JOHN xvii. 24.
THERE is no greater theme on earth, nor in heaven, than the glory of Christ. There is no higher enjoyment here, nor above, than the beholding of this glory. Yet all the Lordís chosen shall surely partake of it, for here Christ prays for it. In explaining Christís words in his prayer for this blessing, I proposed to speak to two things: What is Christís glory; and, What is the beholding of it.
Before I enter upon either of them, there are yet three things I would observe from the connection and scope of these words, I will that they be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me.
Obs. 1. Christís presence and his peopleís beholding of his glory, go still together. So it is on earth, so it is in heaven. When is it that a man begins to see any of Christís glory, but when he is drawn to Christ? when Christ draws near to him, and manifests himself to him? Time was when Paul saw nothing of Christís glory; he heard of him, and hated him, and persecuted him: but all this was from his ignorance and unbelief, 1 Tim. i. 19. When he was first charged by Christ for his evil way, Acts ix. 4, 5. no wonder that his first word was, Who art thou, Lord? ďI do not know thee, I never knew that I did thee any wrong.Ē But when once Christ reveals himself unto him, immediately he saw Christís glory, and made it his all. So it is with all natural men, till Christ draw near to them, and bring them near to him savingly: Christ hath no form nor comeliness; and when they see (or hear of) him, there is no beauty that they should desire him, Isa. liii. 2. This is as true of them that hear of, and see Christ crucified in the gospel-light, Gal. iii. 1. as of the Jews that saw his humbled state on earth. They wonder what men see in Jesus Christ; what glory in him they behold by faith; what believers mean, when they say, as Cant. v. 16 His mouth is most sweet; yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. If you had ever heard his voice, or seen his face, you would know him from all the men on earth, or gods in heaven, (if I may say so). But, alas! there are many that bear the name of Christians, (and God knows well, and men may know pretty well also, how little they deserve that name), that never saw so much glory and desirableness in Jesus Christ, as they see in a heap of the white and yellow dust of the earth. They cannot afford a good word or thought to the Jews, (and justly), who did prefer Barabbas to Christ, when themselves daily do the like, in preferring the satisfying of their vile lusts unto the enjoyment of Christís company. And what the Jews did, they do, from the same cause, (and a sad and sinful one it is). They neither of them did, or do see any thing of Christís glory. He is far from them, they know him not, 1 Cor. ii. 8.; he hath not manifested himself unto them. This truth appears also, as in the beginning, so in the progress of Christianity. If the Christian grows in grace, it is also in the knowledge of Christ, 2 Pet. iii. 18. If the new creature grows, it is by and under the beams and shinings of the Sun of Righteousness, Mal. iv. 2. All gospel institutions are for this end, (and when blessed, reach it). Eph. iv. 13. Till we all come in (or into), the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Every Christianís experience bears witness to this. Do you not sometimes see more of Christís glory than at other times? Is not the light brighter, and your faith more quick and active? And when is it so, but when Christ draws nearer to you, and you are brought nearer to him, than usually? But for such poor creatures, that know nothing of Christís presence with, or absence from them, save in and by his ordinances and providences, (in which also a true believer may find Christís. special presence, though others do not, nor can); I say not, that such do see more of Christís glory, but rather that they never saw any of it. They are blind, and cannot see afar off, 2 Pet. i. 9. Christ is far from them, and they from him: he hath not yet looked on them in love, nor have they looked on him by faith. But for true Christians, if you should ask the question, When did you see most of Christís glory? all would answer, That though it be little that ever they did behold of it, yet the best sight ever they had, was when he drew nearest to them; then he displayed his glory, and then they beheld it. And it may be that he did so, and they found it, when they were in the deep dungeon, in darkness and distress. No case is a believer brought into, but Christís love will visit him in it; and the darker the place be, his sunshine is both the more needful, and the more glorious: Micah vii. 8. When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. Not only will he bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness, as ver. 9.; but when, and while I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me; and enlighten my darkness, as David sings by faith, Psalm xviii. 28. and thousands have felt it. So that it is undoubted that most of Christís glory is seen when he is nearest his people.
Thus also it is in the state of saints in heaven. They are brought near to Christ: they are with him where he is, and therefore behold his glory, and all above what we can conceive. Christians labour here under many humbling things within and without. They would fain see more of Christís glory they pray as Moses did, Exod. xxxiii. 18. I beseech, thee shew me thy glory. But yet they cannot behold it as fain they would. Why? Because they cannot be so near to Christ as they would; and he will not draw so near to them as they would, while they are where they are, and not yet where he is. The greatest nearness to Christ, and the greatest visions of his glory, are both reserved for his people, when they shall possess the inheritance of the saints in light, Col. i. 12.
Obs. 2. Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly willing that his glory should be beheld by his people. He prays here for it in an extraordinary manner, I will it. Christ is a great deal better pleased, and more desirous, that his glory should be beheld by his people, than they are either willing or able to behold it. He hath a good mind to be looked upon, when he speaks so in Isa. xlv. 22. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else; a just God and a Saviour, ver. 21. (None can save a sinner, but a God. A mere man-saviour can save no sinner: and there is no God-saviour, but our Lord Jesus Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever, Rom. ix. 5.) Christ here is calling men to look on him for salvation. Look to Christ, and you will see salvation in his heart and eye, and salvation will dart in upon your heart and soul. The brazen serpent was set up to be looked on by Israel. Though it could not speak, it could heal by Godís ordinance. But the antitype, Jesus Christ, can both heal and speak; and the power of his voice can, and always doth give eyes to the man, and salvation by looking. It makes the dead both to hear, and live, John v. 25. Again, in Isaiah lxv. 1. he saith, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. Some quarrellers may say, If Christ be so willing to have his glory to be beheld by men, why doth he not display his glory, and give all men eyes to see it by? I answer, That though this cavil savours of an ungodly, unhumbled heart, yet there are a few things that may stop such mouths. 1. It is a wonder of grace that he doth so to any: and they all admire it that do partake of it. Thomas seems to admire it, John xiv. 22. It were more hopeful work, and fitter for such, to admire that free grace falls on any, than to murmur and grumble that it passeth by so many. 2. Would you have this great blessing? have you sought it humbly and earnestly? have you turned his gracious call and promise into an earnest prayer? He saith to you, Look to me, and be thou saved; answer it, Lord, look on me, and save me. A better man than any of us prayed so, Psal. cxix. 132. Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name: and to the same purpose more largely in Psalm cvi. 4, 5. Must not that man be both wicked and unreasonable, that quarrels with God for not giving that grace that himself is unwilling to receive, is careless to ask, and strives against with all his might? But nothing will fully stop the mouths of cavillers against free grace, but either some taste of this grace, or the judgment of the last day, out of their own mouth they shall be judged by the Lord, Luke xix. 22.
But even Christians themselves are apt to say, That if Christ be so willing to have his glory to be beheld by his people, why then doth he stand so far off? why doth he hide himself so long? why do I pray, and am not heard? if he would as earnestly have it beheld, as I would fain behold it, why is this distance and darkness so long continued? We have many such complaints from eminent saints in the word, and they are too common in all times. We experience more the tremblings of unbelief in scripture-saints, than the vigour of their faith. The infirmities of saints are recorded in the word for our humbling and warning; and their graces for our imitation and encouragement. Unto such honest complainers I would say, 1. That this mood cometh on you from the remnants of that natural enmity to the glory of his grace; which enmity, though it was subdued in its power in you, in the day of his power on you, yet hath its roots under ground, and doth sometimes spring up and trouble you. There is no evil perfectly rooted out of a sanctified man in this life, nor no grace planted in him that is perfect. 2. That the sovereignty of his grace appears as much in the times and measures of its dispensation, as in its being given at first to the sinner that never got any before. Let all believers remember that they are still under the dominion of the same free grace that at first subdued them to Christ. The greatest receivers of Christís grace are not masters of it, but subjects and receivers. They must not say, as Jer. ii. 31. We are lords, we will come no more unto thee. The richest saint must be, and is, a humble beggar at graceís door all his days; and Christ is the Lord of the house, and the dispenser of the alms; and as the alms is too good not to be patiently waited for, so the Lord is too good and too great to be quarrelled with: and never did a believer get any good, by complaining of him. Complain to him, and pray, and ask largely, but still with faith and patience. Knock at his door; but stay, and bless him, that ever he gave you any crumb of his grace. Mix your prayers for new wanted grace, with praises for his old dispensed grace. Christ loves you, and hath proved it; believe it, bless him for it, and wait for his renewing his love to you; and in due time you will find, that he will not only answer, but outdo all your desires to him, and all your expectations from him.
Obs. 3. The beholding of Christís glory in heaven, is the main part of the happiness of his people in it. So Christ expresseth it, (as I glanced at it before), as if he would explain what his people should get and do, when they are where he is; they shall behold his glory. This is that true beatific vision, that happy-making sight, that so many of the schoolmen (generally better philosophers than divines) do talk and write of. But poorly must all such talk and think of it, that are unacquainted with Christ and his grace in their own hearts. But this is sure, and plainly revealed, that the happiness of the glorified stands and flourisheth to eternity in the beholding of Christís glory. The object is most excellent. The eye which they behold him with, and the light they behold him in, are rare and singular. (No such eyes, and no such light on earth, or in the lower created heavens.) And the fruits of this beholding this his glory, in this blessed way, are inexpressible. There are two eyes that believers behold Christís glory with; faith and sight. It is the same glory of the same Jesus that is seen; it is the same man that seeth his glory: but how vastly different are these two eyes, and the two beholdings! The one is for this life, the other for the other life. The glory of Christ, as it shineth in heaven, is not for the eye of faith. Faith may take it up in the promise, and believe and wait for it; but the glory of Christ in heaven is far above the eye of faith, Rom. viii. 24, 25. And, on the other hand, the glory of Christ, as it shineth in the gospel, and as seen by faith, is not for sight, and is unspeakably below it. For as needful and useful as faith is now to believers, yet when they come to the end of their faith, the salvation of their soul, 1 Pet. i. 9. they have no more to do with it. There is no need of the shield of faith, when the war is ended, and the soldier of faith is made more than a conqueror, through Christ that loved him, Rom. viii, 37. Pictures of Christ, and love-letters from him, and love-tokens, (the glory of the gospel, and the necessary food of faith), are no more needed when the blessed beloved is present and enjoyed.
I. I would now come to speak of the first thing, the glory of Christ. And it is with reverence and godly fear that I should speak, and you should hear, of this great and awful theme. And what I mean to say of it, shall be under these two heads: 1. The glory of Christ as he represents God unto us. 2. His glory as he represents us unto God: As he is Godís only true representative to his church; and as he is the only representative of his church unto God. Christ is both, and great is his glory in both. And this glory I would soberly speak of.
To begin with the first head, that Christ is the only representative of God unto his church: And great is his glory therein. And this glory of Christ is beheld by faith now, and to eternity by sight. There are many words about this, especially in the New Testament, (where the Old Testament vail on Christís glory is taken away; and yet the New Testament light will itself evanish also, when the Lord returns in his glory, and hath his church with him where he is.) I shall name a few of them. Col. i. 15. he is called the image of the invisible God. Heb. i. 3. he is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. Who is the image? He that upholdeth all things by the word of his power; who, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Whose gloryís brightness is he? whose personís character bears he? God the Fatherís, who spake in the Old Testament times by the prophets, and in the New Testament times by his Son, ver. 1, 2. So in 2 Cor. iv. 6. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God shineth in the face (or person) of Jesus Christ. All deep words, and deep matter in them.
To prepare our way to enter on this theme, there are three things I would lay before you.
1. That a right and sound knowledge of God is simply and absolutely necessary unto true happiness, in this and in the other world. Our Lord in this chapter, ver. 3. saith, And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou host sent. And 1 John v. 20. speaking of Christ as known, the apostle saith, This is the true God, and eternal life. None know the true God, none can come by eternal life, but they that know Christ. No faith, love, worship, or obedience can be performed and acted by him that knows not God. The Athenian inscription, To the unknown God, was ridiculous, but suitable enough for blind idolaters. This truth, of the necessity of the knowledge of God, in order to the pleasing and enjoying of him, and of his favour, is engraven on menís hearts by nature.
2. God in himself, and absolutely considered, is unknowable by men in this life, (to carry it no further now), unless he some way manifest himself to us. To this that seems to refer in 1 Tim. vi. 16. He dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see. Whatsoever doth make manifest, is light, Eph. v. 13. Yet divine light is a covering of God, Psalm civ. 1, 2. that no creature can see through; John i. 18. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. This truth stands on three foundations. 1. The greatness of God, and of his glory. 2. The shortness of menís reach as creatures. And, 3. The corruption of their minds as sinners: Eph. iv. 18. Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. A dreadful, but true picture of that dungeon that all men by nature are born in, and must live and die in, and go through it, and from it, into outer darkness. In what way God did, and doth manifest himself and his glory unto the holy angels, and how they behold him, is quite hid from us. Though our Lord tells us, that in heaven they do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven, Matth. xv iii. 10.; yet what this is, we know no more than we do that in Rev. xxii. 4. of the triumphant church that shall see his face. To come a little lower, and to speak of the first man who was made a little lower than the angels This also is beyond our understanding how God did manifest himself unto him, and how he did behold Godís glory: Though we are sure that both were. But when sin came in, then plainly the minds of all men are so defiled and darkened, that there is a necessity that they must be taught of God that do know the Lord; and blessed be his name, that he hath promised this in the new covenant, and fulfils it to the heirs of promise, as they are called in Heb. vi. 17. John vi. 45. Jer. xxxi. 32, 33, 34. Yet, when the saving knowledge of God and faith are given, such is the weakness of this eye, that, on any special appearance of the glory of God, fear and amazement seizeth on their hearts. Whence that saying, so usual in old times, Judges xiii. 22. We shall surely die, because we have seen God; though God appeared in mercy to Manoa and his wife, and with a promise of a son to them, and a judge and saviour to Israel. Jacob had wrestled and prevailed with the angel, and was blessed by him: yet he saith with thankfulness and wonder, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved, Gen. xxxii. 30. What made Isaiah to say, on his seeing of Godís glory, Wo is me, I am undone, chap. vi. 5.? Did God threaten him, did God smite him? No; but, mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts. ďI have seen his glory, and his spotless holiness hath been proclaimed in my ears. Thereby I see, that my own uncleanness, and the uncleanness of others I dwell amongst, doth greatly endanger me.Ē
3. Notwithstanding all this depth of Godís glory, and darkness in all menís minds by nature, since the fall of Adam; yet all men, in all ages, have been seeking out, and, studying, and making to themselves, some representations of God. They know that there is a God; they quickly come to know that this God is out of their sight; and, on a little deeper thinking, they know that this invisible God is also beyond the reach of their minds and thoughts. Is there a curious student of Godís works of creation, that findeth not something in the smallest of his creatures, that our understanding cannot find out? What must we think of the Former of all things? Can any find out God to perfection? Job xi. 7. A conviction of this depth in God, and darkness in man, seemeth to have been declared in the inscription on the altar at Athens, Acts xvii. 23. This Paul takes for his text, (if I may so say), and makes an excellent sermon upon it. The conviction that is in menís hearts, of the depth of God, and of the darkness in themselves, hath bred a desire in all men to know somewhat more of God than they do, that they may please, and serve, and worship him, and obtain his favour. And this darkness and desire have brought forth two great plagues on the world, that are like to last as long as the world lasts, and as long as sinners live in it; two representations of God devised by men.
1st, The first way of menís studying to represent God unto themselves, is the more fine way of the better sort of the Heathens, and their philosophers. And that was, by framing thoughts, ideas, and contemplations of God, from the light of nature, and exercise of their reason. This way the apostle takes notice of, as a poor way, and unprofitable, Rom. i. 20. That philosopher spoke like a divine, who, when he was asked by his prince, What God was? desired a dayís time to think on it. When that was granted, and done, he asked two days time to think on the question. After the two days, he asked four days. And when the king wondered at his delays, he gave this true and ingenuous answer: ďThe more I think of God, the less can I tell what he is.Ē And this will be the sure effect to all that, without the light of Godís word and Spirit, do busy themselves to frame representations of God himself in their minds. The Heathens have indeed spoke and wrote many good thoughts of some of the divine attributes, which may be read with profit and some do read them with wonder, how they came by such thoughts; and many have thought, that some of these philosophers might have seen some part of the Old Testament scriptures. Paul quotes one of them at Athens, Acts xvii. 28. whom he calls one of their own poets; and another in Tit. i. 12. whom he calls a prophet of their own: yet what he quotes of this last, is a complete Greek verse of poesy; and the other but a half-verse. But their philosophers taught and wrote, both in prose or verse. Yet though we, who have the light of Godís word, may make good use of their sparks of natureís light; we must not thence think, that they, by their wisdom, did know God savingly; contrary to 1 Cor. 1. 21. The world by wisdom knew not God. An ungrounded charity to the salvation of the Heathen that never knew God in Christ, is a reflection on the gospel of Christ. And if men will coin a new gospel, and a way of saving sinners, by Jesus Christ, as only preached to the Heathen, by sun, moon, and stars, contrary to the word of God, John xiv. 6. and xvii. 3. Eph. ii. 12. Acts iv. 11, 12. do you know and remember, that it is false coin. And menís coining of another way to God than by his Son Jesus Christ, revealed in and by the gospel, is treason against the Majesty of heaven; and though it may deceive men on earth, it will never pass as current in heaven.
2dly, The other way of menís representing God unto themselves, is by images and outward representations of God. An old abomination. It is like it was not before the deluge: for it is not named; but only violence, and lusts, and general corruption in manners, are given as the procuring causes of Godís destroying the world by water. Besides, the world was but lately created, and the glory of the Creator stared every man in the face; and that Methusalem, who died a little before the flood, had lived some hundreds of years, while the first man, Adam, lived. Besides, Enochís prophecy, cited by Jude, ver. 14, 15. makes no mention of idolatry. But however it was before the flood, idolatry came quickly into the world afterwards, and is like to continue till it be purged by fire. Now, what is idolatry? and whence is it that the world is so mad upon idols, Jer. l. 38.? Idolatry is the worshipping of the true God by and under any image or representation of God, devised by menís heads, or framed by menís hands. The first command of the moral law forbids the having and worshipping of any, but the true God. The second command forbids the making of any resemblance or image of God, and worshipping of God by it. Divine worship is that glory that God will not give to another, neither his praise to graven images, Isa. xlii. 8.; and that because he is a jealous God. Worship is Godís throne in the world of angels and men; and he will admit of no rival or partner in it. The idolaters pretend that they only honour God, and give no divine glory to the image: but the Lord calls worshipping him by an image, a worshipping of the creature more than the Creator, Rom. i. 25. Now, how comes in idolatry into the world? And what keeps it up in it, since all men by their reason think, as Paul saith, all ought to think, that the Godhead is not like unto gold, or silver, or stone graven by art or manís device? Acts xvii. 29. The true cause of this sinís rise and reign in the world, is this. All men by nature know there is a God that made the world, and that they ought to worship him; but who he is, and what is pleasing worship to this God, they know not. They know, that if there be a God, he must not be like any creature in heaven or earth. The distance betwixt God and creatures, is, in its greatness, known only to him that can comprehend his own glorious majesty, and the emptiness of nothing creatures. And therefore we see how he speaks in Isaiah xl. 17. All nations before him are as nothing, (that is, pretty low; but he yet lays them lower), and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will you liken God? ver. 18. But though God only can comprehend the greatness of this distance betwixt God and creatures; yet all men do apprehend, that it is, and must be great. Then, when reason tells them, that this God that made all things in time, is eternal; that he is immense and unsearchable in all perfections; that he is a Spirit; every one of these names of God do stun and puzzle the manís understanding; so that all must say, as one did, Job xxxvii. 23. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out. So that, in this confusion and darkness, they must (as they did, John iv. 22.) worship they know not what; and because they know not God, so as to glorify him as God, &c. they change the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like unto a corruptible man, &c. Rom. i. 21, 22, 23. Man, in his ignorance and sinfulness, first thinks that God is such an one as himself, Psal. 1. 2l.; and then thinks any representation of God may serve. And indeed the meanest creeping thing is an image too good for such a god. A god altogether like a sinner, is no other than the god of this world, the devil, 2 Cor. iv. 4. See the first gross idolatry among Israel in the wilderness, Exod. xxxii. They had heard the fiery law proclaimed dreadfully, but about forty days before; and idolatry specially prohibited and threatened in that law: yet they had hardly the dread of that voice out of their ears, before their hearts are turned aside, their hands busied in making an idol, and they on their knees worshipping it. In ver. 1. they say, Up, and make us gods to go before us. What a poor god is he that is of manís making? All Israel could not make one fly or gnat; yet they are for God-making. When they had their golden calf, they said, ver. 4. These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Did they not know, that, a few weeks before, they had brought that gold out of the land of Egypt, of which they had now made their idol? Did they not know, that this idol could no more go one step before, nor with them, nor after them, than a stone? And doubtless they meant to carry it, if Moses had not made them to destroy it, and drink it, ver. 20. But they had brought up their idolatrous hearts out of the land of Egypt, Ezek. xxiii. 3, 8, 19.; and they thought this a fit representation of the true God.; and therefore proclamation is made of a feast to-morrow, to the Lord, to Jehovah, Exodus xxxii. 5. As long as God is not known by his word and Spirit, no man is secured from falling into idolatry. Let us look into the Antichristian state; and there any Christian may see, that the whole of their worship, from the beginning to the end, is a mere mass of idolatry, and wicked representations of God. Their hearts, their houses, their streets and high-ways, their temples, are all filled with idols: many false gods, as angels and Saints; many wicked representations even of the divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Justly may it be called, as old Babylon was, a land of graven images, Jer. l. 38. The old Pagan, and the new Antichristian Rome, equally full of idols; only with difference in names. Heathen names laid aside, and Christian names taken up in their rooms: but the idols the same, and the idolatry the same; with the addition of a god made of bread, to be first made, then worshipped, and then eat. An abomination enough to make the natural conscience of a cannibal to keck at.
To conclude this head, about worshipping of God by images, I would say only, that it is a sin as plainly forbid in Godís word as any sin whatsoever; as fearfully punished as any sin: that it is a sin that both riseth from unworthy thoughts of God, and increaseth these unworthy thoughts. It stupifies men, and takes away their reason: Isaiah xliv. 20. He (the idolater) feedeth of ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his own soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand? But they that make them, are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them, Psalm cxv. 8. The idol, and the idolater, are much alike. The idol is void of all natural life and sense, and the idolater is as void of all spiritual life and sense. Hath that man the soul and spirit of a man in him; hath he any sense of the majesty of the true and living God, who can call a log of wood, or a bit of bread, a god, and worship it? I have said the more of idolatry, because it is the sin most dishonourable to God, most destructive to the souls of men, and a dreadful stumbling-block to the Jews and Turks, who do justly abhor idols, for as blind and sottish as otherwise they be. Nor can any man wonder that they stumble at the name of Christianity, when they see the greatest part of such as profess that name, as much given to idolatry, as ever the Heathen were, either before or since Christ came into the world. This sin is also a disgrace to mankind, and a shameful defacing of that image of God in which he was first made; when a man so debaseth himself even unto hell, (Isa. lvii. 9.), as to worship what either his own or other menís hands have made. Yet this sin of idolatry is a demonstration, that the light of nature, and the notion of a God, (notwithstanding all the weakness, darkness, and corruption mixed with it in fallen man), is deeply and strongly rooted in menís hearts, that they will rather take up with any thing for a God, yea, make a God to themselves, rather than have none. It is no rare thing, to see an idolatrous prince, who is as proud as Lucifer, and who saith in his heart as he did, Isa. xiv. 12, 13, 14.; and who hath pride and ambition enough to desire to he lord of the whole earth: yet such a wretch as this who is not worthy to live among his fellow-mortals, will humble himself, and kneel before a proud priest, confess his sins to him, and ask, and receive pardon from him, as from a God, and worship the work of the meanest of his subjectís hands. This was the proud boast in the last age, of a confessor to a great king, ďWhen I have my king on his knees before me, and my god (meaning the consecrated wafer) in my hands, what can I not do?Ē From such gods, such kings, and such priests, may the only true God deliver us, and all the nations on earth. But as long as the spirit of Demetrius prevaileth, Diana will not want a rich temple, and many worshippers: Acts xix. 25. Ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. For if false gods were not rich gods, and rich-making gods, they quickly would have neither priests, nor temples, nor worshippers. And quickly may it be, is the hearty prayer of every true Christian.
And this leads me to the point in hand, That the Lord Jesus Christ, God-man, and our Mediator, is the only true representative of God unto the church. God only makes himself savingly known to men in his Son Jesus Christ. Men that would know God savingly, worship God acceptably, and enjoy God for ever, they must seek and get all in and by Jesus Christ.
In handling of this, I would speak to two things. 1. The fitness of Christ to be Godís representative to his church. 2. The glory of Christ in being so.
First, As to Christís fitness to represent God unto men: It appears in three things.
1. In the divine dignity of his person. He is Godís eternal Son, and God equal with the Father. I know that this rock, the church of Christ is built upon, is boldly struck at in these last and worst days. But we should know as well, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, Matth. xvi. 18. I would only say now, that that man or woman that owns the authority of the New Testament, (though Christís Godhead shines very brightly in the Old Testament), and shall read but three first chapters, John i. Col. i. and Heb. i. and can say, that Christ is a mere man and creature, is under a judicial blindness. All that worship Christ, and call on his name in prayer, and deny him to be the true God, are guilty of idolatry. A mere creature, image and representation of God used in worship is an idol. But the eternal Son of God, who is in his person the image of God and the character of the Fatherís person, is fit unspeakably to declare God unto men, John i. 18. He alone doth it, and none else can.
2. The Sonís assuming manís nature unto his own divine person, makes him fit to represent God to men, John i. 1,-18. His being God-man, made him fit to represent God to men, and to represent men to God. God is only to be savingly known by men, as he is a God in Christ; and sinners are only accepted of God as they are in Christ. His human nature is a creature; but the Son of God that assumed and dwelleth personally in this nature, is a divine person. It is not his nature as man, but his divine person dwelling in that nature, that doth make him the only right representative and image of the invisible God unto his church.
3. Christís being installed in the office of Mediator, makes him fit to represent God unto men. He is the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim. ii. 5. Such as, on this account, talk of Christís being a God by office, know neither God, nor Christ, nor his office. Our Lord Jesus Christ is God in office; and to be worshipped by his people, as clothed with it. In this office, as prophet, he repreents and revealeth the mind and will of God, to be known and believed by the church; which is commanded by the Father to hear him, Matth. xvii. 5. As King, all judgment is committed to the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. And he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him, John v. 22, 23. And as Priest, as all in that office are taken from among men, and ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that they might both offer gifts and sacrifices for sins, Heb. v. 1.; so the Son was consecrated for this office by an oath, Heb. vii. 28. and as Priest, he must have somewhat also to offer, Heb. viii. 3.; which offering was himself, and this he hath offered, Heb. ix. 26. and x. 5,-10. And after this offering, he entered in, as Priest, into the holy place; even into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us, Heb. ix. 12, 24. And there he remains, and liveth for ever, to make intercession for us, Heb. vii. 25. until he shall appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation, Heb. ix. 28. Now, in this office Christ represents his church unto God; and in his prophetical and kingly office, he represents God unto his church. Both equally needful for our salvation, and both only performed by Jesus Christ as Mediator; who only can represent God unto us, that we may savingly know God; and represent us so to God, that we may be graciously received by him. Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, Heb. iii. 1. Consider how fit he is to do all Godís business with us, and all our business with God, for our salvation, and his Fatherís and his own glory. He is clothed with a most honourable office of Mediator, (the honour and work of which office no mere creature could bear and dispatch), furnished with all fulness for its discharge and management. This office he discharged when on earth, in our nature as man; and in the same nature, is doing what remains to be done in that office, in heaven. And this high officer, this man Jesus Christ, is God over all, blessed for ever, Rom. ix. 5. So that his fitness for making a true and saving representation of God to his people, is evident; but so great and glorious, that we cannot fully apprehend it by faith. We have in our Lord Jesus Christ, a Mediator between God and men, to take away the breach that sin had made between them, and to make an everlasting friendship; a Mediator so furnished for his office, that any may trust him in it. We have this Mediator in our own nature, a partaker of flesh and blood, as we be, Heb. ii. 14, 17.; In all things made like unto his brethren, that he might be the fitter for us, and that we might be more familiar with him. And this Mediator by his office, this real and true man by the taking of our nature, is God, the only begotten of the Father. Can any make a doubt of this truth we are upon, That the Lord Jesus Christ, God-man, Mediator, is the true, real, and only representative of God to his church?
So much for this first head.
Secondly, What is Christís glory, in being Godís representative to his church? Herein he is exceedingly exalted. How greatly is it expressed, Eph. i. 20,-23. and in Phil. ii. 6,-11.? and how hard to think suitably of them? I shall only touch at three particulars in it.
1. It is glory to Jesus Christ, that all the saving discoveries of God are made to men in and by him: 2 Cor. iv. 6. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God shineth to men, in the face of Jesus Christ. Till a man know Jesus Christ, he knows not God; nay, he hath not a God: Eph. ii. 12. They that are without Christ, are without God in the world: ďYe were Atheists,Ē (so is the Greek word); though the Ephesians, to whom he writes, had been great idolaters, and had gods and goddesses more than were worth having, Acts xix.
2. Great is Christís glory in this, that all the worship that is given to God, if right, and as it is commanded, is given to God in and by Jesus Christ. No coming to the Father, but by him, John xiv. 6. If we believe in God, we must also believe on him, chap. xiv. 1. Through him we believe on God, 1 Peter i. 21. If we believe on him, we believe not on him (only or alone), but on him that sent him. And he that seeth him, seeth him that sent him, John xii. 44, 45. If we pray, we must do it in Christís name, chap. xiv. 13, 14. and xvi. 23, 24. Yea, whatsoever we do, whether in word or deed, must all be done in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks unto God and the Father by him: Col. iii. 17. All our gospel-sacrifices are to be offered to God by him, Heb. xiii. 15. Now, consider how great a person this must be, as the apostle argues about his type, Melchisedec, in Heb. vii. 1,-4. And he is there exalting that unknown manís priesthood above the Levitical, in this, that Abraham, Leviís great-grandfather, gave the tenth of the spoils to him. How much greater is Jesus Christ, of whom Melchisedec was but a type and shadow, to whom we must not only give a tenth, but all, of that worship and service we pay and owe to God?
3. All the mercy, favour, and bounty of God to men, comes to us in and by Jesus Christ. No spiritual blessings in heavenly things doth God bless us with, but in Jesus Christ, Eph. i. 3.
APPLICATION. All the use of this doctrine I shall, at this time make, is in one warning; which I wish may be as well taken, as it is needful, both to me to give it, and to you to take it. And it is this, That the secret moth and poison in many peopleís religion is, that it is not Christianity. God out of Christ is a consuming fire; God not worshipped in Christ, is an idol; all hopes of acceptance out of Christ, are vain dreams; a heaven out of Christ, is little better than the Turks paradise. How sad is it; how visible is it, and common, that many men and women do pray every day, and hear every day, and would fain know God rightly, and worship him acceptably; and, if we might believe their words and profession, they know a great deal of God, and serve him not a little; when, in the mean time, Jesus Christ, as the only glass in and by which the true God and his glory is to be known and adored, is not minded by them? They have no sense, no experience of it, no conviction of the necessity of Christís representing an invisible, incomprehensible God, unto them; they make no essays to know God in and by this only right way Hence is it, that there is so much of that that bears the name of religion, that not only men may carry to hell with them, but that pusheth them into hell. Hence is it, that so many have a form of godliness, who are fatal strangers to its power. Is it not sad, to see and hear men, who bear the name of Christians, playing the philosophers about Godís nature and attributes, while in the mean time they are utter, yea contented strangers, unto this only true representation of God unto men in his Son Jesus Christ? All I shall say now, is to glance at one scripture, in 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4, 6. If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that art lost, I cannot deny, would the apostle say, but that, for all the plainness and closeness of our preaching, of which in ver. 2. yet our gospel is hid; but it is so to a lost company. But how comes it, that, under such preaching as Paulís, the gospel is hid from any that hear it? This he answers, ver. 4. wherein he names two causes concurring, one sad effect flowing from these causes, and destruction consequent on the effect. The causes are, unbelief in their hearts, and Satanís working with it, and securing of it. The sinner is blind by nature, his blindness grows by the abused light of the gospel, and the devil spreads a thick vail over their blind eyes, that let gospel-light shine by an apostle, no ray, no beam shall dart in upon them. Now, what is the effect of this double-blinding? What doth Satan design in his pains on unbelievers? What is he afraid of, and studies to prevent? It is, lest the light of time glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. As if the apostle had said, ďThe devil, in his diligence to keep sinners in the dark, thinks and knows, that if ever one beam of the glory of Christ in the gospel comes in to sinners hearts, they are lost to him, and saved to Jesus Christ.Ē O that sinners knew this, as well as the devil doth? But why hath not this busy devil the same power on all? How came any to have their eyes opened to see? To this he answers, in ver. 6. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. Observe, that the apostle, in speaking of the causes of the perdition of unbelievers, names their own blindness and unbelief, and Satanís activity; but as to the salvation of believers, be ascribes it solely unto the grace of God, and its power and freedom; without, which Satan would prevail on all, as he doth on many. But, for as blind as unbelievers are, and for as diligent and powerful as the devil is, God, that commanded light in the first creation, did so to us, and this light so commanded, gave us the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, by which we are saved. There are many glorious truths, that shine with some beams of light into the minds of natural men, so as that they are convinced of them, fall in love with them, and make profession of them, but never is a sinner thoroughly changed and converted to God, nor rescued from Satan and the power of darkness, till this light, this knowledge, this glory of God in the face of Christ, be given by this great Commander and Creator. Paul himself, while an unbeliever, had the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the works of creation and providence, as a man of sense and reason; he had the knowledge of the glory of God in the law, as a zealous Jew; but the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, he never had, till it pleased God to call him by his grace, and to reveal his Son in him, Gal. i. 15, 16. And let me tell you, that unless you have seen more of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and in Godís way of saving sinners by him, than ever you saw of his glory in his works of creation and providence (in both which, not a little of his glory shineth) the Lord hath not yet dealt with you, as he doth with them he saveth. The right saving knowledge of God centres in this one person, Jesus Christ. See how the apostle prayeth, Col. ii. 2, 3. That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. So that all who would be enriched with true wisdom, and the saving knowledge of God, must by faith dig in Christ, and find them.
Robert Traill (1642-1716): Friend of William Guthrie of Fenwick, attendant of James Guthrie of Stirling on the scaffold, son of the Greyfriars Church manse where the 1638 Covenant was signed, Scot ordained in England, exile in Holland, prisoner on the Bass Rock, scholar, preacher and saint ó Robert Traill lived to span the ripest period of the Puritan age. Distinguished in the classes at Edinburgh University, Traill early felt the inner constraint to preach Christ. Too intimate an association with the younger John Welsh drew the swift displeasure of the civil arm upon him. Denounced as a ĎPentland Rebelí he fled to join the bright galaxy of British divines weathering the storm of Stuart Absolutism in the Low Countries (1667).
Traillís literary output began there. As assistant to Nethenus, professor at Utrecht, he prepared Samuel Rutherford's Examination of Arminianism for the press. Back in London in 1692 he took up his pen, as Isaac Chancy (Owenís successor) and the younger Thomas Goodwin were having to do, to defend the doctrine of Justification against the new Legalism. After serving Presbyterian charges in Kent and London he died at the age of 74.
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