« PreviousContinue »
The Unity of the Faith.
Till we all arrive into an uniformity of faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Eph. iv. 13.*
THE apostle Paul has in his eye here, a situation
in conducting to which the children of God, the united labours of prophets, and apostles, and evangelists, and teachers, were to contribute. By the properties which he ascribes to this state, such as an uniformity of trust and an uniformity of knowledge, and of attainment to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, it is evident that it cannot be meant of this world, but must unquestionably belong to a more exalted sphere.
In this passage there is intimated,
1st. A place of general meeting.
2dly. That being in this place, a uniformity of trust, and of the knowledge of the son of God, will be the common lot of all.
3dly. That there will be in all a measure of attainment, termed the perfect man, of which the standard is Messiah himself.
* In seculo futuro omnes erunt æquales, ad humero uno invocandum nomen meum & colendum illud.
1st. A place of general meeting.
This meeting is to be a general one, not in the most extended sense, but only as comprehending all those who are of the household of faith. This place is the center of union, to which souls repair from every quarter of the earth. They come," says our Lord, "from the north and from the south, from the east and from the west, and sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God." Lk.13.29.
In the 12th verse, the preparatory work for this general meeting, is expressed in three different ways, which, although they amount to the same thing, yet each mode of expression gives an intimation of something that is not contained in the others. 1st. It is for the restoration of the saints, who, like joints in a state of dislocation, were now to be reduced, and put in their proper places. 2d. The work of the ministry. "The government which rested on the shoulders of Messiah," in the carrying on of which, different officers have been employed under the different dispensations of religion. 3d. For building up, that is, a preparing by previous discipline, souls before they are gathered into this general assembly.
The term (Mechri) until, is expressive of the flux of ages, many of which must pass away before. this place of meeting is filled up to its due compliment.
A general union of the children of God cannot take place here. Even when dwelling in the same city, they, for the most part, live and die unknown to one another; how much more must this be the case, when they are separated by difference of opinion or of language; when they are divided by seas and continents? An uniformityof trust in, and of the knowledge of the son of God, is absolutely incompatible with the present state, in which a man shall not only differ from others, but even at times from himself; whereas, here, a place is referred to, where this knowledge and trust shall reach one standard-remain invariably the same, and be equal in all. Such a state as this, can have no existence after the resurrection, because faith shall then be advanced into the full enjoyment of what it was expecting. It follows that this must be during the interval between death and the last judgment.
2dly. That there, a uniformity of trust, and of the knowledge of the son of God, will be the common lot of all.
In this world, the faith of the people of God exists in very different degrees. So in like manner with respect to their knowledge of Christ, the same inequality obtains. In trust, some shall be strong and others weak: in knowledge, some shall stand high and others low: and these shades of difference may be as great in number as the different
different gradations of knowledge and stature, between the child and the adult. But when we arrive at this place of meeting, these differences of gradation vanish. The glass which on earth had given only imperfect reflexions of invisible things, is removed, and the enigma or language of figure is employed no more. A full view is afforded to' all, so as not to leave the shadow of a doubt; perfection succeeds, and that which is in part is done away. In Paradise, such a bright vision of Christ will meet every eye that the vigour of trust, as to his second coming, and that glory which remains to be revealed, will in each be the same. This is what the apostle terms an uniformity of belief in all that they shall see him as he is, and be like him. In that happy world there will be no heart which this trust will not pervade: all will be on a level, inasmuch as a perfect knowledge, both of what they are, and what they expect to be, will be the equal lot of all. The cherishing of the Saviour's wings the tasting of his fruits-the showers of blessings which fall immediately from his handsthe pastures in which they feed, and the living fountains to which he conducts them, now that the journey of life is over, will all be so plain, and so clearly mark out his finger, as to constitute in each this uniformity of knowledge; which does not admit of the gradations of skilled or less skilled, superior or inferior, for there all shall know him,
from the least to the greatest. "They shall not teach, every man his neighbour, and every man his brother; know ye the Lord?" No. Knowledge there, will be intuition. To comprehend they will need only to turn the Jer. 31.34.Heb.8.11. In Immanuel's land, where prophecies fail, where tongues cease, where knowledge of earth vanishes away, these three remain, faith, hope, charity. Faith looking beyond the present situation, to another more glorious abode. Hope erect, and expecting the full accomplishment of the promises. Love, the greatsest of the three, because when the two former in that glorious state shall be no more, this will still exist. as that pure abiding flame, embracing every object, animating every song, and prompting to every word and action. c, P.221.
What consituted in this mortal state a striking difference, shall vanish quite before these brighter communications, which, which, on comparison, set down all present experience as nothing. So Christ Mat declares in similar terms, that a person of the very lowest attainments, when arrived in his kingdom, is greater than John the Baptist while on earth. This superiority will be found to lie in perfection of knowledge and purity of worship. The usual explanation given of this is not true, that a Christian now, of the very lowest attainments, is greater than John, merely because he happens to