Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, 1851 – By Joseph Irons
“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.”
(1 Peter 2:24)
I was told, an hour ago, that it was madness for me to attempt to go into my pulpit. “Well, then,” I said, “I will be mad; I will go once more, at all events;” and this portion was so sweet, so savoury to my own spirit, that if I can only talk to you a quarter of an hour, about it, I would rather do so than abandon it. You must, therefore, bear with my infirmities.
“Who His own self bare our sins.” What! will He not let me help Him? No, nor you neither, nor any Arminian in the world. “His own self.” He was all alone. “Of the people there was none with Him.” (Isa. 63:3) “His own self bare our sins.” Whose? whose? Can you put in your claim to it? Do you really believe it was yours? Do you really believe that the Lord made Him sin for you? I do, blessed be His name. I am satisfied of it as I am that I am a creature. Well, but I want my hearers to look at it in this individual and wordy sense. “Our sins” all, the entire weight and burden. “In His own body.” It is no part of mine to help Him. “On the tree,” too, the accursed death, a death allotted only to the vilest of criminals and slaves. There hung my precious Christ, the glorious Mediator; there He hung, nailed up, and bearing my sins. “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” Sure I am that we do not half love Him enough. Sure I am that we are all of us sadly unconscious of His great preciousness, value, and importance. I could not help saying to the individual that advised me not to attempt to go into the pulpit, “Ah! if you loved Jesus Christ only as much as I do, and I do not love Him half enough, you could not bear to be silent as long as you could utter a sentence.” Well, then, I am going to try and say a little about the Burden-bearer “His own self;” then I will try if I can say a word about the immensity of the burden “all our sins;” and then a word or two about the design God had in view.
Now, beloved, you will perceive that there is enough in this plan, which God gave me upon a bed of anguish, enough only in this plan to last a man two or three hours, if he had strength to follow it out. Think of the Burden-bearer, who He is, what He is! Think of the burden, all the guilt, all the sin, all the weight, of all the election of grace, from Adam’s day till now! And then think of the design of God, the eternal salvation of His whole Church!
I. I will now try and talk a little about the Burden-bearer, blessings on His name! Who is He? “His own self?” Why, it was the Holy One of God. That is the very appellation the devil gave Him. The devils speak the truth sometimes. “We know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” (Luke 4:34) I know it; He is just that, “the holy child Jesus” the holy, undefiled, sinless, perfect, glorious Lord of glory. What! He bear my sins! What! the holy Christ of God bear my sins? “His own self.” Gabriel could not help Him. “I could call down twelve legions of angels, if I wanted them.” He would not have the help of one of them. No; it must be “His own self.” Oh! the abominable wickedness of Arminianism, to think of helping Him, to think of doing what He has left undone, to think of putting a stroke to His work. No, beloved, it was “His own self.” Bear with my weakness. I want to testify to the last that everything that man puts in is blasphemy. It was “His own self.” Oh, that glorious, precious self! But how came He to be capable of bearing my sins? He could not bear them as God; He could not bear them, nor suffer for them as essential Deity only. Oh! wonder, ye heavens, and be astonished, O earth, this precious, glorious, Holy One of God, the second Person in the adorable Trinity, became incarnate; the covenant Head became incarnate, for the express purpose of bearing my sins. I ask you, my hearers, to look at the dearest relative you have upon earth. Would you become a dog, or any brute, for the purpose of rescuing any dear relative from misery? I scarcely think there is one among you who would think of such a thing. And yet my glorious Christ did not become a dog, but stooped lower, for a dog never committed the sins I have and became incarnate, “took upon Him the likeness of sinful flesh.” I pray you pause here a moment. He did not take sinful flesh, though some wicked beings have been daring enough to say so. No; it is the likeness of sinful flesh. He knew no sin He did no sin; all sin was laid upon Him, but none was found in Him. I beg of you always to keep up that distinction as long as you live the difference between sin being laid upon Him and sin being found in Him. If sin had been found in Him in the smallest degree, His sacrifice had never been accepted, His offering had not been worth a straw. But while all sin was laid upon Him, that is, all the sin of His Church, there was none to be found in Him. The Father saw none, the Holy Ghost saw none. He knew no sin; and yet this precious, glorious Christ put His shoulder under the yoke to bear all my sins. Beloved, though I cannot say much about it, my very soul seems to melt at the thought that the huge burden of my sins, which would depress me to the very lowest hell for ever, has been carried away by my glorious Burden-bearer.
Well, look a moment longer at His mediatorial responsibility. He did not bear the burden as of absolute necessity, or as forced upon Him, but as a voluntary act “His own self.” He stood forth as the Mediator between God and man, as a voluntary act. That can never be too deeply impressed upon your minds. It was a voluntary act. “No man taketh my life from me,” says He oh, no! “I lay it down of myself, and I take it again.” (John 10:18) A voluntary act. If you forget all I have said to you for thirty years, I pray you never forget this, that if the doing and dying of Christ had not been a voluntary act of His own, it had been worth nothing to any sinner under heaven; but, blessings on His name, while the Father gave Him, while the Father appointed Him, and commissioned Him, He, “His own self,” came forth voluntary to take the human nature, to become incarnate, in order that in His humanity He might bear all my sins in His own body on the tree. They could not have fastened Deity to the tree, you know; they could not have scourged the back of Deity, and the ploughers made their furrows upon Him as the Psalmist has it; they could not have fixed a crown of thorns upon the head of Deity; but, in order to bear and suffer all this, “His own self” came down, “His own self” assumed my nature, “His own self” appeared in the character of man, of fallen man, suffered death on the tree.
On the tree. Well, now, I will pause here a moment just to look at the tree. I cannot look at you, I can hardly see a person before me; however, I can look to the tree. There it stood, a transverse timber fixed in the ground, with His holy “own self” upon it; and while hanging there, He is bearing all my sins, all my rebellion, all my fretfulness, all my weaknesses “His own self” bearing them. Beloved, do you feel at all in love with Him? Can you love Him? Is He not altogether lovely? “His own self” on that tree.
Well, there were two other trees, and there were two thieves upon them; the one, went to hell, and the other to heaven. These two trees were one on His right hand, and the other on His left; but I fix my gaze upon the middle tree between the thieves. Oh! the loveliness of that “own self,” that precious Christ; to think that He would leave the bosom of the Father, where He had lain from eternity; that He would come into the world, and endure the contradiction of sinners against Him, work and slave for eighteen years as a carpenter, and then bear all the persecutions of the Jews for the three years of His ministry, and afterwards hang upon the tree. Lord Jesus, forgive my want of love. “His own self!” Precious Burden-bearer!
II. Well, then, I will try and say a word about the immensity of the burden, our sins. What do you think of the weight of your sin? Beloved, do you suppose that you have sin enough to press down a world into hell? I do. Do you really feel that it is a burden too heavy to bear? Has the law brought home its demands and accusations? Has its spirituality entered into the vitals? Do you really know that if you had kept it all with the exception of one point, that one point makes you guilty of all? Are you really conscious before God that the curse would lie heavily upon you to all eternity, but for Christ? “Our sins.” Oh! look for a moment at the whole number of the election of God, the whole weight of all their iniquities. Let me try a moment’s calculation. I look at my own, and think from the moment I was born of these sixty-six years, what has gone on, what there is in me, what I brought into the world with me, and what I am utterly incapable even of atoning for. Well, then, multiply, if you will allow the arithmetic, multiply mine and yours by those of all the election of grace that have ever lived from Adam’s day; and then think what a mass, what a mound, what an immensity of guilt, sin, burden, wickedness, rebellion, must have been laid upon Christ. Take into account that beautiful Scripture which we have so often had occasion to quote, “All we, like sheep, have gone astray, and have turned every one unto his own way.” (Isa. 53:6) The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all “the iniquity of us all, all of you, all the election of grace, all that believe in Christ. I know very well that modern divines will revile me for this; they will say, “Why don’t you say, ‘all the world?’” I do not, I cannot. It is not found in my Bible. I tell you it is the sheep that have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of them all. I cannot at all understand how those beings can interpret such a text as that which we read in the chapter this morning respecting the disobedient and rebellious against God, concerning whose character it is immediately added, “Whereunto they were also appointed.” (1 Peter 2:8) I cannot at all tell how such beings who reject the doctrine of grace can understand such a text. I believe it as it stands. Further, I come to the other family. “But ye.” Who? The “chosen generation,” the “royal priesthood,” “ye elect souls.” (1 Peter 2:9) Now if I had my own will, I would never preach to any but elect souls. I know the Holy Ghost never preaches to any other; but my commission is to preach to every creature. It is God’s part to find out His own; and when He finds them out, He puts His grace into their hearts, He brings them to this important point, that the whole of their sins, the whole of their guilt, the whole of their miseries, were laid upon Him, and endured by Him, the precious Christ of God. I think that the chief cause of the unhappiness of many that I could hope and believe are Christians, lies in this, that they will not allow Christ to carry it all. There lies the mischief; they will not allow Him to bear it all; their repentance is to do something, their believing is to do something, their praying is to do something, something is to be done by the creature. My hearer, it is all delusion. “His own self” bare the whole weight; all the guilt and transgression of the entire Church of God is laid upon Christ; He, “His own self,” bare it; and woe be to you and me if He did not; everlasting ruin to you and to me would be inevitable, if He did not. Herein I rejoice; and I could not help coming to say these few words this morning, because “His own self” seemed so precious to me. “His own self bare our sins.”
Well, if I had all the sins of all the world, all the sins of Adam’s race that have ever been committed since Adam fell, laid upon me, I have only just to look at the tree, that is enough. If I have only faith enough to look at the tree, put them all upon the tree, and see, by faith, that not only did the Father lay them upon Him, but that He voluntarily undertook to bear them, I am easy enough; sin shall not touch me, the devil shall not alarm me, death has no annoyance to me; indeed, I long for it, if it may be so called. I have nothing more to do than to fall into the arms of my covenant God, because Jesus Himself, “His own self,” has borne my sins in His own body on the tree.
Still, now, I suppose that some of my hearers will upbraid me, I cannot help it, for this strain. I will go on a few minutes longer if I can. Just mark, that while this precious, glorious “own self,” the Christ of God, took the whole of the sin of the Church upon His person (and never forget my meaning,) yet that He Himself exercised the voluntary affection of the eternal God, and engaged, as the covenant Head of His Church, responsibly to emancipate, ah! there lies the blessing, to emancipate His entire Church from all sorrow. His love, His eternal, immutable, unchangeable love is such, that the results of Gethsemane’s horrors and Calvary’s torments, where He bare our sins, continue to the present hour; and He ever lives to intercede for all that come to God by Him. This seems to me the very climax of His work. He did not remain in the grave; He could not be holden of it. The apostle says, or rather the Holy Ghost by the apostle, that it was impossible that He could be holden of it. Why not? Death holds many; it lays its grasp upon many; but it could not hold Him. Why? He tore out the sting; He had been its plague; He had vanquished death, and overcome its power; and, therefore, though He stooped to the grave, in order to pass through the entire ordeal which the Father had appointed, and that He had engaged for in covenant, it was not possible He could be holden of it. He vanquished it; He became the mighty conqueror. Well, but how so? Ah! the poor women were sadly dismayed. They thought He was shut in finally; they knew there was a great stone rolled to the door of the sepulchre, and sealed with a seal, and watchmen, and soldiers, and guards, about it; and as they went to take a last peep at the place where the Lord lay, they said to one another, “Who shall roll away the stone.” He wanted neither angels, nor men, nor powers, on earth, nor powers in heaven. “I lay down my life, and I take it up again.” (John 10:17) How solemn, how blessed, how beautiful, are these words! “I lay down my life” just as I could lay my head down to sleep “and I take it up again.” My hearers, is it not grievous that you and I cannot trust the Saviour better than we do? Is it not grievous that we do not love Him more, that we do not serve Him more? I am positively ashamed of my Christianity; I am not only ashamed of my sins and myself, but I am ashamed of my Christianity, that such a precious Christ should not be loved, and honoured, and adored, to a greater extent.
III. Well, let us say a word or two, if we can about the design. Why should the Father bruise Him, and put Him to grief? Why should He stoop voluntarily to endure this shameful and ignominious death? I will try and tell you why. It was just to complete the entire salvation of His Church; just to complete that. And I throw out this idea, on purpose to war again for a few minutes against those horrible notions that would represent the salvation of God as not being complete. I think the divinity of the present day is very much like what wicked Mammon wrote in that book, called “Mammon,” I think. He says, in so many words, that sin frustrated God’s design, and destroyed it in type and model. I think I never was so horrified with any sentence in my life, not even with any in Tom Paine’s works, as I was with that; that sin should frustrate, should overthrow and destroy God’s purpose in type and model. Really the devil would be ashamed to write such a sentence. On the contrary, I maintain that Jehovah’s design never can be frustrated; and that the very design and purpose for which Jesus “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” was, that He might cancel the debt, might complete redemption, might accomplish salvation without the possibility of a failure, and work out and bring in everlasting righteousness. Bear me testimony, if I speak no more, that this has been my positive, and firm, and determined avowal of the preciousness of Christ, His complete salvation; justice satisfied, law honoured, the perfections of Deity glorified, His own designs carried out, every elect vessel of mercy fully recovered; and in due time all to be pardoned, justified, accepted, and brought home to everlasting glory. I believe, in my inmost soul, that there will not be an elect vessel of mercy absent, no, not even me, when He shall make up His jewels.
A word more. His official standing where He is seems to gladden my heart beyond anything else. Oh, if He had been left in the grave! If He had been left in Joseph’s tomb, my hopes were gone. Where is He? At the right hand of the Majesty on high. Where is He? Ever living to make intercession. What! Was it not enough that He should officially suffer, and officially atone? Must He officially live to intercede? Oh, yes! His office is retained now. Away with all other priests! He is mine, and He is officially living to make intercession for me.
Well, then, mark the majesty which He exercises in absolute sovereignty on behalf of His Church. He not only lives to intercede, but, as King of kings, and Lord of lords, He sends down the Comforter. He says, “I will send down the Comforter.” “I will never leave nor forsake you.” “I will come myself unto you.” What! Is the precious Christ of God to be at the same moment on the throne pleading for me, and in my heart communicating blessings and comforts to me, and in my pulpit bearing me up to say a few words for Him? What a wonderful Christ! My hearers, I beg of you all to forgive me; but I charge again, all of you, and myself, with ingratitude. We do not love Him enough; we do not serve Him enough; we do not praise Him enough. Oh, could we have more believing views of His essential character, of His official character, of His mediatorial character now going on, of His priestly intercession before the throne, surely we should love Him.
Then just one thought more, if I can. Mark the exaltation to which He is not only raised, but to which He determines to raise all His Church. Remember that sweet text, “To Him that overcometh with I give to sit down with me upon my throne; even as I have overcome, and have sat down with my Father upon His throne.” (Rev. 3:21) Who would not spend his last breath in honouring such a Christ, in glorifying His great self, and in exalting His name?
I must suddenly break off, only pleading that God will put some power into these few hints, and profit your souls; and then He may take me home as soon as He will.