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nature. And so it will be universally. If there be
any over-mastering temptation which baffles you, and
keeps turning you ofP in your endeavors, and boasting
itself against you, here is your deliverance — raise no
fight with it in your own will, as you always have done
when you have failed, but simply turn yourself to
Christ alone : put on Christ, let your soul be so cov-
ered in by the power of his grace upon you, that you
feel yourself raised and caparisoned for glory in him,
and all the little and low lustings of this world will be
silent — felt no more.

There is also this most admirable effect in the putting
on of Christ, that being thus enveloped in his life and
feeling, a power will move inward from him, that will
search out all most subtle, inbred evils in you, even
those which are hidden from your consciousness, and
?v^ill finally assimilate you in them, and in all beside, tc



4:28 THE PUTTING ON OF CHRIST.

what he himself was. This, in fact, is the wonderful
power of dress, that, while no person who has spent hia
life in the rags of poverty, and the coarseness of low-
bred manners, can possibly fashion himself to ways of
elegance, by superintending his every particular look,
motion, gesture, and tone, the simple insphering of hia
life in new associations and new proprieties of dress,
may and often does suffice, in a very few years, to re-
compose and assimilate his whole manner as a man.
And so it is that Christ will be able, when put on, to
fashion us into a character of innumerable graces, all
consolidated, in a harmonious whole of beauty like his
own.

Here, too, is the true idea of Christian sanctification.
It is that we may so put on Christ, and be so infolded
in him, as to be consciously raised above all bad impulse
into good, above all guiltiness into a conscience void
of offense, above all detentions of bondage into perfect
liberty, above all fear into perfect assurance, and so
continue as long as we falter not in the faith, by which
Christ is thus brought in upon the soul, to be its im-
pulse and the appetizing force of its life. But whether
this can be fitly called a perfect sanctification is more
doubtful. That it leaves the soul in a temptable state
all must and do in fact agree, and if the faith, at any
time, gives way, the subject will immediately lapse into
some kind of sin. Nay, if he were sanctified far down,
in all the deepest, most underground cells of feeling he
was ever conscious of, there would yet be treasons liid
Btill deeper in the soul, and he would fall at onoo, the



THE PUTTING ON OF CHRIST. 429

moment lie let go liis faith. The truth appears to be
that, in sucli a state of perfect liberty and good impulse
as we have described, the character still is not wholly
inherent, but only in part; — a kind of supervening, or
Buperinduced character ; a garment of grace put on, the
grace of which has not yet struck through into the
inmost nature of him who is covered by it. Christ is
perfect on him, and he is in Christ, but he is not per-
fected in himself The transformation of the man has
not yet come up to the t3^pe of his Christly investiture.
He is like a soldier in the fiery panoply and dress of
war. When he has it on him, and hears the trumpet
mounding bravely, he is bold enough to face all danger
in the fight; but there still are vestiges of a naturally
coward feeling, it may be, in the center and core of his
personality, such that if you strip him of the warlike
trappings, and send him out to fight a silent engage-
ment in that common figure, he will not unlikely turn
and flee for his life. It is one thing in this way to have
on a pure garment, clean and white, and so to act
purel}^, and quite another to be clean and white all
through, in the inmost substance, and deepest impulse,
and subtlest windings, of the soul's own habit. This
requires time, and it may be a long time. Even if he
were to be in Christ so perfectly as not to commit one
conscious sin for many years, which is possible, tliere
would still be in him, after all this long investiture by
Christ, old vestiges of disease, and disorder, and bad
passion, not yet sanctified away.

But it is much, how very much, that all these cac



iSO THE PUTTING ON OF CHKIST.

be thus kept under, so as never again to break out and
reign, as long as Christ is faithfully put on by a believ-
ing, consecrated life. Potentially speaking, all sancti-
fication is here ; for the superinduced character may be
kept up bright, and clean, full, and free to the last;
when, of course, it will complete itself in the all-
renovated, absolutely perfect, through and through
charactei* of the glorified.

Observe again the consciousness of strength, and the
exalted confidence of feeling, that must gird any soul
that has truly put on Christ. It will be with him, in
his faith, as it was with the prodigal, when the Father
said, "bring forth the best robe and put it on him,
and put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet."
From that moment he felt strong in the family. The
shame fell off as the robe went on, and the confidence
of a son came back upon him. So it is that every
Cliristian is strong who has really put on Christ. He
is clothed with strength and honor, as with salvation.
He lives in the garment of praise. All misgivings
flee, all mutinous passions fall under. Do you some-
times try, my brethren, to be strong by your will,
strong by your works, strong by what you can raise of
excitement, or high resolve, that is only weakness, and
a great part of all weakness comes in that way. Noth-
ing is more natural for a Christian losing ground, than
to put forth all the force he has, in a strain of hard
endeavor, lashing up and thrusting on himself; but in
that, he is believing, probably, just as much less as ho
is goading himself more. Let h'm go back to faith,



THE PUTTING ON OF CHRIST. 431

see tliat he lets go mere self-endeavor, to put on Christ,
and he will have all strength and victory.

Here, too, be it understood, is the source of that
strange powgr of impression, which is felt in the life and
society of all earnest Christians. Everybody feels that
tliere is a something about them not human. And the
reason is that they have put on Christ. The serious,
loving, gentle, sacrificing and firm spirit of Jesus, is
revealed within, or upon them, and they signify to
men's feeling just what he signified. They fulfill that
gracious name that was formerly in so great favor in
the Church — they are all Christophers, Christ-bearers.
They will even put so much meaning into their " good
morning," or their bow of courtesy, as to carry a
Christly impression in the heart of a stranger. This,
my brethren, is the true power. Would that the multi-
tude in our day, who can think to be powerful only as
they strive and cry, and go dinning through the world
in a perpetual ado of hard endeavor, could just learn
how much it means, to put on Christ.

It only remains to add, what has been coming into
view in the whole progress of our subject, that the only
true salvation-title is Christ put on, and found upon
the soul as its heavenly investiture. A great many
persons are at work, in these times, to fashion a charac-
ter for themselves, and demanding it of them who
preach the gospel, that they preach conduct, tell men
how to be good and right, correct theii faults, make
them good husbands, wives, children, citizens — cease,
in a word, from the mystic matter of faith and divine



482 THE PUTTING ON OF CHRIST.

experience, and put the world on doing sometliing more
solid and satisfactory. This kind of cant has gone so
far, too, that many professed preachers of the gospel
itself are in it. The Master owns them i^ot, so far, at
least. He wants, not simply a better conduct, but a
solid, new man — so, new husbands, wives, children, citi-
zens ; new kindness, truthfulness, honor, honesty, beauty.
This new man to be put on, as having put off the old,
is a very different matter from the old man in a better
style of behavior. It is that which after God, is created
in righteousness and true holiness — a man after God,
even as Christ was, when he came in God's love to take
us on his soul, that we may take him on our soul, and be
covered in by the new investiture of his life ; that sigh-
ing we may sigh with him, dying die with him, rising
rise with him, carrying up all our once low affections to
sit with him where he sitteth, at the right hand of God.
All which he figures in the parable of the great king's
wedding-feast ; where the guests are called by sending
round to each, for his card of invitation, a caftan^ or
splendid wedding-robe. Putting on this robe the guests
are to come in, and, by this found upon them, are to be
admitted and have their places assigned. But it hap-
pens, at the great eternal feast, as the Saviour represents,
that the King comes in and finds one there that has no
robe on him but his own. It may be a very fine, won-
derfully elaborate robe ; he may even have thought to
shine there in it more than if it were the king's pro-
viding. But the king says — " Friend, how camest thou
in hither not having on the wedding-garment "^ And



THE PUTTING ON OF CHRIST. 433

he was speechless. The king said— bind him hand and
fo )t, and take him away." Inasmuch as holy character
in created beings is and must eternally be derivative,
Ihiite from infinite, who shall be able to stand by self-
originative goodness, who that will not put on Christ !
Putimg on his robe of self-criticism, self-endeavor, self-
lighteousness, will not answer. All such fine attire is
only rags at the best. The true wedding-garment is
Jesus himself, and there is no other.

Here then, brethren and friends, I speak now to you
all without distinction, here is the fearfully precise point
on which our eternity hinges — the putting on of Christ.
Observe, we are to put on no great name or standard,
no sectarian badge or livery, no lawn, or saintly drab,
or veil, or stole, or girdle — none of these are the real
new man to be put on. No ! Christ ! we must put on
Christ himself, and none hut him. We must be in-
Christed, found in him, covered in the seamless, in-
divisible robe of his blessed life and passion. Far be
it also from us, when we put on Christ, to think of
turning ourselves about, in the search after some
other, finer pretext that we may put on over him, to
make him attractive, pleasing, acceptable. No, we are
to put him on just as he is, wear him outside, walk
in him, bear his reproach, glory in his beauty, call it
a'.>od to die with him, so to be found in him not having
our own righteousness, but the righteousness that is of
Ood by faith. Cover us in it, thou Christ of God,
and let our shame be hid eternally in thee.

37



XXI.

HEAVE}( OPENED.

'^And he saith unto lihn — Yerily^ verily^ I say unto
you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels
of Qod ascending and descending ujpon the Son of
ManP — John i, 51.

With a singular felicity and power of statement, Mr.
Coleridge gives it for his doctrine of scripture inspira-
tion — "In the Bible there is more that finds me, than I
have experienced in all other books put together ; the
words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my
being ; and whatever finds me brings with it an irresist-
ible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy
Spirit." God only can be so far privy, that is, to the
soul, as to make it answer thus, all through, in its deep-
est and most hidden parts, to his words. Whatever
may be thought of his doctrine, as a complete and suffi-
cient solution of the question, it is certainly good, and
even powerfully good, as far as it goes. And it has a
beautiful coincidence, which he probably had never ob-
served, with the very simple and trul}' natural sentiment
of Christ's interview with Nathanael.

Fig-trees make a very dense covering of leaves and
sometimes drop their boughs very low. JSTathanael had
lately retired into the cabin of thick foliage thus pro-



HEAVEN OPENED. 435

vided by some tree of his garden, and closeted there
with God, was opening his heart, in regard to some ] 'ar-
ticular difficulty, or enemy, or question of duty, oi
promise of a Messiah to come, in a manner only the
more guileless, that he felt himself to be so entirely re-
moved from human observation. Shortly after, proba-
bly on that same day, being notified by Philip, he
comes to see Jesus, who is even thought to be the great
Messiah himself Jesus saw Nathanael comino^ to him
and saith of him — " Behold an Israelite indeed in whom
is no guile!" Nathanael saith unto him — "Whence
knowest thou me?" Jesus answered and vsaid unto him
— " Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under
the fig-tree, I saw thee." Nathanael saith unto him —
^* Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the king of
Israel." Jesus answered and said unto him — " Because
I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? thou shalt
see greater things than these." And he saith unto him
— "Verily, verily I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see
heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and de-
scending upon the Son of Man."

The two main points of the dialogue are, first, that
Nathanael was no impressed by the Jinding of Christ, or
the privity of Christ's knowledge of him, under the fig-
tree, that he at once declared his belief in him as the
Messiah; and secondly, that Christ immediately pro^
claims a deeper finding, and a more convincing privity
of knowledge, that shall, in due time, be shown or
proved, by the opening, within his own bosom, of a su-
pernatural sense and the discovery to him thus of



436 HEAVEN OPENED.

supernatural beings, the passing and repassing, the flow
and reflow of their blessed society. According to the
description given, it will be as if that isthmus barriei
between the two great oceans of the world were cloven
down, for the oscillating tides to begin their coming and
returning flow; when also the ships of the nations,
wafted convergentlj thither, shall be sailing freely
through, burdened with the fruits and golden riches of
all cliines and shores.

Now this opening of heaven, w^hich is to be our sub-
ject, is presented by the Saviour in terms that may seem
to be a little enigmatical. We shall conceive his mean-
ing perhaps more sufficient^, if we note three principal
views of the heavenly state that occur in the scripture.
First, there is the local objective view, that conceives it
as a place somewhere in the upper worlds of heaven or
the sky. Secondly, there is the terrestrial objective
view, where the ISTew Jerusalem descending from God
out of heaven and refitting our world itself to be the
abode of God with men, makes it a province, in that
manner, of the other. Thirdl}^, the subjective view,
which has nothing to do with place or locality, but con-
ceives the heavenl}^ state simply as a state of spiritual
beholding and social commerce opened in the soul itself.
There is no necessary con.tradiction or disagreement be-
tween the three conceptions stated ; they are all true,
though probably in different senses, and may be taken
as complementary, in fact, to each other. The first ia
more impressive and popular and more commonly used;
the second, as being more geographical, is more closely



HEAVEN OPENED. 437

connected witli our mundane prospects iind affairs ; tlie
third is more entirely moral and rational, being simply
the condition of character. All are to be used with en-
tire freedom, and without any attempt to maintain one
ngainst the others ; the presumption being that a stato
so transcendent will be only feebly conceived, when
they are all brought in, to intensify and qualify, or
complement, each other.

In the conversation with Nathanael, the Saviour ap-
pears to be speaking in the subjective way, as of a
heaven to be opened in the soul itself In his terms of
description, he refers, apparently, to Jacob's dream,
where that patriarch beholds, not without, but in the
chamber of his own brain, in a dream of the night when
the senses are fast locked in sleep, a ladder set up and
the angels of God coursing up and down upon it;
only what transpired subjectively in his brain he nat-
urally associated with the place, conceiving also that
the sky above was somehow specially set open there,
saying — "how dreadful is this place," and calling it
"the gate of heaven." So the Saviour says, "ascend-
ing and descending," putting the ascending first; as if
tlie metropolis or point or departure, in the commerce
begun, were to be from within the soul itself There
lives the Son of Man, reigning in his heavenly kingdom
at the soul's own center, and from him go up couriers
and ministers of glory, descending also back upon him
th(^re. The precise point made, in this manner, with
Nathanael is, that as he was discovered under the fig-
tree, so he shall be discovered, as regards the immense

37^



4:88 HEAVEN OPENED.

apper world of the soul, existing iiii suspected in him
hitherto, but now set open. These two propositions
cover the ground o£the subject stated, and these I shall
endeavor to substantiate.

I. That there is a supernatural sense, now slumbering
or closed up in souls, by wbicb they might perceive, or
cognize, supernatural beings and things, even as they
cognize material beings and things by the natural sense.
And

II. That Christ undertakes to open this supernatural
sense, and make it the organ or inlet of universal society.

I. There is a supernatural sense now closed up, or ex-
isting under a state of suppression.

We encounter a difficulty here, in attempting to prove
tbe existence of faculties and powers that are shut in, or
suppressed in their action. And yet even our natural
faculties are very nearly in -that condition at the first —
no man knowing, or conceiving, what is in him, till it
is brought forth. We also know that all finest qualities
and highest powers are stifled, for the time, or even
permanently, by wrongs and vices. What we here
suppose to be true is, that in the original and properly
normal state, souls were open to God, and a full, free
(commerce with his upright society. Being made in
God's image, they were to be children with God their
Father, living in society with him, having him to know,
enjoy, and love, and having all their desires freely met
and satisfied by the open ministry of his friendship.
He was, and, with all his glorious company was eternally



HEAVEN OPENED. 439

to be, revealed in them, as in a heaven of present bliss,
and immediately conscious communion of life.

But this original and properly normal state was
necessarily broken up and brought to a full end, by
their fall into sin. They now become afraid of him and
hide themselves instinctively from him. Ko longer can
he be revealed to their immediate knowledge, because
the personal affinities through which he was to be re-
vealed are closed up in them. They fall off thus into
their senses, and become occupied with the objects of
the senses ; having the understanding darkened, being
alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance
that is in them. So they live as under heavy storm-
clouds in the night; the lightning flashes in sharp
gleams across the clouds, or glares in red anger- fits
from within their body, but there is no opening through,
to let in the light of the stars. Heaven is gone out to
them in the same manner ; Grod is hid, and they know
not where they can find him; spirit and spiritual
being and spiritual society with his great family is so
far a lost possibility, that, if they think it, they can not
give it reality. There is something too in guilt, or the
state of guiltiness, that amounts to a virtual shutting up,
or suppression, of all affinities with supernatural being.
It freezes in perception. It condenses all the Godward
and pure aspirations and gathers them in, by the dread-
ful recoil it makes on the soul's own center. It pro-
nounces a damnation too upon itself, and by its own re-
morseful severities makes the sentence good. Falling
away thus from God, and closing itself up as regards aU



4,4:0 HEAVEN OP i: NED.

supernatural relations and perceptions, it becomes self
centered, isolated, a worm in the ground, having its
belongings there and not in the element of day.

Is there now any such supernatural sense existing
under suppression in the soul, as the statement I have
made supposes? The question is a very great, and is
getting to be the almost only question for our day.

To go over the evidence briefly, there is obviously
nothing impossible in the fact of such a sense. There
may as well be a power to cognize immaterial, super-
natural being, as material.

Keither is it any thing, that our philosophers recog
nize no such higher ranges of faculty. No faculty is
ever recognized, save as it comes into consciousness by
use. That which is shut up, therefore, can be nothing
to philosophy. When the lantern of a light-house has
no light burning within, it will be an opaque body at
the top, as it is in the base below — even the transparency
will be opaque.

But we can affirm, I think, with confidence, for one
distinct argument, that there ought to be just this upper
world of supernatural insight in souls. As they are re-
lated to God, there ought to be a power of immediate
knowledge, in which he is revealed — they require, in
fact, to be as truly conscious of God as of themselves;
for God is the complement of their being, and without
him they only half exist. Again, as they are related
to eternal society with all good beings, they ought also
to have powers of discerning that may apprehend them.
In this manner, as they are not made to be mere



HEAVEN OPENED. . 441

plodders, however intelligent, or scientific in distin-
guishing the laws and causes of things, but to have
their summits and supreme destinies of life, in their
commerce with God, and the supernatural society of his
realm, their fit equipment requires, obviously enough,
a higher sense opening towards the supernatural. How
can the understanding, operating on the subject matter
of sense, discover, or attain, by mere inference, what
is not in the premises of sense, but in a totally different
range? Whoever then adheres to immortality and re-
ligion, and denies the credibility of what is supernatural,
confesses, at once, that he wants the commerce of God's
universal societ}^, and cuts off the possibility of finding
it.

Again, there not only ought to be aspirations in the
soul, and powers of sensing for the supernatural, but we
can see, by many signs, m^ore or less definite, that there
are. Sometimes a groping will signify as much as an
open discovery, and what has the race been doing, in
all the past ages and everywhere, but groping after
gods, and demons, and populating even the earth and
the sky with mythologic creations. It is as if some di-
vine phrenzy were in them, goading them on after what
-they so mightily want. Little, indeed, do they discover
of what is real and true; they only go a marveling, as
the phrenologists would say, carried off from the mere
plane of reason, by they know not wliat. They grope
with their eyes shut, and their groping signifies more
than their discoveries. I think also that we can find,
every one of us, in ourselves, dim yearnings, imagina



442 HEAVEN OPENED.

tions coasting round unknown realms, guesses asking
after the commerce of good and great beings, that put
us in profound sympathy with them. Nothing will ac-
count for what we find thus in ourselves and the world,
but the fact of supernatural longings and perceptions,
txisting in us under suppression. Indeed, I think we
should very nearly suffocate, all of us, including even
the infidel deniers, shut down close under nature and
her causes. After all, we do think higher things, and
there is more comfort in it than perhaps we know.

We are able, again, to conceive certain things about
this supernatural sense, taking in supernatural things
and beings, which makes it seem less extravagant. To
say that we can sense, or could, other ranges of being,
and have them in the open heaven of the soul, appears
to be violent, or extravagant. Just as violent is it still
to say, that we do take in the world of matter by the
natural senses, and have it in us, even from the sky
downward. We do not go to things in our perception
of them, neither do they come locally to us ; the lati-
tudes, and longitudes, and altitudes, are still there ; we
do not spread ourselves in presence upon them; and
yet we somehow have them in us, and subjectively pos-



Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 29)