Christ the Believer's Husband

by George Whitefield

George Whitefield"For thy Maker is thy husband" (Isa. 54:5).

Although believers by nature are far from God, and children of wrath, even as others, yet it is amazing to think how near they are brought to Him again by the blood of Jesus Christ-who is not ashamed to call them brethren. "Behold," said the blessed Jesus, "my mother and my brethren." Again, He said: "Henceforth call I you no longer servants, but friends." These endearing applications bespeak a very near and wonderfully intimate union between the Lord Jesus and the true living members of His mystical body! But the words of our text point out to us a relation, which exceeds all others: "For thy Maker is thy husband."

These words were originally spoken to the Jewish people; but they are undoubtedly applicable to all believers in all ages, and will afford us suitable matter of discourse, both for those who know God, as well as for those who know Him not; and likewise for those, who once walked in the light of His blessed countenance, but are now backslidden and are afraid that their Beloved is gone, and will return to their souls no more.

Accordingly, as I suppose that a mixed multitude of saints, unconverted sinners, and backsliders, are present today, I shall endeavor to speak from the words of the text, that each may have a proper portion, and none go empty away.

Accordingly, I will:

1. ‑Endeavor to show what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, "our Maker is our husband."

2. ‑Show the duties of love which those who stand in so near a relation owe to our Lord.

3. ‑Illuminate the miserable condition of such as cannot say "their Maker is their husband."

4. ‑Conclude with a general exhortation to all such unhappy souls, to come and match with the dear Lord Jesus.

I. ‑What must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls, before we can say, "our Maker is our husband"?

FIRST, in all lawful marriages, it is absolutely necessary, that the parties are actually and legally freed from all pre-engagements whatsoever. "A woman is bound to her husband, (saith the apostle) so long as her husband liveth." The same law holds good in respect to the man. So, if either party be betrothed and promised, the marriage is not lawful, till that pre-engagement and promise be fairly and mutually dissolved.

Now, it is just thus between us and the Lord Jesus. For, we are all by nature born under, and wedded to the Law, as a covenant of works. Hence it is that we are so fond of, establishing a righteousness of our own. It is as natural for us to do this, as it is to breathe, and thus it has been since the Fall of our first parents. All their descendants naturally want to be saved, partly at least, by their works. And even gracious souls, who are inwardly renewed, so far as the old man abides in them, find still a strong propensity this way. "Do and live," is the native language of a proud, self-righteous heart. But before we can say, "our Maker is our husband," we must be delivered from our old husband the Law; we must renounce our own righteousness, our own doings and performances, in point of dependence, whether in whole or part, as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.

For thus speaks the Apostle Paul: "Ye also are become dead to the law (as a covenant of works) by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him, who is raised from the dead" (Rom. 7:4). This was the apostle's own case. Whilst he depended on his being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and thought himself secure, he was an entire stranger to the divine life: but when he began to experience the power of Jesus Christ's resurrection, we find him, in his epistle to the Philippians, absolutely renouncing all his external privileges, and all his Pharisaical righteousness; "Yes, doubtless, and I count all things but lossthat I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." And thus it must be with us: We must be dead to the Law, we must be espoused as chaste virgins to Jesus Christ, and count all external privileges, and our most splendid performances as only "dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord."

But further, before a marriage, there must also be a mutual consent on both sides. This is what the Jews called betrothing, or espousing, previous to the solemnity of marriage. Thus we find, the Virgin Mary is said to be espoused to Joseph, before they actually came together, (Matt. 1:18). And thus it is among us: Both parties are previously agreed, and, as it were, espoused to each other, before we publish the announcement of marriage concerning them.

And so it will be in the spiritual marriage between Jesus Christ and our souls. Before we are actually married or united to Him by faith, we must be sweetly and effectually persuaded by the Holy Spirit of God, that the glorious Emanuel is willing to accept us, just as we are, and also that we are willing to accept Him upon His own terms. Then there is but one thing lacking to make the spiritual marriage complete-an actual union.

One Flesh, One Spirit

The terms used in Scripture to represent the mystical union between Christ and His church, such as our being "joined to the Lord," and "married to Jesus Christ," are taken from some analogous practices amongst men. And as persons when married, are now one flesh; so those that are joined to the Lord are in the apostle's language, one spirit.

We are called Christians, after Christ's name, because we are made partakers of Christ's nature. Out of His fullness, believers receive grace for grace. And therefore, the marriage state, especially by the Apostle Paul, is frequently used to typify the real, vital union, between Jesus Christ and regenerate souls.

Great as this mystery is (Eph. 5:32), we must all experience it, before we can say assuredly, that "our Maker is our husband." For what says our Lord, in that prayer he put up to his Father before his bitter passion? "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, shall be where I am, that they may be one with thee; even as thou, O Father, and I are one, I in them, and they in me, that we all may be made perfect in one." Hence it is, that believers are said to be members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.

Thus can St. Paul say: "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." And to the Corinthians he says: "Know ye not, that Christ is in you, unless you be reprobates?" And to the Colossians: "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

We May Know We Are Wed to Christ

May not the most illiterate person present easily know whether or not he is really married to Jesus Christ? That this glorious privilege of a full assurance is very rare, is too true. And so it is equally too true that real Christians, comparatively speaking, are very rare also. But that there is no such thing, or that this was only the privilege of the first followers of our blessed Lord, is directly opposite to the word of God: "We know (says St. John, speaking of believers in general) that we are his, by the spirit which he hath given us." "Because you are sons (saith St. Paul) God hath sent forth his Spirit into your hearts, even the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."

Though through the prevalence of unbelief, indwelling sin, spiritual sloth, or it may be, for want of being informed of the privileges of believers, some of God's dear children may walk in darkness; therefore, though I dare not affirm that a full assurance of faith is absolutely necessary for the very being, yet I dare assert, that it is absolutely necessary, for the well being of a Christian. And I cannot conceive how any persons, that pretend to Christianity, can rest satisfied or contented without it.

What think ye? If you are indeed married to Jesus Christ, though you may be unlearned, can you not tell me the rise and progress, and consummation of the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and your souls? Know you not when you were first under the drawings of the Father, and Jesus began to woo you for Himself? Do you not know the time-or at least that there was a time-when the blessed Spirit of God stripped thee of the fig-leaves of thy own righteousness, forced thee from the embraces of thy old husband the Law, and made you abhor your own righteousness, as so many filthy rags?

Remember Your First Love

Can you not remember, when Jesus appeared to thee as altogether lovely, mighty and willing to save? And can you not reflect upon a season, when your stubborn heart was made to bend; and thou were made willing to embrace Him, as freely offered to thee in the everlasting gospel? And can you not, with unspeakable pleasure, recall when you could say, in an ecstasy of divine love, "My Lord and my God! My beloved is mine, and I am his!" Surely, amidst this great and solemn assembly, there are many that can answer these questions in the affirmative. For these are transactions, not easily to be forgotten; and the day of our espousals is, generally, a very remarkable day; a day to be had in everlasting remembrance.

Do not your hearts, O believers, burn within you, when meditating on this unspeakable condescension of the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity? Whilst you are musing, does not the sacred fire of divine love kindle in your souls? And, out of the abundance of your hearts, do you not often call upon all that is within you, to laud and magnify your Redeemer's holy name? Is not that God-exalting, self-abasing expression frequently in your mouths, "Why me, Lord, why me?"

How shall I set forth thy happiness, O believer, thou bride of God! He that toucheth thee, toucheth the very apple of God's eye. "The very hairs of thy head are all numbered." Ere long, the King shall present thee blameless before His Father, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. In the meanwhile, it shall be well with you, and happy shall you be, who are married to Jesus Christ: for all that Christ has, is yours. "He is made of God to you, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption."

II. ‑What duties of love do those who are able to say, "My Maker is my husband" owe to Jesus Christ?

I say, duties of love, for being now married to Jesus Christ, you work not for life, but from life. The love of God constrains you, so that, supposing Jesus would set you at liberty from His yoke, so far as grace prevails in your hearts, you would say, "we love our blessed Bridegroom, and will not go from Him."

And what does the Lord require of you? By examining what is required of truly Christian wives, under the gospel, we may infer what our Lord may justly demand of those who are united to Him by faith.

What says the Scripture? "Let the wife see that she REVERENCE her "husband." It is, no doubt, the duty of married women to think highly of their husbands. The apostle's expression is emphatic. "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband;" thereby implying, that women, some of them at least, are too prone to disrespect their husbands; as Michal, Saul's daughter, despised David in her heart (2 Sam. 6:20).

This is a fountain from whence many domestic evils frequently flow. Wives should remember that husbands are to them, what Christ is to the church. And it is mentioned to the honor of Sarah, that she called Abraham "Lord" (Gen. 18:12; 1 Pet. 3:6). This is an evident proof how pleasing it is in the sight of God, for women in the married state to reverence and respect their husbands.

Not that husbands therefore should lord it over their wives. This would be unchristian, as well as ungenerous. They ought, rather, to be doubly careful, that they live so holy and unblameable, as to lay their wives under no temptation to despise them.

Reverence Your Husband Jesus

Making the spiritual application to all who are married to our Lord, see to it that you reverence and respect your Husband. I say, SEE TO IT, for the devil will be often suggesting hard and mean thoughts against Him. It was thus he beset our mother Eve, seeking to persuade her to entertain hard thoughts of her glorious benefactor, "What, has God said, ye shall not eat of the trees of the garden?" (Has he been so cruel to put you here in a beautiful garden only to vex and tease you?) Unless you "watch and pray," you will be led into temptation.

The apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians also says, "The wife is the glory of her husband," as if to say a Christian wife should so behave, and so walk, as to be a credit to her husband; as Abigail was an honor to Nabal, and by her sweet deportment made up, in some degree, for her husband's churlishness. This is to be a helpmeet indeed. Such a woman will be praised in the gate; and her husband will meet with respect on her account.

How much more ought you that are the Lamb's bride so live and walk! This is what the apostle everywhere supposes, when he would draw a parallel between a temporal and spiritual marriage. "The woman, is the glory of her husband, even as the church is the glory of Christ." You are His glory; He rejoices over you with singing; and you should so walk, that all who know and hear of you, may glorify Christ in you.

SUBJECTION, is another duty that is enjoined married women, in the Word of God. They are to "be subject to their own husbands in every thing." That is, every lawful thing: "For, the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church." "Thy desire (says God) shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule (though not tyrannize) over thee."

And if women are to be subject to their own husbands in everything, how much more ought believers, whether men or women, to be subject to Jesus Christ: for He is the head of the church. He has bought her by His blood. Believers therefore are not their own, but are under the highest obligations to glorify and obey Jesus Christ, in their bodies and their souls, which are His. Add to this, that His commandments are holy, just, and good. And therefore it is your highest privilege, O believers, to submit to, and obey them.

And I believe it might easily be proved that all the disorders which are now in the world, whether in church or state, are owing to a want of being universally, unanimously, cheerfully, and perseveringly conformed to the laws and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Again, FAITHFULNESS in the marriage state, is strictly enjoined in the Scriptures. "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled. But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Nay, adultery is an iniquity to be punished by the earthly judges; it dissolves the marriage relation. And if married persons are to be thus careful to keep the marriage-bed undefiled, how carefully ought believers to keep their souls pure and undefiled, now they are espoused to Jesus Christ? For there is such a thing as spiritual adultery; "O ye adulterers and adulteresses," saith St. James. And God frequently complains of His people's playing the harlot. Hence it is, that St. John exhorts believers to "keep themselves from idols." And every time we place our affections upon anything more than Christ, we do undoubtedly commit spiritual adultery. For we admit a creature to rival the Creator, who is God over all, blessed for evermore.

FRUITFULNESS was a blessing promised by God:"Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth." "Lo, children, and the fruit of the womb, (says the Psalmist) are a gift and heritage, which cometh of the Lord." And so, if we are married to Jesus Christ, we must be fruitful. In what? In every good word and work, "that we should bring forth fruit unto God." "Herein (says our Lord) is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Moreover, it is required of wives, that they also love and respect their HUSBAND'S FRIENDS. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall not only reverence the Bridegroom, but we shall also love and honor the Bridegroom's friends. "By this, shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." "By this we know, (says the beloved disciple) that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren." It was said of the primitive Christians (O, that it could be said of us!) "See how these Christians love one another!"

Furthermore, persons that are married, take one another FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, for richer or for poorer, to love and to cherish each other in sickness and in health. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall be willing to bear His CROSS, as well as to wear His CROWN. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." They will never leave or forsake Him, but willingly follow the Captain of their salvation, though it be through a sea of blood.

How We Have Failed Him

But alas! How treacherously and ungratefully have we behaved towards our spiritual husband, the dear Lord Jesus, since the day of our espousals. Had our friends, or even the wives of our own bosoms, behaved to us as we have behaved to our great and best Friend, our glorious Husband, we should have broken off our friendship, and sued for a bill of divorcement long ago. Under our first love, what promises did we make to Him? But how perversely have we behaved ourselves in this covenant? How little have we reverenced Him? How little have we lived to His glory? Have we not been a shame and reproach to His gospel? Has He not been sorely wounded in the house of His friends?

As for our adulteries, and spiritual fornications, how frequent, how aggravated have they been? Have not idols of all sorts, been suffered to fill up the room of the ever-blessed Jesus in our hearts?

There is not a single believer present, if he knows his own heart, but may plead guilty to some, or all of these charges. Can any of us give any reason, why Jesus Christ should not give us a bill of divorcement, and put us away? This, I am persuaded, you will confess to be the treatment which we all most justly deserve. But though the Lord our God is a jealous God, and will certainly visit our offenses with a rod, and our backslidings with a spiritual scourge, yet His loving-kindness will He not utterly take from us, nor suffer His truth to fail. Though we have changed, yet he changeth not: He abideth faithful: His loving-kindness abideth for evermore.

Hark! how sweetly He speaks to His backsliding people of old; "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help. I will heal their backsliding, and love them freely." And then how comfortably does He address His espoused people! "With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." O that this goodness may lead us to repentance and constrain us to a persevering obedience to all the commands of God!

III. ‑What of those poor souls, who know nothing of this blessed Bridegroom and consequently cannot say, "My Maker is my husband"?

Ah! I could weep for you, though perhaps you will not weep for yourselves. But surely you would weep, and howl, too, did you know the miserable condition you are in. If you are not married to Jesus Christ, you are married to the Law, the world, the flesh, and the devil, none of which can make you happy; but all, on the contrary, concur to make you miserable. Hear ye not, ye that seek to be justified in the sight of God, partly, at least, if not wholly, by your own works, what the Law saith to those that are under it, as a covenant of works? "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them."

Every word breathes threatening and slaughter to poor fallen creatures. Cursed, both here and hereafter, be every one, naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, without exception, that continues not, even to the very end of life, in all things-not in some or many, but in all things-that are written in the Book of the Law, to do them, in the utmost perfection; for "he that offendeth in one point, is guilty of all." So that, according to the tenor of the covenant of works, whosoever is guilty of one wicked thought, word, or action, is under the curse of an angry sin-avenging God. "For as many as are under the law, are under the curse." And do you know what it is to be under the curse of God, and to have the wrath of God abide upon you? If you did, I believe you would be willing to be divorced from the Law, and be espoused, as chaste virgins, to Jesus Christ.

And why are you so wedded to the world? Did it ever prove faithful or satisfactory to any of its votaries? Is not all "vanity, vanityall is vanity" as Solomon declared? Besides, "know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God; so that whosoever will be a friend to the world, (to the corrupt customs and vices of it) is an enemy of God?"

And do not your lusts lord it over you? Do not they say, Come, and ye come; Go, and ye go; Do this, and ye do it? And is not he or she that liveth in pleasure, dead, whilst he liveth? And above all, how can ye bear the thoughts of being wedded to the devil, as every natural man is: for thus speaks the Scripture, "He now ruleth in the children of disobedience." He will make a drudge of you while you live, and be your companion in endless and extreme torment, after you are dead. For thus will our Lord say to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

IV. ‑May I propose a better match to your souls?

It is my heart's desire, and earnest prayer to God, that your souls may be saved. To you, therefore, I call, assuring you, there is everything in Jesus that your hearts can desire, or hunger and thirst after.

God the Father has given Him a name above every name; "The King of kings, and the Lord of lords." And He is a Prince as well as Savior: "All power is given unto him, both in heaven and on earthhe setteth up one, and putteth down another: and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

Would you match with a WISE HUSBAND? Haste then, sinners, come away to Jesus: He is the fountain of wisdom, and makes all that come unto Him, wise unto salvation: As He is wise, so is He HOLY; and therefore He is styled, "the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." Nor is His BEAUTY inferior to His wisdom or holiness; the seraphs veil their faces, when they appear before Him: "He is altogether lovely." And, as He is altogether lovely, so is He altogether LOVING: His name and His nature is Love. And in this has He manifested His love, in that, whilst we were yet sinners, nay open enemies, Jesus, in His own due time, died for the ungodly. He loved us so as to give Himself for us. O what manner of love is this!

His love, like Himself, is from everlasting to everlasting. When we are married here, there comes in that shocking clause, "Till death us doth part," but death itself shall not separate a true believer from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus his Lord: for He will never cease loving his Bride, till He has loved her to heaven, and presented Her before His Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Nay, His love will continue throughout the endless ages of eternity.

What say you? Will ye come to Jesus? O that He may become the author of divine faith in your souls, that you may be able to send me the same message as a good woman in Scotland, on her dying bed, sent me by a friend: "Tell him, (says she) for his comfort, that at such a time he married me to the Lord Jesus." Not that we can marry you to Christ: No, the Holy Ghost must tie the marriage knot. But under Him, God's ministers espouse poor sinners to Jesus Christ. "I have espoused you (says St. Paul) as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ."

O that you may say, I will! Then shall I rejoice in your felicity. For I know, my Master will take you into the banqueting-house of His ordinances, and His banner over you shall be love.

From the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA) Website.

George Whitefield (1714-1770) has been called the "lightning rod of the Great Awakening." In 1730s and 1740s England was crippled by spiritual decay. Into this society came George Whitefield, then 22 years old, fresh from a deep experience with God. In his intense struggle to achieve the new birth, he imperiled his health through self-denial. Finally, he dropped all of his own ideas and efforts and began to really listen to God. At one point he cried out, "I thirst!" in utter helplessness. At this moment of total surrender to Almighty God, a new thought now came to his heart, "George, you have what you asked! You ceased to struggle and simply believed and you are born again!" It was so simple that it made Whitefield laugh. And as he laughed the floodgates of heaven burst and he felt " unspeakable joy."

Shortly no church could hold the multitude that flocked to hear him. He was soon joined by John and Charles Wesley and many others, triggering a tremendous chorus of praise and preaching throughout the land which was sustained for at least fifty years. The revival changed the entire temper of English society and the church was restored to life and activity. He made seven trips to America, lasting from half a year to four years. Much of his reputation rests on the sensation he created during his second journey, where he, along with Jonathan Edwards and Gilbert Tennant, served the Great Awakening at its peak.

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