John Owen

 

 

 Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,

in His Person, Office, and Grace:

with

The Differences between Faith and Sight;

applied unto the use of them that believe.

____________

 

 CHAPTER XIII

 

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 to 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 has been declared. But this is not all; it is frequently hindered and interrupted in its operations, or it loses the view of its object by one means or another. As he who sees anything at a great distance sees it imperfectly, and the least interposition or motion takes it quite out of his sight, so it is with our faith in this matter; sometimes we can have little, sometimes no sight at all, of the glory of Christ by it. And this is another difference between faith and sight.

Now, although the consideration of this may seem a kind of diversion from our present argument, yet I choose to insist upon it that I may evidence the reasons 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.

While 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 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" (23:8,9). Which way soever I turn myself, whatever are my endeavors, 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. 45:15); and the Psalmist, "How long, Lord? wilt thou hide thyself forever?" (Ps. 89:46). 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 bemoans herself that her Beloved was withdrawn, that she could neither find Him nor see Him (3:1,2; 5:6).

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 as others; but the sight of His glory does not consist therein. They may abide in the outward performance of duties toward Him as formerly; but yet all this while, as to the especial gracious communications of Himself to their souls and as to 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 manifests Himself to some and not to others ("How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" John 14:22); and they to whom He so manifests Himself see Him to be beautiful, glorious, and lovely (for "unto them that believe, he is precious"); while the others see nothing, but wonder at them by whom He is admired (Song of Sol. 5:9); so, in the same dispensation of the Word, He sometimes hides His face, turns a way the light of His countenance, clouds the beams of His glory to some, while others are cherished and warmed with them.

Two things we must say here: 1) Why does 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 does so withdraw Himself from us, so that, however we may please ourselves, we do not indeed behold His glory.

1. What He does is an act of sovereign, unaccountable wisdom; yet there are many holy ends of, and consequently reasons for, His hiding Himself. I shall mention one only. He does it to stir us up in an eminent manner to a diligent search and inquiry after Him. Woeful sloth and negligence are apt to prevail in us in our meditations on heavenly things. Though our hearts wake (as the Spouse speaks, Song of Sol. 5:2) in a valuation of Christ, His love and His grace, yet we sleep as to 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 forever to be admired in His patience that, on the account of our unkindness and woeful negligence herein, He has not only withdrawn Himself at seasons, but that He has not utterly departed from us.

Now He knows that those with whom He has 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 they cannot bear a sense of His absence and His hiding Himself from them. By this, therefore, will He awake them to 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 to it, they become like the doves of the valleys, all of them mourning every one for his iniquity, and stir up themselves to seek Him early and with diligence. (See Hosea 5:15.)

So wherever the Spouse intimates this withdrawing of Christ from her, she immediately gives an account of her restless diligence and endeavors in her inquiries after Him until she has found Him (3:1 4; 5:2-8). 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 to Ahab, who having one committed to him to keep, affirms that while he was busy here and there, he was gone. Christ commits Himself to us, and we ought carefully to keep His presence. "I held him," saith the Church, "and would not let him go" (Song of Sol. 3:4). But while we are busy here and there, while our minds are 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 to us.

2. Our second inquiry is how we may know when Christ so withdraws Himself from us that we do not, and cannot, behold His glory.

I speak to them alone who make this observation of the lively actings of faith and love in and toward 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 does in any degree or measure withdraw from them that they cannot in a due manner behold His glory.

And the first discovery of this 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 to us; which, as to some degrees, must necessarily cease.

a) Now the first of these is the life, vigor, and effectual acting of all grace in us. This is an inseparable consequent and effect of a view of His glory. While 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 instructs us in; while "we behold his glory as in a glass, we are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory" (II Cor. 3:18); that is, while by faith we contemplate the glory of Christ as revealed in the gospel5 all grace will thrive and flourish in us toward a perfect conformity to Him. For while we abide in this view and contemplation, our souls will be preserved in holy frames, and in a continual exercise of love and delight, with all other spiritual affections toward Him.

It is impossible, while Christ is in the eye of our faith as proposed in the gospel, but that we shall labor to be like Him and greatly love Him. Neither is there any way for us to attain to either of these, which are the great concerns of our souls (to be like to Christ and to love Him) but by a constant view of Him and His glory by faith; which powerfully and effectually works them in us. All the doctrinal knowledge which we have of Him is useless, all the view we have of His glory is but fancy, imagination, or superstition, which are not accompanied with this transforming power. And that which is wrought by it is the increase and vigor of all grace; for therein alone our conformity to Him consists. Growth in grace, holiness, and obedience is a growing like Christ; and nothing else is so.

I cannot refrain here from a short digression. This transforming efficacy, from a spiritual view of Christ in the gospel, not being experienced by carnal men ignorant of the mystery of believing, fancy and superstition have provided various supplies in its place. For they made crucifixes and images with paintings to represent Him in His sufferings and glory. Their carnal affections being thus excited by their senses, they suppose themselves to be affected with Him and to be like Him. Yea, some have proceeded so far as, either by diabolical arts or by other means, to make an appearance of wounds on their hands, and feet, and sides; therein pretending to be like Him-yea, to be wholly transformed into His image. [Charismata. This word is an exact transliteration of a Greek word meaning a gift of grace, charis being the Greek word for grace. It is generally rendered in the New Testament spiritual gifts, for example, I Cor. 7:7; II Cor. 1:11; Rom. 1:11; 5:15 ff.; 6:23, etc. Thayer's definition is concise and accurate-"extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit." These gifts include wisdom, knowledge, faith, prophecy, tongues, etc. It is a vast subject, often investigated by scholars, and needs a fresh examination today.] But that which is produced by an image is but an image. An imaginary Christ will effect nothing in the minds of men but imaginary grace.

Thus religion was lost, and died. When men could not obtain any experience in their minds of the spiritual mysteries of the gospel, nor be sensible of any spiritual change or advantage by them, they substituted some outward duties and observances in their stead, as I shall show elsewhere. These produced some kind of effects on their minds and affections, but of quite another nature than those which are the real effects of true evangelical grace. This is openly evident in this substitution of images for the representation of Christ and His glory made in the gospel.

However, there is a general supposition that there must be a view of Christ and His glory to cause us to love Him and thereby to make us conformable unto Him. But here lies the difference: Those of the Church of Rome say that this must be done by the beholding of crucifixes, with other images and pictures of Him, and that with our bodily eyes; we say it is by beholding His glory by faith, and not otherwise. And we have some who, as they reject the use of images, so they despise that spiritual view of the glory of Christ which we inquire after. Such persons on the first occasion will fall on the other side; for anything is better than nothing.

But, as we have a sure word of prophecy to secure us from these abominations, by an express prohibition of such images to all ends whatever; so an experience of the efficacy of this spiritual view of Christ, transforming our souls into His own likeness, is absolutely necessary to our stability in the profession of the truth. For idolaters plead that in the persistent beholding of the image of Christ, or of a crucifix, they find their affections to Him greatly excited, increased, and inflamed (as they will be, Isa. 57:5), and that as a result they endeavor to be like Him; and what shall we have to oppose to this? For it is certain that such images are apt to make impressions on the minds of men; partly from the readiness of the senses and imagination to admit them to their thoughts; and partly from their natural inclinations to superstition, their aversion to things spiritual and invisible, with an inclination to things present and visible.

Hence among those who are satisfied that they ought not to be adored with any religious veneration, there are some who entertain a thoughtful reverence on the sight of them, as they would do if they were to enter into a pagan temple full of idols; and others are continually making approaches toward their use and veneration in paintings, and altars, and such outward postures of worship as are used in the religious service of them. But that they do sensibly affect the minds of carnal and superstitious men cannot be denied; and they suppose it is with a love to Christ Himself.

However, it is certain, and confessed on all hands, that the beholding of Christ is the most blessed means of exciting all our graces, spiritualizing all our affections, and transforming our minds to His likeness. And if we have no other and no more excellent way of beholding Him than they have in images and crucifixes, they would seem to have the advantage over us; for their minds will really be affected with something, ours with nothing at all. And by the pretense thereof, they inveigle the carnal affections of men ignorant of the power of the gospel to become their proselytes. For they may have lived a long time without the least experience of an impression on their minds, or a transforming power from the representation of Christ in the gospel; and on their very first religious, devout application to these images, they find their thoughts exercised, their minds affected, and some present change made upon them.

But there was a difference between the person of David and an image with a bolster of goat's hair, though the one were laid in the room and place of the other. And so there is between Christ and an image, though the one be put into the place of the other. Neither do these things serve any other end than to divert the minds of men from faith and love to Christ, giving them some such satisfaction instead, so that their carnal affections cleave to their idols. And indeed it belongs to the wisdom of faith, or we stand in need of spiritual light, to discern between the working of natural affections toward spiritual objects on undue motives, by undue means, with indirect ends in which all papal devotion consists-and the spiritual exercise of grace in those affections duly fixed on spiritual objects.

But, as was said, it is a real experience of the efficacy that there is in the spiritual beholding of the glory of Christ by faith, as proposed in the gospel, to strengthen, increase, and excite all grace to its proper exercise, so changing and transforming the soul gradually into His likeness, which must secure us against all those pretenses; and so I return from this digression.

By this we can learn whether the Lord Christ so withdraws Himself so that we do not, we cannot, behold His glory by faith in a due manner. For if we grow weak in our graces, unspiritual in our frames, cold in our affections, or negligent in the exercise of them by holy meditation, it is evident that He is at a great distance from us so that we do not behold His glory as we ought. If the weather grow cold, herbs and plants wither, and the frost begins to bind up the earth, all men grant that the sun is withdrawn and makes not his wonted approach to us. And if it be that our hearts grow cold, frozen, withering, lifeless in spiritual duties, it is certain that the Lord Christ is in some sense withdrawn and that we do not behold His glory. We retain notions of truth concerning His person, office, and grace; but faith is not in constant exercise as to real views of Him and His glory.

For there is nothing more certain in Christian experience than this, that while we do really by faith behold the glory of Christ, the glory of His person and office, and so abide in holy thoughts and meditations thereof, especially in our private duties and retirements, all grace will live and thrive in us in some measure, especially love to His person and therefore to all that belongs to Him. Let us but put it to the trial, and we shall infallibly find the promised event.

Do any of us find decays in grace prevailing in us-deadness, coldness, lukewarmness, a kind of spiritual stupidity and senselessness coming upon us? Do we find an unreadiness to the exercise of grace in its proper season and the vigorous acting of it in duties of communion with God? Do we want to recover from these dangerous diseases? Let us assure ourselves there is no better way for our healing and deliverance- yea, no other way but the obtaining a fresh view of the glory of Christ by faith and a steady abiding therein. Constant contemplation of Christ and His glory, putting forth its transforming power to the revival of all grace, is the only relief in this case; as shall farther be showed afterward.

Some will say that this must be effected by fresh supplies and renewed communications of the Holy Spirit. Unless He fall as dew and showers on our dry and barren hearts, unless He cause our graces to spring, thrive, and bring forth fruit, unless He revive and increase faith, love and holiness in our souls, our backslidings will not be healed, nor our spiritual state be recovered. To this end is He prayed for and promised in the Scripture. (See Song of Sol. 4:16; Isa. 44:3,4; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26; Hos. 14:5,6.) And so it is. The immediate efficiency of the revival of our souls is from and by the Holy Spirit. But the inquiry is, in what way, or by what means, we may obtain the supplies and communications of Him to this end. This the apostle declares in the place insisted on: We, beholding the glory of Christ in a glass, "are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord." It is in the exercise of faith in Christ that the Holy Spirit puts forth His renewing, transforming power in our souls. This, therefore, is that alone which will retrieve Christians from their present decays and deadness.

Some complain greatly of their state and condition; none so dead, so dull and stupid as they; they know not whether they have any spark of heavenly life left in them. Some make weak and faint endeavors for a recovery, which are like the attempts of a man in a dream, wherein he seems to use great endeavors without any success. Some put themselves to multiplied duties. Howbeit, the generality of professors seem to be in a pining, thriftless condition. And the reason of it is that they will not sincerely and constantly make use of the only remedy and relief; like a man that will rather choose to pine away in his sickness with some useless, transient refreshments than apply himself to a known and approved remedy, because, it may be, the use of it is unsuited to some of his present occasions. Now the remedy is to live in the exercise of faith in Christ Jesus. He Himself assures us of this (John 15:4,5), "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing."

There is a twofold coming to Christ by believing. The first is that we may have life, that is, a spring and principle of spiritual life communicated to us from Him: for He is "our life" (Col. 3:4), and because He lives, we live also (John 14:19). Yea, it is not so much we that live as He lives in us (Gal. 2:19,20). And unbelief is a not coming to Him that we may have life (John 5:40). But, secondly, there is also a coming to Him by believers in the actual exercise of faith that they may "have this life more abundantly" (John 10:10); that is, such supplies of grace as may keep their souls in a healthy, vigorous acting of all the powers of spiritual life. And as He reproaches some that they would not come to Him that they might have life, so He may justly reprove us all that we do nor come to Him in the actual exercise of faith that we might have this life more abundantly.

b) When the Lord Christ is near us, and we behold His glory, He will frequently communicate spiritual refreshment in peace, consolation, and joy to our souls. We shall not only hereby have our graces excited with respect to Him as their object, but be made sensible of His actings toward us in the communications of Himself and His love to us. When the Sun of Righteousness arises on any soul, or makes any near approach, it shall find "healing under his wings"; His beams of grace shall convey by His Spirit holy, spiritual refreshment. For He is present with us by His Spirit, and these are His fruits and effects as He is the Comforter, suited to His office, as was promised.

Many love to walk in a very careless, unwise profession. As long as they can hold out in the performance of outward duties, they are regardless of the greatest evangelical privileges, of those things which are the marrow of divine promises, all real endeavors of a vital communion with Christ. Such are spiritual peace, refreshing consolations, ineffable joys, and the blessed composure of assurance. Without some taste and experience of these things, profession is heartless, lifeless, useless; and religion itself a dead carcass without an animating soul. The peace which some enjoy is a mere stupidity. They judge not these things to be real which are the substance of Christ's present reward; and a renunciation of which would deprive the Church of its principal supportments and encouragements in all its sufferings. It is a great evidence of the power of unbelief when we can satisfy ourselves without an experience in our own hearts of the great things, in this kind of joy, peace, consolation, assurance, that are promised in the gospel.

For how can it be supposed that we indeed believe the promises of things future-of heaven, immortality, and glory, faith in which is the foundation of all religion-when we do not believe the promises of the present reward in these spiritual privileges? And how shall we be thought to believe them when we do not endeavor after an experience of the things themselves in our own souls, but are even contented without them? But here men deceive themselves. They would very desirously have evangelical joy, peace, and assurance to countenance them in their evil frames and careless walking. And some have attempted to reconcile these things, to the ruin of their souls. But it will not be. Without the diligent exercise of the grace of obedience, we shall never enjoy the grace of consolation. But we must speak somewhat of these things afterward.

It is peculiarly in the view of the glory of Christ, in His approaches to us and abiding with us, that we are made partakers of evangelical peace, consolation, joy, and assurance. These are a part of the royal train of His graces, of the reward wherewith He is accompanied. "His reward is with him." Wherever He is graciously present with any, these things are never wanting in a due measure and degree, unless it be by their own fault, or for their trial. In these things He gives the Church of His loves (Song of Sol. 7:12). "For if any man," saith He, "love me, I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him" (John 14:21); "yea, I and the Father will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (v. 23); and that so as to "sup with him" (Rev. 3:20), which, on His part, can be only by the communication of those spiritual refreshments. The only inquiry is, By what way and means do we receive them? Now, I say this is in and by our beholding of the glory of Christ by faith (I Pet. 1:8,9).

Let that glory be rightly stated-the glory of His person, His office, His condescension, exaltation, love, and grace; let faith be fixed in a view and contemplation of it, mix itself with it, as represented in the glass of the gospel, meditate upon it, embrace it-and virtue will proceed from Christ, communicating spiritual, supernatural refreshment and joy to our souls. Yea, in ordinary cases, it is impossible that believers should have a real prospect of this glory at any time without its in some measure affecting their hearts with a sense of His love, which is the spring of all consolation in them.

In the exercise of faith on the discoveries of the glory of Christ made to us in the gospel, no man shall ever totally want such intimations of His love, yea, such effusions of it in his heart that shall be a living spring of those spiritual refreshments (John 4:14; Rom. 5:5). When, therefore, we lose these things, as to a sense of them in our souls, it is evident that the Lord Christ is withdrawn, and that we do not behold His glory.

But I cannot here avoid another short digression. There are those by whom all these things are derided as distempered fancies and imaginations; yea, such things have been spoken and written of them as contain a virtual renunciation of the 'gospel, the powers of the world to come, and the whole work of the Holy Ghost as the Comforter of the Church. And hereby all real intercourse between the person of Christ and the souls of them that believe is utterly overthrown, reducing all religion to an outward show and a pageantry more fir for a stage than that temple of God which is in the minds of men.

According to the sentiments of these profane scoffers, there is no such thing as the shedding abroad of the love of God in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, nor as the witnessing of the Spirit of God with our spirits that we are the children of God, from which these spiritual joys and refreshments are inseparable as their necessary effects; no such thing as the lifting up of the light of God's countenance upon us, which will put gladness into our hearts, that gladness which comprises all the things mentioned; no such thing as rejoicing upon "believing, with joy unspeakable and full of glory"; no such thing as Christ's showing and manifesting Himself to us supping with us, and giving us of His loves; that the divine promises of a ''feast of fat things, and wine well refined,'' in gospel mercies, are empty and insignificant words; that all those ravishing joys and exultations of spirit that multitudes of faithful martyrs of old and in later ages have enjoyed by a view of the glory of God in Christ and a sense of His love, to which they gave testimony to their last moments in the midst of their torments, were but fancies and imaginations. But it is the height of impudence in these profane scoffers that they. proclaim their own ignorance of those things which are the real powers of our religion.

There are others who will not deny the truth of these things. They dare not rise up in contradiction of those express testimonies of the Scripture wherewith they are confirmed. And they suppose that some are partakers of them, at least there were so formerly; but as for their parts, they have no experience of them, nor do judge it their duty to endeavor after it. They can make a shift to live on hopes of heaven and future glory; as to what is present, they desire no more but to be found in the performance of some duties in answer to their convictions, which gives them that sorry peace which they enjoy.

So do many countenance themselves in their spiritual sloth and unbelief, keeping themselves at liberty to seek for refreshment and satisfaction in other things, while those of the gospel are despised. And these things are inconsistent. While men look for their chief refreshment and satisfaction in temporal things, it is impossible they should seek after those that are spiritual in a due manner. And it must be confessed that when we have a due regard to spiritual, evangelical consolations and joys, it will abate and take off our affections to, and satisfaction in, present enjoyments (Phil. 3:8,9).

But there is no more sacred truth than this, that where Christ is present with believers, where He is not withdrawn for a season from them, where they live in the view of His glory by faith, He will give to them, at His own seasons, such intimations of His love, such supplies of His Spirit, such holy joys and rejoicings, such repose of soul in assurance as shall refresh their souls, fill them with joy, satisfy them with spiritual delight, and quicken them to all acts of holy communion with Himself.

Let no such dishonor be reflected on the gospel that, whereas the faith of it and obedience to it are usually accompanied with outward troubles, afflictions, persecution, and reproaches-as we are foretold they should be-that it does not, by its inward consolations and divine refreshments, outbalance all those evils which we may undergo on account of it. So to suppose is expressly contrary to the promise of Christ Himself, who has assured us that "even now in this life," in this world, distinct from eternal life in the world to come, we shall receive a hundred-fold recompense for all that we can lose or suffer for His sake (Mark 10:30); as also to the experience of them who, in all ages, have "taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, as knowing in themselves" (by the experience which they have of its first-fruits) that they "have in heaven a better and an enduring substance" (Heb. 10:34).

If we come short in a participation of these things, if we are strangers to them, the blame is to be laid on ourselves alone, as it shall be immediately declared.

Now, since the design of the Lord Christ in thus withdrawing Himself from us, and hiding His glory from our view, is the exercise of our graces, and to stir us up to diligence in our inquiries after Him, here lies our guidance in this case. Do we find ourselves lifeless in the spiritual duties of religion? Are we strangers to the heavenly visits of consolation and joys, those visitations of God whereby He preserves our souls? Do we seldom enjoy a sense of the "shedding abroad of His love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost?" We have no way of recovery but this alone, to this "strong tower must we turn ourselves as "prisoners of hope," to Christ must we look, that we may be saved. It is a steady view or contemplation of His glory by faith alone that will bring in all these things in a lively experience into our hearts and souls.

Again, in the second place, it is from ourselves principally that we lose the view of the glory of Christ, and the exercise of faith is obstructed therein. All our spiritual disadvantages arise from ourselves. It is the remainder of lusts and corruptions in us, either indulged by sloth and negligence or excited and inflamed by Satan's temptations, that obstruct us in this duty. While they are in any disorder or disturbance, it is in vain for us to expect any clear view of this glory.

That view of the glory of Christ whereof we treat consists in its especial nature, and its necessary adjunct or effect. The first is, a spiritual perception or understanding of it as revealed in the Scriptures. For the revelation of the glory of His person, office, and grace is the principal subject of them and the principal object of our faith. And the other consists in multiplied thoughts about Him, with actings of faith, in love, trust, delight, and longing after the full enjoyment of Him (I Pet. 1:8). If we satisfy ourselves in mere notions and speculations about the glory of Christ as doctrinally revealed to us, we shall find no transforming power or efficacy communicated to us thereby. But when, under the conduct of that spiritual light, our affections cleave to Him with full purpose of heart, our minds are filled with the thoughts of Him and delight in Him, and faith is constantly exercised in Him; virtue will proceed from Him to purify our hearts, increase our holiness, strengthen our graces, and to fill us sometimes "with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

This is the normal temperature of a state of spiritual health, when our light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ answers the means of it which we enjoy, and when our affections to Christ are in proportion to that light, for some have more, and some have less. Where light leaves the affections behind, it ends in formality or atheism; and where affections outrun light, they sink in the bog of superstition, doting on images and pictures, or the like.

But where things do not go into these excesses, it is better that our affections exceed our light from the defect of our understandings than that our light exceed our affections from the corruption of our wills. In both these the exercise of faith is frequently interrupted and obstructed by the remainder of corruption in us, especially if it is not kept constantly under the discipline of mortification, but is in some way indulged. For:

First, the steam of their disorder will cloud the understanding that it shall not be able clearly to discern any spiritual object, least of all the greatest of them. There is nothing more acknowledged, even in things natural and moral, than that the disorder of the passions and affections will blind, darken, and deceive the mind in its operations. And it is much more so in things spiritual, wherein that disorder is an immediate rebellion against its proper conducting light; that is, against the light and rule of grace.

 
There are three sorts to whom the gospel is preached, in whom there are various obstructions of this view.

1. There is in obstinate unbelievers a darkness that is an effect of the power of Satan on their minds, in blinding them, making it impossible for them to behold anything of the glory of Christ. As the apostle declares, "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (II Cor. 4:3,4). Of these we do not speak.

2. There is in all men a corrupt, natural darkness; or such a depravity of their minds by nature that they cannot discern this glory of Christ in a due manner. Hence "the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5). For "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). Hence it is that although Christ be preached among us continually, yet there are very few who discern any glory or beauty in Him for which He should be desired, as the prophet complains (Isa. 53:1,2).

But I speak not of this natural darkness in general. But even these persons have their minds filled with prejudices against the gospel, and darkened as to the glory of Christ, according as corrupt lusts and affections are prevalent in them. (See John 1:46; 12:43.) Hence is the difference that is among the common hearers of the Word. For although no man can do anything of himself for the receiving of Christ and the beholding of His glory without the special aid of the grace of God (Matt. 11:25; John 6:44,45), yet some may make more opposition to believing, and lay more hindrances in their own way, than others; which is done by their lusts and corruptions.

3. There are those in whom both these evils are cured by faith, which enlightens the eyes of our understandings to perceive and discern spiritual things. (Eph. 1:16-18). But this cure is wrought in this life only in part (I Cor. 13:12). And in this cure, by a supply of a principle of saving light to our minds, there are many degrees. For some have a clearer light than others, and thereby a more clear discerning of the mystery of the wisdom of God and of the glory of Christ therein. But whatever be our attainments herein, that which obstructs this light, which hinders it from shining in a due manner,-that obstructs and hinders faith in its view of the glory of Christ. And this is done by the remainders of corrupted nature in us when they act in any prevalent degree. For they darken the mind and weaken it in its spiritual operations. That is, where any corrupt and inordinate affections, as love of the world, cares about it, inclinations unto sensuality, or the like spiritual disorders, do prevail, faith is weakened in its spiritual acts, especially in discerning and beholding the glory of Christ. For the mind is rendered unsteady in its inquiries after it, being continually distracted and diverted with vain thoughts and imaginations.

Persons under the power of such distempers may have the same doctrinal knowledge of the person of Christ, His office, and His grace, as other men, and the same evidence of its truth fixed on their minds; but when they endeavor a real intuition into the things themselves, all things are dark and confused to them, from the uncertainty and instability of their own minds.

This is the sum of what I design. We have a view of the glory of Christ by faith. This view is weak and unsteady, from the nature of faith itself and the way of its proposal to us-as in a glass-in comparison to what we shall someday see. Moreover, where corrupt lusts or inordinate affections are indulged in and not continually mortified, where any one sin has a perplexing prevalency in the mind, faith will be so far weakened thereby that it can neither see nor meditate upon this glory of Christ in a due manner. This is the reason most are so weak and unstable in the performance of this duty, yea, are almost utterly unacquainted with it. The light of faith in the minds of men being darkened by the prevalency of unmortified lusts, it cannot make such discoveries of this glory as otherwise it would do. And this makes the preaching of Christ to many so unprofitable as it is.

Second, faith's view of the glory of Christ will fill the mind with thoughts and meditations about Him so that the affections will cleave to Him with delight. This is inseparable from a spiritual view of His glory in its due exercise. Everyone that has it must and will have many thoughts concerning, and great affections for, Him. (See the description of these things, Phil. 3:8-10.) It is not possible to behold the glory of His person, office, and grace, with a due conviction of our concern therein, without our minds being greatly affected by it and filled with contemplations of it. Where this is not so, it is to be feared that the person has "not heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape," whatever he professes. A spiritual sight of Christ will assuredly produce love for Him; and if any man love Him not, he never saw Him, he knows Him not at all.

And that is not love which does not beget in us many thoughts of the beloved object. He who is partaker of this grace will think much of what Christ is in Himself, of what He has done for us, of His love and condescension, of the manifestation of all the glorious excellencies of the divine nature in Him, exerted in a way of infinite wisdom and goodness for the salvation of the Church. Thoughts and meditations of these things will abound in us, if we are not lacking in the due exercise of faith; and intense, inflamed affections to Him will follow; at least they will refresh our own experience. And where these things are not in reality (though in some they may be only in a mean and low degree), men do but deceive their own souls in hopes of any benefit by Christ or the gospel.

Therefore, where there are prevailing sinful distempers or inordinate affections in the mind-self-love, love of the world, cares and fears about it with an excessive valuation of relations and enjoyments-they will so far cumber and perplex it with a multitude of thoughts about their own objects that no place will be left for sedate meditations on Christ and His glory. And where the thoughts are centered, the affections, which partly excite and partly are led by them, will be fixed also (Col. 3:1,2).

Worldly preoccupation greatly promotes that imperfection which is in our view of the glory of Christ by faith. According to the proportion that corrupt, earthly, selfish or sensual affections fill the heads and hearts of men with a multitude of thoughts, so is faith obstructed and weakened in this work and duty.

There is a remainder of these lusts-the seeds of them-in us all, although they are more mortified in some than in others. However, they have the same effects in the minds of all, according to the degree in which they remain. This is the chief cause of our imperfect view of the glory of Christ by faith.

Third, the temptations of Satan interrupt the work of faith. His original great design, wherever the gospel is preached, is to blind the eyes of men that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them or irradiate their minds (II Cor. 4:4). And Satan's success is astonishing. Let the light of the gospel in the preaching of the Word be never so glorious, yet, by various means and artifices, he blinds the minds of the most that they shall not behold anything of the glory of Christ. By this means he continues his rule in the children of disobedience. With respect to the elect, God overpowers him. He shines into their hearts to give them the knowledge of His glory in the face of Christ Jesus (v. 6). Yet will not Satan give over. He will endeavor by all ways and means to trouble and darken the minds even of them that believe that they shall not be able to retain clear and distinct views of this glory. And he does this in two ways.

1. With some, Satan uses all his methods of serpentine subtlety and casts in his fiery darts to prevent their retaining any comfortable views of Christ or His glory. Hence arise fears, doubts, disputes, uncertainties, with various disconsolations. They cannot apprehend the love of Christ or be sensible of any interest they have therein, or any refreshing persuasions that they are accepted with Him. If such things sometimes shine and beam into their minds, yet they quickly vanish and disappear. Fears that they are rejected and cast off by Him, that He will not receive them here nor hereafter, come in their place; hence are they filled with anxieties and despondencies, under which it is impossible they should have any clear view of His glory. I know that ignorance, atheism and obstinate security in sensual sins combine to despise all these things. But it is no new thing in the world that men who are outwardly professing Christians, when they find gain in that godliness, should speak evil of the things which they know not and corrupt themselves in what they know naturally, as brute beasts.

2. With others he does after another manner. By various means he seduces them into a careless security wherein they promise peace to themselves without any diligent search into these things. They live in a general presumption that they shall be saved by Christ, although they know not how. This makes the apostle so earnest in pressing the duty of self-examination on all Christians (II Cor. 13:5), "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" The rule of self-judging prescribed by him is whether Christ be in us or not; and in us He cannot be unless He be received by that faith wherewith we behold His glory. For by faith we receive Him and by faith He dwells in our hearts (John 1:12; Eph. 3:17).

This is the principal way of his prevailing in the world. Multitudes by his seduction live in great security under the utmost neglect of these things. Security is granted to be an evil destructive of the souls of men; but then it is supposed to consist only in impenitency for great and open sins: but to be neglectful of endeavoring an experience of the power and grace of the gospel in our own souls, under a profession of religion, is no less destructive and pernicious than impenitency in any course of sin.

These and like obstructions to faith in its operations being added unto its own imperfections are another cause whence our view of the glory of Christ in this world is weak and unsteady; so that, for the most part, it but transiently affects our minds, and not so fully transforms them into His likeness as otherwise it would.

 
It is now time to consider that sight which we shall have of the glory of Christ in heaven, in comparison to that which we have here below. Now this is equal, stable, always the same, without interruption or diversion. And this is evident, both in the causes or means of it, as also in our perfect deliverance from everything that might be a hindrance in it, or an obstruction to it.

1. We may consider the state of our minds in glory. The faculties of our souls shall then be made perfect (Heb. 12:23), "The spirits of just men made perfect": (1) freed from all the clogs of the flesh and all its influence upon them and restraint of their powers in their operations; (2) perfectly purified from all principles of instability and variety, of all inclinations to things sensual and carnal, and all contrivances of self-preservation or advancement, being wholly transformed into the image of God in spirituality and holiness. And to take in the state of our bodies after the resurrection: even they also, in all their powers and senses, shall be made entirely subservient to the most spiritual actings of our minds in their highest elevation by the light of glory. Hereby shall we be enabled and fitted eternally to abide in the contemplation of the glory of Christ with joy and satisfaction. The understanding shall be always perfected with the vision of God, and the affections cleave inseparably to Him-which is blessedness.

The very essential faculties of our souls, because of their union with our bodies, are not able to comprehend and abide constantly in the contemplation of this glory. So that, though our sight of it here be dim and imperfect and the proposal of it obscure, yet, from the weakness of our minds, we are forced sometimes to turn aside from what we discern, as we do our bodily eyes from the beams of the sun when it shines in its brightness. But in this perfect state they are able to behold and delight in this glory constantly with eternal satisfaction.

But ''as for me,'' says David, ''I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15). It is Christ alone who is the likeness and image of God. When we awake in the other world, with our minds purified and rectified, the beholding of Him shall always be satisfying to us. There will be then no satiety, no weariness, no indispositions; but the mind, being made perfect in all its faculties, powers, and operations, with respect to its utmost end, which is the enjoyment of God, is satisfied in the beholding of Him forevermore. And where there is perfect satisfaction without satiety, there is blessedness forever. So the Holy Spirit affirms of the four living creatures in the Revelation, "They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty" (4:8). They are continually exercised in the admiration and praises of God in Christ without weariness or interruption. And in this we shall be made like the angels.

2. We shall behold the glory of Christ by sight. As our minds, in their essential powers and faculties, shall be enabled to comprehend and acquiesce in this glory of Christ; so the means of the beholding of it is much more excellent than faith, and in its kind absolutely perfect. Here we walk by faith; there, by sight. And this sight is not an external aid, like a glass helping the weakness of sight to see things afar off; but it is an internal power, or an act of the internal power of our minds, wherewith they are endowed in a glorified state. Hereby we shall be able to "see him face to face,-to see him as he is," in a direct comprehension of His glory; for this sight shall be given us for this very end. Hereunto the whole glory of Christ is clear, perspicuous, and evident; which will give us eternal acquiescency therein. Hence shall our sight of the glory of Christ be invariable.

3. The Lord Christ will never, on any occasion, so much as one moment, withdraw Himself from us, or eclipse the manifestation of Himself to our sight. This He sometimes does in this life; and it is needful for us that so He should do. "We shall ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:17)-without end, without interruption. This is the center of good and evil as to the future different states of men. They shall be forever. Eternity makes them absolutely good on the one hand, and absolutely evil on the other. To be in hell under the wrath of God is in itself the greatest penal evil; but to be there forever, without the intermission of misery or determination of time, is that which renders it the greatest evil to them who shall be in that condition. So is eternity the life of future blessedness. "We shall ever be with the Lord," without limitation of time, without interruption of enjoyment.

There are no vicissitudes in the heavenly state. The new Jerusalem has no temple in it; "for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof" (Rev. 21:22). There is no need of instituted means of worship, nor of ordinances of divine service; for we shall need neither increase of grace nor excitations to its exercise; the constant, immediate, uninterrupted enjoyment of God and the Lamb supplies all. And it has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God enlightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. The light of the sun is excellent; howbeit it has its seasons; after it has shone in its brightest luster, it gives place to the night and darkness. So is the light of the moon of great use in the night; but it has its seasons also.

Such is the light we have of the glory of God and the Lamb in this world. Sometimes it is as the light of the sun, which, under the gospel, is sevenfold, as the light of seven days in one in comparison of the law (Isa. 30:26); sometimes as the light of the moon, which gives relief in the night of temptations and trials. But it is not constant; we are under a vicissitude of light and darkness, views of Christ, and a loss of Him. But in heaven the perpetual presence of Christ with His saints makes it always one noon of light and glory.

4. This vision will not be weakened from internal defects nor any assaults from temptations, as is the sight of faith. No doubts or fears, no disturbing darts or injections, shall have any place there. There shall no habit, no quality, no inclination or disposition remain in our souls but what shall eternally lead us to the contemplation of the glory of Christ with delight and complacency. Nor will there be any defect in the gracious powers of our souls as to a perpetual exercise of them; and as to all other opposing enemies, we shall be in a perpetual triumph over them (I Cor. 15:55-57). The mouth of iniquity shall be stopped forever, and the voice of the self-avenger shall be heard no more.

Wherefore, the vision which we shall have in heaven of the glory of Christ is serene, always the same, always new and indeficient, wherein nothing can disturb the mind in the most perfect operations of a blessed life. And when all the faculties of the soul can, without any internal weakness or external hindrances , exercise their most perfect operations on the most perfect object, therein lies all the blessedness which our nature is capable of.

Wherefore, whenever we attain in this life any comfortable, refreshing view of the glory of Christ, by the exercise of faith on the revelation of it, with a sense of our interest therein, we cannot but long after, and desire to come unto, this more perfect, abiding, invariable aspect of it.




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