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Prophetic Expositions, vol. 1

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    XII. THE QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY TO ENTER THAT KINGDOM

    The Lord Jesus himself has settled this question, by his own divine authority. Matthew 18:3: “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become AS little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” As the little child is, such must all be, or they can never enter that kingdom. Hear the Saviour again: “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God:” Luke 18:16. How are they? Answer. 1. They are innocent, and God loves them. 2. They possess a fallen and corrupt nature, but are not guilty on that account. Christ has cancelled the guilt of Adamic transgression, and in the resurrection at the last day, all the effects of the fall on the innocent, or justified, will be removed, not before. 3. They are branches of Christ, by the indwelling of the spirit of Jesus Christ; and are in a slate of grace. They transgress the letter of the law, but not knowingly; they have a continual justification through the blood of Christ for all those unknown violations of God’s law. But when they know the right and the wrong, and yet voluntarily forsake the right, and commit the wrong, they become guilty, and must repent, believe, and be converted, in order to enter the kingdom of God. It may be to some a startling proposition that infants are in a state of grace, and have the spirit of Christ dwelling in them; but I can draw no other conclusion from the declarations of Christ respecting them. No one can be Christ’s unless he has the spirit of Christ. No one can be quickened from the dead and raised up to eternal life unless he has the spirit in him which quickened Jesus Christ from the dead. But little children, being the subjects of the kingdom of heaven, must have a resurrection from the dead to eternal life, in order to inherit it. But if that spirit be not in them they cannot be so raised; then they must have it and be Christians. I cannot see that it is necessary that the child should ever be anything else but a Christian. If they are under the necessity of sinning voluntarily when they come to years, it cannot be accounted to them as sin; for they only do what they must. That they do usually follow their evil nature, rather than the teachings and strivings of the Spirit, is freely granted; but not that there is any necessity that they should ever become voluntary offenders, or be anything else but true Christians. They come into being under the covenant of grace, and they may remain so. To enter the kingdom of heaven, all men must become what the little child is.PREX1 35.1

    1. We must become innocent. This can only be by obtaining pardon of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We are told very distinctly how this may be obtained. 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Such a confession as is here required is a penitent, believing, and obedient confession of all our sins and sinfulness. When we do this the pardon is sure. He is faithful and just to grant it. He cannot do otherwise; nor can he fail on the same condition to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The innocent, God loves; and whom he loves, to them he grants his spirit to dwell in them, and cleanse the thoughts of their hearts, that they may perfectly love him, and worthily magnify his name. They are as innocent in his sight as though they had never sinned; and immediately become partakers of the spirit of Christ, to govern and direct them in all they do. And while they are led by the spirit of God they are the sons of God.PREX1 36.1

    2. But grace no more destroys nature in the adult believer than in the infant. That is not its design. Grace, which is nothing but the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in our mortal bodies, governs, regulates, and keeps nature in subjection; but glory is the grand antidote for poor fallen nature; and by that grand specific, the whole image of God shall be restored. All, both children and adults, will be glorified together.PREX1 37.1

    There is no state of grace to which we may attain in this life where our old nature derived from Adam will expire; but every true believer in Jesus Christ is in a state where he does not serve sin; it has not dominion over him. The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made him free from the law of sin and death. And while his faith continues in exercise, by which he is united to Christ, he has victory over all sin and does not commit sin. Tempted we always shall be; a war with nature we always shall have; but the victory, through the power of an indwelling Christ, is certain. The love of God dwells in the believer, because the Holy Ghost dwells there; and is a spirit of love. Where God dwells, love dwells; “for God is love.” The love of God dwelling in us, it will be the moving motive power of all our acts. An action flowing from love may be erroneous, wrong in itself, but it cannot be imputed to the believer as sin, nor can he be condemned for that ignorant violation of God’s law. He rests, not in his own obedience for justification, but in Christ alone; and through him has a continual justification, and the witness abiding of his sonship. God is both faithful and just to cleanse from all unrighteousness all whom he forgives. We cannot obtain forgiveness until we confess our sins; when we do that, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is only unbelief which says he is not thus faithful.PREX1 37.2

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