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COMMUNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND BELIEV
ERS ON EARTH
"I WILL COME IN TO HIM, AND WILL SUP WITH HIM, AND HE
WITH ME.” Rev. 3:20. We have heard the first argument of Christ to persuade the hearts of sinners to open to him, that he will come in to them, and that not empty-handed; he will also sup with them. And, to make the encouragement complete and full, he here adds, “and he with me.” This last clause sets forth that spiritual, soul-refreshing communion which is between Christ and believers, begun in this world, completed and perfected in the world to come. Hence our eleventh doctrine is,
There is a mutual, sweet, and intimate communion between Jesus Christ and believers in this world.
Communion with Christ is frequent in the lips of many men, but a hidden mystery to the souls of most men. This atheistical age scoffs at and ridicules it as enthusiasm and fanaticism ; but the saints find such a reality and incomparable sweetness in it, that they would not part with it for ten thousand worlds. When the Roman soldiers entered the temple at Jerusalem, and found no image there, as they used to have in their own idolatrous temples, they gave out in a jeer that the Jews worshipped the clouds. Thus ungodly men scoff at the most solemn and sweetest part of internal religion as a mere fancy; but the thing is real, sure, and sensible. If there be truth in any thing, there is truth in this, that there is real intercourse between the visible and invisible world, between Christ and the souls of believers, which we here call communion. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John, 1:3. It is really and truly so; we impose not upon the world, we tell you no more than we have felt. The life of Enoch is called his walking with God. Gen. 5:24. 0 sweet and pleasant walk; all pleasures, all joys are in that walk with God. “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance." Psalm 89:15. The joyful sound there spoken of was the sound of the trumpet which called the people to the solemn assemblies, where they walked in the light of God's countenance, the sweet manifestations of his favor; and because the world is so apt to suspect the reality and certainty of this doctrine, the apostle again asserts it: “Our conversation is in heaven.” Phil. 3:20. We breathe below, but we live above; we walk on earth, but our conversation is in heaven. To understand this doctrine, three things must come under consideration : what communion with Christ is; that there is such a communion between him and believers; and the excellency of this communion.
I. WHAT COMMUNION WITH CHRIST IS, in the general nature of it. To open this, it must be considered that there is a twofold communion : a state of communion, and actual communion. The first is essential to the second; we can have no actual communion with the Father, Son, or Spirit, till we be first brought into a state of communion. This state of communion is in Scripture called our fellowship or partnership with Christ : such a fellowship as merchants have in the same ship and cargo, where one has more and another less, but still a joint though unequal interest; one lives in one kingdom, another in some other kingdom, but they are jointly interested in the same goods. This comparison must not be stretched beyond its intention, which is to show nothing but this, that Christ and believers are coheirs in the same inheritance. Hence they are called his fellows or equals : “God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Psalm 45:7. And again, “ If children, then heirs ; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Rom. 8:17. Christ endows his people, gives them a title not only to himself, but to those good things purchased by him, yea, and the very glory he enjoys in heaven. “The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them.” John 17:22.
It is true, there are some things in Christ which are peculiar to himself, and incommunicable to any creature, as his eternity, equality with his Father, etc.: neither have we fellowship in his mediatorial work; we have the fruits and benefits of it, but no partnership with him in the glory and honor of it; that is peculiarly his own: and though it is
intu res penat belye beso said in the Scriptures, that believers are “ righteous as he is righteous,” 1 John, 3 : 7, yet the meaning is not that they can justify others as Christ doth; no, they are justified by him, but cannot communicate righteousness to others. But there are other things wherein there is a partnership between Christ and his people: they partake with him in the spirit of sanctification on earth, and glory in heaven; the same spirit of holiness which dwells in Christ without measure, is communicated by him to the saints in measure: “He hath given us of his Spirit.” 1 John, 4:13. And as Christ communicates his Spirit to the saints, so he communicates the glory of heaven to them : not that they shall be as glorious in heaven as Christ is; no, he will be known among the saints in glory, as the sun is known from the stars. Thus briefly of the state of communion, which is called in Scripture our “ being made nigh,” Eph. 2:13, and indeed we must be made nigh before we can actually draw nigh. We must be put into a state of fellowship before we can have actual communion with God.
Besides this state of communion, there is also an actual communion which the saints have in this world with the Father and the Son in the duties of religion. This is our supping with Christ, and he with us : and, for clearness' sake, I shall consider,
Negatively, what it is not; for I find persons are apt greatly to mistake in this matter, taking that for communion with God which is not so; and here let it be noted :
Communion with God does not consist in the bare performance of religious duties. I do not say that men may have communion with God in this world without duties; it is a delusion of Satan to think so; but I say, that communion with God consists not in the mere performance of duties. Communion and duties of religion are two things, separable one from the other. Men may multiply duties and yet be strangers to communion with God in them ; even days of humiliation and fasting may be kept by souls that are estranged from communion with the Lord : “Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?" Zech. 7:5; that is, Had your souls pure intentions and respect in those duties to my glory? Had you communion with me, or I with you, in those duties? Did you ever feel your souls in those days wounded for sin ? Or did you not fast out of custom? God may be in men's mouths and at the same time far from their hearts. Jer. 12:2. Religious words may flow out of men's lips when no religion touches their hearts, the inward powers of their souls; you cannot therefore safely depend upon outward duties, Christ rejects this plea. Matt. 7:22. Get a better evidence of communion with God than this, or you will certainly come short of your expectation. I know you not, saith Christ; there was never any spiritual acquaintance between your souls and me; I know you not in a way of approbation. . Neither do all stirrings and workings of the affections in duties prove communion between Christ and the soul ; for it is possible, yea, common, to have the affections raised
by external motives in the duties of religion : this you see in that example, Ezek. 33:32: “Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” The sweet modulation of the prophet's voice was like the skilful touch of a rare musical, instrument, which in a natural way moved and excited! their affections. Thus John's hearers rejoiced in his ministry for a season. This is very apt to lead souls into a mistake as to their condition. They distinguish not between the influences that come upon their affections from without, and those that are inward, divine, and spiritual. "
But to show, positively, what communion with God is, we must consider what things it presupposes in us; and in what the nature of it consists.
There are various things prerequired and presupposed to all actual communion with God in duties; and where these things are wanting, men have no communion with him. They may have communion with his people and his ordinances, but not with God and Christ in them.
(1.) Union with Christ is fundamentally necessary to all communion with him. All communion is founded in union; and where there is no union, there can be no communion. The member receives nothing from the head unless it be united to it; nor the branch from the root. “All are yours; and ye are Christ's.” 1 Cor. 3 : 22, 23. Here is a vast possession, but all founded upon union; union terminates in communion; and the closer the union, the fuller is the communion.
Before our union with Christ we are strangers to God, we live without God in the world, Eph. 2:12: it is in Christ that we are made nigh; it is in the Beloved that we are accepted. While we are in the state of alienation from Christ, we have no more to do with the communications of joy and peace, with the seals and earnests of the Spirit, than