By Rev. Charles G. Finney
(51.) Christ is our Shield. By this name or in this relation he has always been known to the saints. God said to Abraham, I am thy Shield.--Gen. 15:1. Ps. 33:20: The Lord is my Shield. Prov. 30:5: He is a Shield to them that put their trust in him. A shield is a piece of defensive armor used in war. It is a broad plate made of wood or metal, and borne upon the arm and hand, and in conflict presented between the body and the enemy to protect it against his arrows or his blows. God is the christian's shield in the spiritual warfare. This is a most interesting and important relation. He who does not know Christ in this relation, and has not embraced and put him on as one would buckle on a shield, is all exposed to the assaults of the enemy and will surely be wounded if not slain by his fiery darts. This is more than a figure of speech. No fact or reality is of more importance to the christian than to know how to hide himself behind and in Christ in the hour of conflict. Unless the christian has on his shield and knows how to use it, he will surely fall in battle. When Satan appears, the soul must present its shield, must take refuge behind and in Christ or all will be defeat and disgrace. When faith presents Christ as the shield, Satan retires vanquished from the field in every instance. Christ always makes way for our escape and never did a soul get wounded in conflict who made the proper use of this shield. But Christ needs to be known as our protection, as ready on all occasions to shield us from the curse of the law and from the artillery of the enemy of our souls. Be sure to truly know him and put him on in this relation, and then you may always sing of victory.
(52.) The Lord is "the Portion" of his people.
"I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward," said God to Abraham. As the reward or portion of the soul we need to know and embrace Christ as the condition of abiding in him. We need to know him as "our exceeding great portion," a present, all-satisfying portion. Unless we so know Christ as to be satisfied with him as all we can ask or desire, we shall not of course abstain from all forbidden sources of enjoyment. Nothing is more indispensable to our entire sanctification than to apprehend the fullness there is in Christ in this relation. When the soul finds in him all its desires and all its wants fully met, when it sees in him all that it can conceive of as excellent and desirable, and that he is its portion, it remains at rest. It has little temptation to go after other lovers or after other sources of enjoyment. It is full. It has enough. It has an infinitely rich and glorious inheritance. What more can it ask or think? The soul that understands what it is to have Christ as its portion, knows that he is an infinite portion, that eternity can never exhaust or even diminish it in the least degree; that the mind shall to all eternity increase in the capacity of enjoying this portion, but that no increase of capacity and enjoyment can diminish ought of the infinite fullness of the Divine Portion of our souls.
(53.) Christ is our Hope. 1 Tim. 1:1: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our Hope." Col. 1:27. "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you the hope of glory." Our only rational expectation is from him. Christ in us is our hope of glory. Without Christ in us we have no good or well-grounded hope of glory. Christ in the gospel, Christ on the cross, Christ risen, Christ in heaven is not our hope; but Christ in us, Christ actually present, living and reigning in us as really as he lives and reigns in glory, is our only well-grounded hope. We can not be too certain of this, for unless we despair of salvation in ourselves or in any other, we do not truly make Christ our hope. The soul that does not know and spiritually know Christ in this relation has no well-grounded hope. He may hope that he is a christian. He may hope that his sins are forgiven--that he shall be saved. But he can have no good hope of glory. It can not be too fully understood or too deeply realized that absolute despair of help and salvation in any other possible way except by Christ in us, is an unalterable condition of our knowing and embracing Christ as our hope. Many seem to have conceived of Christ as their hope only in his outward relation, that is, as an atoning Savior, as a risen and ascended Savior. But the indispensable necessity of having Christ within them ruling in their hearts and establishing his government over their whole being, is a condition of salvation of which they have not thought. Christ can not be truly and savingly our hope any farther than he is received into and reigns m our souls. To hope in merely an outward Christ is to hope in vain. To hope in Christ with the true christian hope implies,
[1.] The ripe and spiritual apprehension of our hopeless condition without him. It implies such an apprehension of our sins and governmental relations as to annihilate all hope of salvation upon legal grounds.
[2.] Such a perception of our spiritual bondage to sin as to annihilate all hope of salvation without his constant influence and strength to keep us from sin.
[3.] Such a knowledge of our circumstances of temptation as to empty us of all expectation of fighting our own battles or of in the least degree making headway against our spiritual foes in our own wisdom and strength.
[4.] A complete annihilation of all hope from any other source.
[5.] The revelation of Christ to our souls as our hope by the Holy Spirit.
[6.] The apprehension of him as one to dwell in us and to be received by faith to the supreme control of our souls.
[7.] The hearty and joyful reception of him in this relation. The dethroning of self or the utter denial or rejection of self and the enthroning and crowning of Christ in the inner man. When Christ is clearly seen to be the only hope of the soul, and when he is spiritually received in this relation, the soul learns habitually and constantly to lean upon him, to rest in him, and make no efforts without him.
(54.) Christ is also our Salvation. Ex. 15:2: "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation, he my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him." Ps. 27:1: "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Ps. 38:22: "Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation." Ps. 62:7: "In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God." Ps. 114: "The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation." Isa. 12:2: "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation." lsa. 49:6: "And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth." Luke 2:30: "For mine eyes have seen thy salvation." These and multitudes of similar passages present Christ not only as our Savior, but as our Salvation. That is, he saves us by becoming himself our salvation. Becoming our salvation includes and implies the following things:
[1.] Atonement for our sins.
[2.] Convincing us of and converting us from our sins.
[3.] Sanctifying our souls.
[4.] Justifying or pardoning and accepting or receiving us to favor.
[5.] Giving us eternal life and happiness.
[6.] The bestowment of himself upon us as the portion of our souls.
[7.] The everlasting union of our souls with God.
All this Christ is to us and well he may be regarded not only as our Savior, but as our salvation.
Nothing is or can be more important than for us to apprehend Christ in the fulness of his relations to us. Many seem to have but extremely superficial apprehensions of Christ. They seem in a great measure blind to the length, and breadth, and height, and depth of their infinite necessities. Hence they have never sought for such a remedy as is found in Christ. The great mass of christian professors seem to conceive of the salvation of Christ as consisting in a state of mind resulting not from a real union of the soul with Christ, but resulting merely from understanding and believing the doctrines of Christ. The doctrine of Christ as taught in the bible was designed to gain for Christ a personal reception to dwell within and to rule over us. He that truly believes the gospel, will receive Christ as he is presented in the gospel, that is, for what he is there asserted to be to his people, in all the relations he sustains to our souls, as fast as these relations are revealed to him by the Holy Spirit.
The newly converted soul knows Christ in but few relations. He needs trials and experience to develop his weakness and to reveal to him his multiplied necessities and thus lead him to a fuller knowledge of Christ. The new convert embraces Christ so far as he knows him, but at first he knows but little of his need of him except in his governmental relations. Subsequent experience is a condition of his knowing Christ in all his fullness. Nor can he be effectually taught the fulness there is in Christ any faster than his trials develop his real necessities. If he embraces all he understands of Christ, this is the whole of present duty in respect to him; but as trials are in his way he will learn more of his own necessities, and must learn more of Christ and appropriate him in new relations, or he will surely fall.
(55.) Christ is also the Rock of our Salvation:
Ps. 19:14: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength [margin, Rock,] and my Redeemer.
28:1: Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me; lest if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.
31:2. Bow down thine ear to me, deliver me speedily, be thou my strong rock, for a house of defence to save me. 3. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore, for thy name's sake, lead me, and guide me.
42:9. I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
61:2. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.
73:26. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength [margin, Rock,] of my heart, and my portion for ever.
78:35. And they remembered that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer.
89: 26. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.
94:22. But the Lord is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge.
95:1. O come, let us sing unto the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.
lsa. 17:10. Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength, therefore shall thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips.
32:2. And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
It is deeply interesting and affecting to contemplate the relations in which Christ revealed himself to the Old Testament saints. He is a rock of salvation, a strong hold or place of refuge. In this relation the soul must know him, and must take hold of him or take shelter in him.
(56.) He is also a rock cleft from which the waters of life flow. 1 Cor. 10:14. "And did all drink the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." As such the soul must know and embrace him.
(57.) He is a Great Rock that is higher than we, rising amid the burning sands of our pilgrimage, under the cooling shadow of which the soul can find repose and comfort. He is like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. To apprehend Christ in this relation the soul needs to be brought into sharp and protracted trials until it is faint and ready to sink in discouragement. When the struggle is too severe for longer endurance and the soul is on the point of giving up in despair, then when Christ is revealed as a great rock standing for its defense against the heat of its trials, and throwing over it the cooling, soothing influence of his protection, it finds itself at rest and refreshed, and readily adopts the language of a numerous class of passages of scripture, and finds itself to have apprehended Christ as inspired men apprehended and embraced him. It is truly remarkable that in all our experiences we can find that inspired writers have had the like, and in every trial and in every deliverance, in every new discovery of our emptiness, and of Christ's fulness we find the language of our hearts most fully and aptly expressed in the language of the living oracles. We readily discover that inspired men had fallen into like trials, had Christ revealed to them in the same relations and had similar exercises of mind; insomuch that no language of our own can so readily express all that we think and feel and see.
(58.) He is the Rock from which the soul is satisfied with honey. Ps. 81:16: "He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat; and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee." The spiritual mind apprehends this language spiritually as it is doubtless really intended to be understood. It knows what it is to be satisfied with honey from the Rock, Christ. The Divine Sweetness that often refreshes the spiritual mind when it betakes itself to the Rock Christ, reminds it of the words of this passage of scripture.
(59.) He is the Rock or Foundation upon which the church as the temple of the living God is builded.
Matt. 16:18. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Ro. 9:33. As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and a rock of offence; and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
1 Pet. 2:8. And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.
He is a sure foundation. He is an eternal rock or the rock of ages--the corner stone of the whole spiritual edifice. But we must build for ourselves upon this rock. It is not enough to understand as a tenet, a theory, an opinion, an article of our creed, that Christ is the rock in this sense. We must see that we do not build upon the sand. Matt. 7:26,27: "And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand; And the rain descended, and the floods came, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it."
(60.) He is the "strength of our heart." He is not only our refuge and strength in our conflicts with outward temptations and trials in the sense expressed in Ps. 46:1: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble;" but he is also the strength of our heart and our portion forever in the sense of Ps. 73:26: "My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." He braces up and confirms the whole inner man in the way of holiness. What christian has not at times found himself ready to halt and faint by the way. Temptation seems to steal upon him like a charm. He finds his spiritual strength very low, his resolution weak, and he feels as if he should give way to the slightest temptation. He is afraid to expose himself out of his closet, or even to remain within it lest he should sin. He says with David, "I shall fall by the hand of Saul." He finds himself empty--all weakness and trembling. Were it not that the strength of his heart interposes in time he would doubtless realize in his experience his worst fears. But who that knows Christ, has not often experienced his faithfulness under such circumstances, and felt an immortal awaking, reviving, and strength taking possession of his whole being? What spiritual minister has not often dragged himself into the pulpit so discouraged and faint as to be hardly able to stand, or to hold up his head? He is so weak that his spiritual knees smite one against the other. He is truly empty, and feels as if he could not open his mouth. He sees himself to he an empty vine, an empty vessel, a poor helpless, strengthless infant lying in the dust before the Lord, unable to stand, or go, or preach, or pray, or do the least thing for Christ. But lo! at this juncture, his spiritual strength is renewed. Christ the strength of his heart develops his own almightiness within him. His mouth is open. He is strong in faith, giving glory to God. He is made at once a sharp threshing instrument to beat down the mountains of opposition to Christ and his gospel. His bow is renewed in his hand and abides in strength. His mouth is opened and Christ has filled it with arguments. Christ has girded him to the battle and made strong the arms of his hands with the strength of the Mighty God of Jacob.
The same is true of every christian in substance. He has his seasons of being empty that he may feel his dependence; and anon he is girded with strength from on high, and an immortal and superhuman strength takes possession of his soul. The enemy gives way before him. In Christ he can run through a troop, and in his strength he can leap over a wall. Every difficulty gives way before him, and he is conscious that Christ has strengthened him with strength in his soul. The will seems to have the utmost decision, so that temptation gets an emphatic no! without a moment's parley.
(61.) Christ is he through whom we may reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. This we are exhorted and commanded to do. That is we may and ought to account or reckon ourselves through him as dead unto sin and alive unto God. But what is implied in this liberty to reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord? Why certainly,
[1.] That through and in him we have all the provision we need, to keep, us from sin.
[2.] That we may and ought to expect to live without sin.
[3.] That we ought to account ourselves as having nothing more to do with sin than a dead man has with the affairs of this world.
[4.] That we may and ought to lay hold on Christ for this full and present death unto sin and life unto God.
[5.] That if we do thus reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God in the true spiritual sense of this text we shall find Christ unto our souls all we expect of him in this relation. If Christ can not or will not save us from sin, upon condition of our laying hold of him and reckoning ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God through him, what right had the apostle to say, Reckon yourselves indeed dead unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord? What! does the apostle tell us to account or reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, and shall D. D.'s tell us that such reckoning or expectation is a dangerous delusion!
Now certainly nothing less can be meant by reckoning ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ, than that through Christ we should expect to live without sin. And not to expect to live without sin through Christ is unbelief. It is a rejection of Christ in this relation. Through Christ we ought to expect to live to God as much as we expect to live at all. He that does not expect this, rejects Christ as his sanctification and as Jesus who saves his people from their sins.
The foregoing are some of the relations which Christ sustains to us as our salvation. I could have enlarged greatly as you perceive upon each of these, and easily have swelled this part of our course of study to a large volume. I have only touched upon these sixty-one relations as specimens of the manner in which he is presented for our acceptance in the bible and by the Holy Spirit. Do not understand me as teaching that we must first know Christ in all these relations before we can be sanctified. The thing intended is that coming to know Christ in these relations is a condition or is the indispensable means of our steadfastness or perseverance in holiness under temptation--that when we are tempted from time to time, nothing can secure us against a fall but the revelation of Christ to the soul in these relations one after another, and our appropriation of him to ourselves by faith. The gospel has directly promised, in every temptation, to open a way of escape so that we shall be able to bear it. The spirit of this promise pledges to us such a revelation of Christ as to secure our standing; if we will lay hold upon him by faith, as revealed. Our circumstances of temptation render it necessary that at one time we should apprehend Christ in one relation and at another time in another. For example, at one time we are tempted to despair by Satan's accusing us of sin and suggesting that our sins are too great to be forgiven. In this case we need a revelation and an appropriation of Christ as having been made sin for us; that is, as having atoned for our sins--as being our justification or righteousness. This will sustain the soul's confidence and preserve its peace.
At another time we are tempted to despair of ever overcoming our tendencies to sin and to give up our sanctification as a hopeless thing. Now we need a revelation of Christ as our sanctification, &c.
At another time the soul is harassed with the view of the great subtlety and sagacity of its spiritual enemies, and greatly tempted to despair on that account. Now it needs to know Christ as its wisdom.
Again, it is tempted to discouragement on account of the great number and strength of its adversaries. On such occasions it needs Christ revealed as the Mighty God, as its strong tower, its hiding place, its munition of Rocks.
Again, the soul is oppressed with a sense of the infinite holiness of God and the infinite distance there is between us and God on account of our sinfulness and his infinite holiness, and on account of his infinite abhorrence of sin and sinners. Now the soul needs to know Christ as its righteousness, and as a mediator between God and man.
Again, the christian's mouth is closed with a sense of guilt, so that he can not look up nor speak to God of pardon and acceptance. He trembles and is confounded before God. He lies along on his face, and despairing thoughts roll a tide of agony through his soul. He is speechless and can only groan out his self-accusations before the Lord. Now as a condition of rising above this temptation to despair, he needs a revelation of Christ as his Advocate, as his High-Priest, as ever living to make intercession for him. This view of Christ will enable the soul to commit all to him in this relation, and maintain its peace and hold on to its steadfastness.
Again, the soul is led to tremble in view of its constant exposedness to besetments on every side, oppressed with such a sense of its own utter helplessness in the presence of its enemies as almost to despair. Now it needs to know Christ as the Good Shepherd who keeps a constant watch over the sheep and carries the lambs in his bosom. He needs to know him as a Watchman and a Keeper.
Again, it is oppressed with a sense of its own utter emptiness, and is forced to exclaim, I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. It sees that it has no life, or unction, or power, or spirituality in itself. Now it needs to know Christ as the True Vine from which it may receive constant and abundant spiritual nourishment. It needs to know him as the fountain of the water of life, and in those relations that will meet its necessities in this direction. Let these suffice as specimens to illustrate what is intended by entire or permanent sanctification being conditioned on the revelation and appropriation of Christ in all the fulness of his official relations.
It is not intended, as has been said, that Christ must previously be known in all these relations before a soul can be sanctified at all; but that when tried from time to time, a new revelation of Christ to the soul, corresponding to the temptation, or as the help of the soul in such circumstances, is a condition of its remaining steadfast. This gracious aid or revelation is abundantly promised in the bible, and will be made in time, so that by laying hold on Christ in the present revealed relation, the soul may be preserved blameless, though the furnace of temptation be heated seven times hotter than it is wont to be.
In my estimation the church as a body, I mean the nominal church, have entirely mistaken the nature and means or conditions of sanctification. They have not regarded it as consisting in a state of entire consecration, nor understood that continual entire consecration was entire sanctification. They have regarded sanctification as consisting in the annihilation of the constitutional propensities instead of the controlling of them. They have erred equally in regard to the means or conditions of entire sanctification. They seem to have regarded sanctification as brought about by a physical cleansing in which man was passive; or to have gone over to the opposite extreme, and regarded sanctification as consisting in the formation of habits of obedience. The Old School have seemed to be waiting for a physical sanctification in which they are to be in a great measure passive, and which they have not expected to take place in this life. Holding, as they do, that the constitution of both soul and body is defiled or sinful in every power and faculty, they of course can not hold to entire sanctification in this life. If the constitutional appetites, passions, and propensities are in fact, as they hold, sinful in themselves, why, then the question is settled that entire sanctification can not take place in this world nor in the next, except as the constitution is radically changed, and that of course by the creative power of God. The New School rejecting the doctrine of constitutional moral depravity and physical regeneration and sanctification, and losing sight of Christ as our sanctification, have fallen into a self-righteous view of sanctification, and have held that sanctification is effected by works or by forming holy habits, &c. Both the Old and the New School have fallen into egregious errors upon this fundamentally important subject.
The truth is, beyond all question, that sanctification is by faith as opposed to works. That is, faith receives Christ in all his offices and in all the fulness of his relations to the soul; and Christ when received, works in the soul to will and to do of all his good pleasure, not by a physical, but by a moral or persuasive working. Observe, he influences the will. This must be by a moral influence, if its actings are intelligent and free, as they must be to be holy. That is, if he influences the will to obey God, it must be by a Divine moral suasion. The soul never in any instance obeys in a spiritual and true sense, except it be thus influenced by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. But whenever Christ is apprehended and received in any relation, in that relation he is full and perfect; so that we are complete in him. For it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; and that we might all receive of his fullness until we have grown up into him in all things, "Until we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."