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when he is viewed as the author of every blessing to mankind, in every age and under every dispensation; the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever, -upholding his Church from the beginning, fertilising it with the waters of his Spirit, enriching it with dews of his grace, sanctifying it, and presenting it to his Father a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but cleansed from its impurities by his own precious blood, and made meet for acceptance through his merits and intercession.
III. If Christ be the author of all spiritual blessing, the fountain that is opened for sin and uncleanness, the Rock of living water, we must remember in the Third place, That faith in him is the only medium by which we can come, and take of the water of life freely." His words are, "He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
Faith is not only a necessary qualification for the reception of spiritual blessings from Christ, but it is the foundation of all our intercourse with him, and the bond of our discipleship. Between a spiritual and a carnal being there is no natural tie. Their circumstances are so dissimilar as to render any correspondence or social intercourse between them impossible. The alliance, therefore, which they maintain must be of a spiritual kind, and their communication with each other must be governed by rules different to what obtain among men.
Now, Christ is revealed to us as the author of
our salvation, and the dispenser of all the means of grace by which that great mercy is to be secured. We have no experience of this, we can have none, because it depends upon what has passed between Almighty God and himself, of which our faculties furnish us with no personal proofs. Faith, therefore, is the only medium by which we can ascribe to him this blessing, and that faith, showing us the obligation we are under to him, constrains us to walk in his commandments. When the Apostle would set forth the tie which subsists between Christ and his disciples, he uses the strongest figure of speech,-" Ye are bought with a price." If, then, we believe in Christ as we ought to do; that is, if we have a right practical feeling of the relation in which we stand to him as slaves ransomed by his precious blood; and if the sense of all that he has done and suffered for us manifest itself in works of piety, charity, and selfgovernment, we shall become united to him by the tenderest ties, and our intercourse will be of that close and affectionate nature, which renders us one with him, and him with us. The Scriptures, uniformly, represent the communication of spiritual blessings as the reward of faith. "Whosever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” To believe in Christ was to confess his sonship, and his sonship, in the view of the Apostles, was always equivalent to the admission of his divinity. But the very ability to make this confession was the result of the operation of the Holy Ghost. It is a cardinal doctrine of the Christian religion,
"that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost;" that is, no one can witness this good confession; no one can see this great mystery of religion, God manifest in the flesh; no one can attain to the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ, unless he be moved thereto by divine grace. Our Saviour affirms this positively and repeatedly, in his conversation with the Jews. "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." Agreeably to which the Articles of our Church declare, "The condition of man is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith: he has no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing him;"* that is, going before him. The true doctrine seems to be this; that the Spirit is first communicated to man in such a measure as will enable him to entertain a right faith. His heart is thus prepared for the seed of eternal life. there, falls on a soil qualified to receive and nourish it, and being quickened by divine grace, and duly cultivated by our own care and industry, it springs up and flourishes unto life eternal. The Spirit quickeneth all things. "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." The union which is thus accomplished is not a union of natures, not a bodily incorporation of Christ with us, not a mere sympathy of * Article x.
That seed, when sown
members, but it is a union of spirits. The Spirit of God is given to man in such a way, that, in a mystical sense they are still divided, for it is written, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit," so that whatever terms are made use of to describe the closeness and entireness of this union, they are not meant to to destroy the individuality of each. Faith, therefore, is an indispensable qualification for receiving the gifts of the Spirit. "He that cometh to God must believe that he is." If Christ be the author of all spiritual grace, "for of him, and through him, and to him, are all things," to believe in him as such, must precede the effusion of his blessings on us; and if the means of this belief are always furnished, nothing but wilful blindness or inveterate hardness of heart can exclude us from it.
Let us, then, cultivate this faith with all diligence as that on which depend the issues of life. If we believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and feel the full value of the benefits he has conferred upon us, we shall thirst for the water of life, those quickening graces of his Holy Spirit which can alone satisfy the longing soul, and fill the hungry soul with goodness. And he himself assures us, “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." The ordinances of religion are the channels of all grace. It is by means of them that we are brought into covenant with God, and the very conditions on on which our salvation depends, spring immediately from them. "For by
one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." Our first entrance into the Church of Christ was by spiritual regeneration, when we were presented at the font, and were washed in that living stream which rises in the mount of God; and our chief refreshment and support in our weary pilgrimage through this wilderness of sin, is drawn from those spiritual elements, which, under the substance of bread and wine, are tendered to the sincere believer in the Lord's Supper. They who partake of this heavenly banquet, are declared to feed upon the mystical body and blood of Christ, and our blessed Lord himself has said, "He that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Of what unspeakable moment it, therefore, is, that every one who desires to enjoy communion with Christ, and to be nourished by his spiritual grace, should not fail to be a frequent partaker of that holy solemnity where he is presented to his disciples as crucified and slain. By that Sacrament we hold a tender and endearing intercourse with him. Our souls feel raised and elevated above their ordinary level, and are, perhaps, in the meetest condition possible for the sanctifying influences of the Holy Ghost. At least, we are sure, that if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament, we shall become objects of interest and affection with our heavenly Father; and, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we shall at last be received