It would be impossible to overrate the importance of the two great subjects which I propose to consider; they lie at the basis of all true practical Christianity. It is equally important to understand the relation of the one as the other indeed, so essential is such apprehension, that it may be safely affirmed that, where the first is not known, the second does not follow. With regard to the place of the saint now, it is first of all to be understood that it is the exact contrast to all that belongs to nature. As born into the world, we are lost, and in that state we have contracted guilt, and we are moreover in a world into which death has entered, and where death is rampant. By nature then our condition is miserable, and this world, where we find ourselves, is both blasted and blighted, and, from the standpoint of "under the sun," the testimony must be, "all is vanity and vexation of spirit." Now out of this wretchedness and misery, God in mercy, purposed to deliver us, and has accomplished all that was in His heart, in and through His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. But deliverance out of our misery, most full and blessed though it is, was not all His purpose, but introduction into all the blessedness of an open heaven through deliverance, and union by the Holy Ghost with Him who died, and rose again, and ascended up on high. It is very wonderful how apt we are to limit what was in God's heart for us, and what has been accomplished and secured by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; and it is this very limit, beyond which so many never get, which is productive of the very painful and low type of practical walk to be seen all around us. It may perhaps startle the reader at first, to be told that forgiveness of sins is not of itself power, nor can forgiveness of itself enable a man, i.e., give him power, to walk so as to please God. Forgiveness is relief, and blessed and needed relief too; but power relates to my place in Christ, and the portion I have in Him. For example, when we read in Col. 3:5, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth," etc., it is an exhortation flowing out of the place we are in, and that place, as expounded in Col. 2 and 3, is dead and risen with Christ.
It is all important and blessed to see that I get both relief and power from Christ. The first relates to how He meets me in my deep need; the second has to do with the new place in Himself, into which He has brought me. Both are most blessedly expounded in the parable of the Good Samaritan, viz., "bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast," etc. It is amazing how few there are who have laid hold by faith of the fact that the Christian has been transferred to an entirely new condition and place, in and by Christ; that a Christian is a man after another order of being altogether, sprung from the second Adam now, as surely as, by nature, he was of the first Adam. Oh, what a reality to the soul is the deep blessedness of the fact that, as a Christian, I am now part of Him who said, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24.) Who can overrate the magnitude of the fact that, as a Christian, I am sprung from Him — part of that fruit which His death has brought forth?
Then another truth, akin to this, and closely allied with it is, that a man in Christ no more belongs to this world than he does to the man who, upon it, fell. The same precious death which severed his connection with the one, has equally severed it with the other. This world, this ordered system, which Satan is heading up against God and His Christ, is no more my place; by the Cross it has been crucified to me, and I to it, by a double death, as it were, a judicial sentence passed upon it, and me. I am for ever liberated from the slavery of being its friend. Blessed, wonderful emancipation! reaching up to the full tide of blessedness, when it is stated that His place, the One who has risen from the dead, has become, in sovereign grace, and by union with Him there, ours, who are quickened together with Christ, raised up together, and seated together in heavenly places in Christ. There remaineth nothing more for us to desire, save to see Him face to face, and, in a body of glory like His own, to be with Him for ever. In the presence of such manifested purpose and favour, so wonderfully accomplished by Him, and bestowed upon us, the soul bows down in adoring wonder, worship, and praise.
These two great kindred truths of which I have spoken, are very blessedly expounded in Ephesians 2. There the Christian is looked at as out of man, and out of earth. In the closing verses of chapter 1, Christ, viewed as the glorious Man, is set forth as the subject of the working of the mighty power of God, "who raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." Oh, the amazing brightness of the glory which shines in every line of this magnificent declaration! If God had a man to turn out of Eden for disobedience, He has also had a Man to reward, who glorified Him on the earth, even to death, the death of the cross. He it was, and none else, who was raised and glorified, and all things set under His feet, and He, constituted "Head over all things to the Church, His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."
Then in chapter 2, we are introduced to the same power in operation, quickening the heirs, to give them a part and a place, in and with Him, so glorified and exalted: and in order to set forth the blessed reach of this power, the position in which they are found is unfolded, viz., dead in trespasses and sins, walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit working in the children of disobedience; out of this state of death and distance from God, His power quickened them, so that they have been also raised up together, and seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And in the ages to come, God will display in them the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards them through Christ Jesus. Then in verse 11, He contrasts the two states, "At that time," referring to their old condition, "ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, but now," referring to their new condition, "in Christ Jesus, ye who sometime were far off, (i.e., dispensationally, for, morally, a Jew was no nearer than a Gentile), are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Blessed contrast, and still more blessed Person, in Whom and by Whom it has been all made good and secured!
There are some consequences which follow from our being consciously in this place, which I will note here. There is superiority to circumstances, as we pass along through this world, and there is rest amid the turmoils and troubles to which we are ever subjected in a region like this. Nothing can carry the soul into the atmosphere of superiority and rest, but the divine consciousness, by the Holy Ghost, of our place in Christ, and our union with Him in glory. When these are so possessed, known, and enjoyed, rest and superiority follow as divine consequences. No amount of effort can secure either; they are not to be acquired by any artificial struggle; effort always betrays weakness, and carries restlessness in its bosom. There is nothing more distressing to witness than the morbid and oppressed strivings of real and earnest souls after that which they make as truly a matter of attainment, as the sincere legalist does eternal life. The truth is, if a man is a Christian, he is in Christ, where Christ is, and the Holy Ghost dwells in him. He is out of man, and out of earth. Is there no sanctifying power in this, where it is really and divinely apprehended and known? I do not speak now of the mere assent of the understanding, but of the soul truly operated upon by these divine verities. The question has often been suggested to my own soul, whether there is not a danger of displacing the truth of God, by making us less the subjects of the Holy Ghost's power by means of the truth, and more the active party in the matter. I believe there is a tendency in many of us in this direction, and I cannot conceive any result that can follow, save failure of a serious nature. I do not for a moment deny that there is to be on our part dependence and subjection, and that, too, kept alive constantly in our soul. All this most surely must be found in connection with what I have already spoken of, as well as bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body," i.e. the practical application of the death of Christ to ourselves; but this in no sense traverses the truth we have been considering, but, on the contrary, coincides and unites with it. Self-occupation, and "bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus," are as distinct as midnight and noonday; the latter, known, would strike at the root of the former. Self-occupation is an indigenous plant; it is not only, in one of its aspects, the noxious weed, which grows rank in many a field, and which is branded and shunned, as such, by almost all; but it is also, in another of its aspects, the apparently beautiful flower which fain would blossom, and give forth a refreshing sweetness, and invite the passer-by to pluck and regale himself with its rich perfume.
Another consequence which follows from knowing our place in Christ, is, practical separation from all around us. In proportion to the sense we have of being at home in heaven, do we practically walk, as from home, here on the earth. No one can make himself a pilgrim; no one can acquire strangership on the earth. The spirit and mind of Christ, as well as familiarity with the place where He is, as our home, alone can impart the tone and character of pilgrims to us.
Another consequence of our place, known and possessed in the power of the Holy Ghost, is the manner in which everything connected with us, over which we have authority, is shaped and formed, so as to suit the truth which has suited us to itself. Our home relationships, our families, are not to be, and will not be exceptions in any wise, if the truth lays hold in power on ourselves. How deplorable the failure amongst us in this respect; the world, sought for the families of those who had surrendered it for themselves; prosperity, in respect of it, gloried in, even where this very success was Satan's blindfold to delude and destroy. After this fashion, many a testimony has been ruined, many a one, alas, has the sorrowful confession to make, viz: "They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept." Alas, the children, the families, and households of the saints, are a great reproach to the testimony. Other instances I could bring forward, but enough; it is self-evident that, if this heavenly position is maintained, neither pride, nor love of the world, nor love of money, will be tolerated; it will operate upon us in every direction and on every side; it will permeate everything; it will be seen in everything; both forming and maturing that which is of Christ in each of His beloved people. The Lord give us to know this truth in reality in these last days!