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say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Rom. 3:25, 26. Here you see the justification and pardon of a sinner built upon that very attribute which was so dreadful to him before. Well then, sinner, is there guilt upon thy conscience, and does thy soul shake and quiver to think how it shall stand before the just and terrible God in the great day? Hearken to the voice of Christ crucified, who calls thee to receive thy discharge ; which if thou refuse, the law still stands in its full force against thy soul. This is one cord Christ casts from the cross over the souls of guilty sinners, to draw them to him.
The death of Christ procures perfect cleansing from the pollution of sin, and washes the souls of sinners from all their uncleanness. For, “this is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.” 1 John, 5:6. He comes by sanctification, as well as by justification. Lord, saith the convinced sinner, what an unclean nature, heart, and life have I? Oh, I am nothing but uncleanness, an abhorrence to God and myself. How shall such a heart as mine be cleansed ? Come unto me, saith Christ; I came by water as well as blood ; in me thou shalt find a fountain for sanctification as well as justification : come unto me, my Spirit shall cleanse thy heart; he shall take away the pollutions of sin, so that it shall be presented to God without spot.
The transcendent love of Christ shines out in its full strength upon the souls of sinners from the cross; and there is nothing like love to attract love. When Christ was lifted up upon the cross, he gave such a glorious demonstration of the strength of his love to sinners, as one would think should draw love from the hardest heart that ever lodged in a sinner's breast. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John, 4:10. Here is the triumph, the riches and glory of divine love; never was such love manifested in the world. There is much of God's love in temporal providences, but all is as nothing to this ; this is love in its highest elevation, its meridian glory ; before it was none like it, and after it shall none appear like it. Thus you see Christ casting forth from the cross a threefold cord, which is not easily broken, to draw the hearts of sinners to him.
IV. What a mighty demonstration of the desire of his heart towards us, did our Redeemer give AT HIS ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN. As the whole life of Christ upon earth was a persuasive argument to draw sinners to him, so his ascension to heaven has many mighty attractives for the hearts of men. I will only mention two.
1. 'The gifts he bestowed on men at his ascension, for this very purpose; whereof the Psalmist gives this account: “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” Psalm 68:18. He alludes to the Roman conquerors, who in the day of their triumph, scattered their gifts among the people. Thus Christ at his ascension shed forth the gifts of the Spirit in various kinds, qualifying men for the work of the ministry, to enable them to plead with your souls and carry on his suit when he should be in heaven. These gifts were extraordinary in the first age, as the gifts of tongues and miracles; and ordinary, to continue to the end of the world. Eph. 4:8, 13. To some he gives depth of learning and judgment, to others pathos, a melting influence upon the affections; but all are designed to win your hearts to Christ. This shows what care he took, and what provision he made for the success of his great design to draw the hcarts of sinners to him.
2. The ends of his ascension, as they are declared in Scripture, plainly show the vehemency of Christ's desire to draw souls to him. The declared ends of his ascension were, (1.) To make way for the Spirit's coming to convince, convert, and comfort all that come unto him : “Nevertheless I tell you the truth ; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:7, 8. Without the conviction of these things, no man can come to Christ; and no such convictions can be wrought upon the conscience of any man, without the Spirit ; and the Spirit could not have come to effect these things upon men's hearts, if Christ had not ascended : “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." John 7:39. Thus Christ provided for carrying on his great design upon your hearts when he was entering into his own glory: the thoughts of that glory made him not to forget his great design upon earth.
(2.) Another end of Christ's ascension was, to make intercession with the Father for every soul that should come unto him; that their future sins might make no breach of the covenant between God and them: a privilege that should draw the hearts of all sinners to him. “My little children, these things I write unto you that ye sin not.” Mark it, the intercession of Christ must encourage no man to sin ; that would be a vile abuse of the grace of God. But “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous : and he is the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John, 2:1, 2. That is, if sin surprise and deceive a regenerate soul, the bent of whose heart is against it, let him not be discouraged ; he has a potent Advocate ascended into the heavens, to continue the peace between God and that soul. O what an encouragement is here to gain the consent of a sinner's heart to embrace Jesus Christ.
(3.) Another declared end of Christ's ascension was, to lead captivity captive, as in the forecited place, Psalm 68:18; that is, to lead captive and triumph over Satan as a conquered enemy, who lead us captive in the days of our vanity. He conquered Satan upon the cross, Col. 2:15, and he triumphed over him at his ascension; and without such a conquest and triumph no soul could come to Christ.
(4.) In a word, Christ ascended into heaven to prepare mansions of rest and glory for every soul that should embrace him by repentance and faith in this world. “In my Father's house are many mansions : if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2. As if he had said, It satisfies me not to enjoy my glory in heaven alone; all that come unto me by faith, shall be with me where I am ; let them know, for their encouragement, that the glory which God hath given me, I have given them. John 17:22. All these things loudly speak the fervent desire of Christ's soul after union and communion with sinners; which was the thing to be demonstrated.
Having proved the point that Christ is an earnest suitor for union and communion with the souls of sinners, we next come to show THE MARVELLOUS GRÀCE AND CONDESCENSION Of Christ that it should be so. And this will appear five ways, to the astonishment of every considering soul.
1. Though Christ be thus intent and earnest in his suit for your consent, yet he gains nothing by you when you do consent; the gain is to yourselves, and not to him: He “is over all, God blessed for ever,” Rom. 9:5-above all accessions from the creature. What does the sun gain by enlightening and animating the world? Or what does a fountain gain when men drink and are refreshed by its waters? If any soul that hears me this day should resolve henceforth to break asunder all the ties and engagements between him and sin—to subscribe the articles of the gospel--to give away himself, soul and body, to Christ—to live henceforth as a dedicated servant to the Lord Jesus—this would turn to the infinite and everlasting advantage of such a soul; but Christ cannot be profited thereby.
2. And that which still increases the wonder is, that though Christ make no profit by our conversion, yet has he impoverished himself to gain such unprofitable creatures as we are to him. He hath made himself poor to make us rich; so speaks the apostle : "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” 2 Cor. 8:9. He expends his riches, but gains no advantage to himself. His incarnation impoverished his reputation. Phil. 2:7. How poor was Christ when he said, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Psalm 22:6. How poor in temporal comforts, when he said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Matt. 8:20. Yea, how poor was he in spiritual comforts, when that astonishing cry broke from him upon the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" Matt. 27:46. · 0 let it astonish us, that Christ should earnestly desire union with our souls upon terms of such deep self-denial to himself.
3. Though Christ gain nothing by you, and impoverished himself for you, yet he endures many vile repulses, delays, and denials of his suit, and yet will not leave you. O astonishing grace! One would think that the least delay, and much more a refusal of an overture from Christ, upon such terms as these, would make his indignation quickly rise against such a soul; and that he would say, Thou hast refused my offer, so full of self-denying and condescending grace, and never shall another offer be made to so unworthy a soul. Yet you see he is contented to wait as well as knock: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”