Sermon 1043. Glorious Predestination
Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, March 24th, 1872, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
'For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstbornamong many brethren.''Romans 8:29.
YOU WILL HAVE NOTICED that in this chapter, Paul has been expounding a very deep inward, spiritual experience. He has writtenconcerning the spirit of bondage, and the spirit of adoption, the infirmities of the flesh, and the helpings of the spirit;the waiting for the redemption of the body, and the groanings which cannot be uttered. It was most natural, therefore, thata deep spiritual experience should bring him to a clear perception of the doctrines of grace, for suchan experience is a school in which alone those great truths are effectually learned. A lack of depth in the inner lifeaccounts for most of the doctrinal error in the church. Sound conviction of sin, deep humiliation on account of it, and asense of utter weakness and unworthiness naturally conduct the mind to the belief of the doctrines of grace, while shallownessin these matters leaves a man content with a superficial creed. Those teachings which are commonly called Calvinistic doctrinesareusually most beloved and best received by those who have had much conflict of soul, and so have learned the strength ofcorruption and the necessity of grace.
Note, also, that Paul in this chapter has been treating of the sufferings of this present time; and though by faith he speaksof them as very inconsiderable compared with the glory to be revealed, yet we know that they were not inconsiderable in hiscase. He was a man of many trials; he went from one tribulation to another for Christ's sake; he swam through many seas ofaffliction to serve the church. I do not wonder, therefore, that in his epistles he often discoursesupon the doctrines of foreknowledge, and predestination, and eternal love, because these are a rich cordial for a faintingspirit. To be cheered under many things, which otherwise would depress him, the believer may betake himself to the matchlessmysteries of the grace of God, which are wines on the lees well refined. Sustained by distinguishing grace, a man learns toglory in tribulations also; and strengthened by electing love, he defies the hatred of the world and the trials of life.Suffering is the college of orthodoxy. Many a Jonah, who now rejects the doctrines of the grace of God, only needs tobe put into the whale's belly and he will cry out with the soundest free-grace man, 'Salvation is of the Lord.' Prosperousprofessors, who do no business amid David's billows and waterspouts, may set small store by the blessed anchorage of eternalpurpose and everlasting love but those who are 'tossed with tempest, and not comforted, are of another mind.' Let these fewsentencessuffice for a preface. I utter them not in the spirit of controversy, but the reverse.
Our text begins by the expression, 'Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate,' and many senses have been given to thisword 'foreknow' though in this case one commends itself beyond every other. Some have thought that it simply, means that Godpredestinated men whose future history ho foreknow. The text before us cannot be so understood, because the Lord foreknowsthe history of every man, and angel, and devil. So far as mere prescience goes, every man is foreknown,and yet no one will assert that all men are predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus. But, it is furtherasserted that the Lord foreknow who would exercise repentance, who would believe in Jesus, and who would persevere in a consistentlife to the end. This is readily granted, but a reader must wear very powerful magnifying spectacles before he will be ableto discover that sense in the text. Upon looking carefully at my Bible again I do not perceive such a statement. Whereare those words which you have added, 'Whom he did foreknow to repent, to believe, and to persevere in grace?' I do notfind them either in the English version or in the Greek original. If I could so read them the passage would certainly he veryeasy, and would very greatly alter my doctrinal views; but, as I do not find those words there, begging your pardon, I donot believe in them. However wise and advisable a human interpolation may be, it has no authority with us; we bow to holyScripture, but not to glosses which theologians may choose to put upon it. No hint is given in the text of foreseen virtueany more than of foreseen sin, and, therefore, we are driven to find another meaning for the word. We find that the word 'know'is frequently used in Scripture, not only for knowledge, but also for favor, love, and complacency. Our Lord Jesus Christwill say, in the judgment, concerning certain persons, 'I never knew you,' yet in a sense he knew them, for he knows everyman; he knows the wicked as well as the righteous; but there the meaning is, 'I never knew you in such a respect as tofeel any complacency in you or any favor towards you.' See also John 10:14-15, and 2 Timothy 2:19. In Romans 11:2, we read, 'God hath not cast away his people which he foreknow,' where the sense evidently has the idea of fore-love; andit is so to be understood here. Those whom the Lord looked upon with favor as he foresaw them, he has predestinated to heconformed to the imageof his Son. They are, as Paul puts it in his letter to the Ephesians, 'predestinated according to the purpose of him whoworketh all things after the counsel of his will.'
I am anxious not to tarry over controverted matters, but to reach the subject of my sermon this morning. Here we have in thetext conformity to Christ spoken of as the aim of predestination; we have, secondly, predestination as the impelling force by which this conformity is to be achieved; and we have, thirdly, the firstborn himself set before us as the ultimate end of the predestinations and of the conformity.''that HE might be the first-born amongmany brethren.'
I. Mark then, with care, that OUR CONFORMITY TO CHRIST IS THE SACRED OBJECT OF PREDESTINATION. Into predestination itselfI will not now pry. The deeper things shall be left with God. I think it was Bishop Hall who once said, 'I thank God I amnot of his counsels, but I am of his court.' If I cannot understand I will not question, for I am not his counsellor, butI will adore and obey, for I am his servant. Now, to-day, seeing we are here taught the object of hispredestination, it will be our business to labor after it, to bless God that he has set such an object before him, andpray that we may be partakers in it. Here stands the case. Man was originally made in the image of God, but by sin he hasdefaced that image, and now we who are born into this world are fashioned, not in the heavenly image of God, but in the earthyimage of the fallen Adam. 'We have borne,' says the Apostle, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, 'the image of the earthy.'The Lord in boundless grace has resolved that a company whom no man can number, called here 'many brethren,' shall berestored to his image, in the particular form in which his Eternal Son displays it. To this end Jesus Christ came into theworld and bore our image, that we, through his grace, might bear his image. He became a partaker of our infirmities and sicknessesthat we might be partakers of the divine nature in all its excellence and purity. Now, therefore, the one thing to which theLord is working us through his Spirit, both by providence and by grace, is the likeness of the Lord from heaven. He isevermore transforming the chosen, removing that defilement of sin, and moulding them after the perfect model of his Son, JesusChrist, the second Adam, who is the firstborn amongst the 'many brethren.'
Now, observe, that this conformity to Christ lies in several things. First, we are to be conformed to him as to our nature. What was the nature of Christ, then, as divine? We must not pry into it, but we know that he was verily of the nature ofGod. 'Begotten not made,' says the Athanasian Creed, and it says truly too, 'being of one substance with the Father.' Now,we also, though we at our conversion are new creatures, are also said to be 'begotten againinto a lively hope.' To be begotten is something more than to be made: this is a more personal work of God; and that whichis begotten is in closer affinity to himself than that which is only created. As Christ was, as the only-begotten of the Father,far above mere creatures; so also to be begotten of God, in our case, means far more than even the first and perfect creationcould imply. As to his humanity our blessed Lord, when he came into this world, underwent a birth which was a remarkabletype of our second birth. He was born into this world in a very humble place, amidst the oxen, and in the manger; butyet he lacked not the songs of angels, and the adoration of the heavenly hosts. Even so we also were born of the Spirit withouthuman observation; men of this world saw no glory whatsoever in our regeneration, for it was not performed by mystic rites,or with sacerdotal pomp. The Spirit of God found us in our low estate, and quickened us without outward display. Yet at thatselfsame moment, where human eyes saw nothing seraphic eyes beheld marvels of grace, and angels in heaven rejoiced overone sinner that repented, singing once again 'glory to God in the highest.' When Lord was born a few choice spirits welcomedhis birth; an Anna and a Simeon were ready to take the new-born child into their arms and bless God for him: and even so therewere some that hailed our new birth with much thanksgiving; friends and well-wishers who had watched for our salvation wereglad when they beheld in us the true heavenly life, and gladly did the take us up into the arms of Christian nurture.Perhaps, also, there was one who had travailed in birth till Christ was formed in us the hope of glory, and how happy wasthat spirit to see us born unto God; how did our spiritual parent ponder each gracious word which we uttered, and thank Godfor the good signs of grace which could be found in our conversation. Then, too, a worse than Herod sought to kill us. Satanwas eagerthat the new-born child of grace should be put to death, and, therefore, sent forth fierce temptations to slay us; butthe Lord found a shelter for our infant spiritual life, and preserved the young child alive. In us the living and incorruptibleseed abode and grew. As many of you as have been born again have been conformed to the image of Christ in the matter of hisbirth, and you are now partakers of his nature. It is not possible for us to be divine, yet it is written that we are made'partakers of the divine nature.' We cannot be precisely as God is, yet as we have borne the image of the earthy we shallalso bear the image of the heavenly, whatever that image may be. The new birth as surely stands us with the image of Christas our first birth impressed us with a resemblance to the fathers of our flesh. Our first birth gave us humanity; our secondbirth allies us with Deity. As we were conceived in sin at the first, and shapen in iniquity, even so in regeneration ournewman is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created us. He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified areall of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.
Furthermore, this conformity to Christ lies in relationship as well as in nature. Our Lord is the Son of the Highest,'the Son of God; and truly, beloved, now are we the sons of God,and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall seehim as he is. Jehovah has declared that he will be a father unto us, and that we shall be his sons and his daughters. As surelyas Jesus is a son, so surely are we,for the same Spirit bears witness to both, as it is written 'And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit ofhis Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.' When Jesus came into the world as God's Son, he was not left without attestingproofs. His first public appearance, when he came to the waters of baptism, was signalled by a voice out of the excellentglory, which said, 'this is my beloved Son,' and the descending Spirit, like a dove, rested upon him. So is it also with us.Thevoice of God in the word has testified to us our Heavenly Father's dove; and the Holy Spirit has borne witness with ourspirits that we are the children of God. When first we dared to come forward and say 'we are on the Lord's side,' some ofus had sacred tokens of sonship which have never been forgotten by us, and oftentimes since then we have received renewedseals of our adoption from the Great Father of our spirits. 'He that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself,' sothat he canwith his brethren say plainly 'we know that we have passed from death unto life.' God has given us full assurance, andinfallible testimony, and in all this we rejoice. We have believed in Jesus, and it is written, 'as many as received him,to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name.'
Our Lord was declared to be the Son of God by the actions which he performed, both towards God and towards man. As a Son heserved his Father, you could see the nature of God in him, in his deep sympathy with God and in his exact imitation of God.Whatever God would have done under the circumstances, that Jesus did. You perceive at once, by his deeds, that his naturewas godlike. His works bore witness of him. It was evermore most clear that he acted towards God as a sontowards a father. Now in proportion as God's determination has been carried out in us, we also act to God as childrentowards a loving father, and whereas the children of darkness speak of their own, and like their father, who is a liar, speakthe lie; and like their father, who is a murderer, act out wrath and bitterness, even so the children of God speak the truth,for God is true, and they are full of love, for God is love; and their life is light, for their God is light. They feel thattheymust act, under the circumstances in which they are placed, as they would suppose Jesus would have acted, who is the Sonof the ever blessed Father. Moreover, Christ wrought miracles of mercy towards men, which proved him to be the Son of God.It is true we can work no miracles, yet can we do works which mark God's children. We cannot break the bread and multiplyit, we can, however, generously distribute what we have, and thus in feeding the hungry we shall prove ourselves childrenof ourFather who is in heaven; we cannot heal the diseased with our touch, still we can care for the sick, and so in love towardsthe suffering we can prove ourselves to be children of the tender and ever-pitiful God. But our Lord has told us that greaterworks than his own shall we do, because he is gone to his Father; and these greater works we do. We can work spiritual miracles.Today, can we not stand at the grave of the dead sinner, and say, 'Lazarus, come forth?' And has not God often made thedead to rise at our word, by the power of his Spirit! Today, also, we can preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, casting itabout us as it were as our garment, and he that toucheth the hem thereof shall he not also be made whole to-day, even as whenJesus was among men? This day, if we do not break fish and barley loaves, we bring you better food; this day, if we cannotgive to men opened eyes and unstopped ears, yet in the teaching of the gospel of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, the mentaleyeis cleansed, and the soul's ear also is purged; so that in every child of God, in proportion as he labors in the powerof the Spirit for Christ, the works which he does bear witness of him that he is the son of God. His zeal in doing them provesthat he has the spirit of a child of God, and the result of those works proves that God works in him as he will never do inany but his own children. Thus, in relationship, as well as in nature, we are conformed to the image of Christ.
Thirdly, we are to be conformed to the image of Christ in our experience. This is the part of the subject from which our craven spirit often shrinks, but if we were wise it would not be so. Whatwas the experience of Christ in this world? for that ours will be. We may sum it up as referring to God, to men, to the devil,and to all evil.
His experience with regard to God, what was that? 'Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.'Though without sin, he was not without suffering. The firstborn of the divine family was more sorely chastened than any otherof the household; he was smitten of God and afflicted till, as the climax of all, he cried Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. Oh, the bitterness of that cry''My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' It was thefather bruising the firstborn son; and, if you and I, brethren, are to be conformed to the image of the firstborn, thoughwe may expect from God much fatherly love, we may also reckon that it will show itself in parental discipline. If ye be withoutchastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons; but, if ye be true sons, like to the firstborn,the rod will make you smart, and sometimes you will have to say, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' 'For whom theLord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you aswith sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?' If we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of hisson, the Lord has predestinated us to much tribulation, and through it shall we inherit the kingdom.
Next survey our dear covenant Head in his experience in relation to men. 'He came unto his own, and his own received him not.''He was despised and rejected of men.' He said, 'Reproach hath broken mine heart, and I am full of heaviness.' Now, brethren,in the very proportion in which we are conformed to the image of Christ we shall have to 'go forth unto him without the camp,bearing his reproach:' for the disciple, if he be a true disciple, is not above his Master, northe servant above his Lord. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they call them of hishousehold by some yet more opprobrious title, if they can invent it. The saints of God must not expect crowns where Christfound a cross; they must not reckon to ride in triumph through those streets which saw the Savior hurried to a malefactor'sdeath. We must suffer with him if we would be glorified with him. Fellowship in his sufferings is needful to communion withhisglory.
Then, consider our Lord's experience with regard to the prince of the power of the air. Satan was no friend to Christ, butfinding him in the desert he came to him with this accursed 'if'''If thou be the Son of God.' With that attack upon his Sonshipthe fiend commenced the battle. 'If thou be the Son of God.' You know how thrice he assailed him with those temptations whichare most likely to be attractive to poor humanity, but Jesus overcame them all. The arch enemy,the old dragon, was always nibbling at the heel of our great Michael, who has for ever crushed his head. We are predestinatedto be conformed to Christ in that respect; the serpent's subtlety and cruelty will assail us also. A tempted head involvestempted members. Satan desires to have us and to sift us as wheat. He attacked the Shepherd, and he will never cease to worrythe sheep. Inasmuch as we are of the seed of the woman, there must be enmity between us and the seed of the serpent.
And, as to all evil, our Lord's entire life was one perpetual battle. He was fighting evil in the high places and evil inthe low, evil among the priests and evil among the people, evil in a religious dress, in Pharisaism, and evil in the dressof philosophy amongst the Sadducees; he fought it everywhere: he was the foe of everything that was wrong, false, selfish,unholy or impure. And you and I must be conformed to Christ in this respect. We are to be holy, harmless,undefiled and separate from sinners. Ye are of God, little children, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one. We arechosen out of the world to be a peculiar people, adversaries to all evil, never sheathing our sword till we enter into ourrest. We are to be like him then in nature, in relation, in experience.
Fourthly. We are to be conformed to Christ Jesus as to character. Time and ability alike fail us to speak of this. I only pray that God's Spirit may make our lives to speak of it. He wasconsecrated to God; so are we to be. The zeal of God's house ate him up; so should it consume us also. He went about his Father'sbusiness; so should we ever be occupied. Towards man he was all love; it becomes us to be the same. He was gentle and kindand tender; as he was, so arewe to be in this world. He did not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; neither should we. Yet was hestern in the denunciation of all evil; so should we be. Purity, holiness, unselfishness, all the virtues, should glow in usas they shone in him. Ah, and blessed be God they will too, by the work of the Spirit. Our text speaks not only of what weought to be, but of what we shall be, for we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son. My brethren, whata gloriousmodel! Behold it, wonder at it, and bless God for it. You are not to be conformed to the mightiest of the apostles, youwill one day be purer than were Paul or John while here below; you are not to be conformed to the sublimest of the prophets,you shall be like the prophets' Master; you are not to be content with your own conception of that which is beautiful andlovely, but God's perfect conception incarnated in his own Son is that to which you shall certainly be brought by the predestinationof God.
Just a sentence upon another point. We are to be conformed to the image of his Son, fifthly, as to our inheritance for he is heir of all things, and what less are we heirs of, since all things are ours? He is heir of this world. 'Thou madesthim to have dominion over all the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, yea, andthe fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.' Wesee not yet all things put under man, but we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering ofdeath crowned with glory and honor; and in the person of Christ Jesus this day we, the men who are made in his image, havedominion over all things, being all made kings and priests unto God, and in Christ Jesus ordained to reign with him foreverand ever. 'If children then heirs,' says the apostle; therefore, whatever Christ has we have, and though we may be very poorandunknown, yet whatever belongs to Christ to us. 'The good of all the land of Egypt is yours,' said Joseph to his brethren,and Jesus saith this to all his people, 'All are yours, for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.'
I must close this point'time goes much too swiftly this morning when descanting upon this delightful theme'by observing thatwe are to be conformed to Christ in his glory. We will think of our bodies, for that is a point surrounded with consolation, since he shall change our vile body and makeit like unto his glorious body. We are like Adam now in weakness and pain, and we shall soon be like him in death, returningto the ground whence we were taken; but weshall rise again to a better life, and then shall we wear in glory and incorruption the image of the second Adam, theLord from heaven. Conceive the beauties of the risen Redeemer. Let your faith and your imagination work together to portraythe unutterable glories of Immanuel, God with us, as he sits at the right hand of the Father. Such and so bright shall ourglories be in the day of the redemption of the body. We shall behold his glory, we shall be with him where he is, and we shallbeourselves glorious in his glory. Is he exalted? you also shall be lifted up. Is he a King? you shall not be uncrowned.Is he a victor? you also shall bear a palm. Is he full of joy and rejoicing? so also shall your soul be filled to the brimwith delights. Where he is every saint shall be ere long.
Thus much upon the sacred end of predestination.
II. Now, observe that PREDESTINATION IS THE IMPELLING FORCE TOWARDS THIS CONFORMITY. This truth divides itself thus: it isthe will of God that conforms us to Christ's image rather than our own will. It is our will now, but it was God's will when it wasnot our will, and it only became according to our will when we were converted, because God's grace had made us willing inthe day of its power. We cannot be made like Christ unwillingly; a consenting will isessential to the likeness of Christ; unwilling obedience would be disobedience. Naturally we never will towards good withoutGod, but God works in us to will and to do. God treats us as men responsible and intelligent, and not as stone or metal; hemade us free agents, and he treats us as such. We are willing now to be conformed to the image of Jesus, yea, we are morethan willing, we are anxious and desirous for it; but still the main and first motive power lay not in our will, but in hiswill, and to-day the immutable force which is best to be depended upon does not lie in our fickle, feeble will, but inthe unchanging and omnipotent will of God. The force that is conforming us to Christ is the will of God in predestination.
And so, too, it is rather God's work than our work. We are to work with God in the matter of our becoming like to Christ. We are not to be passive like wood ormarble; we are to be prayerful, watchful, fervent, diligent, obedient, earnest, and believing, but still the work is God's.Sanctification is the Lord's work in us. 'Thou hast wrought all our works in us.' From the first, and now, and to the last,'he that hath wrought us to the selfsame thing is God, whoalso hath given to us the earnest of the Spirit.' There is no holiness in us of our own creating; no good thing in usof our own fashioning. 'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.' 'Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy namebe praise.' Still, true as it is that we are free agents, yet the Lord is the potter and we are the clay upon the wheel, andit is his work, and not ours, that makes us like to Christ. It there be a touch of our finger anywhere upon the vessel, itmars anddoes not beautify. It is only where God's hand has been that the vessel begins to assume the form of the model.
Therefore, beloved, all the glory must be unto God and not to us. It is a great honor to any man to be like Christ; God does not intend that his children shouldhave no honor, for he puts honor upon his own people; but, still, the true glory lies with him, since he has made us and notwe ourselves. Cannot we say this morning with thankful hearts, 'By the grace of God I am what I am?' and do we not feel thatwe shall lay all our honors, whatever they may be, at hisdear feet, who hath according to his abundant mercy predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son?
III. Now I must come to the third point, upon which with brevity. It sweetly appears that the ULTIMATE END OF ALL THIS ISCHRIST. 'Predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, that HE,'''that HE''God is always driving at something forhim, his well-beloved Son. He aims at his own glory in the glory of his dear Son; if he blesses us the text of last Sabbathis still true, 'not for your sakes do I this;' it is for the sake of a higher, a better one than we are,it is 'that he might be the first-born.' Now, if I understand the passage before us, it means this. First, God predestinates us to be likeJesus that his dear Son might be the first of a new order of beings, elevated above all other creatures, and nearer to Godthan any other existences. He was Lord of angels, seraphim and cherubim obeyed his behests; but the Son desired to be at thehead of a race of beings more nearly allied to him than any existing spirits. There was no kinshipbetween the Lord Jesus and angels, for to which of the angels had the Father said at any time, 'Thou art my Son?' Theyare by nature servants, and he is the Son, this is a wide distinction. The Eternal Son desired association with beings whoshould be sons as he was, towards whom he could stand in a close relationship as being like to them in nature and Sonship,and the Father therefore ordained that a seed whom he has chosen should be conformed to the image of the Son, that his Sonmight headup and be chief among an order of beings more nearly akin to God than any other. The serpent said to Eve, 'God doth knowthat ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.' That lie had in it a residuum of truth, for by sovereign grace we have becomesuch. There were no obedient creatures in the world of that sort, knowing good and evil, in the days of Eden's glory. Theangels in heaven had known good, and only good, and preserved by grace had not fallen; the evil spirit had fallen, and heknewevil, but he had forgotten good, and was incapable of ever choosing it again; he is now for ever banished from hope ofrestoration. But here are we who know both good and evil; we understand the one, and the other too, and now there is begottenin us a nature which loves holiness and cannot sin, because it is born of God; we are left free agents, yea, we are freerthan ever we were, and yet in this life, and in the life to come, our path is like that of the just which shineth more andmore untothe perfect day. Angels know not evil; have never had to battle with evil known and felt within; they have not tried thepaths of sinful pleasure, and through grace been turned from them, so as with full purpose of heart to cleave to holinessfor ever. Jesus now heads a race assailed but victorious; sorely tempted but enabled to overcome. Joyfully and cheerfullyfor ever shall it be our delight to do the Father's will. For ever with Christ at our head he shall be the nearest to theeternalthrone; the most attached of servants, because also sons; the most firmly adhesive to good, because we once knew the bitternessof evil. Even as Christ had to drink the cup of suffering, for sin, we also have sipped of it. We have known horror causedby guilt, and, therefore, for the future shall be throughout eternity a nobler race, freer to serve, and serving God aftera nobler fashion than any other creatures in the universe. I take it that it is the meaning of the text, that the Lord wouldhave Christ to be the first of a nobler order of beings.
But, secondly, the object of grace is that there may be some in heaven with whom Christ can hold brotherly converse. Notethe expression, 'Many brethren''not that he might be the firstborn among many, but among 'many brethren,' who should be likehimself. Our blessed Lord delights in fellowship; such is the greatness of his heart that he would not be alone in his glory,but would have associates in his happiness. Now, I speak with bated breath. God can do all things, butI see not any way by which he could give to his only-begotten Son beings that should be akin to himself, except throughthe processes which we discover in the economy of grace. Here are beings that know evil, and know also good, beings placedunder infinite obligations by bonds of love and gratitude to choose for ever the good, beings with a nature so renewed thatthey always must be holy beings; and these beings can commune with the incarnate God upon spurring as angels cannot, uponthepenalty of guilt as angels cannot; upon heart-throes, conflicts, reproaches, and brokenness of spirit as angels cannot:and to them the Lord Jesus can reveal the glory of holiness, the bliss of conquering sin, and the sweetness of benevolenceas only they can comprehend them. Renewed men are made fit companions for the Son of God. He shall feast all the more joyouslybecause they shall eat bread with him in his kingdom. He shall be joyful when he declares the Lord's name unto his brethren.Heshall joy in their joy, and be glad in their gladness.
No doubt, however, the text means that these will for ever love and honor the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The children lookup to the firstborn. In the East the firstborn is the lord and king of the household. We love Jesus now, and esteem him ourhead and chief. How will we, when we once get to heaven, love and adore him as our dear elder brother with whom we shall beon terms of the closest familiarity and most reverent obedience. How joyfully will we serve him, howrapturously adore him. Shall we not want to have our voices made more loud till they become as thunders, or like manywaters, or surely we shall not be able to praise him as we would? If there be work to do for him in future ages we will bethe first to volunteer for service; if there be battles to be fought in times to come with other rebellious races, if therebe wanted servants to fly over the vast realms of the infinite to carry Jehovah's messages, who shall fly so swiftly as weshall, whenonce we feel that in his courts we shall dwell not as mere servants, but as members of the royal family, partakers ofthe divine nature, nearest to God himself. What bliss to know that he who is 'very God of very God,' and sits on the eternalthrone, is also of the same nature with ourselves, our kinsman, who is not ashamed even amidst the royalties of glory to callus brethren. O brethren, what honors are ours! What a heritage lies before us! Who among us would change with Gabriel? Weshallhave no need to envy angels, for what are they but ministering spirits, servants in our Father's halls; but we are sons,and sons of no inferior order, no sons of a secondary rank like Abraham's children born of Keturah, or like the son of thebondwoman, but we are the Isaacs of God, born according to the promise, heirs of all that he hath, a seed beloved of the Lordfor ever. Oh, what joy ought to fill our spirits this morning, at the prospect which this text reveals, and which predestinationsecures!
Perhaps our fullest thought upon the text is this. God was so well pleased with his Son, and saw such beauties in him, thathe determined to multiply his image. 'My beloved,' said he, 'thou shalt be the model by which I will fashion my noblest creature,I will for thy sake make men able to converse with thee, and bound to thee by bands of love, who shall be next akin to myself,and in all things like to thee.' Behold from heaven's mint golden pieces of inestimable valueare sent forth, and each one bears the image and superscription of the Son of God. The face of Jesus is more lovely toGod than all the worlds, his eyes are brighter than the stars, his voice is sweeter than bliss; therefore doth the Fatherwill to have his Son's beauty reflected in ten thousand mirrors in saints made like to him, and his praises chanted by myriadsof voices of those who love him, because his blood has saved them. The Father knew how happy his Son would be to associatehischosen with himself, for of old his delights were with the sons of men. As a shepherd loves his sheep, as a king loveshis subjects, so Jesus loves to have his people around him; but deeper yet is the mystery, as it is not good for a man tobe alone, and as for this cause doth a man leave his father and mother and is joined unto his wife, and they twain are oneflesh, even so is it with Christ and his church. He was made like to her for her salvation, and now she is made like to himfor hishonor. In what way could the Father put greater honor on his Son than by forming a race like to himself, who shall bethe many brethren among whom he is the well-beloved firstborn?
Now, brethren, this word I say and send you home. Keep your model before you. You see what you are to come to, therefore,set Christ before your eyes always. You see what you are predestinated to be: aim at it, aim at it every day. God worketh,and he worketh in you not to sleep, but to will and to do according to his own good pleasure. Brethren, grieve at your failures;when you see anything in yourselves that is not Christlike mourn over it, for it must be put away, itis so much dross that must be consumed; you cannot keep it, for God's predestination will not let you retain anythingabout you which is not according to the image of Christ. Cry mightily to the Holy Spirit to continue his sanctifying workupon you; beseech him not to be grieved and vexed, and, therefore, in any measure to stay his hand. Cry, 'Lord, melt me, pourme out like wax, and set thy seal upon me until the image of Christ be clearly there.' Above all, commune much with Christ.Communionis the fountain of conformity. Live with Christ and you will soon grow like Christ. They said of Achilles, the greatestof the Grecian heroes, that when he was a child they fed him upon lion's marrow, and so made him brave; feed upon Christ andbe Christlike. They record on the other hand of blood-thirsty Nero, that he became so because he was suckled by a woman ofa ferocious, barbaric nature. If we drink in our nutriment from the world, we shall be worldly; but, if we live upon Christanddwell in him, our conformity with him shall be readily accomplished, and we shall be recognized as brethren of that blessedfamily of which Jesus Christ is the firstborn. How I wish every one here had a share in the text: I mourn that some have not,for he that believeth not on the Son hath not life, and therefore cannot have conformity to a living Christ. God grant toyou all to be believers in Christ, now and for ever. Amen and amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON'Romans 8:16-39; 1 Corinthians 15:39-58.
'THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL.' Edited by C. H. SPURGEON.
Contents for April, 1872.
Advice Gratis. By C. H. Spurgeon.
The Story of an Eventful Life.
The Gospel in France.
Recollections of the Rev. Rowland Hill. By an Old Member of Surrey Chapel.
Remarks on Beecher's Life of Christ. By Vernon J. Charlesworth.
Cromwell's Puritanism. By E. Leach.
A New Interpretation of Pilgrim's Progress. By G. Rogers (Continued.)
Parental Duties. By Edward Dennett.
The Sinners of Mullion.
Report of Visitor from the Sunday School Union (Lambeth Auxiliary).
Pastors' College Account.
Orphanage for Girls.
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