He [Christ] died not only for our justification, but sanctification also. There are two main reasons why the death of Christ hath so little effect upon us—either he is a forgotten Christ or a mistaken Christ.
[1.] Men do not consider the ends for which he came: 1 John iii. 5, 'He was manifested to take away our sins.' He came to give his Spirit to miserable sinful man to sanctify and cleanse him, and fit him for the service and enjoyment of God. Now things that we mind not do not work upon us. The work of redemption Christ hath performed without our minding or asking. He took our nature, fulfilled the law, satisfied the Lawgiver, and merited grace for us, without our asking or thinking. But in applying this grace he requireth our serious consideration: Heb. iii. 1, 'Consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Jesus Christ.' And our faith: John xi. 26, 'Believest thou that I am able to do this for thee?' Our asking: John iv. 10, 'If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldst have asked, and he would have given thee living water.' Acceptance of him to these ends: John i. 12, 'To as many as received him,' &c.
[2.] But the other is a greater evil, a mistaken Christ; when we make use of him only to increase our carnal security and boldness in sinning, as if God were more reconcilable to sin than he was before, because of Christ's dying for sinners. Now this is a great fault; for—
(1.) Thereby you make Christ a minister, an encourager of sin; which is a blasphemy to be abhorred by all Christians: Gal. ii. 17, 'But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.'
(2.) You set up Christ against Christ, an imaginary Christ, or an idol of your own making, against the true Christ, who came by water and blood. Not by blood only: 1 John v. 6, 'This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood;' and 'He bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye are healed,' 1 Peter ii. 24. You set his death against the ends of his death, and run from and rebel against God, because he came to redeem you, and recover you to God.
(3) You separate between his benefits, and only cull out that part which suiteth most with your self-love. You have natures to be healed, as well as your peace to be made: Isa. liii. 5, 'But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.' They that seek holiness from the Redeemer have a more spiritual affection to him. The guilt of sin is against our interest, but its power against that subjection and duty we owe to God. Christ's work is not only to ease our conscience, but free our hearts from slavery, that we may serve God with more liberty and delight.
(4.) If you do not mind holiness, you defeat your Redeemer of his end, and seek to put him to shame: 1 John iii. 8, 'For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.' To cherish what he came to destroy is vile ingratitude.
(5.) If you slight holiness, it argueth lessening thoughts of Christ's merit. Christ thought it of such value as to offer himself a mediatorial sacrifice to procure it. Our respect to Christ's blood is judged by the respect we have to the benefits purchased thereby. The two great benefits are the favour of God and the image of God. He that preferreth corruptible things before the favour of God hath no esteem of Christ's merit; and he that doth not esteem the image of God, which standeth in righteousness and true holiness, doth not esteem the blood of Christ: 1 Peter i. 18, 19, 'Forasmuch as ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of the Son of God.'
3. That they do not aright improve the death of Christ that seek comfort by it, and not holiness. He died not only for our justification, but sanctification also. There are two reasons why the death of Christ hath so little effect upon us; either he is a forgotten Christ, or a mistaken Christ. A forgotten Christ: men do not consider the ends for which he came: 1 John iii. 5, 'Ye know that he was manifested, to take away our sins;' and ver. 8, 'To this purpose was the Son of God manifested, to destroy the works of the devil;' to give his Spirit to sinful miserable man. Now things that we mind not do not work upon us. The work of redemption Christ hath performed without our minding or asking; he took our nature, fulfilled the law, satisfied the lawgiver, merited grace without our asking or thinking; but in applying this grace, he requireth our consideration: Heb. iii. 1, 'Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession.' Our faith: 'Believest thou that I am able to do this for thee?' Our acceptance: John i. 12, 'To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sous of God.' But the other evil is greater, a mistaken Christ; when we use him to increase our carnal security and boldness in sinning, and are possessed with an ill thought, that God is more reconcilable to sin than he was before, and by reason of Christ's coming there were less evil and malignity in sin, for then you make Christ a minister and encourager of sin: Gal. ii. 17, 'For if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore the minister of sin? God forbid!' You set up Christ against Christ, his merit against his doctrine and Spirit; yea, rather you set up the devil against Christ, and varnish his cause with Christ's name, and so it is but an idol-Christ you dote upon. The true Christ ' came by water and blood,' 1 John v. 6; 'Bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, being dead unto sin, should live unto righteousness,' 1 Peter ii. 24. And will you set his death against the ends of his death? and run from and rebel against God because Christ came to redeem and recover you to God? Certainly those weak Christians that only make use of Christ to seek comfort, seek him out of self-love; but those that seek holiness from the Redeemer have a more spiritual affection to him. The guilt of sin is against our interest, but the power of sin is against God's glory. He came to sanctify us by his holiness, not only to free our consciences from bondage, but our hearts, that we may serve God with more liberty and delight. This was the great aim of his death: Titus ii. 14, 'He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.' Thus did Christ, that the plaster might be as broad as the sore; we lost in Adam the purity of our natures, as well as the favour of God, and therefore he is made sanctification to us, as well as righteousness, 1 Cor. i. 30.—Thomas Manton
Well, then, let us see if we be guilty of this sin: 'Take heed,' saith the apostle, Heb. iii. 12, 'lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief.' Many have an unbelieving heart when they least think of it. It is easy to declaim against it, but hard to convince men of it, either of the sin or of lying in a state of unbelief; it is the Spirit's work, 'The Spirit shall convince of sin, because they believe not in me,' John xvi. 9. There are many pretences by which men excuse themselves, some more gross, others more subtle. Many think that all infidels are without the pale, among Turks and heathens. Alas! many, too many, are to be found in the very bosom of the church. The Israelites were God's own people, and yet 'destroyed because they believed not.' Others think none are unbelievers but those that are given up to the violences and horrors of despair, and do grossly reject or refuse the comforts of the gospel; but they are mistaken; the whole word is the object of faith, the commandments and threatenings as well as the promises; and carelessness and neglect of the comforts of the gospel is unbelief, as well as doubts and despairing fears: Mat. xxii. 5, 'But they made light of it.' He is the worst unbeliever that scorns and slighteth the tenders of God's grace in Christ as things wherein he is not concerned. Briefly, then, men may make a general profession of the name of Christ, as the Turks do of Mahomet, because it is the religion professed there where they are born; a man may take up the opinions of a Christian country, and not be a whit better than Turks, Jews, or infidels; as he is not the taller of stature that walketh in a higher walk than others do. They may understand their religion, and be able to 'give a reason of the hope that is in them,' and yet lie under the power of unbelief for all that, as many may see countries in a map which they never enter into. The devil hath knowledge, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know,' &c. And those that pretend to knowledge without answerable practice, do but give themselves the lie, 1 John ii. 29. Besides knowledge there may be assent, and yet unbelief still. The devils assent as well as know; they 'believe there is one God,' James ii., and it is not a naked and inefficacious assent, but such as causeth horrors and tremblings. They 'believe and tremble;' and they do not only believe that one article, that there is one God, but other articles also: 'Jesus, thou Son of God, art thou come to torment me before my time?' was the devil's speech; where there is an acknowledging of Christ, and him as the Son of God and judge of the world, and increase of their torment at the last day upon his sentence. Assent is necessary, but not sufficient; laws are not sufficiently owned when they are believed to be the king's laws; there is something to be done as well as believed. In the primitive times, assent was more than it is now, and yet then an inactive assent was never allowed to pass for faith. Confident resting on Christ for salvation, if it be not a resting according to the word, will not serve the turn; there were some that ' leaned upon the Lord,' Micah iii. 11, whom he disclaimeth. It is a mistaken Christ, they rest upon, and upon him by a mistaken faith. It is a mistaken Christ, for the true Christ is the eternal Son of God, that was born of a virgin, and died at Jerusalem,' Bearing our sins in his body upon a tree, that we, being dead unto sin, might be alive unto righteousness,' 1 Peter ii. 24. The true Christ is one that' gave himself for us, that he might purify us to be a peculiar people, zealous of good works,' and is now gone into heaven, there to make intercession for us, and will come again from heaven in a glorious manner to take an account of our works, Titus ii. 13, 14. But now when men lie under the power and reign of their sins, and yet pretend to rest upon Christ for salvation, they set up another Christ than the word holdeth forth. And as the Christ is mistaken, so is the faith. It is not an idle trust, but such as is effectual to purge the heart, for the true 'faith purifieth the heart,' Acts xv. 9. If, besides profession, knowledge, assent, and a loose trust, they should pretend to assurance, or to a strong conceit that Christ died for them, and they shall certainly go to heaven, this will not excuse them from unbelief; this is πρῶτον ψεῦδος, the grand mistake, that the strength of faith lieth in a strong persuasion of the goodness of our condition, and the stronger the persuasion the better the faith. If this were true, hardness of heart would make the best faith, and he that could presume most, and be most secure and free from doubts, would be the truest believer, and the goodness of our condition would lie in the strength of our imagination and conceit. Alas! many make full account they shall go to heaven that shall never come there. The foolish virgins were very confident, and the foolish builder goeth on with the building, never suspecting the foundation. Nay, let me tell you, assurance of a good condition, as long as we lie under the power and reign of sin, is the greatest unbelief in the world, for it is to believe the flat contrary to that which God hath revealed in the word; therefore none abuse the Lord and question his truth so much as these do. Where hath God said that men that live in their sins shall be saved? Nay, he hath expressly said the contrary, 'Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor idolaters,' &c., 1 Cor. vi. 9; so that you give God the lie, or conceit that he will break his word for your sakes; nay, in a sense, you even dare him to make good his truth. He hath said, 'Be not deceived; you shall never enter,' &c., and you say, Though I am an adulterer, a drunkard, a worldling, I shall go to heaven for all that. Now in a little while you shall see whose word shall stand, God's or yours, Jer. xliv. 28.—Thomas Manton
I tell you many are pleased with Christ, as Jacob was with Leah, while he thought she had been Rachel. It is a mistaken Christ whom they love, even as sure as they love their lusts. No man can serve two masters. And if a new light would spring up in their dark hearts, they would see it to be so. Many love Christ very well, to be a rest to their consciences, while they can get the world and their lusts to be a rest to their hearts. And thus they can do very well between the two. But take away these from them, and their hearts can rest no more than a fish drawn out of the water till it be in it again. Their souls can never truly say as the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." Now was ever Christ a covering for the eyes to them. Nor did they ever find such sweetness in Christ as they have in following their lusts.—Thomas Boston
Many call Christ their sweet Saviour, whose consciences can bear witness, they never sucked so much sweetness from, as from their sweet lusts, which are ten times sweeter to them than their Saviour. He is no other way sweet to them, than as they abuse his death and sufferings, for the peaceable enjoyment of their lusts; that they may live as they list in the world; and when they die, may be kept out of hell. Alas! it is but a mistaken Christ that is sweet to you, whose souls loathe that Christ, who is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person.—Thomas Boston