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Other differences between our beholding the glory of Christ by faith in this world, and by sight in heaven.
AMONG the many other differences which might be insisted on (although the greatest of them are unto us at present absolutely incomprehensible, and so not to be inquired into), I shall name two only, and so put a close to this discourse.
1. In the view which we have here of the glory of Christ by faith, we gather things as it were one by one, in several parts and parcels out of the Scripture; and comparing them together in our minds, they become the object of our present sight, which is our spiritual comprehension of the things themselves. We have no proposal of the glory of Christ unto us by vision or illustrious appearance of his person, as Isaiah had of old, chap. vi. 1-4. or as John had in the Revelation, chap. i. 13-16. We need it not; it would be of no advantage unto us. For as unto the assurance of our faith, we have a word of prophecy more useful unto us, than a voice from heaven; 2 Pet. i. 17-19. And of those who received such visions, though of eminent use unto the church; yet as unto themselves, one of them cried out, Wo is me, I am undone;' and the other fell as dead at his feet.' We are not able in this life to bear such glorious representations of him, unto our edification.
And as we have no such external proposals of his glory unto us in visions, so neither have we any new revelations of him, by immediate inspiration. We can see nothing of it, know nothing of it, but what is proposed unto us in the Scripture, and that as it is proposed. Nor doth the Scripture itself, in any one place, make an entire proposal of the glory of Christ, with all that belongs unto it; nor is it capable of so doing; nor can there be any such representation of it, unto our capacity on this side heaven. If all the light of the heavenly luminaries had been contracted into one, it would have been destructive, not useful, to our sight; but being by divine wisdom distributed into sun, moon, and stars, each giving out his own proportion, it is suited to
declare the glory of God, and to enlighten the world. So if the whole revelation of the glory of Christ, and all that belongs unto it, had been committed into one series and contexture of words, it would have overwhelmed our minds, rather than enlightened us. Wherefore, God hath distributed the light of it through the whole firmament of the books of the Old and New Testament, whence it communicates itself, by various parts and degrees, unto the proper use of the church. In one place we have a description of his person, and the glory of it; sometimes in words plain and proper, and sometimes in great variety of allegories, conveying a heavenly sense of things unto the minds of them that do believe; in others, of his love and condescension in his office, and his glory therein. His humiliation, exaltation, and power, are in like manner in sundry places represented unto us. And as one star differeth from another in glory, so it was one way, whereby God represented the glory of Christ, in types and shadows under the Old Testament, and another wherein it is declared in the New. Illustrious testimonies unto all these things are planted up and down in the Scripture, which we may collect as choice flowers in the paradise of God, for the object of our faith and sight thereby.
So the spouse in the Canticles considered every part of the person and grace of Christ distinctly by itself, and from them all, concludes that he is altogether lovely;' chap. v. 10-16. So ought we to do in our study of the Scripture, to find out the revelation of the glory of Christ, which is made therein, as did the prophets of old, as unto what they themselves received by immediate inspiration. They searched diligently what the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should ensue;' 1 Pet. i. 11, 12. But this seeing of Christ by parts in the revelation of him, is one cause why we see him here but in part.
Some suppose that by chopping and painting, and gilding, they can make an image of Christ that shall perfectly represent him to their senses and carnal affections from head to foot. But they feed on ashes,' and have a lie in their right hand.' Jesus Christ is evidently crucified before our eyes in the Scripture; Gal. iii. 1. So also is he evidently
exalted, and glorified therein.
And it is the wisdom of faith to gather into one, those parcelled descriptions that are given of him, that they may be the object of its view and contemplation.
In the vision which we shall have above, the whole glory of Christ will be at once and always represented unto us; and we shall be enabled in one act of the light of glory to comprehend it. Here indeed we are at a loss; our minds and understandings fail us in their contemplations. It will not yet enter into our hearts to conceive what is the beauty, what is the glory of this complete representation of Christ unto us. To have at once all the glory of what he is, what he was in his outward state and condition, what he did and suffered, what he is exalted unto, his love and condescension, his mystical union with the church, and the communication of himself unto it, with the recapitulation of all things in him; and the glory of God, even the Father, in his wisdom, righteousness, grace, love, goodness, power, shining forth eternally in him, in what he is, hath done, and doth, all presented unto us in one view, all comprehended by us at once, is that which at present we cannot conceive. We can long for it, pant after it, and have some foretastes of it; namely, of that state and season, wherein our whole souls in all their powers and faculties, shall constantly, inseparably, eternally cleave by love unto whole Christ in the sight of the glory of his person and grace, until they are watered, dissolved, and inebriated in the waters of life, and the rivers of pleasure that are above for evermore. So must we speak of the things which we admire, which we adore, which we love, which we long for, which we have some foretastes of in sweetness ineffable, which yet we cannot comprehend.
These are some few of those things whence ariseth the difference between that view which we have here of the glory of Christ, and that which is reserved for heaven; namely, such as are taken from the difference between the means or instruments of the one and the other, faith and sight.
In the last place, the great difference between them, consists in, and is manifested by, their effects. Hereof I shall give some few instances, and close this discourse.
First, The vision which we shall have of the glory of Christ in heaven, and of the glory of the immense God in him, is perfectly and absolutely transforming. It doth change us wholly into the image of Christ. When we shall see him, we shall be as he is; we shall be like him, because we shall see him; 1 John iii. 2. But although the closing, perfecting act of this transformation be an act of sight, or the sight of glory; yet there are many things towards it, or degrees in it, which we may here take notice of in our way.
1. The soul upon its departure from the body, is immediately freed from all the weakness, disability, darkness, uncertainties and fears, which were impressed on it from the flesh; wherewith it was in the strictest union. The image of the first Adam as fallen, is then abolished. Yea, it is not only freed from all irregular sinful distempers cleaving to our nature as corrupted, but from all those sinless grievances and infirmities which belong unto the original constitution of it. This necessarily ensues on the dissolution of the person in order unto a blessed state. The first entrance by mortality into immortality, is a step towards glory. The ease which a blessed soul finds in a deliverance from this encumbrance, is a door of entrance into eternal rest. Such a change is made in that, which in itself is the centre of all evil, namely death, that it is made a means of freeing us from all the remainders of what is evil.
For this doth not follow absolutely on the nature of the thing itself. A mere dissolution of our natures can bring no advantage with it, especially as it is a part of the curse. But it is from the sanctification of it by the death of Christ. Hereby that which was God's ordinance for the infliction of judgment, becomes an effectual means for the communication of mercy; 1 Cor. v. 22. xv. 54. It is by virtue of the death of Christ alone, that the souls of believers are freed by death from all impressions of sin, infirmity, and evils, which they have had from the flesh, which were their burden, under which they groaned all their days. No man knows in any measure the excellency of this privilege, and the dawnings of glory which are in it, who hath not been wearied, and even worn out, through long conflicting with the body of death. The soul hereon being freed from all
annoyances, all impressions from the flesh, is expedite and enlarged unto the exercise of all its gracious faculties, as we shall see immediately.
With wicked men it is not so. Death unto them is a curse; and the curse is the means of the conveyance of all evil, and not deliverance from any. Wherein they have been warmed and refreshed by the influences of the flesh, they shall be deprived of it. But their souls in their separate state, are perpetually harassed with all the disquieting passions which have been impressed on their minds by their corrupt fleshly lusts. In vain do such persons look for relief by death. If there be any thing remaining of present good and usefulness to them, they shall be deprived of it. And their freedom for a season from bodily pains, will no way lie in the balance against that confluence of evils which death will let in upon them.
2. The spirits of just men being freed by death from the clog of the flesh, not yet refined; all the faculties of their souls, and all the graces in them, as faith, love, and delight, are immediately set at liberty, enabled constantly to exercise themselves on God in Christ. The end for which they were created, for which our nature was endowed with them, was, that we might adhere unto God by them, and come unto the enjoyment of him. Being now freed wholly from all that impotency, perverseness, and disability, unto this end, with all the effects of them, which came upon them by the fall; they are carried with a full stream towards God, cleaving unto him with the most intense embraces. And all their actings towards God shall be natural, with facility, joy, delight, and complacency. We know not yet the excellency of the operations of our souls in divine things, when disburdened of their present weight of the flesh. And this is a second step towards the consummation of glory. For
In the resurrection of the body upon its full redemption, it shall be so purified, sanctified, glorified, as to give no obstruction unto the soul in its operations, but be a blessed organ for its highest and most spiritual actings. The body shall never more be a trouble, a burden unto the soul, but an assistant in its operations, and participant of its blessedOur eyes were made to see our Redeemer, and our