I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the father, but by me. John 14:6
In the 33rd verse of the former chapter, you shall find Christ breaking the sad and doleful business, which he knew well would go near to the hearts of his disciples, namely, his departure from them: "Little children, yet a little while ye shall seek me, but shall not find me.'' Peter, upon this, asks him whither he goes? He tells him, whither he cannot follow him now, but afterwards he shall. Now, knowing how sadly this went to the hearts of his disciples, He laboured to raise them up, and to establish them against the drooping that these sad tidings might occasion; and that is the beginning of this chapter, "Let not your hearts be troubled:" and therein doth endeavour to stir up their spirits first, by telling them the expediency of that departure of his: it was the purpose of God, that as all things should be wrought effectually by Christ, so the communication of all these things to our spirits, should be by the Spirit of Christ. Now Christ tells them expressly, "That except he goes away, the Comforter cannot come to them;" he, that must have the dispensing of those things to their spirits, namely, the Comforter, cannot come unto them. But, secondly, he stays not here: he encourageth them with another argument; "I go to prepare a place;" and he tells them the place where; "In my Father's house are many mansions." And, least they should suspect, he tells them, "If it were not so, I would have told you." And because he would not speak in a cloud of these things, he tells them, "You know whither I go, and the way ye know," Now Thomas comes in with an objection; "We know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?"
Christ answers him, in the words of the text, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me."
I will not spin out the tune about the coherence and analysis of this text: the main point is briefly this:
"Christ is our way, so that there is no coming to the Father but by Him"
In the handling of which truth, let me tell you, that I know this doctrine is generally received, as it is generally delivered; but, I fear, in the particularising those things that make up the full truth of the doctrine, every spirit will not, nor can receive it. That you may, at least, see the clear truth in the bowels of this general doctrine; (for, beloved, you must know there is hidden manna, in this very pot) I say, that you may both see it, and taste the sweetness of it, let us consider, First, in what regard Christ is said to be "the way to the Father.'' Secondly, What kind of way he is. Thirdly, From whence he doth become this way. And, Fourthly, What use we may make of it.
I. In what sense Christ is said to be our way, that there is "no coming to the Father but by him." You all know beloved, that every way high-way, or pathway, necessarily imports two terms, from whence and whereunto; when a man enters into a way; he leaves the place where he was, and goes to the place where he was not. Christ being our way, the phrase imports thus much to us, that by Christ we pass from a state and condition wherein we were, to a state and condition wherein we were not; the last term is expressed in the test, "He is the way to the Father;" the first term must be implied. To come to him, ye must leave some condition where we were before. Bear a while with the expression, till I open the thing to you.
The state, from which Christ is our way to the Father, is twofold; first, a state of sin; and secondly, a state of wrath. The state whereunto Christ is the way, is, indeed, expressed here to be to the Father; the meaning is, to the grace of the Father, and to the glory of the Father. The sum is this; Christ is our way, from a state of sin and wrath, to a state of grace and glory, that there is no coming from the one to the other, but by Christ. But we must descend to particulars, that we may know the fatness and marrow of this truth; which indeed hath an inebriating virtue in it, to lay a soul asleep1, with the admirable sweetness and, excellency thereof; no music can tickle the ears as this truth may, when it is truly and thoroughly dived into: no, nor tickle the heart neither. Beloved, I must tell you, when your souls once find this real truth, they cannot choose but say, we have found a ransom.
First of all, Christ is a way from a state of sinfulness. Now what mystery is there in this, more than ordinary, will you say? Beloved, it is certainly true, there is nothing of Christ, there is nothing comes from Christ, but it is in a mystery; the gospel seems to be clear, and so it is, to those whose eyes Christ opens, but certainly it is hid to some persons that shall perish. "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes; even so, O Father, because it pleased thee." But what hiddenness is in this? There is a two-fold consideration of sinfulness, from which Christ is our way in a special manner. There is first, that which commonly we call the guilt of sin, which indeed is the fault, or a person's being faulty, as he is a transgressor. There is, secondly, the power or dominion of sin. Christ is the way from both these. First of all, Christ is the way from the guilt of sin; for a man to be rid of the guilt of sin is no more but this, namely, upon trial to be acquitted from the charge of sin that is laid to him, and to be freed from it: or for a person, in judgment, to be pronounced actually an innocent and a just person, as having no sin to be charged upon him: this is to be free from the guilt of sin. A man is not free from a fault, as long as the fault is laid to his charge; he is then free from the fault, when it is not charged upon him. All the powers of the world united are not able to pronounce a person faultless and an innocent person, but only the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the way by which a poor sinner, even in this world, may be pronounced an innocent person; even in this world, I say; and be acquitted and discharged from the fault and guilt of his sin. It is impossible the law should do it; the apostle speaks of it expressly, Rom. viii. 2, "The law of the spirit of life in Christ hath freed me from the law of sin and death." Here it is put upon Christ, to free from the guilt of sin. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, for sin condemned sin in the flesh." "The law," saith the text, "could not do it;" not that the law could not pronounce innocence where innocency was: not that the law could not condemn sin, where it is condemnable by its authority: the law can do this, if it can find subjects whereupon to do it. But the law runs upon these terms, as it finds a person himself without fault; so it pronounceth sentence upon him; if it finds a fault in his person, then it chargeth this fault upon the person alone, as thus: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." Till then thou canst not be absolutely freed from the acting of a thing in its nature that is faulty; thou canst not hear it speak any otherwise but of faultiness, which it chargeth upon thee.
Much less can the heart of man acquit him as an innocent person, or do away from him that sinfulness, namely, the guilt of his own sin. "If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts." "If a man say he hath no sin, he is a liar," with St. John, "and the truth is not in him." If the heart should say to any man he is an innocent person, it doth but lie.
If angels should spend their strength, and should be annihilated, to procure the innocency of a poor sinner; alas, their very being is too poor a price, or too mean a value, to take away the sins of the world.
Beloved, to go a little further in it, it is not man's righteousness that he does, though assisted by the Spirit of God in the acting of it, that can pronounce him an innocent person, that can be a way to him from his fault and guiltiness. This you know, that the payment of the last half year's rent is no payment for the first half year's rent, nor is it amends for the non-payment of that which was duo before; if that had been paid before, this likewise must be paid now. Suppose a man could perform a righteous action without blame, what satisfaction is this for former transgressions? Nay, beloved, let me tell you, there is nothing but menstruousness, as the prophet Isaiah speaks, in the best of man's righteousness, "All our righteousness is a menstruous cloth:" but as for Christ, that blessed Saviour, he is able to "save to the uttermost them that come to God by him;" not only to save them in respect of glory hereafter, but also to save them in respect of sinfulness here; to snatch them as a fire-brand, out of the fire of their own sin, to deliver them from their own transgression. Christ, I say, is the way, and the absolute and complete way, to rid every soul, that comes to God by him, from all filthiness; so that the person to whom Christ is the way, stands in the sight of God, as having no fault at all in him. Beloved, these two are contradictions, for a person to be reckoned a faulty person, and yet that person to be reckoned a just or an innocent person; if he be faulty, he is not innocent; if he be innocent, he is not faulty. Now it is the main stream of the whole gospel, that Christ justifies the ungodly. If he himself justifies him, there is no fault to be cast upon him; mark it well, as that wherein consists the life of your soul and the joy of your spirits. I say, it holds forth the Lord Christ as freely tendering himself to people, as considering them only as ungodly persons receiving him; you have no sooner received him, but you are instantly justified by him, and, in this justification, you are discharged from all the faults that may be laid to your charge. There is not one sin you commit, after you receive Christ, that God can charge upon your person2.
A man would think, that there needs not much time to be spent to clear such a truth as this is, being so currently carried along by the whole stream of the gospel. But, beloved, because I know tender hearts stumble much at it, give me leave to clear it unto you by manifest scriptures, such as are written in such great letters, as he that runs may read them. Observe, that in Psalm li. "Wash me," saith David; what then? "I shall be whiter than snow." Snow, you know, hath no spot at all, no fault, no blemish. David shall be less blameable, have less faultiness, have less spottedness in him, than is in the very snow itself.
In Song of Solomon 4:7, you shall find Christ speaking strange language to his church; admirable language indeed; "Thou art fair my love," saith Christ, "thou hast no spot in thee at all." I do but cite the very words of the text; therefore let none cavil, least they be found fighters against God; "she hath no spot in her." In Isaiah 53 where he speaks admirably concerning the effectualness of Christ's death, he tells us, "That the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all:" thy iniquities, my iniquities; as our forefathers' iniquities, so our posterity's iniquities; the iniquities of us all the Lord hath laid upon Christ; they cannot lie upon Christ, and us too. If they be reckoned to the charge of Christ, they are not reckoned to the charge of the person that doth receive this Christ: but "The Lord hath laid them upon him," saith the text.
And what iniquity? Doth he lay upon him some iniquity, and leave some iniquity to us? Look into Ezek. 36:25, and you shall see the extent of iniquities that God hath laid upon Christ; that he takes away from the sinner, I mean the sinner justified by Christ that received him: there you have the covenant largely repeated, the new covenant; not according to the covenant God made with our fathers: and the first words of the covenant are these: "I will sprinkle you with Clean water, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you." prom all your filthiness; small sins, as some will call them; great sins, turbulent sins, scandalous sins, any sins, any filthiness; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness, and from all your idols. Look into Ezek. 16:7, a notable chapter indeed, setting open the unsearchable riches of the love of Christ to men; "I found thee-polluted in thy blood," with he; such blood "that no eye could pity thee, or do any good to thee." Well, no creature doth pity him; was it so with God? No. "When I saw thee polluted in thy blood, I said unto thee, live; yea, when I saw thee polluted in thy blood, I said unto thee live; when I passed by thee, thy tune was the time of love," saith God, "I spread my skirt over thee." Mark it, I pray you; not a scanty skirt to cover some of this blood and filth, but a broad skirt, a large skirt, a white raiment, as Christ calls it himself, in the Revelation; "I counsel thee to bay of me white raiment, that thy nakedness may not appear." It seems there is such a covering of Christ, that he casts upon a person, while he is considered in his blood, that covers his nakedness, that none of it doth appear: and yet, a little further in Ezek. 16 then was she dyed in deep water, after she was in covenant; "yea I thoroughly washed away thy blood:" and this was added, that no man might cavil. It is true, God casts a covering over our sinfulness, but it is our sinfulness still; it is but covered; nay, with the Lord, I have washed it away; "then washed I thee with water." But some will say, these are obscure texts, and mystical; a man cannot build upon these, that faultiness is not reckoned to believers, being taken off by Christ. To come, therefore, to a clearer manifestation of the gospel, mark what the apostle saith in Ephesians 5:27 Christ "purges and sanctifies his church that he might present it to himself not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it may be holy, and without blame."
The words run in the present tense; not that in glory only we shall be without spot, but now, even now, we shall be without blemish, we shall be without spot and wrinkle; and that he might now present us to himself. So in 2 Cor. 5:21 you shall see the truth spoken more emphatically, the apostle runs in a mighty strain in this business; "He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Both terms are expressed in the abstract; he was made sin for us; here you see plainly, our sins are to be translated to Christ, that God reckons Christ the very sinner3; nay, God reckons all our sins to be his, and makes him to be sin for us; and what is the fruit of this? We are thereby made the righteousness of God in him. If we be righteousness, where is our sinfulness to be charged upon us? He tells us expressly, in 1 John 1:7 "That the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin;" the blood of Christ doth cleanse us: he doth not say, the blood of Christ shall cleanse us from all sin; but he with, for the present time, the blood of Christ doth cleanse us from all sin. John the Baptist hath this expression, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world." He takes them away. How doth he take them away, and yet leave them behind, and yet charge them upon the person that doth believe? The person must be discharged, or else how can they be taken away. This is the main thing imported in that notable sacrifice of the scapegoat, Lev. 16:21. The high-priest must lay his hand upon the head of the goat to be carried away into the wilderness; the text saith, "It was the laying the sins of the people, and that when they were laid upon him, he goes into the wilderness." He goes into the wilderness, and leaves their sins behind him; then the end of this service were frustrated; for he was to carry them away upon him: so Christ, as the scapegoat, hath our sins laid upon his back, and he carries them away; and, therefore, in Psalm 103:12 it is said, "that God removes our sins from us, as far as the East is from the West; he casts our sins into the bottom of the sea." Besides all these texts of scripture, I might produce multitudes more, if need were, for this purpose; but, I think, there can be nothing in the world more clear than this truth, that Christ is such a way to a poor believing soul that ho Math received, that he might take and carry away all the sins of such a person; that he is no longer reckoned as having sins upon him.
1 Matt. 11:28. Heb. 4:3 Isaiah 32:18.
2 That is, to condemnation; because all have been charged on Christ, and he has made satisfaction for them. Besides the manifestative justification Crisp is speaking of is an open and full discharge from all sin.
3 That, is by imputation; not as the author and committer of sin. In the same way, God reckons our sins to be Christ's; not as committed by Him, but are imputed to Him.