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28 June, 2014

Christ's Presence

Puritan Octavius Winslow

"Surely, I am with you always — even unto the end of the world!" Matthew 28:20

But it is the spiritual presence of Christ thus promised and pledged to His people: "Surely, I am with you always." This promise of Jesus, as precious as it is marvelous, is predicated upon His essential Deity. Were He, as some represent, only human and not absolutely divine — what confidence could we have in this promise? What comfort would it impart, what hope would it inspire, what protection would it afford? Where is the created being, be he man or angel, who could in truth speak in language so lofty and sublime as this? "Surely, I am with you always — even to the end of the world!" Would it not be the utterance of the boldest blasphemy in him thus to speak, and would it not be the truest delusion in us thus to believe?

But because our Lord Jesus was God, He spoke with authority, Godlike and divine. "I am with you always!" Oh, sublime thought! there is not a world, a being, a spot in the universe, however remote, insignificant, or obscure — there beams not a star, there flames not a sun, there breathes not a spirit, there exists not an empire — where Christ's government does not rule, Christ's power is not felt, Christ's glory is not displayed. Could the believer take the wings of the dawn, and fly to the most distant planet, or touch the utmost limit of space — there the smile of Christ's love would illumine him, the accents of Christ's voice would cheer him, the atmosphere of Christ's presence would encircle him, the power of Christ's omnipotence would uphold him — he would feel the right hand of Christ gently laid upon his spirit; and in the solemn stillness and fathomless depth of that profound solitude, he would exclaim, "you are near, O Lord!"

We repeat the inquiry for the purpose of pursuing it more fully: Whose presence is thus promised and pledged? It is the presence of Christ! The Christ who is God. "Immanuel, God with us." The Christ who made all worlds, created all beings, governs all empires, controls all events. The Christ who replenishes earth with beauty, heaven with glory, eternity with song. The Christ before whom angels and archangels, principalities and powers bend, and at whose name every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The Christ whose glory is divine, whose beauty is peerless, whose wealth is boundless, whose love is as infinite as His being.

The Christ who took your human nature — that same infirm, suffering nature which now wearily you wear — and in that nature bore and put away forever your sins, uplifted and forever removed your curse, paid all your great debt to Divine justice, sorrowed for you in the garden, suffered and expired in your stead on the cross, rose from the grave, irradiating it with the hope of the "first resurrection," ascended up to heaven, lives and intercedes for you, representing your person and presenting your prayers and praises with ineffable acceptance and delight to His Father and your Father, to His God and your God.

The Christ who loves you with an affection whose depth no line can sound, whose constancy no change can chill, whose care of, whose sympathy for, whose watchfulness over you — is the warmest, tenderest love that ever pulsated in a human breast. The Christ who acknowledges Himself your Brother, has proved Himself your Friend, and who assures you that as the head is in union with the body, and the vine is one with the branch — is ever with, ever one with, ever close to you in an invisible, yet real and conscious presence; from which neither life with all its changes, nor death with all its solemnities, shall be able to sever you! Such, child of God, is the Being who breathes these gentle, assuring words into your ear, "I am with you always!"

O honored saint of God! You have . . .
the  Divinest in the universe to love you,
the  Mightiest in the universe to shield you,
the  Loveliest in the universe to delight you,
the  Dearest in the universe to soothe, cheer, and gladden you!

O favored disciple of Jesus — you have such a one ever at your side! Tell me, if, of all whom you have ever loved, or all who have loved you — the one who was given to your youth to love you more tenderly than all; yes, the being who loved you yet more deeply, tenderly, an unchangeably still — who loved you as a mother only could — is there one of all those whose presence ever with you, you would prefer to Christ's love?

The question grieves you, you shrink from the comparison, and with uplifted eyes, moistened with tears, yet beaming with affection — you exclaim, from the profoundest depths of your soul, "Whom have I in heaven but You and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You!"

But we must remind you, before we proceed further, that the presence of Christ with His people involve equally the presence of the First and Third Persons of the ever-blessed and glorious Trinity. It is a triple staff we place in your hand, in grasping which, your faith leans upon infinity in its threefold manifestation. We can have nothing to do truly, spiritually, and savingly with one Person of the Godhead — without an equal faith in, and love to, the others. When Christ pledges His presence with you, He unites with it the Fatherhood of God, its boundless sources of love, wisdom, and strength.

Christ came to make known the Father's mind, to reveal the Father's love, to bring home to heaven the Father's family, predestined to the adoption of children. "No man knows the Father — but he to whom the Son will reveal him." "He who has seen Me — has seen the Father." That great God, that eternal Father, who thus spoke to His Church, speaks equally to you: "Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!" "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!"

Oh, seek to realize this precious truth in all your journeying: the presence of Christ — is the assurance that your Heavenly Father is with you. Christ's voice speaking to you in love — is the echo of the Father's voice. Christ's smile of delight beaming upon you — is the brightness of the Father's smile. Christ's precious promises sustaining and soothing you — are the "exceeding great and precious promises" of God, which are "all yes and amen in Christ Jesus unto the glory of God the Father."

It is a truth, equally as revealed and equally as precious, that the presence of Christ with His people involves also the presence of the Holy Spirit Oh, that we had a more spiritual, vivid, grateful apprehension of the Divinity, personality, and gracious work of the Spirit — our Spiritual Quickener, our Divine Comforter, our Indwelling Sanctifier, our Infallible Teacher. "I believe in the Holy Spirit," is one of the vital articles of our Creed. Is it equally the deep, experimental, sanctifying sentiment of our heart? 

Do I firmly, practically believe in the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit, in His official relation to my salvation, in His absolute necessity in regeneration, in His tender, changeless love as my Comforter, in His indispensable necessity as my Teacher, and in His gracious, sanctifying power, as ever abiding with, and dwelling in me? Such is the magnitude and extent of the promise of Christ, "I am with you!" We repeat, it involves the love of the Father who adopted you, the grace of the Son who died for you, the power of the Spirit who quickened you, the Triune-Jehovah!

Before I refer to the circumstances in which you may anticipate a full realization of this precious promise, let me remind you of the offices of Christ it involves, the materials of this triple Staff which Jesus places in your hand.