The duties of the saints in this communion with Christ.
The saints continually eye the Lord Jesus as the great Joseph, who has charge of all the granaries of the kingdom of heaven committed to him. He is the one in whom it pleased the Father to gather all things under one head, Eph. 1:10, so that from him all things might be dispensed to the saints. All treasures, all fullness, and the Spirit without measure are in him. And they eye this fullness, in reference to their condition, in these three particulars:
(1.) In the blood sacrifice not only of atonement as offered, but also of purification as poured out. “A fountain for sin and for uncleanness,” Zech. 13:1; that is, it washes them and takes them away. The saints see that they are still greatly defiled. Upon this discovery, they cry with shame, within themselves, “Unclean, unclean,” unclean in their natures, unclean in their persons, unclean in their lives; How to remove this defilement? We look first to the purifying virtue of the blood of Christ, which is able to cleanse them from all their sins, 1 John 1:7. It is the spring from which flows all the purifying virtue that will take away all their spots and stains, “make them holy and without blemish, and in the end present them glorious to himself,” Eph. 5:26, 27.
(2.) They eye the blood of Christ as the blood of sprinkling. When they come to “Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant,” they come to the “blood of sprinkling,” Heb. 12:24. Not only is there a “shedding of blood” for the remission of sin, Heb. 9:22, but there is also a “sprinkling of blood,” for the actual purification. David, sensing the pollution of sin, prays that he may be “purged with hyssop,” Psalm 51:7. It is evident that this specifically referred to the uncleanness and defilement of sin. . The cleansing virtue of the blood of Christ lies in the promises, just as the blood of sacrifices lies in the hyssop. “Therefore, having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2 Cor. 7:1. This, then, is what the saints do: they eye the blood of Christ as it is found in the promise, ready to spray out upon the soul to purify it.
(3.) The saints look upon Christ as the only dispenser of the Spirit, and the source of all grace of sanctification and holiness. They consider that, by his intercession, it is granted to him to make all the fruits of his purchase effective, to sanctify, purify, and make glorious in holiness, his whole people. They know that this is actually to be accomplished by the Spirit, according to the innumerable promises given to that end. He is to sprinkle that blood upon their souls. He is to create the holiness in them that they long for. He is to be a well of water in them, springing up to everlasting life. In this state, they look to Jesus. Faith fixes itself here, expecting him to give out the Spirit for all these ends and purposes. They mix the promises with faith, and so they become actual partakers of all this grace. This is their way. This is their communion with Christ.
[1.] the Spirit of holiness to dwell in them.
[2.] a habit of holiness to be infused in them (habitual grace).
[3.] actual assistance to work out all their duties (actual grace);
If these continue to be lacking, they can never, with all their might, power, and endeavours, perform a single act of holiness before the Lord. They know that they are insufficient in themselves. Without Christ, they can do nothing.
This is the way, the only way, to obtain full and effectual manifestations of the Spirit’s indwelling. This is the only way to have our hearts purified, our consciences purged, our sins mortified, and our graces increased. This is the way our souls are made humble, holy, zealous, believing, and Christ-like. This is the only way to make our lives fruitful, and our deaths comfortable. Let us abide in this, absorbing the stain of Christ by faith, being conformed to him to the extent allotted to us in this world, so that when we see him as he is, we may be like him.
Adapted from John Owen.