by John Flavel
In the next place, we are to enquire upon what account Christ becomes the desire of all nations, i.e. of all those in all the nations of the world, that belong, to the election of grace. And the true ground and reason thereof is, because only Christ has in himself that which relieves their emptiness, and answers to all their need. As,
First, they are all, by nature, under condemnation, Rom. 5:16,18. under the curse of the law; against which nothing is found in heaven or earth able to relieve their consciences but the blood of sprinkling, the pure and perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus. And hence it is that Christ becomes so desirable in the eyes of poor sinners, all the world over. If any thing in ordinary nature could be found to pacify and purge the consciences of men from guilt and fear, Christ would never be desirable in their eyes; but finding no other remedy but the blood of Jesus, to him, therefore, shall all the ends of the earth look for righteousness, and for peace.
Secondly, all nations of the world are polluted with the filth of sin, both in nature and practice, which they shall see, and bitterly bewail, when the light of the gospel shall shine among them; and the same light, by which this shall be discovered, will also reveal that the only remedy of this evil lies in the spirit of Christ, the only fountain opened to all nations for sanctification and cleansing. This will make the Lord Jesus incomparably desirable in their eyes. O how welcome will he be who comes to them, not by blood only, but by water also, I John 5:6.
Thirdly, when the light of the gospel shall shine upon the nations, they shall then see that because of the guilt and filth of sin, they are all barred out of heaven. Those doors are chained up against them, and that no one but Christ can open an entrance for them into that kingdom of God. For, "no one comes to the Father except through me," John 14:6. "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," Acts 4:12. Hence the hearts of sinners shall pant after him, as a hart pants for the water brooks. And thus you see upon what grounds Christ becomes the desire of all nations.
Five applications flow from this point:
1. For information.
2. For examination.
3. For consolation.
4. For exhortation.
5. For direction.
First Application: for information.
1. Is Christ the desire of all nations? How vile a sin is it then for any nation, upon whom the light of the gospel has shined, to reject Jesus Christ? They would say as those in Job 21:14, "Depart from us, For we do not desire the knowledge of your ways." They would thrust away his worship, government, and servants; and in effect say, as it is Luke 19:14, "We will not have this man to reign over us." Thus did the Jews, Acts 13:46. They put away Christ from among themselves, and thereby judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. This is at once a fearful sin, and a dreadful warning. How soon did vengeance overtake them like the overthrow of Sodom? O, let it be for a warning to all nations to the end of the world. He would have gathered the children of Israel under his wings as a hen does her brood, even when the Roman Eagle was hovering over them, but they would not, therefore their houses were left to them desolate, their city and temple made a heap.
2. If Jesus Christ be the desire of all nations, how incomparably happy then must that nation be, that enjoys Christ in the power and purity of his gospel-ordinances! If Christ under a veil made Canaan a glorious land, [as it is called in] Dan. 11:41, what a glorious place must that nation be that beholds him with open face in the bright sun-shine of the gospel! O England, know your happiness and the day of your visitation! What others desire, you enjoy: provoke not the Lord Jesus to depart from you by corrupting his worship, longing after idolatry, abusing his messengers, and oppressing his people, lest his spirit depart from you.
Second Application: for examination.
If Christ is the desire of all nations, examine whether he is the desire of your souls in particular; otherwise you shall have no benefit by him. Are your desires after Christ true spiritual desires? Reflect, I beseech you, upon the attitudes and tempers of your heart. Can you say of your desires after Christ, as Peter did of his love to Christ? "Lord, you know all things, you know that I desire you." Examine your desires as to their sincerity by the following tests:
1. Are they passionate and earnest? Does Christ have the supreme place in your desires? Do you esteem all things to be but dross and dung in comparison to the excellencies of Jesus Christ your Lord? (Phil. 3:8) Is he to you as the refuge city to the man slayer? (Heb. 6:18,19) As a spring of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land? (Isa. 31:2) Such passionate desires are true desires.
2. Are your desires after Christ universal; that is to say, is every thing in Christ desirable in your eyes? The hypocrite, like the harlot, is for a divided Christ; they would be called by his name, but depend upon themselves, Isa. 4:1. If his holiness and government, his cross and sufferings are desirable for his own sake: such universal desires are right desires.
3. Are your desires after Christ industrious desires, using all the means of accomplishing what you desire? You say you desire Christ, but what will you do to obtain your desires? If you serve him carefully and incessantly in all the ways of duty; if you will strive in prayer, labour to believe, cut off right hands, and pluck out right eyes, in other words- be content to part with the most profitable and pleasant ways of sin that you may enjoy Christ, the desire of your souls; then your desires are right desires.
4. Are your desires after Christ permanent desires, or only a sudden motion or impulse which later fades away? If your desires after Christ abide upon your hearts, if your longings be after him at all times, though not in the same height and degree, then your desires are right desires. Christ always dwells in the desires of his people; they can feel him in their desires, when they cannot discern him in their love or delight.
5. Will your desires after Christ admit no satisfaction, nor find rest anywhere but in the enjoyment of Christ? Then your desires are right desires. The soul that desires Christ can never be at rest till it comes home to Christ, 2 Cor. 5:2, Phil. 1:23. The devil can satisfy others with the riches and pleasure of this world, as children are quieted with rattles; but if nothing but Christ can rest and accomplish your desires, surely such restless desires are right desires.
6. Do your desires after Christ spring from a deep sense of your need and want of Christ? Has conviction opened your eyes to see your misery, to feel your burdens, and to make you aware that your remedy lies only in the Lord Jesus? Then your desires are right desires. Bread and water are made necessary and desirable by hunger and thirst; by these things examine the truth of your desires after Christ.
Third Application: for consolation.
Do you indeed, upon serious examination, find such desires after Christ as were described above? O, bless the Lord for that day when Christ, the desire of all nations, became the desire of your souls; and for your comfort, know that you are happy and blessed souls at present.
1. You are blessed in this, that your eyes have been opened to see both the need and worth of Christ. Had not Christ applied his precious eye-salve to the eyes of your mind, you could never have desired him; you would have said with them in Isa. 53:2, "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." Or, as they asked the spouse, Song 5:9 "What is your beloved more than another beloved?" O, blessed souls, enlightened of the Lord, to see those things that are hid from them that perish!
2. You are blessed in this, that your desires after Christ are a sure evidence that the desire of Christ is towards you: had he not first desired you, you could never have desired him. We may say of desires, as it is said of love, we desire him because he first desired us: your desires after Christ are inflamed from the desires of Christ after you.
3. You are blessed in this, that your desires shall surely be satisfied, Matt. 5:6, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Prov. 10:24, "The desires of the righteous shall be granted." God never raised such desires as these in the souls of his people, to be a torment to them for ever.
4. You are blessed in this, that God has guided your desires to make the best choice that ever was made in the world, while the desires of others are hunting after riches, pleasure, and honour in the world; toiling themselves like children in pursuit of a painted butterfly, which when they have caught, only discolours their fingers. God, meanwhile, directed your desires to Christ, the most excellent object in heaven or earth. Any good will satisfy some men; O, happy soul, if none but Christ can satisfy you! (Psa 4:6)
5. You are blessed in this, that there is a work of grace certainly wrought upon your soul; and these very desires after Christ are a part thereof.
6. You are blessed in this, that these desires after Christ keep your soul active and working after him continually in the ways of duty, Psa 27:4 "One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple." Desire will be a continual spring to diligence and industry in the ways of duty; the desire of the end awakens the use of means, Prov. 16:26. Others may fall asleep and cast off duty, but it will be hard for you to do so, whose souls burn with desire after Christ.
7 You are blessed in this, that your desires after Christ will make death much the sweeter and easier to you, Phil 1:23 "For I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better." When a Christian was once asked, whether he was willing to die, he answered in return, "Let him be unwilling to die, who is unwilling to go to Christ." And much like it, was the reply of another, Vivere renuo, ut Christo vivam: I refuse this life, to live with Christ.
Fourth Application: for exhortation.
In the fourth place, let me exhort and persuade all to make Jesus Christ the desire and choice of their souls. Here I present the extent and design of the gospel: O that I could effectively press home this exhortation upon your hearts; let me offer some moving considerations to you, and may the Lord apply them to your hearts.
1. Every creature naturally desires its own preservation; do not you desire the preservation of your precious and immortal soul? If you do, then make Christ your desire and choice, without whom they can never be preserved, Jude 1.
2. Do not your souls earnestly desire the bodies they live in? How tender are they over them, how careful to provide for them? (Though they pay an expensive rent for those tenements they live in.) Is not union with Christ infinitely more desirable than the union of soul and body? O covet union with him! Then shall your souls be happy, when your bodies drop off from them at death, 2 Cor. 5:1,2. Indeed, soul and body shall be happy in him, and with him forevermore.
3. How do the men of this world devote themselves to the enjoyments of it? They pant after the dust of the earth; they rise early, sit up late, eat the bread of carefulness; and all this for vanity indeed-- Shall a worldling do more for earth, than you for heaven? Shall the creature be so earnestly desired, and Christ neglected?
4. What do all your desires in this world benefit you, if you go christless? Suppose you had the desire of your hearts in these things, how long should you have comfort in them, if you miss Christ?
5. Does Christ desire you, who have nothing lovely or desirable in you? And have you no desires after Christ, the most lovely and desirable one in both worlds? "His desires are towards you," Prov. 8:31. O make him the desire and choice of your souls.
6. How absolutely necessary is Jesus Christ to your souls? Bread and water, breath and life, are not so necessary as Christ is; "One thing is necessary," Luke 10:42, and that one thing is Christ. If you miss your desires in other things, you may yet be happy; but if you miss Christ you are undone for ever.
7. How suitable a good is Christ to your souls! He has within himself whatsoever they want, 1 Cor. 1:30. Set your hearts where you will, nothing will be found to match and suit them, as Christ does.
8. How great are the benefits that will come to you by Jesus Christ! In him you will have a rich inheritance settled upon you: all things shall be yours, when you are Christ's, l Cor. 3:22. And is not such a Christ worth desiring?
9. All your well grounded hopes of glory are built upon your union with Christ, 1 Cor. 1:21. If you miss Christ, you must die without hope. Will not this draw your desires to him?
10. Suppose you were at the judgment seat of God, where you must shortly stand, and saw the terrors of the Lord in that day; the sheep divided from the goats; the sentences of absolution and condemnation passed by the great and awful Judge upon the righteous and wicked: would not Christ then be desirable in your eyes? As ever you expect to stand with comfort at that bar, let Christ be the desire and choice of your souls now.
Fifth Application: for direction.
Do these, or any other considerations, put you upon this enquiry- how shall I get my desires kindled and enflamed towards Christ? Alas! my heart is cold and dead, not a serious desire is stirring in it after Christ. To you I shall offer the following directions:
Direction 1. Redeem some time every day for meditation; get out of the noise and clamour of the world, Psa 4:4, and seriously consider how the present state of your soul stands, and how it is likely to go with you in eternity: here all sound conversion begins, Psa 69:29.
Direction 2. Consider seriously that lamentable state in which you came into the world. You are a child of wrath by nature, under the curse and condemnation of the law: so that either your state must be changed, or you will inevitably be damned, John 3:3.
Direction 3. Consider the way and course you have taken since you came into the world, proceeding from iniquity to iniquity. What command of God have you not violated a thousand times over? What sin is committed in the world, that you are not one way or other guilty of before God? How many secret sins are upon your score, unknown to the most intimate friend you have in the world? Either this guilt must be separated from your souls, or your souls from God for all eternity.
Direction 4. Think upon the severe wrath of God reserved for every sin; "The wages of sin is death," Rom. 6:23. And how intolerable the fulness of that wrath must be when a few drops sprinkled upon the conscience in this world are so insupportable, that has made some to choose suicide rather than life. Yet this wrath must abide for ever upon you, if you do not get an interest in Jesus Christ, John 3:36.
Direction 5. Ponder well the happy state and condition they are in who have obtained pardon and peace by Jesus Christ, Psa 32:1,2. And seeing the grace of God is free, and you are set under the means of it; why may not you be as likely to find it as others?
Direction 6. Seriously consider the great uncertainty of your time and the preciousness of the opportunities of salvation, never to be recovered when they are once past, John 9:4. Let this arouse you to lay hold upon those golden seasons while they are yet with you; that you may not bewail your folly and madness, when they are out of your reach.
Direction 7. Associate yourselves with serious Christians; get into their acquaintance, and beg their assistance; beseech them to pray for you; and see that you rest not here, but be frequently upon your knees, begging of the Lord a new heart and a new state.
In conclusion of the whole,
let me beseech and beg all the people of God, as upon my knees, to take heed, and beware, lest by the carelessness and scandal of their lives they quench the weak desires beginning to kindle in the hearts of others. You know what the law of God demands for striking a woman with child, so that her fruit go from her, Exod. 21:22,23. O shed not soul-blood, by stifling the hopeful desires of any after Christ.