« PreviousContinue »
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 aiviyuare in a riddle.' These aiviyuara 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;
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 dicover of it; it is but a little while, that we can abide in the contemplation of what we do discover, 'rara hora, brevis 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 hath been declared.
1. The object of it will be real and substantial. Christ himself in his own person with all his glory, shall be con
tinually 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;' 1 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. 2527. 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 hyspotatical 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 be ever 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 con
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 doth 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 not 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. 4. 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 ús 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 this life, in the intimate familiarities of love. But when he afterward appeared unto him in