All religion that is not received from the fullness of Christ is nothing but a show, a form of godliness without the power; which renders the performer in the sight of God no more than a hypocrite, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. For as God appointed the union between the two natures of Christ in eternity, and likewise the union between Christ and His seed, so from eternity He predestinated them to be conformed, in time, to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28). Hence, when He sent Him forth, it was to gather in Him the predestinated children of God that were scattered abroad. He was lifted up upon the cross to draw all these men unto Him; He was exhibited as the promised Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the people was to be; and exalted to the right hand of God, that we might be called to the fellowship of Him; and, by the reception of the Holy Spirit of promise, be joined to Him and made one spirit with Him, and so have our affections set at the right hand of God, where Christ sitteth. Christ being the fountain of all godliness, all fullness dwells in Him; so out of His fullness all grace must be received, and be continually derived from Him by virtue of union with Him; of which union I intend now to speak. And, first, there are many things which the Spirit of God performs in the elect sinner BEFORE this eternal union can take place, so as to be manifested, known, felt, and enjoyed in time. And, first, the sinner is naturally proud, and God beholds the proud afar off. The soul being by pride at a distance from God, it shows the need of humbling grace; for God says He will dwell with the humble and the contrite spirit. Secondly, all men are by nature unbelievers. God has concluded all men in unbelief; and an evil heart of unbelief is called a departing from the living God. Hence appears the NEED of a work of faith ON the soul; and faith is GOD’S WORK. The different impressions and motions of the soul under the influence of the everblessed Spirit, in bringing about and effecting this union, are three: divine sensations, heavenly motions, and supernatural affections. Divine sensations give the first spring. Inward troubles about salvation render every human comforter a physician of no value; this, under the Spirit’s influence, drives the thoughts from earth to heaven: I thought about God, and was troubled. I now come to touch upon the Scriptural description of this everblessed union, as it is set forth by the union that subsists between the vine and its branches. “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” There is nothing more fruitful than a vine. There is nothing that can be called wood that is so weak; and yet there is no root in the earth that contains so much life, sap, and nourishment as the root of a vine; nor is there any plant that is productive of so much generous liquor nor any thing that can produce any thing stronger, if it be distilled. Witness spirits of wine. And so in this union. Who could ever have thought that such great things should have been accomplished by the Saviour, when He appeared in the world a poor and needy man, a worm and no man, the despised of the people, and crucified through weakness? This was David’s Offspring; but David’s Root was hid in David’s branch; and in that everblessed Root is the natural life of all mankind, the life of angels, and the eternal life of all the chosen millions. In Him, we all Live, and move, and have our being; and from Him the blessing of eternal life is received by all that believe; and from Him the new wine of the kingdom is poured forth, the wine of eternal love, which is strong as death; and whoever drinks thereof forgets his poverty, and remembers his misery no more. “Abide in me, and I in you.” As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. To abide sensibly in Him, is to stand by faith in His strength, to have the mind swaddled with His Truth, to shine in His light, to enjoy His countenance, to feel His power, to find the heart enlarged by a sense of His love, to observe his goings and coming, (in the soul) to bemoan his absence, to be entertained with his visits, and to stand fast in the liberty wherewith He has made us free; and not to be entangled in the traps of error, in the servitude of sin, nor with the yoke legal bondage. Sometimes the branches of a vine are without leaves and without fruit; but the branch that is in the vine still has life in its root, in which life be both the leaves and the fruit, and nothing is wanted but the sun to bring them forth. So the child of God, through slips and falls, often loses the external verdure of his profession; at which times faith is languid, love cold, patience in a decaying state, hope at a low ebb, zeal abated, and all joy apparently gone. But Christ shines, and revives His work, communicates refreshings from His presence; the wind blows afresh upon the garden, and the Beloved is once more invited to eat His own pleasant fruits. But, If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. A man may be in Christ professionally, but not spiritually. There are Christians in name and show, and there are Christians in spirit and principle. He that is in Christ only by profession and confession, by head knowledge, by gifts, by zeal, by flashes of joy springing up from the stirrings and motions of natural affections, is sure never to abide, for want of deepness of earth, or a broken heart; for want of moisture, or the wellspring of divine life; and for the want of root in themselves, which is the love of God shed abroad in the heart. Such are cast forth by the church, either for their open profanity, or else for their damnable heresies which they embrace, and by which they are discovered, and for which they are cast forth, as a branch is pruned or cut off. And soon they withered. Their zeal, joy, and first knowledge, all wither together; and men gather them imposters, heretics, apostates, hypocrites, or worldlings, gather them into their company and unto their assembly; and the end of them is to be burned, body and soul, in hell fire. Furthermore. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. All the elect are made partakers of the Spirit of Christ. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” The whole fullness of the Spirit is without measure in the Saviour; and the same Spirit operates and dwells in all the saints, whose bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost. And under the sweet influence of the Spirit of love, our glorious and eternal union with the Saviour is manifested to the elect sinner; for by the Spirit God calls us to the fellowship of His Son, and when once the poor sinner feels Christ’s love operating in him, and all his affections going out after Him, then he passes into the bond of the covenant, into the joy of the Lord, and into the glorious liberty of the children of God; he enters into his rest, and rests from all his burdens and from all his legal and dead works; and says for himself, My Beloved is mine, and I am His; while mutual affection, the bond of all perfectness, makes the union so clear, so close, so sweet, that they understand what He means when He says, “Believe that I am in you and you are in me”; and again, I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse. This union being represented by the vine and its branches, shows the root in which our life lies, where it is hid, and the way in which it is communicated to us. And as the vine branch, which often appears without leaves or fruit, has life still in its root, so had the elect life given them in Christ Jesus before the world began, though they are by nature the children of wrath even as others, and dead in trespasses and sins, ‘til quickened by the Lord of life and glory. Furthermore: The vine, contrary to most plants, never bears fruit in the old wood; the new branch, and its new fruit in the branch, both spring together. If no life be communicated, there is no new branch; and if no new branch, no fruit. So old nature can never bring forth fruit unto God. The new and living principle, the new man of grace, must be formed in the soul before fruit can be expected. No man can gather grapes of thorns, nor figs or thistles. In Christ is our fruit found. The new man of grace comes from Christ’s fullness of grace; the Holy Ghost operates, and produces His own fruits, which are called the graces or fruits of the Spirit; and from the tuition of grace, we learn to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world; and from the operations of grace all good works proceed. “I laboured more abundantly than they all”; yet not I but the grace of God that was with me. Moreover, as the new branch of the vine, the new cluster, and the new leaves, all lie in the life, which is in the root of the vine, so our new man, new fruit, and the verdant leaves of our holy profession, are all derived from Christ, who is our Life and our holy Root; and on which account, though at times we appear withered in our profession and barren in our souls, yet, by virtue of our union with Him, in Him shall our leaf be green, our leaf, in Him, shall not wither, nor shall we entirely cease from yielding fruit; yea, they shall still bring forth fruit in old age, to show that the Lord is upright, or righteous, or faithful, in giving to us, according to His covenant promise, the blessing of eternal life.
But again. As the life of the branch, the fruit, and the leaf, all lie in the sap, which is the life of the vine, and in which it is secured and hid as in its root; and which life is drawn forth, and the branch, fruit, and leaf, are all set in a working motion by the warm, enlivening rays of the sun; even so when the Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in His beams, the barren desert becomes a fruitful field, and the degenerate plant of a strange vine appears, with all its silverlings and with all its blessed clusters. This union is further set forth by the act of engrafting. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted, contrary to nature, into a good olive tree, and partakest of the root and fatness of the olive, boast not against the natural branches; but, if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. (Romans 11:17-18) This engrafting is said to be contrary to nature. The natural way of grafting is to take a scion out of a good tree, which produces good fruit, and to graft it into a wild stock, the wood of which, being reduced to its natural standard, as it can sink no lower, will stand better and endure longer in the earth than the wood of a good tree, could a stock of such wood be procured. But our ingrafture is contrary to nature; for we are the wild olive branches, cut out of an olive tree which is by nature wild, and are engrafted into a good olive tree, so as to partake of the goodness and fatness of the good tree; which wonderful engrafting must in the end purge out all the wild nature of such a wild branch. And this is done in part at the sinner’s conversion, by implanting a principle of grace in the heart; and will be effectually accomplished when our mortal bodies shall put on immortality, and these corruptible bodies shall have put on incorruption; for then mortality, with all its wildness, shall be swallowed up of life, and immortality be all in all.
William Huntington S.S.