OF THE RIGHT KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST CRUCIFIED. IT is the most excellent worthy part of divine wisdom to know Christ crucified. The Prophet Esay saith; The knowledge of my righteous servant: that is, Christ crucified, shall justify many. And Christ himselfe saith; This is life eternal, to know thee the only God, and whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ. And Paul saith; I have decreed to know nothing among you, but Jesus Christ and him crucified. Againe, God forbid that I should rejoice in any thing, but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Againe, I thinke all things but loss, for the excellent knowledge sake of Christ Jesus my Lord, and do judge them but dung, that I might win Christ.
In the right way of knowing Christ crucified, two points must be considered: one, how Man for his part is to know Christ: the other, how he is to be knowne of man. Touching the first: Man must know Christ, not generally and confusedly, but by a lively, powerful, and operative knowledge: for otherwise the devils themselves know Christ.
In this knowledge, three things are required. The first is notice or consideration, whereby thou must conceive in mind, understand, and seriously bethinke thy selfe of Christ, as he is revealed in the history of the Gospel, and as he is offered to thy particular person, in the ministery of the word and Sacraments. And that this consideration may not be dead and idle in thee, two things must be done. First, thou must labour to feele thy selfe to stand in need of Christ crucified; yea, to stand in excessive need even of the very least drop of his blood, for the washing away of thy sins. And unless thou throughly feelest thy selfe, to want all that goodness and grace that is in Christ; and that thou even stand in extreme need of his passion, thou shalt never learne to teach Christ in deed and truth. The second thing is, with the understanding of the doctrine of Christ, to joine thirsting, whereby man in very soule and spirit, longs after the participation of Christ, and saith in this case as Sampson said; Give me water, I die for thirst.
The second part of knowledge, is application, whereby thou must know and believe, not only that Christ was crucified, but that he was crucified for thee; for thee I say in particular. Here two rules must be remembered and practised. One, that Christ on the cross was thy pledge and surety in particular, that he then stood in the very roome and place, in which thou thy selfe in thine owne person, shouldest have stood: that thy very personal and particular sins were imputed and applied to him: that he stood guilty as a malefactour for them, and suffered the very pangs of hell, and that his sufferings are as much in acceptation with God, as if thou hadst borne the curse of the law in thine own person eternally. The holding and believing of this point, is the very foundation of religion, as also of the Church of God. Therefore in any wise be careful to apply Christ crucified to thy selfe: and as Elizeus, when he would revive the childe of the Shunamite, went up and lay upon him, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his hands upon his hands, and his eyes upon his eyes, and stretched himselfe upon him: even so, if thou wouldst be revived to everlasting life, thou must by faith as it were set thy selfe upon the cross of Christ, and apply thy hands to his hands, thy feete to his feete, and thy sinful heart to his believing heart: and content not thy selfe with Thomas, to put thy finger in his side, but even dive and plunge thy selfe wholly, both body and soule, into the wounds and blood of Christ. This will make thee to cry with Thomas, and say; My Lord my God: and this is to be crucified with Christ. And yet do not content thy selfe with this, but by faith also descend with Christ from the cross to the grave, bury thy selfe in the very burial of Christ: and then looke as the dead soldier tumbled into the grave of Elizeus, was made alive at the very touching of his body: so shalt thou by a spiritual touching of Christ dead buried, be quickened to life everlasting. The second rule is, that Christ crucified is thine, being really given thee of God the Father, even as truly as houses and lands are given of earthly fathers to their children; thus must thou firmely hold and believe: and hence is it, that the benefits of Christ, are before God ours indeede for our justification and salvation.
The third point in lively knowledge is, that by all the affections of our hearts, we must be carried to Christ, and as it were, transformed into him. Whereas he gave himselfe wholly for us, we can do no less then bestow our hearts upon him. We must therefore labour above all, following the Martyr Ignatius, who said, that Christ his love was crucified. We must value him at so high a price, that he must be unto us better then ten thousand worlds: yea, all things which we enjoy, must be but as dross and dung unto us in respect of him. Lastly, all our joy, rejoicing, comfort, and confidence; must be placed in him. And that thus much is requisite in knowledge, it appeares by the common rule of expounding Scripture, that workes of knowledge imply affection. And indeed it is but a knowledge swimming in the braine, which doth not alter and dispose that affection, and the whole man.
William Perkins (1558-1602). Knowing Christ Crucified