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Chapter II. The glory of the person of Christ, as the only representative of God unto the church.
The glory of Christ is the glory of the person of Christ. So he calls it Τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἐμὴν, John xvii. 24, “That glory which is mine,” which belongeth to me, unto my person.
The person of Christ may be considered two ways:— 1. Absolutely in itself. 2. In the susception and discharge of his office, with what ensued thereon. His glory on these distinct accounts is distinct and different; but all equally his own. How in both respects we may behold it by faith, is that which we inquire into.
294The first thing wherein we may behold the glory of the person of Christ, God and man, which was given him of his Father, consists in the representation of the nature of God, and of the divine person of the Father, unto the church in him; for we behold “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Cor. iv. 6. Otherwise we know it not, we see it not, we see nothing of it; that is the way of seeing and knowing God, declared in the Scripture as our duty and blessedness. The glory of God comprehends both the holy properties of his nature and the counsels of his will; and “the light of the knowledge” of these things we have only “in the face” or person “of Jesus Christ.” Whatever obscure, imperfect notions we may have of them in other ways, we cannot have φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θωοῦ, “the light of the” illuminating, irradiating “knowledge of the glory of God,” which may enlighten our minds and sanctify your hearts, but only ἐν προσώπῳ, “in the face” or person “of Jesus Christ:” for he is “the image of God,” 2 Cor. iv. 4; “the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person,” Heb. i. 3; “the image of the invisible God,” Col. i. 15. I do here only mention these things because I have handled them at large in my discourse of the “Mystery of Godliness,” or the Person of Christ; whereunto I refer the readers for their full declaration and vindication. Herein is he glorious, in that he is the great representative of the nature of God and his will unto us; which without him would have been eternally hid from us, or been invisible unto us, — we should never have seen God at any time, here nor hereafter, John i. 18.
In his divine person absolutely considered, he is the essential image of God, even the Father. He is in the Father, and the Father in him, in the unity of the same divine essence, John xiv. 10. Now he is with the Father, John i. 1, in the distinction of his person, so is he his essential image, Col. i. 15; Heb. i. 3. In his incarnation he becomes the representative image of God unto the church, 2 Cor. iv. 6; without whom our understandings can make no such approach unto the divine excellencies but that God continues to be unto us what he is in himself, — the “invisible God.” In the face of Jesus Christ we see his glory.
This is the original glory of Christ, given him by his Father, and which by faith we may behold. He, and he alone, declares, represents, and makes known, unto angels and men, the essential glory of the invisible God, his attributes and his will; without which, a perpetual comparative darkness would have been the whole creation, especially that part of it here below.
This is the foundation of our religion, the Rock whereon the church is built, the ground of all our hopes of salvation, of life and immortality: all is resolved into this, — namely, the representation that is 295made of the nature and will of God in the person and office of Christ. If this fail us, we are lost for ever; if this Rock stand firm, the church is safe here, and shall be triumphant hereafter.
Herein, then, is the Lord Christ exceedingly glorious. Those who cannot behold this glory of his by faith, — namely, as he is the great divine ordinance to represent God unto us, — they know him not. In their worship of him, they worship but an image of their own devising.
Yea, in the ignorance and neglect hereof consists the formal nature of unbelief, even that which is inevitably ruinous unto the souls of men. He that discerns not the representation of the glory of God in the person of Christ unto the souls of men, is an unbeliever. Such was the state of the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles of old; they did not, they would not, they could not, behold the glory of God in him, nor how he did represent him. That this was both the cause and the formal nature of their unbelief, the apostle declares at large, 1 Cor. i. 21–25. Not to see the wisdom of God, and the power of God, and consequently all the other holy properties of his nature, in Christ, is to be an unbeliever.
The essence of faith consists in a due ascription of glory to God, Rom. iv. 20. This we cannot attain unto without the manifestation of those divine excellencies unto us wherein he is glorious. This is done in Christ alone, so as that we may glorify God in a saving and acceptable manner. He who discerns not the glory of divine wisdom, power, goodness, love, and grace, in the person and office of Christ, with the way of the salvation of sinners by him, is an unbeliever.
Hence the great design of the devil, in the beginning of the preaching of the gospel, was to blind the eyes of men, and fill their minds with prejudices, that they might not behold this glory of his; so the apostle gives an account of his success in this design, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid unto them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” By various ways and methods of deceit, to secure the reputation he had got of being “god of this world,” by pretences and appearances of supernatural power and wisdom, he laboured to blind the eyes of men with prejudices against that glorious light of the gospel which proposed the Lord Christ as the only image of God. This blindness, this darkness is cured in them that believe, by the mighty power of God; for God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has irradiated our hearts with the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, verse 6, — wherein true saving faith does consist. Under this darkness perished the unbelieving world of Jews and Gentiles: and such is the present condition of all by whom the divine person of Christ is denied; for 296no mere creature can ever make a perfect representation of God unto us. But we must a little farther inquire into this mystery.
I. Since men fell from God by sin, it is no small part of their misery and punishment, that they are covered with thick darkness and ignorance of the nature of God. They know him not, they have not seen him at any time. Hence is that promise to the church in Christ, Isa. lx. 2, “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.”
The ancient philosophers made great inquiries into, and obtained many notions of, the Divine Being — its existence and excellencies. And these notions they adorned with great elegance of speech, to allure others unto the admiration of them. Hereon they boasted themselves to be the only wise men in the world, Rom. i. 22, φάσκοντες εἶναι σοφοὶ, — they boasted that they were the wise. But we must abide in the judgment of the apostle concerning them in their inquiries; he assures us that the world in its wisdom — that is, these wise men in it by their wisdom — knew not God, 1 Cor. i. 21. And he calls the authors of their best notions, Atheists, or men “without God in the world,” Eph. ii. 12. For, —
1. They had no certain guide, rule, nor light, which, being attended unto, might lead them infallibly into the knowledge of the divine nature. All they had of this kind was their own λογισμοὶ, their reasonings or imaginations; whereby they commenced συζητητὰι τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, “the great disputes of the world;” but in them they “waxed vain, and their foolish heart was darkened,” Rom. i. 21. They did at best but endeavour ψηλαφᾷν, “to feel after God,” as men do in the dark after what they cannot clearly discern, Acts xvii. 27. Among others, Cicero’s book, “De Natura Deorum,” gives us an exact account of the intention of the apostle in that expression. And it is at this day not want of wit, but hatred of the mysteries of our religion, which makes so many prone to forego all supernatural revelation, and to betake themselves unto a religion declared, as they suppose, by reason and the light of nature; — like bats and owls, who, being not able to bear the light of the sun, betake themselves unto the twilight, to the dawnings of light and darkness.
2. Whatever they did attain, as unto rational notions about things invisible and incomprehensible, yet could they never deliver themselves from such principles and practices in idolatry and all manner of flagitious sins, as that they could be of any benefit unto them. This is so effectually demonstrated by the apostle in the 1st chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, as that we need not to insist upon it.
Men may talk what they please of a light within them, or of the power of reason to conduct them unto that knowledge of God whereby 297they may live unto him; but if they had nothing else, if they did not boast themselves of that light which has its foundation and original in divine revelation alone, they would not excel them who, in the best management of their own reasonings, “knew not God,” but waxed vain in their imaginations.
With respect unto this universal darkness, — that is, ignorance of God, with horrid confusion accompany it in the minds of men, — Christ is called, and is, the “light of men,” the “light of the world;” because in and by him alone this darkness is dispelled, as he is the “Sun of Righteousness.”
II. This darkness in the minds of men, this ignorance of God, his nature and his will, was the original of all evil unto the world, and yet continues so to be. For, —
1. Hereon did Satan erect his kingdom and throne, obtaining in his design until he bare himself as “the god of this world,” and was so esteemed by the most. He exalted himself by virtue of this darkness (as he is the “prince of darkness”) into the place and room of God, as the object of the religious worship of men. For the things which the Gentiles sacrificed they sacrificed unto devils, and not to God, 1 Cor. x. 20; Lev. xvii. 7; Deut. xxxii. 17; Ps. cvi. 37; Gal. iv. 8. This is the territory of Satan; yea, the power and sceptre of his kingdom in the minds of the “children of disobedience.” Hereby he maintains his dominion unto this day in many and great nations, and with individual persons innumerable.
2. This is the spring of all wickedness and confusion among men themselves. Hence arose that flood of abominations in the old world, which God took away with a flood of desolation: hence were the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, which he revenged with “fire from heaven.” In brief; all the rage, blood, confusion, desolations, cruelties, oppressions, villainies, which the world has been and is filled withal, whereby the souls of men have been and are flooded into eternal destruction, have all arisen from this corrupt fountain of the ignorance of God.
3. Of such as those described we are the posterity and offspring. Our forefathers in this nation were given up unto as brutish a service of the devil as any nation under the sun. It is therefore an effect of infinite mercy, that the day has dawned on us, poor Gentiles, and that the “day-spring from on high hath visited us.” See the glory of this grace expressed, Eph. iii. 5–10. God might have left us to perish in the blindness and ignorance of our forefathers; but of his own accord, and by his own powerful grace alone, he has “translated us out of darkness into his marvellous light.” But, alas! the horrible ingratitude of men for the glorious light of the Gospel, and the abuse of it, will issue in a sore revenge.
298God was known under the Old Testament by the revelation of his Word, and the institution of his worship. This was the glory and privilege of Israel, as the Psalmist declares, Ps. cxlvii. 19, 20, “He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation.” The church then knew him; yet so as that they had an apprehension that he dwelt in “thick darkness,” where they could not have any clear views of him, Exod. xx. 21; Deut. v. 22; 1 Kings viii. 12; 2 Chron. vi. 1. And the reason why God so represented himself in darkness unto them, was, to instruct them in their imperfect state, wherein they could not comprehend that glory which should afterward be revealed. For as he is now made known in Christ, we see that “he is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.”
4. Hitherto darkness in general covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, as unto the knowledge of God; only there was a twilight in the church. The day did not yet dawn, the “shadows did not flee away,” nor the “day-star shine” in the hearts of men. But when the “Sun of Righteousness” did arise in his strength and beauty, when the Son of God “appeared in the flesh,” and in the discharge of his office, — God himself, as unto his being, and manner of existence in three distinct persons, with all the glorious properties of the divine nature, was illustriously manifested unto them that did believe; and the light of the knowledge of them dispelled all the shadows that were in the church, and shone into the darkness which was in the world, so as that none continued ignorant of God but those who would not see. See John i. 5, 14, 17, 18; 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
Herein is the Lord Christ glorious. And this is that which I shall now speak unto, — namely, how we may behold the glory of Christ in the representation and revelation that is made of God and his glory, in his person and office, unto all that do believe. For it is not so much the declaration of the nature of the things themselves, wherein the glory of Christ does consist, as our way and duty in the beholding of them, which at present is designed.
He calls unto us, saying, “Behold me, — look unto me, — and be saved,” Isa. xlv. 22. What is it that we see in Christ? what do we behold in him? He asketh that question concerning his church, “What will ye see in the Shulamite?” Whereto he answers, “As it were the company of two armies,” Cant. vi. 13; or the two churches of the Old and New Testament, in order and beauty. We may inquire, What shall we, what do we see in him? Do we see him as “the image of the invisible God,” representing him, his nature, properties, and will unto us? Do we see him as the “character,” the “express image of the person of the Father,” so that we have no need 299of Philip’s request, “Lord, show us the Father?” because having seen him, we have seen the Father also, John xiv. 9.
This is our first saving view of Christ, the first instance of our beholding his glory by faith. So to see him as to see God in him, is to behold his glory; for herein he is eternally glorious. And this is that glory whose view we ought to long for and labour after. And if we see it not, we are yet in darkness; yea, though we say we see, we are blind like others. So David longed and prayed for it, when yet he could behold it only in types and shadows, Ps. lxiii. 1, 2, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee; — to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” For there was in the sanctuary an obscure representation of the glory of God in Christ. How much more should we prize that view of it which we may have with open face, though yet “as in a glass!” 2 Cor. iii. 18.
Moses, when he had seen the works of God, which were great and marvellous, yet found not himself satisfied therewith; wherefore, after all, he prays that God “would show him his glory”, Exod. xxxiii. 18. He knew that the ultimate rest, blessedness, and satisfaction of the soul, is not in seeing the works of God, but the glory of God himself. Therefore did he desire some immediate dawnings of it upon him in this world: “I beseech thee, show me thy glory.” And if we have right apprehensions of the future state of blessedness, we cannot but have the same desire of seeing more of his glory in this life. But the question is, How we may attain it? If we are left unto ourselves in this inquiry, if we have no other way for it but the immediate rising of our thoughts on the immensity of the divine nature, we must come every one to the conclusion that Agur makes on the like consideration, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy. Who has ascended up into heaven, or descended? who has gathered the wind in his fists? who has bound the waters in a garment? who has established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Prov. xxx. 2–4.
It is in Christ alone that we may have a clear, distinct view of the glory of God and his excellencies. For him, and him alone, has he appointed the representative of himself unto us; and we shall take an account hereof in one or two especial instances. See John i. 18, xiv. 7–10; 2 Cor. iv. 6; Col. i. 15; Eph. iii. 4–10; Heb. i. 3.
1. Infinite wisdom is one of the most glorious properties of the divine nature; it is that which is directive of all the external works of God, wherein the glory of all the other excellencies of God is manifested: wherefore the manifestation of the whole glory of God proceeds 300originally from infinite wisdom. But, as Job speaks, “Where shall [this] wisdom be found; and what is the place of understanding? chap. xxviii. 12. “Can we by searching find out God? can we find out the Almighty unto perfection?” chap. xi. 7. As it is in itself an essential, eternal property of the divine nature, we can have no comprehension of it, — we can but adore it in that infinite distance wherein we stand from God; but in its operations and effects it may be discerned, for they are designed of God for its manifestation. Among these, the most excellent is the contrivance of the great work of the salvation of the church. So it is celebrated by the apostle, Eph. iii. 9, 10, “To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”
If we have any interest in God, if we have any hopes of blessedness in beholding of his glory unto eternity, we cannot but desire a view (such as is attainable) of this infinite, manifold wisdom of God in this life. But it is in Christ alone that we can discern anything of it; for him has the Father chosen and sealed to represent it unto us. All the treasures of this wisdom are hid, laid up, and laid out in him; — herein lies the essence and form of faith. Believers by it do see the wisdom of God in Christ, in his person and office, — Christ the wisdom of God. Unbelievers see it not, as the apostle argues, 1 Cor. i. 22–24.
In beholding the glory of this infinite wisdom of God in Christ, we behold his own glory also, — the glory given him of his Father; for this is his glory, that in and by him, and him alone, the wisdom of God is manifested and represented unto us. When God appointed him as the great and only means of this end, he gave him honour and glory above the whole creation; for it is but little of divine wisdom which the works of it declare, in comparison of what is manifested in Christ Jesus. We no way deny or extenuate the manifestation that is made of the wisdom of God in the works of creation and providence. It is sufficient to detect the folly of atheism and idolatry; and was designed of God unto that end. But its comparative insufficiency — with respect unto the representation of it in Christ as to the ends of knowing God aright and living unto him — the Scripture does abundantly attest. And the abuse of it was catholic [i. e., universal], as the apostle declares, Rom. i. 20, &c. To see this wisdom clearly is our wisdom; and a due apprehension of it fills the souls of believers “with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.”
2. We may also instance in the love of God. The apostle tells us that “God is love,” 1 John iv. 8. Divine love is not to be considered 301only in its effects, but in its nature and essence; and so it is God himself, for “God is love.” And a blessed revelation this is of the divine nature; it casts out envy, hatred, malice, revenge, with all their fruits, in rage, fierceness, implacability, persecution, murder, into the territories of Satan. They belong not unto God in his nature or acting; for “God is love.” So the same apostle tells us, that he who “slew his brother was of the wicked one,” 1 John iii. 12. He was of the devil, his father, and his works did he do.
But the inquiry is as before, — How shall we have a view of this love, of God as love? by what way or means shall we behold the glory of it? It is hidden from all living, in God himself. The wise philosophers, who discoursed so much of the love of God, knew nothing of this, that “God is love.” The most of the natural notions of men about it are corrupt, and the best of them weak and imperfect. Generally, the thoughts of men about it are, that he is of a facile and easy nature, one that they may make bold withal in all their occasions; as the Psalmist declares, Ps. l. 21. And whereas it must be learned in its effects, operations, and divine ways of its manifestation, those who know not Christ know nothing of them. And many things in providence do interpose to hinder our views of this love; — for although, indeed, “God is love,” yet “his wrath is revealed from heaven against the ungodliness of men;” as all things at this day are filled with evidences of his anger and displeasure. How, then, shall we know, wherein shall we behold, the glory of God in this, that he is love? The apostle declares it in the next words, 1 John iv. 9, “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” This is the only evidence given us that “God is love.” Hereby alone is the divine nature as such made known unto us, — namely, in the mission, person, and office of the Son of God; without this, all is in darkness as unto the true nature and supreme operation of this divine love.
Herein do we behold the glory of Christ himself, even in this life. This glory was given him of the Father, — namely, that he now should declare and evidence that “God is love;” and he did so, “that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” Herein we may see how excellent, how beautiful, how glorious and desirable he is, seeing in him alone we have a due representation of God as he is love; which is the most joyful sight of God that any creature can obtain. He who beholds not the glory of Christ herein is utterly ignorant of those heavenly mysteries; — he knoweth neither God nor Christ, — he has neither the Father nor the Son. He knows not God, because he knows not the holy properties of his nature in the principal way designed by infinite wisdom for their manifestation; he knows not 302Christ, because he sees not the glory of God in him. Wherefore, whatever notions men may have from the light of nature, or from the works of Providence, that there is love in God, — however they may adorn them in elegant, affecting expressions, — yet from them no man can know that “God is love.” In the revelation hereof Christ has the pre-eminence; nor can any man comprehend anything of it aright but in him. It is that which the whole light of the creation cannot discover; for it is the spring and centre of the mystery of godliness.
These things are of the deep things of God, such as belong unto that wisdom of God in a mystery which they that are carnal cannot receive, as the apostle testifies, 1 Cor. ii. 14. But the meanest believer who lives in the exercise of faith, may have an understanding of them so far as is needful unto his love and obedience. The sum of the whole is this: If you would behold the glory of Christ as the great means of your sanctification and consolation, as the only preparation for the beholding of his glory in eternal blessedness, consider what of God is made known and represented unto you in him, wherein God purposed and designed to glorify himself in him. Now, this is all that may be known of God in a saving manner, — especially his wisdom, his love, his goodness, grace, and mercy, whereon the life of our souls does depend; — and the Lord Christ being appointed the only way and means hereof, how exceeding glorious must he be in the eyes of them that do believe!
These things being premised, I shall close this first consideration of that glory of Christ which we behold by faith in this world, with some such observations as may excite us unto the practice of this great duty, and improvement of this great privilege, — the greatest which on this side heaven we can be made partakers of.
There are some who regard not these things at all, but rather despise them. They never entertain any serious thoughts of obtaining a view of the glory of God in Christ, — which is to be unbelievers. They look on him as a teacher that came forth from God to reveal his will, and to teach us his worship; and so indeed he was. But this they say was the sole use of his person in religion, — which is Mohammedanism. The manifestation of all the holy properties of the divine nature, with the representation of them unto angels above and the church in this world, as he is the image of the invisible God, in the constitution of his person and the discharge of his office, are things they regard not; yea, they despise and scorn what is professed concerning them: for pride and contempt of others were always the safest covert of ignorance; otherwise it would seem strange that men should openly boast of their own blindness. But these conceptions of men’s minds are influenced by that unbelief of his divine person which maketh havoc of Christianity at this day in the world.
303I speak of them whose minds are better disposed towards heavenly things; and unto them I say, Wherefore do you love Jesus Christ? for so you profess to do. Wherefore do you trust in him? wherefore do you honour him? wherefore do you desire to be in heaven with him? Can you give a reason of this hope that is in you, — an account why you do all or any of these things? If you cannot, all that you pretend towards him is but fancy and imagination; you fight uncertainly, as men beating the air. Or is one of your reasons hereof, that in him you do by faith behold that glory of God, with the holy properties of his nature, and their principal operations, in order unto your own salvation and blessedness, which otherwise would have been eternally hid from you? Herein is he “precious unto them that do believe.”
Let us, therefore, as many as are spiritual, be thus minded. Let us make use of this privilege with rejoicing, and be found in the discharge of this duty with diligence. For thus to behold the glory of God is both our privilege and our duty. The duties of the Law were a burden and a yoke; but those of the Gospel are privileges and advantages.
It is a promise concerning the days of the New Testament, that our “eyes shall see the King in his beauty,” Isa. xxxiii. 17. We shall behold the glory of Christ in its lustre and excellency. What is this beauty of the King of saints? Is it not that God is in him, and he is the great representative of his glory unto us? Wherefore, in the contemplation of this glory consists the principal exercise of faith. And who can declare the glory of this privilege, that we who are born in darkness, and deserved to be cast out into utter darkness, should be translated into this marvellous “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?”
What are all the stained glories, the fading beauties of this world? of all that the devil showed our Saviour from the mount? what are they in comparison of one view of the glory of God represented in Christ, and of the glory of Christ as his great representative?
The most pernicious effect of unbelief under the preaching of the gospel is, that, together with an influence of power from Satan, “it blinds the eyes of men’s minds, that they should not see this glory of Christ;” whereon they perish eternally, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
But the most of those who at this day are called Christians are strangers unto this duty. Our Lord Jesus Christ told the Pharisees, that notwithstanding all their boasting of the knowledge of God, they had not “heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape;” that is, as Moses did. They had no real acquaintance with him, — they had no spiritual view of his glory. And so it is amongst ourselves; notwithstanding the general profession that is of the knowledge of Christ, 304they are but few who thus behold his glory; and therefore few who are transformed into his image and likeness.
Some men speak much of the imitation of Christ, and following of his example; and it were well if we could see more of it really in effect. But no man shall ever become “like unto him” by bare imitation of his actions, without that view or intuition of his glory which alone is accompanied with a transforming power to change them into the same image.
The truth is, the best of us all are woefully defective in this duty, and many are discouraged from it because a pretence of it in some has degenerated into superstition; but we are loath at any time seriously to engage in it, and come with an unwilling kind of willingness unto the exercise of our minds in it.
Thoughts of this glory of Christ are too high for us, or too hard for us, such as we cannot long delight in; we turn away from them with a kind of weariness: yet are they of the same nature in general with our beholding of the glory of Christ in heaven, wherein there shall be no weariness, or satiety, unto eternity. Is not the cause of it, that we are unspiritual or carnal, having our thoughts and affections wonted to give entertainment unto other things? For this is the principal cause of our unreadiness and incapacity to exercise our minds in and about the great mysteries of the Gospel, 1 Cor. iii. 1–3. And it is so with us, moreover, because we do not stir up ourselves with watchfulness and diligence in continual acting of faith on this blessed object. This is that which keeps many of us at so low an ebb, as unto the powers of a heavenly life and spiritual joys.
Did we abound in this duty, in this exercise of faith, our life in walking before God would be more sweet and pleasant unto us, — our spiritual light and strength would have a daily increase, — we should more represent the glory of Christ in our ways and walking than usually we do, and death itself would be most welcome unto us.
The angels themselves desire to look into the things of the glory of Christ, 1 Peter i. 12. There is in them matter of inquiry and instruction for the most high and holy spirits in heaven. The manifold wisdom of God in them is made known unto “principalities and powers in heavenly places by the church,” Eph. iii. 10. And shall we neglect that which is the object of angelical diligence to inquire into; especially considering that we are more than they concerned in it?
Is Christ, then, thus glorious in our eyes? Do we see the Father in him, or by seeing of him? Do we sedulously daily contemplate on the wisdom, love, grace, goodness, holiness, and righteousness of God, as revealing and manifesting themselves in him? Do we sufficiently consider that the immediate vision of this glory in heaven will 305be our everlasting blessedness? Does the imperfect view which we have of it here increase our desires after the perfect sight of it above? With respect unto these inquiries I shall briefly speak unto sundry sorts of men.
Some will say they understand not these things, nor any concernment of their own in them. If they are true, yet are they notions which they may safely be without the knowledge of; for, so far as they can discern, they have no influence of Christian practice, or duties of morality; and the preaching of them does but take off the minds of men from more necessary duties. But “if the gospel be hid, it is hid unto them that perish.” And unto the objection I say, —
1. Nothing is more fully and clearly revealed in the gospel, than that unto us Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God;” that he is the character of the person of the Father, so as that in seeing him we see the Father also; that we have “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in his face alone,” as has been proved. This is the principal fundamental mystery and truth of the Gospel; and which if it be not received, believed, owned, all other truths are useless unto our souls. To refer all the testimonies that are given hereunto to the doctrine which he taught, in contradistinction unto his person as acting in the discharge of his office, is anti-evangelical, anti-christian, — turning the whole Gospel into a fable.
2. It is so, that the light of faith is given unto us principally to enable us to behold the glory of God in Christ, — to contemplate on it, as unto all the ends of its manifestation. So is it expressly affirmed, 2 Cor. iv. 6. If we have not this light, as it is communicated by the power of God unto them that do believe, Eph. i. 17–19, we must be strangers unto the whole mystery of the gospel, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
3. That in the beholding of the glory of God in Christ, we behold his glory also. For herein is he infinitely glorious above the whole creation, in that in and by him alone the glory of the invisible God is represented unto us. Herein do our souls live. This is that whereby the image of God is renewed in us, and we are made like unto the first-born.
4. This is so far from being unnecessary unto Christian practice, and the sanctified duties of morality, that he knows not Christ, he knows not the Gospel, he knows not the faith of the catholic church, who imagines that they can be performed acceptably without it. Yea, this is the root whence all other Christian duties do spring, and whereon their grow, whereby they are distinguished from the works of heathens. He is no Christian who believes not that faith in the person of Christ is the spring of all evangelical obedience; or who knows not that faith respects the revelation of the glory of God in him.
If these things are so, as they are the most important truths of the 306Gospel, and whose denial overthrows the foundation of faith, and is ruinous to Christian religion, certainly it is our duty to live in the constant exercise of faith with respect unto this glory of Christ. And we have sufficient experience of what kind of morality the ignorance of it has produced.
Others there are who may be some way strangers, but are no way enemies, unto this mystery, and to the practical exercise of faith therein. To such I shall tender the ensuing directions:—
1. Reckon in your minds, that this beholding of the glory of Christ by beholding the glory of God, and all his holy properties in him, is the greatest privilege whereof in this life we can be made partakers. The dawning of heaven is in it, and the first-fruits of glory; for this is life eternal, to know the Father, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, John xvii. 3. Unless you value it, unless you esteem it as such a privilege, you will not enjoy it; and that which is not valued according unto its worth is despised. It is not enough to think it a privilege, an advantage; but it is to be valued above other things, according unto its greatness and excellency. “Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears,” Job xxviii. 22. And if we do no more, we shall die strangers unto it; we are to “cry after this knowledge, and lift up our voice for this understanding,” if we design to attain it.
2. As it is a great privilege, which requires a due valuation; so it is a great mystery, which requires much spiritual wisdom to the right understanding of it, and to direct in its practice, 1 Cor. ii. 4, 5. Flesh and blood will not reveal it unto us, but we must be taught of God to apprehend it, John i. 12, 13; Matt. xvi. 16, 17. Mere unsanctified reason will never enable us unto, nor guide us in, the discovery of this duty. Men are not so vain as to hope for skill and understanding in the mystery of a secular art or trade, without the diligent use of those means whereby it may be attained; and shall we suppose that we may be furnished with spiritual skill and wisdom in this sacred mystery, without diligence in the use of the means appointed of God for the attaining of it? The principal of them is fervent prayer. Pray, then, with Moses, that God would show you this his glory; pray with the apostle, that “the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened to behold it;” pray that the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” Fill your minds with spiritual thoughts and contrivances about them. Slothful and lazy souls never obtain one view of this glory; the “lion in the way” deters them from attempting it. Being carnal, they abhor all diligence in the use of spiritual means, such as prayer and meditation on things unto them uneasy, unpleasing, and difficult. Unto others the way partakes of 307the nature of the end; the means of obtaining a view of the glory of Christ are of the same kind, of the same pleasantness, with that view itself in their proportion.
3. Learn the use hereof from the acting of contrary vicious habits. When the minds of men are vehemently fixed on the pursuit of their lusts, they will be continually ruminating on the objects of them, and have a thousand contrivances about them, until their “eyes become full of adulteries, and they cannot cease from sinning,” as the apostle speaks. The objects of their lusts have framed and raised an image of themselves in their minds, and transformed them into their own likeness. Is this the way of them who “go down to the chambers of death?” Do they thus frame their souls, and make them meet for destruction, until their words, gestures, actions, proclaim the frame of their minds unto all that look upon them? And shall we be slothful and negligent in the contemplation of that glory which transforms our minds into its own likeness, so as that the eyes of our understandings shall be continually filled with it, until we see him and behold him continually, so as never to cease from the holy acts of delight in him and love to him?
4. Would we, then, behold the glory of God as he manifesteth it in and by the holy properties of his nature, with their blessed operations and effects? — without which we have nothing of the power of religion in us, whatever we pretend: this alone is the way of it. Go to the whole creation, and all things contained in it; they can say no more, but, “We have heard the fame and report of these things,” and what we have heard we declare; but it is but a little portion of them that we are acquainted withal. “The heavens,” indeed, “declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy-work.” “The invisible things of God are understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” But, comparatively, it is but little that we can hence learn of these things, as to that we may behold of them in Christ Jesus. How blind herein was the best philosopher in comparison of the meanest of the apostles; yea, of him who is least in the kingdom of heaven!
But herein it is required that we rest not in the notion of this truth, and a bare assent unto the doctrine of it. The affecting power of it upon our hearts is that which we should aim at. Wherein does the blessedness of the saints above consist? Is it not herein, that they behold and see the glory of God in Christ? And what is the effect of it upon those blessed souls? Does it not change them into the same image, or make them like unto Christ? Does it not fill and satiate them with joy, rest, delight, complacency, and ineffable satisfaction? Do we expect, do we desire, the same state of blessedness? It is our present view of the glory of Christ which is our initiation 308thereinto, if we are exercised in it, until we have an experience of its transforming power in our souls.
These things are, it may be, of little use unto some. Such as are babes in spiritual knowledge and understanding, — either because they are carnal, 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2, or slothful in hearing, Heb. v. 12–14, — are not capable of these divine mysteries. And therefore the apostle did, in an especial manner, declare this wisdom of God in a mystery unto them that were perfect, 1 Cor. ii. 6, 7; — that is, who were more grown in spiritual knowledge, and had their “senses exercised to discern good and evil.” It is unto them who are exercised in the contemplation of invisible things, who delight to walk in the more retired paths of faith and love, that they are precious.
Some few inferences from the whole of what has been declared shall put a close to this part of our Discourse.
1. The holy properties of the divine nature are not only represented unto our faith in Christ, as to their own essential glory, but as they are in the exercise of their powers for the salvation of the church. In him do we behold the wisdom, goodness, love, grace, mercy, and power of God, acting themselves in the contrivance, constitution, and efficacious accomplishment of the great work of our redemption and salvation. This gives, as unto us, an unutterable lustre unto the native amiableness of the divine excellencies. The wisdom and love of God are in themselves infinitely glorious, — infinitely amiable; — nothing can be added unto them, — there can be no increase of their essential glory. Howbeit, as they are eternally resident in the divine nature, and absolutely the same with it, we cannot so comprehend them as to have an endearing, satiating view of their glory, but as they are exerted in the work of the redemption and salvation of the church, — as they are expressed, communicating their blessed effects unto the souls of them that do believe, — which is done only in Christ; so the beams of their glory shine unto us with unspeakable refreshment and joy, 2 Cor. iv. 6. Hence the apostle, on the consideration of the acting of the holy properties of God in this blessed work, falls into that contemplation, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen,” Rom. xi. 33–36.
2. In and through Christ we do believe in God, 1 Pet. i. 21. This is the life of our souls. God himself, in the infinite perfections of his divine nature, is the ultimate object of our faith. But he is not here the immediate object of it; but the divine way and means of the 309manifestation of himself and them unto us, are so. Through Christ we believe in God. By our belief in him we come to place our faith ultimately in God himself; and this we can no otherwise do but by beholding the glory of God in him, as has been declared.
3. This is the only way whereby we may attain the saving, sanctifying knowledge of God. Without this, every beam of divine light that shines on us, or gleams from without (as the light shineth into darkness when the darkness comprehendeth it not, John i. 5), every spark that ariseth from the remainders of the light of nature within, does rather amaze the minds of men than lead them into the saving knowledge of God. So a glance of light in a dark night, giving a transient view of various objects, and passing away, does rather amaze than direct a traveller, and leave him more exposed unto wandering than before. Such were all those notions of the Divine Being and his excellencies, which those who boasted themselves to be wise among the heathen embraced and improved. They did but fluctuate in their minds; they did not transform them into the image and likeness of God, as the saving knowledge of him does, Col. iii. 10.
So the apostle expresseth this truth, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God,” 1 Cor. i. 20–24.
After it was evident unto all, that the world, the wise, the studious, the contemplative part of it, in the wisdom of God, disposing them into that condition wherein they were left unto themselves, in their own wisdom, their natural light and reason, did not, could not, come to the saving knowledge of God, but were puffed up into a contempt of the only way of the revelation of himself as weakness and folly; — it pleased God then to manifest all their wisdom to be folly, and to establish the only means of the knowledge of himself in Christ Jesus.
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