The Head of the Church
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, April 29th, 1849
I have made choice of this portion of Holy Writ in consequence of having remarked, in several publications which profess much Christian charity, the wish expressed that all "held the Head," and would lay aside other matters, and be of one heart and of one soul. Again, and again have I met with the phrase, "all who hold the Head." I was consequently led to inquire what it could mean. Perceiving it to be a Scripture phrase, I turned to it, and was led to examine its connection, as well as the meaning of the Holy Ghost in the phrase itself; and that meaning I hope to be able to set before you this morning. You will perceive that the apostle is holding forth both reproof and instruction to the Colossians, and in them and through them to you and to me. He says, "Let no man judge you, therefore, in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or the Sabbath days; which are shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:16,17). All these are but shadows. There is really nothing of substance in them, no body; and I could not help lifting a cry unto the throne of the Most High God, that my religion might have some substance in it, a substance that cannot be doubted, that I might not be amongst those who are amused with shadows, with meats, with drinks, with holydays, with new moons, and with particular days. If Paul had lived in our time he would have added wax candles blazing at noon-day, vestments, bowings, turnings, genuflexions, and gesticulations, and other things equally foolish and absurd, but not less awful than foolish and absurd. They may be shadows; but if so, they are shadows of something that is very ugly, and more like Antichrist than "Christ the body." They are all a piece of amusement, and I strongly apprehend that a very large portion of that which passes for Christianity in our days, is nothing more or less than amusement, religious amusement, a shadowy thing without substance; but I pray God that the truths of the gospel may come down upon your souls as a substance this morning, that you may feel their weight and importance, and be prostrated thereby at the feet of Jesus.
The apostle proceeds, "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary." What a remarkable thing that this expression should be used here. It is exactly the prominent characteristic of the modern priesthood, especially of the Puseylites sect. There is, then, an affectation of humanity, which may be a voluntary humility; and it is the most plausible, gentlemanly, and Jesuitical in manner that can possibly be assumed. Let no man beguile you with it is the caution of the Holy Ghost by the apostle; "and worshipping of angels," or any created being, whether it be the Virgin Mary or anything else, is a sin against God, it is idolatry. "Intruding into those things which he hath not seen," mark the cause, "vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." What an awful picture of a prodigious multitude of professors, who would be highly offended if we denied them the name of Christians. But what sums up the whole of their degeneracy, and marks their awful position is, "not holding the Head." They will tell us they do; but surely the Head never took hold of them, or they would not indulge in such absurdities, as those I have referred to. "Not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God."
There are two things to which I desire to invite your attention upon the first clause of this verse: the first is the Headship of Christ over His Church; and the second is the enjoyment of that Headship, "holding" it, which the world is a stranger to, "not holding the Head."
I. Let us dwell upon the Headship of Christ over His Church. It is of vast importance, and the more so in these days, because it is so generally overlooked, and other heads, enough to make a monster of the Church, are set up to the rejection of His Headship. Let me, therefore, just invite your attention to the fundamental principle upon which all our comfort must rest, and all our security too, that Christ Jesus is the Head of the body the Church, the only living Head of His body the Church, and was instituted to be so before all time, by the mutual love and covenant compact of the Triune Jehovah. This is the grand origin and first cause of all that relates to what we call salvation and redemption, the Headship of Christ. If you for one moment contrast it with the headship of Adam, we are told expressly, speaking of the two headships, that the first man, Adam, was made a living soul, and as such the head and progenitor of all living souls in a literal sense; that the second man, the Lord from heaven, was made a quickening spirit, and as such the Head of all quickening grace and life and influence. And this sacred and delightful official character which our precious Christ sustains, and ever will sustain, He was instituted to in the council of peace, before all time. The Father gave Him to be such, as it is written, He gave Him to be Head over all things unto His Church. The Son accepted the appointment, became the portion and inheritance of His Church, betrothed her to Himself in loving-kindness, faithfulness, and tender mercy, and became her Head as her Husband. The Holy Ghost has recorded the grand transaction. So that the mutual understanding, the mutual covenant, the mutual compact, and the mutual love of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, instituted the glorious and infallible Headship of Christ over His Church, which we shall now a little attempt to describe.
Let us, however, firmly establish the fact, because the precious Book of God is full of declarations to this purport and amount. For instance, the Father says, in the very beginning of the book of Psalms, "I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion, and I will declare the decree" (Ps. 2:6,7). Well, then, the Headship of Christ over His Church is a decretive matter, and that decree is declared and proclaimed by Jehovah the Father. Moreover, the Holy Ghost is the grand recorder of heaven; for "there are Three that bear record in heaven" (1 John 5:7); and as He is pleased to put it, "in the volume of the book it is written" (Ps. 40:7; Heb. 10:7). So that our Christ, in undertaking His office with "Lo, I come to do thy will" (Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:7), bespeaks at once the Father's appointment and His Headship, and the Spirit's record of it "in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will." I beg you to keep this constantly in view in all your perusals of the precious Word of God, and in all the sermons you hear; and if, in the providence of God, you are thrown in among any multitude of people, and nothing is said about the Headship of Christ, you may retire and say, "I fear they do not hold the Head here;" and if so, the Head does not hold them; if so, there is no election, and no oneness with Christ. I entreat you to look to this point, that our precious, glorious Christ is the Head of His Church under Divine appointment, in the ancient settlement of love, of the glorious Trinity, as the source of all spiritual life. What must we think, then, of the great bulk of professors? Why, we should think of them as we should of the body after the head has been cut off from it, it is a dead body.
Bear with me in the opening of this idea, if I asset and maintain most unreservedly, that all profession of Christianity, without vital union to Christ, is a dead profession, a dead Christianity, a dead religion; and there are no living Christians, none in possession of spiritual life, but those who are in union with the Lord Jesus Christ. That union was stipulated for, appointed, and recognized in the sacred institution of His Headship, and is therefore called the virtual union, in which, and by virtue of which, the whole election of grace were seen from everlasting, in union with Christ and one with Him. So that, as we have not infrequently observed, the Father never saw a member of His Church but in union with Christ; and never saw Christ, as Christ, from all eternity, but in union with His Church, Head and body united. But bear with me here, whilst I dwell upon Him as the Source of life; and examine two things; the first is, whether our religion hath any life in it; and the second is, where we get it; because there may be a false life. There are not a few automatons in our day who pass for Christians. Hath your religion any life in it, any value in it, any power to walk and to work? Can it see, hear, taste, and handle the precious things of God in a spiritual point of view? Well, then, where did you get it? If it be only in theory, you may have obtained it from books. If it be only in theory, it may be perfectly sound, and yet never have gone further than the head, never entered the heart. It may be perfectly sound in theory, but afford no solid joy or believing assurance, and produce no repentance, no faith, no life, no spirit of prayer, no spirit of gratitude, no oneness with Jesus, and no capacity to feast upon Him; but if it is obtained from the throne, if it is obtained from the proper source, and received immediately from Jesus, for "he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life" (1 John 5:12), then all these will be marks, and proofs, and evidences of it. And if so, I can imagine that you have come here today, being living souls, having obtained your life from Christ, hungry and thirsty, and, as His people, desirous of participating upon the mountain of the Lord in the feast of fat things. To you the blessing is pronounced, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matt. 5:6). Come, then, beloved, if the life of God dwell in thee, and thou art conscious of having received it from Christ, open thy mouth wide with expectation, pour forth thy cries without reserve, take the heaviest promises that faith's hand can bear up under, and carry them to God for payment, and expect the communications of grace promised in His Word. "Prove me now, herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." Our precious Christ is the source of life to His whole Church. He is also entrusted with all authority, He is the Head of authority over all worlds, and in His Church.
I am quite aware that it is a dangerous thing to trust some men with authority, for if they have not mind equal to the extent of the authority so entrusted to them, they will make an exceedingly bad use of it. But we are under no apprehensions respecting our precious Christ, and therefore I read with sacred delight, that all power in heaven and in earth is entrusted to Him, and committed to Him; that it is His prerogative to exercise all power, in the employment of angels, in the commanding of myriads of His created servants to go forth and minister to the heirs of salvation, in the preparation of the mansions for His redeemed to occupy, in the distributing for the fullness of the covenant of grace all its essential gifts, in His demanding all the sacred settlements of covenant love to be carried out and fulfilled agreeable to His own covenant engagements, on account of which He shed His blood. All authority, both in heaven and in earth, is His. In heaven He uses that authority to plead with the Father in the very character of demand. "I will," quite authoritative you observe, "I will," says He to the Father, "that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory" (John 17:24). All authority on earth, over enemies, over laws, over nations, over persecutors, over friends as well as foes, and over providences, is entrusted to Him. Why, beloved, what a shame it is that you and I should ever give way to our feelings; that you and I should ever give way to, or harbour, doubts, and fears, and scruples, in the face of this great fact, that all authority on earth, as well as in heaven, is entrusted to Christ, and that you and I are entrusted to Him as well. What should alarm us, then? What should shake our faith? What should produce a fear, except the fear of shame? What should cause us to tremble? What should produce any anxiety, when we know that, with all our anxieties, we cannot make one hair white or black.
Oh, when I come before my precious Christ, and hold communion with Him, how delightful it is to behold Him with the reins of government in His own hands, moving with a touch this way or that way the hearts of all men, controlling all affairs, great and small. All matters pertaining to my soul and my body, to my ministry and your hearing, to my habitation, where I shall move, and where I shall dwell; all matters pertaining to my health, to my life, to the moment of my departure, as well as to my eternal destiny, all in Christ's hands, committed to Him, entrusted to His care. Nay, more, the old Adam chained down by Him, the old serpent, with a bruised head, laid prostrate at His feet, and He declaring that He will bruise him under our feet. I ask, shall my precious Christ, with such authority in heaven and on earth, be denied, be despised, be distrusted, be deposed? God forbid! We cannot, as Christians, deny Him. We cannot, as Christians despise Him; but, even as Christians, it is possible for us to distrust Him. And, oh, my soul, be thou ashamed and humbled before God, that thou hast done so in a thousand instances! It is really a reproach upon our Christianity, when we view Him as, "Head over all things unto His Church," as well as in His Church, that we should not be able to leave everything in His hands, and then realize the sentiment, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isa. 26:3).
But do not overlook the other point to which I have alluded in connection with this, that all authority in the Church is entrusted to Him, as well as over all things for the Church. Within the living Church of God we own no authority but Christ's. Whoever He may delegate and to be employed in His Church, according to His ascension gifts, we regard as His offices. But the authority to make laws, the authority to give laws, the authority to fix and establish churches, the authority to qualify and appoint ministers, the authority to take possession of the hearts of those who shall be members, the authority to dispense all covenant blessings for their personal experience and enjoyment, is wholly with Jesus. It is entrusted entirely to His hands, and we cannot allow it to any created being. Whether we view the Church in her united body, as including all the election of grace, for that is the largest sense in which the term church is employed in scripture, or whether we view the Church in her different sections, in which she is spoken of in the plural, as "the churches" in either sense, as it regards doctrines, privileges, precepts, the establishments of churches, the appointment of ministers, and the work of the ministry, no authority can be owned, and never shall be by me, but the authority of God. "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Eph. 4:8), but He never delegated authority to them that they should give; at all events, I cannot find any portion of the Word of God which states that He did so. "And He gave some apostles, and some prophets," who did their work and went to glory. Then He gave "some evangelists," and sent them all over the world to preach the gospel to every creature. Then, He gave "some pastors and teachers" (Eph. 4:11), who should take special charges, and the oversight of flocks. All this was according to His own mind and will; but, mind you, they were all His apostles, all His prophets, all His evangelists, all His pastors and teachers. And that man who professes to be the minister of Christ, whilst he is not Christ's minister, is the devil's minister, and his office is to deceive souls. All real ministers of the Church of God, in every section of the Church of God, are His own sending; and when appointed to guide or rule the Church of God they have their written orders in every particular from the throne, and they are not at liberty to preach, to pray, to rule, to work, or to act in any way, in the Church of the living God, but as the glorious Head of the Church has appointed. They shall hearken to the words of His mouth, and warn sinners from Him. If they take the guidance or superintendance of any portion of His flock, it must be after His heart and by His command and direction, according to the written rules before their eyes, in their hands and upon their hearts. This precious authority is entrusted to Him by the council of peace, in order that His whole Church may be safe in His hands.
Allow me here to observe, that all wise, spiritual people are as willing to trust this to Christ as God the Father is. God the Father trusted my soul in His hands, and every one, in the fullness of time, is ready and willing to trust his soul in His hands also. God the Father trusted all events relative to conversions, comforts, and feastings in the hands of Christ, and you and I will trust them there too. We will use the means, we will come to His house, we will read His Word, we will present ourselves at His feet, and hold social intercourse with the followers of the Lamb, just to receive what He shall be pleased to bestow, according to His absolute authority in the Churches. What peaceful lives should we be passing if we were ever living under the authority of Christ, in all things acknowledging it, and glorifying Him in that He has condescended to take such an interest in us. As the Head of His body His Church, He is held responsible, and we cannot dwell too frequently upon that doctrine: He is held responsible to satisfy all the attributes of Deity; He is held responsible to sanctify all His blood bought family; He is held responsible to glorify all He redeems and sanctifies. Look for a moment at this responsibility. He is held responsible to satisfy all the attributes of Deity, justice, holiness, and truth, as well as mercy, love, and tenderness. The compassion of Jesus' heart expands with a fullness of merit, and love, and righteousness, to satisfy all the justice of God; to sheathe His sword since it smote the Shepherd, the Head, to spare the sheep. The holiness of God has no more to ask in the way of meritoriousness, but what is found in Christ, emphatically called the Holy One of God. The truth of God is met and centers in Him, and every iota of it carried out and fulfilled according to His own declaration. The mercy of God is embodied in Him, so that He is emphatically styled the "mercy Promised;" and no mercy is obtained by ruined sinners but in union with Christ and from His fullness. The love of Jehovah centers in His Person, is fixed upon Him officially, and embracing all the living Church in Him as members of His mystical body. Our precious Christ is held responsible for all this.
Moreover He is held responsible not only for satisfying, but for the sanctifying of His Church. I bring this in with more intense interest, because there are so many mistakes made about sanctification, and because the lovers of the truth of God are so frequently accused of denying and rejecting it altogether. But so far from this, we rejoice to know, that "He is of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification," mark, sanctification, as well as "redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). So that the sanctification of the whole Church is laid upon Christ. His own holiness, His own life, is imputed and imparted also; and all the objects of His love, redeemed by His most precious blood, are, sooner or later, made to receive sanctifying power and grace, which He sends down the Holy Spirit to communicate to their personal experience, and with that sanctification come in all the graces of the Holy Spirit, which henceforward are brought into lively exercise, act upon the Person of Jesus, and go forth towards God; so that the believing family of God are set apart from the world, separated from those who know not God, made to pant after spiritual attainments, and grow up into Christ in all things. And for all this He is responsible. When this is Christ's work, a holy life and holy principles will be imparted, and they shall be made to grow until they reach the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ. For all this He is held responsible.
Moreover, He is held equally responsible for the glorifying of all whom He has redeemed with His blood, justified by His righteousness, and sanctified by His Spirit. Hence the apostle was led by the Holy Ghost to speak of them all in the past tense in the eighth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, "Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren." Moreover, "whom He did predestinate, them He also Called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom. 8:29,30). He does not say, "them He also will glorify." He does not add the conditions of poor worms, and say, "if they will persevere, and improve the grace that is given them." There is nothing of the sort in the Bible. But it is set down as a thing done, a thing already accomplished, and therefore it is, "whom He justified, them He also glorified." "What shall we say to these things?" The apostle might well ask. "Say," exclaim modern, squeamish professors, "why that they are very dangerous things." Well, you may say so, if you like, and reproach God for putting them in His Word; but I dare not say so. Beware, however, of what you are doing. Do not insult God. If you ask me what I say to these things, I reply, that they are glorious things; that our precious Christ, as the Head of His Church, should be held responsible for, not only all that is due to the attributes of Deity, but all that is requisite for His Church, even to her glorification. Nor would He be satisfied, nor would He sit upon His throne ultimately, if one member of His mystical body, or one object of His electing love, were not glorified along with Him! Oh, the blessedness of this security!
Having glanced at these things, before I quit this first part of our discourse, I must detain you a little longer here, in order to show that His Headship excludes all pretenders to Headship. What would the multitude of modern professors think of this bold declaration? I must maintain it. If the Father hath given Him, I withdraw the "if;" since the Father hath given Him to be the Head over all things to the Church; and it is stated emphatically that He is the Head, not merely a Head of the Church, what must I say when Popes, and Potentates, and Prelates, and Priests, and Premiers, and Patrons, and Presidents, and I cannot tell the rest of the catalogue of usurpers, dare assume a headship in and over the Church of God? I verily believe that the fiercest and heaviest judgments of the great day of God will fall upon those usurpers of the authority of Christ. I acknowledge none of them, and I bless God for it. They may dare presume to rush upon the thick bosses of Jehovah's buckler, to "kick against the pricks," and to fight with Omnipotence; but they will be sure to be conquered, sooner or later. I have admitted, and am quite willing to admit, that in the appointment of Christ there is an appointment to a pastorate, to a shepherd's office, to a special care, to a ministerial work; but I have insisted that even that was not invested by Christ, with a single atom of authority but what is held amenable to Him, derived from His sanction, given in His word, and for the glory of His name, and not the glory of the creature.
But if the Church is to be made a monster by assuming the seven heads I have just named, then where are the characters to be found, professing even common sense, who would wish to belong to it at all? If we take all these authorities as usurpation, what wonder that the Churches are always in a state of confusion and dismay! Take the contrary side, and only admit that there is to be no care or guidance for the Church on earth, then you have a head without a body, for Christ is rejected in all the offices that He sustains; and I cannot help saying, that all those who reject, who do not "hold the Head" in the sense in which I have been naming it, and all who reject Christ in the manner Scripture holds Him forth, are dead bodies of Christians, a dead body of Socinians, a dead body of Arians, a dead body of Arminians. They have no official Head. They are rejectors of Christ. Consequently we can look for no life in them.
II. We will pass on to the second part of our subject, the experimental knowledge of this Head, which is hidden from the world, "not holding the head." There are three or four things here to which I claim your most serious and prayerful attention. And I think that the first view we are to take of this awful characteristic of false profession is, that whatever they say of rites and ceremonies, forms and superstitions, they do not honour Christ's doctrine therein. They do not enjoy Him experimentally. They do not adore Him spiritually. They do not devote the life to Him practically. "Not holding the Head." That is, not honouring Him doctrinally. I begin with this, because most of the disputes in the day in which we live, arise respecting doctrinal statements; and if Christ be not honoured in them all, they are not orthodox. If Christ be not honoured in them all, they are only inventions of men. They may be so shaped and worded, as to look a little like some Scripture statements; yet, after all, they are only perversions of Scripture, unless this one touchstone is set up, and everything brought to it, honouring Him in every doctrine.
Allow me, one moment, to take notice of two or three doctrines; and the doctrine of election first, because it is the most offensive, and because even those who do "not hold the Head," cannot but admit that there is such an expression employed in the Word of God, though they are sorry to be obliged to admit that. I wonder they do not blot it out of the Bible. But they endeavour to explain it away as meaning that it is a national, general, or contingent election. But this does not honour Christ, and that is my one criterion. Without going into a multitude of Scriptures to show the folly and wickedness of people, I come to this one point, that they do not honour Christ. But when Jehovah says of Christ, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth" (Isa. 42:1), and then commands the apostle to say that we were elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father in Him, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). I see, in accordance with my text, Head and members one in the eternal choice, and one in the election of grace. I should not like Christ to be chosen without me. I should not like to be chosen to salvation without Christ, were it possible. But to be "chosen in Him, before the foundation of the world," is a grand fundamental Christian truth, which honours Christ, because all the elect members are seen in Him.
Moreover, if we look at the doctrine of justification, upon which there are almost as many mistakes and demurs as there are relative to the doctrine of election, they dishonour Christ. Now, if it be from any merit of the creature; if it be by the works of the fallen beings; if it be in part of works and part of grace; or if any merit is supposed to exist in faith itself, it does not honour Christ. But when I read that "we are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," it honours Him. I should not like to go to heaven without honouring Christ. I should not like to go to justifying righteousness without honouring Christ. So, if we go to the spirit of adoption and the privileges of the family of God, to make them promiscuous, would be to dishonour Christ. But if we look at Him as the first-born, the first-begotten, the greatest and highest of all His brethren (and He is not ashamed to call them brethren), then by the spirit of adoption, coming from the Holy Ghost, and by the filial spirit of God the Son, as we read in the Epistle to the Galatians, we honour Him, "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts" (Gal. 4:6). Then comes the honouring of Christ in the personal experience, when the very Spirit of Christ, dwelling in the believer's soul, just cries as Christ did, "Oh, my Father!" Again and again He uses the appellation, and commands the disciples to use it, "When ye pray, say, Our Father."
So, also, sanctification; so, also, perseverance and preservation, preserved in Christ Jesus, as well as called in Him. He has sworn that He will never leave and never forsake us, but will be with us always, even to the end of the world. Hence we are said to be "kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation" (1 Pet. 1:5). Thus we plead that the first grand prominent thing in "not holding the Head" is rejecting the doctrine, or form of the doctrine, and ceasing to honour Him. I trust that I may turn to my hearers now, and say, that there are many of you who do hold the Head, and love to see Him honoured in all things, and hear Him proclaimed as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. And I think you would be a little afflicted with nausea if I were to abandon the strain of exalting my precious Christ to honour creature doings, and give them the prominent place in my discourses. God forbid! Rather I would cast them all to the dunghill. Let me be employed in honouring Christ, and exalting His holy name in every sermon that I deliver.
The "not holding the Head" also assumes a solemn aspect, when we look at it as not enjoying vital union with Him experimentally. And here, beloved, I crave, nay I claim and demand, your most serious and close self-examination. You might go with me in all the statements I have made upon doctrine, and yet be lost for ever, if the theory only be held and avowed. But the point I am now entering upon is essentially and inseparably connected with your eternal salvation and glory. Examine it closely. The enjoyment of a vital union with Christ, in an experimental sense, is that for which the apostle prayed, "that Christ may be formed in your hearts;" that Christ may receive you in the sense of engrafting, as a branch or twig into a living vine; that Christ may so impact His own life to nourish and keep up, as well as to originate that communion and fellowship with Him, which is above the world, is superior to all earthly enjoyments, and is the sweetest foretaste and earnest of heaven itself.
It is to sit with Him, to walk with Him, to talk with Him, to cleave to Him, to lean upon His breast and enjoy His smiles, to receive the kisses of His mouth, to have His blood applied to the conscience, His grace suffusing the soul, His holy anointings saturating our experience, His promises melted into enjoyment, the soul itself melted into His bosom, with contrition, with consolation, with love, with delight, with gratitude; a holy oneness enjoyed; a sacred special, believing assurance that there can be no separation between Christ and my soul; such a oneness as will not allow me to travel without Him, to sleep without Him, to wake without Him, to eat or drink without Him, to worship without Him, to preach without Him, or to hear without Him, to any comfort or profit to my soul. He is seen in all things manifestly to the soul, revealing Himself, His look, His touch, His drawing power, His love-tokens, His smiling operations, His sacred joys and promises fulfilled, and He is seen in the ministry which He is carrying on by His Spirit in the souls of His people, calling all His graces into exercise, and vanquishing and subduing the corruptions of old Adam nature. Now this looks very like the rest of the verse, the Head, from which all the body, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God." A sacred oneness. You may see knit together the joints and bands of the body, literally, and certainly, as "we are fearfully and wonderfully made," it is one of the most serious studies of all. Every part of the body, the bones, the sinews, the joints, and the arteries, may all be in their proper place; but what if the head be cut off? The mere knitting together of these parts is of no use: the oneness is wanting, the head. And this is what we want with our Jesus, oneness with Him. It is enough for you that you carry a fair name as Christians? That you have a name and a place in the Church of Christ on earth? That you go through a round of formal rites and ceremonies, which may be true or untrue? If this be all, it is a dead work, a dead service, a dead letter, and there is no life in you. Oh, the vast importance, then, of examining this one point! My soul and Jesus vitally united, in consequence of the vitual union given me in Him and to Him before all time.
Now, having examined this vital union with Christ, and deplored the fact that multitudes hold not the Head, and that consequently their profession is of no use to them, let us glance at the manner of "holding the Head," and adoring Him spiritually. And here you know all Arians and Socinians are out of the question at once. Moreover, Papists, Puseylites, and free-willers also are very nearly, if not altogether, out of the question; because, whilst the former reject the Head entirely, and deny the eternal and essential Deity of Christ, and therefore cannot be called Christian any more than Tom Paine could be called a Christian; the latter will put other objects alongside of Christ, to share in the adoration due to Him alone, and that is virtually rejecting Him, "not holding the Head." For instance, the Papist will put the Virgin Mary forward, as entitled to equal adoration with the Lord Jesus Christ. Downright Infidelity, a positive "not holding the Head," a rejecting of Christ. Moreover, there are those who passed for Protestants, who will put proud free will, the mind of the creature, the ability of man, the merits of mortals, and the like, to share in the adoration that is due only to Christ. The language which is used in the verse just preceding my text is "worshipping of angels;" and this is rebuked and rejected in the Word of God. When John was in the isle of Patmos, and had had the revelation brought to him by the mouth of an angel, he says, "And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book, worship God!"
But now I turn to congratulate you, my hearers, surely I may, those who sit in Grove Chapel; and I trust the strangers too, that you are accustomed to adore the precious Christ, co-equal, and co-eternal with the Father, and indivisible from the Father. Surely you acknowledge Him as "God over all, blessed for evermore!" The proclamation of Jehovah is, "Let all the angels of God worship Him;" and, surely, if He is the object of worship to angels, He must be so to the believers in Grove Chapel. This is the will of the Father, "That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father, which hath sent Him;" consequently, "not holding the Head," is the sealing of damnation to the soul. But we, beloved, are they who "hold the Head;" we are they who hold that all honour is His due, that all praise is His due, that all glory is His due, that all might, majesty, and dominion are His due; as John heard them singing in the realms of bliss, "unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever! Amen." The whole of the songs which the apostle heard, whilst he was in that state of exile, always went to the glorifying Him that sat upon the throne, the Lamb, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. Sure I am, that some of my sweetest moments are those in which I can breathe out these words most fervently in Jehovah's bosom. And sure I am, that with the creed I process, and the life bestowed upon me, heaven would be no heaven to me if I had not this precious Christ to adore and worship unto all eternity. He shall have all the praise and all the honour; for "they shall hang upon Him all the glory of His Father's house, the offspring and the issue; all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to the vessels of flagons" (Isa. 22:24); yea, unto all eternity shall the glory hang upon our precious Eliakim, our precious Christ. Angels adore Him in heaven; glorified spirits adore Him in the inner circle of the celestial ranks. Lost souls are filled with horror at His name, whom they can never love and never trust. Demons tremble at His word, having been vanquished by Him in the war in heaven between Michael and his angels, and the Dragon and his angels. Every real believer upon the earth, and this is a sweeping expression, every real believer upon earth, without one single exception, adores the precious, glorious Christ of God with homage, honour, and glory equal to that which is given to the Father. "There are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One" (1 John 5:7); and there is no possibility of adoring one without adoring all. The real Christian adores God the Holy Ghost for His marvellous operations, as well as for His eternal registration. He adores God the Son in His headship and substitution; he adores God the Father in His decretive enactments; and adores the Triune Jehovah in the mutual engagements and indissoluble compact of love and mercy, which secures the salvation of all the elect of grace. This constitutes our worship.
We pass on to one point more, with which we intend to close, "not holding the Head," by dividing the life of Him practically; and be prepared if I am led to say some severe things here. I want Christians to "hold the Head." If you hold the Head in the way in which the world does not, and cannot hold Him, I just ask how you hold Him up to view before the world? How you hold Him up to view in the sight of free-willers; and in the sight of Pharisees, Infidels, and Papists? Whether His image is to be seen upon you, and His likeness borne by you? Whether His cause interests you? And whether your lives, your talent, your property, and your influence, are laid out to glorify Him? You know that we read of some who profess to know Him, but in works deny Him. God grant there may be none such amongst you! A very, very solemn description of character, who profess that they know Him, but in works deny Him. The apostle James was led to say, "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by works." He never said, anywhere, that his works created, or purchased his faith, but that they were the product, or result of his faith; therefore he says, I will show you the one by the other. And I am anxious, the little time I may have yet to stay upon earth, that my hearers, as well as my own soul, and life, and body, should be more than ever consecrated to Jesus, and devoted to His precious name. How is it with you, dearly beloved? You pass to and from the house of God, your business, your families, and your friends; but how often are your minds, your thoughts, and your hearts led out to commune with Him? How much of what you have at your command is consecrated to His service? What sayest thou to body, soul, and spirit being engaged o glorify Him? Have you read, with an obedient spirit, "Ye are not your own, but ye are bought with a price;" and therefore "glorify God with your bodies and your spirits, which are His?" (1 Cor. 6:19,20). Have you ever said to Him, as David's faithful soldiers did to him, "Thine are we, Lord Jesus, and on thy side?" Is there a willingness on your part to make a surrender of everything to His precious name and cause, so that He may be glorified. Oh, bring these queries home; I will not push them further now, but I give them to you as a kind of train of thought, to lead you to closer self-examination in your own closets, and at your own homes; and if you pursue these inquiries, you will presently discover that your Christianity is, after all, but of a meagre description, and you may well cry out, Quicken thou me, Lord! Quicken thou me, according to thy word!" May He send us a rich supply of quickening grace this morning, and cause us to "hold the Head," to hold fast by Him, until we shall dwell eternally with Him, and His name shall have all the glory! Amen