Child of the eternal Father,
Bride of the Eternal Son,
Dwelling-place of God the Spirit
Thus with Christ made ever one;
Dowered with joy beyond the angels
Nearest to His throne,
They, the ministers attending
His Beloved One;
Granted all my heart’s desire;
All things made my own;
Feared by all the powers of evil,
Fearing God alone;
Walking with the Lord in glory
Through the courts Divine,
Queen within the royal palace,
Christ for ever mine;
Say, poor worldling, can it be,
That my heart should envy thee?
— Gerhardt Tersteegen
“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. vii. 4). Such is the language in which the apostle sets forth the blessedness of the risen life. In this seventh chapter he shows us what it is to be married to the law, set forth in the ﬁgurative capacity of a husband. The husband is holy and spiritual, righteous and good (verses 12-14), and demands perfect love to God and perfect love to man. This love is wanting owing to the wife’s inability, her love being centered in self, and not in God. The husband is displeased, and threatens death if she does not obey. While the wife fully recognizes the reasonableness both of the requisition and the threatening, she ﬁnds herself unable — though she promises obedience again and again — to fulﬁll the requirements of her husband, the law.
If she only had the strength, and could render him the loving obedience he demands, her life might be one of unsullied happiness, for, as it has been said: “the law may be a very good husband for an unfallen angel, but it is a very unsatisfactory one for a fallen being, who is ‘without strength,’ and in whom there ‘dwelleth no good thing.’ Law presupposes strength, and indicates and rewards its right use: but ‘power into strengthless souls’ it cannot speak.”
When this ﬁrst husband is once offended he will never again be reconciled. Should the wife expostulate, “But I wish to do your will”; he replies, “Speak not of wishes, but do it.” But, says the wife, “I have done it in almost every particular”; he only answers, “Whoso shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.” “May I not be forgiven?” asks the distressed wife; he answers, “There is no forgiveness in my nature”; “the soul that sinneth shall die”; “cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things that are written in My book to do them.”
After vainly endeavoring to render the requisite obedience, and constantly crying out: “To will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not,” the wife at last gives up in despair, and the penalty of her disobedience is about to be exacted when Christ appears. He reveres, honors, and loves the husband, and entirely approves of his requirements and the course he has taken. But while He condemns the wife, He pities her, and with deep benevolence loves her. He can do nothing to lower the sanctions of her husband’s requirements; he must not only not be dishonored, but he must be magniﬁed and made honorable. Christ pities the wife so much as to be willing to die for her; so, by the body of Christ, we become dead to the law. The holy and dishonored law had only one thing to give the unfaithful wife — its curse; and “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” The curse of sin is abandonment by God, and on the Cross that curse, with all its unspeakable accompaniments, fell on the spotless soul of Jesus. Abhorred of men, forsaken of God, earth all hate, heaven all blackness, the curse that we had merited claimed Him as its victim, and by taking our place He has bought us for ever out of its power.
We have read of certain venomous animals which expire the moment they have deposited their sting and its mortal poison in the body of their victim. Thus there ensues a double death — that of the sufferer as well as the assailant. Under the law’s awful curse, Jesus poured out His soul unto death; but at the same moment the law expended all its power as a judge and avenger over those who identify themselves with Christ. The hand-writing of ordinances that was against us and contrary to us has become powerless since it was nailed to His Cross. It became from that moment the receipt of a discharged obligation. All the right and strength of condemnation which belonged to it were put forth on that Cross. Payment to the uttermost farthing was demanded, and payment to the uttermost far thing was made. The law has no more power over a dead subject than the husband has over a dead wife. The death of either- contracting party frees both from their obligations, and the moment we reckon ourselves to have died in Christ, that moment we pass from under the curse, and can sing: “There is now therefore no condemnation to me, for I am in Christ Jesus.”
Freed from her union with the law in the death of her Deliverer, the wife is now free to marry again. Her Deliverer has risen from the dead, and on proposing marriage to her for whom He died, her heart is won, her selﬁshness is conquered, and with her whole soul she enters into a love relationship. She needs no stern and terrible legal sanctions to keep her from revolting from her husband’s will; such is the union between her spirit and His, that love is law, and law is only love. Her second Husband’s requirements are fuller than the ﬁrst, for He came into the world to fulﬁll the law, and He died and rose again, that married to Him we might fulﬁll it too; “that the requirements (see R.V.) of the law might be fulﬁlled in us, who walk not after the ﬂesh, but the Spirit” (Rom. viii. 4). The wife was too weak to obey her ﬁrst husband, and he was too weak to render her any assistance; but now the Conqueror of sin, death, and hell is the Bridegroom of her soul. The law has become incarnate in Him who has won her heart, and “His commandments are not grievous.” Hence the bitter wail of inability and defeat of the seventh chapter — “To will is present, to do is not! O wretched one that I am, who shall deliver me?” — gives place to the triumphant paean of the eighth chapter: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death!” “I am more than conqueror through Him that loveth me!” “If He is for me, who can be against me?
The seventh chapter of Romans is largely the complaint of one married to the law, seeking by struggle and effort to obey his behests. The eighth chapter is the language of the soul’s triumph when “married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead.” In union with Him there is no more condemnation, v. 1; no more enslavement, v. 2; no more unrest, v. 6; no more death, v. 10; no more loneliness, V. 10; no more inability, V. 11; no more fear, vv. 14, 15; no more doubt, V. 16; no more poverty, v. 17; no more anxiety, v. 28; no more defeat, v. 37; no more separation, v. 38.
Let us further see what this marriage union with Jesus involves. An earthly relationship, with which we are familiar, and with the conditions of which we are well acquainted, is used to shadow this wonderful heavenly relationship. When writing of it in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said: “This is a great mystery” (Eph. v.32). This, however, is clear, God has purposes of love towards us which may well overwhelm us as we contemplate them. No such dignity is proposed for any other created being, and we are driven to the conclusion that human character, formed in full union with Jesus Christ, and by the unhindered operation of the Holy Spirit, may be, even here and now, a grander thing than can be found elsewhere in the universe. Our present position, as the betrothed of Jesus, is unique; our destiny as His bride is unique; and it is no matter for wonderment if the conditions of trial and training to which we are here subjected, to ﬁt us for a position of such elevation and distinction, are also unique.
By this marriage of the soul to Jesus we become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter i. 4). “We are members of His body; being of His ﬂesh, and of His bones” (Eph. v. 30). As the woman owed her natural being to the man, her source and head, so we owe our entire spiritual being to Christ, our source and head: and as the woman was one ﬂesh with the man in this natural relation, so we, in our entire spiritual relation, spirit, soul, and body, are one with Christ. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife and the two shall be one ﬂesh. Christ is here the man in the apostle’s view, the Church is the woman. The saying applies to that past, present, and future which constitutes Christ’s union with His bride, the Church. His leaving the Father’s bosom, which is past; His gradual preparation for the union, which is present; His full consummation of it, which is future. We are as truly now one ﬂesh with Him, as we shall be when heaven and earth shall ring with the joy of the nuptials.”
Shall we be surprised if, with such a purpose, our heavenly Bridegroom should be jealous of the least complication of our lives, of the least diversion of our affections in any other direction! “Partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world in lust.” This corruption we must escape in union with Jesus in His death; for it is not in the elements which surround us, but in our own hearts; because there reign those vicious and wicked affections, whose source and root is denoted by the word lust. The world in which the corruption is, is in ourselves. It is in proportion as we escape this, and enter into the wondrous purpose of God, that we shall see how reasonable it is that He should have us all to Himself; and how He could not, with such a love, rest satisﬁed in anything short of this. This perfect union of nature with our Lord is, as Tauler says, “the dearest and most desired thing that God will have from man: then man will be always so disposed that God can work in him at all times without hindering, and therefore He also saith, ‘My delight is with the children of men.’ “
Someone has called attention to the three stages of love. At ﬁrst the ruling thought of the soul is “My Beloved is mine, and I am His” (Canticles ii. 16). At this stage we think chieﬂy of Christ as ours, and so in some way for our pleasure. Then we come to “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” (vi. 3). His ownership and possession take the ﬁrst place in our thoughts. At last we come to “I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is towards me” (vii. 10), where the word “mine” is altogether dropped, in the perfect assurance of love that to be His indeed, involves all.
The marriage of the soul to Jesus carries with it the power to render obedience. The wife of the second husband is just as much under obligation as she was in her former marriage. Nay, the obligation is far greater. Take one illustration only: the ﬁrst husband said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart;” but the second says, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you,” thus supplying her with a new model for her love. What was previously an impossible task, becomes now a delightful privilege, for the very purpose of this union is contained in the Saviour’s prayer: “That the love wherewith Thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them.” “He is in His people that He may draw down to them the love of the Father, which ﬂowed toward Him when He was separately present in this world; and He is in them, that He may perennially exhibit to His people the love He bears them. The vocation of every believer is this: to be a revelator of the love of Christ. The believer is an epistle of Christ — an epistle of His love.” So that what was impossible by a constraining principle from without, is delightfully possible by an impelling power from within. The second Husband therefore supplies a new motive as well as a new model, and to every call, His beloved may make answer: “The love of Christ constraineth me.” She serves now not in the oldness of the letter which is Sinai, but in the newness of the Spirit, which is Pentecost.
Marriage to Jesus means also perpetual fruitfulness. We are “married to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God.” In a familiar chapter in St. John’s Gospel, the fruit of union to Christ is similarly set forth, only the ﬁgure there is a vegetable, as here a conjugal one.
“Fruit unto death,” as verse 5 tells us, is the outcome of living in the ﬂesh; just as “fruit unto God “ is the outcome of union with Jesus. “Fruit” is the spontaneous natural manifestation of the life within. The great question is, Are we in right relations to Jesus? Is our union with Him so complete, that every pore and artery of our being is open to receive the perpetual inﬂow of His life? If so, we need have no anxiety about fruit. If we take care of what we are, what we do will take care of itself.
Flowers that are bent on perfecting themselves by becoming double, end in barrenness. This mysterious union of our nature with Jesus, means marvelous development; but it means also reproduction, for the latter, and not the former, is the goal of matured beings. Just as a vine that expends its whole energy on producing wood and leaves misses its purpose, so the soul that surrenders to God, that receives and develops, but stops short at giving itself away to man in a life of sacriﬁce, frustrates the very purpose of the union which God has made possible to such sour-grape bearers as we must ever be, apart from vital union with Him who is the Sweet Vine. True union will, by a great spiritual law, be followed by abundant fruitfulness.
Marriage to Jesus will be followed by likeness. Just as in true wedded life, the husband and wife become assimilated to each other in afﬁnities, choices, mental peculiarities, and even in physiognomy, so, by being “a partaker of Christ,” we become of necessity Christ-like. “When God set forth His only begotten Son as the only possible way of access to Himself, it meant that He can have delight in, or have fellowship with, nothing in which the likeness of His Son is not to be seen. We can have no further entrance into God’s favor or good pleasure than He can see Christ in us.” “But we all, with unveiled face mirroring the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit” (2 Cor. iii. 18). The apostle’s thought seems to be, not the reﬂection and radiation of the light and beauty of Christ, but the receiving and taking into ourselves that which is presented to our vision. Just as the mirror seems to hold the face that looks into it, so we, opening our nature, to Jesus, begin to mirror Him therein, for with His likeness He comes in the person of His transﬁguring Spirit to dwell and work in us, until the same likeness as that which He bears is wrought out and perfected in us; the glory and loveliness in Him become glory and loveliness in us, and from the center to the very circumference of our being we are transﬁgured.
In this marriage the wealth of the Husband is of course placed at the disposal of the wife. Many will remember the story of the Lord of Burleigh which Tennyson has immortalized. Under the guise of a landscape painter he won the heart of a simple village maiden. Imagining they were going to the cottage of which he had spoken, in which they were to spend their happy wedded life, they pass one beautiful dwelling after another, until
“ … a gateway she discerns
With armorial bearings stately,
And beneath the gate she turns;
Sees a mansion more majestic
Than all those she saw before:
Many a gallant gay domestic
Bows before him at the door.
And they speak in gentle murmur,
When they answer to his call,
While he treads with footstep ﬁrmer,
Leading on from hall to hall.
And while now she wonders blindly,
Nor the meaning can divine,
Proudly turns he round and kindly,
‘All of this is mine and thine.’ “
So by this union of hearts and lives, the simple village girl had become the Lady of Burleigh, and all her husband’s wealth was hers.
Who shall tell of the wealth which they inherit who are truly united to Jesus! St. Paul speaks in his Ephesian letter of the exceeding riches of His grace (Eph. ii. 7). Then he speaks of the unsearchable riches of Christ (iii. 8). The word translated exceeding” literally means “to shoot beyond the mark”; St. Paul means, that though we use the utmost wealth of language, we cannot shoot beyond the mark: the riches of which he is thinking exceed all power of language to express. In the other passage, the word “unsearchable” literally means riches that can never be explored. We can not only not calculate them, but we can never get to the end of our investigation. When we have carried our search to the limits of possibility, there is still a vast continent of riches lying unexplored before us. And as our heavenly Bridegroom leads us on, He will ever be bringing home to us some new discovery of our wealth in him, and at each new revealing He will say: “All of this is Mine and thine.”
It follows that the protection of the husband is the marriage portion of the wife. Bride of Jesus, let no danger ever affright thee! “No weapon that is formed against thee can prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn” (Isa. liv. 17). Jesus, thy Husband, is invested with absolute authority over this world. All the forces of nature are in His hands. All the powers of what we call natural laws are under His control. All the forces of evil are under His feet. He holds the scepter in His hands, and He controls, governs, and manages, with absolute power, everything that pertains to the history of our race, and to the interests of those whom He has redeemed with His precious blood. He speaks of three gifts in His High-priestly prayer: “As Thou hast given Him power over all ﬂesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him “(John xvii. 2). By the ﬁrst He is invested with the government of the world; by the second, we who trust in Him for salvation are given to Him; by the third, He communicates to all such eternal life. And it is in order that the last gift may be communicated that Christ is clothed with universal power. That He may bring His little ﬂock through unnumbered perils into the home of many mansions the Father has given Him all power in heaven and in earth.