Below is an excerpt from Octavius Winslow’s Born Again. Winslow was a Puritan at the tail end of the theological tradition and regularly rubbed shoulders with Charles Spurgeon and the few other “non-conformists” left in England. Below is Winslow’s description of the centrality of Christ in the “new birth,” which as I have said many times from the pulpit isn’t a phrase the Baptists invented! Nor, is the new birth as many Episcopalians wrongly suppose, brought about by the water baptism of infants. Rather, it is the thoroughly Biblical experience that describes the process where individuals dead to God through sin are made alive to God through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Peter 1.3 or John 3.1-8).
The doctrine of the indwelling of the renewed soul in Christ is the first truth that arrests our attention. “If any man be IN CHRIST.” To be in Christ is to be in union with essential life. Life can only communicate life. The soul quickened with spiritual life is a reproduction of the life of Jesus. It is not that the soul lives, as that Christ lives in the soul. In Christ our death is quickened into His life, our demerit is merged into His merit, our unrighteousness merges into His righteousness, our blackness is lost in His loveliness. And thus Christ is the Divine principle, the root, the substance, the alpha and the omega of all that is godly in us.
“Christ, who is our life.” From the commencement to the completion of grace in the soul–from the first tear of godly sorrow wept on earth, to the first note of holy joy sounded in heaven–Christ is essentially and indivisibly one with His people. The spiritual life of the soul springs from the cross, is entwined with the cross, is fed by the cross of Jesus; and, when that life springs into heaven, it will be from the foot of the cross that shaded and sheltered it in all the vicissitudes through which it passed in its journey from grace to glory.
The New Birth, then, is the spiritual reinstating of the soul into Christ. Sin broke the stem of Eden’s beauteous flower–the sinless creature man–and flung it, a poisoned weed, upon the dark, seething waters of the curse, henceforth to drift away upon the treacherous current toward the yawning gulf of endless woe. But the New Birth recovers this broken stem, reinstates it into Christ, henceforth to bear the precious fruits of grace here, and, in full bloom, to be laden with the golden fruits of glory hereafter.
With every step in this divine and marvelous recovery of man it is instructive to trace the union of the Lord Jesus–how all flows from Christ, leads to Christ, and through Christ conducts us up to the Father, from whose ineffable love it first springs, and to whose divine glory it shall eternally redound. The Church was loved in Christ, chosen in Christ, blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, is called in Christ, preserved in Christ, and with Christ will be ultimately glorified. How clearly and impressively does His inimitable figure illustrate this truth, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Sweet to trace all ‘streamlets of grace’ to JESUS–eternal election, preservation in unregeneracy, effectual grace, full pardon, free justification, divine adoption, full salvation, endless glory. Not a link can we strike in this golden chain of covenant blessing but it echoes the name of Jesus! Touch the lowest on earth, and it sends its vibration of faith and love up to the central throne of heaven, where sits and reigns and intercedes the Lamb that was slain. O believer, how ennobling your union, how exalted your position, how secure your standing! You are in Christ–vitally, inseparably one with Him, your life is with His life, your heart is enshrined within His heart, your interests are entwined with His interests, your hand is locked in His hand, and His eye, beaming with love, bends ever over you. The Lord, having espoused your person, has become surety for all your interests, temporal, spiritual, and eternal.
So entirely are you spiritually incorporated with Christ, your sins are drowned in His blood, your demerit is lost in His righteousness, your hell-deservings are annihilated in His heaven-winning merits, your entire self is absorbed in Him, and you stand before God without one law-condemning charge, or one guilt-effacing spot. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
What! am I now and forever acquitted at the bar of infinite justice–all my accusers silenced, all my charges met, the indictment quashed, and the sentence of full and free justification pronounced? Yes! Jesus has done it all, leaving me nothing to do but believingly to accept the free gift of His love. His obedience honored the precepts of the law, His death satisfied the claims of justice, His resurrection ratified and sealed the engagements He undertook, and I go forth to breathe the free air and to bask in the warm sunshine of a present and a full salvation. The debt is cancelled, the prison is thrown open, the lawful captive is delivered, and heaven shall ring with hallelujahs, and God shall be eternally glorified. “Be astonished, O heavens, at this!”
Reader, endeavor to get into Christ. Rest not short of it. Be not satisfied without the assurance that it is your true position. Christ is an open door to all poor comers–enter and be saved. Wait not to mend one filthy rag, to obliterate one dark spot, to heal one festering wound; approach and enter, all sinful and unworthy as you are, and once in Him, your filthy garments are exchanged for beautiful attire, your soul is made whiter than snow, the bruise is healed, the scar is effaced, and you are COMPLETE in Him.
What a consolatory truth is this, also, in deep trial! Christ’s interest in His people is not a divided interest. He does not separate their persons from their circumstances. One with you, He is one with all that appertains and attaches to you. He moulds and pencils all the events of your life–giving to each its form and complexion; is pledged to the supply of every need, to guide each step, sustain in every sorrow, and to keep you by His power unto the end. Oh, the blessedness of being in Christ! Here alone is liberty, security, and peace. The foe cannot assail you, the arrow cannot wound you, the storms cannot reach you, encompassed by His divine perfections, and pavilioned within His living, loving heart.
Living in Christ, it is the privilege of the believer to depart hence in Christ. “Those who sleep in Him.” It is not death to die in the Lord. It is life in all but the name. We call it death, but He “has abolished death,” and the believer in Jesus shall not see death. And when the last enemy approaches, all armed for the dread battle, he finds the soul he had thought to claim as his victim has become his victor, and he retires vanquished from the field amid the shout of the departing conqueror, “O death! where is your sting?” And when the Lord shall descend from heaven, all those who died in the Lord shall swell His train. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” “And the dead in Christ shall rise first.”
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