By Rev. Charles G. Finney
(34.) Another interesting and highly important relation which Christ sustains to his people, is that of Shepherd. This relation presupposes the helpless and defenseless condition of christians in this life and the indispensable necessity of guardianship and protection. Christ was revealed to the Psalmist in this relation, and when on earth, he revealed himself to his disciples in this relation. It is not enough, however, that he should be revealed merely in the letter or in words as sustaining this relation. The real spiritual import of this relation and what is implied in it, needs to be revealed, by the Holy Spirit, to give this relation efficiency and beget that universal trust in the presence, care, and protection of Christ that is often essential to preventing a fall in the hour of temptation. Christ meant all that he said when he professed to be the Good Shepherd, that cared for his sheep, that would not flee, but that would lay down his life for them. In this relation as in all others, there is infinite fullness and perfection. If the sheep do thoroughly know and confide in the shepherd, they will follow him, will flee to him for protection in every hour of danger, will at all times depend on him for all things. Now all this is received and possessed in theory by all professors of religion. And yet how few comparatively seem to have had Christ so revealed to them as to have secured the actual embracing of him in this relation and a continual dependence on him for all that is implied in it. Now either this is a vain boast of Christ, or else he may be and ought to be depended upon, and the soul has a right to throw itself upon him for all that is implied in the relation of Good Shepherd. But this relation with all the other relations of Christ implies a corresponding necessity in us. This necessity we must see and feel, or this relation of Christ will have no impressive significancy. We need, then, in this case as in all others the revelation of the Holy Spirit to make us thoroughly to apprehend our dependence, and to reveal Christ in the spirit and fullness of this relation, and to urge our acceptance home upon us until our souls have thoroughly closed with him. Some fall into the mistake of supposing that when their necessities and the fullness of Christ have been revealed to the mind by the Spirit, the work is done. But unless they actually receive him and commit themselves to him in this relation, they will soon find to their shame that nothing has been done to purpose so far as their standing in the hour of temptation is concerned. He may be clearly revealed in any of his relations, the soul may see both its necessities and his fullness, and yet forget or neglect to actively and personally receive him in these relations. It should never be forgotten that this is in every case indispensable. The revelation is designed to secure our acceptance of him; if it does not do this, it has only greatly aggravated our guilt without at all securing to us the benefits of these relations. It is amazing to see how common it is and has been for ministers to overlook this truth, and of course neither to practice it themselves, nor urge it upon their hearers. Hence Christ is not known to multitudes and is not in many cases received even when he is revealed by the Holy Spirit. If I am not greatly mistaken, thorough inquiry would show that error upon this subject exists to a most appalling extent. The personal and individual acceptance of Christ in all his offices and relations as the sine qua non of entire sanctification seems to me to be seldom either understood or insisted on by ministers of the present day, and of course little thought of by the church. The idea of accepting for ourselves a Whole Savior, of appropriating to our own individual selves all the offices and relations of Jesus seems to be a rare idea in this age of the church. But for what purpose does he sustain these relations? Is the bare apprehension of those truths and of Christ in these relations enough without our own activity being duly excited by the apprehension, to lay hold and avail ourselves of his fullness? What folly and madness for the church to expect to be saved by a rejected Savior! To what purpose is it for the Spirit to make him known to us unless we as individuals embrace him and make him our own? Let the soul but truly and fully apprehend and embrace Christ in this relation of shepherd, and it shall never perish neither shall any pluck it out of his hand. The knowing of Christ in this relation, secures the soul against following strangers. But thus knowing him is indispensable to securing this result. If we know him as shepherd, we shall follow him but not else. Let this be well considered.
(35.) Christ is also the Door by and through which the soul enters the fold and finds security and protection among the sheep. This needs also to be spiritually apprehended, and the door needs to be spiritually and personally entered to secure the guardianship of the Good Shepherd. Those who do not spiritually and truly apprehend Christ as the door and enter by and through him and yet hope for salvation, are surely attempting to climb up some other way, and are therefore thieves and robbers. This is a familiar and well known truth, in the mouth, not only of every minister and christian, but of every sabbath school child. Yet how few really apprehend and embrace its spiritual import. That there is no other means or way of access to the fold of God, is admitted by all the orthodox; but who really perceives and knows through the personal revelation of the Holy Spirit what and all Christ meant in the very significant words, "Verily, Verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep;" "I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture?" He who truly discovers this door and gains access by it, will surely realize in his own experience the faithfulness of the Good Shepherd, and will go in and out and find pasture. That is, he will surely be fed, be led into green pastures and beside the still waters.
But it is well to inquire what is implied in this relation of Christ?
[1.] It implies that we are shut out from the protection and favor of God except as we approach him through and by Christ.
[2.] It implies that we need to know and clearly to apprehend and appreciate this fact.
[3.] That we need to discover the door and what is implied both in the door and in entering it.
[4.] That entering it implies the utter renunciation of self and of self-righteousness and self-protection and, support and a putting ourselves entirely under the control and protection of the Shepherd.
[5.] That we need the revelation of the Holy Spirit to make us clearly apprehend the true spiritual import of this relation and what is implied in it.
[6.] That when Christ is revealed in this relation, we need to embrace him and for ourselves to enter by and through him into the enclosure that every where surrounds the children of God.
It is an inward and not a mere outward revelation that we need. It is an inward, a heart entering, and not a mere notion, idea, theory, dream of the imagination. It is really an intelligent act of the mind; as much and as real an entering into the fold or favor of God by and through Christ as we ever entered the house of God on the Sabbath-day by the door. When the soul enters by the door, it finds an infinitely different reception and treatment from that of those who climb up into the church upon a ladder of mere opinion, a scaling ladder of mere orthodoxy. This last class are not fed. They find no protection from the Good Shepherd. They do not know the Shepherd and follow him, because they have climbed up another way. They have not confidence in him, can not approach him with boldness and claim his guardianship and protection. Their knowledge of Christ is but an opinion, a theory, a heartless and fruitless speculation. O how many give the saddest proof that they have never entered by the door, and consequently have no realization in their own life and experience of the blessed and efficient protection and support of the Good Shepherd. Here I must not forget again to insist upon the necessity of a personal revelation of our relations to God as being excluded from all access to him and his favor save through Christ the door; and also the necessity of the personal revelation to us by the Holy Spirit of Christ as the door, and of what is implied in this; and lastly and emphatically upon the indispensable necessity of a personal, responsible, active, and full entering in at this door and gaining access for ourselves to the inclosure of the love and favor of God. Let this never for one moment be forgotten or overlooked. I must enter for and by myself. I must truly enter. I must be conscious that I enter. I must be sure that I do not misapprehend what is implied in entering; and at my peril I must not forget or neglect to enter.
And here it is important to inquire, have you had this personal and spiritual revelation? Have you clearly seen yourself without the fold exposed to all the unrelenting cruelty of your spiritual enemies and shut out forever by your sin from the favor and protection of God? When this has been revealed, have you been made clearly to apprehend Christ as the door? Have you understood what is implied in his sustaining this relation? And last, but not least, have you entered this door by faith? Have you seen the door open, and have you entered for yourself, and have you daily this evidence that you follow the Shepherd and find all you need?
(36.) Christ is also the Way of Salvation.
Observe: he is not a mere teacher of the way, as some vainly imagine and teach. Christ is truly "the way," itself, or he is himself "the way." Works are not the way whether these works are legal or gospel works, whether works of law or works of faith. Works of faith are a condition of salvation. But they are not "the way." Faith is not the way. Faith is a condition of entering and abiding in this way, but it is not "the way." Christ is himself "the way." Faith receives him to reign in the soul, and to be its salvation. But it is Christ himself who is "the way." The soul is saved by Christ himself, not by doctrine, not by the Holy Spirit, not by works of any kind, not by faith, or love, or by any thing whatever but by Christ himself. The Holy Spirit reveals and introduces Christ to the soul, and the soul to Christ. He takes of Christ's and shows to us. But he leaves it to Christ to save us. He urges and induces us to accept of Christ, to receive him by appropriating faith as he reveals him to us. But Christ is the way. It is his being received by us, that saves the soul. But we must perceive the way. We must enter this way by our own act. We must proceed in this way. We must continue in this way to the end of life and to all eternity as indispensable conditions of our salvation. "Whither I go ye know and the way ye know," said Christ. "Thomas said unto him, Lord we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?" "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me ye should have known my Father also, and from henceforth ye know him and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord show us the Father and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father, and, how sayest thou show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" Here Christ so identifies himself with the Father as to insist that he who had seen one had seen the other. When, therefore, he says, no man cometh to the Father but by him, we are to understand that no man need expect to find the true God elsewhere than in him. The visible Christ embodied the true Godhead. He is the way to God, for and because he is the true God and the eternal life and salvation of the soul. Many seem to understand Christ in this relation as nothing more than a teacher of a system of morality by the observance of which we may be saved. Others regard this relation as only implying that he is the way in the sense of making an atonement and thus rendering it possible for us to be forgiven. Others still understand this language as implying not only that Christ made an atonement and opened up a way of access through his death and mediation to God, but also that he teaches us the great truths essential to our salvation. Now all this in my apprehension falls entirely, and I may say, infinitely short of the true spiritual meaning of Christ and the true spiritual import of this relation. The above is implied and included in this relation beyond question, but this is not all nor the essential truth intended in this declaration of Christ's. He did not say, I came to open the way, nor to teach the way, nor to call you into the way, but "I am the way." Suppose he had intended merely that his instructions pointed out the way, or that his death was to open the way, and his teaching point it out, would he not have said: What! have I so long taught you, and have you not understood my doctrine? Would he not have said, I have taught you the way, instead of saying, I am the way? The fact is, there is a meaning in these words, more profoundly spiritual than his disciples then, and than many now seem capable of understanding. He is himself the way of salvation because he is the salvation of the soul. He is the way to the Father because he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He is the way to eternal life because he is himself the very essence and substance of eternal life. The soul that finds him needs not to look for eternal life, for it has found it already. These questions of Thomas and Philip show how little they really knew of Christ previous to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Vast multitudes of the professed disciples of the present day seem not to know Christ as "the way." They seem not to have known Christ in this relation as he is revealed by the Holy Spirit. This revelation by the Comforter of Christ as "the way," is indispensable to our so knowing him as to retain our standing in the hour of temptation. We must know and enter and walk and abide in this true and living way for ourselves. It is a living way and not a mere speculation.
Do you, my brother, know Christ by the Holy Spirit as the "living way?" Do you know Christ for yourself by a personal acquaintance? or do you know him only by report, by hearsay, by preaching, by reading and by study? Do you know him as in the Father and the Father as in him? Philip seemed not to have had a spiritual and personal revelation of the proper deity of Christ to his own soul. Have you had this revelation? And when he has been revealed to you as the true and living way, have you by faith personally entered this way? Do you abide steadfast in it? Do you know by experience what it is to live and move and have your very being in God? Be ye not deceived; he that does not spiritually discern, and enter this way, and abide in it unto the end, can not be saved. Do see to it then that you know the way to be sanctified, to be justified, to be saved. See to it that you do not mistake the way and betake yourself to some other way. Remember, works are not the way. Faith is not the way. Doctrine is not the way. All these are conditions of salvation, but Christ in his own person, is " the way." His own life living in and united to you, is the way and the only way. You enter this way by faith; works of faith result from and are a condition of abiding in this way; but the way itself is the indwelling, living, personally embraced and appropriated Christ, the true God and the eternal life.
Amen, Lord Jesus; the way is pleasant, and all its paths are peace.
(37.) Christ is also "the Truth," and as such he must be apprehended and embraced to secure the soul from falling in the hour of trial. In this relation many have known Christ merely as one who declared the truth, as one who revealed the true God and the way of salvation. This is all they understand by this assertion of Christ, that he is the Truth.
But if this is all, why may not the same with equal truth be said of Moses, and of Paul and John? They taught the truth. They revealed the true God so far as holy lives and true doctrine are concerned; and yet who ever heard of John, or Paul, or Moses as being the way or the truth? They taught the way and the truth, but they were neither the way nor the truth, while Christ is truth. What, then, is truth? Why, Christ is the truth. Whoever knows Christ spiritually, knows the truth. Words are not the truth. Ideas are not the truth. Both words and ideas may be signs or representatives of the truth. But the truth lives and has a being and a home in Christ. He is the embodiment and the essence of truth. He is reality. He is substance and not shadow. He is truth revealed. He is elementary, essential, eternal, immutable, necessary, absolute, self-existent, infinite Truth. When the Holy Spirit reveals truth, he reveals Christ. When Christ reveals truth, he reveals himself. Philosophers have found it difficult to define truth. Pilate asked Christ, what is truth, but did not wait for an answer. The term is doubtless used in a double sense. Sometimes the mere reflection or representation of things in signs, such as words, actions, writings, pictures, and diagrams, &c., is called truth; and this is the popular understanding of it. But all things that exist are only signs, reflections, symbols, representations or types of the Author of all things. That is, the universe is only the objective representation of the subjective truth, or is the reflection or reflector of God. It is the mirror that reflects the essential truth or the true and living God.
But I am aware that none but the Holy Spirit can possess the mind of the import of this assertion of Christ. It is full of mystery and darkness, and is a mere figure of speech to one unenlightened by the Holy Spirit in respect to its true spiritual import. The Holy Spirit does not reveal all the relations of Christ to the soul at once. Hence there are many to whom Christ has been revealed in some of his relations while others are yet veiled from the view. Each distinct name and office and relation needs to be made the subject of a special and personal revelation to the soul, to meet its necessities, and to confirm it in obedience under all circumstances. When Christ is revealed and apprehended as the essential, eternal, immutable truth, and the soul has embraced him as such, as he of whom all that is popularly called truth is only the reflection, as he of whom all truth in doctrine whether of philosophy in any of its branches, or revelation in any of its departments; I say, when the mind apprehends him as that essential truth of which all that men call truth is only the reflection, it finds a rock, a resting place, a foundation, a stability, a reality, a power in truth of which before it had no conception. If this is unintelligible to you I can not help it. The Holy Spirit can explain and make you see it, I can not. Christ is not truth in the sense of mere doctrine, nor in the sense of a teacher of true doctrine, but as the substance or essence of truth. He is that of which all truth in doctrine treats. True doctrine treats of him, but is not identical with him. Truth in doctrine is only the sign, or declaration, or representation of truth in essence, of living, absolute, self-existent truth in the Godhead. Truth in doctrine or true doctrine is a medium through which substantial or essential truth is revealed. But the doctrine or medium is no more identical with truth than light is identical with the objects which it reveals. Truth in doctrine is called light and is to essential truth what light is to the objects that radiate or reflect it. Light coming from objects is at once the condition of and the medium through which they are revealed. So true doctrine is the condition and the means of knowing Christ the essential truth. All truth in doctrine is only a reflection of Christ or is a radiation upon the intelligence from Christ. When we learn this spiritually, we shall learn to distinguish between doctrine and him whose radiance it is--to worship Christ as the essential truth and not the doctrine that reveals him--to worship God instead of the Bible. We shall then find our way through the shadow to the substance. Many no doubt mistake and fall down and worship the doctrine, the preacher, the bible, the shadow, and do not look for the ineffably glorious substance of which this bright and sparkling truth is only the sweet and mild reflection or radiation.
Dearly beloved, do not mistake the doctrine for the thing treated of by the doctrine. When you find your intellect enlightened and your sensibility quickened by the contemplation of doctrine, do not confound this with Christ. Look steadily in the direction from which the light emanates until the Holy Spirit enables you to apprehend the essential truth, and the true light that enlighteneth every man. Do not mistake a dim reflection of the sun for the sun himself. Do not fall down at a pool and worship the sun dimly reflected from its surface, but lift your eye and see where he stands glorious in essential and eternal and ineffable brightness. It is beyond question that multitudes of professed christians know nothing farther than the doctrine of Christ; they never had Christ himself personally revealed or manifested to them. The doctrine of Christ as taught in the gospel is intended to direct and draw the mind to him. The soul must not rest in the doctrine, but receive the living, essential person and substance of Christ. The doctrine makes us acquainted with the facts concerning Christ and presents him for acceptance. But do not rest in the story of Christ crucified and risen and standing at the door, but open the door and receive the risen, living and Divine Savior as the essential and all-powerful truth to dwell within you forever.
(38.) Christ is "the TRUE LIGHT." John says of him, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but he came to bear witness of that Light. That was the TRUE LIGHT which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world." Jesus says, "l am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life." And again, "While ye have the light, believe in the light." "I am come a light into the world." Again, it is said of Saul on his way to Damascus, "And there shined around him a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun." It is said of Christ in his transfiguration on the mount, "that his raiment became white as the light." Paul speaks of Christ as dwelling in light which no man can approach unto. Peter says of him, "who called you into his marvelous light." John says, "God is light and in him is no darkness at all." Of the New Jerusalem it is said, that the inhabitants have no need of the sun, nor of the moon to enlighten it, "for the glory of God and the Lamb are the light thereof."
Light certainly appears to be of two kinds, as every spiritual mind knows, physical and spiritual. Physical or natural light reveals or makes manifest physical objects through the fleshly organ, the eye. Spiritual light is no less real light than physical. In the presence of spiritual light the mind directly sees spiritual truths and objects, as, in the presence of material or natural light, it distinctly sees material objects. The mind has an eye or seeing faculty which uses the material eye and natural light to discern material objects. It is not the eye that sees. It is always the mind that sees. It uses the eye merely as an instrument of vision by which it discerns material objects. The eye and the light are conditions of seeing the material universe, but it is always the mind that sees.
So the mind directly sees spiritual realities in the presence of spiritual light. But what is light? What is natural, and what is spiritual light? Are they really identical, or are they essentially different? It is not my purpose here to enter into any philosophical speculations upon this subject; but I must observe, that, whatever spiritual light is, the mind under certain circumstances can not discern the difference, if difference there is, between them. Was that spiritual or physical light which the disciples saw on the mount of transfiguration? Was that spiritual or physical light which Paul and his companions saw on their way to Damascus? What light is that which falls upon the mental eye of the believer when he draws so near to God as not at the moment to at all distinguish the glory that surrounds him from material light? What was that light which made the face of Moses shine with such brightness that the people were unable to behold it? And what is that light which lights up the countenance of a believer when he comes direct and fresh from the mount of communion with God? There is often a visible light in his countenance. What is that light which often shines upon the pages of the bible making its spiritual meaning as manifest to the mind as the letters and words are. In such seasons the obscurity is removed from the spirit of the bible just as really and as visibly as the rising sun would remove the obscurity of midnight from the letter. In one case you perceive the letter clearly in the presence of natural light. You have no doubt, you can have no doubt that you see the letters and words as they are. In the other, you apprehend the spirit of the bible just as clearly as you see the letter. You can no more doubt at the time that you see the true spiritual import of the words than that you see the words themselves. Both the letter and the spirit seem to be set in so strong a light that you know that you see both. Now what light is this in which the spirit of the bible is seen? That it is light, every spiritual man knows. He calls it light. He can call it nothing else. At other times the letter is as distinctly visible as before and yet there is no possibility of discerning the spirit of the bible. It is then only known in the letter. We are then left to philologize, and philosophise, and theorize, and theologize, and are really all in the dark as to the true spiritual import of the bible. But when "the true light that lighteth every man" shines upon the word, we get at once a deeper insight into the real spiritual import of the word than we could have gotten in a life-time without it. Indeed the true spiritual import of the bible is hid from the learning of this world, and revealed to the babes who are in the light of Christ. I have often been afflicted with the fact that true spiritual light is rejected and contemned, and the very idea of its existence rejected by many men who are wise in the wisdom of this world. But the bible every where abounds with evidence that spiritual light exists, and that its presence is a condition of apprehending the reality and presence of spiritual objects. It has been generally supposed that the natural sun is the source of natural light. Sure it is that light is a condition of our beholding the objects of the material universe. But what is the source of spiritual light? The bible says Christ is. But what does this mean? When it is said that he is the true light, does it mean only that he is the teacher of true doctrine? Or does it mean that he is the light in which true doctrine is apprehended, or its spiritual import understood, that he shines through and upon all spiritual doctrine, and causes its spiritual import to be apprehended, and that the presence of his light, or, in other words, his own presence, is a condition of any doctrine's being spiritually understood? He is no doubt the essential light. That is, light is an attribute of his Divinity. Essential, uncreated light is one of the attributes of Christ as God. It is a spiritual attribute of course. But it is an essential and a natural attribute of Christ, and whoever knows Christ after the Spirit, or whoever has a true, spiritual, and personal acquaintance with Christ, as God, knows that Christ is light, that his being called light is not a mere figure of speech; that his "covering himself with light as with a garment;" his enlightening the heavenly world with so ineffable a light, that no man can approach thereunto and live, that the strongest seraphim are unable to look with unveiled face upon his overpowering effulgence:--I say, to a spiritual mind, these are not mere figures of speech; they are understood by those who walk in the light, or who walk in the light of Christ, to mean what they say.
I dwell upon this particular relation of Christ because of the importance of its being understood, that Christ is the real and true light who alone can cause us to see spiritual things as they are. Without his light we walk in the midst of the most overpowering realities without being at all aware of their presence. Like one surrounded with natural darkness, or as one deprived of natural light gropes his way and knows not at what he stumbles, so one deprived of the presence and light of Christ, gropes his way and stumbles at he knows not what. To attain to true spiritual illumination and to continue and walk in this light, is indispensable to entire sanctification. O, that this were understood. Christ must be known as the true and only light of the soul. This must not be held merely as a tenet. It must be understood and spiritually experienced and known. That Christ is in some undetermined sense the light of the soul and the true light is generally admitted just as multitudes of other things are admitted without being at all spiritually and experimentally understood. But this relation or attribute of Christ must be spiritually known by experience as a condition of abiding in him. John says, "this then is the message which we have heard of him, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." This light is come into the world, and if men do not love darkness rather than light, they will know Christ as the true light of the soul and will so walk in the light as not to stumble.
I desire much to amplify upon this relation of Christ, but must forbear or I shall too much enlarge this course of instruction. I would only endeavor to deeply impress you with the conviction that Christ is light and that this is no figure of speech. Rest not, my brother, until you truly and experimentally know him as such. Bathe your soul daily in his light so that when you come from your closet to your pulpit, your people shall behold your face shine as if it were the face of an angel.