THE HEART OF CHRIST IN HEAVEN
TOWARDS SINNERS ON EARTH
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.—Hebrews 4:15.
The only use I shall make of these words is, to be a foundation unto that second part of that head or point of doctrine into which I have made an entrance; which was to demonstrate the gracious inclination and temper of Christ’s heart toward sinners, now he is in heaven.
II. The extrinsic demonstrations of this, which I make the first part of it, are dispatched. And for a groundwork to these more intrinsic demonstrations, which make a second part, I have chosen this text, as that which above any other speaks his heart most, and sets out the frame and workings of it towards sinners; and that so sensibly that it does, as it were, take our hands, and lay them upon Christ’s breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his bowels yearn towards us, even now he is in glory—the very scope of these words being manifestly to encourage believers against all that may discourage them, from the consideration of Christ’s heart towards them now in heaven.
To open them, so far as they serve to my present purpose.
First, all that may in any way discourage us he here calls by the name of infirmities, thereby meaning both.
1. The evil of afflictions, of what sort whatsoever, persecutions, from without.
2. The evil of sins, which do most of all discourage us, from within.
And that both these are meant:
1. That under “infirmities” he means persecutions and afflictions is manifest; not only in that the word is often used in that sense, as 2 Corinthians 11:30, and 2 Corinthians 12:5, but also it is plain that the phrase is here so intended, for his scope is to comfort them against what would pull from them their profession, as that foregoing exhortation, “Let us hold fast our profession,” implies. Now that which attempted to pull it from them were their persecutions and oppositions from without. It appears also because his argument here of comforting them against these infirmities, is drawn from Christ’s example, “In that he was in all things tempted as we are.”
2. Yet secondly, by “infirmities” are meant sins also, for so in the process of this discourse he uses the phrase, and makes them the main object of our high priest’s pity; for in the next words, Hebrews 5:2, showing what the qualifications of the high priests under the law were, who were types of our great high priest, he makes this one suitable to this here mentioned, that he was to be one that “could have compassion on the ignorant, and those that were out of the way;” that is, upon sinners, for sins are those ignorances and goings-astray from God; and then adds, “in that himself was clothed with infirmities,” that is, with sins. And although it is said here that Christ was without sin in all, yet he was tempted by Satan unto all sorts of sins, even as we are. And that by “infirmities” sins are mainly here intended, is yet more evident from the remedy propounded against them, which they
are here encouraged to seek for at the throne of grace, namely, grace and mercy. “Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may find grace and mercy to help in time of need.” So it follows in the next words. Grace to help against the power of sin, and mercy against the guilt and punishment of it; both which are the greatest discouragers to come boldly to that throne; and therefore he must necessarily intend those kinds of infirmities chiefly in this his encouragement and comfort given.
Now, secondly, for a support against both these, he lets us understand how feelingly and sensibly affected the heart of Christ is to sinners under all these their infirmities, now he is in heaven, for of him advanced into heaven he here speaks, as appears by Hebrews 4:14. And if the coherence with that verse be observed, we shall see that he brings in this narration of it clearly, by way of preventing an objection which might otherwise arise in all men’s thoughts from that high and glorious description which he had given of him in Hebrews 4:14. “We have a great high priest, who is passed into the heavens.” He knew we would be apt from this presently to think he may be too great to be an high priest for us to transact our affairs; and that this greatness of his might cause him to forget us, or if he did remember us, and take notice of our miseries, yet, “being
passed into the heavens,” and so having cast off the frailties of his flesh which he had here, and having clothed his human nature with so great a glory, that therefore he cannot now pity us, as he did when he dwelt among us here below, nor be so feelingly affected and touched with our miseries, as to be tenderly moved to compassionate and commiserate us, so he is not now capable of a feeling of grief, and so not of a fellow-feeling or sympathizing with us; his state and condition now is above all such affections, which affections notwithstanding are they that should put him upon helping us, heartily and cordially. And for him to be exposed to such affections as these, were a weakness, an infirmity in himself, which heaven has cured him of. His power and glory is so great that he cannot be thus touched, even as the angels are not. And he is “advanced far above all principalities and powers,” Ephesians 1:21.
This the apostle carefully preoccupates; and it is this very objection which he takes away. “We have not a high priest who cannot,” etc. Duplex negatio aquipollet a affirmationi; nay, two negatives do not only make an affirmative, but affirm more strongly: they make an affirmation contradictory to a contrary and opposite thought. Now this speech of his is as much as if he should have said, Well, let heaven have made what alteration soever upon his condition, in glorifying his human nature, which be it never so free from fleshly passions, and instead of flesh be made like heaven, let him be never so incapable of impressions from below; yet he retains one tender part and bare place in his heart still unarmed, as it were, even to suffer with you, and to be touched if you be. The word is a deep one, συμπαϑῆσαι. He suffers with you, he is as tender in his bowels to you as ever he was; that he might be moved to pity you. He is
willing to suffer, as it were, that one place to be left naked, and to be flesh still, on which he may be wounded with your miseries, that so he might be your merciful high priest.
And it may be objected that this were a weakness. The apostle affirms that this is his power, and a perfection and strength of love surely, in him, as the word δυνάμενον imports; that is, that makes him thus able and powerful to take our miseries into his heart, though glorified, and so to be affected with them, as if he suffered with us, and so to relieve us, out of that principle out of which he would relieve himself.
There are two things which this text gives me occasion to take notice of, and apart to handle.
First, more generally, that Christ’s heart now in heaven is as graciously affected unto sinners as ever it was on earth.
And, secondly, more particularly, the manner how. Or thus:
1. That he is touched with a feeling, or sympathizes with us, as the word is.
2. The way how this comes to pass; even through his having been tempted in all things like unto us. In handling the first, I shall give those intrinsic demonstrations of it that remain; and in handling the other, further open the text. To come therefore first to those intrinsic demonstrations of this doctrine, which I engraft upon these words, and shoot naturally from them, namely, that the heart of Jesus Christ, now he is in heaven, is as graciously inclined to sinners as ever it was on earth.
The first sort of intrinsic demonstrations, drawn from the influence all the three Persons have forever into the heart of the human nature of Christ in heaven.
I. The first sort of demonstrations shall be fetched from all the three Persons, and their several influence they have into Christ’s heart in heaven, to incline it towards us.
1. The first shall be taken from God his Father, who has thus advanced him; and it has two parts: (1.) That God has given a perpetual command to Christ to love sinners; (2.) That therefore his heart continues the same forever.
(1.) For the first, God the Father has given Jesus Christ a special command to love sinners; and has further implanted a merciful, gracious disposition in his heart toward them. This I mention to argue it, because it is that which Christ alleges, John 6:37, as the original ground of this disposition of his, “not to cast out those that come to him.” For “it is my Father’s will,” says he in the following verses, “that I should perform that which I came down from heaven for,” John 6:38. And this lies now still upon him, now he is in heaven, as much as ever; for “his will also is,” says he, John 6:39-40, “that I should raise them up at the last day,” so as it must necessarily continue the same till then. And compare with this John 10:15-18, where, having discoursed before of his care and love to his sheep, to “give his life” for them, to “know” and own them, and to “bring them into the fold.” he concludes at John 10:18, “This commandment have I received from my Father.” It is his will, says John 6, and if a good son knows that a thing is his father’s mind and will, it is enough to move him to do it; much more if it be his express command. And in this John 10, he further says, that it is the command which he had received from the Father. A command is a man’s will peremptorily expressed; so as there must be a breach, if it be not fulfilled: and such a command has God given Christ concerning us. Out of both places I observe three
things to be the matter of this will and command of God’s.
First, that Christ should die for his sheep; in respect to which command, he continued so to love them while here, as to lay down his life for them; so John 10:15; but then he took it up again, and is ascended into heaven. Therefore, those other two things commanded him, do concern him when he is in glory; namely, to “receive all that come to him,” which is the second; and the third, to look that he “lose none of those for whom he died,” but to “raise them up.” And for these his Father’s command lies as strictly on him, now he is in heaven, as for dying for them while he was on earth. “This command have I received from my Father, and this is his will.”
And together with this command, God did put it into his heart, as where he commands he ever uses to do, such an instinct of transcendent love towards them, as shall so strongly incline him to perform it, that he shall need no more commands. He has put such a στοργή, such an especial love into him, as he has put into the hearts of parents towards their own children, more than to all other men’s children which they see besides, although more beautiful and more witty than their own. And both this commandment, and this inclination of love towards them, we have at once expressed, Psalm 40:8, where, giving the reason why he became our Mediator and sacrificed himself, he not only says, “I come to do thy will, O God;” but also, “Thy law is in my bowels.” In which speech, both these two are mentioned:
[1.] That command I mentioned is there expressed, for it is called a law. And,
[2.] It was a law wrought into suitable dispositions in his heart; and, therefore, said to be a “law in his heart” or bowels.
You may easily conceive what law it was by the subject of it, his bowels, which are still put for the most tender affections; Colossians 3:12, “Bowels of mercy, [kindness].” It was no other than that law of love, mercy, and pity to poor sinners which God gave him in charge, as he was to be Mediator. It was that special law which lay on him as he was the “second Adam,” like that which was given to the first Adam, non concedendi, over and above the moral law, not to eat the forbidden fruit; such a law was this he there speaks of. It was the law of his being a Mediator and a sacrifice, for of that he expressly speaks, Hebrews 8:6-7, over and besides the moral law, which was common to him with us. The word in the original is, “In the midst of my bowels,” to show it was deeply engraven; it had its seat in the center, it sat nearest
and was most inward in his heart.
Yes, and as that special law of not eating the forbidden fruit was to Adam præceptum symbolicum, as divines call it, given over and besides all the ten commandments, to be a trial, a sign or symbol, of his obedience to all the rest, such was this law given unto Christ, the second Adam, so as that God would judge of all his other obedience unto himself by this. Yes, it was laid on him with that earnestness by God, and so commended,3 him, as that if ever Christ would have him to love him, he should be sure to love us. Thus in that place fore-cited, John 10:17-18, Christ comforts himself with this in his obedience, “Therefore doth my Father love me.” It is spoken in relation unto his fulfilling this his command formerly mentioned, and so further imports, as if God should love Christ the better for the love he should show to us, it pleased him so
well to see Christ love us. And so it is as if God, when he gave Christ that commandment, John 10:18, had said, Son, as you would have my love continue towards you, let me see your love towards me shown in being kind to these I have given you, “whom I have loved with the same love wherewith I have loved you,” as you have it, John 17:23. As God would have us show love unto him by loving his children, so he would have Christ also show his love towards him by loving of us.
3 Qu. “commanded”?-ED.
(2.) Now, for the second branch of this demonstration, namely, that the love which Christ, when on earth, expressed to be in his heart, and which made him die for sinners upon this command of his Father, that it does certainly continue in his heart still, now that he is in heaven, and that as quick and as tender as ever it was on earth, even as when he was on the cross, and that because of his Father’s command. It is evidenced thus, for it being a law written in the midst of his bowels by his Father, it becomes natural to him, and so indelible, and as other moral laws of God written in the heart, they are perpetual. And as in us, when we shall be in heaven, though faith shall fail and hope vanish, yet love shall continue, as the apostle speaks; so does this love in Christ’s heart continue also, and suffers no decay, and is shown as much now in receiving sinners and interceding for them, and being pitiful unto them, as then in dying for them. And this love to sinners being so
commanded and pressed upon him, as was said, that as he would have his Father love him, he should love them, and so being urged upon all that great love that is between him and his Father, this, as it must necessarily work and boil up a strong love in him unto sinners, so likewise the most constant and never-decaying love that could be. And this is argued from the analogy of that principle upon which Christ urges us to love himself, John 15:10. He moves his disciples to “keep the commandments” he gave them, and uses this argument, “For so shall you abide in my love,” and backs it with his own instance, “Even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Now, therefore, this being the great commandment that God lays on him, to love and die for, and to continue to love and receive, sinners that come to him, and raise them up at the latter day, certainly he continues to
keep it most exactly, as being one of the great ties between him and his Father, so to continue in his love to him. Therefore, so long as he continues in his Father’s love, and, now he is in heaven and at his right hand, he must necessarily continue in highest favour with him, so long, you may be sure, he continues to observe this. And thus that he should continue still to love us, both love to his Father and love to himself obliges him; we may therefore be sure of him, that he both does it and will do it forever. O what a comfort is it, that as children are mutual pledges and ties of love between man and wife, so that we should be made such between God the Father and the Son! And this demonstration is taken from the influence of the first person of the Trinity, namely, from God the Father.
2. Then, secondly, this his love is not a forced love, which he strives only to bear towards us, because his Father has commanded him to marry us; but it is his nature, his disposition, which, added to the former, affords a second demonstration of the point in hand, and is drawn from God the Son. This disposition is free and natural to him; he should not be God’s Son else, nor take after his heavenly Father, unto whom it is natural to show mercy, but not so to punish, which is his strange work, but mercy pleases him; he is “the Father of mercies,” he begets them naturally.
Now, Christ is his own Son, ἴδιος ὑιὸς, as by way of distinction he is called, and his natural Son; yea, his human nature being united to the second person, is thereby become the natural Son of God, not adopted, as we are. And if he be his natural Son in privileges, then also his Father’s properties are natural to him, more natural than to us, who are but his adopted sons. And if we, “as the elect of God,” who are but the adopted sons, are exhorted to “put on bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness,” (as Colossians 3:12), then much more must these dispositions need to be found in Christ, the natural Son; and these, not put on by him, but be as natural to him as his Sonship is. “God is love,” as John says, and Christ is love covered over with flesh, yea, our flesh.
And besides, it is certain that as God has fashioned the hearts of all men, and some of the sons of men unto more mercy and pity naturally than others, and then the Holy Spirit, coming on them to sanctify their natural dispositions, uses to work according to their tempers, even so it is certain that he tempered the heart of Christ, and made it of a softer mold and temper than the tenderness of all men’s hearts put together into one, to soften it, would have been of. When he was to assume a human nature, he is brought in saying, “A body hast thou fitted me,” Hebrews 10:5; that is, a human nature, fitted, as in other things, so in the temper of it, for the Godhead to work and show his perfections in best. And as he took a human nature on purpose to be a merciful high priest, as Hebrews 2:14, so such a human nature, and of so special a temper and frame as might be
more merciful than all men or angels. His human nature was “made without hands;” that is, was not of the ordinary make that other men’s hearts are of; though for the matter the same, yet not for the frame of his spirit. It was a heart bespoke for on purpose to be made a vessel, or rather fountain, of mercy, wide and capable enough to be so extended as to take in and give forth to us again all God’s manifest mercies; that is, all the mercies God intended to manifest to his elect.
And therefore Christ’s heart had naturally in the temper of it more pity than all men or angels have, as through which the mercies of the great God were to be dispensed unto us; and this heart of his to be the instrument of them. And then this man, and the heart of this man so framed, being united to God, and being made the natural Son of God, how natural must mercy needs be unto him, and therefore continue in him now lie is in heaven! For though he laid down all infirmities of our nature when he rose again, yet no graces that were in him while he was below; they are in him now as much as ever; and being his nature, for nature we know is constant, therefore still remains. You may observe, that when he was upon earth, minding to persuade sinners to have good thoughts of him, as he used that argument of his Father’s command given him; so he also lays open his own disposition, Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, you that are
weary and heavy laden,…for I am meek and lowly of heart.”
Men are apt to have contrary conceits of Christ, but he tells them his disposition there, by preventing such hard thoughts of him, to allure them unto him the more. We are apt to think that he, being so holy, is therefore of a severe and sour disposition against sinners, and not able to bear them. No, says he; “I am meek,” gentleness is my nature and temper. As it was of Moses, who was, as in other things, so in that grace, his type; he was not revenged on Miriam and Aaron, but interceded for them. So, says Christ, injuries and unkindnesses do not so work upon me as to make me irreconcilable; it is my nature to forgive: “I am meek.” Yes, but (may we think) he being the Son of God and heir of heaven, and especially being now filled with glory, and sitting at God’s right hand, he may now despise the lowliness of us here below; though not out of anger, yet out of that height of his greatness and distance that he is advanced unto, in that we are too mean for him
to marry, or be familiar with. He surely has higher thoughts than to regard such poor, low things as we are. And so though indeed we conceive him meek, and not prejudiced with injuries, yet he may be too high and lofty to condescend so far as to regard, or take to heart, the condition of poor creatures. No, says Christ; “I am lowly” also, willing to bestow my love and favour upon the poorest and meanest.
And further, all this is not a semblance of such an affable disposition, nor is it externally put on in the face and outward carriage only, as in many great ones, that will seem gentle and courteous, but there is all this ἐν τῇ ϰαρδίᾳ, “in the heart;” it is his temper, his disposition, his nature to be gracious, which nature he can never lay aside. And that his greatness, when he comes to enjoy it in heaven, would not a bit alter his disposition in him, appears by this, that he at the very same time when he uttered these words, took into consideration all his glory to come, and utters both that and his meekness with the same breath. So Matthew 11:27, “All things are delivered to me by my Father;” and presently after all this he says, “Come unto me, all you that are heavy laden,…I am meek and lowly,” Matthew 11:28-29.
Look, therefore, what lovely, sweet, and delightful thoughts you use to have of a dear friend, who is of an amiable nature, or of some eminently holy or meek saint, of whom you think with yourselves, I could put my soul into such a man’s hands, and can compromise my salvation to him, as I have heard it spoken of some. Or look how we should have been encouraged to have dealt with Moses in matter of forgiveness, who was the meekest man on earth; or treated with Joseph, by what we read of his bowels towards his brethren; or what thoughts we have of the tender hearts of Paul or Timothy unto the souls of men in begetting, and in nurturing, and bringing them up to life, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing (says Paul) to impart our own souls to you,” 1 Thessalonians 2:8; and this “naturally,” as his word is, Philippians 2:20; even such and
infinitely more raised apprehensions should we have of that sweetness and candour that is in Jesus Christ, as being much more natural to him.
And therefore the same apostle does make Christ’s bowels the pattern of his, “God is my witness, how greatly I long after you in the bowels of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:8. This phrase, “in the bowels of Christ,” has, according to interpreters, two meanings, and both serve to illustrate that which I intend.
First, “in the bowels of Christ” is taken causally, as if he meant to show that those bowels or compassions were infused into him from Christ, and so longed after them with such kind of bowels as Christ had wrought in him; and if so that Christ put such bowels into him, has he not then in himself much more? Paul had reason to say, “in the bowels of Christ,” for (in this sense) I am sure he once had scarce the heart and bowels of a man in him; namely, when he was out of Christ, how furious and lion-like a spirit had he against the saints, and what havoc made he of them, being ready even to pull out their bowels! And how came Paul by such tender bowels now towards them? Who gave him now such tender affections? Even Jesus Christ, it was he that of a lion made him a lamb. If therefore in Paul these bowels were not natural, but the contrary rather were natural to him, and yet they so abounded in him, and that naturally, as himself speaks, how much more must they
necessarily abound in Christ, to whom they are native and inbred? Or else, secondly, “in the bowels,” is put for instance, “like the bowels,” or “after the bowels,” according to the analogy of the Hebrew phrase. And so then the meaning was this, like as the bowels of Jesus Christ do yearn after you, so do mine. “Bowels” are a metaphor to signify tender and motherly affections and mercies. So Luke 1:78, “through the tender mercies.” In the original it is “the bowels of mercy.” Thus Paul, when he would signify how tender his affections were, he instances in the bowels of Jesus Christ (he making Christ his pattern in this in all, “Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ”). Now, how desirous was this great apostle to beget men to Christ! He cared not what else he lost, so he might win some. He “counted not his life dear,” nay, not his
salvation dear, but “wished himself accursed for his brethren,” who yet were the greatest enemies Christ then had on earth. How glad was he when any soul came in! How sorry when any fell off! Falling “into a new travail (he knew not how better to express the anxiety of his spirit for the Galatians), till Christ was formed in them.” How comforted was he when he heard tidings of the constancy and increase of any of their faith! 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7; and in 1 Thessalonians 3:8 he says, “for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.” Read all his epistles, and take the character of his spirit this way; and when you have done, look up to Christ’s human nature in heaven, and think with yourselves, “Such a man is Christ.” Paul warbles out in all these strains of affections but the soundings of Christ’s bowels in heaven, in
a lower key. They are natural to Christ, they all and infinite more are eminent in him. And this is the second demonstration, taken from his own natural disposition as Son of God.
3. A third demonstration shall be taken from the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost. If the same Spirit that was upon him, and in him, when he was on earth, does but still rest upon him now he is in heaven, then these dispositions must necessarily still entirely remain in him.
This demonstration is made up of two propositions put together: (1.) That the Holy Ghost dwelling in him concurs to make his heart thus graciously affected to sinners; and (2.) That the same Spirit dwells and continues in and upon him forever in heaven.
(1.) For the first: it was the Spirit who overshadowed his mother, and, in the meanwhile, knit that indissoluble knot between our nature and the second person, and that also knit his heart unto us. It was the Spirit who sanctified him in the womb. It was the Spirit that rested on him above measure, and fitted him with a meek spirit for the works of his mediation; and indeed for this very grace sake of meekness did the Spirit come more especially upon him. Therefore, when he was first solemnly inaugurated into that office, at his baptism (for then he visibly and professedly entered upon the execution of it), the Holy Ghost descended upon him; and how? As a dove; so all the evangelists jointly report it. But why in the shape of a dove? All apparitions that God at any time made of himself, were not so much to show what God is in himself, as how he is affected towards us, and declare what effects he works in us. So here, this shape of a dove resting upon him was to show those special gracious
dispositions by which the Holy Ghost fitted Jesus Christ to be a Mediator. A dove, you know, is the most innocent and most meek creature, without gall, without talons, having no fierceness in it, expressing nothing but love and friendship to its mate in all its carriages, and mourning over it in its distresses; and was therefore a fit emblem to express what a frame and temper of spirit the Holy Ghost did upon this his descending on him, fill the heart of Christ with, and this without measure, that as sweetly as doves do converse with doves, sympathizing and mourning over each other, so may we with Christ, for he thus sympathizes with us. And though he had the Spirit before, yet now he was anointed with him, in respect of such effects as these, which pertained to the execution of his office, with a larger measure and more eminently than before. Therefore the evangelist Luke notes upon it (Luke 4:1), “Jesus being full of the Holy
Ghost, returned from Jordan.” And Peter also puts the like gloss upon it, as appears, Acts 10:37, for speaking there of the baptism of John, he shows how “after that his being baptized, he began to preach,” and “how God having anointed him with the Holy Ghost,” namely, at that baptism of his, “he went about doing good.” And that this was the principal thing signified by this descending of the Holy Ghost as a dove upon him, even chiefly to note out his meekness, and sympathizing heart with sinners, wrought in him by the Holy Ghost, is evident by two places, where Christ himself puts that very intention on it.
The first presently after, in the first sermon that he preached after that his having received the Holy Ghost, where first it is noted, Luke 4:1, that he returned from being baptized, “full of the Spirit,” and so was led to be tempted; then in Luke 4:14, it is said that he returned from being tempted, “in the power of that Spirit,” and after this is explained by himself, the mystery of his having received the Spirit in the likeness of a dove, and this is the subject matter of the first text which he opened in his first sermon, singled out by him on purpose, by choice, not chance, out of Isaiah, which he read to them (Luke 4:18), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor,” that is, in spirit, the afflicted in conscience for
sin; “he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” And when he had read so much as concerned the expressing the compassionate disposition of his Spirit unto sinners, whose misery he sets down by all sorts of outward evils, then he reads no further, but closes the book, as intimating that these were the main effects of his receiving the Spirit. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor;” that is, for this end, or for this very purpose has he given me his Spirit, because I was designed or anointed to this work, and by that Spirit also has he anointed or qualified me with these gifts and dispositions suitable to that work.
Another place that makes the fruit and end of his receiving the Spirit then at his baptism, to be these tender dispositions unto sinners, is that in Matthew 12:18-19, out of another place in Isaiah, “Behold my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased; I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall show judgments to the Gentiles.” That seems to be a terrible word, but be not afraid of it, for by “judgment” is meant even the doctrine of free grace and of the gospel, that changes and reforms men. As in like manner (according to the Hebrew phrase), in Matthew 12:20, by judgment is meant the work of God’s grace on men’s hearts, when he says, “He will send forth judgment unto victory,” the work of grace being the counterpart of the doctrine of grace. And in preaching this doctrine (which in itself is good tidings) the
prophet shows how he should carry it with a spirit, answerable and suitable thereunto, even full of all meekness, stillness, calmness, and modesty, which he expresses by proverbial speeches usual in those times, to express so much by, “He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets,” that is, he shall deal with all stillness and meekness, without violence or boisterousness. John had the voice of a crier, he was a man of a severe spirit; but Christ came “piping and dancing,” all melodious sweetness was in his ministry and spirit; and, in the course of his ministry, he went so tenderly to work, he was so heedful to broken souls, and had such regard to their discouragements, that it is said he would not “break a bruised reed,” that is, he would set his steps with such heed as not to tread on a reed that was broken in the leaf; or he would walk so lightly or softly, that if it lay in his way, though he went over
it, yet he would not have further bruised it: nor quenched either by treading out “the smoking flax,” which is easily done, or with any rushing motion have raised so much wind as to blow out a wick of a candle, as some translate it, smoking in the socket, which the least stirring of the air puffs out. All this is to express the tenderness of his heart; and this, upon his receiving the Spirit, and especially from the time of his baptizing; for then, you know, those words were together uttered, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;” and they are the same words also, which, together with God’s giving him the Spirit, are joined in that Isaiah 40, whence these words are taken, so that he was filled with the Spirit, to that end to raise up in him such sweet affections towards sinners.
(2.) Now, for the second part that goes to make up this demonstration: it is as certain that the same Spirit that was upon Christ, and acted4 his spirit here below, does still abide upon him in heaven. It must never be said, the Spirit of the Lord is departed from him, who is the sender and bestower of the Holy Ghost upon us. And if the Spirit once coming upon his members “abide with them forever,” as Christ promises, John 14:16, then much more does this Spirit abide upon Christ the Head, from whom we all, since Christ was in heaven, receive that Spirit, and by virtue of which Spirit’s dwelling in him, he continues to dwell in us. Therefore, of him it is said, Isaiah 11:2, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” Yea, and in that story of the Holy Ghost’s
descending upon him at his baptism, it is not only recorded, that “he descended on him,” but over and above it is added, “and abode upon him.” Yea, further, to put the greater emphasis upon it, it is twice repeated; so John 1:32, “I saw the Spirit” (says the evangelist) “descending from heaven like a dove;” and he adds this also as a further thing observed by him, “and it abode upon him.” And then again, John 1:33, “I knew him not” (says he) “but that he that sent me gave me this token to know him by, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he.” And further, as it is intimated there, he “rested on him” to that end, that he might baptize us with the Holy Ghost unto the end of the world: “The same (says he) is he that baptizes with the
Holy Ghost.” He at first descends as a dove, and then abides as a dove forever upon him; and this dove itself came from heaven first. And therefore, certainly, now that Christ himself is gone to heaven, he abides and sits upon him much more as a dove still there. Moreover, let me add this, that although the Spirit rested on him here without measure in comparison of us, yet it may be safely said, that the Spirit, in respect of his effects in gifts of grace and glory, rests more abundantly on him in heaven, than he did on earth, even in the same sense that at his baptism, as was said, he rested on him in such respects more abundantly than he did before his baptism, during the time of his private life. For as when he came to heaven he was installed king and priest, as it were, anew, in respect of a new execution; so, for the work to be done in heaven, he was anew anointed with this “oil of gladness above his fellows,” as Psalm
45:7. Which place is meant of him especially as he is in heaven, at God’s right hand, in fullness of joy; as Psalm 16:11, it is also spoken of him, when also it is, that he “goes forth in his majesty to conquer, as Psalm 45:4. And yet, then, “meekness” is not far off, but is made one of his dispositions in his height of glory. So it follows in the fore-cited verse, “In thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth and meekness.” Therefore Peter says, Acts 2:36, that “that same Jesus whom you (Jews) have crucified,” and who was risen and ascended, “God hath made both Lord and Christ:” Lord, that is, has exalted him as King in heaven; and Christ, that is, has also anointed him; and this oil is no other than the Holy Ghost, with
whom, the same Peter tells us, he was anointed at his baptism, Acts 10:38. Yea, and because he then at once received the Spirit in the fullest measure that forever he was to receive him, therefore it was that he shed him down on his apostles, and “baptized them with him” (as in Acts 2).
Now it is a certain rule, that whatsoever we receive from Christ, that he himself first receives in himself for us. And so one reason why this oil ran then so plentifully down on the skirts of this our High Priest, that is, on his members the apostles and saints, and so continues to do unto this day, is because our High Priest and Head himself was then afresh anointed with it. Therefore, Acts 2:33, Peter, giving an account how it came to pass that they were so filled with the Holy Ghost, says, that Christ “having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, had shed him forth on them;” which receiving is not to be only understood of his bare and single receiving the promise of the Holy Ghost for us, by having power then given him to shed him down upon them, as God had promised, though this is a true meaning of it; but further, that he had received him first as poured forth on himself, and so shed him forth
on them, according to that rule, that whatever God does unto us by Christ, he first does it unto Christ. All promises are made and fulfilled unto him first, and so unto us in him; all that he bestows on us he receives in himself. And this may be one reason why (as John 7:39) “the Spirit was not as yet given, because Jesus was not as yet glorified.” But now he is in heaven, he is said to “have the seven spirits;” so Revelation 1:4, which book sets him out as he is since he went to heaven. Now those seven spirits are the Holy Ghost, for so it must necessarily be meant, and not of any creature, as appears by Revelation 1:4, where grace and peace are wished “from the seven spirits;” so called, in respect of the various effects of him both in Christ and us, though but one in person. And
seven is a number of perfection, and is therefore there mentioned, to show, that now Christ has the Spirit in the utmost measure that the human nature is capable of. And as his knowledge (which is a fruit of the Spirit) since his ascension is enlarged—for before he knew not when the day of judgment should be, but now when he wrote this book of the Revelation he did—so are his bowels (I speak of the human nature) extended; all the mercies that God means to bestow being now actually to run through his hands, and his particular notice, and he to bestow them, not on the Jews only, but on Gentiles also, who were to be converted after he went to heaven. And so he has now a heart adequate to God’s own heart, in the utmost extent of showing mercy unto any whom God has intended it unto.
4 That is, “actuated.”-ED.
And this is the third demonstration, from the Spirit’s dwelling in him; wherein you may help your faith, by an experiment of the Holy Ghost his dwelling in your own hearts, and there not only working in you meekness towards others, but pity towards yourselves, to get your souls saved; and to that end, stirring up in you incessant and “unutterable groans” before the throne of grace, for grace and mercy. Now the same Spirit dwelling in Christ’s heart in heaven, that does in yours here, and always working in his heart first for you, and then in yours by commission from him; rest assured, therefore, that that Spirit stirs up in him bowels of mercy infinitely larger towards you than you can have unto yourselves.