The Sinless Saviour
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, February 4th, 1849
DURING the week that is passed, we have been saying much respecting sinners and the salvation of sinners. The language which I have just read presents us with a beautiful contrast. It presents us with the only Person of whom it could ever be said since the fall of Adam, "who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." This is a description, concise and full, of that glorious personage whose name and fame we have been attempting to publish these many years, and whose name is, I know, as ointment poured forth to many of your souls. Everything relating to Him, as recorded in the volume of inspiration, serves to enhance His beauty and glory, and to endear Him to the hearts of His people. And this is what I am aiming at this morning; for, after all that is said of Him, after all the glorious names which are given to Him, every one of which is most expressive, and after all that He has done for the Church, and for your heart and mine, you and I may feel thoroughly ashamed that we have so little love to Him. I confess that this has been the great drawback upon my happiness all my life; this has been the great drawback upon my rejoicings, my exultations, and my triumphs day by day; the want of more love to that precious Christ, who is declared to be the Father's Beloved, in whom He is well pleased, whom all the angels adore, whom the millions of glorified spirits worship and love, whom all the Church confide in, and towards whom, I trust, you and I can find in our hearts some little "smoking flax" of affectionate aspiring, even if it have not yet burst forth into a flame. Oh, for more love to Jesus!
When I look at the solemn declarations relative to the absence of all affection for Him, I begin to examine, with closer scrutiny, whether I have any real love for Jesus; for it is said, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed with a curse." (1 Cor. 16:22) Now, wherever there is love, spiritual love, heaven-born love, to our Lord Jesus Christ, the result will be the same, but in a higher sense, as that which flows from love to a creature.
Now, saying that text, all the places where the word "guile" occurs consist of injunctions, exhortation, and descriptions of character, which mark the real character of God's people, such as Jesus, speaking of Nathanael, and saying of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile" (John 1:47)no deception. So, also, the Psalmist, speaking of the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sin is pardoned, says, "and in whose spirit there is no guile" (Ps. 32:2)no deception. All these texts are given us to show that real godliness makes a man honest, so that he is not a hypocrite, but open and plain believing what he says, and saying what he believes.
I. Let us now come to the language of our text. Here is a glorious Personage set before us as sinless, a sinless Saviour, "in whose mouth there was no guile." How can we sufficiently admire such a character, God and Man, one precious Christ, the Saviour of sinners, and His humanity as perfect as His Godhead? I cannot use language too strong here, because, if we were to admit for one moment the possibility of so much as an impure thought, an impure motive, an impure design, or an impure desire in the heart of Christ's humanity, it would neutralize and destroy the whole of His work, and tarnish the entire glory of His Person. But our souls rejoice in the fact, that, being of superhuman conception and birth, "that holy thing", the body that God the Father had prepared for Him, being of the Holy Ghost, there was no sin in Him, and no propensity to sin, and no possibility of a propensity to sin. His humanity is as perfect, as sinless, as incapable of pollution, as His Godhead. And this is of vast importance in our understanding of the glorious Person of Christ. It is indeed true that His Person was concealed, and, for the more part, hidden away amongst the rubbish of the fall, until He was thirty years of age, when He entered upon His public ministry, save and except His appearance in the temple, just to manifest His glory, when He was twelve years old, after which He went to Nazareth, and was subject unto His parents. But can you for a moment suppose there was anything in that thirty years of His life which was contrary to the last three years? Verily not. Because, though employed in a secular employment, and subject to His parents all these years, His sinless, holy, impeccable humanity, could obey the law to the fullest extent, could endure all that was pronounced in the curse of the law against sinners without deserving it, as a Surety and a Substitute on behalf of His Church.
Moreover, His life, and the exemplariness of His walk, and the whole of His existence upon earth prior to entering upon His public ministry, must have been in perfect accordance with what is here said of Him, "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth."
We will now for a moment glance at the all-important truth, that His official Headship over His Church required this; He could not have been the official Head of His Church otherwise. The federal head of mankind had lost his purity. He was created in the image of God, but had become contaminated. The sentence of death, and death itself, passed upon all his purity and all his holiness. And immediately after his fall, observe, it was the federal head of mankind, he is declared to have corrupted his way; he is declared to be so utterly polluted and vile, that "every imagination and thought of his heart was only evil, and that continually;" and all his seed emanating from him are of the same description, he begat sons and daughters in his own likeness. The contrast to this is the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, appointed in the covenant of grace, and ordained to be the official Head of His elect body the Church; and to be suitable for that office, according to the ordination of infinite, eternal love, He must be "pure and holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." Nor could even His perfect manhood, His spotless purity in our nature, be sufficient for so glorious an office as the Head of His body the Church. With it Deity must be united, and Deity would not unite with that which was impure. Glory to His name that this is "the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, "a pure, holy, perfect, sinless, impeccable humanity in union with the essential, self-existent, and eternal Deity, constituting the once glorious Christ of the Church. Shall I wonder that angels desire to look into this mystery, that devils are astounded and repelled at the very mention of it, and exclaim, "We know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God?" Shall I wonder that all broken-hearted sinners, whom the Holy Ghost has brought to discover their utter ruin, should cling to Him as such, and own Him as such, to the glory of God the Father? Blessings on His name that He is thus the official Head of His body the Church!
Do allow me to dwell a short time longer upon this point, Christ the official Head of His Church; because in the days in which we live modern divinity, if divinity it may be called, represents our precious Christ in so promiscuous, so uncertain, and so ambiguous a manner, that no persons, who feel the burden and guilt of sin upon the conscience, can take comfort from the representations made of Him. If Christ be represented, as He generally is, as able to save and willing to save, as having died to save poor ruined sinners in a general sense, as having by His blood cleansed from all sin, and as ever living to intercede for all that come unto God by Him, these are very blessed truths so far. But if they are delivered and received apart from the grand fundamental principle of His official Headship, they are at once promiscuous; they may or they may not be for this or that man; and there is no certainty of the grand privileges pertaining to His perfect work ever being realized. When, however, we view the fact that all He is and does, and is doing, and will do, and all He has promised in His word, and all that His precious name and character have set forth, are under official Headship, under the solemn engagement of covenant love for His covenant people, with covenant security, thus constituting the whole family of God completely secure in Him, and safe in His perfections and His perfect work, there is some certainty; and all that the poor sinner, who is awakened by the grace of God, has then to do, is to get at the fact whether he belongs to the Church of God, whether he is really of the family of God. If so, then all that is secured in the ordained official Headship of Christ is secured to him.
Now in becoming that covenant official Head of His Church, it was absolutely essential and indispensable that Christ should be sinless. Had He been the subject of but one sinful thought, or one sinful motive in His soul, He would have been disqualified eternally for being the covenant Head of His Church. But, glory to His name, and glory to His Headship, all qualifications centre in Him, and He stands over all things the Head of His Church, and He is to be exalted as such, "Who knew no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." It is true that He was watched narrowly and keenly, and accused as if He were the worst of sinners. Sometimes He was called the ally of Beelzebub, a gluttonous man and a winebibber; but they could never prove it, they could never substantiate the charge. The Friend of publicans and sinners we did show Him to be on Tuesday last; and that the enemies of Jesus Christ, who are sometimes obliged to speak the truth whether they will or no, partly agreed to. Now this precious, holy, sinless Christ was watched narrowly whether He would heal on the Sabbath-day, that they might accuse Him of Sabbath-breaking. They watched His words also, to find whereof they might accuse Him. They watched His miracles, too; and when they discovered that miracles were undoubtedly wrought, and devils cast out by Him, they went away and ascribed these things to Beelzebub; and whatever He did, however pure and holy it might be, a false construction was invariably put upon it. When before Pilate, false witnesses were brought against Him; yet, after all their watchings and accusations, they were compelled to pronounce Him sinless. God the Father pronounced Him sinless. The proud Pharisees pronounced Him sinless. The devil pronounced Him sinless. Wicked, perfidious Pilate pronounced Him sinless. God the Father declared that He was pleased with Him; and He must have been sinless, for the Father cannot be pleased with sin. The proud Pharisees said concerning Him, that they could not find whereof they might accuse Him. They were obliged to make that acknowledgment, for they were baffled in every attempt and manoeuvre they employed to discover something against Him. The prince of darkness came against Him and could find nothing in Him. And though Pilate was anxious to do the murderous Jews a kindness, he was nevertheless constrained to say, "I find no fault in Him." In other words, "I must act with something like a show of justice and consistency in my office of judge; and though I wish to do the Jews a kindness, I must say that I find no fault in Him." So that whilst His enemies watched, and waylaid, and falsely accused, and provoked the precious, glorious Christ of God in every possible or conceivable manner, we have all their testimonies that, throughout His whole life, "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." There was no such thing as a deceitful representation of God's will to man, and no such thing as a deceitful representation of man's condition to God.
Take a Scripture or two expressive of the fact, that there was no guile found in His mouth. When He had to deal with Pharisees, He knew that they stood high in popular esteem. They were supposed to be all but sinless persons. Indeed, it had become proverbial, that of every three persons who entered heaven, two were Pharisees. Now the Saviour could not find in His mouth the guile to compliment these people; but He exhibits no hesitation whatever in declaring them to be serpents, and a generation of vipers. It is remarkable that, so free was the mouth of Jesus from guile, that the most appalling of denunciations proceeded from Him against scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites, though they were so highly complimented by the guile of others. When He came forth amongst the poor, ruined, outcast publicans and sinners, and John sent His disciples to Him with the inquiry, "Art Thou He that should come? or look we for another?" He said, "Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard, how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached." (Matt. 11:3-5) And when we mark the fact, that He called His apostles from the receipt of customs, from among fisherman, and even from among His persecutors, it is proof positive that there could be no guile in Him, for, said He, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." That was not the way to get in favour with the Pharisees; but He had no guile. He came on the errand of God. He came to do the work the Father had committed to Him, and He did it honestly, openly, sincerely before God and man.
I will drop one word of comparison here before I pass on to the second particular of my discourse. What an unbecoming thing must guile be in those who profess to His followers! I gather from the verse preceding the text, that the precious Christ of God "suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps." Beloved, let me press this one point upon your attention, for I want more practical Christianity amongst the followers of the Lamb, lest ye have guile; that there should be no saying of one thing and meaning another; that there should be no smoothing of things down in companies where the truth of God would not be palatable"neither was guile found in His mouth." I am quite aware of the danger and the power of the temptation to commit this crime. I am quite aware that, when personal connections are at stake, when friendships are likely to be forfeited, when social intercourse is threatened with interruption, and when worldly interests are in risk of being injured, a little smoothing down of things, a little guile, a little wrapping of things up, a little overlooking of inconsistencies without reproving them, is too frequently practiced. My hearers, bear with one solemn warning here. In all probability, if such conduct is pursued by you for securing or propitiating the friendship of a man, by deceiving that man you are doing your utmost to damn your soul. Oh, be honest in all you do and say, and take the example of our precious Christ, "who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth."
II. Bear with this appeal, I entreat you, and we will pass on to the second particular of our text. We have spoken of the sinless Saviour; let us now say a word or two with reference to His efficiency for His work in that very sinlessness. You will remember that, under the Levitical law, in Moses' time, when the sacrifice was appointed and commanded for atonement for all Israel, the victim was to be sinless, and was not to be offered in sacrifice if there were any blemish. "Whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer, for it shall not be acceptable for you." "Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the Lord." (Levi. 22:20-22) A long description is given in the book of Leviticus, of the various blemishes and defects that might exist in animals brought to the sacrifice, and all of which were rejected. "It must be a Lamb without blemish," is over and over said. These all pointed to Christ; and our precious Redeemer could not have been the Lamb for atonement, the Lamb of sacrifice for the putting away of the sins of God's Israel, had there been any blemish in Him. Glory to His name, that He could appeal to the worst of His enemies, and say, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" "He did no sin." We are quite sure that the enemies of God, especially the Pharisees, would have gladly "convinced Him of sin" if they could; for they were as watchful against Him then, as they are against His followers in the present day, and would be sure to find out some spot or blemish if they could; and so, if they can discover a spot or blemish in the life of a Christian, not all his godliness, even for a period of fifty years, will be sufficient to cover it in their esteem. But Christ, the precious Lamb, the appointed sacrifice, virtually slain from before the foundation of the world, typically slain under the Mosaic economy, and literally slain on Mount Calvary in the fullness of time, is without spot or blemish. Oh, the preciousness of that sacrifice! Oh, the preciousness of that blood, which was shed for the remission of sins! The blood of bulls, and of goats, could not put away sin. After all, they were but animals; and, though there might be no visible blemishes in them, so as to unfit them for the typical offering, yet there was none perfect among them all; whilst our precious, glorious Christ is said in my text to have done no sin, but was holy, harmless, as perfect when inhabiting His manhood, as He was when He lay in the bosom of the Father from all eternity. Consequently, all the law's demands upon Him were fully met; His atonement was complete and entire, and the sacrifice given to justice could not be scrupled at, because there was no blemish in Him. And here is the difference between our High Priest, and the high priest under the law: the high priest under the law, being sinful by nature, had to make an offering, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people; (Heb. 7:27) but our precious Christ had none to offer for Himself, inasmuch as He was pure, holy, harmless, undefiled. "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." Thus the precious sacrifice which He offered for the atonement and on the behalf of His Church, was satisfactory to justice, satisfactory to the law, and seen to be pure and perfect in the eye of the eternal God. The believer in Jesus, brought to view Him as such, seeks all that is needful in His sacrifice, and says, the Papists may have their sacrifice of the mass, and the Pharisees may have their sacrifice of penances and prayers; I want no other sacrifice than this one glorious offering, this perfect Lamb, this sinless Redeemer, this one glorious sacrifice for sin, who has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; and having done all that the law demanded, or that justice could require, there remains no more sacrifice for sin. I would not offer any other name. I must come as a guilty, ruined, depraved, helpless, lost, undone sinner, taking the one offering for sin in the hand of faith, and presenting it before God in His tabernacle.
Moreover, His efficiency for undertaking the office of Mediator, is conspicuous
in His sinlessness. This is a name and office which I desire should be distinctly
understood in the Church of God, a Mediator. Job calls Him a Daysman. It
is the same thing. Now a Mediator is not a mediator of one, but between
two. God is one party, the sinner is the other; and we want a glorious Personage,
kept continually in view, who is efficient to be a Mediator, or Daysman,
between the parties most widely opposed to each other, and the farthest
apart of any beings in existence, except God and the devil; I mean, God
and the sinner. God is to be glorified, the sinner is to be saved; and that
in a way that shall not tarnish the glory of God. Where are we to find a
Mediator that will undertake the work? I shall not go to the Popish priest,
at all events. I am pretty certain, that his would be a mediator between
me and the devil, how he could most effectually hand me over to his black
Majesty, that is his work. But I rejoice in the thought that, "if any
man sin, we have an advocate with the Father," and His name is "Jesus
Christ the righteous;" (1 John 2:1) for "He did no sin, neither
was guile found in His mouth." Then He who is with the Father, is Mediator
and Daysman, or Advocate; and He could be laid against Him; if He were not
fully capable of negotiating with the Father, of keeping up a holy intimacy
with Him on behalf of His church, on behalf of the sinner upon earth; so
that the sinner, under the conviction of sin, and having the sentence of
the law in his conscience, prostrate, helpless, and hopeless before God,
has this to encourage him; he has an Advocate with the Father, who says, "Father,
I am his covenant Head. I have undertaken his cause. I am come forth, to
stand in the gap. See that sinner bemoaning himself. I have sent my Spirit
to take possession of his heart; and if you want satisfaction, you have
it here, in me: if you want obedience, here it is in me: if you want the
fulfilment of the law, I have accomplished it;" and thus He advocates,
and pleads His own merits, works, righteousness, purity, and holiness, before
the throne, on behalf of the poor sinner. Now, poor soul, you have nothing
like this to plead, if you once neglect this precious Christ. Then, being
perfectly man, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and capable, therefore,
of being "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," this precious
Mediator descends, in the power of His Spirit, to mediate, negotiate , and
advocate matters between God and the sinner, with the sinner's conscience.
He first makes the sinner to "hear His voice, and begin to live,"
and then He speaks a pardon, with "I, even I, am He that blotteth out
thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins."
(Isa. 43:25) Then He speaks to him invitingly, "Behold the Lamb of
God, which taketh away the sins of the world." (John 1:29) "Behold
me, behold me, as your Representative and Surety." Then He speaks to
him with comfort, and bids him to rely upon Him, declaring, that He will
carry his burdens, give him rest, and take away his grief. Oh, how blessed
to have such a Mediator, who will talk with God for me, with full satisfaction
for all the attributes and perfections of Deity; and talk with me for God,
so as to subdue my heart unto obedience to Christ, and bring every power
and faculty into consecration to His glory. Precious Mediator! If the accuser
of the brethren, who accuses them day and night before God, urges the backslidings,
the barrenness, the sinfulness, the hard-heartedness, and the like, even
of those who are the partakers of Sovereign grace; there stands the Mediator,
with "the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanseth from all sins,"
(1 John 1:7) and He says, "Father, I will that they whom Thou hast
given me be with me where I am to behold My glory." (John 17:24) He
undertakes their cause. He is without guile. He never gives a false representation
of man's state before God. He never gives a false representation of
God's will before man. He "did no sin, neither was guile found
in His mouth." "faithfulness
Now, among human mediators, if the mediating party is determined to bring two persons together, in very many instances, because he himself is not sinless, he will palliate the crime of the offender, extenuate it as much as possible, and try to make it appear less than it really is. Thus he endeavours to mediate between them. He speaks to the offended party of the attribute of mercy, and how great it would make him appear to stoop and pardon the offender. Sometimes this may be carried on with transient success between man and man, and an apparent reconciliation is effected; but the heart not being touched, the original cause of enmity soon breaks out again. Now Jesus practices no such guile as this. He admits all that can be laid to the charge of the sinner; He acknowledges the sinner's guilt to the utmost extent, and then only presents the blood of sprinkling. He has entered, with His own blood, within the vail to answer for all; and there is no guile there. He does not come to the sinner, and address him in guileful strains, telling him that God is merciful, and will be gracious to His best endeavours, as I once heard a man in lawn sleeves say, and abate the rest. That is guile. It deceives the sinner, and leads him blindfold into perdition. No! When Jesus comes, in the power of His Spirit, He convinces the sinner of sin, and that sinner feels it, mourns over it, and dies under it; for when the law comes, "sin revives," and the sinner dies. He uses no guile, but shows the sinner the worst; and then He comes with the application of His blood, and pronounces the absolution, "Son, daughter, thy sins are all forgiven thee. I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." That is the way the Saviour mediates.
Now, suppose there was a blemish; but He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. And here we will refer again to the illustration I have just used; of a mediator between parties, who is himself guilty of something like the conduct, at least, partially so, of the offender for whom he pleads. In that case, the offended party may say, "Yes; you may well plead for him, for you are as bad as he is." What, then, could he do in the way of mediation? Nothing at all; but rather aggravate the difference already existing. If your precious Christ, therefore, had one spot or blemish, the Father would never have admitted Him to negotiate with Him. If our precious Christ had a blemish, sin, or guile, He would never stoop to the sinner's case, and meet him with His grand plan of salvation. But, having done no sin, and being free from all guile, He is capable of negotiating with both, and of keeping up a holy intimacy with the Father, and with the poor ruined sinner.
One word here, before I pass on to the next head of my discourse, concerning the infinite importance of such a Mediator. Sinner, you can never draw nigh to God without one. A Socinian's prayer never yet entered heaven, except to be loathed and abhorred, because he has no mediator. An Arian's prayer cannot be received with acceptance, because his supposed mediator is only a demi-god, who is capable of some sin, a more deceptive scheme than even the Socinian's; for that is more open and frank. A Pharisee's prayer is also shut out, and never enters heaven with acceptance, because it is, "God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are. I thank Thee that I am so much better than other men are." Even the humble penitent, who is brought under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, and attempts to go before God without a mediator, would not be saved; but he cannot do this, for the same Spirit that convinces him of sin shows him the Mediator, and proclaims to his heart, "through Him we have access unto the Father by one Spirit." (Eph. 2:18) Oh, the importance of applying to this precious Mediator continually.
Just glance, for a moment, at the infallibility of His intercession. And I am somewhat in love with this word infallibility; and one reason of my being so is, because it is so greatly abused; and if dishonest priests will claim it for themselves, and their superior orders, we tell them that they are thieves and robbers; for it belongs only to Christ, who is our infallible Intercessor, and therefore, He said to the Father, in the way of appeal, "I know that Thou hearest me always." He always lives for the purpose of making intercession unto God for us; yea, for all that come unto God by Him. Whatsoever He asketh He receiveth, because He asks not merely as a Suppliant, but also in the character of One demanding of the Father. "I will that those whom Thou hast given me be with me in glory." Now think what an efficient, sinless Saviour we have, whose sacrifice was, according to law, without blemish, whose undertaking, as Mediator, He is carrying on and carrying out, at the present hour, with infallible success for His Church, and who is, at the moment I am trying to speak unto you of Him, speaking for you in the immediate presence of God. Oh, for the tongue of the learned to speak of Him. Oh, for liberty of soul to set forth His essential and official glories, and win the sinner's heart to love Him and trust in Him.