Candle of the Lord

From “Christ, the Believer’s Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption” (1750)

Does sin condemn? Christ’s righteousness delivers believers from the guilt of it. Christ is their savior, and has become a propitiation for their sins. Who therefore shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Does the law condemn? By having Christ’s righteousness imputed to them, they are dead to the law, as a covenant of works; Christ has fulfilled it for them, and in their stead. Does death threaten them? They need not fear. The sting of death is sin, the strength of sin is the law; but God has given them the victory by imputing to them the righteousness of the Lord Jesus.

And what a privilege is here! Well might the angels at the birth of Christ say to the humble shepherds, “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy,” unto you who believe in Christ, “a savior is born.” And well may angels rejoice at the conversion of poor sinners; for the Lord is their righteousness; they have peace with God through faith in Christ’s blood, and shall never enter into condemnation.

O believers! (for this discourse is intended in a special manner for you) lift up your heads; “rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” Christ is made to you, of God, righteousness, what then should you fear? You are made the righteousness of God in him; you may be called, “The Lord our righteousness.” Of what then should you be afraid? What shall separate you henceforward from the love of Christ? ‘Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, I am persuaded, 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 you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” who of God is made unto you righteousness.

This is a glorious privilege, but this is only the beginning of the happiness of believers: For, Christ is not only made to them righteousness, but sanctification. By sanctification, I do not mean a bare hypocritical attendance on outward ordinances, though rightly informed Christians will think it their duty and privilege constantly to attend on all outward ordinances. Nor do I mean by sanctification a bare outward reformation, and a few transient convictions, or a little legal sorrow; for all this an unsanctified man may have. By sanctification I mean a total renovation of the whole man: by the righteousness of Christ, believers become legally, by sanctification they are made spiritually, alive. By the one they are entitled to, by the other they are made meet for, glory. They are sanctified, therefore, throughout, in spirit, soul, and body.

Their understandings, which were dark before, now become light in the Lord; and their wills, before contrary to, now become one with the will of God; their affections are now set on things above; their memory is now filled with divine things; their natural consciences are now enlightened; their members, which were before instruments of uncleanness, and of iniquity into iniquity, are now new creatures. “Old things are passed away, all things are become new,” in their hearts.

Sin no longer has dominion over them; they are freed from the power, though not the indwelling of being, of it; they are holy both in heart and life, in all manner of conversation: they are made partakers of a divine nature, and from Jesus Christ, they receive grace; and every grace that is in Christ, is copied and transcribed into their souls; they are transformed into his likeness; he is formed within them; they dwell in him, and he in them. They are led by the Spirit, and bring forth the fruits thereof; they know that Christ is their Emmanuel, God with and in them; they are living temples of the Holy Ghost.

And therefore, being a holy habitation unto the Lord, the whole Trinity dwells and walks in them; even here, they sit together with Christ in heavenly places, and are vitally united to him, their Head, by a living faith; their redeemer, their maker, is their husband; they are flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone; they talk, they walk with him, as a man talks and walks with his friend. In short, they are one with Christ, even as Jesus Christ and the Father are one.

Thus is Christ made to believers sanctification. And O what a privilege is this, to be changed from beasts into saints, and from a devilish nature, to be made partakers of a divine nature; to be translated from the kingdom of Satan, into the kingdom of God’s dear Son! To put off the old man, which is corrupt, and to put on the new man, which is created after God, in righteousness and true holiness! O what an unspeakable blessing is this! I almost stand amazed at the contemplation thereof.

Well might the apostle exhort believers to rejoice in the Lord; indeed they have reason always to rejoice, yes, to rejoice on a dying bed. For the kingdom of God is in them; they are changed from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord. Well may this be a mystery to the natural man, for it is a mystery even to the spiritual man himself, a mystery which he cannot fathom.

Does it not often dazzle your eyes, O you children of God, to look at your own brightness, when the candle of the Lord shines out, and your redeemer lifts up the light of his blessed countenance upon your souls? Are you not astonished when you feel the love of God shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost, and God holds out the golden scepter of his mercy, and bids you ask what you will, and it shall be given you? Does not that peace of God, which keeps and rules your hearts, surpass the utmost limits of your understandings? And is not the joy you feel unspeakable? Is it not full of glory? I am persuaded it is, and in your secret communion, when the Lord’s love flows in upon your souls, you are as it were swallowed up in, or, to use the apostle’s phrase, “filled with all the fullness of God.” Are you not ready to cry out with Solomon, “And will the Lord, indeed, dwell thus with men!” How is it that we should be thus your sons and daughters, O Lord God Almighty!

George Whitefield (1714-1770) was an Anglican priest and evangelist, a leader of the first Great Awakening. As a student of Oxford, he was part of John and Charles Wesley’s Holy Club, committing himself to serious discipleship. After his ordination he became an itinerant evangelist, and is estimated to have preached 18,000 sermons to as many as 10 million people in thirty years of ministry in Britain and the American colonies.

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