THE RICHES OF DIVINE GRACE
The subject of this Discourse is, on Communion with Christ; in which fellowship, the Lord is pleased, in an especial manner, to open his heart most freely to his beloved ones.
A CONVENIENT time being come, and these two friends being favored with an interview with each other, the conversation began thus:
Senior. My good friend, by the good hand of our God upon us, we are once more admitted to see each other: may the Lord sanctify and bless our meeting. Pray, how is your mind disposed, and what are the present subjects on which you may now be ruminating? I only ask, as it may lead to a fixation on a certain subject for our present discourse, and that may be the more acceptable unto you.
Junior. I cannot but most sincerely thank you, my good Sir, for your great kindness and friendship which you have shewed me, in aiming to improve my mind, as you have already done, and in being so affectionately disposed in addressing me as you now do. As to my present thoughts, they are exercised with pleasure, in looking forward to the subjects before us, that we proposed to converse on, which are On Communion with Christ; on the Ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; on Church Fellowship; on Death, on the Entrance into the Invisible State; then, on Heaven, Glory and Eternal Life. To have you speak on, and unfold these subjects to me, with the apprehensions which by the light of the Lord the Spirit, he may, be pleased to let in upon my mind concerning these important things, is what is at present uppermost with me.
Senior. I cannot but bless the Lord for keeping up your mind, and giving you: a spiritual relish and appetite for truths so inestimable and divine.
Junior. Blessed be his name, the subjects we have before conversed on, have sunk into my mind: they are not only remembered, but they have been realized in my soul by the Holy Ghost. I do esteem them more than my necessary food: the reason for which is because my understanding is more enlarged, my affections more raised, and I am more engaged in delighting greatly in the Lord Jesus Christ and God my heavenly Father in him: all which I do ascribe to the Holy, and Eternal Spirit.
Senior. Then you ascribe nothing to me, for opening the subjects we have before conversed on, or may in those we propose still to pursue?
Junior. No, Sir, I do not. I must acknowledge, unless, these subjects had been opened and explained as you have opened them to, me, I had not had the views of them which I now have, nor had I been raised up in heart and affection to the Lord as I really am. It is these subjects spiritually explained, and rightly. understood, and received into the mind, that make, way for the true exercise of all spiritual affections and aspirations after God; and it is the Holy Spirit's operation on these supernatural subjects, which fixes the thoughts, the mind, the will, the affections, on the Lord. All this I can say from what the Lord hath taught me whilst conversing with you, and more especially when I have been considering over in my own mind, what was contained in the subjects you had delivered to me.
Senior. All you say is right. There is nothing to be attributed to me. I only, proposed the question merely to hear your reply. When you make use of a pen, you attribute none of your thoughts to it, whilst it is the mean of your committing the same on paper, and communicating the same to others; just so it is in, the case before us: I am willing to impart my mind to yon on the best of all subjects, yet you cannot receive nor be profited by the same, much less quickened, and raised up in heart and affection to the Lord thereby, but by the power of the Holy Ghost. But let us now enter on what that particular subject is you would have discussed on at this time.
Junior. Sir, I wish it to be on communion with Christ. I hope to receive much light into this, subject, from your discoursing with me on it; lot me therefore request it to be our present.
Senior. I consider it a very interesting one; more especially if we, for the whole of our subject, state it thus: On Communion with Christ, in which fellowship the Lord is pleased, in an especial manner, to open his heart most freely to his beloved ones.
Junior. This, Sir will be an additional advantage, which will be most highly acceptable.
Senior. Union to Christ is the foundation of all communion with him; and this was from everlasting, and is the fruit of eternal election. The elect were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, consequently they were in him by this act before the world began. They could not be in Christ, but they must be one with him; they could not be one with him, but they must be in union with him; he could not be their head, and they his members, but they must be united to him as members in an head; or could he be their head, but he must be united to them as his members. It is from the grace of union to the Person of Christ, all his communicable blessings flow forth: towards them, All the communion the saints on earth or in heaven have and enjoy with Christ, and Christ has and enjoys with them, is the sole and entire fruit of his union to them, and their union with him.
Junior. I thought communion with Christ was the greatest blessing in earth or heaven, as I conceive it is therein and thereby, we enjoy communion with the Father and the Spirit.
Senior. Union to Christ is the blessing of blessings. It far surpasses all the communion we shall ever enjoy with the Lord, either in the state of grace or glory. It is the grand original and cause thereof. It is one of the blessings of election. It flows from the, Fathers everlasting love. It is immutable. It cannot be dissolved. The fall of all the elect into a state of sin, in Adam their nature head; their total loss of the image of God, in which they were created in him; their own inherent guilt,, sinfulness, and apostasy from the Lord, the fountain of living waters; their own actual rebellions in the course of their lives can by no means dissolve this union. No: nor death itself; for the elect, each and every one of them, die in Christ, in union to him, and with him: nor can the grave dissolve it, for Christ himself says, This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that Of all which he hath, given me, I should lose noting, but should raise it up again at the last day. John, 6:39.
Junior. I never thought union to the Person of Christ, to be of any such vast importance, so that I never gave myself. any consideration concerning it; all I wanted was communion with him. From what you, have delivered, I am led to see this to be a subject of great importance indeed.
Senior. Verily, it is so. Our being united to Christ, and related to the Person of Christ, and interest in him, with his union to us, his relationship to us, his interest in us these are some of the deep things, of God: from the knowledge of which, everlasting consolation flows into our mind, and intercourse with Christ is hereby most spiritual, and more easily apprehended.
Junior. I really conceive it must be so; I could therefore wish and request the favour, that you would briefly name the several unions there are between Christ and his people.
Senior. I will, as you desire it. There is an election union, which comprehends the Person of Christ, and all the elect in him. The soul and body of Christ, are united to the souls and bodies of all the elect; for we are his body. We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Ephes. 5:30. Their is a representative union, Christ represented the church in his own person, and as one with him, from everlasting; and they were set up in him as his bride and social companion, as one who was to share and be a partner with him in all his, communicable titles, honors, riches, glories, and excellencies. There is likewise a marriage union between Christ and his church. There is also a manifestative union, which was evidenced by the Incarnation of Christ, who came thereby into our world, to save his people from their sins. There is, lastly, a glory union, which will openly shine forth in the New Jerusalem State, as also in the ultimate glory for ever, when all contained in the following words, will be fully realized, and most fully evidenced That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in, us. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. John, 18:21,22,23.
Junior. I find this benefit in your conversation, it sets me on thinking; and whilst so employed, the Holy Spirit is pleased to create light in my renewed understanding, so as for me to receive the subject. But I long to hear you on that of communion.
Senior. My friend, where would you have me begin this subject? What must I say now on this point? Shall I begin with Christís communion with us, or our communion with him? say which.
Junior, Sir, I freely confess, I never thought of any other communion with Christ, but what was wholly on our, parts, and enjoyed by us in the ordinances of worship, I have never been in the least led to contemplate this grace any higher.
Senior. Yet, my friend, the subject must, if entered into, and properly stated, lead us to consider Christ's communion with us, to be of more and far greater consequence than our communion with him.
Junior. Pray, Sir, give me some general apprehensions of what Christ's communion with us consists in.
Senior. The communion of our Lord's fellowship with us, must consist in all his views of us; in all the outgoings. of his heart towards us; in all his delights in us; in all the expression of his love to us; in all that he hath done for us; in all his communications of his grace to us; in all the open and free manifestations of his good will to us; and also in that free and full communion he will hold with us in the world, of glory this is what our Lord's communion with us, must most certainly consist in.
Junior. Say you so! Why, then, wherein consists the Communion with our Lord?
Senior. I reply, in real spiritual intuitive views of him; in the out goings of our minds, thoughts, hearts, and affections after him; in our real delights in him; in being pleased with all the expressions of his love to us; in all that he hath done for us; in rejoicing in all the open manifestations of the same to us. Herein it is our communion with him consists. It is of the same nature on both sides, yet not to the same degree: that is wholly impossible; for in all things our most precious Christ must have the pre-eminence.
Junior. The longer I converse with you, the more I am filled with wonder and surprise. The subjects you converse with me upon; I have the highest esteem for; yet you enter on these in such a way and manner, as seem to add dignity to them. I see plainly, what I have conceived to be communion with Christ, falls vastly short of your views of the same. For my part ,I really have swallowed up, and made but one subject of it, Christ's communion with us, and our communion with him.
Senior. You have always considered, when your heart was truly happy in the love of Christ, and you, had spiritual delight in him, this was communion betwixt Christ and yourself. It never came under your spiritual reflection, how Christ held fellowship with you, and how he admitted you to hold fellowship with him, and it gave you no concern to be admitted into this secret.
Junior. Indeed, indeed, it did not; yet, from what you have now dropped concerning our Lordís communion with us, and our communion with him, it seems to me I have no real apprehension of the subject.
Senior. My good friend, I do not want you to be either encouraged or discouraged, by any thing I deliver; all I aim at is to convey right apprehensions of truth, and especially on those most important points we are, now upon. I have actually had communion with Christ, when I really knew not wherein it consisted; and, when under sacred opportunities in preaching, this great mystery of grace hath been opened, and put into proper words, I have been led to see, if what was described in the sermon was real communion with God, I had been favored with it years before. I would not, therefore, have you utter any hasty expressions, and say you know nothing, of it; but, as I really conclude you do, put any questions on the same you please, and I will, so far as it is given me, give a reply to the same, according to the best of my ability.
Junior. I must say you are exceedingly kind. Will you, Sir, be pleased, in a very particular manner, to explain all your words have expressed, concerning our Lord's communion with us?
Senior. I will, with the greatest readiness. My dear Sir, I love you in the bowels of Christ Jesus. I have been in the same state of mind you are. I was never quick in apprehension, but ;vas always thoughtful; so that a word of importance of Christ and eternal things dropped, led me, as one of a contemplative turn, to consider over and ponder on the same; and I now live to be a witness it is better to be so, than of a more quick and lively disposition.
Junior. Pardon me, Sir, I do not know what to make of this. I am sure I think such are the most blessed, who are of a quick and lively frame: it is what I covet.
Senior. You may, I do not. I prize a sound judgment in the truths of God, above all the liveliness and vivacity in the world. I consider and look upon much called life and liveliness, to he nothing more than nature, and natural exertions; as such, there can be no spirituality in them. I have found many, who are looked on to be very dead in spiritual things, to be fuller of spiritual life, than such who have run them down; but then I would wish you to understand Me, I look on all spiritual life as brought into the renewed mind by the knowledge of Christ, and increased and maintained by renewed acts of believing on Jesus.
Junior. But, my dear Sir, do oblige me in my request, concerning what you have expressed respecting our Lord's communion with as, for I really never Yet considered the subject, and can be confident I never heard such an account given of it in words before.
Senior. I said communion with our Lord, and his fellowship with us, consist in his views of us.; in the outgoings of his heart towards us; in his thoughts of us; in his delights in us; in all the expressions of his love to us; in all the open and free manifestations of his good will to us; and in the free and full communion he will hold with us in glory. This you want me Very sentimentally and particularly to set before you, which I will most cheerfully; but I must request your particular attention.
Junior. That, indeed, Sir, you need not demand. I do perceive the subject requires that you be correct in enumerating each of the particulars you have expressed, as I am desirous to receive them very distinctly and clearly into my mind; for I more and more see, without a right knowledge of the same, they cannot have their proper effect within and upon me.
Senior. I said that communion with Christ, and his fellowship with us, consist in his views of us. He beheld the elect, before all worlds, as the objects and subjects of his Father's everlasting love: as his beloved bride and spouse. He took into his own mind his Fatherís love to them in him, and his own love to them. He expresseth himself thus: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him. Rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth, and my delights were with the sons of men. Prov. 8:30,31. Thus Christ had communion with them by his views of them, by his rejoicing in them, by his delights in them, before the foundation of the world. His views of his church, drew out his heart towards them. He expressed this in his covenant engagements on their behalf. His communion with them was manifested in his becoming one with his people, in taking hold of their nature, and becoming like them in all things, sin only excepted. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same: that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil. Heb. 2:14. This was to have fellowship with his church in her low and lost estate. Herein He exercised his love openly and manifestatively: as He also did in his whole life of humiliation and passion; by which means he purged their sins, and sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high. He has also communion with them in all his free and open manifestations of his good will to them. This is further displayed in the fellowship he holds with the saints who are already admitted into the kingdom of glory; to, which same state He will admit all his saints in his own appointed season.
Junior. What you have said is most truly wonderful. If I understand you, the love of Christ towards them from everlasting, must have been an active love. His rejoicing over them and in them, proves it so; yet I cannot conceive how this should be any part of our Lord's communion with them, seeing then they could by no means have the least apprehensions of the same. I cannot conceive that Christ can have any communion with us, and we not be sensible of it, and we not be sensibly affected by it. Can you, Sir?
Senior. Indeed I can; not that I may be able to give you my thoughts on this subject, so as to convey clear ideas of the same to your mind; but I must tell you, Christ could not have quickened us with spiritual life, if he had not had communion with us; yet, when he put forth his resurrection power within us, we perceived it not. , The effects continue to the present moment, and will last to eternity; yet we ourselves, when Christ first held communion with us in this way of communication, perceived it not; we were dead, and he gave us life; all that has followed this, is but the evidence thereof. As to what, you say, you cannot conceive Christ can have any communion with us, and we not be sensible of it; why, my good Sir, Christ puts forth many acts of his grace within us, and holds communion with us, where we perceive nothing of it. If this were not the case, the new creation wrought within us by the Lord the Spirit, must sink and die.
Junior. You make Christ's communion with us, the cause why we are admitted to have communion with him, do you not?
Senior. Yes, verily. I told you before, communion is the fruit of union. I may also add, communion ii commensurable to this. It is so on the part of Christ: he imparts his life, his light, his spirit, his grace, his holiness, his righteousness, his purity, his salvation to us; so as that we receive and enjoy the benefit of the same, and we are hereby made partakers of Christ: all which, in the essence and perfection of it, is by imputation and communication. The Apostle says, God is faithful, by whom we were called unto the fellowship of his son Jesus Christ our Lord. I Cor. I:9. He also says at the 30th verse of the same chapter, But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness,, and sanctification, and redemption. All is bestowed on us, and made known in us, and received by us, out of the fullness of him who fillets all in all; of whom the Apostle says, And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. John, I:16.
Junior. If I understand you, we are entirely passive in all the communion the Lord Jesus Christ is pleased most graciously to hold with us. Is it so?
Senior. Yes. He is pleased to inhabit, to dwell in, and make his abode with and In us. He hath the key of David. He opens to the view of faith, all the riches of grace and glory. He possesses the whole mind with the knowledge and enjoyment of the same; and hereby we have communion with him, and can say in our measure, what the Apostle does in his own, and in the name of others, and to a far greater degree, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bare witness, and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us:) That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. I John,I:2,3.
Junior. Be pleased now to enter on the subject of our personal and particular communion with Christ, and what it consists in.
Senior. Our communion with Christ consists in the various outgoings of our minds towards him. We are sometimes engaged in spiritual conversation about him the unction of the Holy one descends on us: Christ is very present to our minds; his fragrancy and perfume fall on us; and he is the most precious one in our esteem. This is communion with him. At other times we are led into spiritual contemplations on him, in which our hearts burn with love, and there is an outgoing of our souls towards him. This also is communion with him. There are seasons when the mind is very specially and particularly drawn out in prayer, in praise, in blessing him; in which acts we have real and, actual communion with him, and he becomes our centre, our all; we getting hereby into more personal and particular acquaintance with him.
Junior. What you say concerning communion with Christ, is on some very special and highly-favored seasons. It is not to be expected in the ordinary course of my daily walking with God, is it?
Senior. My good friend, every good thought you have of Christ, is communion with Christ. Every good word you speak of and concerning Christ, proves you have communion with him. Communion with Christ is carried on in our souls by the Holy Spirit. It is by his taking of the things of Christ, and shewing the same unto us.
Junior. I am certainly very tiresome to you, but if you would set before me the very exercise of the mind in the act of real communion with Christ, I should have abundant cause to bless the Lord on your behalf.
Senior. I have endeavored throughout all my past, as also in my present conversation with you, to express myself in the most free and easy manner I possibly could. I remember I stated to you, the subject should be on Communion with Christ, in which it would be clear it pleased the Lord, in an especial manner, to open his heart most freely to his beloved ones. I will, so far as the Lord shall be pleased to assist, give you as full an account of all this, as I possibly can. The Lord admits his people most freely to converse with him, to call on him, to pour out their hearts before him, to converse with him as their friend. He opens his heart to them; he shines in upon their minds; he fills them with a sense of his mercy and compassion; he gives them some very particular apprehensions of his righteousness and sacrifice; so that their hearts dance for joy. As it respects the exercise of the mind, in real and personal communion with Christ, it is as follows: The soul looks simply unto him; prays he would grant his most gracious presence; implores some peculiar access unto him; it bewails its inward and actual sinfulness; it begs to be favored with some blessed intuitive knowledge and apprehension of his glorious person of his loving heart of his matchless worth of his holiness of his righteousness of his oblation of his death, burial, resurrection, ascension, glorification, and coronation, as may, swallow up the mind, and fix it wholly on him. The believer entreats to be remembered with the favor he beareth to his people. The mind longs to have a blessed inward conception of the dignity of Christ of the worth of Christ of the representation which he makes of all the elect in his own person before the throne of, the Majesty in the heavens, Whilst thus engaged, the heart of Christ is opened; and, under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, the believer takes in such conceptions of Christ, as put down every thing below Christ. Thus, in an especial manner, the Lord Jesus Christ is most fully made known; and we see and taste how good, and gracious the Lord is. I have found in my own case, in this immediate and personal communion with God which I have been opening, the person, glory, heart, salvation, and grace of Christ, have been most wonderfully opened to my spiritual apprehension; and I have had more of the knowledge of the Lord imparted, and of the Holy Ones, than in any other way or means whatsoever. How does all this appear to you? I hope you will acknowledge I have been very simple and easy in the statement of this most experimental subject.
Junior. I must confess, so far as words can make the subject clear and plain, you have done it: so that what darkness may remain on my mind concerning the same, must arise wholly from the greatness and majesty of the subject itself. But, pray, Sir, have not real saints fellowship with the Father and the Spirit, in their accesses to the Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious head, and only mediator of his church.
Senior. Most assuredly they have. We approach the Father in the Son, through the Spirit. Truly, says the Apostle, Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we read expressly, that we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Eplies.2:18. And the Apostle in his benediction, makes express mention of the communion of the Holy Ghost: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. 2 Cor. 13:14.
Junior. How, or in what way, am I blessed with communion with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Senior. You have immediate access in the person of Christ, and come in his name, person, righteousness, sacrifice, and intercession, before the throne, and you pray the Father to look upon you, and manifest himself to you in his Beloved; and there are seasons when it pleases him to fill your mind with such views and apprehensions of his love, as afford you a real heaven. This is communion with the Father on his part, and on yours also, as you are at such times filled with the high praises of his love.
Junior. I really have had this which you speak of: the Lord be praised for it. If I understand you, when at any time my mind is drawn out immediately to admire and praise the Father for his everlasting love to my person in Christ, and he is pleased to favor me with a sense of his love, this is to have distinct and personal communion with him. Is it not?
Senior. Yes. We can have communion with the Father no other way. We converse with Christ, and with the Father in him. When we have fellowship with Christ, we have at the same time fellowship with the Father and the Spirit; yet there are seasons when we have particular fellowship with each of the Divine Three, and that agreeable to their covenant acts, and their interest in us, and relation to us.
Junior. Pray, Sir, wherein consists communion, with the Holy Ghost?
Senior. The Holy Ghost dwells in us. He exalts Christ in our minds; he sheds a sense of God's love abroad in our hearts; he carries on all the blessed fellowship we have with the Father and the Son. There are season's when he gives us to consider his own personal love to us. He leads us to love him, for what he hath taught us; for what He hath been to us; for what he hath wrought in us for the views he hath given us of Christ; for the discoveries he hath made of the Father's love to our minds; for the real fellowship we have had with the Father and the Son, through his indwelling grace and. influence. We love him for it: we worship him in prayer and praise. Thus He hath fellowship with us, and we have fellowship with him. He, The Living God, dwells in us. We are his temples. He consecrates our souls and bodies, and teaches us how to enjoy the blessedness of communion with him, and also with the Son and with the Father.
Junior. I see we must now part. The Lord be with your spirit. Amen.