CHRIST THE HUSBAND 0F THE CHURCH.
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the lawby the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, evento him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forthfruit unto God. Romans 7:4.
In the discussion of this subject, the following is the orderin which I shall direct your thoughts:
I. Show that the marriage state is abundantly set forth inthe Bible, as describing the relation between Christ and the church.
II. Show what is implied in this relation.
III. The reason for the existence of this relation.
IV. Show the great guilt of the church, in conducting towardsChrist as she does.
V. The forbearance of Christ towards the church.
I. I am to show that the marriage state is abundantly set forthin the Bible, as describing the relation between Christ and thechurch.
Christ is often spoken of as the husband of the church. "ThyMaker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name." "Turn,O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married untoyou." The church is spoken of as the bride, the Lamb's wife."The Spirit and the Bride say, Come." That is, Christand the church say, "Come." In 2 Corinthians 11:2, theapostle Paul says, "For I am jealous over you with godlyjealously: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I maypresent you as a chaste virgin to Christ." I can merely referto these passages. You that are acquainted with your Bibles, willnot need that I should take up time to show that this relationis often adverted to in the Bible, in a great variety of form.
II. I am to show what is implied in this relation.
1. The wife gives up her own name, and assumes that of herhusband.
This is universally true in the marriage state. And the churchassumes the name of Christ, and when united with him is baptizedinto his name.
2. The wife's separate interest is merited in that of her husband.
A married woman has no separate interest, and no right to haveany. So the church has no right to have a separate interes fromtheLord Jesus Christ. If a wife has property, it goes to her husband.If it is real estate, the life interest passes to him, and ifit is personal estate, the whole merges in him.
The reputation of the wife is wholly united to that of herhusband, so that his reputation is hers, and her reputation ishis. What affects her character, affects his; and what affectshis character, affects hers. Their reputation is one, their interestsare one.
So with the church, whatever concerns the church is just asmuch the interest of Christ, as if it was personally his own matter.
As the husband of the church, he is just as much pledged todo everything that is needful to promote the interest of the church,as the husband is pledged to promote the welfare of his wife.As a faithful husband gives up his time, his labor, his talents,to promote the interest and happiness of his wife; so Jesus Christgives himself up to promote the welfare of his church. He is asjealous of the reputationof his church, as ever a husband wasof the reputation of his wife. Never was a human being so pledged,so devoted to the interest of his wife, or felt so keenly an injuryas Jesus Christ feels when his church has her reputation or herfeelings injured. He declares that it were better a man had amill stone hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the depthsof the sea, than that he should offend one of these little onesthat believe in him.
3. The relation between husband and wife is such, that if anythingis the matter with one, the other is full of sympathy.
So Christ feels for all the sufferings of the church, and thechurch feels for all the sufferings of Christ. When a believerhas any realizing view of the sufferings of Christ, there is nothingin the universe so affects and dissolves the mind with sorrow.Never did a wife feel such distress, such broken-hearted grief,if she has occasioned suffering or death to her husband, as theChristian feels when he views his sins as the occasion of thedeath of Jesus Christ. Let m ask some of these married women present,how you would feel, if your husband to redeem you from meritedignominy and death, had volunteered the greatest suffering andpain, and even death for you? To be reminded of it by any circumstance,how would it melt you down in broken-hearted grief?
Now, have you never understood that your sins caused the deathof Christ, and that he died for you just as absolutely, as ifyouhad been the only sinner in all God's world? He suffered painand contempt and death for you. He loves his church and gave himselffor it. It is called the church of God, which he purchased withhis own blood.
4. The wife pledges herself to yield her will to the will ofher husband, and to yield obedience to his will.
She has no separate interest, and ought to have no separatewill. The Bible enjoins this and makes it a Christian duty forthe wife to conform in all things to the will of her husband.The will of the husband becomes, to the faithful wife the mainspringof her activity. Her entire life is only carrying out the willof her husband. The relation of the church to Christ is preciselythe same. The church is governed by Christ's will. When believersexercise faith, they are so, absolutely, and the will of Christbecomes the moving cause of all their conduct.
5. The wife recognizes her husband as her head.
The Bible declares that he is so. In like manner, as from thehead proceed those influences that govern the body, so from Christproceed those influences that govern the church.
6. The wife looks to her husband as her support, her protector,and her guide.
Every believer places himself as absolutely under the protectionof Christ, as a married woman is under the protection of her husband.The woman naturally looks to her husband to preserve her frominjury, from insult, and from want. She hangs her happiness onhim, and expects he will protect her; and he is bound to do it.
So Christ is pledged to protect his church from every foe.How often have the powers of hell tried to put dow the church,but her husband has never abandoned her. No weapon formed againstthe church has ever been allowed to prosper, and never shall.
Never will the Lord Jesus Christ so far forget his relationto the church, as to have his bride unprotected. No. Let all earthand hell conspire against the church, and just as certain as Christhas power to protect the church his church is safe. And each individualbeliever is just as safe as if he were the only believer on earth,and has Christ as truly pledged for his preservation. The devilcan no more put down a single believer, to final destruction,than he can put down God Almighty. He may murder them, but thatis no injury. Overcoming a believer by taking his life, affordsSatan no triumph. He put Christ to death, but what did he gainby it? The grave had no power over him, to retain him. So witha believer; neither the grave nor hell has any more power to injureone of Christ's little ones, that believe in him, than they haveto injure Christ himself. He says, "Because I live, ye shalllive also." And, "he that believeth in me, though hewere dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believethin me, shall never die." There is no power in the universethat can prevail against a single believer, to destroy him. JesusChrist is the Head of the church, and Head over all things tothe church, and the church is safe.
7. The legal existence of the wife is so merged in that ofher husband, that she is not known in law as a separate person.
If any actions or civil liabilities come against the wife,the husband is responsible. If the wife has committed a trespass,the husband is answerable. It is his business to guide and governher, and her business to obey; and if he does not restrain herfrom breaking the laws he is responsible. And if the wife doesnot obey her husband, she has it in her power to bring him intogreat trouble, disgrace, and expense. In like manner, Jesus Christis Lord over his church, and if he does not actually restrainhis church from sin,he has it to answer for, and he is broughtinto great trouble and reproach by the misconduct of his people.By human laws, the husband is not liable for capital crimes committedby the wife, but the law so far recognizes her separate existence,as to punish her. But Christ has assumed the responsibility forhis church, of all her conduct. He took the place of his people,when they were convicted of capital crimes, and sentenced to eternaldamnation. This is answering in good earnest. And now it is hisbusiness to take care of the church, and control her, and keepher from sin; and for every sin of every member. Jesus Christis responsible, and must answer. And he does answer for them.He has made an atonement to cover all this, and ever liveth tomake intercession for his people. So that he holds himself responsiblebefore God for all the conduct of his church. Every believer isso a partof Jesus Christ, and so perfectly united to him thatwhatever any of them may be guilty of, Jesus Christ takes uponhimself to answer for. This is abundantly taught in the Bible.
What an amazing relation! Christ has here assumed the responsibility,not only for the civil conduct of his church, but even for thecapital crime of rebellion against God. There is a sense, therefore,in which the church is lost in Christ and has no separate existenceknown in law. God has so given up the church to Christ, by thecovenant of grace, that, strictly speaking, the church is notknown in law. I do not mean that crimes committed by believersagainst the moral law, are not sin, but that the law cannot gethold of them, for condemnation. There is now no condemnation tothem that are in Christ Jesus. The penalty of the law is foreverremitted. The crimes of the believer are not taken into accountso as to bring him under condemnation; no, in no case whatever.Whatever is to be done falls upon Christ.
He has assumed the responsibility of bringing them off fromunder the power of sin, as well as from under the law, and standspledged to give hem all the assistance they need to gain a completevictory.
III. I am to explain the reason why this relation is constitutedbetween Christ and his church.
1. The first reason is assigned in the text, "that weshould bring forth fruit unto God." A principal design ofthe institution of marriage is the propagation of the species.So it is in regard to the church. Through the instrumentalityof the church, children are to be born to Christ, and he is tosee his seed, and to see of the travail of his son, and be satisfied,by the converts multiplied as the drops of morning dew. It isnot only through the travail of the Redeemer's soul, but throughthe travail of the church, that believers are born unto JesusChrist. As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth children.
2. Another object of the marriage institution is the protectionand support of those who are naturally helpless and dependent.If the law of power prevailed in society, everybody knows thatfemales, being the weaker sex, would be universally enslaved.And the design of the institution of marriage is to secure protectionand support to those who are so much more frail, that by the lawof force they would be continually enslaved. So Jesus Christ upholdshis church, and affords her all the protection against her enemies,and all the powers of hell, that she needs.
3. The mutual happiness of the parties is another end of themarriage institution.
The same is true of the relation between Christ and his church.Perhaps you will think it strange, if I tell you that the happinessof Christ is increased by the love of the church. But what doesthe Bible say? "Who, for the joy set before him, enduredthe cross, despising the shame." What was the joy set beforehim, if the love of the church, was not a part of it? It wouldbe very strange to hear of a husband contributing to the happinessof his wife, that should not enjoy ithimself. Jesus Christ enjoysthe happiness of his church by as much more as he loves his churchbetter than any husbands love thei wives.
4. The alleviation of mutual sufferings and sorrows is oneend of marriage.
Sharing each other's sorrow is a great alleviation. Who doesnot know this? In like manner do Christ and his church share eachother'ssorrows. The apostle Paul says he was always bearing about inhis body the dying of the Lord Jesus; "For as the sufferingsof Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."And he declared that one end of his toils and self-denial wasthat he might know "the fellowship of Christ's sufferings."And he rejoiced in all his sufferings, that he might fill up thatwhich was behind of the afflictions of Christ. The church feels,keenly, every reproach cast upon Christ, and Christ feels keenlyevery injury inflicted on the church.
5. The principal reason for this union of Christ with his church,is that he may sanctify the church.
Read what is said in Ephesians 5:22-27. "Wives, submityourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husbandis the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church;and he is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subjectunto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved thechurch, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanseit with the washing of water by the word.
That he might present it to himself a glorious march, not havingspot or wrinkle, or any such thing but that it should be holyand without blemish."
Here then is set forth the great design of Christ in marryingthe church. It is that he might sanctify it, and cleanse it, orthat it should be perfectly holy and without blemish.
John, in the Revelation, informs us that he saw those who had"washed their robes and made them white in the blood of theLamb," See how beautifully the Bride, the Lamb's wife, isdescribed in the 21st chapter, coming clown from God out of heaven,prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
IV. I will make a few remarks on the wickednessof the church,in conducting towards Christ as she does.
1. Vast multitudes of those who profess to be a part of thechurch, the bride of Christ, really set up a separate interest.
They have pretended to merge their self-interest in the interestof Christ, but manifestly keep up a separate interest. And ifyou attempt to make them act on the principle that they have noseparate interest, they will plainly show that they have no suchdesign. What would you think of a wife, keeping up a separateinterest from her husband? You would say it was plain that shedid not love her husband, as she ought.
2. The church is not satisfied with Christ's love.
Everybody knows what an abominable thing it is for a wife notto be satisfied with the love of her husband, but continuallyseeking otherlovers, and always associating with other men. Yet,how plain it is that the church is not satisfied with the loveof Christ, but it is always seeking after other lovers. What arewe to think of those members of the church who are not satisfiedwith the love of Christ for happiness, but must have the richesand pleasures and honors of the world to make them happy?
Still more horrible would be the conduct of a wife, who shouldselect her lovers from the enemies of her husband and should bringthem home with her, and make them her chosen friends. Yet howmany who profess to belong to Christ go away, and give their affectionsto Christ's enemies. Some will even marry those whom they knowto be haters of God and religion. Horrible! Is that the way abride should do?
3. Everyone knows that it is a disgraceful thing for the wifeto play the harlot . Yet God often speaks of his church as goingastray and committing spiritual whoredom. And it is true. He doesnot make this charge, as a man makes it against his wife, whenhe is determined to leave her and cast her off. But he makes itwith grief and tenderness, and accompanies it with the movingexpostulations, and the most melting entreaties that she worldreturn.
4. What would you thinkof a married woman who should expect,at the very time of her marriage, that she should get tired ofher husband, and leave him and play the harlot?
Yet, how many there are, professors of religion, who when theymade a profession had no more expectation of living without sin,than they expected to have wings and fly.
They have come into his house, and pledged themselves to liveentirely for him, and married him in this public manner, covenantingto forsake all sin, and to live alone for Christ, and be satisfiedwith his love, and have no other lovers; and yet all the whilethey are doing it, they expect in their minds that they shallscatter their ways to strangers upon every high hill, and commitsin and dishonor Christ.
5. What are we to think of a woman, who, at the very time ofher marriage, expected to continue in her course of adultery aslong as she lives, in spite of all the commands and expostulationsof her husband?
Then what are we to think of professors of religion, who deliberatelyexpect to commit spiritual adultery, and continue in it as longas they live?
6. But the most abominable part of such a wife's wickednessis, when she turns round and charges the blame of her conductupon her faithful husband.
Now the church does this. Notwithstanding Christ has done allthat he could do, short of absolute force, to keep his churchfrom sinning, yet the church charges her sin upon him, as if hehad laid her under an absolute necessity of sinning, by not makingany adequate provision for preserving his people against temptation.And they are horrified now at the very name of Christian Perfection,as if it were reallydishonoring Christ to believe that he is ableto keep his people from committing sin and falling into the snareof the devil. And so it has been, for hundreds of years, thatwith the greater part of the church it has not been orthodox toteach that Jesus Christ really has made such provision that hispeople may live free from sin. And it is really considered a wonder,that anybody shoul teach that the bride of the Lord Jesus Christis expected to do as she pretends to do. Has he married a bride,and made no provision adequate to protect her against the artsand seductions of the devil? Well done! That must be the ridiculeof hell.
7. Suppose a wife should refuse to obey her husband and thenmake him responsible for her conduct.
Yet the church refuses to obey Jesus Christ, and then makeshim answer for her sins. This is the great difficulty with thechurch,that she is continually bringing in her Head for her delinquencies.
8. The church is continually dishonoring Christ.
The reputation of husband and wife is one. Whatever dishonorsone, dishonors the other. Now, the church, instead of avoidingevery appearance of evil, is continually easing the enemies ofGod to blaspheme by her conduct.
V. I will say a few words on the forbearance of Christ towardsthe church.
What other husband, in such circumstances would suffer theconnection to remain, and bear what Christ bears? Yet he stilloffers to be reconciled, and lays himself out to regain the affectionsof his bride. Sometimes a husband really loses his affection towardshis wife, and treats her so like a brute that, although she onceloved him, she loves him no more. But where can anything be foundin the character and conduct of Christ, to justify the treatmenthe receives? He has laid himself out to the utmost, to engrossthe affections of the church. What could he have done more? Wherecan any fault or any deficiency be found in him. And even afterall that the church has done against him. What is he doing now?
Suppose a husband should for years follow his wandering guiltywife, from city to city, beseeching and entreating her, with tears,to return to his house and be reconciled; and after all, she shouldpersist in going after her lovers, and yet he continues to cryafter her and beg her to come back and live with him, and he willforgive and love her still. Is there any such forbearance andcondescension known among men?
. Christians ought to understand the bearing of their sins.
Your sins dishonor Christ, and grieve Christ, and injure Christ,and then you make Christ responsible for them. You sustain sucha relation to him, and you ought to know what is the effect ofyour sin. How does a wife feel, when she has disgraced her husband?How blushes cover her face, and tears fill her eyes! When herjustly offended husband comes into her presence, how she fallsdown at his feet, with a full heart, and confesses her fault,and pours herpenitential tears into his bosom. She is grievedand humbled, and though she loves him, his very presence is agrief, until she breaks down before him, and feels that he hasforgiven her.
Now how can a Christian fail to recognize this; and when heis betrayed into sin and has injured Christ, how can he sleep?How can you help realizing that your sins take hold of Jesus Christ,and injure him, in all these tender relations?
II. One great difficulty of Christians is their expecting tolive in sin, and this expectation insures their continuance insin.
If an individual expects to live in sin, he in fact means tolive in sin, and of course he will live in sin. It is very muchto be feared, that many professors of religion never really meantto live without sin. The apostle insists that believers shouldreckon themselves dead to sin, that they should henceforth haveno more to do with it than if they were dead, and no more expectto sin than a dead man should expect to walk. They should throwthemselves upon Christ, and receive him in all his relations,and expect to be preserved and sanctified and saved by him. Ifthey would do this, do you not suppose they would be kept fromsin? Just as certainly as they believe in Christ for it. To believein Christ that he will keep them, insures the result that he will.And the reason why they do not receive preserving grace at alltimes, as they need and all they need, is that they do not expectit, and do not trust in Christ to preserve them in perfect love.Th man tries to preserve himself. Instead of throwing himselfuponChrist, he throws himself upon his own resources, and thenin his weakness expects to sin, and of course he does sin. Ifhe knew his own entire emptiness, and would throw himself uponChrist as absolutely, and rest upon Christ as confidently, forsanctification, as for justification, the one is just as certainas the other.
No one that trusted in God for anything he has promised, everfailed to receive according to his faith, the very thing for whichhe trusted. If you trust in God for what he has not promised,that is tempting God. If Peter had not been called by Christ tocome to him on the water, it would have been tempting God forhim to get down out of the ship into the water, and he would havelost his life for his presumption and folly. But as soon as Christtold him to come, it was merely an act of sound and rational faithfor him to do it. It was a pledge on the part of Christ, thathe should be sustained; and so he was sustained, as long as hehad faith.
Now, if the Bible has promised that those who receive Christas their sanctification shall be sanctified, then you who believein him for this end have just as much reason to expect it, as
Peter had to expect he should walk on the waves. It is true,we do not expect a miracle to be wrought to sustain the believer,as it was to sustain Peter. But it is promised that he shall besustained, and if miracles were necessary, no doubt they wouldbe performed, for Godwould move the universe, and turn the courseof nature upside down, sooner than one of his promises shouldfail, to them that put their trust in him. If God is pledged toanything, a person that ventures, on that pledge will find itredeemed, just as certainly as God possesses almighty power.
Has God promised sanctification to them that trust him forit? If he has not, then to go to him in faith for preservationfrom temptation and sin is tempting God. It is fanaticism. IfGod has left us to the dire necessity of getting alongwith ourown watchfulness and our own firmness and strength, we must submitto it, and do the best we can. But if he has made any promises,he will redeem them to the uttermost, though all earth and allhell should oppose. And so it is in regard to the mistakes anderrors which Christians fall into. If there is no promise thatthey shall be guided just so far as they need, and led into thetruth, and in the way of duty and of peace; then for a Christianto look to God for knowledge, and wisdom, and guidance, and direction,without any promises, is tempting God. But if there are promiseson this subject, depend on it, they will be fulfilled to the verylast mite to the believer who trusts in them; and exercising confidencein such promises is only a sober and rational faith in the wordof God.
I believe the great difficulty of the church on the subjectof Christian perfection lies here, that she has not fully understoodhow the Lord Jesus Christ is wholly pledged in all these relations,and that the church has just as much reason and is just as muchbound to trust in him for sanctification as for justification.What saith the scripture? Who of God is made unto us wisdom, andrighteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. How came theidea to be taken up in the church, that Jesus Christ is our Redemption,and has made himself responsible that the meanest individual whothrows himself on him for justification shall infallibly obtainit? This has been universally admitted in the church, in all ages.But it is no more plainly or more abundantly taught, than it is,that Jesus Christ is promised and pledged for wisdom and for sanctificationto all that receive him in these relations. Has he promised thatif any man lack wisdom, he may ask of God, and if he asks in faith,God will give it to him? What then? Is there then no such thingas being preserved by Christ from falling into this and that delusionand error? God has made this broad promise, and Christ is as muchpledged for our wisdom and our sanctification, f we only truston him, as he is for our justification. If the church would onlyrenounce any expectation from herself, and die as absolutely toher own wisdom and strength, as she does to her own righteousness,or the expectation of being saved by her own works, Jesus Christis as much pledged for one as for the other. The only reason whythe church does not realize the same results, is that Christ istrusted for justification, and as for wisdom and sanctificationhe is not trusted.
The truth is, the great body of believers having begun in thesprit, arenow trying to be made perfect by the flesh. We havethrown ourselves on Christ for justification, and then have beenattempting to sanctify ourselves. If it is true, as the apostleaffirms, that Christ is to the church both wisdom and sanctification,what excuse have Christians for not being sanctified?
III. If individuals do not as much expect to live without sinagainst Christ, as they expect to live without open sins againstmen, such as murder or adultery, it must be for one of three reasons:
1. Either we love our fellow men better than we do Christ,and so are less willing to do them an injury.
2. Or we are restrained by a regard to our own reputation;and this proves that we love reputation more than Christ
3. Or we think we can preserve ourselves better from thesedisgraceful crimes than we can from less heinous sins.
Suppose I were to ask any of you, if you expect to commit murder,or adultery? Horrible! you say. But why not? Are you so virtuousthat you can resist any temptation which the devil can offer?If you say so, you do not know yourself. If you have any realpower to keep yourself, so as to abstain from openly disgracefulsins, in your own strength, you have power to abstain from allsins. But if your only reliance is on Jesus Christ to keep youfrom committing murder and adultery, how is it, that you shouldget the idea that he is not equally able to keep you from allsin? O, if believers would only throw themselves wholly on Christ,andmake him responsible, by placing themselves entirely at hiscontrol, they would know his power to save, and would live withoutsin.
IV. What a horrible reproach is the church to Jesus Christ.
V. You see why it is that converts are what they are.
Degenerate plants of a strange vine, sure enough! The churchis in such a state, that it is no wonder those who are broughtin, with few exceptions, prove a disgrace to religion. How canit be otherwise? How can the church, living in such a manner,bring forth offspring that shall do honor to Christ? The churchdoes not, and individual believers do not, in general, receiveChrist in all his offices, as he is offered in the Bible. If theydid, it would be impossible they should live like such loathsomeharlots.
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