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a Discourse, Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sanday Morning, Jaly 9, 1848
BY THE REV. JOSEPH IRONS.
“ Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but His that
sent me."-John vii. 16. Would to God that every public preacher, professing to be a preacher of the gospel, could make this assertion, which their Divine Master has made. No man can open his mouth to attempt to instruct others in Christianity without offering a direct insult to God and man, unless he can in his limited sense make the declaration, “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me." But these are the words of Him who spake as never man spake, and display, in the most striking colours, the deep humility to which He bowed. There is something like a self-contradiction in the statement at the first glance, because the Redeemer says, “My doctrine,” and then says, “not mine." But both these senses are true, and we shall have to look a little into them this morning, in order to see how far they are correct, both with regard to Him and all His sent servants.
With regard to Himself, the doctrine was His essentially, as God from everlasting; but, as regards His manhood, it was not during the few days He tabernacled upon the earth, and the few years He ministered. As regards His humiliation, it was not His as man in a subordinate sense, but His by reception, and as dear to His heart, having been His from everlasting in the sacred purposes of His infinite love. So also may His sent servants, without any exception, be able to say, by His grace, “My doctrine"-"my doctrine," and yet “not mine, by invention, “not mine," by any new discovery, “not mine," as ori
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ginating with the creature; "my doctrine,” because revealed to my
‘My doc trine is not mine :"—He might with safety add, “Not mine only, but His that sent me.'
It is my intention, this morning, first of all to inquire, what was the essential doctrine of Christ, for that is of vast importance as our standard of orthodoxy. Then we shall glance at the antiquity and authority of it: He traces it up to the Father. And then, in the last place, the triumphs of it. God grant that we may realize some of these triumphs amongst us to-day.
1.- First of all, let us pay a little minute attention to the inquirywhat was the essential doctrine of Christ. Because, in the days in which we live there are so many new inventions, and so many pretenders to this, that, and the other authority for them, that it becomes us well to investigate and examine whether the doctrines we receive, and which may, in a subordinate sense, be called our doctrines, are really those of Jesus. And if you examine the history of His three years' ministry on the earth-if you read attentively all that He spoke, and if you notice all that He did, you will come to the conclusion, I think, that three things constituted at least an epitome of the doctrine of Christ. The first was, the honour of the Deity; it lay near His heart. The second was, the interest of His Church, for which errand He came into the world. And the third was, the substitution of His own person to effect both. Just a word or two on each of these three particulars.
The doctrine of Christ, first of all, held forth the honour of all the persons of the Deity to such an extent, that when He closes up His ministry, He says, “I have glorified thee on the earth ;" it was His very declaration ;-to such an extent, that the law of God was within His heart, hidden there, within His own bowels, and so dear to Him that He vowed that not a jot or tittle of it should fall to the ground or fail—all must be fulfilled. And even the cup of vengeance He must drink He saw was so essential to the honouring of Divine justice; He
says, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” The powers of darkness had rebelled in heaven and on earth against the Father's honour; and so tenacious was He of His honour, that having " spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them, openly triumphing over them in it." In fact, the sacred errand which the prophet Zechariah was commissioned to set forth of His coming, was followed out closely by him when he says, “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, After the glory hath He sent me unto the nations;' a direct prophecying of Christ. The glory of Jehovah had been
warred against, the glory of His moral government had been rebelled against, the glory of His absolute sovereignty had been defied, the glory of His almighty power had been continually insulted by His fallen creatures. “ After the glory hath He sent me unto the natious"-sent after it, to restore it; sent after it, to bring back that praise and glory due to the name and the essential perfections and attributes of the Deity. It was His errand upon the earth that all the persons of the Deity should be equally honoured, that the Father should be glorified in the absolute sovereignty of His predestinatinating enactments : that the Son should be glorified equally with the Father, and equally exalted. The Holy Spirit put an honour on His ministry when He descended in a dove-like form, anointing Him without measure; and the voice of the Father exclaimed, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And while this bonour is put on Christ by the Father, Christ failed not to speak of the honour put on the Holy Ghost, as the Teacher of all things, the Sanctifier of all the family of God, the indwelling Power, making all His saints His, and consecrating them to His glory to dwell with Him for ever; "for," says Jesus, " He shall abide with you for ever."
This was the tendency of His doctrine, that all the attributes of the Deity should be glorified; hence the beautiful order, the grand economy of salvation and redemption. This was so arranged and ordered, so effected and carried out, that the grand display of mercy and love to poor ruined sinners should not violate one of the perfections of the Deity—that the justice of God should be wholly satisfied on behalf :f every sinner saved—that the holiness of God should remain unsullied, --that unholy, wicked, depraved sinners should be washed thoroughly from their iniquities, and cleansed from their sins—that the truth of God should remain inviolate ; although it is said He will by no means clear the guilty: but then, said our glorious Redeemer, “I will bear the guilt," and the guilty are then no longer guilty; for the guilt is removed from them, and transferred to the substitute. So the truth of God remains unsullied. Yea, all the attributes, all the perfections, all the personalities of the Deity are equally honoured and glorified in the great work of the Redeemer, and in the doctrine that He preached.
Now this is what I want among the preachers of the present day, if God would but turn their hearts to it—that with all their zeal for what they term conversion, with all their zeal and concern for any party Dotions, they should just keep this one point in view, “ Will the doctrine I am delivering honour all the persons of the Deity alike?” That is the fair standard of orthodoxy; and I beg of you to bring every; thing you hear and read to that test; for if all will not bring equal honour to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, you may be sure it is of the devil, and not of God—that it is not Christ's doctrine. Now, when I speak of the pardon, and justification, and acceptance of the poor, ruined, undone children of Adam, I speak of them in such wise that the Father must be honoured in His sovereign choice, in His electing love, in His predestinating adoption of that poor worm into His family; the Son must be honoured in His obedience and suffering, His taking into union with Himself the poor sinner's soul to be saved, and the payment of his debts, cancelling all demands, and bringing in a perfect righteousness for him to all eternity; and the Holy Ghost must be equally honoured, in giving all efficiency unto Him, and pointing
out the fact, that no sinner upon earth will accept or receive, or seek to enjoy, or be willing to obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with 'eternal glory, until the Holy Ghost puts that willingness into his heart, and brings him to Jesus' feet. So that when I speak of the salvation of the ruined sinner, I speak so as to honour all the persons of the Deity alike.
If I made any hesitating statement, implying any uncertainty or contingency in the grand matter of a sinner's coming to Jesus Christ, all the persons of the Deity would be at once dishonoured, and consequently I should preach a doctrine the very reverse of the doctrine of Christ; for if there fails one of the whole family of God getting to heaven, then the predestinating love of God is forfeited, then the efficacy of the blood of Christ is insufficient, then the work of the Holy Spirit has failed; and the sinner by his sin and rebellion, has conquered the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to damn himself. But God will not have it so.' He is an Almighty God, and our Almighty Saviour. God the Father orders and purposes. The Son fails not in the satisfaction He has given. The Spirit withholds not the power that must carry on and complete the work He has once begun in the poor sinner's heart. Away, then, with your Popish doctrine of contingencies; it is an offence to one's common sense, and much more so to one's genuine Christianity.
Moreover, the doctrine of Christ included the interest of His Church; and hence, when He speaks of laying down His life, He says, “It is for my sheep;" hence we find, that when He is engaged in prayer, He positively distinguishes them, and says, “I pray not for the world, but for those whom Thou hast given me out of the world.” The interests of His Church were dear to His heart. And still further, we discover that He says expressly to the world around, "Ye believe not, because ye are not my sheep,” thus marking the distinction in as conspicuous a manner as possible.
Well, then, to deliver the doctrine of Christ, I must be intent upon the interests of the Church; and you will bear with me while I explain that by “the Church," I do not mean any constituted body of human invention-I do not mean any national hierarchy-I do not mean any piles of building; but by “the Church,” I mean the whole election of grace, all that the Father gave to the Son, all that the Son claims as His own-of whom He thus speaks in the seventeenth chapter of St. John, “ Thine they were, and thou gavest them me "_" And all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.” That is the Church of the living God. Now, Jesus and all His sent servants are intent upon the interests of the Church. “They are not of the world," says He, "even as I am not of the world; I have chosen them out of the world, and therefore the world hateth them." They stood in union with me from everlasting, and I recognize them as such by grace, as a family and an organized body of my own, members appertaining to one covenant Head-chosen, redeemed, set apart, sanctified, heavenborn, supplied with precious grace and the fulness of the covenant, and accustomed to glorify Jesus' name-I am glorified in them. This is Christ's doctrine, that His Church is a distinct body from the world.
I may be here asked, what I mean by the interests of the Church; and I reply, I mean her salvation, her preservation, and her eternal glorification. All lay near to Jesus' heart. He came forth as her salvation; and therefore the prophet was commissioned to give this de
claration concerning Him, "Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh”-emphatically His name, “thy salvation." Glory to His name; He has rendered
Himself responsible for that salvation. See how the interests of the Church lay near His heart. Appealing to the Father, He says, “Thou hast given to the Son power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life unto as many as thou hast given Him."
I pray you, beloved, where are contingencies here, where are probabilities, where are proposals, when the sole salvation of the Church lies in three gifts, and all these three in Christ? The gift of power to Christ, to accomplish the work in His mediatorial character; the gift of persons to Christ, to be saved; and the gift of eternal life, to be be- ' stowed upon the persons for whom He lived and died. I cannot conceive anything more clear and distinct than the interests of the Church set forth in this, as regards our salvation, that Jesus undertook it all, and accomplished it all in His own person, by His own doing and dying, to prove how much He was interested in His Church-that her preservation and perseverance (I put them together) lay near His heart; and therefore the apostle speaks of them as preserved in Christ Jesus. Jesus Himself speaks of loving His own in the world, and loving them to the end. “Jesus Himself declared, “They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” Jesus opens the will of the Father, and reads concerning them, that it is the will of Him who sent Him, that of all that He hath given Him He shall lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day. Again, I ask, where are the contingencies? Again I ask, where are the probabilities and uncertainties? All are secure in Christ, not only as to the justification and acceptance, the pardon and sanctification of the Church in the matter of salvation, but in her preservation too, surrounded as she is with evils, assaulted by Satan, carrying about her in her own bosom enough to ruin her in an hour if left to herself. Yet she is preserved, even by Christ Jesus, from the world, from sin, from Satan and self, from finally falling and apostatizing from Him, and preserved from all unto everlasting life.
Moreover, the interests of His Church are such, that He will have His Bride glorified with Himself. Her eternal glorification lays near His heart; and therefore, just before He suffers, He says, “Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, to behold my glory.” That“ I will” He never revokes—that“ I will "can never be denied Him-that“ I will" appears to be the spirit of His intercession and advocacy, now that He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and that “ I will " encourages the faith of all that know and love Him, to expect with confidence to sit down with
Him upon His throne, even as He has overcome and sat down with His Father upon His throne.
What a scene, then, is before us, as the followers of the Lamb, redeemed by His precious blood from among men, saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation, just as is recorded in Isaiah, “ In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory : preserved amidst ten thousand foes, devils, and dangers ; kept by the mighty power of God through faith unto salvation ; and then to be absent from the body and present with the Lord, enthroned with their glorious exalted Head on high, and everlastingly enjoying the smiles of His countenance. That is the doctrine of Christ concerning His Church.