XIII. Grace Shall Reign
The third conclusion from the final part of the text is that Christ’s government will be victorious. Let us see the reasons for this.
A. Why Christ‘s Kingdom Must Prevail
1. Christ has conquered all in his own person first, and he is `over all, God blessed for ever’ (Rom. 9:5), . . .Now if natural conscience be so forcible, what will it be when, besides its own light, it has the light of divine truth put into it? It will undoubtedly prevail, . . .
2. We are to encounter accursed and damned enemies; therefore, if they begin to fall before the Spirit in us, they shall fall. If they rise up again, it is to have the greater fall.
3. The Spirit of truth, to whose tuition Christ has committed his church, and the truth of the Spirit, which is the scepter of Christ, abide forever; therefore the soul begotten by the immortal seed of the Spirit (1 Pet. 1:23), Heb. 4:12 . . . A little faith strengthened by Christ will work wonders.
4. `Unto everyone that hath shall be given’ (Matt. 25:29). The victory over corruption or temptation is a pledge of final victory. As Joshua said when he set his foot upon the five kings whom he conquered, `Thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies’ (Josh. 10:25). Heaven is ours already, only we strive till we have full possession.
5. Christ as king brings in a commanding light into the soul and bows the neck, and softens the iron sinew of the inner man; and where he begins to rule, he rules for ever, `of his kingdom there shall be no end’ (Luke 1:33).
6. The purpose of Christ’s coming was to destroy the works of the devil, both for us and in us; and the purpose of the resurrection was, as well as sealing to us the assurance of his victory, so also
a. to quicken our souls from death in sin;
b. to free our souls from such snares and sorrows of spiritual death as accompany the guilt of sin;
c. to raise them up more comfortable, as the sun breaks forth more gloriously out of a thick cloud;
d. to raise us out of particular slips and failings stronger;
e. to raise us out of all troublesome and dark conditions of this life; and
f. at length to raise our bodies out of the dust.
7. And this power is conveyed by faith, by which, after union with Christ in his estates both of humiliation and of exaltation, we see ourselves, not only dead with Christ, but risen and sitting together with him in heavenly places Eph. 2:6. . . 2 Cor. 3:18 . . . Dan. 2:34-35).
B. Why the Enemy Seems Victorious
Objection: If this is so, why is it thus with the church of God, and with many a gracious Christian? The victory seems to be with the enemy.
1. [F]irstly, that God’s children usually, in their troubles, overcome by suffering. Here lambs overcome lions, and doves eagles, by suffering, that herein they may be conformable to Christ, who conquered most when he suffered most. Together with Christ’s kingdom of patience there was a kingdom of power.
2. Secondly, this victory is by degrees, . . .God would not have us quickly forget what cruel enemies Christ has overcome for us. `Slay them not, lest my people forget,’ says the Psalmist (Psa. 59:11), so that, by the experience of that annoyance we have by them, we might be kept in fear to come under their power.
3. Thirdly, God often works by contraries: . . . A Christian conquers, even when he’ is conquered. When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security.
4. Fourthly, Christ’s work, both in the church and in the hearts of Christians, often goes backward so that it may go forward better. . . . .
a. We take deeper root by shaking. . . .Gen. 32:25 . . .Heb. 12:2).
b. Weakness with watchfulness will stand, when strength with too much confidence fails. Weakness, with acknowledgement of it, is the fittest seat and subject for God to perfect his strength in; for consciousness of our infirmities drives us out of ourselves to him in whom our strength lies.
c. From this it follows that weakness may be consistent with the assurance of salvation. The disciples, notwithstanding all their weaknesses, are bidden to rejoice that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).
d. Some have, after conflict, wondered at the goodness of God that so little and such trembling faith should have upheld them in so great combats, when Satan had almost caught them. And, indeed, it is to be wondered at, how much a little grace will prevail with God for acceptance, and over our enemies for victory, if the heart is upright. Such is the goodness of our sweet Saviour that he delights still to show his strength in our weakness.
C. Consolation for Weak Christians
1. Let them know that a spark from heaven, though kindled under greenwood that sobs and smokes, yet it will consume all at last. Love once kindled is strong as death. . .Song of Sol. 8:6 . .1 Kings 18:38 . . No affliction without or corruption within shall quench it.
2. Rev. 12:1. Every one that is `born of God overcometh the world’ (1 John 5:4). Faith, whereby especially Christ rules, sets the soul so high that it looks down on all other things as far below, as having represented to it, by the Spirit of Christ, riches, honor, beauty and pleasures of a higher nature.
D. Evidence of Christ’s Rule in Us
1. Being able from experience to justify all Christ’s ways, . . No other men can justify their courses, when their conscience is awakened.
2. Having reasons of religion the strongest reasons with us, prevailing more than reasons fetched from worldly policy.
3. Being so true to our ends and steadfast to our rule that no hopes or fears can sway us another way, but still we are enquiring what agrees with or differs from our rule.
4. Being able to `do nothing against the truth, but for the truth’ (2 Cor. 13:8), the truth being dearer to us than our lives. Truth does not have this sovereignty in the heart of any carnal man.
5. If we had liberty to choose under whose government we would live, out of a delight in the inner man to Christ’s government, making choice of him only to rule us before any other. . . .It is the bent of our wills that makes us good or ill.
6. Having a well ordered, uniform life, not consisting of fits and starts, shows a well ordered heart; as in a clock, when the hammer strikes well, and the hand of the dial points well, it is a sign that the wheels are rightly set.
7. When Christ’s will comes into competition with any earthly loss or gain, yet then, in that particular case, having the heart willing to stoop to Christ is a true sign; for the truest trial of the power of grace is in particular cases which touch us most closely, for there our corruption makes the greatest head. When Christ came nearest to home with the young man in the gospel, he lost a disciple of him (Matt. 19. 22).
8. Being able to practice duties pleasing to Christ, though contrary to flesh and the course of the world, and being able to overcome ourselves in that evil to which our nature is prone and stands so much inclined, and which agrees to the ruling passion of the times, which others lie enthralled under, such as desire of revenge, hatred of enemies, private ends, etc., this shows that grace in us is above nature, heaven above earth, and will have the victory.
To make this clearer, and help us in our trial, we must know that there are three degrees of victory: first, when we resist though we are foiled; second, when grace gets the better, though with conflict; and third, when all corruption is perfectly subdued.