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.
WE MAY, in the next place, behold the glory of Christ, with respect to His office, in the actings of God toward Him after His discharge of it in this world, in His own exaltation.
These are the two heads to which all the prophecies and predictions concerning Jesus Christ under the Old Testament are referred—His sufferings and the glory that followed (I Pet. 1:11). All the prophets testified beforehand "of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." So when He Himself opened the Scriptures to His disciples, He gave them this as the sum of the doctrine contained in them: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26). The same is frequently expressed elsewhere (Rom. 14:9; Phil. 2:5—9).
So much as we know of Christ, His sufferings and His glory, so much do we understand of the Scripture and no more.
These are the two heads of the mediation of Christ and His kingdom, and this is their order which they communicate to the Church—first sufferings, and then glory: "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (II Tim. 2:12). They only deceive themselves who design any other method of these things. Some would reign here in this world; and we may say, with the apostle, "Would you did reign, that we might reign with you." But the members of the mystical Body must be conformed to the Head. In Him, sufferings went before glory; and so they must in them. The order in the kingdom of Satan and the world is contrary to this. First the good things of this life, and then eternal misery, is the method of that kingdom (Luke 16:25).
These are the two springs of the salvation of the Church, the two anointed ones that stand before the Lord of the whole earth, from which flows all the golden oil whereby the Church is dedicated to God and sanctified. [The reference here is to Zechariah 4.] This glory of Christ in His exaltation, which followed on His sufferings, is what we now inquire into.
1. This is peculiarly that glory which the Lord Christ prays that His disciples may be where He is to behold it. It is not solely so, as it is considered absolutely; but it is that wherein all the other parts of His glory are made manifest. It is the evidence, the pledge, the means of the manifestation of them all. As to all the instances of His glory before insisted on, there was a veil drawn over them while He was in this world. Hence most people saw nothing of it, and the best saw it but obscurely. But in this glory that veil is taken off so that the whole glory of His person in itself and in the work of mediation is most illustriously manifested. When we shall immediately behold this glory, we shall see Him as He is. This is that glory which the Father granted to Him before the foundation of the world, and wherewith He was actually invested upon His ascension.
2. The manifestation of the glory of Christ’s person belongs to His exaltation. By this glory of Christ I do not understand the essential glory of His divine nature, or His being absolutely in His own person "over all, God blessed forever"; but the manifestation of this glory in particular, after it had been veiled in this world under the "form of a servant." The divine glory of Christ in His person belongs not to His exaltation; but the manifestation of it does. It was not given Him by free donation; but the declaration of it to the Church of angels and men after His humiliation was. He did not leave it while He was in this world; but the direct evidence and declaration of it He laid aside until He was "declared to be the Son of God with power," by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4).
When the sun is under a total eclipse, it loses nothing of its native beauty, light, and glory. It is still the same that it was from the beginning, a "great light to rule the day." To us it appears as a dark, useless meteor; but when it comes by its course to free itself from the lunar interposition, to its proper aspect towards us, it manifests again its native light and glory. So was it with the divine nature of Christ, as we have before declared. He veiled the glory of it by the interposition of the flesh, or the assumption of our nature to be His own; with this addition, that He took on Him the "form of a servant," of a person of mean and low degree.
But this temporary eclipse being past and over, it now shines forth in its infinite luster and beauty, which belongs to the present exaltation of His person. And when those who beheld Him here as a poor, sorrowful, persecuted man, dying on the cross, came to see Him in all the infinite, uncreated glories of the divine nature, manifesting themselves in His person, it could not but fill their souls with transcendent joy and admiration. And this is one reason of His prayer for them while He was on the earth, that they might be where He is to behold His glory; for He knew what ineffable satisfaction it would be to them forevermore.
3. I do not mean absolutely the glorification of the human nature of Christ. It is not the glorification of that very soul and body wherein He lived and died, suffered and rose again—though that is also included. This also is a subject meet for our contemplation, especially as it is the exemplar of that glory to which He will bring all those who believe in Him. But because at present we look somewhat farther, I shall observe only two things concerning it.
a) That very nature itself which He took on Him in this world is exalted into glory. Some, under a pretense of great subtility and accuracy, deny that He has either flesh or blood in heaven; that is, as to the substance of them, however you may suppose that they are changed, purified, glorified. The great foundation of the Church and all gospel faith is that He was made flesh, that He did partake of flesh and blood, even as did the children. That He has forsaken that flesh and blood, which He was made in the womb of the blessed Virgin, wherein He lived and died, which He offered to God in sacrifice and wherein He rose from the dead, is a Socinian fiction. What is the true nature of the glorification of the humanity of Christ neither those who thus surmise, nor we, can perfectly comprehend. It does not yet appear what we ourselves shall be; much less is it evident to us what He is, whom we shall be like. But that He is still in the same human nature wherein He was on the earth, that He has the same rational soul and the same body, is a fundamental article of the Christian faith.
b) This nature of the man Christ Jesus is filled with all the divine graces and perfections of which a limited, created nature is capable. It is not deified, it is not made a god; it does not in heaven coalesce into one nature with the divine by a composition of them; it has not any essential property of the Deity communicated to it, so as to reside in it subjectively; it is not made omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent; but it is exalted in a fullness of all divine perfection ineffably above the glory of angels and men. It is incomprehensibly nearer God than they all, has communications from God in glorious light, love, and power, ineffably above them all; but it is still a creature.
For the substance of this glory of the human nature of Christ, believers shall be made partakers of it; for when we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him; but as to the degree and measure of it, His glory is above all that we can be made partakers of. "There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: and one star differeth from another in glory," as the apostle speaks (I Cor. 15:41). And if there be a difference in glory among the stars themselves as to some degrees of the same glory, how much more is there between the glory of the sun and that of any star whatever! Such is the difference that is, and will be to eternity, between the human nature of Christ and what glorified believers attain to. Yet the glory of Christ in His exaltation, after His humiliation and death, does not consist in this. The things that belong to it may be reduced to the ensuing heads.
1. It consists in the exaltation of the human nature, as subsisting in the divine person, above the whole creation of God. The Father has exalted it in power, dignity, authority, and rule, with all things that His wisdom has appointed to make its glory illustrious. I have written so fully on the explication and confirmation of this part of the present glory of Christ, in the exposition of Hebrews 1:2,3, that I have nothing more to add to it.
2. It consists in the evidence of the Father’s infinite love to Him and delight in Him, with the eternal approbation of His discharge of the office committed to Him. Hence He is said "to sit at the right hand of God," or at "the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3). That the glory and dignity of Christ in His exaltation is singular, the highest that can be given to a creature, incomprehensible; that He is, with respect to the discharge of His office, under the eternal approbation of God; that, as so gloriously exalted, He is proclaimed to the whole creation, are all contained in this expression.
3. To this is added the full manifestation of His own divine wisdom, love, and grace, in the work of mediation and redemption of the Church. This glory is absolutely singular and peculiar to Him. Neither angels nor men have the least part of it. Here we see it darkly as in a glass; above, it shines forth in its brightness, to the eternal joy of them who behold Him.
This is that glory which our Lord Jesus Christ in a special manner prayed that His disciples might behold. This is that of which we ought to endeavor a prospect by faith; by faith, I say, and not by imagination. Vain and foolish men, having general notions of this glory of Christ, knowing nothing of the real nature of it, have endeavored to represent it in pictures and images, with all that luster and beauty which the art of painting, with the ornaments of gold and jewels, can give to them. This is that representation of the present glory of Christ, which, being made and proposed to the imagination and carnal affections of superstitious persons, carries such a show of devotion and veneration in the Papal Church. But they err, not knowing the Scripture nor the eternal glory of the Son of God.
This is the sole foundation of all our meditations herein. The glory that the Lord Jesus Christ actually possesses in heaven can be no otherwise seen or apprehended in this world but in the light of faith fixing itself on divine revelation. To behold this glory of Christ is not an act of fancy or imagination. It does not consist in framing to ourselves the shape of a glorious person in heaven. But the steady exercise of faith on the revelation and description made of this glory of Christ in the Scripture is the ground, rule, and measure of all divine meditations thereon.
So our duty is to call ourselves to account as to our endeavor after a gracious view of this glory of Christ: When did we steadfastly behold it? When had we such a view of it that our souls have been satisfied and refreshed? It is declared and represented to us as one of the chief props of our faith, as a help of our joy, as an object of our hope, as a ground of our consolation, as our greatest encouragement to obedience and suffering. Are our minds every day conversant with thoughts of it? or do we think ourselves not much concerned with it? Do we look upon it as that which is external to us and above us, as that which we shall have time enough to consider when we come to heaven?
So it is with many. They care neither where Christ is nor what He is, so that one way or other they may be saved by Him. They hope, as they pretend, that they shall see Him and His glory in heaven, and that they suppose to be time enough; but in vain do they pretend a desire thereof; in vain are their expectations of any such thing. They who do not endeavor to behold the glory of Christ in this world, as has been often said, shall never behold Him in glory hereafter to their satisfaction; nor do they desire so to do, only they suppose it a part of that relief which they would have when they are gone out of this world. For what should beget such a desire in them? Nothing can do it but some view of it here by faith, which they despise or totally neglect. Every pretense of a desire of heaven and of the presence of Christ therein that does not arise from, that is not resolved into, that prospect which we have of the glory of Christ in this world by faith, is mere fancy and imagination.
Our constant exercise in meditation on this glory of Christ will fill us with joy on His account, which is an effectual motive to the duty itself. We are for the most part selfish, and look no farther than our own concerns. Just so we may be pardoned and saved by Him, we care not much how it is with Himself, but only presume it is well enough. We find not any concern of our own therein. But this fame is directly opposite to the genius of divine faith and love. For their principal actings consist in preferring Christ above ourselves, and our concerns in Him above all our own. Let this, then, stir us up to the contemplation of this glory. Who is it that is thus exalted over all? Who is thus encompassed with glory, majesty, and power? Who is it who sits down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, all His enemies being made His footstool? Is it not He who in this world was poor, despised, persecuted, and slain—all for our sakes? Is it not the same Jesus who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and washed us in His own blood?
So the apostle told the Jews that the same "Jesus whom they slew and hanged on a tree, God had exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and Saviour to give repentance unto Israel, and the forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:30,31). If we have any valuation of His love, if we have any concern in what He has done and suffered for the Church, we cannot but rejoice in His present state and glory.
Let the world rage while it pleases; let it set itself with all its power and craft against everything of Christ that is in it, which, though some pretend otherwise, proceeds from a hatred of His person; let men make themselves drunk with the blood of His saints; we have this to oppose to all their attempts, and to our support—what He says of Himself: "Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:17,18).
Blessed Jesus! we can add nothing to Thee, nothing to Thy glory; but it is a joy of heart to us that Thou art what Thou art, that Thou art so gloriously exalted at the right hand of God; and we long more fully and clearly to behold that glory, according to Thy prayer and promise.