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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 hath that love for Jesus Christ which true faith will produce, or doth place his refreshments and joy in spiritual things, in things above, that doth 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 eternal blessedness of them that believe in him, doth 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 those contemplations, they are the salt of their lives, whereby every thing is condited and made savoury unto them, as we shall shew afterward. And the want of spiritual diligence herein, is that which hath brought forth a negligent, careless, wordy profession of religion, which countenancing itself with some
outward duties, hath 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, they 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.
The second difference between our beholding the glory of Christ by faith in this world, and by sight in heaven.
FAITH is the light wherein we behold the glory of Christ in this world. And this in its own nature, as unto this great end, is weak and imperfect, like weak eyes, that cannot behold the sun in its beauty. Hence our sight of it differs greatly from what we shall enjoy in glory, as hath been declared. But this is not all; it is frequently hindered and interrupted in its operations, or it loseth the view of its object by one means or other. As he who sees any thing at a great distance, sees it imperfectly; and the least interposition or motion takes it quite out of his sight. So is it with our faith in this matter; whence sometimes we can have little, sometimes no sight at all of the glory of Christ by it. And this gives us, as we shall see, another difference between faith and sight.
Now, although the consideration hereof may seem a kind of diversion from our present argument, yet I choose to in
sist upon it, that I may evidence the reasons whence it is that many have so little experience of the things whereof we have treated; that they find so little of reality or power in the exercise of this grace, or the performance of this duty. For it will appear in the issue, that the whole defect is in themselves; the truth itself insisted on is great and efficacious.
1. Whilst we are in this life, the Lord Christ is pleased in his sovereign wisdom sometimes to withdraw, and, as it were, to hide himself from us. Then do our minds fall into clouds and darkness; faith is at a loss; we cannot behold his glory; yea, we may seek him, but cannot find him. So Job complains, as we observed before; ' 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 I turn myself, whatever are my endeavours, in what way or work of his own, I seek him, I cannot find him, I cannot see him, I cannot behold his glory. So the church also complains, 'Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel the Saviour;' Isa.xlv. 15. And the psalmist,' How long, Lord, wilt thou hide thyself for ever?' Psal. lxxxix. 46. This hiding of the face of God, is the hiding of the shining of his glory in the face of Christ Jesus, and therefore of the glory of Christ himself; for it is the glory of Christ to be the representative of the glory of God. The spouse in the Canticles is often at a loss, and herein bemoans herself that her beloved was withdrawn, that she could neither find him, nor see him, chap. iii. 1, 2. v. 6.
Men may retain their notions concerning Christ, his person, and his glory. These cannot be blotted out of their minds, but by heresy or obdurate stupidity. They may have the same doctrinal knowledge of him with others; but the sight of his glory doth not consist therein; they may abide in the outward performance of duties towards him, as formerly; but yet all this while as unto the especial gracious communications of himself unto their souls, and as unto a cheerful refreshing view of his glory, he may withdraw and hide himself from them.
As under the same outward dispensations of the word,
he doth manifest himself unto some, and not unto others; (How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?' John xiv. 22.) whereon they to whom he doth so manifest himself, do see him to be beautiful, glorious, and lovely (for unto them that believe, he is precious'); whilst the others see nothing hereof, but wonder at them, by whom he is admired; Cant. v. 9. so in the same dispensation of the word, he sometimes hides his face, turns away the light of his countenance, clouds the beams of his glory unto some, whilst others are cherished and warmed with them.
Two things we must here speak unto.
1. Why doth the Lord Christ at any time thus hide himself in his glory from the faith of believers, that they cannot behold him?
2. How we may perceive and know that he doth so withdraw himself from us, so that, however we may please ourselves, we do not indeed behold his glory.
As unto the first of these, though what he doth is supposed an act of sovereign unaccountable wisdom; yet there are many holy ends of it, and consequently reasons for it. I shall mention one only. He doth it to stir us up in an eminent manner unto a diligent search and inquiry after him. Woful sloth and negligence are apt to prevail in us, in our meditations on heavenly things. Though our hearts wake (as the spouse speaks, Cant. v. 2.) in a valuation of Christ, his love, and his grace; yet we sleep, as unto the due exercise of faith and love towards him. Who is it that can justify himself herein? that can say, 'My heart is pure, I am clean from this sin?' Yea, it is so far otherwise with many of us, that he is for ever to be admired in his patience, that on the account of our unkindness and woful negligence herein, he hath not only withdrawn himself at seasons, but that he hath not utterly departed from us. Now he knows that those with whom he hath been graciously present, who have had views of his glory, although they have not valued the mercy and privilege of it as they ought; yet can they not bear a sense of his absence, and his hiding himself from them. By this therefore will he awake them unto a diligent inquiry after him. Upon the discovery of his absence and such a distance of his glory from them as their faith cannot
reach unto it, they become like the doves of the valleys, all of them mourning every one for his iniquity, and do stir up themselves to seek him early and with diligence. See Hos. v. 5. So wherever the spouse intimates this withdrawing of Christ from her, she immediately gives an account of her restless diligence and endeavours in her inquiries after him, until she have found him, chap. iii. 1-5. v. 2-8. And in these inquiries there is such an exercise of faith and love, though it may be acting themselves mostly in sighs and groans, as is acceptable and well pleasing to him.
We are like him in the parable of the prophet that spake unto Ahab, who having one committed unto him to keep, affirms that whilst he was busy here and there, he was gone. Christ commits himself unto us, and we ought carefully to keep his presence. 'I held him,' saith the church, and would not let him go;' Cant. iii. 4. But whilst we are busy here and there, while our minds are over filled with other things, he withdraws himself, we cannot find him. But even this rebuke is a sanctified ordinance for our recovery, and his return unto us.
2. Our second inquiry is, how we may know when Christ doth so withdraw himself from us, that we do not, that we cannot, behold his glory.
I speak herein unto them alone who make the observation of the lively actings of faith and love in and towards Jesus Christ their chiefest concern in all their retirements, yea in their whole walk before God. Concerning these, our inquiry is, how they may know when Christ doth in any degree or measure withdraw from them so as that they cannot in a due manner behold his glory.
1. And the first discovery hereof is by the consequents of such withdrawings. And what are the consequents of it, we can know no otherwise but by the effects of his presence with us, and the manifestation of himself unto us, which as unto some degrees must necessarily cease thereon.
Now the first of these is the life, vigour, and effectual acting of all grace in us. This is an inseparable consequent and effect of a view of his glory. Whilst we enjoy it, 'we live; nevertheless not we, but Christ liveth in us,' exciting and acting all his graces in us.
This is that which the apostle instructeth us in; while