of Christ, and therefore stands ready to speak forth the praise of the glory of his grace that hath so freely saved him; for such man to work, is as welcome to him for Christ’s sake, as if he were to work for his own salvation. You have many ingenuous spirits in the world, who will be more free to serve a friend that hath already raised them, than others will be to serve a master, that they may be raised: there is a service of thankfulness, which usually is more cordial, more sedulous, than all mercenary services that are forced. This is the true service of a believer in serving Christ; his eye is to the glory of Christ, in regard of what Christ hath done already for him; and not in expectation of any thing Christ hath to do, which he hath not done. He looks upon all as perfectly done for him in the hand of Christ, and ready to be delivered out into his hand, as several occasions require; and being thus completed by Christ, not to be mended by the creature, having nothing to do for himself, all he doth, he doth for Christ. Thus you see Christ is a near way unto the Father; there cannot be possibly a nearer way; so that now there is a great deal of labor and bitterness saved: thus you may be encouraged to receive Christ for your way. There are some remarkable considerations in Christ, wherein he is our way, wherein we may receive him, wherein is abundance of comfort; but the time hath out-stripped me.
1 For it is Christ’s work to take every present sin from off the conscience of the believer, by the application of his blood and sacrifice; hence he is said to be “the Lamb of God that taketh away,” that continues to take away, “the sins of the world.”
2 That is, who has been such a person; not that continues so, as is presently observed; the sense is, that such are free to come to Christ, notwithstanding their former life, and that without any conditions and qualifications fitting them for his acceptance; and so stand upon as good a foot with respect to Christ’s free and hearty admittance of them into him, the way, as the most godly person in the world.
3 That is, their state of salvation is real, and they are in as safe a state, and have as good a right and claim as the saints in heaven, though not in equal possession; they are heirs of it, kept unto it, and shall certainly enjoy it; and are as completely justified as they; and, therefore, their state of justification is as full.
4 They are ways which God has ordained his people should walk in, in order to glorify and serve him, as follows, but not the way of salvation.
5 Not to obtain righteousness, life, and salvation to ourselves, but for the honor and glory of Christ.