"Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Christ Jesus was a man, and in referring to his relation to our race, he spoke of himself as "the Son of man." "These works that I do demonstrate that I am divine. Now I would not have you forget that I am also the Son of man."
We have Christ in two manifestations, and I wish we had more of him in a third. We have Christ in his works, and we have him in his words. We have books written on the latter. Rudolph Stier, on the Words of the Lord Jesus, is, perhaps, one of the most valuable books in a preacher's library. I have been panting and hungry a long time for a book on the Thoughts of the Lord Jesus. Really, when I look at his works, I wonder and say, "Behold!" Then, when I read his words, I say, "A man that could talk like that, of course could work like that;" and when I get into the great thoughts of Christ, then I say, "The words and works of Christ are the mere bubbles on the great ocean of life. He who thought like Christ could surely work like Christ and talk like Christ."
Christ Jesus is a great deal more to us, brother, than we have ever realized. Really, the wealth of the universe is hidden in Christ. Now I would not stand here and study Christ; I would not stand here with all the infirmities and difficulties that encompass me, with the seen things, and study the Lord Jesus, but I would go where Jesus is, and study the universe; and a man who stands where Jesus is understands things very differently from a man who stands here and studies them.
Jesus Christ is the great telescope to the Christian's eye. He not only brings the unseen things, which are afar off, down to where I may reach them, but he is also the great microscope to the Christian's eye, so that the things that are close to me I can see a thousand times better when I look through Christ.
Christ in his works and in his words, Christ in his thoughts, in the unfailing purity of his social life, his grandeur of intellectual life in the whole sum of his life, is an examplar for all men. O Jesus, thou art all in all, and from thee and through thee I may see all things in the light God see them.
"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." I believe that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. I believe that he was God. I believe that he was man. I believe we needed this God-Man. Jesus Christ is a mediator – one who works between two parties. I think it was Bishop Morris who put this in the strongest way. He said, "Jesus was the mediator, the one between the two, and Jesus was divine, and Jesus was human, and he laid the left hand of his humanity on the shoulder of man, and then, reaching up, caught the shoulder of God with the right hand of his divinity, and he brought God and man together." We needed Christ.
And I believe another thing, brother. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ not only came and lived among men, but he fared largely as other men did and do. Jesus Christ suffered and died for what he was and for what he said and for what he did. That's true. And Jesus Christ died as naturally as St. Paul died, and St. Paul died a natural death. Do you want to know what I mean by this? I mean that in that day, in the fullness of the time, when Jesus came, it was death to any man to preach righteousness and live it before the people. And Jesus came and suffered the penalty of his righteous life and his righteous words. Now, on this question, I want to say, brethren, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of men, suffered the penalty of his words and his works. It was death to the God-man. It was death to those who loved this God- man, to talk and preach as he did. Then I see Jesus on that cross as he suffers and dies; and, listen, brother, on that cross I see the divinest, grandest manifestation of God's love to man. If you want to draw out from the deepest depth all that's true in me, listen. You see Christ on that cross. I have heard men say that Jesus hung on the cross to satisfy the claims of divine justice. I have heard them say Jesus was hung on that cross to appease God's wrath against man; but I will tell you my conception of it, and this little bundle of paper, the Bible, which I hold in my hand, is with me. Jesus Christ was not there to satisfy claims of divine justice. He was not there as a target of divine wrath. No. Would you make me believe that God was angry with humanity six thousand years ago, and that the only way to keep him from killing out the whole concern was to put his only Son on the cross and sacrifice him? I do not believe God suffered his Son to be crucified because he was mad with men, but that Jesus came and died because of God's love for man. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life."
God doesn't love me because Christ died for me, but Christ died for me because of God's unspeakable love for me. Now you are getting your theology right on this question, and you can knock all the infidelity out of this country by this great New Testament doctrine. Love! "Herein is love, not that we loved Him, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." And this old idea we have, that God does not love anybody but good people, won't do. Some people get this idea in their heads, and the first thing you know they think they have a corner on the grace of God, and are trying to run a monopoly on the love of heaven.
Hear, my brethren, God loves every man in this universe. I will take this view. The sun in mid-heaven shines on everything alike. It shines on the verdant valleys, on the bold mountain peaks. It pours its vivifying rays on growing grain, fruits, and flowers, as well as on the stricken oak, or blasted tree, and sterile ground. It shines on all alike. Why? Because it is its nature to shine on everything. God's name as well as nature is love, and God loves everything that comes under the burning rays of his love. God loves all men. He loved me just as much before I was converted as he loves me now. If he had not, I never would have been converted. It is God's nature to love, and you cannot make it out that God is mad with men. O thou infinite God of love and mercy, of long suffering and goodness, show us all that thou hast never dealt with us in anger, but always in love.
God loves us, brethren, and Jesus Christ was not hung on the cross as a target of divine justice, or to placate divine anger, but as the manifestation of God's love to dying men. That's it. I hope I am orthodox, brethren! I hope I am. If I am not, I will tell you this much, I can love God more with this view of the divine atonement than I can with any other; and you must let me have my way, because I can get along better on that than on any other ground. We won't quarrel about it. You may take the other view of it if you like, or mix the two together if you please, but I love Him because he first loved me. He is a loving Savior; a loving Savior, living; loving, dying; loving, going to the grave; loving, rising; always filled with love for me.
"Now, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Jesus was emphatically a new creature in the world. There was none like him before, nor any like him since. Jesus prayed, "Father, as we are one, grant that these people may be all one with us." All are merged into one in Christ – one in purpose, one in desire, one in intention, one in love, one in purity, one in faith, one in forgiveness, one in pardon. It is a oneness in sentiment, purpose, virtue, desire, love, and purity.
You see two men walking along. You say these two men have the same purposes, the same interests, the same desires, everything the same. When you hit one, you hit both. The bar-keepers in this city are all one. If you raise your voice against one of them, they will all rise up against you. You hit one of them in denouncing their traffic, and you hit them all. Their interests are identical. I wish I could say that when you hit one Christian in this town, you hit all; but, instead of that, when you hit one, the rest all say, "I am glad it was not me." Thank God, though we cannot know like him, and cannot have power like him, one thing we can do, and that is, love like God. And that is the grandest of his attributes – love.
Now, brother, being in Christ Jesus, presupposes a longing for Christ. I said before, Jesus Christ is not a sentiment. He is a divine person, and in the divinity of his person he embraces all wisdom, justice, mercy, love, and purity. Of all these attributes, Christ is the living embodiment, and he who is in Christ the most necessarily partakes most of these divine characteristics.
The Scriptural term for this longing is "hungering and thirsting after righteousness." That is a healthful and religious state. David said: "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." Hunger of the soul is a hunger for Christ. The sense of hunger and of thirst of the body, how intense it is. Did you ever locate the sense of physical hunger? A little boy once said to his father, "Papa, I feel so hungry." "Son," said the father, "how do you feel when you are hungry?" "I feel like chewing something," said the boy. So the organs of the appetite are where to look for physical hunger. Now where do I locate the sense of spiritual hunger? It is in the heart. My heart, my soul panteth after the living God. This longing, this intense burning desire, O Christ, nothing can satisfy but thyself.
See that baby boy; how he cries and kicks and screams! His nurse endeavors to pacify him by offering him his little toys and playthings, but he says: "I don't want my toys." She offers him marbles, but he cries, "I don't want any marbles." After she has exhausted all her resources to quiet him, and he still cries and refuses to be comforted, the little fellow's mother comes in. The instant his eyes light upon her his crying ceases; he rushes up and is caught in her loving arms. He "just wanted mamma." He did not want anything else; and with her his soul was satisfied. And, brother, whenever a soul gets to the point in its childlike simplicity, that the devil, the world, and the flesh, with its cards, and dancing, and theaters, and all its other allurements cannot satisfy it, and it says, "I don't want that, I want my Savior," he is sure to come and abide with that soul.
The way to get the fullness of Christ is to empty your heart of everything that rejects Christ and his affinities. Always lean to those things that are Christ's. Let your prayer be, "Lord, help me to turn each idol out that dares to rival thee." How many can say now, "I would rather have Christ for my portion than all else besides?"
Being in Christ not only presupposes a longing for Christ, but a fleeing to Christ. O, blessed Christ, I run upon the swiftest feet of faith to meet thee. O, dear Lord, I tried until I could try no more to remain away; my soul became impatient, and I could stay no longer; show me thy way. I will rush into thine arms of waiting love. Thank God for that purpose of my soul that makes me go out in search of my Lord. I will search for him. I am so glad that I never let the grass grow up in my pathway between my Lord and me. The devil shall never come between my Savior and myself.
I saw some time ago an illustration of how the devil works among his crowd, by an old colored preacher down South. He laid three objects on his Bible, and he said: "Now, brethren, I'm a-going to show how de debbil works de Christuon. Here's de Savior, here's de Christuon, and here's de debbil. Now when de Christuon move up to Christ, den de debill he move off; de Christuon move nearer Christ, and de debbil he move furder off; den de Christuon sort o'back-slides, den de debbil move up; de Christuon gets furder and furder away from Christ, and de debbil moves up closer and closer to him, and de first thing you know, de debbil jump over him and get right between him and Christ; and when he gets over dar between you and Christ he's got you, and den he'll say, 'Now I's got you, sure.'" This is a living illustration. Never let the devil get between you and your Lord. Say to him, "Get thee behind me, Satan; you shall never come between me and my Lord."
Then running to Christ! Thank God for the privilege of going to Christ. Is there trouble anywhere? Take it to the Lord in prayer. What a Friend we have in Jesus! Thank God, brother! I have been at times in such tight places that I could not do a thing in the world but pray; and thank God that was all I needed to do. Just leave it all with the Lord. That's what we call rushing to the Lord in prayer.
O, my brother, if I wanted to divide the armies of Satan and put all perdition to flight, I would not order down a legion of angels and all the artillery of heaven; but I will tell you what I would do: I would fall on my knees in prayer to God. "And Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees." A man can fall into no harm while he is on his knees praying. Did you ever hear of a man getting drunk on his knees? Did you ever hear of a man stealing while on his knees in prayer? I will tell you, your trouble is, you have not been on your knees enough.
Ah, me! how Satan has tempted me, how the passion for drink has come on and almost overwhelmed me; but, thank God, I have found his grace sufficient to sustain me. Those people who say, I cannot help drinking; or, I cannot help doing this or that when tempted, – I know what the matter with them is: you don't do enough of this knee-work I am talking about. I hear people say, "I'm afraid to join the Church, I'm afraid I can't hold out, I'm afraid I'll swear or drink or do something wrong;" and I have said to them, "I never have been afraid of but one thing since I joined the Church, and that is, I am afraid I won't pray enough." I am omnipotent when leaning on the arm of God in prayer. If you want to whip the devil, just fall on your knees in prayer.
Being in Christ pre-supposes, again, submission to Christ. O, how we want our own way! How jealous we are of what we call our privileges! How we kick and rear if we cannot have our own way, and how we rave, and pitch, and tear if we don't get it! Why, we fall out with our preacher and abuse him like a pick-pocket if he attempts to abridge "our privileges." Ah, we are jealous of these "privileges." You touch them, and you get your foot into it. I sail into you on your dram-drinking, theater-going, card-playing, and dancing, and the town rises up in arms against me; but it is the hit dog that hollers, and you may put that down. If you go and break a drunkard's jug, he'll get mad, every time; but his wife won't. If we sail into these people who do these things I have the utmost pity and sympathy for them, and I do believe, my brethren, the poor people are so deluded and persuaded by the world, that they don't see any harm in the things they are doing. Let us get them to reading books that have sense in them – I mean religious sense. If I have got but a little sense, good Lord, let it be religious sense.
I heard a man say once, "Myself and my wife never had asquabble in our lives – never had aquarrel – only when she wanted to have her own way." Well, who isn't lovable that way? The devil himself is agreeable enough when he has everything his own way. Listen: I am sorry for Christian people who have reserved rights. Religion is like that pearl of great price, which, when found, the buyer sold all that he had and purchased. And, brother, thank God, from the day Igave up sin tothis hour, I never had a reserved right. I say, "Lord, I will doanything – everything." I have invested my all in it. All that I have is in this Book, and if itdoesn't break I am a millionaire through all eternity. That's the way to talk it.
Submission to Christ! Do as he tells you to do. You are a most humble member of your Church until your preacher says something that touches you, and off you fly, and say: "If I can't live in peace here, I'll go and join another Church." Or perhaps some good sister says, "My husband and I were talking about this the other night, and we ain't going to stand this sort of thing." Sister! God bless you; go over there, and have the best time you can while you are here.
A gentleman said to me that at a meeting of an official board of his Church, at which his wife and himself were present, rum was passed around, and everyone present, members of the board, including the pastor of the Church, except the gentleman who told me and his wife, drank of it. A preacher who will indulge in such things, not only with his members, but privately, belongs to the devil from his hat to his heels. I know when I did that way I belonged to the devil, and I don't care whether the man is a preacher or not, the test of his allegiance to Christis how he lives.
Christ says, "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." Now you say, "Mr. Jones, you ought not to be so rough on the ministers." Well, I called no names, and I would not tell my preacher that "Jones is hitting at him." It's an insult to tell him that he is being hit.
Then we say again, that being in Christ Jesus presupposes union with Christ. "I am the vine, and ye are the branches," says Christ. Did you ever go into a vineyard and examine the vines and branches? Did you ever see how closely in vital forces they were united? How the very vitality of the branch was determined by the vine? If united to Christ, he and myself are one, one in all things, in earnestness, in energy, in goodness, in mercy, in purity, in truth.
Being in Christ Jesus presupposes also all the affinities which control one's life – his likes, his looks, his thoughts, his tastes, his all. It is a religion, assimilation with the character of our Lord Jesus Christ, doing like him, thinking and being like him. Blessed Christ, give us a religion that makes us like thyself, and then we shall be Christians in the grandest sense. Our blessed Lord loved the sinners and died for them. Let us, brethren, imitate our divine Lord, and do the best we can for the sinning and erring ones around us.