by J. C. Philpot
The eternal purpose of God the Father to glorify his dear Son, and exalt him as Lord and King.
To glorify his dear Son, to set him at his own right hand in kingly majesty and sovereign dominion over all things in heaven and earth and under the earth, was the eternal purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will. As the Son of the Father in truth and love, Jesus is "the brightness of his glory and the express image of his Person." That this glory, then, of the Father might be seen and reverently adored by the sons of men; that a view of it here by faith and hereafter by sight might fill millions of redeemed saints with immortal joy; that all the love, beauty, blessedness, holiness, and happiness of a Triune Jehovah might shine forth in the glorified humanity of the Son of God; and that by virtue of their union with him he might dwell in his elect as his Father dwells in him, that thus they all might be one, (John 17:21, 23,)—this was that mystery of eternal wisdom, love, and grace which was hidden in the bosom of God from before the foundation of the world. For this purpose all things were created; and that this purpose might be fully accomplished are they still preserved in being. Redemption by atoning blood being a part—an all-important part of this wondrous scheme—Jesus suffered, bled, died, and rose again to fulfill it, and now sits at the right hand of the Father in royal dignity and power, fully and finally to accomplish all that yet remains to be done.
But that we may not darken counsel by words without knowledge, we shall endeavor, as far as we possibly can, to take the Scriptures for our sole guide. Ill would it become us to seek to penetrate with unhallowed gaze into the purposes of God, were they not revealed in the word of his grace; for though "secret things," that is, things purposely hidden from view, "belong unto the Lord, yet those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever." (Deut. 29:29.)
i. In opening then this subject, we shall tread as closely as we can in the footprints of revelation, and commence with the witness of the New Testament.
We will take first our Lord's own testimony of himself.
1. At the last supper, just before the gloomy hour when he was to pass into Gethsemane, Jesus said to his disciples, "You have remained true to me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at my table in that Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:28-30.)
2. So when he stood before Pilate, and the Roman governor in all the plenitude of his power and authority asked, "Are you a king then?" what was his meek yet firm reply? "You say," that is, say truly, "that I am a king. To this end was I born." But to show that his kingdom was not of this world, he had previously declared, "Now is my kingdom not from hence." (John 18:36, 37.)
3. To these plain testimonies of the Lord concerning himself we may add the promise given to Mary by the angel Gabriel—"He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!" (Luke 1:32, 33.)
4. In full accordance, then, with this angelic testimony, as "King of the Jews" was he born and worshiped by the wise men of the East; (Matt. 2:2, 11;) as "King of Israel" was he owned and worshiped by his believing disciples, (John 1:49,) and as "King of the Jews" was he crucified, and proclaimed as such in the three then best known languages, that Hebrew, Greek, and Roman might read his title* firm and good, standing on high in the fixed purpose of God, in spite of protesting chief priests in whose heart the gnawing pang of guilty fear would gladly have altered the title to a more qualified declaration.
* We do not remember to have seen the remark, though sufficiently obvious--that it was this title that arrested the attention and was blessed to the soul of the dying thief, the Holy Spirit arising up faith in his heart that Jesus then and there crucified before his eyes was indeed the Son of God and King of Israel, and as such had a kingdom beyond death and the grave.
ii. But we shall now direct our readers' attention to the intimations given in the Old Testament of the kingly reign and authority of Jesus. Declarations of greater or less clearness of the eternal purpose of God to give his dear Son a kingdom are scattered through the whole of these scriptures with so liberal a hand that we can only select a few.
1. The first clear intimation of it, if we except the typical appearance of Melchizedek, king of Salem (Gen. 14:18,) and the prophecy of dying Jacob that "Shiloh would come, and to him should the gathering of the people be," (Gen. 49:10,) is contained in the thanksgiving song of Hannah—"Those who fight against the Lord will be broken. He thunders against them from heaven; the Lord judges throughout the earth. He gives mighty strength to his king; he increases the might of his anointed one." (1 Sam. 2:10.)This is the first mention of the title which Jesus was to bear as the "Messiah," or the "anointed" Prophet, Priest, and King of his people—that being the word in the original. Its second mention is in Psalm 2:2.
2. But the clearest intimation given to the Church not only that she should have a King but that God's own eternal Son should be that King is contained in that Psalm of Psalms, Psalm 2, where the fixed decree is brought to light and written as with a beam of dazzling glory to assure the friends and confound the enemies of the Son of God. Sitting upon the throne of his glory and looking forth to that time when counsel should be taken against the Lord and against his anointed, the God of all power and might asks by his Spirit, "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed one." (Psalm 2:1, 2.) Their rebellious hearts cried out, "We will not have this man to reign over us. Let us break these bands asunder, and cast away those cords which would bind us in any subjection or in any submission to the Person and work, the reign or rule of the Son of God." But vain is their rage, idle their counsel. "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision." "Yet (in spite of all their wrath and rebellion) have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." Then the Son meekly answers, "I will declare the decree." This decree was the result of the eternal counsels of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hidden in the bosom of a Triune God from before the foundation of the world, and then first brought to light in the page of revelation from his mouth who, as revealing the mind and will of the Father, is eminently and emphatically "the Word." "The Lord has said unto me, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you." Then the Father speaks—"Not only have I set you—already set you, as my King upon my holy hill of Zion," but, "Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession." In this Psalm, then, we have the first as well as fullest and clearest view given to the Old Testament Church of the purpose of the Father to exalt the Son of his love to be Lord and King.
3. Psalm 8, as opened up and commented upon by Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews, gives us a view of the humiliation of the Son of God and his subsequent exaltation. "But one in a certain place testified, saying--What is man, that you are mindful of him? or the son of man, that you visit him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet." (Heb. 2:6-8.) The Apostle, in his spiritual interpretation of this Psalm, brings Jesus before our eyes as the man who was "made a little" (or for "a little while," margin,) "lower than the angels"—as indeed he was by assuming the flesh and blood of the children, human nature being in itself intrinsically inferior to angelic. But the Holy Spirit in the Psalm,* as interpreted by the Apostle, looked not only beyond the original thought of the Psalmist, as he first contemplated the starry heavens, in all their midnight oriental splendor, and then viewed man in his first creation, as made a little lower than the angels, and yet crowned with glory and honor, as invested with dominion over the works of God's hands—the Holy Spirit, in inspiring this Psalm, looked, we say, not only beyond this primary intention of the Psalmist, but also beyond the humiliation of the blessed Lord to his glorification at the right hand of the Father, and testified to his regal dignity by the words, "You crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet."
* We have often thought, and indeed may say we fully believe, that the inspired writers of the Old Testament did not themselves always fully see or understand the meaning of their own language. The Holy Spirit so influenced their mind and guided their pen that fuller, deeper truth was lodged in and conveyed by their words than they knew of. Thus when David cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1,) he was crying out under the hidings of God's countenance from himself. But the Holy Spirit had a deeper meaning by them, even the dolorous cry of the suffering Son of God. The inspired penmen knew indeed that the sufferings and glory of Messiah were intimated by the Holy Spirit, but their views of both were dim and feeble. Yet they sought to penetrate into the mind of the Spirit, as Peter speaks—"This salvation was something the prophets wanted to know more about. They prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you, even though they had many questions as to what it all could mean. They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ's suffering and his great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all this would happen." (1 Pet. 1:10, 11.)
4. A similar testimony was given by the Father to his sovereign purpose to exalt the Son of his love in those memorable words which the Lord himself quoted in the days of his flesh, (Matt. 22:41-45,) "The Lord said unto my Lord--Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." (Psalm 110:1.) The 'right hand' is the place of dignity, power, and authority. To set his dear Son there in all the grace and glory, power and authority of his Person as God-man—the Son of God incarnate, that in him all the perfections of Deity might shine, that the invisible, self-existent I AM, who dwells in the light that no man can approach unto, might come forth, as it were, out of this unapproachable shroud of dazzling, overwhelming light, and appear in a form in and under which he might be seen, known, believed in, loved, worshiped, and adored by millions of redeemed men and elect angels, was a part—a leading and principal part of that "counsel of the Lord which stands forever," of "the thoughts of his heart" which will endure "to all generations." (Psalm 33:11.)
5. But though the Psalms, and especially such as Psalm 72, 89, 96, 98, 149, contain intimations more or less clear of the fixed purpose of God to set his dear Son on the throne of his glory, yet nowhere in the inspired page do we meet with such plain and positive declarations of this eternal counsel as in the prophet Isaiah. The promised reign of Messiah shines with steady light all through the pages of Isaiah; but, we shall direct our readers' attention chiefly to chap. 49, which contains, so to speak, a holy dialogue between the Father and the Son on the subject of his work of redeeming love, and the reward promised him in consequence. The chapter opens with the address of the Son to the lands, as preparatory to the expression of his utterance, and the Father's gracious answer—"Listen to me, all of you in far-off lands! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name. He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword. He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver. He said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory." (Isa. 49:1-3.) The blessed Lord here prophetically intimates to the distant lands—may we not say, to our own favored land among them?—his then future incarnation as called from the womb to be God's servant, and as even from the womb of his virgin mother bearing a name which should be above every name. He then speaks of the words of authority and power which the Father had already in eternal purpose given him to kill and make alive in making his mouth "like a sharp two-edged sword;" and then brings to view the protecting hand of his heavenly Father in hiding him from all the malice of earth and hell in the shadow of his hand. He next intimates, that the Father—who, by giving him a prepared body, had made him "a sharpened arrow" would hide him in his quiver until the appointed time when he would send him forth from his right hand to execute judgment; for the Father had, in eternal counsels and covenant transactions, said to him, "You are my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified."(We need not suppose that these words contain an exact representation, or are a literal transcript of the solemn transactions between the Father and the Son; but they convey to our mind, under a prophetic form, certain realities which it was the eternal purpose of God to accomplish, and which have been already partially and will one day be wholly fulfilled.)
But foreseeing his rejection by Israel after the flesh—that he would come unto his own and his own would receive him not, he prophetically utters the language of complaint—"Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain." Still meekly submitting to his Father's will, and finding a sacred joy in leaving in his hands the result of his sufferings and work, he adds, "Yet surely my judgment," (that is, the decision of my righteous cause,) "is with the Lord, and my work," (or "reward," margin,) "with my God." But even if Israel after the flesh should reject him, this would not alter his glory—"And now the Lord speaks—he who formed me in my mother's womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring his people of Israel back to him. The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength." (Isa. 49:5.) The Father then answers—"And he said, It is a light thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give you for a light to the Gentiles, that you may be my salvation unto the end of the earth." (ver. 6.) Here is contained that gracious, that blessed promise of which we Gentiles are now enjoying the fulfillment. Should Israel after the flesh reject, yes, crucify their promised Messiah—will that foreseen rejection disappoint the purposes of Jehovah? No! It is already foreknown, already fore-provided for. The incarnate Son shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. To the poor Gentiles, despised and abhorred by the proud Jews as out of the covenant, and therefore without God and without hope in the world, he shall be a light to guide elect sinners into the way of peace, yes, shall himself be God's "own salvation unto the end of the earth." Then comes that glorious promise of the exaltation of his dear Son as Lord and King, of which the first fulfillment began when Jesus, after his ascension, took the throne, but of which the full accomplishment awaits the further unfolding of the purposes of God.
With this promise, being unusually pressed for time and room, we shall conclude our present paper—"The Lord, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, says to the one who is despised and rejected by a nation, to the one who is the servant of rulers: "Kings will stand at attention when you pass by. Princes will bow low because the Lord has chosen you. He, the faithful Lord, the Holy One of Israel, chooses you." (Isa. 49:7.)
It is sweet to view by the eye of living faith the eternal purposes and fixed counsels of the Father to exalt and glorify the Son of his love. That Jesus should be eternally glorified; that he should wear the crown so anciently promised, so righteously won; that he should sway, as if with those very hands that were nailed to the cross, his righteous scepter over all things in heaven and in earth—a scepter of grace to his friends, a rod of iron to his foes; and thus fully accomplish the counsels of God's heart and the sure word of his lips, is the desire and joy of all who love his name. To them, therefore, the contemplation of the fixed purposes of God to exalt his dear Son and put all things under his feet is full of sweetness and blessedness. An "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure;" deep counsels of eternal wisdom; fixed purposes of grace and glory; the word and oath of a God who cannot lie; the infinite knowledge of an omniscient, and the boundless power of an omnipotent Sovereign—these deep mysteries, which are hidden from the wise and prudent, are revealed to the babes who long to be taught and love to learn.
They see and feel what a sin-worn world the present scene is; what wreck and ruin everywhere meet the enlightened eye; what misery, what crime, what contempt of all divine authority; what rebellion against every restraint of law or conscience; what open defiance of all check on pride or passion, everywhere abound. Viewing, then, this state of things, and seeing, as wealth increases and population advances, what an influx of foreign ways and manners, of modes of thought and reckless ungodliness, seems more and more rushing in as with an overflowing tide, the child of grace is almost tempted to lose sight of Him who sits above the waterfloods, and to feel or fear as if the god and prince of this world were the real master of the scene, and the great controller of events.
As a relief against such unbelieving, God-dishonoring, infidel thoughts, faith is sometimes enabled to look through and beyond all these dark mists of the valley to those unclouded heavens where the Son of God sits at the right hand of power. The present reign of Jesus cannot be seen by the eye of sense. Indeed we have no evidence that Jesus reigns at all, but by watching and discerning his hand in providence, believing the word of his grace, or feeling the power of his resurrection in the heart. These are the three witnesses against all the persuasions of sense and the cavilings of the reasoning mind—the grand sustaining props of the soul when the floods of ungodly men make it afraid.
But the chief witness is the sure word of promise, the sworn oath of the Father to the Son, as recorded in the Scriptures of truth—"I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Your seed will I establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me." (Psalm 89:3, 4; 34-36.) As, then, Abraham, the father of the faithful, "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able to perform," so faith rests upon the sure promises of God that the throne of his dear Son shall be established forever. Were sense and reason not opposed to the fulfillment of this sure word of promise, there would be no need of a faith like Abraham's—against hope to believe in hope.
Meanwhile, may it be our happy portion to touch for ourselves the scepter of his grace, to submit to his sovereign will, and whoever may say, "We will not have this man to reign over us," to yield ourselves to his unseen, yet not unfelt authority as Lord and King in our hearts and consciences.
But as we have shown, in our last paper, from the word of truth, the eternal purpose of God the Father to glorify his dear Son and exalt him as Lord and King, we shall now consider, with his help and blessing, the execution of this purpose in the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification of the Son of God.