My Dear Beulah,
Permit me to address a word of congratulation to you, on the sacred, honorable, and indissoluble union which exists between Christ and your soul; a union planned in eternity, effected in the fulness of time and fraught with infinite and eternal advantages.
The word of truth employs many delightful, metaphors to explain it, and affords many positive declarations of its reality— eternity— and vitality; and it is my object to present a scriptural view of it in a few lines, for the instruction and comfort of your mind; praying the Holy Spirit to assist me in writing and you in reading on this important subject.
In the sacred volume we have a variety of the most beautiful imagery to represent the union of Christ with his people; such as the vine and its branches— the head and its members— the husband and the wife: but as your name Beulah (or married) invites me to select the last of these, I shall for the present, confine my congratulatory remarks to that endearing relation.
The Holy Spirit has graciously furnished me with the most interesting language for my purpose, which you may read in the 54th chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy, 5th verse, “thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name.”
To appropriate this blessed truth, and live upon it, is the very summit of christian attainment; and that you may be assisted to reach it, I will present you with a short account of the origin, progress and consummation of this wonderful nuptial union, which has astonished all worlds. This image is not confined to the jewish nation or the jewish church; but is distinctively referred by the apostle to the christian (as the universal) church; and by consequence relates to every member of which that church is composed, and applies to the union subsisting between Christ and every renewed mind. Ephes. 5:20-32
Well might the apostle close his interesting description of this union with “this is a great mystery;” it must be a mystery to those who are untaught by the spirit of God, but I trust it is revealed to you my dear friend, by his holy teaching, so as to delight your soul and impart life and vigour to vigour to your graces.
You will readily allow it to be the prerogative of the husband to choose his own wife; and Jesus says, “I have chosen you out of the world.” John 15:19. And as though he would tell all the kindness of his heart at once, he says by Isaiah, “since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee.” Isaiah 43:4. What can be more precious, or more satisfactory? yea still to give the sweetest assurance of his love, he exclaims “I will even betroth thee unto me for ever. “Hosea 2:19. In these delightful expressions, my dear Beulah, you may perceive the origin of your union with Christ, even in the goings forth of his love to you from everlasting; and his love being immutable the union must be eternal; yea he has pledged his honor, by betrothing you to himself in an everlasting covenant compact, so that you have been considered by God the Father as one with Christ from before the foundation of the world, although it was unknown to you till he revealed his love to your heart, and inspired you with corresponding love to him.
This is so interesting a part of your history, that I trust you will derive some pleasure and profit from the review of it; and I doubt not, that most of the circumstances which led to your present happiness in union with Christ, will be fresh in your recollection as I repeat them, and afford you new cause for gratitude to your almighty, unchanging, affectionate Husband.
You will not be angry with me for exposing a fact, of which you have been much ashamed a thousand times since it transpired: viz. that when Christ made his first overture by a faithful messenger, you gave a flat denial and felt determined not to consent to his proposal, for your heart was enmity against him; and had not his love been stronger than death, and immoveable as his throne, he would have taken you at your word, and turned from you in wrath: but being determined upon his object, he sent message after message and at length visited you in person.
The first glimpse you obtained of his lovely countenance and the first word he spake to your heart subdued your enmity, but did not remove all your objections to vital union with him; you doubted whether he was in earnest— you scrupled about your unfitness— you proposed delay, in order to qualify yourself— you hesitated about “forsaking all others to keep thee only to him.” — and you were proud enough to want your supposed stock of good works settled upon you, as a sort of jointure, that you might not be wholly dependant on his wealth.
Notwithstanding all this, he conquered you with love; steady to his purpose, he pitied your weakness— pursued you with kindness, and took possession of your heart by grace; then your scruples vanished, and you became willing to have Christ, on any terms his sovereign pleasure should propose; yea, such was your eagerness for the union, that all your former objections were exchanged for fears, lest he should not accept you, and even the veracity of his promise, or at least your interest in it, was called in question.
At length he made known the secret of his heart to you by his Holy Spirit, and shewed you his covenant; at which your captivated soul exclaimed, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is towards me,” Sol. Song 7:10. then you made a full surrender of heart to him, and felt that you stood in the most endearing relation to him; the same mind that was in Christ he created in you, so that whatever he loves, you love; yea, his very likeness, and the holiness which is essential to his nature, are the objects of your emulation, nor will any thing satisfy you but sitting at his feet, leaning on his strength, reclining on his breast, and dwelling in his presence.
From such an union, thus mutually agreed upon, the most extensive advantages must arise, and the most delightful enjoyments be realized; and that you, my dear Beulah, may not be unconscious of your high privileges, allow me to remind you, that when Jesus betrothed you to himself, he made over and secured to you, all his riches of grace and glory; and from the moment you consented to his proposals, and entered into vital union with him, you are allowed to live upon his fulness, to make use of his name for every important purpose, and to claim every promise he has made as your marriage portion.
All your debts were transferred to him— all your concerns are his own— and every injury done to you he views as done to himself; yea, he invites you to cast your burdens upon him, and promises to sustain you.
He bore your guilt, and imputes to you his righteousness— he suffered your degradation, and puts upon you his dignity; in a word, he took your nature, with all its ruin, and imparts to you his nature, with all its everlasting blessedness.
When he betrothed you to himself, he at once identified your interest, yea, your person and life with his own; all that he covenanted for, and all that he accomplished, in his life and death, were for your sake: hence as one with him, you are said to be crucified with him— buried with him— risen with him, thus it is his sovereign pleasure that you should both suffer with him, and be glorified with him; “for thy Maker is thy Husband, the Lord of hosts is his name.”
Such is the affectionate tenderness of the union between Christ and your soul, that whenever you are afflicted, he “is touched with the feeling of your infirmities;” and has assured you in his own word, that whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his eye; you are allowed, yea, invited to cultivate the most intimate familiarity with him; in short, he thinks nothing too good or too great for you, and has therefore determined, that you shall sit down with him on his throne, abide in his presence, and be absorbed in his perfections for ever.
Does unbelief dispute the reality of your union with Christ, and contend about the inequality of the match? Put the hand of faith into the bosom of your experience, and there, I trust, you will find the certificate of your marriage, bearing the signature of the eternal Spirit, and written with the precious blood of your Husband. The secret and spiritual correspondence which you hold with him, is such as none are honored with but his spouse— the delightful visits he has paid you, in his own house, and in your’s, his abiding with you, and dwelling in your affections, are such indubitable proofs of your union with him, that I am surprised you should grieve his spirit by a single doubt upon the subject.
There never was, since the first proposals he made to you, any thing really in the way of your union with him, but your own perverseness; and the only thing requisite to settle all the evils of unbelief is, your full and unequivocal consent to his terms of union; viz. that you shall be wholly dependant upon him— forsake all others for him— and honor him as your sovereign Lord in your heart and life; all which he will give you grace to perform, if he has made you willing to obey. Do not suppose, my dear Beulah, that you have to gain his consent; he has been willing from all eternity, yea, determined, and “he is of one mind, and who can turn him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth;” Job 23:13. The unwillingness was on your part; and if he has removed that by his Spirit, you may rest assured that he has taken you as his bride, “for better for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish;” nor shall death itself separate you.
Moses indeed, may give you a bill of divorce; for he has seen much in your conduct, and in your heart, which prevents the possibility of his accepting your person: but Jesus allows nothing to alter his purpose, or dissolve the union in which he has stood with you from everlasting: he will certainly hide his face when you grieve his spirit, and suspend the tokens of his love when you neglect to honor and obey him, but he is the LORD, and changes not, he will take vengeance on your sins, but never abandon your person. “He will rest in his love,” and accomplish all the purposes of his love, by causing your affections to centre in him— qualifying you to enjoy his presence—and bringing you to sit down with him on his throne. Is not this enough to animate your drooping soul, and inspire in your heart the prophet’s nuptial song? “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness; as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:19.
What now remains, beloved, but for you to live in the anticipation of the marriage supper, and the everlasting glory to be enjoyed with Christ? The more your thoughts and affections are set on this, the better your Lord will be pleased, and the more your happiness will abound. Col. 3:1 and 2.
He is very jealous of your affections, and demands your whole heart; and if ever any object gets between your Saviour and your soul, his spirit will be grieved, and you will be pierced with many sorrows: cleave to him therefore with purpose of heart, tell him the secrets of your bosom, and live in habitual readiness for his coming.
As soon as he has prepared your mansion to receive you, and prepared you to be received into it, he has said, he will come again and receive you to himself, that where he is, you may be also: no more to mourn the hidings of his face, no more to doubt your interest in his love, but to rest in the embraces of your Maker as your Husband, while everlasting ages are rolling away.
Firmly “persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,”
I subscribe myself,
Your affectionate friend,
Celestial lover! how thy heavenly charms
Attract the warm emotions of my soul.
Too long I griev’d thee, ah! too long withstood
Thy message of grace. But now, I would
I must be wholly thine. Behold! my heart
Expands with love, and longs for thy embrace.
And am I one with Jesus? Matchless love!
He makes my guilt, and shame, and sorrow his—
His grace, and righteousness, and life are mine—
And on him— in him— with him— I shall live.
Joseph Irons (1785-1852) was an Independent sovereign grace preacher, author and hymn writer. In 1819, he was appointed the minister of Grove Chapel, Camberwell, a position he held until his death thirty-three years later. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“Joseph Irons (1785-1852) was one of the ablest preachers of his day, and a powerful and prolific writer. His doctrinal teaching was pellucidly clear and consistent; he was a profound student and sound expositor of the Word of God, and many were influenced by his sermons, spoken and printed, and confirmed in the faith of God's elect. He was a determined foe of Romanism and Ritualism, deeply interested in the welfare of the young, and ready to aid any effort that commended itself to him on the basis of the faith for which he so earnestly contended. Many of his hymns have secured a permanent place in our hymnology, and his sermons are doctrinal, experimental, and practical in the best sense of the words. He never ceased to preach Christ, making Him the Alpha and Omega of all his discourses. He was born at Ware, in Hertfordshire, and brought up under the care and counsel of a godly father, who was a builder, and who trained his son in that trade. When he left his father's roof, he tells us the parting words were, "There's poor Joseph going to that wicked London. My heart bleeds while I bid him goodbye. I fear it will end in his ruin. You will be far away from a father's eye and a father's counsel, but never will I cease to pray for you that God may preserve and prosper you, although surrounded with so much that is evil." The youth was but eighteen when, in 1803, God led him to the Church of St. Mary Somerset, Thames Street, to hear W. Alphonsus Gunn, and there the arrow was directed into his conscience and he was brought to a saving knowledge of Divine truth. In 1808 his first sermon was preached over a smith's shop at Dulwich; he was actively engaged in business, but on most Sundays would walk from ten to twenty miles, preaching in various villages. "My only companions were my pocket Bible and its Divine Author, who often favoured me with the spirit of prayer on the way and shed many a ray of Divine light on the inspired page, so that I was furnished with a 'Thus saith the Lord.'"
After six years' service in Hertfordshire, he became pastor of the Church at Sawston, near Cambridge, and in January, 1818, he preached his first sermon in Camberwell. Ultimately, Grove Chapel was erected and opened on July 20th, 1819, and within its walls until the time of his death he continued proclaiming the Gospel; his mortal remains rest in a vault under the pulpit. In his last sermon, about ten days before his decease, he spoke of heaven in joyful terms: "I confess that my soul longs for it, and I anticipate meeting with prophets and apostles and patriarchs, and above all, with Jesus Himself, to behold Him face to face in glory, to be like Him, and to see Him as He is."
His published writings were numerous, some running into many editions. "Jazer," letters on Gospel doctrine; "Nathaniel," letters on Christian experience; "Nymphas," an exposition of the Song of Solomon; 611 original hymns; and a paraphrase of the Book of Psalms, are among the number. He established a Home Mission and other Societies for visiting and assisting the sick poor, and to the end of his life he was one of the best friends and helpers of the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society. This great man was no idler in the Lord's vineyard. He talked not about "working for Christ," but delighted to magnify his glorious Lord. His sermons should be models for our preachers to-day in their perspicuity, plainness and power. He could not cut and trim to the times. His faithfulness gave offence to many whose creed and conduct could not bear the blaze of truth and the pointed appeals he made to conscience. Many hard speeches were made against him, but he remained unmoved as an iron pillar. As a man he had very tender feeling and often smarted under the unkind treatment of those of whom better things might have been hoped; but neither the fawning of one party nor the frowns of the other could shake his firmness. When at home in his "Shepherd's Tent," Grove Lane, he used very frequently to visit his chapel; to him it was a peaceful, private promenade, after the close confinement of his study, in which he spent many hours every day. Covenant love, covenant blood and covenant grace were his constant theme. His dying desire, so graciously fulfilled, was that Grove Chapel "might never be desecrated with another gospel." Someone told him that he put too much in his sermons and should reserve ideas for future use. He replied, "Thank God I obtain my materials from heaven; my Master knows what things I have need of, and having called me, He will not allow me to work alone. I get my sermons on my knees with the Word of God before my eyes and if I empty my seed-basket to-day, I know He will fill it to-morrow; therefore I will, God helping me, tell it all out, or it would be like a fire in my bones, burning its way out." Grove Chapel recalls many memories of those who have gone before; in its schoolroom is a unique collection of portraits of free grace ministers of various sections of the one Church. In No. 5 pew in the Chapel is the spot where the Lord first met with the "Wayside Notes" writer, broke him down in contrition of heart and revealed Christ to him as all his salvation, and there are friends still with us who can testify to the power of Mr. Irons' ministry, when in their early years they sat under it.”