The Biblical Doctrine of Substitution
“For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
What an exchange!
What a voluntary act of substitution!
Yonder debtor visited by his chief creditor, who condescends to become a prisoner, and renders Himself liable to all his demands, that the debtor may go free!
Was ever such a thing heard of among mortals?
“Scarcely for a righteous man would one die; yet, peradventure, for a good man some would even dare to die; but God commended His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners,” transgressors, debtors, “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).
The language of my text contains the entire fullness of the Bible, the whole gospel of God; and, if thoroughly understood, will make a man completely orthodox; and, if personally enjoyed, will make him completely happy.
“He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
Do I not see in this verse the doctrine of the Trinity inscribed as with a sunbeam?
Who “made Him” to be this?
Who appointed Him to it?
God the Father.
And who is this glorious “Him” that is “made sin” for His people?
God the Son.
And who is it reveals Him to us, so as to unite us with Him, and make us righteous in Him?
God the Holy Ghost.
My brethren, I cannot fix upon a portion of Holy Writ anywhere, either precept, promise, principle, or privilege, but what I find the Trinity in it, from the beginning of the Bible to the end; and the man who does not believe in the Trinity is an Atheist, and does not believe in a God at all.
He may call himself Arian, or Sabellian, or what he pleases, but if he does not believe in the Trinity he is an Atheist, and does not believe in a God; for there is no God if there be not the “Three that bear record in heaven the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are one” (1 John 5:7).
Do you see the connection in which my text stands?
The apostle has just been stating that “the word of reconciliation” is “committed to us” ministers, to go forth and proclaim it; and it is not a “word of reconciliation” that coaxes the sinner’s free-will in his unregeneracy, or offers to make any kind of bargain, or compromise, or terms, or contingencies to him.
There is not a word of the sort in the Bible.
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself;” that is, Gentiles as well as Jews bringing man down to His terms, causing man to submit to His plan of saving him, emptying man of all self-confidence, and putting the confession and the cry into his heart which the prophet was commissioned to set down “O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name” (Isaiah 26:13).
Oh, the vast importance of getting a clear view of God’s plan of saving sinners!
Modern divinity wilfully distorts it, and consequently millions who pass for Christians are led by blind guides, till they “both fall into the ditch.”
God Almighty, open their eyes in time!
You are to mark, beloved, that in the day in which we live, degeneracy has become almost universal; and it shows itself in the two prominent points of view we mentioned in reading the chapter; it shows itself in principle, and it shows itself in practice.
In principle there is want of decision, in practice there is want of devotedness to God.
If I look around me among the high pretenders to Christianity, I find the principles of the gospel perverted, and a mixture of free-grace and free-will made a potion of to poison men’s minds; and if I look into the practice of the very persons who will give us such a mixture of free-grace and free-will, I find that the playhouse, and scenes of amusement, and the silly hop, and the like, are just as nice to them as the eloquent preacher or the house of God on the Lord’s Day.
Degeneracy in principle leads to degeneracy in practice.
But if I go among those whose principles are fixed according to the word of God, who know that Jesus was “made sin for us,” though He “knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”, who are well-established, rooted, grounded, and settled in this doctrine of substitution, I can follow them very closely, hard at heels, at home and abroad, in their counting-houses, in their businesses, in their leisure hours, in their families, and anywhere; and if I were to follow them from the beginning of the year to the end, I should never find them at the card-table, nor at the silly hop, nor at any of the silly fooleries that amuse the devil’s slaves.
No, no; their decision in principle has brought about devotedness in practice; and having a salvation entire and complete in Christ, on which their faith can rest implicitly, it influences their lives, their spirits, their motives, their company, their associations, and their pursuits, and all that see them take knowledge of them, that they are a seed which the Lord hath blessed.
I did not intend to detain you so long in our exordium; but we will now come at once to the language of our text, and look first of all, at the holy nature of our precious Christ, He “knew no sin;” then look at His incarnate humiliation, He condescended to be “made sin;” and then look at the salvation wrapped therein, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
Our salvation lies there, and nowhere else.
If you can find me a condition in my text, I will preach it, I can find none. It is Jehovah’s positive “word of reconciliation.”
I. Let us, for a few moments, glance at that overwhelming, overawing subject, the sinlessness of Christ.
He “knew no sin.” Had it been otherwise, He could not have been a sacrifice, He could not have been an offering, an oblation, acceptable to God for us.
This was set forth under the law, in the appointment and choice of all the victims that were to be sacrificed to God, as typical of Christ; they were to be without blemish.
You read over and over again, that whether it was a ram, or a lamb, or whatever animal it was, it was to be without blemish; and there was an awful curse pronounced upon those who offered the blind or the maimed in sacrifice to God.
Why was this?
Why was not the blood of one animal as good as the blood of another?
Just because it must point to Christ. He must be “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;” (Hebrews 7:26) and I verily believe that all the regenerated among the Israel of God of old, in Moses’ time, eyed Christ in all this, looked beyond the figure and the type to the great reality.
Abraham himself “rejoiced to see” Christ’s day; and it is declared, “he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Of course he did not see it with his bodily eyes, for he had gone to heaven ages before; but he saw it by faith, and saw it clearly.
So did Enoch; so did Abel; so did Adam, all saw Christ’s day; and the types, and offerings, and shadows, and sacrifices, instituted and commanded to be without blemish and without spot, all pointed to His immaculate character.
Now, for a moment, observe, that this precious Christ of ours as dear old Hawker says, “even our Christ, even our Jesus” was as perfect and sinless in His manhood as He was in His Godhead.
I suppose no one will impute sinfullness, or a capability of sinning, to His Godhead; and it was only imputed to His manhood.
“That holy thing,” it was declared to the Virgin, “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God;” (Luke 1:35) and He would have never borne that appellation in His human nature, if His humanity had not been as perfect and as sinless as His Godhead.
All glory to His name, that He was without blemish, like the types and shadows that preceded Him and pointed to Him. This is stated in the most positive terms in New Testament language, and all worlds, are bound to give testimony to it.
The Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The angels came down to minister to Him, and were glad indeed of the office; the Pharisees could not answer the challenge, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46)
The devil himself could find nothing in Him. “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (John 14:30)
He was born sinless
He lived sinless
He died sinless
He “knew no sin” in His own person; all the sins of church were laid upon Him, but none were found in Him. There lies the grand distinction.
I have sometimes looked with sacred delight at the eighteen years that He spent in obscurity. He went down to Nazareth, it is said, and was subject to His parents, after He had been disputing with the doctors in the temple, at twelve years old; and we hear no more of Him till He was thirty.
Where was He these eighteen years? #
Spending a sinless life, bearing the curse, by earning His bread by the sweat of His brow. I have sometimes sat alone, and fixed my meditationthe eyes of my mind on Him using the carpenters’ tools and engaged in labour day by day; and all, too, done perfectly, sinlessly, obeying the law of God, making it honourable, glorifying His Father, maintaining His purity, till at length He comes forth into the field of His ministry for three years and better; and through it all they could not provoke Him to sin; through it all they could not insult Him into sin; through it all they could not drive Him into sin; through it all they could not allure Him into sin.
The devil did his best with Him when for forty days he tempted him in the wilderness, and applied the three great temptations, “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” and saying unto Him, “All this will I give unto thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”
But no; He was without sin – “He knew no sin.”
See Him now, a contrast to His disciples. When they were about to enter into a village, and the villagers would not receive Him, but rejected Him, His disciples had got sin enough in them, and they said, “Let us call down fire from heaven to consume them,” they took a Scripture for their pattern, “even as Elias did.”
What says our precious Lord?
“Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”…Ye have got very little of my spirit about you.
Instead of that, He goes to another place, passes away, and says, “The Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:54-56).
Oh! The blessedness of gazing fixedly upon the sinless beauty, purity, and glory of our precious Christ, as set forth in His own word.
I should not like His company if He were not so; I would not desire Him to come down and visit me here, which, I thank His precious name, that He does.
I have quite sin enough in myself, without wanting any sinful being to associate with me; but if my perfect, sinless Jesus will come and manifest Himself to me, and sit with me, and walk with me, then I can rejoice that I shall spend an eternity with Him on high, when I shall have done with all sin.
Just mark, that this precious, sinless Christ of ours asserted His co-equality with the Father, “I and my Father are one;” (John 10:30) and it would not be more impious to charge God the Father with being capable of sin, than it is to charge God the Son.
All the holy attributes and perfections of Deity are essentially His own self-existent, not derived or borrowed, everlastingly one with the Father in the glory of the divine, united, undivided essence. All glory to His name, that He is as omnipotent as the Father, as omniscient as the Father, as immutable as the Father, all the attributes of Deity being essentially His own.
There is a Saviour for you and for me to lean upon, and confide in, and to stand related with.
Oh, the blessedness of standing related to such a Christ as this!
Now just go on to mark, that our precious Christ, essentially and everlastingly one with the Father, who knew no sin, perfect and holy as the Father of mercies, is loved and adored in heaven and earth, all glory to His name, that He is the Lord of angels, that there is not an inhabitant of the heavenly world but adores Him, that there is not a being around the throne but is crying, “Holy, holy, holy,” (Isaiah 6:3) to Him as well as the Father, singing their loudest songs “to Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His blood.” (Revelation 1:5)
The angels are permitted to join the response, though not to participate in the salvation, for they never needed it. All glory to His name, that when He sits upon the throne at the Father’s right hand, myriads of saints that went home to glory by virtue of His covenant bond, saved by the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, (Revelation 13:8) cast their crowns at His feet, and adore Him; all the angel hosts wait, and watch, and look His high command to go forth and minister to them that shall “be heirs of salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14)
He is adored and loved on earth by all His Church. If you do not love Him and adore Him, He will “dash you in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
He says in His word, that if you are not brought, sooner or later, before you quit this world, to love Him, and trust Him, and adore Him, you will perish everlastingly from His presence and from the glory of His power.
I would have you put this matter home closely, as to whether you really love Him, love His company, love His preaching, love His presence, love His voice, love His people, love His house, love His ways.
And do you give Him all the honour and glory that you do to the Father, remembering that it is written, It is the will of the Father – “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” adding, “He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father that sent Him.” (John 5:23)
How discriminating are these statements!
How exclusive are they!
How entirely they shut out Arians and Socinians from all hope of salvation, and prove them to be of the world, for they will not honour the Son as they honour the Father, and consequently the Father will receive no honour nor homage from them.
I think these are as plain truths as can be found recorded in the precious word of God; and they come to this one point, that our precious Christ knew no sin, and that all in heaven and all His Church on earth love Him and adore Him, and trust in Him, and will everlastingly glorify His name.
Now let us go on to say a few words relative to His incarnate humiliation.
“He was made sin.”
And who made Him so?
The Father made Him to be sin for us. He hath made Him to be sin for His Church, in a vicarious sense, as a Representative, a Substitute, a Daysman, a Surety; so that He who made Him to be sin, charged on Him all the sins of all His Church to the end of time.
Do look for a moment, in confirmation of what I here state, at Isaiah 53, where you find it recorded, “The Lord hath laid upon Him”, not put in Him, mind that, “the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquities of us all.”
Who are the “us”?
“We all like sheep have gone astray”, the iniquity of the sheep. The “we” is the antecedent to the “us”; so that the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of all the sheep.
Therefore He said, when He came forth into the world in His vicarious character, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). There it is in express terms.
Now mark, I beseech you, what amazing love there must have been in Jesus’ heart thus to value His Church more than His life. We cannot find that among mortals. Blessings on His dear name, that such was His love to His Church, that He submitted to endure death, even the death of the cross, and humble Himself to it, rather than that His Church, or a single member of His Church, should perish; having shown that they were in His hand, and that they should never perish, that none should pluck them out of His hand (John 10:28).
Then, dear Lord, if thou wilt not allow these wretched sinners to be plucked out of thy hand, thy hand must be pierced and nailed for them, if thou wilt not allow them to be plucked out of thy hand, thy hands and thy feet shall suffer for them. He knew for that cause He came to that hour, and He says, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt,” in the very depth of His sufferings (Luke 22:42).
He eyed this all-important fact, “Either the Bride must be doomed to the blackness of darkness for ever, or I must endure hell for her.”
He came to this point, He put Himself in her place; He volunteered Himself to be liable for all her debts, and all her curse, and all her sin, and all her thraldom, that He might vanquish the foe, effect redemption and deliverance, cancel her entire debt, and bring her in all her liberty home to everlasting glory. This is our precious Christ, who was made sin; that is to say, He was viewed as so responsible for His entire Church, that the law and the justice of God eyed Him as the sinner, dealt with Him as the sinner.
I do not like that phrase which one or two old divines have taken the liberty of using, that Christ was the greatest sinner that ever was upon earth.
It is a falsehood.
The word “sinner,” in its simple meaning, implies a being that commits sin, or else he is not a sinner. But when the word says that He was made sin, or, as some read it, a sin-offering, I view to this extent, though I cannot agree with such unwarrantable language as I have just been quoting, I view it to this extent, that all the guilt, and all the iniquity, and all the pollution, and all the condemnation, and all the wrath due to the entire election of grace, were laid upon Him; and He has everything laid upon Him.
Thus said the Holy Ghost by the apostle, “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” (1 Peter 2:24)
When I repeat such a text as that, I begin to say to myself, “Well, I have not got anything to bear, no wrath, no vengeance due to me, no sort of judicial punishment, no condemnation, no hell for me.”
Can you prove it?
He has borne it in His own body on the tree, and that, too, by His own voluntary consent. He gave Himself for us, and by the Father’s own appointment He was made to be sin.
Oh! The wonders of the grand scheme of salvation by grace.
Is it not a grievous thing that men should take so much pleasure in marring it?
Is it not a grievous thing that it should be so artfully misrepresented as it is in thousands of places to this very day?
As if Christ had done all He could, and could do no more, and all the rest must be left to the sinner.
What! Make Christ sin, and then let it lie at the door of those for whom He bled?
What! Make Christ to bear our sins, and yet leave them to us to bear?
What! Make Christ to yield up His body and soul as the one finished atonement and sacrifice for sin, and yet let it lie upon us?
See, beloved, if this was the case, the certain and the eternal ruin of all the race of Adam; for it is thus written, “There remaineth no more (no other) sacrifice for sin;” (Hebrews 10:26) but to them who reject this one sacrifice, “a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation to devour the adversaries.”
Think of this seriously, beloved, and follow out the train of thought a little further. He was not only made vicariously sin for His people, having the whole mass and amount of their transgressions laid upon His Person; but being viewed responsible He must die again, and die again, if He has not redeemed them; He is held responsible, and consequently He must come down and suffer again, if it is not completed.
But I hear Him say, and I hear it with infinite delight, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4) – it is entirely accomplished.
Now, just mark how acceptable this grand substitution is both to God and man. We shall look presently at the “we” and “us.” It is so acceptable to God that He says He has not “seen iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel” (Numbers 23:21).
Nay, He tells us that “when the iniquity of Judah is sought, there shall be none; and when it is looked for, it shall not be found.” (Jeremiah 50:20)
How is this?
It would be a wonder if it could be found when it is cancelled, and when He bare it in His own body on the tree, when He was made a scape-goat, and carried it away on His head into the land of forgetfulness; (Leviticus 16:21-22) we might seek for it long enough, for there is none.
Oh! The vast mercy of having a believing apprehension of the substitution of Christ, that He was made sin for His Church, and that all that could be found in His Church, for Adam’s day to the day of consummation, being laid upon Him, can never be laid upon His Church.
Oh, the mercy!
Do not tell me any more about your contingent salvation, or proposals, or offers, or conditions, or terms, for man to meet and fulfil.
I tell you, my hearer, with all possible affection, while with all possible vehemence and faithfulness, that if your salvation depends on one thought of yours, or one act of yours, you will perish everlastingly; you must have it complete and entire in Christ, or you will never have it at all.
Now let us go on to mark how acceptable this is, not only to God who is so well pleased, but to all the elect of God upon earth.
And here I shall again make a little sweeping work, and insist upon it that no fallen child of Adam ever obtained forgiveness, justification, or entrance into eternal life, but accepting of Jesus as the Father’s gift, and a full salvation in Him.
You must not tell me of any peradventures, or probabilities, or ifs or buts; you must come to these terms. Here is a salvation entire in the Person of Christ, it is proclaimed in the sinner’s hearing.
The sinner says, “I will not have this man to reign over me.” (Luke 19:14)
God says, “You shall, or be damned.” That is the conclusion.
Now, I put it to your consciences. Have you been brought, under the teaching and operation of grace, really to accept of this precious Christ, with His full salvation, in all the offices He sustains, in all the grace He bears, in all the perfect work He has accomplished?
And are you ready to say…
“None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good?”
Have you really been brought to quit all other confidences, reliances, all other hopes, and holds, and being found among those who are enabled to rejoice in Christ Jesus, renouncing all confidence in the creature?
Come, be honest with yourselves. Now, try; do not sit and judge harshly, and say, “This is very severe, this is very high doctrine, this is hyper-calvinism, if not Antinomianism.”
Well, it will do you or me no good to cavil at it, but come to the point, is it worth our hearing?
Is it the doctrine of the Bible or not?
Is it God’s way of saving sinners or not?
Put the question home closely; and if the Holy Ghost be your teacher, I know the conclusion you will come to.
Well, let us just go on to the other particular of the subject, the salvation contained therein.
“Well,” say you, “you have been upon this all along.”
Yes, and I mean to be. There is a peculiar beauty in this sacred declaration, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
What! A poor ruined sinner not only made righteous, but emphatically, “the righteousness of God;” not only washed and cleansed from his filth, not only turned from the error of his ways, not only taught and enabled to live like a new creature, a new creation, but forbidden to present that or anything in himself before God as the ground of his acceptance; but he must only come before the throne dressed in the righteousness of God.
If I could live, and oh! That I could, as holy as John, or Paul, or Christ did; if I could live as holy as any of the apostles, or as the glorious Prince of the apostles; the Apostle and High Priest of my profession, did; I should not dare to approach God in my creature righteousness; I should not dare to come nigh to him dressed in such linsey-wolsey; but I must still say as Paul did, “not having on my own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9)
Then I must look for a transfer; that as my sins have been transferred to Christ, and laid upon Him; His righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, is transferred to me; and therefore, I feel delighted with the Holy Ghost’s representation by the apostle, that His righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, is “unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22).
It is placed to their account for their justification; it is put upon them for their sanctification; and I cannot own the one without the other, “unto and upon all them that believe.”
It is Jesus that is seen as the Surety and Advocate, standing in the place of His people; and I can come to God in no other way, than, “Behold, O God, my shield;”
I have got no other: He is thine anointed; look upon His face (Psalm 84:9); I have no shield in my morality, in my profession; I have no shield in my talents, parts, or attainments: they are only like a paper shield that the first fiery dart would not only pierce but set fire to and burn up. Behold, O God, our shield. Shielded by Him behind His cross, within His side, on His hand, heaven, earth, and hell may frown, and I am safe. The fiery darts which Satan hurls I meet again and again; all will be poured forth from his quiver till it is emptied quite, and none shall touch my soul; my shield is up; my shield is quite invulnerable, and all is well. Jehovah says to me, as He once said to Abraham, “Fear not, I am thy shield.” Is not that enough, “I am thy shield”? (Genesis 15:1)
This transfer of which I have been speaking, may be considered as reducing the whole gospel of God to one word. I thought in the opening of my subject to reduce it to the one word “substitution.”
Well that will do, but I think I will reduce it to the one word “transfer.” All my salvation lies in that word. My transgression is transferred to Christ; He is charged with it; and His righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, is transferred to me, and I am to put it on and wear it, and go to God in it.
Now I beg of you to remark that this righteousness of God which is transferred for our justification, is placed to our account, is transferred in another sense, that is, being imparted, implanted, bestowed, possessed.
Now here I beg of you to bring in the personality of my text, “made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
I should like to dwell a little upon the “us” and the “we,” for these little appropriating pronouns are of infinite value in the precious book of God, do not overlook them in reading the verses of Scriptures.
Probably, some of my hearers are a little on the alert, and are now ready to say, “Ah, I shall be shut out; I shall not be able to put on the ‘us’ and the ‘we.'”
I wish you would not till God shall bring you to it; but if God brings you to it you cannot help yourself; you will be obliged to say, as Thomas did, “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
I do not wish you to say it till you are brought to the assurance in the manner I am about to state to you. When Jehovah the Spirit implants that righteous principle of life in the soul of the sinner, which has been already presented before the throne for His justification, one of the first results it effects is an internal abhorrence of sin, and a loathing of self on account of it that nothing can remove. He will abhor himself in dust and ashes.
So long as you are proud of attainments, or proud of anything in the creature, so long as, like the gay butterfly, you will flap your wings in the face of the sun, as if you were lord of creation, so long you would be doing your own soul wrong, and offering God an insult to say “for us” and “we”.
But when the power of the Spirit of God influences the heart, which He always does in regeneration, and informs the soul of its ruin, of its degradation, of its depravity, so as to make it loathe itself in dust and ashes before God, then you may say it is “for us,” and it is “we” that are “made the righteousness of God in Him.”
Go a step further in these two beautiful words, for I wish you to hug them to your bosoms, you whom God shall enable so to do; and I would have others look at them very seriously, and examine them very closely, whether they may or may not claim them, and come to the point.
When the sinner is brought to the internal conviction and hatred of sin, the work is not finished, because it is mostly of a general description, that he is a sinner among mankind at large; and perhaps he is led to fix on some gross, or open, or known sin or neglect. But, by-and-bye, in comes the law of God in its spirituality, with its rigid demand, “Pay me that thou owest;” (Matthew 18:28) and if the poor sinner be as proud as the young man who came to Christ, “This have I done from my youth,” (Luke 18:21) then the Lord will reply, “He that keepeth the law whole, but offendeth in one point, is guilty of all” (James 2:10).
Now, sinner, will you dare tell God or man that you have really kept all the law of God in its spirituality and extent, without a single offence in thought, word, or deed?
I hardly think there is such a proud wretch upon earth, that would dare to assert such a thing. Now, if you have offended only in one point you are guilty of it all, and there is no hope for you. Down the sinner lies, lower and lower in the dust, a sinner by nature, a sinner by practice, and condemned by the law; and then, while he is musing, sin revives, and he dies; all hope goes from him.
Must he despair?
No, no. He hears a voice behind him, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). His eyes have been anointed with eye-salve, and he lifts them up, and he looks, and beholds Him by faith on the cross, sees Him ascend from Mount Olivet, views Him with delight upon His throne, and hears His voice, saying, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and I will not remember thy sins any more” (Isaiah 43:25). Then he may say, “It is for us – He was made sin for us, who knew no sin.”
There is one thing more I must name here, for I feel very unwilling to quit this little word “us”, it is so precious to my own soul, the “us” and the “we”; that is an ardent affection for Him who has condescended to stoop to this transfer; an ardent affection for our precious Christ; for thus it is written, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed with a curse at the coming of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
Look, I beseech you, at this prominent point of personal Christianity, love to Jesus; a holy, supernatural, newly-created, heaven-born affection, going out after the Son of God. And this, too, must be supreme and superlative, for the dear Lord Himself said, “If any man love father, or mother, or wife, or children, or house, or lands, more than me, he is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).
Jesus must be foremost, He must have the throne of the affections; and if this be the fact you may use the language of the text as your own, “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin.”
One thought more here before I pass on. If you really love Jesus, you would not willingly dishonour His name, you would not willingly disgrace His cause, you would not willingly grieve His Spirit. Your entire life, and walk, and talk, every department of your existence upon earth, and everything pertaining to your histories from the time you were brought speak, and made to own Him as “made sin for us,” ought to be in one direct line and tendency to exalt His precious name, to glorify Him. I want more practical godliness among the followers of the Lamb.
Observe, that this salvation is owned and acknowledged in heaven by Jehovah, and on earth by all the church, and shall never be disowned. I am anxious that my hearers should attend to this acknowledgment of Christ, in the manner I have just been speaking of, in the whole course of their journey through the wilderness.
Do not leave your Sunday clothes at home, do not put your religion on one side, because you have to meet some enemies of Jesus Christ, do not cloak or conceal it, lest it should bring reproach; for “if any man be ashamed of me,” He says, “in this wicked and adulterous generation, of him will I be ashamed before my Father and His holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
Oh! Piercing thought, Christ being ashamed of me.
Oh! Piercing thought, when, in the midst of the throng before His tribunal, and He will not own me, He is ashamed of me.
Sinner, is it not a hell begun, even to think of such a thing?
Look to it, then, that you are not ashamed of Christ upon earth.
I fear that the flimsy thing which passes for Christianity in these days will drown millions of souls in perdition under disguise; and I am anxious, in my declining days, to be clear of the blood of all men, and therefore urge my Lord’s text upon you, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).
You will look in vain for the fruits of righteousness among Papists and other Pharisees; theirs are only artificial fruits, useless to man and offensive to God; but among those who claim the high privilege of saying, ‘We are made the righteousness of God in Christ’, you have a right to look for the “works of faith and the labours of love,” which shall testify before God and man that their religion is a living principle, obtained from God and leading to God.
In fact, that it is altogether supernatural, and produces supernatural effects. Examine yourselves, then, my hearer, whether yours is an artificial Christianity, which produces only artificial fruits and flowers, or a supernatural, real Christianity, which brings forth fruit unto God.
It is on this ground only that negotiation with God is honourable. I know there are many people who talk about their prayers, and saying their prayers, and the like, as if there were some negotiation with God that is not honourable.
It is like the case of a debtor, who has deposited the greater part of his property somewhere, and goes and offers his creditors half-a-crown in the pound.
But is that honourable?
I would not look my creditors in the face if I could not say, “I have nothing to pay; but here is my elder brother, amply rich; I have brought him beside me; he is able to pay all; I have come to negotiate the matter; I have come to look at the books, examine the ledger, hear its highest demand, know what there is standing out against me, fully prepared that the last mite shall be paid.”
Well, that is just the way I go to God. I cannot ask for mercy, I cannot ask Him to fulfil His promises, nor to give me pardon, nor to afford me any one grace, without I have a full compensation in my hand.
But I can go to Him with my precious, elder Brother by my side, and say, “Behold in Him! “Wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Anything more demanded? Lord, reach that ledger down again. Is there anything more to be demanded? Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? Why, thou thyself hast made Him all that to me.”
I can negotiate honourably, I can ask the promises to be fulfilled, I can ask for mercies to be bestowed, I can ask for blessings to be showered down, I can ask the fullness of the covenant of grace to be thrown open, and for faith to be given to me sufficiently strong and active to lay hold of every comfort in it.
Because all is paid, all is secure. It is on the ground and by the doctrine of substitution only that there can be any honourable negotiation between God and man.
You cannot get nigh the throne, you cannot obtain His ear, you cannot receive an answer in any other way from God than through the precious Christ of God, who “was made sin for us, who knew no sin.”
All those rebels against God, that they call priests, never gave the poor sinner access to the throne, never obtained a pardon for the poor sinner, though they have been blasphemous enough to pronounce it, never found redress for any child of Adam, but heaped up the blackest condemnation on their own heads, while doing all they could to drag their millions to hell with them.
If you want to negotiate with God honourably and successfully, bring the righteousness of Christ, bring the offering of Christ, bring the official character of Christ, bring the perfect work of Christ, bring the victories of Christ, and then tell of his present intercession before the throne, and say again, “Behold, O God, my shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed” (Psalm 84:9).
Go, my hearer, if God has taught you your sinnership, and deal thus with the Most High; and sure I am salvation is yours for time and eternity.
May the eternal Spirit command His blessing upon His word, and His name shall have all the glory. Amen.
By Joseph Irons