A Study of 2 Corinthians 1:22
“Now, he who hath sealed us is God.”
(2 Corinthians 1:22)
How many different exemplifications, explanations, and opinions have I seen concerning the doctrine of sealing. And empty opinions they only in general seem. For I believe that sealing is the keystone in the great arch of saving religion. It is the secret of the Lord. (Psa. 25:14) It is the mysterious signet. It is the living joint and bands whereby celestial nourishment and activity, whereby heavenly strength and self-evident witness are communicated to the chosen seed. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.” (I John 5:9)
As clay from the seal, and as the melted wax receives the impression when the hand moves to stamp the impress; as this is true in earthly sealings, so is it true also of that heavenly sealing which is effectual unto the day of eternal redemption by the Holy Ghost on the heirs of heaven who are the seed of promise, “which is true to all the promised seed”.
O, the bright and shining impress, glittering far and wide, beaming with living influences when the seal of God hath touched the sin-destroyed anxious wretch who wrestles for hope with the living God! When repentance, guilt, and deceits of the heart, and the malice of the devil have caused a broken and contrite spirit before God, when hyssop (that bitter herb) hath purged the soul in godly sorrow and weeping before God; and when the most flaming self-abhorrence, like Job’s, and the most heaven-kindled activity, like the hart panting after the water-brooks, have stirred up a poor self-destroyed, law-destroyed man to seek after God and wait upon Him; if so be there may be hope; I say, for a poor melted wretch like this, waiting at wisdom’s gate, through necessity, to be all of a sudden and eternally touched with the seal of God, and to have the living die and lineaments of hope, faith, peace, and heavenly pleasure insensibly creeping over his heart-broken and panting feelings! to have the seal of God in living assurance marking him for God’s own in that day when He makes up his jewels, to be touched with the visible mark of God upon him! to feel, handle, and see, and to be delighted with the heavenly feelings, life, spring-time, and summer-dew, accompanying the felt seal, heaven-bestowed approbation, and living delights of God, on his guilt-broken, and sin-melted spirits! this, this is the sealing of God on a man.
What I speak on this sealing I speak from my own experience. And as I have felt the experience of it and know it to be true, so I believe the explanation I adduce of the doctrine to be true also. But to be more particular.
The two great divisions of sealing, according to my experience, and, as I believe, according to the doctrine of Scripture, are these, viz, melting of the wax; and secondly, the impress of the seal. The wax (so to speak) is our feeling; the seal, impress, and image are the direct operation of God on the feelings.
As the feelings of sorrow and joy too are more weighty, vivid, and self-evident than thoughts, fancies, and opinions concerning sorrow and joy, as feelings of the heart overtop all head-knowledge; so I speak with authority on these subjects; not merely having seen them afar off and being persuaded of them in that way; (although that is very good so far as it goes, if it is a true work, in hope) but having actually gone through this melting and sealing, this softening through the law of terrors, and this divine impress of divine love through the gospel on my poor soul, I may, I say, claim somewhat more attention justly, both in the sight of man and of God. “For out of the mouth of babes God perfecteth strength, to still the avenger, and to show that the lame take the prey”. (Isa. 33:23)
“To give one an expected end”. And again, “Thine expectation shall not be cut oft”. These and similar passages of scripture are fulfilled in some satisfactory degree in this holy sealing of the Spirit of promise on the broken and longing soul.
But I have often thought of many who speak of this sealing, that I would not stand in their shoes at death for a thousand worlds! And why not? Because, poor things! They can do impossibilities! They can be sealed without ever having been melted! They talk about being sealed, when I believe their sealing to be a living lie! They never were melted yet! This shakes my confidence concerning the whole of their religion. For if they can be sealed without ever being melted in anguish, I begin to fear whether the father of lies is not the architect throughout of their religion. I say, if they can charge the sealing of God on their unbroken heart, what false thing can they not do?
I say again, as true as God is living, I never knew anything of this divine impress of the living God on my feelings until I had been melted in the fires of misery, condemnation, and such woe as I never could describe. Rolled in the belly of hell a little, I felt the necessity of this divine sealing, image, and superscription, to sustain my soul amid the mingled catalogue of woe, which, like an army of soldiers, stood in battle-array against me. Neither is this seal which I am speaking of a dead stamp, a lifeless security, or a mere picture to look at. But it is a communication from the Prince of life. It opens the sacred treasuries of heaven into the soul. It uplifts the hid repositories of divine grace and glory into the soul’s possession a little. It beams with refulgent brightness over the chequered pathway of our mortal pilgrimage as long as we live. And ever and anon, when the seal appears to have slipped out of one’s possession, by and by the Holy Spirit of God renews it all up again with a living and refreshing lustre. I say again, the hid treasures concealed, secured, and at times drawn forth with an illustrious glory before the soul’s eye through the seal, is what I believe none but those who are finally to be in heaven have the slightest or most distant conception of.
Sealing contains within itself the germ, the foretaste of peace, the small bud of sweetness, the soul-ravishing hope of heaven. It is the earnest and first-fruits rewarding the regenerate husbandman, and encouraging God’s servant to be faithful unto death; the crown of glory being thus perceptibly hung out to the eye of hope under the seal of God himself.
And what lies like a foundation of adamant to it all is that it is a sealed salvation to a lost soul! O, the awful condition of a lost estate before God as regards the never-dying soul before an eternal God! O, solemn sensations! O, heart-melting pangs, racking tortures, dismal blindness and errors, and heart-hardened inability to help one’s self or get to the haven where one would be. Previously to when it pleases God to touch one’s trouble-dissolved soul with the seal of His infinite love! O, the torturing anguish! O, the law-burning damnation! O, the innumerable troubles that get hold upon one, before we feel the individual and personal touch of God’s never-fading seal of eternal redemption gilding with a hope full of immortality. “Ye that know the Lord, make mention of His mighty acts! Sing, rejoice, and make melody! For he turneth the wilderness into beauty, the desert into water-springs, and makes the barren to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children.”
The seal of God, I say, generally touches the soul, when all hope, peace, and expectation are about, like the candle in the socket, to go clean out! O, terrible crisis! O, the hair’s breadth nearness to giving up all as a bad affair, thinking our religion is some damnable halo or other from the devil! when lo, the seal of God touches in due time the melted wax of our heart; when our captivity seems to take a turn; when, as a tree blasted by the thunder, we die to this world in all our feelings; and, like Abraham, we receive the seal of faith as it were in a resurrection from the dead.
If anyone could certify me of his melting, I could certify him concerning his future sealing. If any one’s heart was smitten and cut down like grass from sin, and ready to be gathered into the oven of hell day by day on account of sin; I could give him hope concerning his end, that it would be in mercy. But, never can I bear to see or hear a heart-whole, an un-heart-broken professor talk of Christ, much less of the sacred mystery of binding the heart up anew by the good Samaritan; which binding up anew is couched under the mystic and hid excellence, called sealing.
Planted in the likeness of Christ’s death through trouble and guilt, through sin and through the wrath of God bringing us down into the dust of death; there arises hope concerning our end that we shall come again to our border. (Jer. 31:17) We begin in due time to be planted in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection. And as death had no more power over Christ after His resurrection; after the eternal Spirit had sealed him with the power of an endless life by the resurrection from the dead; after death, hell, and the grave, along with sin and Satan had as vanquished foes adorned the triumphant chariot of the Lord Jesus Christ by a final resurrection from the dead; after the seal of eternal victory had thus graced the warlike Immanuel; from henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstool; so also, I say, likewise does the seal of God on those who bear about in their bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus in order that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in their mortal flesh; so after sin and self-help have given up the ghost under the stroke of God’s vengeance in Christ towards the elect soul; so, I say, melted in a fellowship, of the sufferings of Christ and dead in communion with Him through the Spirit; I say, if we be dead with Him thus, I believe that we shall also live with Him. We believe Him to be a quickening Spirit. We believe that the Angel of the covenant will unseal our tomb of experimental death; and that, terrible as lightening to look at, the seal of an experimental resurrection from death and ruin shall fray away our dreadful adversaries; and that we shall know the blissful change, the heavenly assurance, and the joyous victory over our terrible foes; all which blessings are hid under the mystic expression of being sealed by the Holy Spirit of God unto the day of redemption; and that after that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise! “Father, I thank Thee that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent”. Father, I thank Thee that none of the reprobate (professors, nor profane), shall ever understand these things. None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. “The wicked also shall do wickedly.” (Dan. 12:10)
And I feel and believe that this seal of God sanctities, blesses, and sweetens every thing that we receive at God’s hands. It casts a hid lustre, a secret pleasure, a divine complacency, a serenity, gratitude, and delight, inexpressibly so at time, in the moderate use of all our temporal mercies! And the whole soul, like the temple of Solomon’s dedication, is in spiritual things consecrated through this seal with the most glorious effulgence of the Divine presence. Solemnized, sweetened, and overwhelmed with the blissful grandeur of glory of God’s presence, favour, and love everlastingly through this seal the elect priests cannot at times stand to minister with any articulate sounds of either prayer or praise. Overcome with the fixed purpose of eternal love irradiating their souls from the seal of endless joys, tears come to their relief. Secret sobbings of unutterable delight ascend up to the exalted presence of God in the very heaven of heavens. Warm and melting joys through a feeling hope of the forgiveness of sin seize on the delighted mind, refreshed and attuned to melody through this living hope. The seal bursts with greater and greater radiancy on the enraptured eyesight. The soul sees Him that is visible. (Heb. 11:27) And, I say again, that gratitude for temporal mercies, seeing the hand of God in all events, living communion, fear, faith, and love, are all fastened to the soul by this precious mystery called “sealing”. Thus, the soul goes out and comes in under the blessing of God thereby. Thus we can get answers to prayer under the seal. We feel after God and find Him in this way, He having sealed us with His own hand. And a morsel of dry bread even in temporal things often tastes sweet to our mortal bodies, receiving it sensibly under the signet of the gift of our dear God, when a banquet of luxuries would not satisfy the unhallowed cravings of a natural man. “The blessing of God is thus sensibly sealed in every way, and it is the habitation of the just alone.”
By J.K. (John Kay) Abingdon
The Gospel Standard, 1838