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Ephesians III. 8. " The unsearchable riches of Christ." IT is not wonderful that men should always have thought much of riches. Quite apart from the present outward benefits they bring, they are suited to man's nature. One of the signs of man's being above the brutes is, that he is capable of being rich and they are not. At the same time it is sad to see what a small, shrunken idea of being rich men have often been contented with. When God made man, and set him over the lower world, to be its master, surely He meant man to be very different from the thing he has become. What has since been wrought in art and science and learning among men seems but the ruins of that plan which God had of man's riches. It would take long to tell even what we can still see to be the proper idea of a rich man. We should have to try to realize the full capacity of all man's faculties for ministering to thought and feeling within him, and also for giving forth from him clear expressions of that thought and feeling to others and to God. We should have to get a clear idea of
U SEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST. 197 the qualities of man's soul and spirit, the powers of thought and feeling and will within the man, their several capacities, their mutual relations. All this would be necessary to see how much man is capable of possessing, feeling, knowing, and doing, and therefore necessary to know what a rich man is. For the fully rich man is one who is well developed in every
faculty at once, whereas now we see men, if developed at all, out of all proportion. ay, we have fallen so far from the first standard of man's riches, that we call that man rich who, by means of money, can command the services of science, art, and learning, quite apart from his being able to appreciate what they work for him. Even if the man could enter into the full worth of these and all other earthly things unless he were also developed Godward he would be wretchedly poor. Such a stunted idea has become the standard of man's riches. And this idea prevailed when St. Paul wrote our text. Writing from Rome about the work God had given him to do— the commission to preach Christ crucified to the Gentiles, thinking of what that message was to men, and what men he declared it to, remembering his lengthened visits to the centres of commerce, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome, how much he had seen of outward magnificence and power arrayed, as it were, against his weakness, and yet conscious of the poverty behind the grandeur and the true glory of the Gospel he preached, he wrote, ** Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." The splendid luxury of the heathen capitals was all poverty compared with that which the Apostle saw was to be possessed in Christ. Emperors were beggars by the side of Him who had lately been put to death in Judea. The Jewish tentmaker, while a
198 THE U SEARCHABLE prisoner at Rome, only longed to be allowed to make the Gentiles truly rich.
Let us try to see what he meant by the unsearchable riches of Christ What are the riches of Christ ? Before Christ came into this world He was rich. Rich in power, for the world was made by Him ; rich in wisdom, as all His work shows ; rich in love, for He put aside all other riches to come and save us. Who can think of any kind of riches that was not Christ's, in the glory which He had with the Father before the world was ? Rich in Himself, He inhabited the praises of eternity, seraphs, cherubs, angels, all the glorious intelligences that had never fallen, uniting to serve and worship Him. But He put aside all His glory ; though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. The angels of heaven just appeared to the shepherds and then left their Lord (wonder of wonders !) a babe wrapt in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger ! He took on Him the form of a servant, was obedient to His parents, lived thirty years, so that men said, " Is not this the carpenter's son ?" then began His public life. Forty days and forty nights tempted of the devil — the companion of fishermen — subject ^ to weariness and hunger in a ministry that was rejected by most, at one time saying, " Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." Ministering to the wants of others, and not to His own. He would not make the stones bread to satisfy his greatest hunger, but he would feed four thousand and five thousand people by a miracle. With mighty power always waiting to be exercised. He never used it for Himself, but only for others. He could for others cast out devils, cure diseases, control the storm, yet suffer Himself to be buffeted, scourged.
RICHES OF CHRIST. 199 crucified. So true it was that while He saved others, himself He would not save. " Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross, wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him. a name which is above every name." Yes, brethren, we cannot dwell on Christ's humiliation long, for do we not love to think of His triumph and exaltation } For our sakes He became poor, but now He is rich ; for our sakes He was despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and He bore our sins in His own body on the tree ; but when He burst the bands of death He rose to everlasting glory. or was the return of the Son of God to eternal Majesty a return to only what He was before He was made man. His heavenly riches, indeed, could not be greater, for He had been from the beginning infinite in all His attributes; but, brethren, when Christ returned to heaven He Was rich towards us. God the Son before His incarnation was rich, while we were perishing through our sin, but God the Son, having returned to heaven, is rich towards us that we may not perish. His riches now are not His alone, for He has made Himself one with us in our poverty that we may be one with Him in His riches. The message of the Gospel, then, is that all Christ's unsearchable riches are offered to us men. Our acceptance of that message chiefly depends on whether we feel our need of more than we think we have ; and, if so, whether we believe Christ's riches are for us. Let us, then, try to see how Christ's riches are
suited to our wants. We need forgiveness. How very poor we are till we know we have it. The world may count us rich, we may let it persuade
20O THE U SEARCHABLE us that we are so, but without forgiveness no one can delight in God, no one can even look freely up to His face ; and without God's smile all the world is dark, dark and dreary, though men try to make it glitter with their earthly lights. If there is any one who wonders why he must be called poor without forgiveness, let him ask any who know they have it, they will tell him nothing is so precious ; nay, let him ask, and his Bible shall tell him that he has but a short time to obtain it, and without it he is lost for ever. " What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?" If there is any one who feels how poor he is without forgiveness, and only longs to know how he may get it and make sure that he has it, dear brother, it is nigh at hand, not far off and to be searched for. In no way canst thou work for it and gain it, only as a gift it can be thine, for it cost more than thou canst think, much less give for it, the " precious blood of Christ," in whom " we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace." God is rich in mercy ; Christ came that God's rich mercy might be ours : we are accepted by God the Father only as we are in Christ, and thus our forgiveness is part of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
When we first feel what it is to be forgiven, we are rich indeed ; we enter into the meaning of such words as " all things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." " Ye are complete in Him." But it is one thing to see the way home clearly from the hill-top, and another thing to tread that path till we reach it. When we know the riches of Christ's forgiveness, we still need to know how rich He is in what we want besides forgiveness. ew temptations show that, though forgiven, our old nature is not got rid of. Do we not seek for
RICHES OF CHRIST. 201 fresh forgiveness every day, and sin, because more hated now, seems to beset us more and more. We need strength. How poor we are without it ! What ! are we who were so rich in being forgiven, poor again ? Yes, even so ; for forgiveness has made us hate sin so much, and love holiness so much, that we begin to long for strength to overcome sin. We would not for all the world forget the way of pardon and peace, or cease to trust in Christ's merits only for acceptance with God, but God has made us that we may be hol)»as He is holy, and when we are forgiven. His Spirit leaves us no rest till we overcome sin. Our many failures show our need of strength. Where can this strength be found } It also comes from Christ. The presence of His Spirit with us, giving us fellowship with the Father and the Son, taking of the things of Christ, and showing them to us ; this is the source of our strength ; we
may be strengthened with might by God's Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, and we, having been rooted and grounded in love, thus learn to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, and are thus filled with all the fulness of God. The mighty help of God's Spirit in the inner man given us by Christ our Lord, and our faith, also wrought by Him, bring Him so near to us that we realize His love and His love fills us with all the fulness of God. In our Christian life, our strength is in proportion to our love. othing avails us in hard temptation but the love of Christ our love to Him ; and our love to Christ springs from our sense of His love to us. Well might the apostle write, "The love of Christ
702 THE U SEARCHABLE which passeth knowledge," the more thoroughly we know it, the more impossible it seems to realize it It is infinite. Is not Christ rich in love ? Are not the riches of His love unsearchable — past finding out ? The riches of Christ's love become ours, and this is our strength ; therefore when we fall into sin and hate it, though, if possible, we would make sure that we should not fall again before asking forgiveness, yet we cannot do so ; our strength to stand springs from our sense of Christ's love, and nothing makes us feel His love so much as clinging to His Cross for forgiveness. • Our best security that we shall not sin again is
our deep sense of what it is to be foi^iven, a sense of Christ's love wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. These two things, to be forgiven and to be strengthened against sin are generally enough riches for any one in this world, but there are other riches in Christ, and sometimes we need to feel that they also are for us. This is especially the case with those whose temptations take the form of doubts. They need more light, more knowledge. There are so "many thihgs" that "perplex" their understandings, they stumble at so many difficulties in God's word that they are not what they ought to be. Doubts hinder them. ow for all such as have really felt what it is to be forgiven without question, the best cure for serious doubts is to recur to that. A man may become involved in reasonings till he scarcely knows wha* to believe, but he can quickly regain his position if he can say : " Whatever else is false or doubtful, one thing I am sure of, that when I knelt as a penitent sinner before the Cross, and felt Christ's love and God's forgiveness, I had got hold of that which is real!^ Let a man always start from that as his ascertained facty that he is as convinced of as he is of his own existence, and let him
RICHES OF CHRIST, 203 fall back on that whenever mystified by doubt, and he need not fear much. Yet it is also a comfort to read that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, so that, having the riches of His grace, His love and His forgiveness, we may look forward to possessing these treasures of knowledge also ; nay,
more than this, we read that it is possible through Christ to have even here the " riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God." So that Christ is made unto us, not only " righteousness and sanctification and redemption," but " wisdom" also. Here, however, we must be content to know in part, in hope of that blessed time when we shall know even as we are known. Brethren, let us not be poor while Christ's unsearchable riches are offered to us. Let us enter into our possessions in Him, at least, into what the Holy Spirit brings home to us here of these possessions ; forgiveness, love, strength, knowledge. What remains to be possessed hereafter who shall tell } Who can think how rich we shall become in Christ ? His riches are indeed unsearchable. They can never pass from us. The more we help others to possess them, the more we possess them ourselves. With all we have of them here we are only heirs ; death will be our majority. Brethren, let our riches be heavenly riches, the unsearchable riches of Christ, for " Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also." O Godf who hast prepared for them that love Tfiee such good things as pass man's understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward Thee^ that we, loving Thee above all things, may obtain Thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire ; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Rusthall, October 23, 1864.
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