« PreviousContinue »
with these things, they are carnal, yea blind, and see nothing afar off. These enjoyments indeed are rare, and for the most part of short continuance. Rara hora, brevis mora.' But it is from our own sloth and darkness that we do not enjoy more visits of this grace; and that the dawnings of glory do not more shine on our souls. Such things as these may excite us to diligence in the duty proposed unto us.
And I shall inquire, 1. What is that glory of Christ, which we do, or may behold by faith? 2. How we do behold it. 3. Wherein our doing so differs from immediate vision in heaven. And in the whole we shall endeavour an answer unto the inquiry made unto the spouse, by the daughters of Jerusalem. Cant. v. 9. “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, thou fạirest among women ? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us ?'
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 rìu dó&av tv čuñv, 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.
The 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, in 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 other ways, we cannot have φοτισμός της γνώσεως της δόξης του Θεού, , 'the light of the’ illuminating, irradiating' knowledge of the glory of God, which may enlighten our minds, and sanctify our hearts, but only £v tpooúry 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. 2. The image of the invisible God;' Col. i. 16. 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. 2. 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 on 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 made 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 bim. 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 man
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 that 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, hath irradiated our hearts with the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,' ver. 6. wherein true saving faith doth 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 no mere creature can ever make a perfect representation of God unto us. But we must a little farther inquire into this mystery.
1. 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. 1, 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 elegancy 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. páOKOVTEC Elvai gopoi, 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 doylouol their reasonings or imaginations, whereby they commenced συζητητας του αιώνος τούτου “ the great disputers
of the world;' but in them they waxed vain, and their foolish heart was darkened ;' Rom. i. 21. They did at best but endeavour Yndapậv. 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 first 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 they may live unto him: but if they had nothing else, if they did not boast themselves of that light, which hath 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 accompanying 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.'
2. 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