“ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED”
“He hath made us accepted in the beloved.”— Ephesians i. 6
“THE beloved!” This was a golden name which the ancient Church in her most joyous moments was wont to give to the Anointed of the Lord. When the time of the singing of birds was come, and the voice of the turtle was heard in her land, her love-note was sweeter than either bird or turtle, as she sung, “My beloved is mine and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.” Ever in her song of songs doth she call him by that delightful name, “My beloved!” Even in the long winter when idolatry had withered the garden of the Lord, her prophets found space to cease from uttering the thunders of judgment, to lay aside the burden of the Lord for a little season, and to say, as Esaias did, “Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.” Though the saints had never seen his face, though as yet he was not made flesh, nor had dwelt among us, nor had man beheld his glory— the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, yet he was the consolation of Israel, the hope and joy of all the chosen, the beloved of all those who were upright before the Most High. Brethren, in the summer days of the Church, let us not fail to call Christ our Beloved. Both in our prayers and songs in public, and in those nearer and dearer approaches which we make to him in private, when we may use more tender epithets than we would venture to do in a mixed assembly, we are wont to speak of Christ as the best Beloved of our soul, and to feel that he is to us very precious, the “chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.” So true is it that the Church loves Christ, and claims him as her beloved, that the apostle dares to defy the whole universe to separate her from the love of Christ, and declares that neither persecutions, distress, affliction, peril, or the sword, have been able to do it; nay, he joyously boasts, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that hath loved us;” and he concludes his bold utterance by declaring that he is persuaded that “neither death , nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature , shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We think we should not be trespassing into the realms of imagination, if we ventured to say that Christ is also the beloved of the angels. To him cherubim and seraphim continually do cry; for in that thrice-repeated strain, there is a word for the second person of the Trinity, as well as for the first and the third: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.” And, certainly, the blood-bought call him their beloved; for their incessant strain is, “Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood, unto to him be glory for ever and ever.”
Yet, my dear friends, the main reason why Christ is thus styled by the Holy Spirit “the beloved,” doubtless is because he is the beloved of the Father’s heart. “This,” said the mysterious voice from heaven in the midst of the waters of Jordan, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And again, at the resurrection of Lazarus there came the same voice from heaven, announcing the perpetuity of the Father’s love. None of us can tell how dear Jesus must be to his Father. We have, however, abundant proofs of the fact that he is very near unto him, for he is privy to all his Father’s counsels. From the counsels of the Most High, Christ was never absent. “When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” “Let us make man," said God, “in our own image,”— calling Christ into creation’s work. “Without him was not anything made that was made,” is the declaration of John the divine. Beside this, we know that everything which is done of the Father by his divine decree is that he may glorify his Son; while, on the other hand, the Son lived and died, and lives again that he may glorify the Father. Such is their mutual interest in one another that we cannot suppose a relationship closer, nor a love more intense than that which exists between the Father and the Son. It were foolish and ridiculous in me to attempt to dive into the awful depths of the divine unity. We know that the Father is one with the Son, and that Jesus is one with Jehovah. The unity of essence is a well so deep, that I cannot expect to find its bottom; and the love which springeth up from this essential unity must be more deep and profound than the wit of man can guess, or than the language of man can utter. I repeat the confession of our ignorance, it is impossible for us to form even a guess of the intensity of the affection that must exist between the eternal Father and Jesus Christ, his Son; since their essential union from which this affection springs is a doctrine beyond our comprehension, and is meekly to be received of our faith. Certainly we know that never was the term “beloved” so full of meaning, never did human word become so divinely rich as when God himself, by the Holy Ghost, applied it to Jesus the beloved of the Father.
No more, however, concerning this word “ the beloved” except that I trust there are many of us here who can thus salute our covenant Head. Yes. he is very dear to us. We love him because he first loved us. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and it hath kindled in our poor souls a flame undying, which neither life nor death shall quench, but which shall burn brighter and brighter till it consumes flesh and self, and we shall be all on flame with love to Christ.
Now, dear friends, having thus brought forward the title of Christ, I I shall, in dependance upon the Eternal Spirit, call your attention, first of all, to the words “in the beloved,” or “positive union secondly, to the words “accepted in the beloved or glorious condition; and then to the whole text, “he hath made us accepted in the beloved,” or divine operation.
I. First then, here is a matter most worthy of your best and profoundest thoughts— “IN THE BELOVED," or, POSITIVE UNION.
A thousand sermons would never exhaust the theme of the union of the Church with Christ. No divinity is sound which does not recognise this; and no experience can be very profound which does not lead the soul more clearly and more fully to rejoice in this most glorious truth. Probably it is a doctrine more suitable to advanced Christians than to young believers; but where the Lord enables the heart to feed upon it it will be found to be food at once nourishing, delicious, satisfying, and strengthening. They who feed upon it will be found like Daniel and his companions, to be fairer in countenance and fatter in flesh than any others.
1. In explaining this positive union, let us begin by saying “in Christ,” — that is, in his heart, and in his heart from all eternity. With prescient eye Christ beheld his people before they were yet formed. He looked forward through eternity and the rolling years of time, and he foresaw that God would make man; and that man in Adam would fall and be ruined. His eye looked over all the sons of Adam, and selected those whom he saw fit according to the counsel of his will: and these at once were put into his heart to be his darlings, his favourites for ever and ever. It was not in time that Christ first wrote the names of his people upon his heart: it was a time before all times, when there was no day but the ancient of days; when creation’s first year had not commenced; when all things slept in the mind of God as a thought, but had not come forth from his hand as a deed. We look upon the rocks with their long deposits of sand and shells: we go deeper down and see the long ages that must have passed while the stony strata were being formed; we wonder at the period that the aqueous and igneous rocks must have occupied in their formation; and sometimes we are staggered at the thought of what a great thing time is. We find we cannot grasp the idea of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;” it is so far back that the wings of our imagination flag before they reach it as a resting place. But there was an eternity before all this; and all these ages are but as the drop of a bucket compared with the deep and bottomless sea of the eternity of God. Yet, when we fly back into the dread eternity, where thought is lost and mind faileth, we discover in the breast of Christ eternal thoughts of love towards his children. Is it not a joy that can make your spirits dance, like David before the ark, that we are always Jesus’ beloved ones, always in the heart of him whose heart was afterwards in the fulness of time pierced for us? Hath he not said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with the bands of my kindness have I drawn thee.” “As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you.” That is, without beginning; ever since there was a Father and a Christ. It were blasphemy to suppose that God’s love to Jesus was not always existent, or that Christ had a beginning in the Father’s affections. Even from that time Jesus had chosen his people, and they were in his heart. Beloved, as they were in his heart, so they have been in his heart ever since. When they fell in Adam they did not fall out of Christ; when they lived in this world a life of iniquity, yet still there was his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins. When they scorned his grace, his love defied, trampled on his cross, and despised his blood, yet still never from his heart were they erased, for they had been engraven there too deeply by the nails, for sin to destroy the remembrance. And now, to-day, now that we are continually backsliding, nothing has been able as yet to tear us from his heart. We are there, and we shall be there, in death’s dark gloom and in eternity’s mysterious splendour— dear to Jesus still, for is it not written, “He hateth putting away?” “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” So, then, beloved, we are in Christ in the sense that we are in Christ’s heart, and we always were so if we are his people.
2. But, secondly, we are also in Christ's book. Having loved us, we were chosen in him and elected by his Father. We were not chosen separately and distinctly, and as individuals alone and apart. We were chosen in Christ. As Watts well puts it—
“Christ, be my first elect, he said;
Then chose our souls in Christ our head.”
By Christ’s love we were one with him. The Father’s election chose the whole Christ, both the head and the members too. Christ can well say, “In thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” We all know that Christ is elect and precious; that God singled out the humanity of Christ from many thousands of forms that he might have created, and ordained that the seed of the woman— the child that was born in Bethlehem, and laid in the manger— should become the body and the human soul which should be taken into union with divinity. Here was election; and as Christ was thus chosen both in the divine and human natures, so are all his people chosen— chosen in him. Blessed fact! the same register which includes Christ as first-born, includes all the brethren; and until the flames of hell can consume the record which certifies Christ as a Son of God, our sonship in Christ towards God must remain safe from all the attacks of Satanic craft. Disprove Christ’s Sonship, and you disprove ours. Prove the union of Christ with God as his Son, and since Christ’s people are in him, you prove their sonship too. Look down the red roll which God wrote with his eternal finger, according to the counsel of his will, and you see the names of all that should enter into eternal life; they are all there secure, because the first one is secure; and until the pen of hell can run through the first one in the catalogue, it shall never be able to run through any of the others, for there stand the names of all the elect, covered, protected, and defended, by the name of Christ, which standeth at the head. We are in that book which is sealed with seven seals, which none but the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open.
3. Thirdly, we are in Christ’ s hand. We are in Christ’s heart as our heavenly lover. We are in Christ’s book as the medium of our election. We are in Christ’s hand as our surety. You will remember, beloved, than when Laban gave up his flock to Jacob, Jacob took them upon the condition of suretyship. Jacob said unto Laban, “That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.” Now, all those whom the Father gave to Christ were bestowed upon Christ as a surety; and at the last great day, at the Redeemer’s hand will God require" the souls of all that were given to him. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep, responsible as the Mediator, responsible to him who possesseth all in all. Sponsor for his people, surety for all the chosen, he standeth at this hour before the eternal throne. And think ye, beloved, he will lose us? Never. He hath made us the choicest objects of his care. Shall his eye sleep? Shall his heart forget? Shall his hand grow weary? Shall he lose the force and strength which anciently he possessed? He hath sworn by himself that he will bring us safely to the Father — will he be defeated? He hath said, “I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” And shall the infernal lion rend that which He hath deigned to keep? What! shall he put his hand upon his people and shelter them there, and clutch them as the choicest treasure and the rarest jewel that he ever had, and shall death or hell unlock his fingers or wrench his chosen from his mighty grasp? Who shall defeat Omnipotence, or pluck the sinner from the Almighty grasp? Rejoice, believers, ye are saved just because ye are in the hand of Christ. I marvel at those who try to slip from that text, “None shall pluck them out of my hand,” and think that souls can be lost after that: for the text doth not admit of any other meaning than their safety. “They shall never perish,” and “I give unto them eternal life,” are plain, literal, positive statements, which none can misunderstand. Happy are the men who are thus in Christ.
4. But, fourthly, we are in Christ’ s loins. This may convey a thought somewhat different from being in Christ’s hands. We were all of us in the loins of Adam, and have all sprung from him by natural generation. Adam was our federal head. All his acts were representative acts. While he was obedient we were obedient in him. Had he continued obedient, we his descendants should have been partakers of the privileges which accrue to obedience. Adam offended; we offended in him. Being the inheritors of his nature we have partaken of his original corruption; and being moreover in him as our representative, we became partakers of his condemnation. In Adam all die. “By the offence of one man condemnation came upon all men.” As being then in the loins of Adam we fell; and we should have fallen into everlasting perdition, if we as God’s chosen had not been also in the loins of Christ. But all the chosen were in the loins of Christ from old eternity; so that what Christ has done he did for them. When he obeyed the law and made it honourable, they were regarded before God as having kept the law and having honoured it in every jot and tittle. When he did hang upon the tree, the chosen who were in him were virtually suffering the wrath of God. Justice looks upon the chosen as though they themselves had suffered all that Christ suffered, as though they had drunk the wormwood and the gall and had descended into the lowest depths. When he was buried we were buried with him; for we are dead with Christ unto the world, and buried in baptism with him unto death. When Christ ascended from the tomb we rose in him. He rose again, not as a private individual, but for our justification. Virtually every elect soul rose from the eternal death of its deserved perdition in the day when Christ startled the keepers and rolled away the stone. And when Christ ascended up on high we ascended in him. Up with him we entered into the spheres; and with him to-day we are risen in Christ, and made with him to sit in heavenly places even in Christ Jesus. To-day, beloved, the language of the psalmist is more true than he thought concerning man, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands, the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” We see not all things yet put under man on earth; but we see Jesus, who as the representative man sits in heaven, triumphant over all things, having all things put for ever under his feet; and representatively under our feet too, since we are in Christ. Just as the apostle Paul argues concerning Levi, that Levi is inferior to Christ; for he says, Abraham was less than Melchisedec, for without doubt the less is blessed of the greater, so also Levi was less than Melchisedec, for he was in the loins of Abraham when Melchisedec met him. So beloved, as Levi was in the loins of Abraham and paid tithes to Melchisedec, so we were in the loins of Christ and paid the debt due to divine justice, gave to the law its fulfilment, and to wrath its satisfaction. In the loins of Christ we have passed through the tomb already, and have entered into that which is within the veil, and are made to sit down in heavenly places, even in him. This day the chosen of God are one with Christ and in the loins of Christ.
5. As we are in the heart of Christ, in the book of Christ, in the hand of Christ, and in the loins of Christ, there is yet another thought dearer and sweeter still. We are in the person of Christ; for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. When the Spirit of God comes into the sinner and convinces him of sin, that sinner is led to look to Christ only for his salvation, Christ then becomes unto him the way and the life. By the mysterious operations of the quickening Spirit the sinner begins to live a spiritual life. Now, in the moment when the spiritual life was first given, there commenced in that soul a vital and personal union with the person of Christ Jesus. There had always been in that soul a secret mystical union in the divine purpose; but now there comes to be a union in effect, and the soul is in Christ from that hour, in a sense in which it never was before. Oh, do you understand what it is to be in Christ vitally? Beloved, no explanations can set this forth. “The natural man discerneth not the things which be of the Spirit of God.”These are things which must be known experimentally by each man for himself. Have you felt a life in you that is far superior to the vital principle which you inherit from your parent? Have you known that regeneration has given you another existence which generation did not confer upon you? Have you felt principles alive within which no education could have developed, and which no persuasion could have implanted? Have you within you the living and incorruptible seed of God, which abideth for ever? Have you been made partakers of the divine nature, having “escaped that corruption which is in the world through lust?” Have you been begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? If so, the life in you is Christ in you the hope of glory; and your life is sustained by the fact that you are one with Christ, and suck the nourishment of your life from him just as the branch draws from the trunk the sap whereby it is invigorated and made to live.
“I can do nothing without thee,
My strength is wholly thine;
Wither’d and barren should I be
If sever’d from the vine.”
I trust, brethren, that we are in union with Christ, not in theory, but in fact; not as a matter of doctrine, but as a matter of experience, till we can say, “Christ is in me, and I am in him; the life that I live in the flesh is no more I, but Christ that liveth in me.”
“In the beloved,” then, is a thought which is not very easy for us to bring out in so short a space of time.
Now, I want to put you to the test this morning, by appealing to you all whether you know anything about this. A great many will say, “Well, it is a very odd thing, we do not understand it.” Take heed to yourselves, then; deal honestly with your spirits; inasmuch as you do not know what it is to be in Christ, then you are without Christ; and then you are without hope, and there remaineth nothing for you but a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation. No man out of Christ can be saved. In Christ the branch lives; but divided from Christ, men gather up the useless branches and cast them into the fire and they are burned. Come, now, I want to try you. The first question I ask you, to ascertain whether you are in Christ, is this — Is he all your dependance? For the union of the saint with Christ is set forth by the union of the stone with the building. Now, the stone in the building lies upon the foundation; there it resteth and abideth, being cemented fast to it. Do you rest upon Christ? I ask you, is he all your trust? There is a blessed text in one of the prophets, “I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place, and they shall hang upon him all the glory of his Father’s house, as well the cups as the flagons, they shall all hang on him.” So dost thou hang on him? Canst thou feel to-day that without a falsehood all thy trust on him is set, that thou bringest from him all thy standing, all thy confidence, all thy peace? If so, let us hope that thy union is a true one. And if it be so, then, as I have sometimes seen stones in the old walls of Roman castles, which could scarcely have been separated from the fabric, even by gunpowder itself, without the blasting up of the fabric too; so is it with you, unless the foundations can be removed you cannot be moved, for if you depend on him by a living faith, you are so a part of Christ that the living stone has grown into the living foundation, and separated from him you never can be in time or in eternity. Another question. If thou art to-dav in Christ, then thou bringest forth some fruit unto him; for Christians are represented as being in Christ, as the branch is in the vine. “Every branch in me,” said Christ, “that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit.” What say you? What are your fruits? Is there humility of mind? Holiness? Do you seek to walk like Jesus did? My dear hearers, this is a very sharp question to put to you, but I do put it to you personally, for by your works you must be judged at the last great day. His servants ye arc whom ye obey; if ye give yourselves up to the pleasures of this world, to the lusts of the flesh, to your own selfishness, then ye are the servants of sin. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.” “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” Do ye of the Spirit bring forth fruits of the Spirit? Do ye walk and act as the elect of God, putting on bowels of mercy and compassion? Have ye a single eye to Christ’s glory, and do ye live to his service? If so, then thanks to God, no pruning knife shall cut away the branch that bringeth forth fruit. It is the branch which brings forth no fruit, which is not in Christ vitally, that is to be severed, cast away; but if thou be in him so as to bring forth fruit unto him, then fruit to eternal life shalt thou bear evermore.
Another question; dost thou love Christ? Does thy heart go out after him? Dost thou pant to be in his arms? Is his company thy heaven, is his absence thy hell? Remember, another figure which is used, is the union of the husband with the wife. Marriages that are made in heaven are cemented not by gold or beauty, but by love. In Christ there is an infinite love towards his people, insomuch that he left his Father and did cleave unto his wife, and they twain became one flesh. “This is a great mystery,” said Paul, when he spoke concerning Christ and his Church. Art thou wedded to him by an affection which no time can alter except it be to deepen it? Are there ties which bind thy heart to him, which torture and racks cannot sunder? If there be, then thou art married unto one that will never put thee away, one that will never leave thee a widow, for thy Maker is thy husband and he loveth faithfully; one that calleth thee his Hephzibah, his soul delighteth in thee; and thy land he calleth Beulah, for he hath married it. Is there such a union? Art thou thus in Christ? Then a last question, and I will leave this point. Is there a life in thee? Is Christ the life of thy spirit? If you tell me you have nothing more in you than what nature gave you, then you are in nature’s death. There is a supernatural life which is imparted by the Holy Ghost. Hence, we read in Scripture that believers are one with Christ as the members are one with the head. They are one in living union; if you cut away the head, the whole dies. Ay, and mark you, the head dies too. So Christ is one with us if we be really his; because he lives we shall live also; if we die Christ dies, and if Christ lives we live; and since he ever liveth to make intercession for us, our eternal life is sure. But, oh, we must have this life. “Except a man eat my flesh,” saith he, “and drink my blood, there is no life in him,” as if there could not be spiritual life till Christ himself were there, and Christ not there without becoming life to our souls.
II. I now turn very briefly to our second point. The text tells us we are "ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED."
To be brief, and yet explicit, let me notice that I think the acceptance here meant, includes first of all, justification before God. We stand on our trial. When we stand in Christ we are acquitted; while standing in ourselves the only verdict must be condemnation. The term “acceptance,” in the Greek, means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine complacency. When God looked upon the world of old, he said it was “very good:” and when the Lord looketh upon his people in Christ, he saith the same. But, methinks if there could be anything better than very good, he would say his people in Christ were better than the work of his own hands, since they wear not a created righteousness, but the righteousness of the Creator, Jesus Christ himself. They are, then, accepted by his justice, and they are viewed with complacency by his holiness. But this is not all. When it is written, “Accepted in the beloved," it means that those accepted are the objects of the divine delight. Friends, whenever I get to this thought, (and many a time in this house of prayer I have got to it I always feel inclined to sit down and let you think it over, for it is such an extravaganza of divine grace that we, worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love. When princes wed with beggars the world marvels; but when God sets his affections upon sinful men and women in Christ, oh, this is the wonder of wonders! Even the angels might desire to look into it. I do believe that when we have been in heaven ten thousand years, this will still be a subject of rapture and surprise, that ever He should have found anything in us in which he could take delight! To pity us, to show mercy to us, that I can understand ; but to love us! — the big heart of God to love a creeping thing like man! the infinite soul of the Most High to pour itself out on such a mean, worthless creature as man! the everlasting God who filleth all in all, to concentrate as it were, the powers of his Spirit and set the whole upon a creature that his own hands hath made! — a creature that had revolted and rebelled, and at the best is worthless still! Oh! sing of this, ye spirits before the throne; we cannot speak of it to-day as we would. All this is “in the beloved.” We are not accepted anyhow else but “in the beloved.” Let me show you that this is the best way in the world to be accepted. Each of us know it is the only way; but even if there were another, it is the best way. Suppose we could be accepted in ourselves. Adam was while he was obedient — he was accepted in his own works. Ay; but how soon he fell! and then his acceptance fell too. He stood on his own feet, and therefore he soon fell to the ground. Suppose you and I had kept the law up till now. I think I hear you say, “Oh, I wish I had! I wish I could come before God as a perfectly righteous man.” O soul! thou wouldst not be half so safe as thou art now in Christ. But if I had no sin, yet I would ask that I might be in Christ, for I might have sin some day, and then down would go the goodly structure. For that which is built upon a fallible creature is built upon the sand; and if the structure had hitherto been without one rotten timber, yet, since the basis is the will of man— and that might change— damnation might shortly overtake us. After all, we had done better, surely, to stand in Christ, who cannot fall. Now, 1 know some professors, who seem to me to stand in their own experience, to be accepted in their own experience. At least, that is their apprehension. Just now they had such visits from Christ’s faith, such gleams of his love; and now they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly-minded, so drawn above the earth! I have seen these same persons next day feel their souls cleave to the earth, and they have said, “Now, I am not accepted.” O that these beloved ones would but know that God never did accept them in their experience he accepted them in Christ; and he never can reject them till he rejects them in Christ, which cannot be, since he cannot reject Christ. I would that they would see that their “ups” make them no higher before God, and their “downs” make them no lower— that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not really depress them in their Father’s sight; but that they stand accepted in one who never alters, in one who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always complete, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Blessed faith, that walks above experience! Joyous trust, that in the darkest nights still sings of heaven’s unclouded noon, and in the midst of blackness and vileness consciously felt, still boasts of pardon bought with blood, of righteousness complete and without flaw!
The Arminians say our being accepted before God, if I understand it aright, is also an acceptance in our graces. This is the English of their doctrine of falling away. While a man walks worthily, God accepts him; if he walks sinfully, then God accepts him no more. Those of you who like this way of being accepted, may choose it; for my part, I feel there is nothing can ever satisfy the craving of my spirit but an acceptance which lies utterly and wholly out of me, and only and entirely in Christ Jesus. Why, brethren, we should be accepted one day and non-accepted the next; nay, more, we might be accepted one minute and non-accepted the next. If it lay in anything, whatever in our walk, or in our work, we should be in the covenant and out of the covenant fifty times a day. But I suppose the Arminians have a difference between sin and sin. Surely, they must have the old Romish distinction between venial and mortal sin; for if sin puts a man out of Christ, I wonder when he is in, since we are sinning day by day. Perhaps there is a certain quantity of sin required to do it; then that is only the old Romish dogma revived; some sins, mortal on the Arminian theory, so as to put a man out of grace, and other sins venial, so that they can keep in grace and sin too. I glory in my God that I know—
“Once in Christ in Christ for ever,
Nothing from his love can sever.”
If my good works had put me into Christ, then my bad works might turn me out of him; but since he put me in when I was a sinner, vile and worthless, he will never take me out, though I am a sinner vile and worthless still.
“Unchangeable his will,
Though dark may be my frame;
His loving heart is still
Eternally the same:
My soul through many changes goes,
His love no variation knows.”
Now, Christian, I want thee this morning, to rejoice in this: thou art accepted “in the beloved." Thou lookest within, and thou sayest, “There is nothing acceptable here!” Man, look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Thy frame depresses thee, but look thou to Jesus and hear him cry, “It is finished!” Will not that death-note re-assure thee? Thy sins trouble thee; but remember they were laid upon the scape-goat’s head of old, and they no more exist, for he has cast thy sins behind his back, and thrown them into the depths of the sea.
“In thy surety thou art free! His dear blood was shed for thee!
With thy Saviour’s garments on, holy as the Holy One.”
Whilst thou hast still to bear groans, and doubts, and fears; to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, thou art still accepted in the beloved. Never accepted in thyself; never anything but a condemned sinner in thyself; never anything but accursed both of God, and of the law out of Jesus. But in Christ never accursed; in Christ never condemned; for he that believeth in him is not condemned, and he that believeth not is condemned already, because he believeth not on the Son of God. “Accepted in the beloved!” This sentence seems to me to be such a mouthful; it is a dainty all your own. Let it lie in your mouth like a wafer made with honey. “Accepted in the beloved!” How I pity you who cannot say this. How I rejoice with you who can? You have troubles, you say: what are your troubles? You are accepted in the beloved. You tell me you have to fight with flesh and blood: what of that, so long as you are accepted in the beloved? But you are so poor, you say, and you have to go home to a miserable meal to-day: but then, how rich you are, you are accepted in the beloved. The devil is tempting you: never mind, he cannot destroy you, for you are accepted in the beloved. Even the glorified souls are not more accepted than we are. They are only accepted in heaven in the beloved, and so are we. I have often thought that if the children of God could fall from grace on earth, they could certainly fall from glory in heaven. What is there that keeps them holy in heaven? Is it their own will? If so, the heavenly saints may become hellish fiends. Brethren, it is Christ that keeps them; they are in Christ, therefore they cannot fall: so are we in Christ, therefore shall we never fail nor fall away, but unto the end shall we endure.
III. Now, one minute upon the last point ; that is, DIVINE OPERATIONS. “He hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
Do not you see, beloved, the whole way through, it is all of God and not of man. It was Christ who at first put us in his heart to be accepted there. It was the Father who put us in his book according to the good pleasure of his own will to be accepted there. It was Christ that took us into his hand, according to his suretyship engagement, that we might be accepted there. It is Christ that took us into his loins, begetting us again unto a lively hope that we might be accepted there. And it is grace that has united us with the person of Christ that we may stand accepted there. You see it is all of God from first to last. Jonah learned sound divinity when he went into the whale’s belly, for he said, “Salvation is of the Lord.” And before the throne of God in heaven they always sing sound theology, for a part of the song is, “Salvation unto God and unto the Lamb.” Not of man, neither by man; not of the will of man, nor blood, nor birth; but according to the counsel of him that worketh all things according to the good pleasure of his will. Sinner! does that suit you? You that are not in Christ in your own experience, does that suit you? It ought to do so. If you had to put yourself into Christ you could not do it. Men and women, if God asked anything of you to qualify you for Christ, you could not do it. But he asks nothing of you whatever. His mercy comes to you, not when you have made yourselves alive, but while you are yet dead. It comes to you, not merely when you seek it, but it first seeks you and makes you seek it.
“No sinner can be beforehand with thee;
Thy grace is most sovereign, most rich, and most free.”
This is the good point about it, that it is most free. And this is the gospel I am sent to preach to you this morning: — “He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ hath everlasting life.” Sinner, if thou trust in Christ this morning, that act of faith shall be a point of union between thee and Christ, and thou shalt be in him vitally. Trust Christ, then, soul. “Well,” you say, “I have nothing; I have no reason to be satisfied, for I have no good works; but here evidently is a plan of salvation that does not want anything from me. I accept it.” Say in thy heart this morning, “If the Lord had asked any doings, or willings, or feelings of me in order that I might be in Christ, such a lost soul as I am, I could do none of these things; but when he tells me to believe in Christ, my soul perceives that he is able to save, and I know Christ is willing, and therefore I will trust him this day.” Soul, if thou hast done this, thou art in Christ, thou art accepted in the beloved this morning. There may be a man that came in here a drunkard or a thief, that may yet go out of this place accepted in the beloved. There may have come in here a woman of evil name; but if she believe in Christ she shall go out accepted in the beloved. She came in here in her own conscience condemned; she shall go out justified if she believe in Christ. If thou canst see Christ die and trust him, and if thou canst see Christ risen and trust him; if thou canst see him pleading and can trust him, then thou art one with him— God hath made thee accepted in the beloved. Oh, precious salvation that comes all the way to where you are. Let you be where you may, so long as you are not in torments and not in hell, this salvation comes to your door. God give thee grace to lay hold of it now, or the rather that it may lay hold of thee: and do thou say,
“I do believe, I will believe
That Jesus died for me,
That on the cross he shed his blood
From sin to set me free.”
And if thou believest in him, thy eternal life is sure, because thou art one in him, and “accepted in the beloved.”