“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
What a sacred matter it is for a sinner to know, “the grace of God in truth”. It is so far beyond that carnal profession of Christ’s name. The language “the engrafted word” declares there is something vital and experimental in these matters, and it is my desire to trace these operations of the Holy Ghost, and show how the engrafted word liveth in us, and we in it. Those in whom the word is engrafted are such whom the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning, hath of his will begotten with the word the truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures (James 1:17-18). These “first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4), these engrafted ones, are not dead trees, but are “begotten” of the Father of lights, quickened sinners, and in this experience of receiving with meekness the engrafted word they are bleeding sinners, sap-flowing branches, in whom is grafted the living word, the words of eternal life (John 6:63-68). The language of the Lord in the new covenant is, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:33-34). And in the words of the Holy Ghost in James it is “the engrafted word”. When the Holy Ghost quickeneth a sinner that was dead in trespasses and sins there begins that work of the Lord to put that quickened sinner, that tree, into a preparedness for the word of the truth of the gospel, the doctrine of God our Savior to be engrafted. It is recorded in Acts 2:37, “They were pricked in their heart”. Thus their bleeding, contrite hearts were prepared to receive with meekness, to gladly receive that word (Acts 2:41). If there is a growing up in the unsearchable riches of Christ there has preceded this, under the teachings of the Holy Spirit, a felt destitution. “The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: bringeth low, and lifteth up” (1 Sam. 2:7). It is all meaningless for any one to talk about Christ’s unsearchable riches, and that person to have never been brought low to feel the wretchedness of his poverty before God. But O, poor sinner, thy distressed, wounded soul cries unto the Lord for mercy, for food, for clothing, for shelter, and he, our gracious God, will hear the cry of the destitute and not despise their prayer. Thou art ready to receive Christ Jesus, the living Word, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Oh when he is thus engrafted what a sacred growing up there is in him in all things. In our ignorance, oh how foolish we are, we think this doctrine, and that of our God is not just such as we could live in. All this arises from our lack of understanding. And certain matters in Christ’s gospel that we were not ready to welcome, that as yet we felt no adhesion to; our God therefore in his time and way by his spiritual husbandry (“Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9)), prepares us to receive that which in our ignorance in times past was unknown, and when once it is engrafted it is precious, and our life is in it, in its blessedness and consolation. Sometimes the cutting work of the Lord is not in mercifulness, but in his wrath and sore displeasure, not to the saving of the soul, but is expressive of his reprobation to damnation, as when Stephen in his testimony said, “Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecution? and they have slain them which showed before the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the lay by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:51-54). But in sovereign contrast look at the scene on the day of Pentecost. Here we have a people who had crucified Jesus “pricked in their heart”. These the Holy Ghost graciously pricked, and shall I say it was more than a wound in the flesh? Those who gnashed upon Stephen with their teeth were cut to the heart, but these to whom Peter was preaching were pricked in their heart. They were not feelingly poor, perishing, dying sinners. Is there any remedy for such? They cry out, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Are they asking for some task to be appointed them, signifying their willingness and ability to attend to the matter, and thus rectify the trouble they have involved themselves in? Ah no! The cry of these pricked in the heart ones, “Men and brethren what shall we do”? was that they felt themselves undone, and did not know what, and could see nothing that could be done. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips [a spiritual leper, Lev. 13:45], and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 7:5). In the spiritual grafting of the word in the quickened sinner there is a cutting off of branches, a putting off the old man, a crucifying of the flesh with the affections and lusts, and where the flesh is cut off there a cleft is made through the heart of that branch, and into that wounded cleft branch, held open by a wedge until the graft, “the engrafted word” is put in the cleft, then the grafter removes the wedge, then with what ardent affection the cleft bleeding sinner holds fast the gracious living word. So, on the day of Pentecost those smitten, cleft, bleeding ones, in all contriteness, in all meekness, yes, and with divine gladness received the word. The Holy Ghost engrafted the gospel in them. It lived in them and they lived in it. Just now I am looking to my first experience of the engrafting of Christ’s gospel in my distressed heart. The Lord had I felt about cut me all to pieces, and I felt I was a vile transgressor, doomed to the damnation of hell. Mercy I felt could not be for me, I was too base a sinner. But while I was thus feeling to be a lost perishing sinner the Holy Ghost put this into my mind, my thoughts, oh yes, into my heart. I felt my sin-burdened, lacerated heart took hold of it. Took hold of what? Just this: Christ crucified! A little of the sacred depths of Christ, and him crucified, was opened up to me. I saw this was the way of God’s mercy, this is how forgiveness of sins flowed to poor guilty sinners, and I felt my humbled, contrite, bleeding heart did cling to the cross of Christ, did flow up with sighs and cries and tears to the crucified Savior. I wept, and cried for mercy, Oh, forgive me, God be merciful to me a sinner for Jesus’ sake. I felt thus only can I, a wretched sinner, live, live in reconciliation, in friendship with the Just and Holy (and as I yearned to know him), my merciful God, my Savior.
Some of God’s elect before they are called by his grace, to reveal his Son in them, have some natural understanding of some points of doctrine, and may even be talkers about such matters, but it was not so with me. I was acquainted with the historical narratives in the Scriptures, and in some fashion I understood that Christ died on Calvary’s cross for sinners, to take them to heaven, but I had no idea of getting there, I did not want to have any thoughts whatever about God, eternity, heaven or hell. As to Christ’s imputed righteousness, justification, God’s elect people, the oneness of Christ and the church, of the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, of Jehovah’s purpose and grace given his elect in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, of his determinate counsel and foreknowledge, of his predestination of all things, I was in utter ignorance of all such matters. But I feel I can say God engrafted these matters in the life of my spirit, and they live in me and I live in the doctrine of God our Savior, and I still find this engrafting going on in my life unto my God. Having tasted the pardon of my sins through the crucified One I lived in the blessedness of the man whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered, yet amidst this comfort I was troubled daily, for I found I was still sinful. I did not want to have a sinful thought; I told the Lord, and found myself needing to be ever supplicating his forgiveness through Jesus’ precious blood. I hungered and thirsted after righteousness, but I could not find it in my poor Adamic life. I was ashamed, I was troubled, for I found the hours of the day polluted, that all my righteousnesses were as filthy rags; I had nothing fit to stand in before the Lord. Then in a few months it pleased God to graft into my life unto himself the imputed righteousness of Christ, who is the Lord of righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 33:16). That our Messiah was he who was to finish transgression, and make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24). That his people are made the righteousness of God in him; that he is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Truly the Holy Ghost has grafted this into my life, and now in my hope in Christ our righteousness I hope to be found in him, not having mine own, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Yes, I must, I have, hope to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen in the righteousness of the saints, the robes of the bride, the Lamb’s wife (Rev. 19:7-8). So I frequently sing:
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
This spotless robe the same appears,
When ruined nature sinks in years;
No age can change its glorious hue,
The robe of Christ is ever new.”
How manifold are the characters that Christ sustains unto his people, in all of which he is precious (1 Peter 2:7). All are so sacred, so needful, so endeared unto us all as they are engrafted; we live unto our God in them. Let me mention a few of them, Christ is our Husband, Redeemer, Physician, High Priest, our Intercessor, Advocate with the Father, our Shepherd, our King, our Forerunner, Leader, the Captain of our salvation, the Bread and Water of life, he is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption; he is the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the valleys, and were I to mention a hundred names which he in truth is unto his chosen and saved people the half would not be told. Christ is all and in you all (Col. 3:11). Though I can in truth say I have engrafted many of the things of Christ, and I have my life in them unto our God, yet I cannot now with paper and ink write unto you of all these sacred matters. Indeed, read John 21:25. Dear children of God, there are those cutting trials and afflictions in which there was a cutting off, the surgery of cutting providences, crosses, losses, bereavements, varied afflictions; yes, there have been periods in our lives when we saw well-nigh every day new straits attending our path, and we wondered how and where the scene would end. There was the cutting off of many fleshly aspirations, those things which to the eyes of our flesh are flourishing branches, but our God is again and again cutting off, taking away this and that. Ah, we sometimes think, Why is this? But the Lord knows the thoughts that he thinks toward us, and it all is in graciousness to the engrafting of his truth in us, and when there is the revealing of the preciousness of Christ, of the mercies of the everlasting covenant, of the immutability of his counsel, when these matters are engrafted, and grown in us, become part of us, and we live in the preciousness of our Beloved, then we are all acquiescence to our afflictions, to our sore trials and temptations, to the cuttings, and woundings, that fitting of us to receive with meekness the word of the Lord that has been engrafted. Oh how the cleft-bleeding branch take hold of the doctrine of God our Savior. It liveth in the quickened sinner, and the sinner in it, because God has engrafted it. The Lord himself does this grafting in those whom he of his own will hath begotten with the word of truth. No arm or wisdom of the flesh has any part therein. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. We are thus the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb. I live in this graft, and that graft, yes, all new covenant gospel truth as the Holy Ghost has taken of the things of Christ and shown them, engrafted them in me (John 16:14). The life of such a tree, of quickened sinners in whom the doctrine of Christ is engrafted, is divine, beautiful, and bears fruit unto God, showing forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into marvelous light. The gospel known in our hearts bringeth forth fruit in us as it doth in all the world, if we know the grace of God in truth. We are transformed by these things thus wrought in us, by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. We have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom. 6-22; 12:2). I have in years gone by grafted apple trees. Some years all my grafts would thrive and live, but sometimes an occasional scion I had grafted would not live, or after showing signs of life, and some little growth, it would die; and I have had some grow wonderfully, and then a fierce wind storm would tear, here and there, one of them out before they had gotten firm enough hold, so some of my grafting was unsuccessful, came to nothing. But there is no power can tear out and destroy the engrafted word in God’s chosen. It is all skillfully, graciously wrapped up in the mantle of his everlasting love; the Lord will care for these engraftings every moment, and, lest any hurt them, he will keep them night and day (Isaiah 27:3). All the powers and counsels of men and devils or the gates of hell are not able to undo, shall not prevail against the new covenant work of God with his loved and chosen and redeemed people. The Lord does not engraft every word of truth at one time, but from time to time, and sometimes daily there is a grafting in of this and that precious thought in Christ’s gospel, so suited to our exercised and longing souls, so our life flows up into these so suitable and satisfying musings that are given us by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost. Ah, then there are periods as though the Husbandman has suspended any further engrafting of the word. Then the natural branches flourish, the things of our flesh appear to outgrow and hide from view those Spiritual branches in our lives, and thee is but very little life, blossoms or fruits of the Spirit. The word of Christ does not then appear to dwell in us rightly, ah, no! but we are feeling poor in our possession of this life of Christ in the soul. I repeat, there are seasons with us when we fear, it would appear the Lord had left off to write his doctrine in our hearts, to engraft his word in us. We still can see this and that in the doctrine in the letter, see it declared in the Scriptures, but that does not suffice. It suffices carnal professors, for that is all they know, the mere letter; the Spirit, life, power, consolation, our precious Christ revealing the things of the Father in the words of eternal life is not in them. Their hearts have never been pricked, they have never been cut and cleft to receive with meekness the engrafted word. But the soul of the quickened sinner craves to know the excellency of the power of the mercies, the loving-kindness, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto the glory of his loved, his chosen, his church, whom he hath blessed with all Spiritual blessings as he hath chosen them in him before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love. One very blessed engrafting is the hope of the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, Christ in you the hope of glory. For God hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus. Oh there are times of growing up in earnest expectation of immortality and incorruption, that God hath predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his dear Son. We shall be like our Husband and Savior, we shall see him as he is, and dwell forever in immortal blessedness with him. Amen.
FREDERICK W. KEENE
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volume 94, No. 1