SECOND "VERILY, VERILY."
THE BIRTH OF THE NEW MAN.
No higher question can be proposed to man than that of the way by which he may regain his long-lost home. Let man be what he may, two facts are before him here: first, that sin and evil are on every hand, seen not only in the outward troubles which abound everywhere, but even more in the inward weakness and unrest which burden man's spirit; and secondly, that all men have some hope or dream of rest and deliverance out of all that now confines and disquiets them. Man, even in his fall, and while he clings to earth, feels that such a scene of change is not his home; that there must be a place of rest somewhere. The first "Verily, Verily," tells us that heaven is this home, and that, though shut through sin, it shall again be, nay even now is, opened to us. The second "Verily, Verily," tells us how to see and enter it. The only way into heaven is by a new or second birth. "Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Verily, Verily, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Verily, Verily, I say unto you, We speak that we do know, and testify that which we have seen. No man hath ascended up to heaven save he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven" (John 3:3-13).
Now these words at first may seem mysterious, and even somewhat arbitrary; but if through grace the light of heaven reach us, we shall see that they simply announce a fact, and that there is, and can be, no other way into the kingdom. And our Lord's saying upon this subject, "No man hath ascended into heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven," shows both why this second birth must be, and also how it is effected. Let us mark how both the questions are answered by these words.
1. First, Why must this be? Why is a new birth the only way to enter heaven? Simply because to live in heaven we must have the life of heaven. Man can live in no world without its life: he can enter no world but by a birth: he can therefore only enter heaven by being born into it. And so far from there being anything arbitrary in this, the reason for it lies in the very nature of things. Each creature can but live in its own proper world; earthly things in earth, and heavenly things in heaven. If man then be fallen and has lost the heavenly life, the one thing he needs is the restoration of that which he has lost. Till he gets this, he can no more live in the Paradise for which God made him, than a man can live on earth without the life of this world. To return to heaven, therefore, he must have heaven's life requickened in him. To re-enter that world of light he must again be born into it.
To make this clearer, I must here speak of the three different worlds in which as men we are, or have been, or may be. For man stands in relation to more worlds than one, and, until we see what these worlds are, we can have no clear conception of the truth our Lord is here teaching. There is, first, God's world of light and love, generally called heaven. There is, secondly, the dark fallen world of self-love, and pride, and wrath, that is the hellish world, called in Holy Scripture "the power of darkness" (Col. 1:13); and these two worlds, which are unseen by sense, are, the one unmixed good, the other unmixed evil; and there is, thirdly, this outward seen and temporal world, which is neither good like heaven, nor evil like hell, but which is everywhere full of figures of the two other worlds, all earthly good being some reflection of the world of light, all earthly evil some shadow of the dark world. Each of these three worlds has its own life, in almost infinite variety, depending on the sun and light and air of each respectively; and to live in any of these worlds a creature must possess its life; that of earth to live on earth; that of hell or heaven to live in hell or heaven.
Now Scripture plainly tells us of the natural man, that as to the light-world he is dead; without God's life, and "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1); and yet that while so dead to God he has two other lives, and is therefore living in two other worlds; "walking" not only "according to the course or life of this outward world" (Eph. 2:2, κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τουτου), but also "according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit which now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2, 12); that thus in his body he lives the life of the seen and outward world, and in his soul the life of the dark world, with all the restlessness which comes from pride and self-love; (Note: See Ambrose, De bono mortis, c. 12.) while his spirit is dead to the life of heaven, which must be rekindled in him, if he is ever again to return to and enter God's kingdom.
But this is not man's proper state, nor that in which or for which he was created. God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26, 27): in spirit a creaturely likeness of Himself, a trinity in unity, with will, reason, and affection; and with heaven open to him, in the paradise of God, where he might converse, not with God alone, but with those spiritual intelligences which are with God in heaven,—all of which is now hidden from our eyes,—while in his body, though of the earth, he was so penetrated by the inward life, as a piece of red-hot iron looks all fire and not iron till the fire is gone out of it, that no raiment was needed, nor was there any shame, for the light of heaven beaming through all was His glorious dress, and he could feel no nakedness, for there was neither sin nor self-will. But the glory soon went; the life was quenched. How it was lost is one of the very first lessons which Holy Scripture teaches (Gen. 3:1-7). Man, trusting to creatures more than God, and thinking in independence to be as God, fell under the power of those very creatures over which he had been set as lord, and out of the world of light which was his true kingdom. For the lie of the serpent, that God was grudging and untrue, and that man in self-will could be as God, which is the substance of the first and indeed of every temptation, poisoned and slew man's heavenly life, as a serpent's bite kills the outward life; and by the poison of this lie he died at once, not indeed to the outward world, but to the life of heaven, and fell out of the world of light into that spiritual darkness and unrest which is his present portion; by this inward death as much cut off from God's light-world as a man who has here lost the earthly life is cut off from and dead to the things of this present seen world. Then the glory and the inward joy and peace all went; and, a poor fallen creature, he sought to hide his shame with fig-leaves, and to find his support and joy in the creatures by which he was surrounded; his soul, instead of being a flame of light and love, turned into a consuming inward fire; prone to envy, pride, and wrath; his love turned to self-love; like sweetest wine to sourest vinegar; while his body became subject to all the powers of this world; touched, even as the beasts, by cold and heat, and pain and want; so weak that every creature can vex it, every element destroy, and even a look or word trouble it; yet, spite of all this, with an inward feeling that he was made for better things, and is destined one day to rule all.
Thus fell our father Adam; and in this state, fallen from God, he begat sons and daughters in his own image; and from him have grown the family of sinners, who, strangers to their true life, till renewed by grace, can find no joy in peace, and love, and heaven; and have no eye for spiritual things, but seek their home on earth, in the cares and pleasures and labours of this present life. And we, the fallen children of this fallen head, like the children of some king who has been dethroned and carried into captivity, where his children and children's children have been born slaves, and by generations of hard bondage have not only well-nigh forgotten the tradition of their father's glory, but have become utterly unfit to occupy his kingly place, their unnatural state of bondage being now more natural to them than a throne and kingdom,—we, the fallen children of men, have so long been fallen, that we can scarcely believe what man once was, or what is yet his true kingdom; that, made in God's image, he once walked in Paradise with God, and that for this end we are and were created. So fallen are we that we settle down here, as if this were our home; scarcely believing the witness which the gospel brings, that the life Christ lived is our true life, that He was what man is called to be, and one day shall be; no longer slave to sin and death, but victor over both, and lord of all creatures; and that He comes to give us our true life, because until it is requickened we are lost, dead to all that God has prepared, and yet is keeping for us.
But all this seems gross exaggeration to some. They allow that they are weak, that they need teaching and guidance, and even that they may need mercy. They feel that something is amiss; that men are not at rest. But to say that they are dead, without God's light and life, and that they may be conformed to Christ, who is the image of God, this seems incredible. Yet Christ and His Apostles say this: indeed this is the burden of their teaching. This is their witness, that "God hath given to us eternal life" (1 John 5:11), because nothing less than this life could really meet our necessity; that "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36); and again, that "he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:12). The mystery of the gospel is that man is dead, and yet alive again in Christ,—that there is judgment for, and yet remission of, sins. This is the threefold witness of the Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood (1 John 5:8). The Spirit says, "You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). And the Water, that is baptism, witnesses the same, burying us with Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), (and we do not bury live things but dead things,) out of the very grave of nature to raise us up new creatures, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And the Blood declares the same; for Christ said, "This is my blood: drink ye all of it. For except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man ye have no life in you" (Matt. 26:29; John 6:53, 54). I do not say all feel this death. This outward life hides it for awhile, with its present pleasures, or cares, or occupations. This indeed is the reason why men so love the world, because it keeps them from coming to themselves; while the loss of it shows us what poor, empty, restless souls we are till grace finds us. And this too is the reason why God so often takes these things from His elect, that in the discovery of their inward want they may long for their true life, and seeking may find it to their eternal joy. Till that new life is quickened in us we can no more taste or see the things of God, than without this earthly life we could know the pains or joys of this world. For just as it is only by a participation in the nature of the old man that we can share his lot, so only by a participation in the nature of God's Son can we know His life and our true portion in Him. Conscience tells us that we lack something. We cannot see the things of God—His kingdom may be near, but till we have His life it is not opened to us. But instead of being willing to come to ourselves (Luke 15:17), and to know our need, and so to come to our Father, to receive again our true inheritance, how many inventions have we to hide the aching void within, how many diversions to get away from self, and still the soul's hunger. Better surely, far better, to come here to ourselves, by sorrows, even by sins, which so wound us that we cannot rest until we find a Saviour, than to live here strangers to our true state, unsaved, unquickened, and unchanged, till we go hence in darkness we know not where.
Such then is the needs-be for regeneration. We "must be born again," because only by a new birth can we re-enter heaven. The question yet remains,—
2. How we must be born again;—how can the life of God be quickened in us;—and how, when it is quickened, can we return to heaven? Here again the answer lies in the declaration, "Verily, Verily, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;" for "no man hath ascended into heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man, which is in heaven"; in other words, no life can enter heaven but that which first came from, and which even here belongs to, heaven. Regeneration, therefore, or the requickening of God's life in man, can only be effected by Him who has that life, that is the Son of God; first, by His coming down from heaven to dwell in man, thus to raise up the eternal life in our nature here; and then by His dying to this nature, to bring us out of it to heaven, in the power of that life which He has quickened in us. Thus there are two distinct stages in this work. For we need, not only to have the heavenly life revived in us, but no less to be delivered out of the hellish and earthly life, in which as fallen we are held captive. The first is accomplished by the Word, the seed of God, coming into our place, joining Himself to us, and sharing for a season our straitness. The second is effected by His bringing us out of our place into His, through the strait and narrow gate of death, which is the one and only way fully to know and enter heaven. Every natural birth is the figure of the spiritual; "for the invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made" (Rom. 1:20). Could men but see how this present earthly body grows, from so small a beginning to so wonderful a house; and how both the fire and water work in it; they might see the shadow of the more glorious house (2 Cor. 5:1, 2), which is built up by the seed of God, and stand astonished at the wonders of the building and the glory of the Builder. For the new man is the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitches (Heb. 8:2), with its holy place and most holy (Exod. 26:33), which, like the male and female, though divided for a time, are predestined to become one, when the veil is rent and done away. But we are so fallen that very little can be said here of the way in which God is ever giving life. Something however must be said of these two stages of man's regeneration, first as wrought by the Holy Ghost in Christ our Head for us, and then as wrought by the same Spirit in us who are His members.
First, then, regeneration was wrought for us in Christ. In Him, that is in His person, man has been regenerated. In Him man again received God's life, by the coming of the Eternal Word to dwell in flesh, by whose indwelling our nature was requickened, and so regained in Christ that which had been lost in old Adam; so that man here, in Christ, was son of God, with all the virtues, powers, and glories, which belong to such a lineage, though for awhile these glories were shrouded by the veil, that is to say this flesh (Heb. 10:20), in and under which the Eternal Son was manifested. So began the work of man's regeneration. But it was not, and could not be, perfected, save by the putting off and dying to that flesh into which the Son had come, to manifest that new creature, which is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, but the one united life in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 11:11; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). For while here, in present nature, the eternal life was confined: therefore it had yet a baptism to be baptized with, and was straitened until it was accomplished (Luke 12:50). Only by death did man in Christ re-enter heaven. The life of heaven was in Him here. But only through death could that life be perfected and manifested; even as the natural life, which is in a babe unborn, is only brought to light when it is delivered out of that womb in which it has been quickened. And this death to nature, before it was actually reached, was yet in measure anticipated, and very really, though spiritually, entered into, in that mystic and sacramental death, which Christ submitted to at His baptism, when, as He went down into Jordan, heaven opened to Him. But it was actual death, "even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8), that fully opened heaven. Then the veil, which hid the inner from the outer court, was "rent in twain from the top to the bottom" (Matt. 27:51); not from the bottom to the top, but "from the top to the bottom,"—for the work is done by God for us,—to show, as the Apostle says, that through the rending of the veil, that is this flesh, the way into the holiest is opened by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19, 20). For indeed the veil is present nature, which here hides both heaven and hell, till through grace that life is rekindled which belongs to and can re-enter heaven. And the way into the holiest is not made manifest while the first tabernacle, that namely which is of this creation (Heb. 9:8, 11: ταύτης τῆς κτίσεως), is yet standing. No man can enter into the tabernacle of God till the angels with the last plagues have poured out their last vials (Rev. 15:8). Christ died to enter heaven. He entered "by His blood"; having so "obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12; Lev. 17:11).
Such was the way back into heaven for man in Christ. And, to come where He is, the self-same thing must be wrought in us by the same Spirit. For there is, and can be, no other way. No mere uniting of the divided parts or properties of the fallen old man can give us that life of God, which we must possess to enter heaven. God's own nature must be first requickened by our receiving the Word, the "seed of God," in whom is life (2 Pet. 1:4; John 1:4); and then there must be a delivery from, and putting off of, the fallen old man, through the cross, that is through death to present nature. Only so do we regain the "image and likeness" (Gen. 1:26; 1 Cor. 11:11) of our Maker and our Father; only so are we "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21). If we receive the word and keep it in our heart,—for it is the heart, the feminine part of our present fallen and divided nature, which, like Mary, yet receives the word,—if, like her, on hearing God's promise, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee," our heart replies, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:35, 38),—then that word, being the seed of the kingdom, will quicken God's life, and so create a new man in us, "which is Christ in us, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27); in whom the breach is healed; in whom our nature is no more divided; in whom "of twain one new man is made, so making peace" (Eph. 2:15). And as when the Lord was born, the world still went on its old way, little conscious that One had come, and was among them, who should one day change and rule all things; so when the new man is formed within, the outer life for awhile goes on much as before; the daily calling and its earthly cares, and too often old lusts and habits also, still engross us; a worldly eye sees little new; while yet the life which shall live for ever has been quickened within, and a new man been formed who shall inherit all. From the first this "new man" (Eph. 4:24) is God's heir. But whilst here in these bodies of our humiliation, the life is often sorely crossed and straitened. Only by a redemption of the body, for which we sigh and cry, saying with the Apostle, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death" (Rom. 7:24), and by death and resurrection with Christ, are we delivered.
And this deliverance we obtain, like Christ, first sacramentally, when receiving the word, in a mystic and sacramental death, we are buried with Him in baptism, into the life-giving name or nature of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and then manifestly, when in due time through crosses and sorrows, and at last through death, we pass from seen things to unseen, from earth to heaven. "The Church, like Paradise of old," as a martyr said, "is watered by four rivers, namely the Gospels, and by these, as by a spiritual inundation, she bestows the grace of saving baptism." (Note: Cyprian, Epistol. lxxii., ad Jubianum.) Baptism is our confession that only through death with Christ, by receiving His word and dying with Him, can any be delivered Death, which is but another baptism, of which we all may say with Christ, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished," when "all God's waves and billows go over us" (Psalm 42:7), when we "come into deep waters, where the floods overflow us" (Psalm 69:2), is but the substance and fulfilment of that first great sacrament, for only through these deep waters can we enter heaven. Therefore we say, "I believe one baptism for the remission of sins." For only "he that is dead is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:7). Quickened we may be, and are, while yet not severed from the first creation; sons of God we are even while not yet "delivered from the bondage of corruption" (Rom. 8:21); for here, as in nature, there is conception before quickening, and quickening before birth, and, long after the life of Christ is conceived in us, it lacks for a season the image of the man, though this surely will come in its season; but the seed is not brought to perfection in a moment, or without separation from its first temporary home, through the travail pains of nature, and the bursting of one shell of life after another, till all is perfected. Nor can we safely hurry the process, though till it is accomplished we are imperfect. For just as in nature a babe may be born too soon, so is it in grace: our days of bondage and darkness in the womb of nature are all appointed, and good for us. Therefore the elect is "made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth" (Psalm 139:15), while lost and fallen spirits "corrupt themselves by reason of their brightness" (Ezek. 28:17). But the time comes when we must be born out of all that which now holds us. And only when so freed from present nature are we freed from sin: only when dead do we really enter heaven. This is the burden of this second Verily, Verily,—"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God: except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Of this "new man" formed in us, there are many things to say, which are hard to be uttered, only because when, for the time we should be teachers, we are still children (Heb. 5:12). But this may be said, that as old Adam is the type of our natural life, so is Christ the type or figure of the eternal life as it is by grace renewed in us. In Him we see each stage of this eternal life, as it grows out of human nature; first coming into our likeness, to bring us into His in due season. At every stage, whether in the womb, or as a babe, or twelve years old, or with heaven opened, or in transfiguration, or in resurrection, it is the same one life; but very different does it appear, and very varied are its works or sufferings, as it advances through these stages. It does too at one stage what it cannot at another. For Christ, though from the first "that holy thing" (Luke 1:35),—for "He was conceived of the Holy Ghost,"—could not and did not, as an infant, in Jewish swaddling-clothes, do the works of love and power which followed His baptism by the same Spirit; and even then, though He was Himself baptized with the Holy Ghost, He did not pour out that same Spirit as it came forth from Him when through the cross and resurrection He had passed again from earth to heaven. So with Christ in us; for the story is but one: Christ for us being but the prelude and figure of our experience of Christ as formed in us. When first conceived the new man is unseen: it may, and at present must, be so hidden, that no outward eye as yet can see it. Then, when first seen, it is but as a babe, which, though as truly heir of God as it shall be when it rules all, for awhile needs the service and help of others to preserve it from its enemies. Even when heaven opens to it, and the Father's voice is heard, saying, "Thou art my beloved child," and power is given through the Spirit to open blind eyes (Acts 26:18), and raise the dead, and cleanse lepers, even then this life in us must often say with Christ, "How am I straitened until the baptism be accomplished." So grows the heavenly life in us, until it comes at length through death to the place where Christ has gone before us; when in and with Him, freed from the things which bind it here, it shall do His priestly works within the veil. O wonder of wonders, that being called with such a calling,—that even when quickened with this eternal life,—we should yet cleave to and crave after the dying things of time, from which we are redeemed in Christ Jesus.
Such is the new man, and such the entrance to the kingdom. Only by receiving the word can the creature regain God's life; only by dying to its fallen life and to its first form can it be brought to God's kingdom.
What then, it may be said, are we to think of the heathen, who have never had the gospel preached to them? Shall they all be excluded from the kingdom? I answer, They too, though not as we, have had the Word. God has "not left Himself without a witness to them, in that He did and does them good, and gives them showers from heaven, filling men's hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). God was not, and is "not, far from them" (Acts 17:27). He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not (John 1:10). So is He in man, and man is made by Him, and yet man knows Him not. But His Word, "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9), is ever crying to all who will receive Him (Prov. 1:20-23; 8:3, 4). His works too are a ceaseless word to men, "because that which may be known of God is manifest in them" (Rom. 1:19, 20). Thus "as many as received Him became the sons of God," even before "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:12, 14). They might not know, as we do, that they were sons (Gal. 4:1-3): they had not the light as it now shines on us in the face of Jesus Christ; for in His birth and death and resurrection God has opened to us the whole process and way of our redemption. But in every age His Word has been with men, seeking by every occasion of joy or sorrow to speak to them as they could bear it, "rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth, for His delights were with the sons of men" (Prov. 8:31). "Many therefore shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God; while the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; for there are last which shall be first, and first which shall be last" (Matt. 8:11, 12; Luke 13:29, 30). The true children of the kingdom are not those who merely have the word, but rather those in whom a life is formed according to it. Such, though not of Israel, will obtain witness that they are righteous, like him of whom it was said, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (Luke 7:9). There may even be some who, in this earthly life, have never consciously received the Word, either through the Scriptures or through preaching, or even through the "many voices which are in the world" (1 Cor. 14:10),—who have lived here in nature, simply as parts of nature, moved only by its life, knowing nothing of that life and image which the Word renews in us,—who may first hear the gospel, like those to whom Christ "went and preached," when, as "spirits in prison" (1 Pet. 3:18-20), they there wake up to see their ruin. Such may yet be "saved" at last, "so as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:15), by the ministry of those who, having won the prize of the firstborn (Rev. 14:1-4), are kings and priests with Christ. But, first or last, none are saved but by the Word. No life but that of heaven can re-enter or live in heaven.
With what love then should we welcome and keep that Word, in whatever measure it may come to us, whether in letter or in spirit, as gospel or as law. Unless we receive it, we cannot be saved. For the true life of the soul, which was extinguished in the fall, can no more rekindle itself as a flame of light and love in us, than the fire which is shut up in a flint can come forth of itself, or the life which is hid in some dark root can burst out into blossoms without the sun and air of heaven. A power above us must effect the change. But if God, in whom is no darkness at all, through the beams of His eternal Son, who is the Sun of Righteousness, enter like light and warmth into the very nature of the fallen creature, He makes us alive by His indwelling. Then beauty after beauty may be brought forth, the creaturely image of that Sun which has effected all the change. But the Word or light must be received. We are helpless without it; but God too, if one may say so, needs the creature's will and co-operation. If we will not receive Him, no change is wrought. God cannot convert us unless by grace or judgment we are willing also. Keep then the Word, whether it judges or quickens; whether it justifies or seems only to condemn. We need both to be quickened and to be slain. Therefore "the Lord killeth and maketh alive" (1 Sam. 2:6). The ministrations of death and of life (2 Cor. 3:6-9) are both for us. One life, the life of heaven, needs quickening in us, and the Word of God as gospel quickens it; and one life, the life of hell, needs slaying in us, and the Word of God as law slays it. For just as by the lie, or word of the serpent, the life of hell was quickened, and the life of heaven poisoned in man, when he was even yet in Paradise; so by the truth, that is God's Word, the life of heaven is requickened, and the life of hell destroyed and slain in us, while yet we are in darkness. Keep then the Word. He that receives and keeps it, by it is made a son of God.
And let us cherish too and gratefully accept the cross. By it we are not quickened. The Word alone quickens. But by the cross, that is through death, we are delivered; just as in natural birth that which has been quickened is only delivered by a going forth out of the womb in which it has been conceived, and for a season held captive. Only by the cross, that is by death, are we delivered from the bondage of corruption which surrounds us here. And all our sorrows, which are but portions of the cross of Christ,—for His cross was only the penalty of our being where and what we are,—if like Him we meekly accept them as coming from the hand of God, are but the travail-pains of our delivery. Let us bear them patiently, and they will bear us out of the darkness into the light. Therefore even for our flesh let us be thankful; for this present body of sin (Rom. 6:6), of humiliation (Phil. 3:21), and of death (Rom. 7:24), in whatever light we view it, whether as a prison, a workhouse, or a hospital, is also serving us, and has a glory, though, like the glory of death and condemnation (2 Cor. 3:9, 10), it is as nothing in comparison with the glory that excelleth. In it we have a time and place to die and to be born; to die to sin, and be born to God; to put off the filthy garments of the old man, to put on the raiment of the new. Thus all is for our good, flesh and spirit, death and life. All things are ours, if we are Christ's.
Most thankfully also let us accept the sacraments of the cross, baptism and the supper, "the water and the blood" (1 John 5:6). Rightly to understand these is to understand the whole gospel; for they are "extensions of the incarnation," the creature form in and by which the living Word yet comes down so as to reach and be received even by carnal men. And may we also, as Christ's members, become ourselves in due time sacramental, like His wounded hands and side giving forth both water and blood. Christ's members will yet give these when they are pierced (John 19:34); when like Paul, who "bore in his body the marks of the Lord" (Gal. 6:17), they can truly say, "I die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31). Such ministrations may be yet beyond us. They will come with Christ's cross. There is "a time to be born," as well as "a time to die" (Eccl. 3:2).
Table of Contents Chapter 3 Home The Writings of Andrew Jukes