« Prev Chapter XII. Differences between our beholding… Next »

Chapter XII. Differences between our beholding the glory of Christ by faith in this world and by sight in heaven — the first of them explained.

We walk” here “by faith, and not by sight,” 2 Cor. v. 7; that is, in the life of God, in our walking before him, in the whole of our obedience therein, we are under the conduct and influence of faith, and not of sight. Those are the two spiritual powers of our souls; — 375by the one whereof we are made partakers of grace, holiness, and obedience in this life; and by the other, of eternal blessedness and glory.

Both these — namely, faith and sight, the one in this life, the other in that which is to come — have the same immediate object. For they are the abilities of the soul to go forth unto, and to embrace their object. Now, this object of them both is the glory of Christ, as has been declared, as also what that glory is, and wherein it does consist; wherefore my present design is to inquire into the difference that is between our beholding of the glory of Christ in this world by faith, and the vision which we shall have of the same glory hereafter.

The latter of these is peculiarly intended in that prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ for his disciples, John xvii. 24, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.” But I shall not distinctly insist upon it, my design being another way, respecting principally the work of God in this life, and the privileges which we enjoy thereby. Yet I shall now take a short prospect of that also; not absolutely, but in the differences that are between faith and sight, or the view which we have of the glory of Christ in this world by faith, and that which they enjoy by vision who are above; — the object of them both being adequately the same.

But herein, also, I shall have respect only unto some of those things which concern our practice, or the present immediate exercise of faith. For I have elsewhere handled at large the state of the church above, or that of present glory, giving an account of the administration of the office of Christ in heaven, his presence among the glorified souls, and the adoration of God under his conduct. I have also declared the advantage which they have by being with him, and the prospect they have of his glory. Therefore these things must here be only touched on.

These differences may be referred unto two heads:— 1. Those which arise from the different natures and acting of those means and instruments whereby we apprehend this glory of Christ, — namely, faith and vision; and, 2. Those that arise from the different effects produced by them. Instances in each kind shall be given.

1. The view which we have of the glory of Christ by faith in this world is obscure, dark, inevident, reflexive. So the apostle declares, 1 Cor. xiii. 12, “Now we see through a glass darkly,” δι’ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι; — “through” or by “a glass, in a riddle,” a parable, a dark saying. There is a double figurative limitation put upon our view of the glory of Christ, taken from the two ways of our perception of what we apprehend, — namely, the sight of things, and the hearing of words.

The first is, that we have this view not directly, but reflexively and 376by way of a representation, as in a glass. For I take the glass here, not to be optical or a prospective, which helps the sight, but a speculum, or a glass which reflects an image of what we do behold. It is a sight like that which we have of a man in a glass, when we see not his person or substance, but an image or representation of them only, which is imperfect.

The shadow or image of this glory of Christ is drawn in the Gospel, and therein we behold it as the likeness of a man represented unto us in a glass; and although it be obscure and imperfect in comparison of his own real, substantial glory, which is the object of vision in heaven, yet is it the only image and representation of himself which he has left, and given unto us in this world. That woeful, cursed invention of framing images of him out of stocks and stones, however adorned, or representations of him by the art of painting, are so far from presenting unto the minds of men any thing of his real glory, that nothing can be more effectual to divert their thoughts and apprehensions from it. But by this figurative expression of seeing in a glass, the apostle declares the comparative imperfection of our present view of the glory of Christ.

But the allusion may be taken from an optic glass or tube also,77   See note, p. 222 of this volume. [Κατοπτρίζω does not admit of the signification here ascribed to it by Dr Owen. It denotes looking into a mirror, not through a telescope: “Beholding the glory of the Lord as reflected and radiant in the Gospel.” — See Dr Robinson’s Lexicon. Another view is taken of the passage, by which a tacit antithesis is instituted between κάτοπτρον and εἰκών: “Dominus nos κατοπτρίζει, splendorem faciei suæ in corda nostra, tanquam in specula immittens: nos illum splendorem suscipimus et referimus. Elegans antitheton ad ἐντετυπωμένη, insculpta. Nam quæ insculpuntur fiunt paullatim: quæ in speculo repræsentantur, fiunt celerrime.Bengelii Gnomon in locum. Owen himself gives a correct explanation of the passage in his work on the Mortification of Sin, chap. xii.] Telescopes were not invented till the close of the sixteenth century. — Ed. whereby the sight of the eye is helped in beholding things at a great distance. By the aid of such glasses, men will discover stars or heavenly lights, which, by reason of their distance from us, the eye of itself is no way able to discern. And those which we do see are more fully represented, though remote enough from being so perfectly. Such a glass is the Gospel, without which we can make no discovery of Christ at all; but in the use of it we are far enough from beholding him in the just dimensions of his glory.

And he adds another intimation of this imperfection, in an allusion unto the way whereby things are proposed and conveyed unto the minds and apprehensions of men. Now this is by words. And these are either plain, proper, and direct, or dark, figurative, and parabolical. And this latter way makes the conception of things to be difficult and imperfect; and by reason of the imperfection of our view of the glory of Christ by faith in this world, the apostle says it is in αἰνίγματι, in “a riddle.” These αἰνίγματα the Psalmist calls חִידוֹת, “dark sayings,” Ps. lxxviii. 2.

But here it must be observed, that the description and representation of the Lord Christ and his glory in the Gospel is not absolutely or in itself either dark or obscure; yea, it is perspicuous, plain, and direct. Christ is therein evidently set forth crucified, exalted, glorified. But the apostle does not here discourse concerning the way or 377means of the revelation of it unto us, but of the means or instrument whereby we comprehend that revelation. This is our faith, which, as it is in us, being weak and imperfect, we comprehend the representation that is made unto us of the glory of Christ as men do the sense of a dark saying, a riddle, a parable; that is, imperfectly, and with difficulty.

On the account hereof we may say at present, how little a portion is it that we know of him! as Job speaks of God, chap. xxvi. 14. How imperfect are our conceptions of him! How weak are our minds in their management! There is no part of his glory that we can fully comprehend. And what we do comprehend, — there is a comprehension in faith, Eph. iii. 18, — we cannot abide in the steady contemplation of. For ever blessed be that sovereign grace, whence it is that He who “commanded light to shine out of darkness has shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of his own glory in the face of Jesus Christ,” and therein of the glory of Christ himself; — that he has so revealed him unto us, as that we may love him, admire him, and obey him: but constantly, steadily, and clearly to behold his glory in this life we are not able; “for we walk by faith, and not by sight.”

Hence our sight of him here is as it were by glances, — liable to be clouded by many interpositions. “Behold, he standeth behind the wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing” (מֵצִיץ, flourishing) “himself through the lattice,” Cant. ii. 9. There is a great interposition between him and us, as a wall; and the means of the discovery of himself unto us, as through a window and lattice, include a great instability and imperfection in our view and apprehension of him. There is a wall between him and us, which yet he standeth behind. Our present mortal state is this wall, which must be demolished before we can see him as he is. In the meantime he looketh through the windows of the ordinances of the Gospel. He gives us sometimes, when he is pleased to stand in those windows, a view of himself; but it is imperfect, as is our sight of a man through a window. The appearances of him at these windows are full of refreshment unto the souls of them that do believe. But our view of them is imperfect, transient, and does not abide; — we are for the most part quickly left to bemoan what we have lost. And then our best is but to cry, “the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before thee?” When wilt thou again give me to see thee, though but as through the windows? Alas! what distress do we ofttimes sit down in, after these views of Christ and his glory! But he proceeds farther yet; and flourishes himself through the lattices. This displaying of the glory of Christ, called the flourishing of himself, 378is by the promises of the Gospel, as they are explained in the ministry of the Word. In them are represented unto us the desirable beauties and glories of Christ. How precious, how amiable is he, as represented in them! How are the souls of believers ravished with the views of them! Yet is this discovery of him also but as through a lattice. We see him but by parts, — unsteadily and unevenly.

Such, I say, is the sight of the glory of Christ which we have in this world by faith. It is dark, — it is but in part. It is but weak, transient, imperfect, partial. It is but little that we can at any time discover of it; it is but a little while that we can abide in the contemplation of what we do discover. “Rara hora, breves mora.” Sometimes it is unto us as the sun when it is under a cloud, — we cannot perceive it. When he hideth his face, who then can behold him? As Job speaks, so may we, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him,” chap. xxiii. 8, 9. Which way soever we turn ourselves, and what duties soever we apply ourselves unto, we can obtain no distinct view of his glory. Yet, on the other hand, it is sometimes as the sun when it shines in its brightness, and we cannot bear the rays of it. In infinite condescension he says unto his church, “Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me,” Cant. vi. 5, — as if he could not bear that overcoming affectionate love, which looks through the eyes of the church in its acting of faith on him. Ah! how much more do we find our souls overcome with his love, when at any time he is pleased to make any clear discoveries of his glory unto us!

Let us now, on the other hand, take a little consideration of that vision which we shall have of the same glory in heaven, that we may compare them together.

Vision, or the sight which we shall have of the glory of Christ in heaven, is immediate, direct, intuitive; and therefore steady, even, and constant and it is so on a double account:— 1. Of the object which shall be proposed unto us; 2. Of the visive power or faculty wherewith we shall be endued: from the imperfection of both which in this world ariseth the imperfection of our view of the glory of Christ by faith, as has been declared.

1. The object of it will be real and substantial. Christ himself, in his own person, with all his glory, shall be continually with us, before us, proposed unto us. We shall no longer have an image, a representation of him, such as is the delineation of his glory in the Gospel. We “shall see him,” saith the apostle, “face to face,” 1 Cor. xiii. 12; — which he opposeth unto our seeing him darkly as in a glass, which is the utmost that faith can attain to. “We shall see him as he is”, 3791 John iii. 2; — not as now, in an imperfect description of him. As a man sees his neighbour when they stand and converse together face to face, so shall we see the Lord Christ in his glory; and not as Moses, who had only a transient sight of some parts of the glory of God, when he caused it to pass by him.

There will be use herein of our bodily eyes, as shall be declared. For, as Job says, in our flesh shall we see our Redeemer, and our eyes shall behold him, chap. xix. 25–27. That corporeal sense shall not be restored unto us, and that glorified above what we can conceive, but for this great use of the eternal beholding of Christ and his glory. Unto whom is it not a matter of rejoicing, that with the same eyes wherewith they see the tokens and signs of him in the sacrament of the supper, they shall behold himself immediately in his own person? But principally, as we shall see immediately, this vision is intellectual. It is not, therefore, the mere human nature of Christ that is the object of it, but his divine person, as that nature subsisteth therein. What is that perfection which we shall have (for that which is perfect must come and do away that which is in part) in the comprehension of the hypostatical union, I understand not; but this I know, that in the immediate beholding of the person of Christ, we shall see a glory in it a thousand times above what here we can conceive. The excellencies of infinite wisdom, love, and power therein, will be continually before us. And all the glories of the person of Christ which we have before weakly and faintly inquired into, will be in our sight for evermore.

Hence the ground and cause of our blessedness is, that “we shall ever be with the Lord,” 1 Thess. iv. 17, — as himself prays, “that we may be with him where he is, to behold his glory.” Here we have some dark views of it, — we cannot perfectly behold it, until we are with him where he is. Thereon our sight of him will be direct, intuitive, and constant.

There is a glory, there will be so, subjectively in us in the beholding of this glory of Christ, which is at present incomprehensible. For it does not yet appear what we ourselves shall be, 1 John iii. 2. Who can declare what a glory it will be in us to behold this glory of Christ? And how excellent, then, is that glory of Christ itself!

This immediate sight of Christ is that which all the saints of God in this life do breathe and pant after. Hence are they willing to be dissolved, or “desire to depart, that they may be with Christ,” which is best for them, Phil. i. 23. They choose “to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” 2 Cor. v. 8; or that they may enjoy the inexpressibly longed-for sight of Christ in his glory. Those who do not so long for it, whose souls and minds are not frequently visited with earnest desires after it, unto whom the thoughts of it are 380not their relief in trouble, and their chiefest joy, are carnal, blind, and cannot see afar off. He that is truly spiritual entertains and refresheth himself with thoughts hereof continually.

2. It will be so from that visive power or faculty of beholding the glory of Christ which we shall then receive. Without this we cannot see him as he is. When he was transfigured in the mount, and had on his human nature some reflections of his divine glory, his disciples that were with him were rather amazed than refreshed by it, Matt. xvii. 6. They saw his glory, but spake thereon “they knew not what,” Luke ix. 30–33. And the reason hereof was, because no man in this life can have a visive power, either spiritual or corporeal, directly and immediately to behold the real glory of Christ.

Should the Lord Jesus appear now to any of us in his majesty and glory, it would not be unto our edification nor consolation. For we are not meet nor able, by the power of any light or grace that we have received, or can receive, to bear the immediate appearance and representation of them. His beloved apostle John had leaned on his bosom probably many a time in his life, in the intimate familiarities of love; but when he afterward appeared unto him in his glory, “he fell at his feet as dead,” Rev. i. 17. And when he appeared unto Paul, all the account he could give thereof was, “that he saw a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun;” whereon he, and all that were with him, “fell to the ground,” Acts xxvi. 13, 14.

And this was one reason why, in the days of his ministry here on earth, his glory was veiled with the infirmities of the flesh, and all sorts of sufferings, as we have before related. The church in this life is no way meet, by the grace which it can be made partaker of, to converse with him in the immediate manifestations of his glory.

And therefore those who dream of his personal reign on the earth before the day of judgment, unless they suppose that all the saints shall be perfectly glorified also (which is only to bring down heaven to the earth for awhile, to no purpose), provide not at all for the edification or consolation of the church. For no present grace, advanced unto the highest degree whereof in this world it is capable, can make us meet for an immediate converse with Christ in his unveiled glory.

How much more abominable is the folly of men, who would represent the Lord Christ in his present glory by pictures and images of him! When they have done their utmost with their burnished glass and gildings, an eye of flesh can not only behold it, but, if it be guided by reason, see it contemptible and foolish. But the true glory of Christ, neither inward nor outward sight can bear the rays of it in this life.

381The dispensation which we are meet for is only that of his presence with us by his Spirit. We know him now no more after the flesh, 2 Cor. v. 16. We are advanced above that way and means of the knowledge of him by the fleshly, carnal ordinances of the Old Testament. And we know him not according unto that bodily presence of his which his disciples enjoyed in the days of his flesh. We have attained somewhat above that also. For such was the nature of his ministry here on earth, that there could not be the promised dispensation of the Spirit until that was finished. Therefore he tells his disciples that it was expedient for them that he should go away, and send the Spirit to them, John xvi. 7. Hereon they had a clearer view of the glory of Christ than they could have by beholding him in the flesh. This is our spiritual posture and condition. We are past the knowledge of him according to the flesh, — we cannot attain nor receive the sight of him in glory; but the life which we now lead is by the faith of the Son of God.

I shall not here inquire into the nature of this vision, or the power and ability which we shall have in heaven to behold the glory of Christ. Some few things may be mentioned, as it relates unto our minds, and our bodies also, after the resurrection.

1. For the mind, it shall be perfectly freed from all that darkness, unsteadiness, and other incapacities, which here it is accompanied with; and whereby it is weakened, hindered, and obstructed, in the exercise of faith. And they are of two sorts.

(1.) Such as are the remainders of that depravation of our natures which came upon us by sin. Hereby our minds became wholly vain, dark, and corrupt, as the Scripture testifieth, — utterly unable to discern spiritual things in a due manner. This is so far cured and removed in this life by grace, as that those who were darkness do become light in the Lord, or are enabled to live unto God under the conduct of a new spiritual light communicated unto them. But it is so cured and removed in part only, it is not perfectly abolished. Hence are all our remaining weaknesses and incapacities in discerning things spiritual and eternal, which we yet groan under, and long for deliverance from. No footsteps, no scars or marks that ever it had place in our minds shall abide in glory, Eph. v. 27. Nothing shall weaken, disturb, or incapacitate our souls, in acting all their powers, unimpeded by vanity, diversions, weakness, inability, upon their proper objects. The excellency hereof, in universal liberty and power, we cannot here comprehend; nor can we yet conceive the glory and beauty of those immixed spiritual actings of our minds which shall have no clog upon them, no encumbrance in them, no alloy of dross accompanying them. One pure act of spiritual sight in discerning the glory of Christ, — one pure act of love in cleaving unto God, — 382will bring in more blessedness and satisfaction into our minds than in this world we are capable of.

(2.) There is an incapacity in our minds, as unto their actings on things spiritual and eternal, that is merely natural, from the posture wherein they are, and the figure which they are to make in this life. For they are here clothed with flesh, and that debased and corrupted. Now, in this state, though the mind act its conceptions by the body as its organ and instrument, yet is it variously straitened, encumbered, and impeded in the exercise of its native powers, especially towards things heavenly, by this prison of the flesh, wherein it is immured. There is an angelical excellency in the pure actings of the soul when delivered from all material instruments of them, or when they are all glorified and made suitable helps in its utmost spiritual activity. How and by what degrees our minds shall be freed from these obstructions in their beholding the glory of Christ shall be afterward declared.

2. Again, a new light, the light of glory, shall be implanted in them. There is a light in nature, which is the power of a man to discern the things of man; — an ability to know, perceive, and judge of things natural. It is that “spirit of a man” which “is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly,” Prov. xx. 27.

But by the light hereof no man can discern spiritual things in a due manner, as the apostle declares, 1 Cor. ii. 11–15. Wherefore God gives a superior, a supernatural light, the light of faith and grace, unto them whom he effectually calls unto the knowledge of himself by Jesus Christ. He shines into their hearts, to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of his dear Son. Howbeit this new light does not abolish, blot out, or render useless, the other light of nature, as the sun, when it riseth, extinguisheth the light of the stars; but it directs it and rectifies it as unto its principle, object, and end. Yet is it in itself a light quite of another nature. But he who has only the former light can understand nothing of it, because he has no taste or experience of its power and operations. He may talk of it, and make inquiries about it, but he knows it not.

Now, we have received this light of faith and grace, whereby we discern spiritual things, and behold the glory of Christ in the imperfect manner before described. But in heaven there shall be a superadded light of glory, which shall make the mind itself “shine as the firmament,” Dan. xii. 3. I shall only say three things of it. 1. That as the light of grace does not destroy or abolish the light of nature, but rectify and improve it, so the light of glory shall not abolish or destroy the light of faith and grace, but, by incorporating with it, render it absolutely perfect. 2. That as by the light of nature we cannot clearly comprehend the true nature and efficacy of the light of grace, 383because it is of another kind, and is seen only in its own light; so by the light of grace we cannot absolutely comprehend this light of glory, being of a peculiar kind and nature, seen perfectly only by its own light. It does not appear what we shall be. 3. That this is the best notion we can have of this light of glory, — that, in the first instance of its operation, it perfectly transforms the soul into the image and likeness of Christ.

This is the progress of our nature unto its rest and blessedness. The principles remaining in it concerning good and evil, with its practical convictions, are not destroyed but improved by grace; as its blindness, darkness, and enmity to God are in part taken away. Being renewed by grace, what it receives here of spiritual life and light shall never be destroyed, but be perfected in glory. Grace renews nature; glory perfects grace; and so the whole soul is brought unto its rest in God. We have an image of it in the blind man whom our Saviour cured, Mark viii. 22–24. He was absolutely blind, — born so, no doubt. Upon the first touch, his eyes were opened, and he saw, but very obscurely; — he saw men walking like trees. But on the second, he saw all things clearly. Our minds in themselves are absolutely blind. The first visitation of them by grace gives them a sight of things spiritual, heavenly, and eternal; but it is obscure and unsteady. The sight of glory makes all things clear and evident.

3. The body as glorified, with its senses, shall have its use and peace herein. After we are clothed again with our flesh, we shall see our Redeemer with our eyes. We know not here what power and spirituality there will be in the acts of our glorified bodies. Such they will be as shall bear a part in eternal blessedness. Holy Stephen, the first martyr, took up somewhat of glory by anticipation before he died. For when he was brought to his trial before the council, all that sat therein, “looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as the face of an angel,” Acts vi. 15. He had his transfiguration, according unto his measure, answerable unto that of our blessed Saviour in the mount. And by this initial beam of glory he received such a piercing vivacity and edge on his bodily eyes, that through all those inconceivable distances between the earth and the residence of the blessed, he looked steadfastly into heaven, and “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,” Acts vii. 55, 56. Who, then, can declare what will be the power and acting of this sense of sight when perfectly glorified; or what sweetness and refreshment may be admitted into our souls thereby?

It was a privilege (who would not have longed to partake of it?) to have seen Him with our bodily eyes in the days of his flesh, as did the apostles and his other disciples. Howbeit he was not then glorified himself in the manifestation of his glory; nor they who saw him, in 384the change or transformation of their nature. How great this privilege was, himself declares unto those that so saw him, Matt. xiii. 17, “Verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see;” whereunto we shall speak immediately. And if this were so excellent a privilege as that we cannot but congratulate them by whom it was enjoyed, how excellent, how glorious will it be, when with these eyes of ours, gloriously purified and strengthened beyond those of Stephen, we shall behold Christ himself immediately in the fulness of his glory! He alone perfectly understands the greatness and excellency hereof, who prayed his Father that those who “believe in him may be where he is, so to behold his glory.”

These are some of the grounds of this first difference between our beholding the glory of Christ by faith here, and by immediate vision hereafter. Hence the one is weak, imperfect, obscure, reflexive; the other direct, immediate, even, and constant; — and we may stay a little in the contemplation of these things.

This view of the glory of Christ which we have now spoken unto is that which we are breathing and panting after; that which the Lord Christ prays that we may arrive unto; that which the apostle testifies to be our best; — the best thing or state which our nature is capable of, — that which brings eternal rest and satisfaction unto our souls.

Here our souls are burdened with innumerable infirmities, and our faith is clogged in its operations by ignorance and darkness. This makes our best estate and highest attainments to be accompanied with groans for deliverance: “We which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body,” Rom. viii. 23. Yea, whilst we are in this tabernacle, we groan earnestly, as being burdened, because we are not “absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” 2 Cor. v. 2, 4, 8. The more we grow in faith and spiritual light, the more sensible are we of our present burdens, and the more vehemently do we groan for deliverance into the perfect liberty of the sons of God. This is the posture of their minds who have received the first fruit of the Spirit in the most eminent degree. The nearer any one is to heaven, the more earnestly he desires to be there, because Christ is there. For the more frequent and steady are our views of him by faith, the more do we long and groan for the removal of all obstructions and interpositions in our so doing. Now groaning is [the expression of] a vehement desire, mixed with sorrow, for the present want of what is desired. The desire has sorrow, and that sorrow has joy and refreshment in it; — like a shower that falls on a man in a garden in the spring; it wets him, but withal refresheth him with the savour it causeth in the flowers and herbs of the garden where 385he is. And this groaning, which, when it is constant and habitual, is one of the choicest effects of faith in this life, respects what we would be delivered from, and what we would attain unto. The first is expressed, Rom. vii. 24, the other in the places now mentioned. And this triune, with an intermixture of some sighs from weariness by the troubles, sorrows, pains, sicknesses of this life, is the best we can here attain unto.

Alas! we cannot here think of Christ, but we are quickly ashamed of, and troubled at, our own thoughts; so confused are they, so unsteady, so imperfect. Commonly they issue in a groan or a sigh: Oh! when shall we come unto him? when shall we be ever with him? when shall we see him as he is? And if at any time he begins to give more than ordinary evidences and intimations of his glory and love unto our souls, we are not able to bear them, so as to give them any abiding residence in our minds. But ordinarily this trouble and groaning is amongst our best attainments in this world, — a trouble which, I pray God, I may never be delivered from, until deliverance do come at once from this state of mortality; yea, the good Lord increase this trouble more and more in all that believe.

The heart of a believer affected with the glory of Christ, is like the needle touched with the loadstone. It can no longer be quiet, no longer be satisfied in a distance from him. It is put into a continual motion towards him. This motion, indeed, is weak and tremulous. Pantings, breathing, sighings, groanings in prayer, in meditations, in the secret recesses of our minds, are the life of it. However, it is continually pressing towards him. But it obtains not its point, it comes not to its centre and rest, in this world.

But now above, all things are clear and serene, — all plain and evident in our beholding the glory of Christ, — we shall be ever with him, and see him as he is. This is heaven, this is blessedness, this is eternal rest.

The person of Christ in all his glory shall be continually before us; and the eyes of our understandings shall be so gloriously illuminated, as that we shall be able steadily to behold and comprehend that glory.

But, alas! here at present our minds recoil, our meditations fail, our hearts are overcome, our thoughts confused, and our eyes turn aside from the lustre of this glory; nor can we abide in the contemplation of it. But there, an immediate, constant view of it, will bring in everlasting refreshment and joy unto our whole souls.

This beholding of the glory of Christ given him by his Father, is, indeed, subordinate unto the ultimate vision of the essence of God. What that is we cannot well conceive; only we know that the “pure in heart shall see God.” But it has such an immediate connection 386with it, and subordination unto it, as that without it we can never behold the face of God as the objective blessedness of our souls. For he is, and shall be to eternity, the only means of communication between God and the church.

And we may take some direction in our looking into and longing after this perfect view of the glory of Christ, from the example of the saints under the Old Testament. The sight which they had of the glory of Christ — for they also saw his glory through the obscurity of its revelation, and its being veiled with types and shadows — was weak and imperfect in the most illuminated believers; much inferior unto what we now have by faith, through the Gospel. Yet such it was as encouraged them to inquire and search diligently into what was revealed, 1 Peter i. 10, 11. Howbeit, their discoveries were but dark and confused, such as men have of things at a great distance, or “in a land that is very far off,” as the prophet speaks, Isa. xxxiii. 17. And the continuance of this veil on the revelation of the glory of Christ, whilst a veil of ignorance and blindness was upon their hearts and minds, proved the ruin of that church in its apostasy, as the apostle declares, 2 Cor. iii. 7, 13, 14. This double veil (the covering covered, the veil veiled) God promised to take away, Isa. xxv. 7; and then shall they turn to the Lord, when they shall be able clearly to behold the glory of Christ, 2 Cor. iii. 16.

But this caused them who were real believers among them to desire, long, and pray for, the removal of these veils, the departure of those shadows, which made it as night unto them in comparison of what they knew would appear, when “the Sun of Righteousness should arise with healing in his wings.” They thought it long ere “the day did break, and the shadows flee away,” Cant. ii. 17; iv. 6. There was an ἀποκαραδοκία, as the apostle speaks, Rom. viii. 19, — a thrusting forth of the head with desire and expectation of the exhibition of the Son of God in the flesh, and the accomplishment of all divine promises therein. Hence he was called the Lord whom they sought and delighted in, Mal. iii. 1.

And great was the spiritual wisdom of believers in those days. They rejoiced and gloried in the ordinances of divine worship which they did enjoy. They looked on them as their chiefest privilege, and attended unto them with diligence, as an effect of divine wisdom and love, as also because they had a shadow of good things to come. But yet, at the same time, they longed and desired that the time of reformation were come, wherein they should all be removed; that so they might behold and enjoy the good things signified by them. And those who did not so, but rested in and trusted unto their present institutions, were not accepted with God. Those who were really illuminated did not so, but lived in constant desires after the revelation of 387the whole mystery of the wisdom of God in Christ; as did the angels themselves, 1 Peter i. 3; Eph. iii. 9, 10.

In this frame of heart and suitable actings of their souls there was more of the power of true faith and love than is found among the most at this day. They saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, Heb. xi. 13. They reached out the arms of their most intent affections to embrace the things that were promised. We have an instance of this frame in old Simeon, who, so soon as he had taken the child Jesus in his arms, cried out, “Now, Lord, let me depart,” now let me die; this is that which my soul has longed for, Luke ii. 28, 29.

Our present darkness and weakness in beholding the glory of Christ, is not like theirs. It is not occasioned by a veil of types and shadows, cast on it by the representative institutions of it, — it does not arise from the want of a clear doctrinal revelation of the person and office of Christ; but, as was before declared, it proceedeth from two other causes. First, From the nature of faith itself, in comparison with vision. It is not able to look directly into this excellent glory, nor fully to comprehend it. Secondly, From the way of its proposal which is not substantial of the thing itself, but only of an image of it, as in a glass. But the sight, the view of the glory of Christ, which we shall have in heaven, is much more above that which we now enjoy by the Gospel, than what we do or may so enjoy is above what they have attained under their types and shadows. There is a far greater distance between the vision of heaven and the sight which we have now by faith, than is between the sight which we now have and what they had under the Old Testament. Heaven does more excel the Gospel state than that state does the Law. Wherefore, if they did so pray, so long for, so desire the removal of their shadows and veils, that they might see what we now see, that they might so behold the glory of Christ as we may behold it in the light of the Gospel; how much more should we, if we have the same faith with them, the same love (which neither will nor can be satisfied without perfect fruition), long and pray for the removal of all weakness, of all darkness and interposition, that we may come unto that immediate beholding of his glory which he so earnestly prayed that we might be brought unto!

To sum up briefly what has been spoken: There are three things to be considered concerning the glory of Christ, three degrees in its manifestation, — the shadow, the perfect image, and the substance itself. Those under the Law had only the shadow of it, and of the things that belong unto it; — they had not the perfect image of them, Heb. x. 1. Under the Gospel we have the perfect image, which they had not; or a clear, complete revelation and declaration of it, presenting 388it unto us as in a glass: but the enjoyment of these things in their substance is reserved for heaven; we must be “where he is, that we may behold his glory.” Now, there is a greater difference and distance between the real substance of any thing and the most perfect image of it, than there is between the most perfect image and the lowest shadow of the same thing. If, then, they longed to be freed from their state of types and shadows, to enjoy the representation of the glory of Christ in that image of it which is given us in the Gospel; much more ought we to breathe and pant after our deliverance from beholding it in the image of it, that we may enjoy the substance itself. For, whatever can be manifest of Christ on this side heaven, it is granted unto us for this end, that we may the more fervently desire to be present with him.

And as it was their wisdom and their grace to rejoice in the light they had, and in those typical administrations of divine worship which shadowed out the glory of Christ unto them, yet did always pant after that more excellent light and full discovery of it which was to be made by the Gospel; so it will be ours also thankfully to use and improve the revelations which we enjoy of it, and those institutions of worship wherein our faith is assisted in the view thereof, — yet so as continually to breathe after that perfect, that glorifying sight of it which is reserved for heaven above.

And may we not a little examine ourselves by these things? Do we esteem this pressing towards the perfect view of the glory of Christ to be our duty? and do we abide in the performance of it? If it be otherwise with any of us, it is a signal evidence that our profession is hypocritical. If Christ be in us, he is the hope of glory in us; and where that hope is, it will be active in desires of the things hoped for. Many love the world too well, and have their minds too much filled with the things of it, to entertain desires of speeding through it unto a state wherein they may behold the glory of Christ. They are at home, and are unwilling to be absent from the body, though to be present with the Lord. They hope, it may be, that such a season will come at one time or another, and then it will be the best they can look for when they can be here no more. But they have but a little sight of the glory of Christ in this world by faith, if any at all, who so little, so faintly desire to have the immediate sight of it above. I cannot understand how any man can walk with God as he ought, or has that love for Jesus Christ which true faith will produce, or does place his refreshments and joy in spiritual things, in things above, that does not on all just occasions so meditate on the glory of Christ in heaven as to long for an admittance into the immediate sight of it.

Our Lord Jesus Christ alone perfectly understood wherein the 389eternal blessedness of them that believe in him does consist. And this is the sum of what he prays for with respect unto that end, — namely, that we may be where he is, to behold his glory. And is it not our duty to live in a continual desire of that which he prayed so earnestly that we might attain? If in ourselves we as yet apprehend but little of the glory, the excellency, the blessedness of it, yet ought we to repose that confidence in the wisdom and love of Christ, that it is our best, — infinitely better than any thing we can enjoy here below.

Unto those who are inured unto these contemplations, they are the salt of their lives, whereby every thing is condited and made savoury unto them, as we shall show afterward. And the want of spiritual diligence herein is that which has brought forth a negligent, careless, worldly profession of religion, which, countenancing itself with some outward duties, has lost out of it the power of faith and love in their principal operations. Hereby many deceive their own souls. Goods, lands, possessions, relations, trades, with secular interests in them, are the things whose image is drawn on their minds, and whose characters are written on their foreheads, as the titles whereby they may be known. As believers, beholding the glory of Christ in the blessed glass of the Gospel, are changed into the same image and likeness by the Spirit of the Lord; so these persons, beholding the beauty of the world and the things that are in it in the cursed glass of self-love, are in their minds changed into the same image. Hence perplexing fears, vain hopes, empty embraces of perishing things, fruitless desires, earthly, carnal designs, cursed, self-pleasing imaginations, feeding on, and being fed by, the love of the world and self, do abide and prevail in them. But we have not so learned Christ Jesus.

« Prev Chapter XII. Differences between our beholding… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection