The object of redemption is to bring us nigh to God. Jesus suffered "the just for the unjust to bring us to God," yet it is impossible that we could be happy even then, were there still a thought of God's being against us. There can be no happiness unless I have the perfect, settled assurance that I have no sin upon me before Him. God's presence would be terrible if the conscience were not perfectly good; the sense of responsibility makes us unhappy where any question of sin stands against us. We see this in the case of a servant with his master, or of a child and its father - the conscience is miserable where there is the sense of anything upon it which will be judged; so if there is any happiness in God's presence, it must be in the sense of His favour, and of the completeness with which we are brought back that He sees us without sin, the perfect assurance of the "worshipper once purged, having no more conscience of sin." The condition of a believer is that his conscience is so purged once for all that he has "no more conscience of sin," and the result of this "boldness to enter into the holiest."
God speaks to us according to His estimate of our standing; it may not be our heart's experience. There is a distinctness of the operation of the Spirit of God in bringing me unto Jesus, bearing witness to me of God's love, of which Jesus was the manifestation, and of the efficacy of what Christ has done, and of His operation in my soul in producing in me the love of God. That which is the subject of experience is what is produced in my own soul, whereas that which gives me peace is His testimony to the work of Jesus. A Christian who doubts the Father's love to him, and who looks for peace to that which passes in his own heart is doubting God's truth.
The gospel is the revelation God has given of Himself; it displays the love of God towards us and what is in His heart. I can trust the declaration of what is in God's heart, and not what I think of myself.
The apostle speaks of a due time: "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." It is almost always true that there is in us a terrible process of breaking the heart, in order that we may be brought to the ascertainment that we are lost and ruined sinners; but the gospel begins at the close of God's experience of man's heart, and calls us from that in order that we should have the joy and peace of the experience of what is in His heart. "God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Man left alone before the flood, put under the law in Canaan, indeed under all and every trial of his nature and tendency up to the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, was just God's putting to the test man's power.
One would have thought, after Adam had been turned out of paradise for transgression, that would have been a sufficient warning; but his first-born became a murderer. We should have supposed that the flood, which swept off the workers of iniquity, would have repressed for a time at least by the terror of judgment, the outbreak of sins; but we find immediately afterwards Noah getting drunk, and Ham dishonouring his father. The devouring fire of Sinai, which made even Moses fear and quake, seemed sufficient to subdue the rebel heart and make it bow beneath God's hand. But the golden calf was the awful evidence that the heart of man was "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Again in Canaan a part of the world was tried to the utmost to be cultivated, but it would not do. A bad tree producing bad fruit was the only type by which God could set Israel forth. (See Isa. 5) He might dig about it and dung it, but after all these efforts it could only bring forth more bad fruit. At last He said, "I have yet one son, perhaps they will reverence my son;" but man preferred having the world for himself, and crucified Jesus. Looking to His cross, he said, "Now is the judgment of this world." (John 12) Man may brave the judgment of God, but a day is coming when God will settle that; all one day shall bow to the name of Jesus.
At the crucifixion of Jesus, the veil was rent; the holiest opened, and what God was within the veil was then shown out in all its fulness. When grace reveals this to me I get confidence. I see God holy and expecting holiness - true; but the peace of God is in knowing what He is to us, and not what we are to Him. He knows all the evil of our hearts. Nothing can be worse than the rejection of Jesus. Man's hatred is shown out there, and God's love, to the full. The wretched soldier who, in the cowardly impotence of the consciousness that he could with impunity insult the meek and lowly Jesus, pierced His side with a spear, let out, in that disgraceful act, the water and the blood, which was able to cleanse even such as he. Here God's heart was revealed, what He is to the sinner, and this is our salvation.
Death and judgment teach me redemption. God judged sin indeed in sacrificing His well-beloved Son to put it away. It must be punished, Jesus bore the blow - this rent the veil, and showed out what God really is. The very blow that let out the holiness of God, put away the sin which His holiness judged.
The perfect certainty of God's love, and the perfect cleansing of the conscience, are what the defiled and trembling sinner needs. "By the grace of God Jesus Christ tasted death." In Jesus, death is the consequence of grace. "Out of the eater cometh forth meat, and out of the strong sweetness." All sin is put out of sight by Jesus.
Faith always rests on God's estimate of the blood of Jesus as He has revealed it in His word - faith rests on no experience. There is frequently the confounding of what faith produces and what it rests upon. Faith rests on God's estimate of the blood of Jesus as the Paschal Lamb. The Lord said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over." Could there be hesitation if we were in a house marked with the blood on the door-post? Should we not know that He would pass over?
In real communion the conscience must be purged: there can be no communion if the soul be not at peace. "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Jesus said, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." "By the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." It was the good will of God to do it; and the work is done to bring our souls back to Himself. Jesus said, "It is finished;" but there must be the knowledge of this in order for us to begin to act. You might have a person willing to pay your debts, and you might even have them paid; but if you did not know it, you would be just as miserable as before. We are not called upon to believe in a promise that Jesus should come to die and rise again. The work of Jesus is done - "He sat down on the right hand of God" "when he had purged our sins;" but that is not sufficient, I must know that the work is done, and therefore He sent down the Holy Ghost to be the witness that God was satisfied. He remembers my sins no more. Knowing perfectly their guilt and amount, He has purged them all away; for "by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified, whereof the Holy Ghost is witness." Faith rests on this - "God is true," - "He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." Faith is always divine certainty. On this ground we enter into the holiest.
If any one were to demand of me a proof of God's love, I could not give more than God has - His Son: none other could be so great. But then may not my sin affect it? No; the "blood cleanses from all sin;" God knows all, and He has provided for it.
God has found His rest in Jesus; our peace and joy depend upon knowing this. Were anything more necessary, it could not be His rest; God is not seeking for something else when at rest. None else could have afforded this, God looked down from heaven to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God; they were all gone out of the way - there was none righteous; no, not one. But God bore witness unto Jesus, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." God is well pleased in Christ; God rests in His Son, not merely in His life, though that was holy and acceptable unto Him, but in His work on the cross. Jesus said, "Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." And that meets our need. When He shows His glory to the angels, He points to what has been done by man. In man was God glorified, as in man, the first Adam, He had been dishonoured. Christ reversed all this. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him;" which God recognizes in straightway glorifying Him. Righteousness cannot be looked for from the world, but the fruits of righteousness will; the thing itself is only in Christ.
God is not a grudging giver. Did Satan, tempting Eve, question this in the forbidden fruit? He has given His Son; He rests in Him. The sinner likewise rests there. What can man do for me? Nothing. If I were to come to him to deliver me from death, could he help me? He might fill my hand with those perishing things which could only swell the triumph of death and decorate the tomb; but there his power ends.
In Jesus God has found His rest. This is mine also; I know it from the testimony of God's truth. Have you found rest in God's rest? If you say, I have not, will you say that God has not found His rest there? Will you look to your own heart? In that you can never find it; it is only in Jesus. Jesus said, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." Would that all knew the perfect rest to be found there!