Having spoken of the way of making use of Christ for removing the guilt of our daily transgressions, we come to speak of the way of making use of Christ, for taking away the guilt that cleaveth to the soul, through daily transgressions; "for every sin defileth the man," Matt. xv. 20; and the best are said to have their spots, and to need washing, which presupposeth filthiness and defilement, Eph. v. 27. John xiii. 8-10. Hence we are so oft called to this duty of washing and making us clean. Isa. i. 16. Jer. iv. 14. Acts xxii. 16. David prays for this washing, Psal. li. 2-7. And it is Christ's work to wash. 1 Cor. vi. 11. Rev. i. 5. Eph. v. 26. See Tit. iii. 5. Now, in speaking to this, we shall observe the same method; and first shew, what Christ has done to take away this filth; and next, what way we are to make use of him, for this end, to get our spots and filthiness taken away, that we may be holy.
As to the first, for the purging away of the filth of our daily failings and transgressions, Christ has done these things:
1. He hath died that he may procure this benefit and advantage to us; and thus he hath washed us meritoriously in his own blood which he shed upon the cross. Thus he "loved us, and washed us from our sins, in his own blood," Rev. i. 5; and this is from all sins, as well such as are committed after, as such as are committed before conversion. Thus, "he by himself purged our sins," Heb. i. 3, viz. by offering up of himself as an expiatory sacrifice to make an atonement, and so procure this liberty. So also it is said, Eph. v. 25-27, that Christ gave himself for his church, "that he might sanctify and cleanse it--that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish." So, Tit. ii. 14, "He gave himself for us, that he might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Here then is the foundation and ground of all cleansing and purification--Christ's death procuring it.
2. As he hath procured, so he sendeth the Spirit to effectuate this, and to work this washing and sanctification in us. Hence, it is said, 1 Cor. vi. 11, "that we are sanctified and washed, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." We are said to be saved "by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he hath shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour," Tit. iii. 5, 6. The sending then, or shedding of the holy and sanctifying Spirit upon us, whereby we are sanctified, and consequently purified and purged from our filth, is a fruit of Christ's death and mediation, being purchased thereby, and is an effect of his resurrection, and glorification, and intercession in glory.
3. He hath made a fountain of his blood for this end, that we may go to it daily, and wash and be clean. Thus his "blood cleanseth from all sin," 1 John i. 7-9. This is the "fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness," Zech. xiii. 1.
4. He hath purchased and provided the external means, whereby this cleansing and sanctification is brought about, viz. the preaching of the gospel, which he himself preached, and thereby sanctified, John xv. 3, "Now are ye clean through the word that I have spoken unto you." Eph. v. 26, the church is "sanctified and cleansed with the washing of water, by the word."
5. So hath he procured, and worketh in the soul those graces that promove and carry on this work of sanctification and purifying; such as faith, which purifieth the heart, Acts xv. 9; whereof he is the author and finisher, Heb. xii.; and hope, which whosoever hath, "purifieth himself, even as he is pure," 1 John iii. 3.
6. He hath confirmed and ratified all the promises of the covenant, which are ample and large, touching this cleansing and washing, Jer. xxxv. 8, "And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me." Ezek. xxxvi. 25, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness." So Ezek. xxxvii. 23, "and I will cleanse them." And all the other promises of the covenant, apprehended by faith, have no small influence on our cleansing; 2 Cor. vii. 1. "Having therefore these promises, let us cleanse ourselves," &c.; all which promises are yea and amen in Christ, 2 Cor. i. 20.
Thus Christ made all sure, for the cleansing and washing of his people, conform to that article of the covenant of redemption, "so shall he sprinkle many nations," Isa. lii. 15.
Secondly, As to the way of our use-making of Christ for the purging away of our filth and daily pollutions, believers would take this course:
1. They would remember and live in the conviction of the exceeding abominableness and filthiness of sin, which is compared to the vomit of a dog, and to the mire wherein the sow walloweth, 2 Pet. ii. 22; filthy rags, Isa. lxiv. 6; to a menstruous cloth, Isa. xxx. 22, and the like, that this may move them to seek with greater care and diligence, to have that filth taken away.
2. They would remember also how abominable sin makes them in the eyes of an holy God, "who cannot behold iniquity," being a God of purer eyes than to behold it, Hab. i. 13; nor can he look on it; and how therefore no thing can enter into the New Jerusalem, nor any thing that defileth. And this will make them so much the more to abhor it, and to seek to be washed from it.
3. They would look by faith on the blood of Christ that is shed for this end, to wash filthy souls into; and run to it as a fountain opened for this end, that they might come to it, and wash and be clean.
4. For their encouragement, they would grip by faith to the promises of the new covenant, which are large and full.
5. And remember the end of Christ's death, viz., to purchase to himself a holy people, zealous of good works, to present them to himself holy, and without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; and this will be further ground of encouragement.
6. They would put the work by faith in his hand, who hath best skill to wash a foul soul, and to purge away all their spots; and by faith pray for and expect the Spirit to sanctify and cleanse them from all their filthiness; that is, they would make known and spread forth their abominations before the Lord, and eyeing Christ as the only great High Priest, whose blood is a fountain to wash in, would lay the work on him, and by faith put him to wash away that filth, and to purify their souls by his Spirit, pardoning their bygone iniquities and renewing them in the Spirit of their minds by grace, that they may walk before him in fear. Thus they would roll the work on him, and leave it there.
CAUTIONS AND DIRECTIONS.
First, The believer would in all this work be kept in the exercise of these graces following:
1. Of humility; seeing what a vile, filthy wretch he is, that stands in need of washing and purging daily, because of his daily pollutions and transgressions.
2. Of love; considering with what a loving God he hath to do, that hath provided so liberally all things for him, and particularly hath provided a fountain, and such a fountain, whereto he not only may, but is commanded to resort daily.
3. Of thankfulness; remembering how great this mercy is, how unworthy he is, on whom it is bestowed, and who he is that doth grant it.
4. Of fear; lest God's goodness be abused, and he provoked who is so gracious to us.
5. Of sincerity, and godly ingenuity, avoiding all hypocrisy and formality, knowing that we have to do with him, who will not be mocked.
6. Of holy hatred; loathing and abhorrence of sin, which makes us so filthy and odious in the eyes of the Lord.
Secondly, This course would be followed for the purging away of the least sins; for till they be purged away, we remain in our filth, and cannot expect God's favourable countenance, nor his warm embracements, nor the hearty intimations of his love and kindness. And a small inconsiderable like spot may grow greater, and provoke God to let the accuser of the brethren, Satan, who always waits for his opportunity, loose upon us, and a conscience wakened may make much of a little defilement to keep the soul from approaching to God.
3. This course would be followed with every sin, quickly without delay; for the longer those spots continue, it will be the more difficult to get them taken away. The soul will after some time, become the less troubled about them, and possibly forget them, and so they will remain; and this may occasion at last a sad distance, and provoke God to hide his face, which will cause more bitterness and sorrow. It were good, then, to keep up a spirit of tenderness and fear.
4. Let this be our daily work and exercise; for we are daily contracting new filth. Yesterday's cleansing will not save us from new filth to-day; nor will our running to the fountain to-day, serve to take away new spots to-morrow; new spots call for new washing, so that this must be our very life and exercise, to be daily and continually running to the fountain with our souls; and giving Christ, the great purger, much to do.
5. We must not think to be perfectly washed, so long as we are here; for we will be contracting new filth daily, our feet will still be to wash, John xiii. 10. We will not be without spot or wrinkle, till we come home to that place, wherein entereth nothing that defileth.
6. Let the believer's recourse in this matter be wholly to Jesus Christ and his blood, and lay no weight on their sorrow, repentance, or tears, or on any outward means which they are commanded to use; yet would they not lay aside these means, but go through them to the fountain, to Jesus, there, and there only to be cleansed.
7. They should not be discouraged or despair when their spots appear great, and not like the spots of his children; for Christ's blood can purge from all sin, and wash away all their filth, of how deep soever a dye it be. Christ's blood is so deep an ocean, that a mountain will be sunk out of sight in it, as well as a small pebble stone.
8. Though Christ's blood be strong enough to purge from all sin, even the greatest, yet they should know, that scandalous spots, or a deep stain, may cost them more frequent running to the fountain, through humiliation, godly sorrow, prayer, and supplication. David's scandalous blot cost him more trouble and pains, before he got it purged away, than many others, as we see, Psalm li.
9. When all this is done, we must think of having on another righteousness, as our clothing and covering, in the day of our appearance before our Judge--even the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which only is perfect, and able to save us from the wrath of God. Let us be never so washed in the matter of sanctification, and cleansed from our spots, we cannot for all that be accounted righteous before God; nor will that satisfy justice, or take away the guilt so much as of one transgression before God. Christ's righteousness will be our upper garment for all eternity. This is the fine linen wherewith his bride is busked in heaven.
10. At every time we run to the fountain with our daily contracted filth, we would not forget to carry along with us the mother corruption, which is the sink and puddle of all filthiness; I mean our natural corrupted rottenness and pollution, from whence flow all our other actual pollutions. We would do well to carry mother and daughter both together to the fountain. David prayed to be washed and purged, as well from his original filthiness, wherein he was conceived and born, as from his blood-guiltiness. Psalm li. 5, 7.
11. Let not this occasion our carelessness in watching against sin; for that would be, to turn his grace into wantonness; but rather let it sharpen our diligence in watching against all occasions of sin, lest we again defile our soul.
12. Not only must we have our bodies, or our outward conversation washed, but our soul within, the frame of our heart, our understanding, will, affections, and conscience, sprinkled with that blood. The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit "offered himself without spot to God," must purge our Consciences from dead works, to serve the living God, Heb. ix. 14. and we must "have our hearts, sprinkled from an evil conscience," Heb. x. 22.
Finally, If the believer fear that he shall not be able to remember all these particular duties, let him remember this, viz. to put a foul soul, defiled with original and actual pollutions, in Christ's hand daily, and leave it to him to wash by his blood and Spirit; and yet remember to lay the weight of his acceptance before God, upon the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, and not upon his own cleanness, when thus sanctified and washen, which is but imperfect.
QUESTIONS OR OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
But, alas! some may object, and say, that their very faith, which must carry the rest of their filth to the fountain of Christ's blood, is defiled. How, then, can they expect to be made clean? Answer. The blood of Jesus Christ is sufficiently able to wash all our filth away; and the filth of faith, as well as of other actions. Therefore, when faith, as a hand, is carrying the filth of the soul away to Christ to be washed in his blood, let the foul hand go with the foul handful; give Christ faith and all to wash.
2. But what shall I do, when, notwithstanding of all this, my conscience shall still accuse me of uncleanness, and cry out against me as filthy and abominable? Answer. Take it away also to the blood of Jesus, that there it may be purged, Heb. ix. 14; and here alone will we "get our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience," Heb. x. 22. The conscience must be steeped, so to speak, in the blood of Jesus, and so it shall be clean. And taking our filthy hearts to this cleansing fountain to be washed, we will get them delivered and sprinkled from an evil conscience, that it shall no more have ground of accusation against us. When we have it to say, that we have put our filthy souls in the hand of the great cleanser, Jesus Christ, and brought all our pollutions to his blood, what can conscience say to us? The Lord, it is true, may suffer our conscience still to bark upon us, and cast up our filthiness to us, that we may be the more humbled, and be put to lie more constantly at the fountain; yet when we have fled to Christ, and taken our filthiness to the open and appointed fountain, we can answer the accusations of conscience in law, and have peace.
3. But I am apt to think, will some say, that if I had once taken the right way to get my sins and filthiness purged away, my conscience would trouble me no more; but now, so long as it doggeth me thus, I cannot think that the way which I have taken is the right way. Answer. Though the Lord may think good to suffer conscience to trouble a man for a time, though he hath taken the right way, as is said, for a further exercise and trial to him; yet the believer will have no less disadvantage by examining his way, and trying whether he hath laid the matter cleanly over on Christ, or whether he hath laid too much weight on his own humiliation, sorrow, and pains; and whether he be leaving the matter on Jesus, and expecting to be washed alone in his blood, or looking into himself, and expecting some help in the matter from self; and after trial, would mourn for any failing he gets discovered, and still be about that work of running with filth to the fountain. But withal they would go to Christ for help, because without him they cannot come to him; they cannot come or carry their soul to the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; so that in all this work, there would be a single dependence on Christ for understanding and strength to go about this work aright.
Thus have we endeavoured to clear up Christ being the way to the Father, first and last; and how all believers or unbelievers are to make use of him as the way to the Father, whatever their condition be: from all which we may see,
1. That such are in a wretched and forlorn condition who are still strangers to Christ, and will not lay hold on him, nor come to him, and walk in him, and make use of him. They are unrighteous and unholy, and daily contracting more guilt and more filth; and they know no way either for justification or sanctification, but a way of self, which will prove like the brooks, which run dry in summer, and disappoint the weary traveller when he hath most need. They are without Christ, and so without the way, the only way, the safe and sure way to the Father. And, oh! if all that is here spoken could induce them to think once of the misery of their condition, and to seek out for relief, that they might not only be saved from their state of sin and misery, but brought into a state of salvation through Jesus Christ, so that they might be justified before God, from all that justice, the devil, the law, or conscience could lay against them, and thoroughly sanctified, and so at length brought home to the Father, fair and spotless.
2. Upon the other hand, we see the noble advantage of believers, who, through grace, are entered in this way; for it is a full and complete way that shall carry them safe home. They shall find that he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through him. And, oh! if they were sensible of this, how would it excite them to thankfulness! How would it encourage them to run through difficulties great and many!
3. We see what a special duty lieth upon believers to make special use of Christ in all things, as the way to the Father, and so march to heaven in him, as the only way; march in his hands, or rather be carried in his arms and bosom. This were to go from strength to strength, till at length they appeared in Zion, and landed in that pleasant place of rest, where the weary are at rest, and yet rest not day nor night, but sing praises to "him that hath redeemed them by his blood, out of every kindred and tongue, and people and nation, saying, blessing, honour, glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever," Rev. v. 9, 13.
4. Hence we may see the cause of the leanness of believers, of their wanderings, of their shortcomings, of their many defilements, &c. viz. their not constant making use of Christ as the way in all things, according to the tenor of the gospel. Oh I if this were laid to heart and mourned for, and if grace were sought to help it!
This one point of truth, that Christ is the way, well understood and rightly put into practice, would do all our business, both as to justification and sanctification, and were poor sinners once entered into this way, and had they grace from this way to walk in it, it would prove their life and salvation: For it is the marrow and substance of the whole gospel. So that there needeth little more to be said: Yet we shall speak a little to the other particulars in the text.