Unto Him Be Glory
Archibald G. Brown, January 1, 1888, East London Tabernacle
"Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Ephesians 3:21
Our text is the divine climax of a doxology which is itself the crown of the most stupendous prayer ever uttered even by that prince among pleaders, the Apostle Paul. Keeping your eye upon the passage, you will observe that from the 14th verse we are led upward as by an Alpine guide. We ascend from height to height, and the ever-growing glory of the view overawes and overwhelms us. At last we stand upon the dizzy eminence of that 19th verse, 'Filled with all the fullness of God.'
From that altitude we look down upon the previous petitions as upon lower mountain ranges which are dwarfed now by the exceeding height on which we stand; and yet each one of those petitions, when viewed from the base of the prayer, seemed to tower above us like a Himalayan peak. Would you know the exceeding height of our text, it is necessary to go down into the valley, and allow this Alpine guide to take us up stage by stage.
We commence at the 16th verse, and he leads us up to the first range. 'That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.' O Paul, you have pioneered us to a wondrous position here! What fresh breezes blow over this mountain top, 'Strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man.' What a view the soul gains from this elevation!
But our guide points upwards, and mounts to a yet higher stage, 'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.' He prays that I may know the habitual residence of Jesus Christ within my soul. I can now look down upon the first mountain range, though at the commencement of my ascent that seemed to be a dizzy height.
But still the apostle says, 'Follow me higher yet: comprehending the breadth, and length, and depth, and height and knowing the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.' My guide has now taken me up into the blue ether itself. I feel that I am already in sky-land. Oh, the purity of the air that is breathed on this height, an apprehension of all the love of Christ to me, in its height, and depth, and length and breadth!
While enraptured, I look around upon the out-spreading scene, he says, 'Higher yet!' and he leads me to another range, which towers overhead — 'Filled with all the fullness of God!' From this point all the other requests, each one of which seemed to be a mountain in itself, become dwarfed into lowly hills.
But I see that there is still towering high above me one remaining peak, and it rears its majestic head so high that even the height on which I stand seems as nothing. It is that glittering peak of the 20th verse. Shall we attempt its ascent? We may surely do so if Paul, as guide, will only lead the way.
We start from 'Filled with all the fullness of God', and we ascend to 'Now unto him that is able to do more than we ask.' Ah, I have asked God that I might be filled with all the fullness, and now he is able to do more than I ask.
But have I gained the summit? My guide says, 'No; up to a yet higher stage: able to do more than we ask or think.' I can think more than I can ask, and God can do more than I can think. This is an majestic height — but still the apostle says, 'Up; you have not reached the summit yet, for he is able to do abundantly more than we ask or think.' Oh, apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, is not this the topmost pinnacle — 'abundantly more than we ask or think'? 'NO', he replies; 'there is a higher peak still.
He is able to do exceeding abundantly — not only abundantly — but exceeding abundantly above what we ask or think.'
Is this the climax? 'No, there is one other pinnacle. He is able to do not only abundantly, and not only exceeding abundantly, more than we ask or think — but exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think. He is able to do not only above one or two thoughts — but above all my highest thoughts.
Now we stand on the very topmost peak of this stupendous prayer — a prayer crowned by this doxology, and, standing on the heaven-high summit, we shout with the apostle, 'Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.'
We have selected this closing verse of the 3rd of Ephesians as the motto for the church for 1888, because it contains . . .
all that is worth living for,
all that is worth laboring for,
all that is worth suffering for,
and all that is worth dying for.
'Unto him be glory.' As the Lord lives, I know of nothing that is worthy of life with all its powers, life with all its activities, and life with all its sufferings, but this — 'Unto him be glory.' He who lives for less than this, lives for that which is unworthy of his manhood and his God.
Let us note, then, that we have here, first the melody: 'Unto him be glory.'
Then, the harp that is to sound it forth — the church.
And then, the duration of its echoes. How long shall the strings vibrate this melody? 'Throughout all generations, world without end.' And our soul adds, 'Amen.'
Let us, then, note that we have first the MELODY: 'Unto him be glory.' Being a note of praise, it necessarily has 'him' for its theme. Rapturous melody can only be employed concerning God. When the saint takes up his music book and begins to sing — when the soul inspired of God begins to pour out rapturous expressions of praise, there is no need to ask, 'Of whom does he sing?' If a child of God praises, he must praise God, for God only deserves to be praised; and the saint feels that in the matter of adoration, he is shut up unto his God. The Miserere belongs unto us, for unto us belong shame and confusion of face, for we have sinned. But the Gloria in Excelsis of the child of God must have God himself for its theme.
Believer, have you not often realized this? All song is taken out of your mouth unless God be the subject of it. Can you sing about yourself? Have you one high-sounding note for your own attainments? Have you one adoring sentence for your own achievements? Rather, do you not feel that, when you turn to yourself, the saddest dirge that music can convey is the most appropriate? But when the timbrels are taken up, and when the joyous notes of praise are heard, it 'goes without saying' that it is unto him the praise ascends.
All the birds of praise fly upwards. When they are allowed to escape from the cage of a saint's mouth, they never wheel low to and fro over earth — but they always beat their way straight up at once — 'Unto him, unto him, unto him.' Praise knows no other direction than an upward flight.
For a moment give me your careful attention, and you will observe that it is absolutely necessary that the saint's praise should be 'unto him'. If it were not so, he would be out of harmony with the whole of nature. Before man existed nature sang this song, though in a lower key. Before ever man raised his voice to God in adoration, nature broke the silence. There is a voice that goes forth even from inanimate creation, and it is 'unto him', for 'the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day unto day utters speech.' And the theme of the speech of nature is, 'Praise be unto him.'
With a splendid touch of poetry the psalmist says, 'Praise him, O stars of light'; and it needs no very vivid imagination to conceive the stars sending back the answer, 'David, you need not tell us to do that. We cannot do anything else. As we walk in our courses we celebrate him. There is not a point of light in God's Heaven which does not glitter to his glory.'
In the Psalms again we are told that the trees of the forest clap their hands, and the hills rejoice and leap for very joy before the Lord. Old ocean is not silent. A deep spectrum of notes comes from her majestic mouth, for the waves roar out their doxology to him. Those thundering, foaming, rolling masses with their shaggy manes praise Jehovah. Were not the saint to have him as the matter of his song, he would be positively lower in his praise than nature. He would be a discordant string in God's great harp. If he praises, it must be unto him.
And yet, again, if the saint's song were not unto him it would clash with the songs of Heaven. You know the songs which the angels sing. They gave earth a rehearsal on that first Christmas morning and their song awoke the echoes and made the welkin ring with 'Glory to God in the highest! On earth peace, good will to men.' If I say not, 'Unto him be glory', my song clashes with the melodies of the angels, for they know no glory but glory unto God. Seraphim and cherubim continually do cry, 'Holy, holy, holy, is Lord God Almighty.' The redeemed raise their note, and what is that? Listen! 'Unto him.' That is the key-note — 'Unto him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and his Father — unto him be glory.'
Yes, there is a sweet necessity that the melody of the saint's song should be 'Unto him.' Oh, may God give us such loving hearts, such consecrated souls, such sanctified tongues, that the note of our every-day life shall be, 'Unto him be the glory!' There is the melody.
Now, I want you very specially to note the HARP which is to sound forth this melody. 'Unto him be glory in the church.'
There is a very notable alteration in the Revised Version. I do not purpose dwelling on it — but I like in all things to be fair to the word of God, and therefore I remind you that this passage may be read, 'Unto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.' Ah, yes, in him the glory of God is perfect. To carry out our metaphor, Jesus is the one perfect harp that sounds forth the glory of God, without one string being a fraction out of tune. Jesus is himself the chief singer in the glory, for we are told in the 22nd Psalm that he says, 'My praise shall be of you. In the midst of the congregation will I praise you.' Jesus Christ praises the Father perfectly.
But praise is to be in the church, as well as in Christ Jesus. Let me ask you this question: If God does not receive a tribute of glory from the church, where shall he look for it? If the church yields not a revenue of praise unto God, what harvest-field shall he reap? The world pays God no rent, no matter how he may lavish his kindness upon earth. The natural man gives him no return. There is a deep conspiracy on earth to withhold from the Lord of the Manor the glory due unto his holy name. But the redeemed of the Lord must not, cannot, remain silent.
If our lips are silent, whose lips shall be vocal? The church is God's family, and who shall speak well of the Father if not the sons and the daughters? Where can the Father expect to receive a tribute of praise, if not from the lips of his own children? To change the metaphor, is not the church his own vineyard? Does not he say concerning the church, 'A vineyard of red wine. I, the Lord, do keep it. I will water it every moment. Lest any hurt it I will keep it night and day'? He has dug about it, and walled it, and put up a tower in it. Has he not a right to seek fruit for his toil? If he finds none from his vineyard, shall he look to the desert for it? O church of God, your Lord and Master has a right to expect that his praise shall ring in sweetest strains from every string his grace has put in tune. Are you not his own blood-bought?
If the church, which he has purchased with his blood, sings not 'Unto him be glory' — then how guilty is the silence! The church is his temple, and every living stone in that temple may well shout, 'Glory unto him who has reared his sanctuary of stones cut out of nature's quarry!' As David sings in his 29th Psalm, 'And in his temple does every one speak of his glory', or, as it is beautifully rendered in the Revised Version, 'In his temple everything says, Glory.'
But it is much easier to deal in generalities than to make a home application. My deepest wish, therefore, is to get as close as possible to your heart and my own, while I dwell, for a few moments, on the thought that, as part of the one church, we must raise the strain. We must see to it, beloved, that our portion of the church is not barren in this respect. What shall it profit us, that all the rest of the church raises the anthem, 'Unto him be glory', if there be silence so far as the church in this Tabernacle is concerned? My soul longs with an unutterable longing that this should become the only one matter about which there is a jealousy in our borders — Who shall praise him most? Who shall sink lowest that he may be exalted? Oh, brothers and sisters, I beseech you as pastor, as friend, as brother, and, I trust, as teacher sent of God, to let everything else be reckoned by you as trivial and as unworthy of your thought and time, compared with this. Is God being glorified in our midst? Is there ascending unto him from the sanctuary a perpetual song of praise?
I imagine for a moment that no member in the two thousand of us has any other ambition, any other wish, or any other aim, than this, 'Unto him be glory.' Would it not be at once the death of all self-seeking? Oh what a revolution there would be! How all petty jealousies would die out before this one overmastering ambition! It would save us from all clashing one with another. Think of every member of this church aiming at nothing, caring for nothing, praying for nothing, and troubled about nothing — but that the Lord should be glorified in this church. I do not think that there would be then any fear of A running up against B' or of C clashing with D' or of D getting in the way of E. Like the seraphim Ezekiel saw, born in the fire-cloud and themselves a flame — we should each go straight forward. Where the Spirit was to go they went, and they turned not when they went. No clashing, no confusion, no hindering one another. They were all flying to one goal, which was the glory of their God.
Oh, if the day might come when every member of this church should be eaten up with a passion for the glory of God in our midst, every little bickering would die, every scheme for self-exaltation would be swamped, and brother would grip brother's hand and say, 'Let God alone be magnified.' One would not say to the other, 'I think I have more right to that position than you have.' No — but all would cry, 'Unto him be glory.' The Lord hasten the day!
How is God glorified in the church? The great honor of Israel was that the Lord made that nation the custodian of the oracles of God. When Paul asks the question, 'What advantage then has the Jew?' he answers, 'Much every way, chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.' The high privilege of the church of God today is the stewardship of the truth. Then, if I pray, 'Unto him be glory in the church', I am virtually praying the Lord to maintain truth in the borders of the church; for, if the truth of God is not kept inviolate and held in sacred reverence, there is no glory in the church. If the day should ever come (which God forbid!) that there should be a gospel preached on this platform which has not a clear unmistakable blood-mark upon it — if the day should ever come in the which a reference to the word of God should not be considered by this church a satisfactory argument or proof — if the day should ever dawn in the which the word of God was tampered with and molded and altered, though this place might be filled as it is filled tonight, and though the world might say, 'Behold, a great success' — yet 'Ichabod' would be written upon its walls. Unto him be glory in the church by fidelity unto the truth.
Yes, and the glory of God in the church lies also in the conversion of souls. He is more glorified in the conversion of a little boy, than in the creation of a world. It is impossible for me to pray honestly, 'Unto him be glory in the church', unless I desire above everything that sinners should be saved. Fellow church-members, hold, with a grip that nothing can relax, the truth that no church is prosperous where conversions do not abound. If God is to be magnified and glorified in the church, there must be a constant succession of converts coming forward and saying, 'I am the Lord's!' Oh, if conversions are lacking, the glory of the church has departed! 'Unto him be glory.' Yes, in the salvation of the drunkard. 'Unto him be glory.' Yes, in the reclamation of the profligate. 'Unto him be glory.' Yes in the tears of the penitent, in the sobs of the contrite, and in the fresh joy of the young convert. All this is included in the aspiration for God's glory.
'Unto him be glory.' Yes, by whatever instrumentality. We are not on right ground, brethren and sisters, unless we are prepared to say this. There is a tendency for us to put it thus: 'Unto him be glory by me in the church.' Or, perhaps, loving and devoted church-members may be tempted to look towards the pastor, and say, 'Unto him be glory in the church by our pastor.' No, no; there must be no restrictions. 'Unto him be glory by any instrumentality which the Lord may be pleased to use.' Unto him be glory, whoever may be the chosen vessel. 'Unto him be glory', whoever may be laid low. 'Unto him be glory' at all cost, all hazard, all pain, all suffering, for his glory is cheap at any cost.
I want you, brethren and sisters, before God to know no other ambition concerning the work of God in this Tabernacle than this. I pray you, forget yourselves; forget me. Let no loving association, or years of service, or bonds of affection that may have entwined about us, warp the prayer. It is, 'Unto him be glory.' Lord, choose your own way, your own method, your own instrumentality. Put us aside, or bid us remain — but unto him be glory, and our soul shall be content. This I think is the very essence of Paul's exclamation.
In conclusion. How long are the echoes of this melody to last? Is it to be only during the evening of the first Sunday of a new year? Only to the end of a week or of a month? Listen: 'Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout' — as it should be literally rendered — 'all the generations of the age of the ages.'
Do you catch the thought? It is that this magnificent ascription, 'Unto him be glory', is to go rolling on from generation to generation. It means that our children shall sing it when our lips are silent. It means that the son shall take up the song where the father broke it off. It means that the daughter shall continue the song at the note following that which died away on the mother's lip. So shall it be from generation unto generation, until Jesus comes; and then unto him shall be glory in that day when he shall appear and his saints shall be caught up to meet him.
In that day when the ransomed dust shall be quickened, and shall come out of its long imprisonment to enjoy the blessings of the first resurrection; in that day when he shall come to be admired in his saints and in all them that believe; in that day when with his iron rod he lays low all rebels and asserts his divine sovereignty; in that day when Heaven and earth is set on a blaze; in that day when there is a new Heaven and a new earth, the song shall still be ringing, 'Unto him be glory!' In that day when he shall have delivered up unto the Father the key of government, in that eternal day that knows no change, rolling ceaselessly down the ages and gathering volume as it rolls, where shall still be heard the solemn anthem of tonight, 'Unto him be glory.'
Brethren and sisters, we have been singing tonight a song that is never to die out! This is a thought which makes my soul burn with joy. When we sang at the commencement of the service the glowing hymn, 'All hail the power of Jesus' name', we sang a song that shall never tone down into silence. When we sang just now, 'Come, saints, and adore Him, come bow at His feet', we only sang the first bar of an anthem that is to roll on forever, throughout all ages, world without end.
Do you marvel that the apostle said 'Amen'? Our hearts add their 'Amen' to his. God grant that among the eternal choristers who maintain this undying song, there may be found all of you who are present in this Tabernacle this night, with your sons and your daughters, for Jesus' sake! Amen.