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THE UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST.
EPH. iii. 8.
The unsearchable riches of Christ.
WHEN I last spake to you from this place, in taking leave of you for a short season as was then intended, (and through the divine mercy as it hath proved, in bringing me here again,) in taking leave of you, I commended the whole church, with my dear fellow labourer in the ministry, and myself, to the Lord, and to your prayers. And if I remember right upon that occasion, of a farewell among other things, I ventured to make use of the words of the apostle which he addressed to the church of the Thessalonians (2nd Epistle i. 11, 12.) "Wherefore also (said the apostle) we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power; that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
And I feel confident that this hath been, and still is, most graciously accomplished by accomplished by our most blessed God, who is a prayer-awakening, a prayer-hearing, and a prayer-answering God in all ages of his church. For all that Jehovah in his trinity of persons hath done, all that He is now doing, and all that He will to all eternity do for his people, is but "the fulfilling
the good pleasure of his goodness." For indeed there could be no other predisposing cause; all must necessarily be the effects of his own heart. He saith himself, (Isaiah xlvi. 10.) "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." And I take occasion before I go farther to entreat every regenerated spiritual child of God, to seek for grace, to have such views of the divine favour always in remembrance: you should daily call to mind in the contemplation of sovereign love, that it is the Lord's good pleasure to bless the church in himself. And that the first and predisposing cause of all is "his own holy will." Our glorious God hath this in view as the leading point of action. And the conviction of this delightful truth cannot fail to bring with it lasting consolation to the soul; because we learn herefrom, that our most glorious Lord is more concerned for his own glory in the salvation of his chosen, than his chosen can be for themselves in their own happiness.
It was under these impressions, I left you a few weeks since; and am now through the good hand of my God upon me, brought back among you again. And in opening a new campaign, in the church militant here below, (how long or short soever it may be I know not, but cheerfully leave at His disposal "who doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth ;") I have only to renew the proclamation of the church's warfare, which for nearly half a century ago in this church, the Lord then enabled me to do, and under one form or other, he hath graciously held me up ever since, to preach among you "the unsearchable riches of Christ."*
And unsearchable they are, and may well be called,
* The first sermon I preached in Charles Church was, Nov. 22, 1778. And the text was, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ.” (2 Cor. v. 20.)
for they are unfathomable, boundless, bottomless, endless, infinite! An ocean that hath neither ground nor shore. For such is the glorious person of our most glorious Christ, and such his immensity in salvation, that even in a life of faith, when once the child of God is brought by regeneration into a capability of contemplating divine subjects, new beauties and glories are continually opening before him, in beholding the bright constellations in the firmament of Scripture: not unsimilar to what we are taught to believe of modern discoveries in the planetary system, which are continually unfolding. Such, but in an infinitely higher degree, are the enlarged and enlarging revelations of our most glorious Christ. And could the child of God, renewed by grace, be supposed capable of living a thousand or ten thousand years in the body, under the divine. teachings, somewhat of the person and glory of Christ would be daily opening to his ravished view, to call up his intellectual faculties to adoration, love and praise which, like the other mercies of God, "are new every morning: great is his faithfulness!" (Lament. iii. 23.) And think then, what must be the fulness of glory which will break in upon immortal souls in that day, when, as John saith, “We shall see him as he is: and know even as we are known."
Figure to yourselves, what of this kind may have taken place since we last saw each other in this church, in the souls of those, among the redeemed of the Lord, which have been taken home from the church below, to the church above. Nay, suppose the instance of any one that hath escaped the prison of the body this morning, and instead of mingling with the church on earth, hath joined the church triumphant in glory! Think how vast the change! When John in vision beheld our glorious Lord, as we read in the book of the Revelations, ch. i. 17. he
tells us, that he fell at his feet as dead!" But then it should be recollected, that John was at that time still in the body. And while the soul is cased in a tabernacle of sinful flesh and blood such must always be the effect. But when the spirit of a regenerated child of God is disembodied, and enters into the joy of the Lord, all fear is done away. "Herein (saith the same apostle) is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John iv. 17.) The state and suitability of the redeemed soul for heaven is very blessedly described in the last verse of the seventeenth Psalm: "As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness; that is, thine image." By which is meant, not so much our likeness to Christ and the image of our most glorious Lord impressed on us; though this is most certainly and blessedly included in it; but to see God in Christ; to see Him in our nature, who is "the image of the invisible God." (Colos. i. 15.) I shall be satisfied in seeing Him thus. This is the first and great cause of our being satisfied. And our likeness to Him, which will add to this felicity, this will be the effect. "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we all with open face," thus seeing Him as He is, " are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. iii. 18.) And all this is in exact agreement with our Lord's own words:" Father! I will, that they whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me," (John xvii. 24.) "Such honour have all his saints!" (Psalm cxlix. 9.)
The subject of my sermon this morning is" the unsearchable riches of Christ." It might be profitable to
observe what the preacher of this sublime contemplation, the apostle Paul, said of himself in way of contrast to his divine Master, in calling himself less than the least of all saints. That I, said Paul, that little contemptible I, should preach among the gentiles, "the unsearchable riches of Christ." But how profitable soever it might be to enlarge upon this humbleness of mind, in so great an apostle; yet I cannot spare a moment now to talk of Paul, when I have before me such a divine and glorious object and subject to dwell upon, in the person and riches of our most glorious Christ. Those five words of my text would exhaust as many millions of years to preach upon: and when both time and language had expended all their resources of description, still the riches of Christ would be found the same, undiminished, unsearchable. For whether we consider the infinite nature of his person, self-existent, eternal, underived; who is one with the Father over all, God blessed for ever; or, whether we consider the possession he hath of all divine attributes, which constitute GODHEAD; all are alike unsearchable, and as the Psalmist describes, "there is no end of his greatness." (Psalm. cxlv. 3.)
What I propose, in the farther prosecution of this subject, is in the first place, to consider the glorious person himself, of whom such things are said: for if his riches be unsearchable, what must be his person ? Then, secondly, to this will succeed some short and limited views, (and short and limited they must necessarily be) of the immensity of his riches made over to his people. And from the contemplation of both, I hope under the Lord's teaching such a spiritual apprehension will be excited,as may" comfort our hearts, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, aud