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 CHRIST BY FAITH IN THIS WORLD AND BY
SIGHT IN HEAVEN—THE FIRST
OF THEM EXPLAINED
WE WALK BY FAITH, and not by sight" (II Cor. 5:7); that is, in the life of God, in our walking before Him, in the whole of our obedience therein, we are under the conduct and influence of faith, and not of sight. Those are the two spiritual powers of our souls; by the one we are made partakers of grace, holiness, and obedience in this life, and by the other, of eternal blessedness and glory.
Both these, faith and sight, the one in this life, the other in that which is to come, have the same immediate object. For they are the abilities of the soul to go forth to and embrace their object. Now, this object of them both is the glory of Christ—what that glory is and wherein it consists; wherefore my present design is to inquire into the difference that is between our beholding the glory of Christ in this world by faith and the vision which we shall have of the same glory hereafter.
The latter of these is peculiarly intended in that prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ for His disciples (John 17:24), "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me." But I shall not distinctly insist upon it, since my design is respecting principally the work of God in this life and the privileges which we enjoy thereby. Yet I shall now take a short prospect of that also; not absolutely, but in the differences that are between faith and sight, or the view which we have of the glory of Christ in this world by faith, and that which they enjoy by vision who are above; the object of them both being adequately the same.
But herein, also, I shall have respect only to some of those things which concern our practice, or the present immediate exercise of faith. For I have elsewhere handled at large the state of the Church above, or that of present glory, giving an account of the administration of the office of Christ in heaven, His presence among the glorified souls, and the adoration of God under His conduct. I have also declared the advantage which they have by being with Him, and the prospect they have of His glory. Therefore these things must here be only touched on.
These differences may be referred to two heads: 1) those which arise from the different natures and actings of those means and instruments whereby we apprehend this glory of Christ—faith and vision; 2) those that arise from the different effects produced by them. Instances in each kind shall be given.
First, the view which we have of the glory of Christ by faith in this world is obscure, dark, inevident, reflective. So the apostle declares (I Cor. 13:12), "Now we see through a glass darkly,"—"through" or by "a glass, in a riddle," a parable, a dark saying. There is a double figurative limitation put upon our view of the glory of Christ, taken from the two ways of our perception of what we apprehend—the sight of things and the hearing of words.
The first is that we have this view not directly, but reflectively and by way of a representation, as in a glass. For I take the glass here nor to be optical or a prospective, which helps the sight, but a speculum, or a glass which reflects an image of what we behold. It is a sight like that of a man in a glass, when we see not his person or substance, but an image or representation of them only, which is imperfect.
The shadow or image of this glory of Christ is drawn in the gospel, and therein we behold it as the likeness of a man represented to us in a glass; and although it be obscure and imperfect in comparison to His own real, substantial glory, which is the object of vision in heaven, yet is it the only image and representation of Himself which He was given to us in this world. That woeful, cursed invention of framing images of Him out of stocks and stones, however adorned, or representations of Him by the art of painting, are so far from presenting to the minds of men anything of His real glory that nothing can be more effectual to divert their thoughts and apprehensions from it. But by this figurative expression of seeing in a glass, the apostle 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 far from being perfectly so. 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 from beholding Him in the just dimensions of His glory.
And He adds another intimation of this imperfection in an allusion to the way whereby things are proposed and conveyed to 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 says it is in ainigmati, [an obscure saving or thing, an enigma, as in Matt. 6:4; I Cor. 13:12.], in "a riddle." These the Psalmist calls "dark sayings" (Ps. 78:2).
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 plain and direct. Christ is therein evidently set forth crucified, exalted, glorified. But the apostle does not here discourse concerning the way or means of the revelation of it to us, but of the means or instrument whereby we comprehend that revelation. This is our faith by which (in us being weak and imperfect) we comprehend the representation that is made to 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.
Concerning this we may say at present, How little a portion is it that we know of Him! as Job speaks of God (26:14). 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. 3:18), we cannot abide in the steady contemplation of. Forever 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 has so revealed Him to us 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, showing himself through the lattice" (Song of Sol. 2:9). 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 He yet stands behind. Our present mortal state is this wall, which must be demolished before we can see Him as He is. In the meantime He looks 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 to the souls of them that believe.
But our view of them is imperfect, transient, and does 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 waterbrooks, 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?" (Ps. 42:1,2). 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 to 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 discover 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 to us as the sun when it is under a cloud—we cannot perceive it. When He hides 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 behold him . . . he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him" (23:8,9). Which way soever we turn ourselves, and what duties soever we apply ourselves to, 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 to His Church, "Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me" (Song of Sol. 6:5), 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 to us!
Vision, or the sight which we shall have of the glory of Christ in heaven, is immediate, direct, intuitive; and therefore constant. And it is so on account 1) of the object which shall be proposed to us; 2) of the power of sight with which we shall be indued: from the imperfection of both of these in this world arises the imperfection of our view of the glory of Christ by faith.
1. The object of it will be real and substantial. Christ Himself, in His own person, with all His glory, shall be continually with us, before us, proposed to 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" (I Cor. 13:12); which he opposes to our seeing Him darkly as in a glass, which is the utmost that faith can attain to. "We shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2); not as now, in an imperfect description of Him. As a man sees his neighbor 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 (19:25—27). That corporeal sense shall be restored to us, and glorified above what we can conceive, 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 Him 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 subsists 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 hypostatical 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 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 forevermore.
Hence the ground and cause of our blessedness is that "we shall ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:17), as He 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. There our sight of Him will be direct, intuitive, and constant.
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 does not yet appear what we ourselves shall be (I John 3:2). 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 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. 1:23). They choose "to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:8); 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, to 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 refreshes himself with thoughts of it continually.
2. It will be real because of the 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. 17:6). They saw His glory but spake "they knew not what" (Luke 9:30—33). And the reason was that 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 us in His majesty and glory, it would not be to 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 his life, in the intimate familiarities of love; but when He afterward appeared to him in His glory, "he fell at his feet as dead" (Rev. 1:17). And when He appeared to Paul, all the account he could give thereof was "that he saw a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun"; whereupon he and all that were with him "fell to the ground" (Acts 26 :13,14).
And this was one reason that, in the days of His ministry here on earth, His glory was veiled with the infirmities of the flesh, and all sorts of sufferings, as we have before related. The Church in this life is no way meet, by the grace which it can be made partaker of, to converse with Him in the immediate manifestations of His glory.
And therefore those who dream of His personal reign on the earth before the Day of Judgment, unless they suppose that all the saints shall be perfectly glorified also (which is only to bring down heaven to the earth for a while, to no purpose), provide not at all for the edification or consolation of the Church. For no present grace, advanced to the highest degree of which it is capable, in this world, can make us meet for an immediate converse with Christ in His unveiled glory.
How much more abominable is the folly of men, who would represent the Lord Christ in His present glory by pictures and images of Him! When they have done their utmost with their burnished glass and gildings, an eye of flesh can not only behold it, but, if it be guided by reason, see it contemptible and foolish. But neither inward nor outward sight can bear the rays of the true glory of Christ in this life.
The dispensation which we are meet for is only that of His presence with us by His Spirit. We know Him now no more after the flesh (II Cor. 5:16). We are advanced above that way and means of the knowledge of Him by the fleshly, carnal ordinances of the Old Testament. And we know Him not according to that bodily presence of His which His disciples enjoyed in the days of His flesh. We have attained somewhat above that also. For such was the nature of His ministry here on earth that there could not be the promised dispensation of the Spirit until that was finished.
Therefore He tells His disciples that it was expedient for them that He should go away and send the Spirit to them (John 16:7). Here they had a clearer view of the glory of Christ than they could have by beholding Him in the flesh. This is our spiritual posture and condition. We are past the knowledge of Him according to the flesh—we cannot attain nor receive the sight of Him in glory; but the life which we now lead is by the faith of the Son of God.
1. The mind shall be perfectly freed from all that darkness, unsteadiness, and other incapacities, which it is accompanied with here. These weaken, hinder, and obstruct the exercise of faith. And they are of two sorts.
a) Such as are the remainders of that depravation of our natures which came upon us by sin. Hereby our minds became wholly vain, dark, and corrupt, as the Scripture testifies— utterly unable to discern spiritual things in a due manner. This is so far cured and removed in this life by grace that those who were darkness become light in the Lord, or are enabled to live to God under the conduct of a new spiritual light communicated to them.
But it is cured and removed in part only, it is not perfectly abolished. Hence are all our remaining weaknesses and incapacities in discerning things spiritual and eternal, which we yet groan under and long for deliverance from. No footsteps, no scars or marks that ever had place in our minds shall abide in glory (Eph. 5:27). Nothing shall weaken, disturb, or incapacitate our souls in acting all their powers, unimpeded by vanity, diversions, weakness, inability, upon their proper objects.
The excellency hereof, in universal liberty and power, we cannot here comprehend; nor can we yet conceive the glory and beauty of those spiritual actings of our minds which shall have no clog upon them, no encumbrance in them, no alloy of dross accompanying them. One pure act of spiritual sight in discerning the glory of Christ, one pure act of love in cleaving to God will bring in more blessedness and satisfaction into our minds than in this world we are capable of.
b) There is an incapacity in our minds, as to their actings on things spiritual and eternal, that is merely natural, from the posture wherein they are and the figure which they are to make in this life. For they are here clothed with flesh, and that debased and corrupted. Now, in this state, though the mind act its conceptions by the body as its organ and instrument, yet is it variously straitened, encumbered, and impeded in the exercise of its native powers, especially towards things heavenly, by this prison of the flesh wherein it is immured. There is an angelical excellency in the pure actings of the soul when delivered from all material instruments of them, or when they are all glorified and made suitable helps in its utmost spiritual activity. How and by what degrees our minds shall be freed from these obstructions in their beholding the glory of Christ shall be afterward declared.
2. Again, a new light, the light of glory, shall be implanted in our minds. There is a light in nature which is the power of a man to discern the things of man, an ability to know, perceive, and judge of things natural. It is that "spirit of a man" which "is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly" (Prov. 20:27).
But by the light hereof no man can discern spiritual things in a due manner, as the apostle declares (I Cor. 2:11—15). Wherefore God gives a superior, a supernatural light, the light of faith and grace, to them whom He effectually calls to the knowledge of Himself by Jesus Christ. He shines into their hearts to give them the knowledge of His glory in the face of His dear Son. Howbeit this new light does not abolish, blot out, or render useless the other light of nature, as the sun when it rises extinguishes the light of the stars; but it directs it and rectifies it as to its principle, object, and end. Yet is it in itself a light quite of another nature. But he who has only the former light can understand nothing of it, because he has no taste or experience of its power and operations. He may talk of it and make inquiries about it, but he knows it not.
Now we have received this light of faith and grace whereby we discern spiritual things, and behold the glory of Christ in the imperfect manner before described. But in heaven there shall be a superadded light of glory, which shall make the mind itself "shine as the firmament" (Dan. 12:3). I shall say only three things of it. 1) That as the light of grace does not destroy or abolish the light of nature, but rectify and improve it, so the light of glory shall not abolish or destroy the light of faith and grace; but, by incorporating with it, render it absolutely perfect. 2) That as by the light of nature we cannot clearly comprehend the true nature and efficacy of the light of grace, because it is of another kind and is seen only in its own light; so by the light of grace we cannot absolutely comprehend this light of glory, being of a peculiar kind and nature, seen perfectly only by its own light. It does not appear what we shall be. 3) That this is the best notion we can have of this light of glory that, in the first instance of its operation, it perfectly transforms the soul into the image and likeness of Christ.
This is the progress of our nature to its rest and blessedness. The principles remaining in it concerning good and evil, with its practical convictions, are not destroyed but improved by grace; as its blindness, darkness, and enmity to God are in part taken away. Being renewed by grace, what it receives here of spiritual life and light shall never be destroyed but be perfected in glory. Grace renews nature; glory perfects grace; and so the whole soul is brought to its rest in God. We have an image of it in the blind man whom our Saviour cured (Mark 8:22—24). He was absolutely blind—born so, no doubt. Upon the first touch his eyes were opened and he saw, but very obscurely; he saw men walking like trees. But on the second, he saw all things clearly. Our minds in themselves are absolutely blind. The first visitation of them by grace gives them a sight of things spiritual, heavenly, and eternal; but it is obscure and unsteady. The sight of glory makes all things clear.
3. The body as glorified, with its senses, shall have its use and place. After we are clothed, again with our flesh, we shall see our Redeemer with our eyes. We know not here what power and spirituality there will be in the acts of our glorified bodies. Such they will be as shall bear a part in eternal blessedness. Holy Stephen, the first martyr, took up somewhat of glory by anticipation before he died. For when he was brought to his trial before the council, all that sat there "looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15). He had his transfiguration, according to his measure, answerable to that of our blessed Saviour in the mount. And by this initial beam of glory he received such a piercing vivacity and edge on his bodily eyes that through all those inconceivable distances between the earth and the residence of the blessed, he looked steadfastly into heaven and "saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55,56). Who, then, can declare what will be the power and acting of this sense of sight when perfectly glorified; or what sweetness and refreshment may be admitted into our souls by it?
It was a privilege (who would not have longed to partake of it?) to have seen Him with our bodily eyes in the days of His flesh, as did the apostles and His other disciples. Howbeit He was not then glorified Himself in the manifestation of His glory; nor they who saw Him, in the change or transformation of their nature. How great this privilege was He Himself declares to those that so saw him (Matt. 13:17), "Verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see"; whereunto we shall speak immediately. And if this were so excellent a privilege that we cannot but congratulate them by whom it was enjoyed, how excellent, how glorious will it be when with these eyes of ours, gloriously purified and strengthened beyond those of Stephen, we shall behold Christ Himself immediately in the fullness of His glory! He alone perfectly understands the greatness and excellency hereof who prayed His Father that those who believe in Him may be where He is to behold His glory.
These are some of the grounds of this first difference between our beholding the glory of Christ by faith here and by immediate vision hereafter. Hence the one is weak, imperfect, obscure, reflective; the other direct, immediate, even, and constant; and we may dwell a while in the contemplation of these things.
This view of the glory of Christ which we have now spoken of is that which we are breathing and panting after; that which the Lord Christ prays that we may arrive unto; that which the apostle testifies to be our best; the best thing or state which our nature is capable of, that which brings eternal rest and satisfaction to our souls.
Here our souls are burdened with innumerable infirmities, and our faith is clogged in its operations by ignorance and darkness. This causes our best estate and highest attainments to be accompanied with groans for deliverance: "We which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23). Yea, while we are in this tabernacle, we groan earnestly as being burdened, because we are not "absent from the body, and present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:2,4,8). The more we grow in faith and spiritual light, the more sensible are we of our present burdens, and the more vehemently we groan for deliverance into the perfect liberty of the sons of God. This is the posture of their minds who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit in the most eminent degree. The nearer anyone is to heaven, the more earnestly he desires to be there because Christ is there. For the more frequent and steady are our views of Him by faith, the more do we long and groan for the removal of all obstructions and interpositions in our so doing.
Now groaning is the expression of a vehement desire, mixed with sorrow, for the present want of what is desired. The desire has sorrow and that sorrow has joy and refreshment in it; like a shower that falls on a man in a garden in the spring; it wets him, but refreshes him with the savor it causes in the flowers and herbs of the garden where he is. And this groaning, which, when it is constant and habitual, is one of the choicest effects of faith in this life, respects what we would be delivered from and what we would attain unto. The first is expressed in Romans 7 :24, the other in the places now mentioned. And this frame, with an intermixture of some sighs from weariness by the troubles, sorrows, pains, sicknesses of this life, is the best we can here attain to.
Alas! here we cannot think of Christ without being quickly ashamed of, and troubled at, our own thoughts; so confused are they, so unsteady, so imperfect. Commonly they issue in a groan or a sigh: Oh! when shall we come to Him? when shall we be ever with Him? when shall we see Him as He is? And if at any time He begins to give more than ordinary evidences and intimations of His glory and love to our souls, we are not able to bear them so as to give them any abiding residence in our minds. But ordinarily this trouble and groaning is among our best attainments in this world, a trouble which, I pray God, I may never be delivered from until deliverance comes at once from this state of mortality; yea, the good Lord increase this trouble more and more in all that believe.
The heart of a believer affected with the glory of Christ is like the needle touched with the loadstone. It can no longer be quiet, no longer be satisfied in a distance from Him. It is put into a continual motion towards Him. This motion, indeed, is weak and tremulous. Pantings, breathings, sighings, groanings in prayer, in meditations, in the secret recesses of our minds, are the life of it. However, it is continually pressing toward Him. But it obtains not its point, it comes not to its center and rest, in this world.
But now above, all things are clear and serene, all plain and evident in our beholding the glory of Christ; we shall be ever with Him and see Him as He is. This is heaven, this is blessedness, this is eternal rest.
The person of Christ in all His glory shall be continually before us; and the eyes of our understanding shall be so gloriously illuminated that we shall be able steadily to behold and comprehend that glory.
But, alas! here at present our minds recoil, our meditations fail, our hearts are overcome, our thoughts confused, and our eyes turn aside from the luster of this glory; nor can we abide in the contemplation of it. But there, an immediate, constant view of it will bring in everlasting refreshment and joy to our whole souls.
This beholding of the glory of Christ given Him by His Father is indeed subordinate to the ultimate vision of the essence of God. What that is we cannot well conceive; only we know that the "pure in heart shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). But it has such an immediate connection with it and subordination unto it that without it we can never behold the face of God as the objective blessedness of our souls. For He is, and shall be to eternity, the only means of communication between God and the Church.
And we may take some direction in our looking into and longing after this perfect view of the glory of Christ from the example of the saints under the Old Testament. The sight which they had of the glory of Christ—for they also saw His glory through the obscurity of its revelation, and its being veiled with types and shadows—was weak and imperfect in the most illuminated believers; much inferior to what we now have by faith through the gospel. Yet such it was as encouraged them to inquire and search diligently into what was revealed (I Pet. 1:10,11). Howbeit, their discoveries were but dark and confused, such as men have of things at a great distance, or "in a land that is very far off," as the prophet speaks (Isa. 33:17). And the continuance of this veil on the revelation of the glory of Christ, while a veil of ignorance and blindness was upon their hearts and minds, proved the ruin of that Church in its apostasy, as the apostle declares (II Cor. 3:7,13,14). This double veil (the covering covered, the veil veiled) God promised to take away (Isa. 25:7); and then shall they turn to the Lord when they shall be able clearly to behold the glory of Christ (II Cor. 3 :16).
But this caused the real believers among them to desire, long, and pray for the removal of these veils, the departure of those shadows which made it as night to them in comparison to what they knew would appear when "the Sun of Righteousness should arise with healing in his wings." They thought it long ere "the day did break, and the shadows flee away" (Song of Sol. 2:17; 4:6). There was an apokaradoxia [to watch with head outstretched; hence, to direct attention to, to wait for in suspense; anxious expectation. The word is so used by the apostle Paul, as in Rom. 8:19; Phil. 1:20.], as the apostle speaks (Rom. 8:19), a thrusting forth of the head with desire and expectation of the exhibition of the Son of God in the flesh, and the accomplishment of all divine promises therein. Hence He was called the Lord whom they sought and delighted in (Mal. 3:1).
And great was the spiritual wisdom of believers in those days. They rejoiced and gloried in the ordinances of divine worship which they enjoyed. They looked on them as their chiefest privilege and attended to them with diligence as an effect of divine wisdom and love, as also because they had a shadow of good things to come. But yet, at the same time, they longed and desired that the time of reformation were come wherein they should all be removed; so that they might behold and enjoy the good things signified by them. And those who did not so, but rested in and trusted to their present institutions, were not accepted with God. Those who were really illuminated did not so, but lived in constant desires after the revelation of the whole mystery of the wisdom of God in Christ; as did the angels themselves (I Peter 1:12; Eph. 3:9,10).
In this frame of heart and suitable actings of their souls there was more of the power of true faith and love than is found among the most at this day. They saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them (Heb. 11 :13). They reached out the arms of their most intent affections to embrace the things that were promised. We have an instance of this frame in old Simeon, who, as soon as he had taken the child Jesus in his arms, cried out, "Now, Lord, let me depart," now let me die; this is that which my soul has longed for (Luke 2:28,29).
Our present darkness and weakness in beholding the glory of Christ is not like theirs. It is not occasioned by a veil of types and shadows cast on it by the representative institutions of it; it does not arise from the want of a clear doctrinal revelation of the person and office of Christ; but, as was before declared, it proceeds from two other causes. First, from the nature of faith itself, in comparison with vision. It is not able to look directly into this excellent glory, nor fully to comprehend it. Second, from the way of its proposal, which is not the substance of the thing itself but only of an image of it, as in a glass. But the sight, the view of the glory of Christ, which we shall have in heaven, is much more above that which we now enjoy by the gospel than what we do or may so enjoy is above what they have attained under their types and shadows. There is a far greater distance between the vision of heaven and the sight which we have now by faith than is between the sight which we now have and what they had under the Old Testament. Heaven excels the gospel state more than that state does the law.
Wherefore, if they did so pray, so long for, so desire the removal of their shadows and veils that they might see what we now see, that they might so behold the glory of Christ as we may behold it in the light of the gospel; how much more should we, if we have the same faith with them, the same love (which neither will nor can be satisfied without perfect fruition); long and pray for the removal of all weakness, of all darkness and interposition that we may come to that immediate beholding of His glory which He so earnestly prayed that we might be brought unto!
To sum up briefly what has been said: There are three things to be considered concerning the glory of Christ, three degrees in its manifestation, the shadow, the perfect image, and the substance itself. Those under the law had only the shadow of it and of the things that belong to it; they had not the perfect image of them (Heb. 10:1). Under the gospel we have the perfect image, which they had not; or a clear, complete revelation and declaration of it, presenting it to us as in a glass.
But the enjoyment of these things in their substance is reserved for heaven; we must be "where he is, that we may behold his glory." Now, there is a greater difference and distance between the real substance of anything and the most perfect image of it than there is between the most perfect image and the lowest shadow of the same thing. If, then, they longed to be freed their state of types and shadows, to enjoy the representation of the glory of Christ in that image of it which is given us in the gospel; much more ought we to breathe and pant after our deliverance from beholding it in the image of it that we may enjoy the substance itself. For, whatever can be manifest of Christ on this side heaven, it is granted to us to the end that we may the more fervently desire to be present with Him.
And as it was their wisdom and their grace to rejoice in the light they had, and in those typical administrations of divine worship which shadowed out the glory of Christ to them, yet did they always pant after that more excellent light and full discovery of it which was to be made by the gospel; so it will be ours also thankfully to use and improve the revelations which we enjoy of it, and those institutions of worship wherein our faith is assisted in the view of it, so as to continually breathe after that perfect, that glorifying sight of it which is reserved for heaven above.
And may we not examine ourselves a little by these things? Do we esteem this pressing toward 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 to 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 have that love for Jesus Christ which true faith will produce, or place his refreshments and joy in spiritual things, in things above, who does 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 consists. And this is the sum of what He prays for with respect to that end, 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 we ought to repose that confidence in the wisdom and love of Christ, that it is our best—infinitely better than anything we can enjoy here below.
To those who are inured to these contemplations, they are the salt of their lives, whereby everything is seasoned and made savory to them, as we shall show afterward. And the want of spiritual diligence in this has brought forth a negligent, careless, worldly profession of religion, which, countenancing itself with some outward duties, has lost 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 (II Cor. 3:18); so these persons, beholding the beauty of the world and the things that are in it in the cursed glass of self-love, 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, abide and prevail in them. But we have not so learned Christ Jesus.