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self, “ I pray for them. I pray not for the world; * but for them whom thou hast given me; that 4, they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, u and I in thee; that they also may be one in us."* : This union is not common to all, and is totally distinct from any carnal relation.
But the word, though “ made flesh, was with
God, and was God."! And shall man, then, in very deed, be united to God? Can he stoop so low? Can man be raised so high? It may, indeed, seem hard to be believed; yet what is it that hinders our belief? Is it the consideration of the sinfulness of our nature, and the narrowness of our powers ? Let it be remembered that, from this consideration, the first and justest inference, with respect to God is, that as natural distance and depravity obscure him to our view, they render us incapable of discerning aright the greatness of that power and mercy, which may qualify us for an union so exalted ; and it is therefore our duty submissively to receive such information as he has been pleased to give, respecting his infinite perfections, and their displays towards the persons whom he loves. Or dares our presumption question, that the Father of our spirits, who, it is acknowledged, hath made us capable of discovering and of loving him, may make us farther capable of such union as is compatible between an infinite and finite nature? It is one of the inconsistencies observable in human opinions, that those who have the highest ideas of man's native dignity, exalt him, at his birth, to nearly his final pitch of elevation in their account; while they reject the thought of any union with * John xvii. 9, 20.'
* Ibid. xiv. I
the Deity different from that specified above, save in some sense altogether figurative; as if divine grace were unable to raise us to a more sublime conjunction with God.
There is a marked distinction in the manner in which scripture speaks of the character of God, of the state and character of man. In describing the most wonderful displays of the compassion and condescension of God, it does not represent his state as undergoing any change, his character as receiving any improvement, or acquiring any honour not originally possessed. It speaks of the whole as the spontaneous expression of the eternal and unalteráble attributes of his natüre. As God's infinite grandeur is not susceptible of diminution, a becoming expression of his dignity accompanies even the most signal displays of his grace and condescension. “ Though the Lord be high, yét hath "he respect unto the lowlý:"* though “ heaven, " and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain him," yet he dwelleth with him “ that is of a contrite “ and humble spirit.”+ But when it describes those who are the objects of his regard; the language in which it paints the privileges to which they are exalted, is not more forcible than that in which it expresses their native degradation.
“ Ye were, by nature, the children of wrath.”I But“ now are
the sòns of God; and it doth not yet appear “ what ye shall be."S " Ye are heirs of God, and
joint heirs with Christ."|| Christ, at first, spoke of the twelve as his disciples; then as his servants,
* Psalm cxxxviii. 6. # Eph. ii. 3. $ 1 John üi. 2.
|| Rom. viii. 17.
members of his family, and more immediately at.. tached to his person. At the close of his ministry, he called them friends; and when he had risen from the dead, he denominated them his brethren, Thus he raised their titles with himself, his condescending goodness keeping pace with the progress of his work, and the exaltation which crowned it.
“ Before honour cometh humility; and a proud “ look before a fall.” Real humility exalts man to union with God, by disposing him to receive the divine testimony. Presumption, which often puts on the veil of lowliness, injures God, and ultimately degrades man; for it reduces divine mercy and power to the measure of our limited comprehension : and accounting the divine image to be even in our natural state, the characteristic of mankind, it excludes the sublimest ambition; while confiding in created strength, it deprives of effectual support, even the faint desites and low aims which naturally possess the mind.
But while we admit the reality of this union, let us also beware of the unguarded expressions of those who speak of God's imparting to the soul a ray of his own essence, and the like; as if there could be an essential union between the creature and the Creator, or as if man could possess, by derivation from the Father, something in common with his eternal Son. Believers are indeed said to be “ par“ takers of the divine nature :"* but this is through knowledge and faith of the promises, and consists in“ escaping the corruption that is in the world,"* or in a resemblance to the moral perfections of their Maker,
2. Peter i. 4.
Yet neither let it be supposed that the union, of which we speak, consists merely in the mutual love, which subsists between Christ and his people; as“ the soul of Jonathan" is said to have been
knit,” or united “ with the soul of David;"* or in their possessing the same “ mind” or disposition," which was also in Christ Jesus ;"+ as the Romans are exhorted to be of * the same mind
one toward another."I This were to compound the effect with the cause ; and might lead us, in seeking the end, to neglect, through ignorance, the necessary means.
That we may arrive at precise and scriptural ideas of the union between Christ and his people, there are two views in which it will be necessary to contemplate their mutual relation. Let us consider it, First, as he is their head of righteousness; Secondly, as he is the source of their spiritual life.
1. Believers are united to Jesus Christ, as their head of righteousness.
There is an union consisting of sameness of nature and disposition : but this may subsist between parties mutually unknown. There is a nearer, arising from mutual offices of love: but this may be found where neither of the persons so connected, directly depends for his welfare on the other, There is a nearer still, when a person voluntarily assumes the name, place, and condition of others, as their real representative or substitute; especially when that place is a place of suffering, and his occupation of it the cause of great benefits to those in whose room he stands. Such is the union between Christ and believers, as their head of * Sam, xviii. 1.
† Phil. ä. 5.
Rom. xü. 16.
righteousness. For, as their Surety, he undertook for them; he stood in their place; he acted and suffered in their name. For them he was born, he lived, he died, he rose again, and ascended to the right hand of God. For them he has taken away sin, in its guilt and punishment, has satisfied divine justice, and purchased the eternal recompense of reward. And for them he continually intercedes, that an abundant entrance may be administered to them into the mansions which he has prepared for them, and which he occupies on their behalf. Hence, those who are united to him, are represent.. ed as virtually dead and buried with him,* as quickened and living with him,t as exalted and reigning with him, “ sitting together with him “ in heavenly places.” I–In short, through Jesus Christ all their rights, and privileges, and honours, are conveyed. In whatever their relation to God and eternal things differs from that of others, the difference is through him. Were they divided from him; they would be divided also from all that is peculiar and desirable in their state, and would be again “ the children of wrath.” Through him alone they are what they are; and the permanency of their connexion with him is their sole security for all that is truly good.
But the union expressed in the text, is perhaps rather that which is properly termed a vital union. Let us consider, then,
2. The connexion of believers with Christ, as the source of divine influences, or of spiritual life.
To this the metaphorical application of the word * Rom. vi, 4, 8. & Col. ii. 12. Rom. v. 17. 2.Tim. ii. 12. & Eph. ii. 6. | Eph. ii. 5. & Gal. ii. 20.