WHEN once the human heart is put under the microscope of Scripture, and we see it with a spiritual eye, we perceive it to be so vile, that we are quite sure it would be just as impossible to expect to find good works in an unrighteous, unconverted man, as to hope to see fire burning in the midst of the ocean. The two things would be incongruous. Our good works, if we have any, spring from a real conversion; yet more, they spring also from a constant spiritual influence exercised upon us, from the time of conversion even until the hour of death. Ah, Christian, thou wouldst have no good works if thou hadst no fresh grace day by day! Thou wouldst not find the grace given thee at the first hour sufficient to produce fruit to-day. It is not like the planting of a tree in our hearts, which naturally of itself bringeth forth fruit; but the sap cometh up from the root Jesus Christ. We are not trees by ourselves, but we are branches fixed on the Living Vine.
Our good works spring from union with Christ. The more a man knows and feels himself to be one with Jesus, the more holy will he be. Why is a Christian's character like Christ's character? Only for this reason, that he is joined and united to the Lord Jesus. Why does the branch bring forth grapes? Simply because it has been engrafted into the vine, and therefore it partakes of the nature of the stem. So, Christian, the only way whereby thou canst bring forth fruit to God is by being grafted into Christ and united with him. If you think you can walk in holiness without keeping up perpetual fellowship with Christ, you have made a great mistake. If you would be holy, you must live close to Jesus. Good works spring only thence. Hence we draw the most powerful reasons against anything like trusting in works; for as works are only the gift of God, how utterly impossible it is for an unconverted man to produce any such good works in himself. And if they are God's gifts, how little of our merit can there be in them!
The Knowledge of Christ's Love.
IT is the distinguishing mark of God's people that they know the love of Christ. Without exception, all those who have passed from death unto life, whatever they may not know, have learned this. And without exception, all those who are not saved, whatever they may know besides, know nothing of this. For to know the love of Christ, to taste its sweetness, to realize it personally, experimentally, and vitally, as shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, is the privilege of the child of God alone. This is the secure enclosure into which the stranger cannot enter. This is the garden of the Lord, so well protected by walls and hedges that no wild boar of the wood can enter. Only the redeemed of the Lord shall walk here. They, and only they, may pluck the fruits, and content themselves with the delights thereof.
How important, then, becomes the question, Do I know the love of Christ? Have I felt it? Do I understand it? Is it shed abroad in my heart? Do I know that Jesus loves me? Is my heart quickened, and animated, and warmed, and attracted towards Him through the great truth that it recognizes and rejoices in, that Christ has really loved me and chosen me, and set His heart upon me?
But while it is true that every child of God knows the love of Christ, it is equally true that all the children of God do not know this love to the same extent.
There are in Christ's family, babes, young men, strong men, and fathers. And as they grow and progress in all other matters, so they most certainly make advances here. Indeed, an increase of love, a more perfect apprehension of Christ's love, is one of the best and most infallible gauges whereby we may test ourselves whether we have grown in grace or not. If we have grown in grace, it is absolutely certain that we shall have advanced in our knowledge and reciprocation of the love of Christ. Many have believed in Jesus, and know a little of His love; but, O! it is little indeed they know, in comparison with some others who have been brought into the inner chamber, and made to drink of the spiced wine of Christ's pomegranate. Some have begun to climb the mountain, and the view which lies at their feet is lovely and passing fair, but the landscape is not such as would greet their eyes if they could but stand where advanced saints are standing, and could look to the east and to the west, to the north and to the south, and see all the lengths, and breadths, and depths, and heights of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.