Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,
in His Person, Office, and Grace:
The Differences between Faith and Sight;
applied unto the use of them that believe.
OF HIMSELF TO BELIEVERS
ANOTHER INSTANCE of the glory of Christ, which we are to behold here by faith, and hope that we shall do so by sight hereafter, consists in the mysterious communication of Himself and all the benefits of His mediation to the souls of believers, to their present happiness and future eternal blessedness.
Hereby He becomes theirs as they are His; which is the life, the glory, and consolation of the Church (Song of Sol. 6:3; 2:16; 7:10), He and all that He is being appropriated to them by virtue of their mystical union. There is, there must be, some ground, formal reason, and cause of this relation between Christ and the Church; He is in them and they in Him, so as it is not between Him and other men in the world.
The apostle, speaking of this communication of Christ to the Church, and the union between them which ensues, affirms that it is "a great mystery"; for "I speak," said he, "concerning Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:32).
I shall very briefly inquire into the causes, ways, and means of this mysterious communication, whereby He is made to be ours, to be in us, to dwell with us, and all the benefits of His mediation to belong to us. For, as was said, it is evident that He does not thus communicate Himself to all by natural necessity, as the sun gives light equally to the whole world; nor is He present with all by a ubiquity of His human nature; nor, as some dream, by a diffusion of His rational soul into all; nor does He become ours by a carnal eating of Him in the sacrament; but this mystery proceeds from, and depends on, other reasons and causes, as we shall briefly declare. But yet, before I proceed to declare the way and manner whereby Christ communicates Himself to the Church, I must premise something of divine communications in general and their glory. And I shall do this by touching a little on the harmony and correspondency that is between the old creation and the new.
1. All being, power, goodness, and wisdom were originally essentially, infinitely in God. And in them, with the other perfections of His nature, consisted His essential glory.
2. The old creation was a communication of being and goodness by almighty power, directed by infinite wisdom, to all things that were created for the manifestation of that glory. This was the first communication of God to anything outside Himself; and it was exceeding glorious. (See Ps. 19:1 and Rom. 1:20.) And it was a curious machine, framed in the subordination and dependency of one thing on another; without which they could not subsist, nor have a continuance of their beings. All creatures below live on the earth and the products of it; the earth, for its whole production, depends on the sun and other heavenly bodies; as God declares (Hos. 2:21,22), "I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel." God has given a subordination of things in a series of causes, whereon their subsistence depends. Yet—
3. In this mutual dependency on and supplies to one another, they all depend on and are influenced by God Himself, the eternal fountain of being, power, and goodness. "He hears the heavens"; and in the continuation of this order, by constant divine communication of being, goodness, and power to all things God is no less glorified than in the first creation of them (Acts 14:15-17; 17:24-29).
4. This glory of God is visible in the matter of it, and is obvious to the reason of mankind. From His works of creation and providence they may learn His eternal power and Godhead, wherein He is essentially glorious.
5. But by this communication, God intended not only to glorify Himself in the essential properties of His nature, but also in the three persons of Father, Son, and Spirit. For although the whole creation in its first framing and in its perfection was and is, by an emanation of power and goodness from the divine nature, in the person of the Father, as He is the fountain of the Trinity, whence He is said peculiarly to be the Creator of all things; yet the immediate operation in the creation was from the Son, the power and wisdom of the Father (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). And as upon the first production of the mass of the creation, it was under the special care of the Spirit of God, to preserve and cherish it to the production of all distinct sorts of creatures (Gen. 1:2); so in the continuance of the whole, there is a special operation of the same Spirit in all things. Nothing can subsist one moment by virtue of the dependence which all things have on one another, without a continual emanation of power from Him. (See Ps. 104:29,30.)
By these divine communications, in the production and preservation of the creature, God manifests His glory, and by them alone in nature. Without them, although He would have been forever essentially glorious, yet was it impossible that His glory should be known to any but Himself. Wherefore, on these divine communications depends the whole manifestation of the glory of God. But this is far more eminent, though not so visible outwardly, in the new creation, as we shall see.
1. All goodness, grace, life, light, mercy, and power—the springs and causes of the new creation—are all originally in God, and that infinitely and essentially. In them is God eternally or essentially glorious; and the whole design of the new creation was to manifest His glory in them, by external communications of them and from them.
2. The first communication of and from these things is made to Christ, as the Head of the Church. For, in the first place, it pleased God that in Him should all the fullness of these things dwell, so that the whole new creation might consist in Him (Col. 1:17-19). And this was the first egress of divine wisdom for the manifestation of the glory of God in these holy properties of His nature. For,
3. This communication was made to Him as a repository of all that goodness, grace, life, light, power, and mercy for the constitution and preservation of the new creation. They were to be laid up in Him, to be hid in Him, to dwell in Him; and from Him to be communicated to the whole mystical Body designed to Him. And this is the first emanation of divine power and wisdom, for the manifestation of His glory in the new creation. This constitution of Christ as the Head of the Church, and the treasuring up in Him all that was necessary for its production and preservation, wherein the Church is chosen and foreordained in Him to grace and glory, is the spring and fountain of divine glory, in the communications that ensue thereon.
4. This communication to Christ is 1) to His person; and then 2) with respect to His office. It is in the person of Christ that all fullness originally dwells. On the assumption of human nature into personal union with the Son of God, all fullness dwells in Him bodily (Col. 2:9). And receiving the Spirit in all fullness, and not by measure, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge were hid in Him (Col. 2:3), and He was filled with the unsearchable riches of divine grace (Eph. 3:8-11). And the office of Christ is nothing but the way appointed in the wisdom of God for the communication of the treasures of grace which were communicated to His person. This is the end of the whole office of Christ, in all the parts of it, as He is a priest, a prophet, and a king. They are, I say, nothing but the ways appointed by infinite wisdom for the communication of the grace laid up in His person to the Church. The transcendent glory of which we have in some weak measure inquired into.
5. The decree of election prepared the mass of the new creation. In the old creation, God first prepared and created the mass or matter of the whole; which afterward, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was formed into all the distinct beings whereof the whole creation was to consist, and animated according to their distinct kinds.
And for the production and perfecting of the work of the new creation, God did from eternity, in the holy purpose of His will, prepare, and in design set apart to Himself, that portion of mankind whereof it was to consist. Hereby they were only the peculiar matter that was to be wrought upon by the Holy Ghost, and the glorious fabric of the Church erected out of it. What was said, it may be, of the natural body by the Psalmist, is true of the mystical Body of Christ, which is principally intended (Ps. 139:15,16): "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." The substance of the Church, whereof it was to be formed, was under the eye of God, as proposed in the decree of election; yet was it as such imperfect. It was not formed or shaped into members of the mystical Body; but they were all written in the Book of life. And in pursuance of the purpose of God, there they are by the Holy Spirit, in the whole course and continuance of time, in their several generations, fashioned into the shape designed for them.
6. This, therefore, is the glorious order of divine communications. From the infinite, eternal spring of wisdom, grace, goodness, and love in the Father, all the effects to this end were treasured up in the person and mediation of the Son; the Holy Spirit, unto whom the actual application of them is committed, communicates life, light, power, grace, and mercy to all that are designed parts of the new creation. In this God glorifies both the essential properties of His nature, His infinite wisdom, power, goodness, and grace as the only eternal spring of all these things, and also His ineffable glorious existence in three persons, by the order of the communication of these things to the Church, which are originally from His nature. And herein is the glorious truth of the blessed Trinity, which by some is opposed, by some neglected, by most looked on as that which is so much above them as that it does not belong to them, made precious to them that believe, and becomes the foundation of their faith and hope. In a view of the glorious order of those divine communications, we are in a steady contemplation of the ineffable glory of the existence of the nature of God in the three distinct persons of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
7. According to this divine order, the elect in all ages are, by the Holy Spirit moving and acting on that mass of the new creation, formed and animated with spiritual life, light, grace, and power, to the glory of God. They are not called accidentally, according to the external occasions and causes of their conversion to God; but in every age, at His own time and season, the Holy Spirit communicates these things to them in the order declared, to the glory of God.
8. And in the same manner the whole new creation is preserved every day. Every moment there is vital power and strength, mercy and grace, communicated in this divine order to all believers in the world. There is a continual influence from the Fountain, from the Head, into all the members, whereby they all consist in Him, are actuated by Him who works in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure. And the apostle declares that the whole constitution of Church order is suited, as an external instrument, to promote these divine communications to all the members of the Church itself (Eph. 4:13-15).
This in general is the order of divine communications which is for the substance of it continued in heaven, and shall be so unto eternity; for God is, and ever will be, all and in all. But at present it is invisible to eyes of flesh, yea, the reason of men. Hence most persons despise it; they see no glory in it. But let us consider the prayer of the apostle, that it may be otherwise with us (Eph. 1:16-23). For the revelation made of the glory of God in the old creation is exceedingly inferior to that which He makes of Himself in the new.
Having premised these things in general concerning the glory of divine communications, I shall proceed to declare, in particular, the grounds and way whereby the Lord Christ communicates Himself, and therewith all the benefits of His mediation, to them that believe, as it was before proposed.
We on our part are said to receive Him, and that by faith (John 1:12). Now where He is received by us, He must be tendered, given, granted, or communicated to us. And this He is by some divine acts of the Father, and some of His own.
The foundation of the whole is laid in a sovereign act of the will, the pleasure, the grace of the Father. And this is the order and method of all divine operations in the way and work of grace. They originally proceed all from Him; and having effected their ends, return, rest, and center in Him again. (See Eph. 1:4-6.) Wherefore, that Christ is made ours, that He is communicated to us, is originally from the free act, grant, and donation of the Father (I Cor. 1:30; Rom. 5:15-17).
And hereunto sundry things do concur: 1) His eternal purpose, which He purposed in Himself, to glorify His grace in all His elect, by this communication of Christ and the benefits of His mediation to them; which the apostle declares at large (Eph. 1). 2) His granting all the elect to Christ to be His own, so to do and suffer for them what was previously necessary to the actual communication of Himself to them: "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me" (John 17:6). 3) The giving of the promise; or the constitution of the rule and law of the gospel, whereby a participation of Christ, an interest in Him and all that He is, is made over and assured to believers (John 1:12; I John 1:14). 4) An act of almighty power, working and creating faith in the souls of the elect, enabling them to receive Christ so exhibited and communicated to them by the gospel (Eph. 1:19, 20; 2:58). These things, which I have but named, have an influence into the glory of Christ; for this communication of Him to the Church is an effect of the eternal counsel, wisdom, grace, and power of the Father.
But it is the acts of Christ Himself, which principally we inquire into, as those which manifest the glory of His wisdom, love, and condescension.
First, He gives and communicates to them His Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit as peculiarly His, as granted to Him of the Father, as dwelling in Him in all fullness. This Spirit, abiding originally as to His person and immeasurably as to His effects and operations, in Himself, He gives to all believers to inhabit and abide in them also (John 14:14-20; I Cor. 6:17; Rom. 8:9). Hence follows an ineffable union between Him and them. For as in His incarnation He took our nature into personal union with His own; so herein He takes our persons into a mystical union with Himself. Hereby He becomes ours, and we are His.
And herein He is unspeakably glorious. For this mystery of the inhabiting of the same Spirit in Him as the Head, and the Church as His Body, animating the whole, is a transcendent effect of divine wisdom. There is nothing of this nature in the whole creation besides—no such union, no such mutual communication. The strictest unions and relations in nature are but shadows of it (Eph. 5:25-32). Herein also is the Lord Christ precious to them that believe, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to the disobedient. This glorious, ineffable effect of His wisdom and grace; this rare, peculiar, singular way of the communication of Himself to the Church, is despised by many. It may be that some of them know what it is to be joined to a harlot so as to become one flesh; but what it is to be joined to the Lord so as to become one spirit, they know not.
But this principle and spring of the spiritual life of the Church, and of all vital, spiritual motions toward God and things heavenly, wherein and whereby "our life is hid with Christ in God," is the glory, the exaltation, the honor, the security of the Church, to the praise of the grace of God. The understanding of it in its causes, effects, operations, and privileges wherewith it is accompanied, is to be preferred above all the wisdom in and of the world.
Second, He thus communicates Himself to us, by the formation of a new nature, His own nature, in us; so that the very same spiritual nature is in Him and in the Church. Only it is with this difference, that in Him it is in the absolute perfection of all those glorious graces wherein it consists; in the Church it is in various measures and degrees, according as He is pleased to communicate it. But the same divine nature is in Him and us; for, through the precious promises of the gospel, we are made partakers of His divine nature. It is not enough for us that He has taken our nature to be His, unless He gives us also His nature to be ours, implants in our souls all those gracious qualifications, as to the essence and substance of them, wherewith He Himself in His human nature is endued. This is that new man, that new creature, that divine nature, that spirit which is born of the Spirit, that transformation into the image of Christ, that putting-on of Him, that workmanship of God whereunto in Him we are created that the Scripture so fully testifies to (John 3:6; Rom. 6:3-8; II Cor. 3:18; 5:17; Eph. 4:20-24; II Peter 1:4).
And that new heavenly nature which is thus formed in believers, as the first vital act of that union which is between Christ and them by the inhabitation of the same Spirit, is peculiarly His nature. For it is in Him the idea and the exemplar of it in us—inasmuch as we are predestinated to be conformed to His image—and it is wrought or produced in our souls by an emanation of power, virtue, and efficiency from Him.
This is a most heavenly way of the communication of Himself to us, wherein of God "he is made unto us wisdom and sanctification." He says of His Church, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2:23); I see Myself, My own nature, in them; whence they are comely and desirable. Hereby He makes way to "present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but . . . holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). On this communication of Christ to us, by the forming of His own nature in us, depends all the purity, the beauty, the holiness, the inward glory of the Church.
Hereby is it really, substantially, internally separated from the world and distinguished from all others, who in the outward form of things, in the profession and duties of religion, seem to be the same with them. Hereby it becomes the first-fruits of the creation to God, bearing forth the renovation of His image in the world; herein the Lord Christ is, and will be, glorious to all eternity. I only mention these things which deserve to be far more largely insisted on.
Third, He does this by that actual implantation into Himself which He gives us by faith, which is of His own operation. For two things ensue; one by the grace or power, the other by the law or constitution, of the gospel; which have a great influence into this mystical communication of Christ to the Church.
And the first is that hereby there are communicated to us supplies of spiritual life, sustenance, motion, strength in grace, and perseverance from Him continually. He Himself so divinely teaches this in the Parable of the Vine (John 15:1-5). Hereby is there a continual communication from His all-fullness of grace to the whole Church and all the members of it, to all the ends and duties of spiritual life. They live, nevertheless not they, but Christ lives in them; and the life which they lead in the flesh is by the faith of the Son of God. And the other, by virtue of the law and constitution of the gospel, is that His righteousness and all the fruits of His mediation are imputed to us; the glory of which mystery the apostle unfolds (Rom. 3, 4, 5).
I might add to this the mutual inbeing that is between Him and believers by love; for—the way of the communication of His love to them being by the shedding of it abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and their returns of love to Him being wrought in them by an almighty efficiency of the same Spirit—there is that which is deeply mysterious and glorious in it. I might mention also the continuation of His discharge of all His offices toward us, whereon all our receptions from Him, or all the benefits of His mediation whereof we are made partakers, depend. But the few instances that have been given of the glory of Christ in this mysterious communication of Himself to His Church may suffice to give us such a view of it as to fill our hearts with holy admiration and thanksgiving.