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Chapter XI. The glory of Christ in the recapitulation of all things in him.
In the last place, the Lord Christ is peculiarly and eminently glorious in the recapitulation of all things in him, after they had been scattered and disordered by sin. This the apostle proposeth as the most signal effect of divine wisdom, and the sovereign pleasure of God.
“He has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he has purposed in himself: that, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him,” Eph. i. 8–10.
368For the discovery of the mind of the Holy Ghost in these words, so far as I am at present concerned, — namely, as unto the representation of the glory of Christ in them, — sundry brief observations must be premised; and in them it will be necessary that we briefly declare the original of all these things in heaven and earth, their primitive order, the confusion that ensued thereon, with their restitution in Christ, and his glory thereby.
1. God alone has all being in him. Hence he gives himself that name, “I am,” Exod. iii. 14. He was eternally All; when all things else that ever were, or now are, or shall be, were nothing. And when they are, they are no otherwise but as “they are of him, and through him, and to him,” Rom. xi. 36. Moreover, his being and goodness are the same. The goodness of God is the meetness of the Divine Being to be communicative of itself in its effects. Hence this is the first notion of the divine nature, — infinite being and goodness, in a nature intelligent and self-subsistent. So the apostle declares it, “He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder,” Heb. xi. 6.
2. In this state of infinite, eternal being and goodness, antecedent unto any act of wisdom or power without himself to give existence unto other things, God was, and is, eternally in himself all that he will be, all that he can be, unto eternity. For where there is infinite being and infinite goodness, there is infinite blessedness and happiness, whereunto nothing can be added. God is always the same. That is his name, אַתָּה הוּא — Ps. cii. 27, “Thou art he,” — always the same. All things that are, make no addition unto God, no change in his state. His blessedness, happiness, self-satisfaction, as well as all other his infinite perfections, were absolutely the same before the creation of any thing, whilst there was nothing but himself, as they are since he has made all things: for the blessedness of God consists in the ineffable mutual inbeing of the three holy persons in the same nature, with the immanent reciprocal acting of the Father and the Son in the eternal love and complacency of the Spirit. Hereunto nothing can be added, herein no change can be made by any external work or effect of power. Herein does God act in the perfect knowledge and perfect love of his own perfections, unto an infinite acquiescence therein, — which is the divine blessedness. This gives us the true notion of the divine nature antecedent unto the manifestation of it made by any outward effects:— infinite being and goodness, eternally blessed in the knowledge and enjoyment of itself by inconceivable, ineffable, internal acting, answering the manner of its subsistence, which is in three distinct persons.
3. This being and goodness of God, by his own will and pleasure acting themselves in infinite wisdom and power, produced the creation 369of all things. Herein he communicated a finite, limited dependent being and goodness unto other things without himself. For all being and goodness being, as was said, in him alone, it was necessary that the first outward work and effect of the divine nature must be the communication of being and goodness unto other things. Wherefore, as when he had given unto every thing its being out of nothing, by the word of his power, saying, Let them be, and they were; so it is said, that he looked on all that he had made, “and, behold, they were exceeding good,” Gen. i. 31. Being and goodness must be the first outward effects of the divine nature, which, being wrought by infinite power and wisdom, do represent unto us the glory of God in the creation of all things. Infinite being in self-subsistence, which is necessary in the first cause and spring of all things, — infinite goodness to communicate the effect of this being unto that which was not, — and infinite wisdom and power in that communication, — are gloriously manifested therein.
4. In this state, all things that were made, depended immediately on God himself, without the interposition of any other head of influence or rule. They had the continuance of their being and its preservation from the immediate acting of these properties of the divine nature whereby they were made; and their dependence on God was by virtue of that law, which was implanted on the principles and powers of their several natures by God himself.
5. Thus “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” He provided himself of two distinct, rational families, that should depend on him according to a law of moral obedience, and thereby give glory to him; with two distinct habitations for them, cognate unto their nature and use, — heaven above, and the earth beneath. The earth he appointed for the habitation of man; which was every way suited unto the constitution of his nature, the preservation of his being, and the end of his creation in giving glory to God. Heaven he prepared for the habitation of the angels; which was suited unto the constitution of their nature, the preservation of their being, and the end of their creation, in giving glory to God. Wherefore, as man had power and dominion over all things here below, and was to use them all unto the glory of God, — by which means God received glory from them also, though in themselves brute and inanimate; — so the angels had the like dominion over the celestial and ethereal bodies, wherewith God has fitted the place of their habitation, that through the contemplation and use of them God might have a revenue of glory and praise from them also. To suppose any other race of intellectual creatures, besides angels in heaven and men on earth, is not only without all countenance from any divine testimony, but it disturbs and disorders the whole representation of the glory of God 370made unto us in the Scripture, and the whole design of his wisdom and grace, as declared therein. Intellectual creatures not comprehended in that government of God and mystery of his wisdom in Christ which the Scripture reveals, are a chimera framed in the imaginations of some men, scarce duly sensible of what it is to be wise unto sobriety.
6. This order of things was beautiful and comely. Hence were they all said to be “exceeding good.” For each of these families had their own immediate, distinct dependence on God. He was the immediate head of them. There was no other common head interposed between God and them. They were not a head unto one another. There were no communications unto them, but what were immediate from God himself. And their union among themselves was in this alone, that all their obedience did meet and centre in God. So God made the heavens and the earth, and two distinct families in them, for himself.
7. This beautiful order in itself, this union between the two families of God, was disturbed, broken, dissolved by the entrance of sin; for hereby part of the family above, and the whole family below, fell off from their dependence on God; and ceasing to centre in him as their head, they fell into variance and enmity among themselves. For the centre of this union and order being removed and lost, nothing but enmity and confusion remained among them. Hereon, to show that its goodness was lost, God cursed the earth and all that was in it; for it was put in subjection unto man, who was now fallen from him. Howbeit he cursed not the heavens, which were in subjection unto the angels, because some of them only left their habitation; and the habitation of the residue was not to be cursed for their sakes. But mankind was wholly gone off from God.
8. The angels that sinned God utterly rejected for ever, as an example of his severity; the whole race of mankind he would not utterly cast off, but determined to recover and save a remnant, according to the election of grace; which, how he did it in a way of condecency unto all his divine perfections, I have elsewhere declared.
9. Howbeit, he would not restore them into their former estate, so as to have again two distinct families, each in an immediate dependence on himself, though he left them in different and distinct habitations, Eph. iii. 15; but he would gather them both into one, and that under a new head, in whom the one part should be preserved from sinning, and the other delivered from sin committed.
10. This, then, is that which the apostle declares in these words, “To gather together in one all things which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.” And so he again expresseth it, Col. i. 20, “To reconcile all things unto himself in him, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” All things were fallen into disorder 371and confusion by sin; they were fallen off from God into variance among themselves. God would not restore them into their first order, in an immediate dependence on his divine perfections. He would no longer keep them in two distinct families; but he would, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, gather them up into one common head, on whom they should have their immediate dependence, and be reconciled again among themselves.
11. This new head, wherein God has gathered up all things in heaven and earth into one, one body, one family, on whom is all their dependence, in whom they all now consist, is Jesus Christ the Son of God incarnate. See 1 Cor. xi. 3; Eph. i. 22, 23. This glory was reserved for him; none other could be meet for it or worthy of it. See Col. i. 17–19.
12. To answer all the ends of this new Head of God’s re-collected family, all power in heaven and earth, all fulness of grace and glory, is committed unto him. There is no communication from God, no act of rule towards this family, no supply of virtue, power, grace, or goodness unto angels or men, but what is immediately from this new head whereinto they are gathered. In him they all consist, on him do they depend, unto him are they subject; in their relation unto him doth their peace, union, and agreement among themselves consist. This is the recapitulation of all things intended by the apostle.
13. It is true that he acts distinctly and variously towards the two parts of the re-collected family of angels and men, according as their different states and conditions do require. For, — 1. We had need of a reparation by redemption and grace, which the angels had not. 2. Angels were capable of immediate confirmation in glory, which we are not, until we come to heaven. Therefore, — 1. He assumed our nature that it might be repaired, which he did not [by] the nature of the angels. 2. He gives us union unto himself by his Spirit, which exalts us into a dignity and honour meet for fellowship with them in the same family.
This is a brief account of the mysterious work of divine wisdom in the recapitulation of all things in Jesus Christ; and herein is he transcendently glorious, or his glory herein is far above our comprehension; yet some things may be observed, to direct us in the view and contemplation of it. As, —
1. He alone was a meet and capable subject of it. He alone could bear the weight of this glory. No mere creature in heaven or earth was meet to be thus made the head of the whole new creation of God. In none of them could all things consist. None of them was meet to be thus in the place of God, to have all things depend upon him, and be put in subjection unto him; so as that there should be no communication between God and the creation but by and through him 372alone. Wherefore, when the Holy Ghost assigns this glory unto him, he so describes him as that we may discern his singular meetness for it; as, that he is “the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, upholding all things by the word of his power,” Heb. i. 3; — that he is “the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature, by whom all things were created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist,” Col. i. 15–17. Such a one alone, and no other, was meet to bear and uphold this glory. And the glory of his person is such, as that it is the blessedness of all creatures to centre in this glory of his office.
2. This is that glory which God designed unto his only Son incarnate, and it gives us a little view into the glory of that mystery, the wonderful eternal design of God to glorify himself in the incarnation of Christ. God would have his eternal, his only-begotten Son to be incarnate, to take our nature on him, — to be made man. What is his design in this incomprehensible work of his wisdom, love, and power? Indeed, in the first place, it was for the redemption of the church, by the sacrifice of himself, and other acts of his mediation. But there is that which is more general and comprehensive, and wherein all the concerns of the glory of God do centre. And this was, that he might “gather all things into one” in him; — that the whole creation, especially that which was to be eternally blessed, should have a new head given unto it, for its sustentation, preservation, order, honour, and safety. All springs are in him, and all streams are unto him, and in and by him unto God. Who can express the divine beauty, order, and harmony of all things that are in this, their recapitulation in Christ? The union and communion between angels and men, — the order of the whole family in heaven and earth, — the communication of life, grace, power, mercy, and consolation to the church, — the rule and disposal of all things unto the glory of God, — do all depend hereon. This glory God designed unto his Son incarnate; and it was the greatest, the highest that could be communicated unto him. For, as the apostle observes, all things are put in subjection unto him, he only excepted who does so make them subject; that is, God the Father, 1 Cor. xv. 27.
There is no contemplation of the glory of Christ that ought more to affect the hearts of them that do believe with delight and joy, than this, of the recapitulation of all things in him. One view by faith of him in the place of God, as the supreme head of the whole creation. Moving, acting, guiding, and disposing of it, will bring in spiritual refreshment unto a believing refreshment unto a believing soul.
373And it will do so the more, in that it gives a glorious representation of his divine nature also. For that any mere creature should thus be a head of life, motion, and power, as also of sovereign rule and disposal, of the whole new creation, with all things reduced into order thereby, is not only an impious, but a foolish imagination.
Did we live more in the contemplation of this glory of Christ, and of the wisdom of God in this recapitulation of all things in him, there is not anything of our duty which it would not mind us of, nor anything of privilege which it would not give us a sense of, as might easily be demonstrated.
3. In particular, the Lord Christ is glorious herein, in that the whole breach made on the glory of God in the creation, by the entrance of sin, is hereby repaired and made up. The beauty and order of the whole creation consisted in its dependence on God, by the obedience of the rational part of it, angels and men. Thereby were the being, the goodness, the wisdom, and power of God made manifest. But the beauty of this order was defaced, and the manifestation of the divine perfections unto the glory of God eclipsed, by the entrance of sin. But all is restored, repaired, and made up, in this recapitulation of all things in one new head, — Christ Jesus; yea, the whole curious frame of the divine creation is rendered more beautiful than it was before. Hence the whole of it groaneth for the interest of each part in this restoration of all things. Whatever there is of order, of beauty, of glory, in heaven above, or in earth beneath, it all ariseth from this new relation of the creation unto the Son of God. Whatever is not gathered into one, even in him, in its place, and according to its measure, is under darkness, disorder, and the curse. Hence the Jews have a saying, that “in the days of the Messiah all things shall be healed, but the serpent;” that is, the devil, and wicked men, which are as his seed.
4. He is glorious herein, in that he is appointed as the only means of exerting and expressing all the treasures of the infinite wisdom of God towards his creatures. The wisdom of God is absolutely, always, and in all things infinite. God does not, God cannot, act with more wisdom in one thing than in another; as in the creation of man, than in that of any inanimate creatures. In the first creation, infinite wisdom was the inseparable companion of infinite power: “How marvellous are thy works, O Lord! in wisdom hast thou made them all.” But when the effects of this divine wisdom, in their principal beauty and glory, were defaced, greater treasures of wisdom were required unto their reparation. And in this re-collection of all things in Christ, did God lay them forth unto the utmost of whatever he will do in dealing with his creatures. So the apostle expresseth it, Eph. iii. 10, “To the intent that now, unto the principalities and 374powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” By the recapitulation of all things into this one head, the manifold, various, unsearchable wisdom of God was made known unto the angels themselves. They knew not before of the design and work of God after the entrance of sin. These could not comprehend the wisdom that might repair that loss. They knew not that divine wisdom had another way to take herein; at least they knew not what way that should be. But hereby the manifold wisdom of God, his infinite wisdom in the treasures of it, able by various ways to attain the ends of his glory, was made known unto them. Herein — namely, in the re-collection of all things in Christ — divine wisdom has made known and represented itself in all its stores and treasures unto angels and men. “In him are hid,” and by him are displayed, “all the treasures of wisdom,” Col. ii. 3. Herein is he glorious, and will be so to eternity.
5. He is glorious herein, in that hereby firmness and security is communicated unto the whole new creation. The first creation in its order was a curious and glorious fabric. But every thing depending immediately on God, by virtue of the principles of its own nature and the law of its obedience, all was brought unto a loss by the sin of angels and men. But now every thing that belongs unto this new creation, even every believer in the world, as well as the angels in heaven, being gathered together in this one head, the whole and all, and every part and member of it, even every particular believer, are secured from ruin, such as befell all things before. In this new Head they have an indissoluble consistency.
But manum de tabula. I shall insist on no more instances of this nature, which plentifully offer themselves in the Scripture unto us. For who can declare this glory of Christ? who can speak of these things as he ought? I am so far from designing to set forth the whole of it, that I am deeply sensible how little a portion I can comprehend of the least part of it. Nor can I attain unto any satisfaction in these Meditations, but what issues in an humble admiration.
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