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in dealing with his creatures; so the apostle expresseth it, Eph. iii. 10. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers 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 recollection of all things in Christ, divine wisdom hath 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 issue in an humble admiration.
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; by 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 hath been declared, as also what that glory is, and wherein it doth 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, may 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 dif ferences 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 actings 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' di σóttρov iv aivíyμarı. '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 by 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 hath left, and given unto us in this world. That woful 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, 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 saith, it is in aivíyμare in a riddle.' These aivíyuara the psalmist calls dark sayings;' Psal. 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 doth not here discourse concerning the way or means 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 (as 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, hath 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 hath 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, shewing' flourishing) 'himself at 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 doth not abide; we are for the most part quickly left to bemoan what we have lost. And then our best is but to cry, As the hart panteth after the water-brook, 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, is 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;