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GRACE FOR GRACE.
the 15th verse,
SERMON I. " And of his fulness have all we received, even grace for grace.”
JOHN 1. 16. HERE in this chapter are two choice spirits, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist; both agreeing in this, to advance the honour of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is brought in by John the Evangelist, giving, as you read in this first chapter, four great testimonies of Jesus Christ.
The first begins at the 15th verse: “ John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This is he of whom I spake.” Wherein John the Baptist doth prefer Jesus Christ above himself; both in regard of his person and regard of his office: in regard of his person, as you read in the latter end of
“ This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me, is preferred before me;" in regard of his office, at the 16th, the 17th and 18th verses, “ And of his fulness have all we received, even grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” &c.
I confess there are learned interpreters, as Cyril and Chrysostome, that do conceive the words of my text to be the words of John the Evangelist: the 15th verse having, as they say, relation unto John's speech in the latter end of the 14th verse :
and truth.” But Origen and others, unto whom I rather incline, think that they are the words of John the Baptist; because they are knit unto the former by the copulative and : “ And, of his fulness haye all we received, grace for grace.” He, therefore, that spake the words of the former verse, in all likelihood spake these words: he that spake the words of the former verse was John the Baptist, and therefore these words being linked unto the former by the word and, in all likelihood are the words of John the Baptist.
The words of themselves fall into these three propositions :
First, That there is a fulness of grace in Jesus Christ. Secondly, That of this fulness we have all received. Thirdly, That we have all received, even grace for grace.
There is a great controversy upon the latter clause, what should be meant by those words, “ Even grace for grace: but because the determination thereof falls properly within the compass of the third proposition, and will have little influence upon the first, which I intend, God willing, to speak upon at this time; therefore I pass by that controversy, and come presently unto the first proposition, which is this:
That there is a fulness of grace in Jesus Christ.
The word in the original </epapa sometimes is taken for abundance : “ The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," Psalm xxiv. 1. So here it is not taken, here it is too narrow; for there is not only Plenitudo abundantiæ, but, Plenitudo redundantiæ; not only a fulness of abundance, but a fulness of redundancy-an overflowing of fulness in Jesus Christ.
Sometimes the word is used for fulfilling and perfecting of a thing. So love is said to be the fulfilling of the law. So it is not taken here; for though Christ be the end of the law, yet notwithstanding, the fulness spoken of here, is that which we do receive, and that is the fulness of grace.
The word, firstly and properly, is given unto vessels that are brimful of liquor, and so metaphorically applied here unto our Lord Jesus Christ, who is brimful of grace, in whom there is no emptiness, there is no evacuity. While I speak Jesus Christ, I mean Christ as Mediator, as God-man. There is a fulness in Christ as God: that is not the fulness; so Christ is not taken here, by what is said in the verse before the text, the 14th verse: “ And the Word was made flesh; and of his fulness we have all received.” So that it is the fulness of Christ as Mediator : there is a fulness of grace in Christ as Mediator. I shall keep me close unto the words. The fulness is here spoken of which we are said to receive, of which we receive. We receive grace for grace: it is the fulness therefore of grace that is in Christ, that I am now speaking of.
Now the word grace, sometimes is taken for the love and
favour of God: “ We are saved by grace," Eph. ii. 5: that is, we are saved through the love and mercy of God.
Sometimes this word xapis in the original is used or put for holiness : “Singing with grace in your hearts,” Col. iii. 16; that is, with holiness in your hearts.
And sometimes it is used for excellency, for gifts, or ability, as in Ephes. iv. 7, (xapopa Donum, quodquis gratificatur), and in all these respects there is a fulness of grace in Christ.
First of all, take grace for love, and bounty, and mercy, and so there is. Plenitudo bonitatis : there is a fulness of love in Christ. The heart and love of Christ now in heaven, is the same toward poor sinners, toward his children, toward believers, toward men, as it was when he was upon the earth, when Christ was upon the earth.
First, There was a fulness of pardoning love in him: then he would pardon men before they did come for pardon. “ Father (says Christ), Father forgive them, they know not what they do,” Luke xxiii. 24. Ye count it a great act of love, where the fault is great, to forgive a man upon his acknowledgment of the fault: our Lord Christ did not stay for their acknowledgment, but whilst they were reeking in their sins he forgives : “ Father, forgive them, forgive them, they know not what they do."
Yea, if you look into the gospel ye shall find, that when men were putting forth the highest acts of sin, he was putting forth the highest acts of his love. When Christ was suffering for Peter, Peter was denying Christ: Peter denying Christ, and Christ suffering for Peter. When he was upon the earth, he did not only pardon once, but he would pardon again and again : if men sinned again, he would pardon again. The disciples slept, and Christ pardoned; they slept again, and Christ pardoned again; they slept again, and Christ pardoned again. Yea, and when he had pardoned, he would not upbraid them with their former sins, or with his own mercy. After his resurrection, not a word to Peter of all his denial or of Christ's mercy. Beloved, Christ is the same in heaven, he is the same in heaven now.
Again, When Christ was upon the earth, his first and his great care was for those that were weak in grace. The first sermon that he preached, “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,"
Matt. v. 3, 4, and, “ Blessed are those that mourn.” He doth not say, Blessed are those that have assurance of the love of God, and, Blessed are those that have the sense of his love in their hearts; but, Blessed are the poor, and Blessed are they that mourn. And when any poor doubting, trembling soul came unto him, he would not cast away their service because it was accompanied with infirmity; but he would rather pass by their infirmity because it was accompanied with some sincerity. So the woman that came behind him; so Nicodemus. And when any poor soul could not come to Christ, could not come to Christ in Christ's way, Christ would come down to him in his way. Thomas, saith he, thou sayest thou wilt not believe, unless thou thrust thy hands into my side; Thomas, thou wilt not honour me by believing unless thou seest ; Thomas, thou wilt not come up to me in my way: well, I will come down to thee in thy way; come, reach hither thy fingers, and thrust thy hands into my side, and be not faithless, but believing. Oh, the admirable condescension of the love of Jesus Christ! Beloved, he is the same now in heaven.
Again, When he was upon the earth, he professed that his heart, and his love, and affections were as much, if I say not more, unto one saint, as unto all his kindred that are such. “Blessed are those that keep thy commandments," Rev. xxii. 14.“ Behold, say they, thy mother, and thy brother, and sister are without to speak with thee:” says he, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, sister, and mother,” Matt. xii. 47–50. As if he should say, you count my kindred happy, because they are near unto me; but do you see one poor, believing, trembling, gracious soul? I tell you the soul that keeps my commandments, is as much unto me as all
; here is love! and I say the Lord Jesus, his heart is the same still in heaven. And therefore you shall observe, that when he was risen and came amongst his disciples, the door being shut; he comes into the room, and he says unto them, “ Peace be unto you,” Luke xxxiv. 36. Why, peace be unto you? the ordinary way and manner of salutation : as if he would say thus much unto them, that they should find him every way as courteous, and as loving towards them now being risen, as he was before he died
And, my beloved, if Jesus Christ should not be as gracious, and as kind after death, as before; then his disciples should be losers by his death: but he professed to them before he died, that they should not be losers, but gainers rather. When our Lord Christ was upon the earth, out of his love, he died for us; he loved us, and died for us: his love then cost him much: Now that he is in heaven he dies no more, he can love us at a cheaper rate. And shall we think, that when he was upon the earth, he would lay down his life for us; and now he is in heaven, he will not speak a good word for us? certainly, beloved, the Lord Jesus is as full of love and tender affection toward his now he is in heaven, as he was upon the earth. Take grace for love, and so there is a fulness of grace in Jesus Christ. That is the first.
Secondly, Take grace for holiness, and so there is plenitudo sanctitatis, a fulness of holiness in Jesus Christ. There are three things in the old Testament that were very holy, the law, the high priest, and the temple.
As for the ceremonial law, though it was very holy ; yet in regard of the spiritual command of the gospel, and Christ; the ceremonials of the law, in the book of the Hebrews, is called the carnal command. Heb. vii. 16.
And as for the high priest, though he had holiness written upon his forehead ; yet therein he was but a type of Christ. And saith the apostle, in the book of Hebrews vii. 27; “The high priest then when he offered for others' sins, he offered first for his own sins,” but our High Priest not so.
And as for the temple, it was indeed very holy, the Jews rested much thereupon; and therefore they cried thrice, The temple, the temple, the temple of the Lord, Jer. vii. 4. But now if you look into the vith chapter of Isaiah, you shall find that our Lord Christ is there upon the temple; and whereas they cried three times for the temple, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord. Three times this is echoed concerning Christ, Holy, holy, holy. At the first verse, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple;" his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims, each had six wings, with twain he covered his face, with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly, and one cried unto