Pearls of Great Price!
William Nicholson, 1855
Showing How the Christian is Blessed with All Spiritual
Blessings in Christ
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Ephesians 1:3
The design of the following pages is to remind the Christian of his distinguished blessings and happiness as a believer in Christ Jesus. Accustomed to engage in the avocations of life, surrounded with domestic scenes, sometimes of trouble and inconvenience; sometimes basking under the sun of prosperity, or at other times exposed to the storms of adversity—it is no wonder that he should at times forget the wondrous privileges which the Lord of life has conferred upon him. Hence the necessity of "stirring up his mind by way of remembrance." O Christian, forget not your dignity! It is more exalted, and more substantial, than that of kings, or of the most renowned conquerors!
The privileges of the Christian are not confined to the body, nor limited by time. They are strictly applicable to the soul; they are enjoyed in time, and their duration is eternity. What, then, can better employ the mind than the frequent contemplation of these glorious realities?
A Christian is . . .
a sinner saved by grace,
admitted to fellowship with the Most High,
guarded by the strength of Omnipotence,
guided with infallible wisdom,
his name written in the Lamb's book of life,
borne up amid the swellings of Jordan,
conveyed by angels to the celestial paradise,
there to receive the crown of immortality, and a palm of eternal victory!
Oh! what earthly honors can be compared to these! Earthly honors! name them not—they are laid in the balance, and found lighter than vanity" But, Christians, your honors are not shadowy, but substantial. Therefore, forget them not. Enjoy them. They are wells of salvation. Drink of them freely. They are the dews of Heaven—let them refresh your soul! They are clusters of fruit from the cross, and streams from the ocean of heavenly felicity! "Eat, O friends—drink abundantly, O beloved!"
They proclaim to you eternal salvation—a proclamation sweeter than the music of the spheres; listen to its rapturous sound, and strive to be cheered by it every moment!
Thus . . .
the sorrows of life will be deprived of their gloom,
hope will gild the future,
and the undying spirit will ultimately be prepared for the felicities of Heaven.
Pray for the Spirit . . .
to assure you that these blessings are yours,
to make them sweet to your taste, and
to produce in you, and for you, their blissful effects.
William Nicholson, 1855
Dear Reader, if you were in quest of a splendid fortune, supposed to have been bequeathed to you by some departed friend—would you not be extremely anxious to discover your relationship to the deceased, and your claim to the bequest? You would leave no means untried to make such a discovery, and to come to such a realization.
But to speak spiritually, there is a great testator, even Christ—who has actually bequeathed to all his children, immense property and incalculable privileges and immunities. Thousands of gold and silver, the cattle upon a thousand hills, earthly dignities and honors—are base and empty, when compared with them. In the estimation of all the pious on earth, of all perfected spirits in glory, of angels round the sapphire throne—they are Pearls of Great Price, whose value is partly known and enjoyed below. They will be more fully discovered and realized in Heaven—and will progressively unveiled through eternity!
A Christian's privileges! Oh! they give to him a surpassing grandeur, a halo of inconceivable splendor!
A Christian's privileges! Should they not excite a seraphic impulse in every bosom, exciting an intense ambition that refuses to be satisfied until the ethereal spirit mounts up to Heaven, in which they are consummated and crowned?
Does a person manifest intense concern to establish his claim to earthly possessions? Then will not you, Christian, go and do likewise? The exalted privileges of the gospel are given to believers, as the scriptures uniformly declare. The prayer of the Redeemer was offered up on the behalf of his disciples: "Father, I will that those whom you have given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory!"
Then the vital question is this: Am I a true believer in Christ? Do I sit at his feet as a lowly and an obedient disciple? Does my heart condemn me not? Have I confidence towards God? Christian, can you answer in the affirmative? If you can, rise and claim those blessings—become conscious of your real dignity—look down and smile on kings!
The following characteristics of a true servant of Christ, will enable the reader to investigate his condition, and ascertain whether he is an heir of God, and joint-heir with Jesus Christ.
A penitent sinner cannot but feel sorrow for all his past and present deviations from the law of God. Being led by grace, to the fountain of living waters—he deeply laments his having so long endeavored to hew out broken cisterns which can hold no water. He wonders how he could be so blinded and so hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin—as to seek for satisfaction in the ways of death, and madly dream that his happiness would improve in proportion as he strayed from God
Above all, when he finds that the expiation of his guilt and his redemption from eternal perdition, could be effected by no less expense than by the miraculous incarnation and most bitter death of God's Son—how powerfully does this induce him to sorrow after a godly sort! What carefulness and concern does it work on the heart! What self-indignation! What fear of God! What vehement desires for forgiveness! What revenge and abhorrence of sin! These are the evidences of genuine repentance—these, these are the true evidences of engraftment into Christ. There is joy in Heaven over such repentance as this. God the Father acquiesces with delight, in the soul that is thus brought to his mercy-seat. The Redeemer sees the reward of his sufferings, and is glorified. The Holy Spirit smiles on his own work, hastens to comfort the sinner whom he has subdued, and goes on to accomplish the sanctification he has begun.
Have you, reader, been the subject of the above-mentioned operations? Have you exercised repentance towards God? Much depends upon this; for the Redeemer said, "Except you repent, you shall likewise perish!"
The believer, at the commencement of his course, beheld Christ as a Savior admirably adapted to his circumstances as a sinner. He was guilty—but he relied upon the efficacy of Christ's blood to wash it all away. He was made sensible of his ignorance—and Christ became his light. He was made sensible of his weakness—and Christ became his strength. In short, by the reposing of faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice—Christ is now made unto him wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Therefore, he now rejoices in Christ Jesus, and has no confidence in the flesh. He says, with the Church, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength!"
The best obedience of my hands,
Dares not appear before your throne;
But faith can answer your demands,
By pleading what my Lord has done!
The believer therefore comes to God by Christ; and he looks for acceptance as to his person and service, through Christ; and, while he makes mention of his righteousness alone, he also goes forth in Christ's strength. He feels that without him he can do nothing—that he can stand no longer than Christ holds him; that he cannot walk further than Christ leads him. But at the same time he perceives that the Redeemer possesses an all-sufficiency; and he believes that while without him he can do nothing, he equally believes that through Christ's strengthening him, he can do all things. As he begins his course in this way, so he carries it on. However advanced he may be in the divine life, yet he acknowledges himself to be an unprofitable servant; and looks for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Do you believe on the Son of God? Have you a proper knowledge of his real character? Do you regard him as the image of the invisible God, the grand subject of ancient prophecy, the only atonement of human guilt, and the perfect pattern of moral excellence; the way, the truth, and the life?
Is this your reply?—On every earthly object I can close my eyes, if to me it is given "to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." To every earthly object I can close my heart, if to me it is given "to know the riches of the glory of this mystery, Christ, in me, the hope of glory."
Do you rely on the honor and the grace of Jesus, for salvation and eternal life? The Savior is most worthy of your firmest reliance. In trusting in Christ, you lean not on a broken reed, but on the rock of ages, on the pillar and the ground of truth.
Is your reliance on Christ partial? Is it accompanied with confidence in your excellencies and good works? Or is Jesus all your hope? "We are the true circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, who rejoice in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh."
Has your faith its proper influence?
True faith purifies the heart. Can a man believe that Christ gave himself for us in order to redeem us from all iniquity—and still continue in sin? Can a man believe that "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God"—and indulge the lustful propensities in his soul?
True faith overcomes the world. The eye that looks to celestial splendor, will not be dazzled with the vain pomp of this world; nor will the afflictions of a moment render that heart whose treasure is in Heaven, a fountain of tears.
Faith works by love. The perception of Christ's excellence directs the affections to him; and his dying love produces in the heart the most fervent charity, which constrains the Christian to do good and forget not to be fruitful in every good work.
The believer, having obeyed the calls of the gospel to repentance and faith, is now a "new creature."
All by nature are "dead in trespasses and sins." They are "far from God, and alienated from the life of God;" the "servants of sin," who follow the course of this world. But "if any man is in Christ," in a covenant relation to him by faith—then "he is a new creature; old things have passed away, and all things have become new."
But in what sense? Is it a physical sense, or moral one. New physical faculties are not given him; but his faculties have new qualities and applications. They receive a new bias, and are engaged in new and different views and pursuits.
The understanding is enlightened, and has different ideas and sensations of spiritual things.
The desires are fixed on God and holiness.
The will is submissive to the word and will of God; and the renewed person enjoys peculiar satisfaction and delight in whatever is heavenly and divine. "In simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he now has his conduct in the world." He now . . .
conquers the world,
obeys the divine precepts,
loves all his brethren in the Lord,
and pursues holiness in the fear of God.
Blessed change! Who is the author of it?
Creation is a work of omnipotence, and belongs exclusively to God. This is not denied by any. Men will allow that God alone can make a blade of grass—and that in him they live, and move, and have their being—and yet, with astonishing inconsistency, they would be their own saviors, and derive from themselves that spiritual life which is emphatically called the "life of God," not only to show its resemblance, but its origin.
We are said to "live in the Spirit; to walk in the Spirit; to be born of the Spirit." Apart from the Spirit's influence, all remain in the state of sin; and if you see anything like a state of profession, which appears to argue the possibility of the approach of one who is unconverted, to the character of one who is a Christian—the ornaments which are around him are but like the flowers which you have sometimes seen scattered around a corrupting corpse. They may veil the terrors and deformity of death; they may shed a transient beauty over the scene before you, but they can do no more, and they leave it a corpse still.
Christians are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man—but of God." Do you not, then, perceive that everything which assists to perfect a Christian's character is truly and essentially divine; that every grace which flourishes in his heart is implanted there by the power of the Almighty; that every principle which is formed within him, and breathes a consecrated glory, is an emanation from Heaven? The Alpha and Omega—the beginning and the ending—the first and the last, of a Christian's character—is the sovereign mercy of God; and to that mercy, in time and eternity—he may well ascribe all the praise!
UNION to the Savior
The Christian is one who has a relation to Christ; not a professed relation, but a real relation—not a nominal relation, but a vital relation. Yes, a very peculiar and pre-eminent relation, rising above every other that can be mentioned.
This relationship is spiritual in its nature, and never ending in its duration. It derives the possession and continuance of every enjoyment from Christ.
Beware of a Christianity without Christ! It is a stream without a fountain; a branch without a living root; a body without a soul. This union is strikingly expressed by the Savior; "I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing." Also, by the Apostle; "And you are complete in him." It is from him alone that strength can be derived to subdue the corruptions of our nature. Faith in the Great Head of the Church engages the assistance of the Holy Spirit on behalf of believers, without whose special influence it is impossible for the soul to do anything effectually in point of duty, or to oppose any sin with success.
Reader, are you thus related to Christ? If so, you are the subject of all those promises of comfort here, and of glorious happiness hereafter, which he has given to all his disciples.
Love to Christ' DOCTRINE
The true Christian is a lover of Christ's doctrine.
You can only be Christians, by holding the particular doctrines of Christianity—and these are to be found only in the Scriptures. There a Christian searches for them; there he kneels before the oracles of divine truth there he takes up those principles, and says, "These, however mysterious they may be to my reason, however humiliating to the pride of my heart—these I take upon the authority of Him who has revealed them. I sit, with Mary, at Christ's feet. I pray to be led by his Spirit, into all truth.
Hence the believer becomes the subject of all those various emotions towards his Master, and his Master's work, which, from its nature, it is necessitated to inspire.
The divinity of Christ, becomes the object of his worship;
the condescension of Christ, becomes the object of his gratitude;
the example of Christ, becomes the object of his imitation;
the atonement of Christ, becomes the object of his trust;
the glory of Christ, becomes the object of his expectation;
the reign of Christ, becomes the object of his joy;
the coming of Christ, becomes the object of his hope.
Unto those who believe, Jesus is precious!
Christ the Believer's PATTERN
The Christian is a copier of Christ's example. Without this, in vain you contend for the truth, and talk of your regard to him. "He who says he abides in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."
Christians are said to be predestined to be conformed to his image. They are described now as "beholding, in a mirror, his glory," and as being "changed in the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." Jesus, indeed, had the Spirit, without measure; but the believer possesses the same Spirit; for "if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." You must, therefore, if you are Christians, resemble him who went about doing good; who said, "Zeal of your house has consumed me."
The example of Christ is in itself preeminently beautiful and lovely. His meekness, gentleness, humility, compassion, and universal sweetness of disposition, are not less distinguished than his greatness and glory.
Solomon, beholding his character, in distant vision, exclaimed, He is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely!
David, in prophetic view of the excellence of his life, exclaimed, You are fairer than the sons of men.
God the Father, beholding him with infinite delight, announced his character to the world, with a voice from Heaven: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
To these divine declarations, all true believers have subjoined their Amen. O Christians, there is nothing you have more to bewail than your lack of conformity to him. You know that, hereafter, you shall be like him completely, for you shall "see him as he is"—but there is nothing you now pray for with more earnestness than, O that I might be more like Jesus!
Thus the character of a Christian, in its most important and essential features, has been briefly described. And much of their blessedness is visible even in that description. For is it not a glorious and unspeakable transformation, to be translated from the kingdom of Satan, into the kingdom of God's dear Son? All who really experience this change, perceive its greatness, and adore its Author. They despise the trifles of earth, and look for a more enduring substance in Heaven!
The heirs of Heaven may well forego
The world's applause, nor feel the loss.
The gold is theirs, and well they know
The world's applause is worthless dross!
Spiritual Blessings Comprehensive
How vast the treasure we possess!
How rich your bounty, King of grace!
This world is ours, and worlds to come!
Earth is our lodge, and Heaven our home!
Oh! glorious portion of the saints!
Let faith suppress our sore complaints;
And tune our hearts and tongues to sing
Our bounteous God, our sovereign King!
In describing the privileges of the believer, it is impossible to know where to commence, and where to close. When we speak of them, we seem as though we stood at the entrance of a fair and beautiful garden, within whose limits we cannot move a step without plucking flowers, and beholding fruits on the tree of life, whose very "leaves are for the healing of the nations."
Hence says an apostle, "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to came; all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's!"
The Bible tells us that some have their portion in this life. What this portion is, it is very possible to express and describe. Solomon, a master of all history, all observation, and all experience, tells us that it is "vanity and vexation of spirit." But there is attached to the portion of the Christian—eternity, immensity! Therefore it is said, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into, the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him."
The privileges of the saints are present and future; or they are distinguished by grace and glory. David refers to the former, when he says, "You shall guide me by your counsel"—he refers to latter, when he says, "And you shall afterwards receive me to glory." He refers to both, when he exclaims, "Oh! how great is your goodness which you have laid up for those who fear you; which you have wrought for those who trust in you." Here he reminds you, Christians, not only what God has laid up, but what he has laid out; he reminds you not only of what the Christian has in reversion, but in possession; not only what he has in expectation, but in experience. Though, at present, he does not rest from his labors, yet he finds a rest in them; though he has not arrived at the promised land, he has reached Elim, where are twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm trees; and, in the desert, he often receives clusters of grapes, from Eschol.
Behold the Christian in the performance of religious duties—behold him in reading the Scriptures—see him in his closet—in the house of God—at the table of the Lord—and behold him on a dying bed, and you have a striking proof that, living or dying,
The men of grace have found
Glory begun below;
Celestial fruits, on earthly ground,
From faith and hope do grow.