FROM GRACE TO GLORY
"The Lord will give grace and glory."--Psalm 84:11
We reach the last stage in this brief history of the new nature in the regenerate--its translation from a state of grace to a state of glory. God has not left His Church on earth without some pledges and visions of heaven. Now and then the pearly gate of the celestial city expands to faith's far-seeing eye--perhaps, when attending some beloved saint to the brink of the river, or when, in seasons of rapt communion, we ascend the summit of our spiritual Pisgah--and then we seem, for a while, to be encircled with the sunbeams, to breathe the odors, and to hear the music of the glorified; and, like the disciples amid the scene of the transfiguration, we would gladly build our tabernacle and abide there forever.
We have had occasion to remark, in the progress of our little treatise, that the grace of God in the soul was the pledge of its coming glory. It is indeed more than the pledge, it is essentially and undeniably a part of the glory itself. Present grace is to future glory what the outline is to the picture, the seed to the flower, the twilight to the day. He who has the smallest degree of grace in his soul has the first beginnings of glory. The question of our final entrance into heaven is not the first which should engage our earliest and most anxious thought. There is another, a more immediate and important one. "Have I the converting grace of God in my heart? Am I born again?" If this question is fairly met and satisfactorily answered--if the Holy Spirit authenticates His own work in the soul, then the ulterior question of our final entrance into glory is forever set at rest, and set at rest in a way which should annihilate every doubt and quell every fear. The believing soul grasping the first and lowest link in the chain--converting grace--gradually ascends from link to link in the process of knowledge, and strength, and holiness, until, touching the last and highest, it finds itself in glory.
The fitness of the two states to the circumstances of the believer is evident. Grace is the believer's portion here; glory is his reward of grace hereafter. The one is an essential element of his present condition; the other of his future condition. Glory in its fullness cannot be realized on earth, seeing that it appertains to a perfect state of being; and grace cannot be exercised in heaven, seeing that it has reference to sin and sorrow in their endless forms, both of which are there utterly and forever unknown. So long as we dwell in this imperfect state of being, we are sustained, sanctified, and comforted by grace; but when we are delivered from the burden of sin, and the soul is divested of its earthly vestments, the mission of grace is done, its work complete, and we are then received up into glory. The two things which will now briefly engage our attention, and thus close the volume, are--Grace and Glory. Both are the gift of God. "The Lord will give grace and glory."
GRACEis one of the most precious and significant terms of the Bible. It tells of God's free and unconditional choice of a people, everlastingly loved. It speaks of His mercy to the miserable, of His pardon to the guilty, of His favor to the lost, of His free and boundless love to poor sinners. Seeing, then, that none are saved but those who are saved by grace--electing, sovereign, free grace--and seeing, also, that all the precious streams of sanctification, peace, joy, and hope flow from this Divine and marvelous Fountain, is it any wonder that from the lowest depths of the soul the believer should sing–
"The Lord will give grace." This He does in the first place, by giving Himself, the Infinite and Eternal Fountain of grace. Who gives this grace? It is Jehovah, whose title is, "The God of Grace." He is so essentially. The light which flows from the sun, the water which gushes from the spring, are dependent elements upon a higher and creative power; and yet we may employ these figures to illustrate the spontaneity and freeness of this great blessing--the grace of God. The greatness of God is the greatness of grace. The infinitude of God is the infinitude of love. When Jehovah would portray Himself, is it not as the God of grace? Gaze upon the picture, wonder and admire! "And the Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and GRACIOUS, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin," (Exod. 34:6, 7.)
Who could reveal the Divine nature thus but God Himself? Who could tell that He was merciful and gracious to sinners, to the most guilty, to the most vile, to those who had forsaken Him the fountain of living waters, who had rebelled against His government, who had derided His authority, who had sought to annihilate His very being, had He not revealed it himself? And when God would win us to confidence, and encourage our trembling heart to draw near to Him, all guilty as we are, what is the argument which He Himself employs? Oh, so like Himself! "It shall come to pass, when he cries unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious!"
What a nature is our God's! What a heart is His! The Lord of all grace--all-pardoning, all-accepting, all-sanctifying, all-comforting grace to the ungracious, to the unworthy, to the poor, to the bankrupt, to the vile, the sinful.
See the spring-head of our ELECTION to eternal life! It was grace in eternity which chose us in Christ, and blest us in Him with all spiritual blessings, and, to the praise of the glory of that grace, made us accepted in Jesus Christ the Beloved. In this light I wish you, my reader, to study the character of God. Study Him not in the light of your sins--look not upon Him through the haze of your guilt; but behold Him in the Divine light of His boundless grace--look upon Him through the pure, gracious medium of the Son of His love. It is a delightful and consolatory reflection that no distortions of His character--no misrepresentations of His Word, or blind views of His conduct, consequent upon the guilt of our sin, or the working of our unbelief--can possibly affect His true character, or change the relation He sustains to His people. "Though we believe not, yet He abides faithful; He cannot deny Himself." Approach Him, then, as "the God of all grace." Confess your sins, make known your requests, unveil your sorrows. Cast upon Him all your care--acknowledge Him in all your ways--revere, honor, and glorify His great name, for, "God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." Marvelous declaration! but not more marvelous than true!
The Lord Jesus, the unspeakable gift of God, is the DEPOSITORY of this grace. It is a treasure too divine and too precious to be placed in other hands--to be confided to the keeping or the administration of any other being than the beloved Son of God. As the God-man Mediator, the Lord Jesus is the Head and Fountain of all grace to His saints. "It pleased the Father that in Him all fullness should dwell." "Full of grace." The first Adam became a bankrupt in grace, and impoverished and ruined his posterity. The Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, is He in whom "dwelt all the FULLNESS of the GODHEAD bodily." His resources, like His being, are infinite--His supplies, like His nature, are inexhaustible. He has been administering this grace from the time of the first transgression until now, and will administer it until there shall no longer exist a vessel to receive out of His fullness.
Will you hesitate, then, saint of God, to sink your emptiness in this fullness--to drink abundantly from this supply--to go to Jesus with every sin, the greatest; with every temptation, the strongest; with every need, the deepest; with every trial, the severest; with your mental despondency, your lowest spiritual frame--yes, exactly as you are--and receive from Christ's boundless grace--grace to help you in the time of need? Hesitate not! Every drop of Christ's fullness of grace is yours! And you have not a sin this grace cannot cancel, not a corruption it cannot subdue--not a trial of faith or patience it cannot sustain--not a cross or burden it cannot enable you to bear.
Yes, the Lord will give grace! He will give us grace for every position in which His providence places us. He will give sustaining grace under every trial He sends us. He will give preserving grace in every path of peril along which He leads us. He will give comforting grace in every afflictive dispensation by which He seeks to promote our holiness here, and so to advance our fitness for glory hereafter. Yes, He gives more grace. There is no stintiness, no limit in the Triune-God. He has given you grace for past exigencies, and He is prepared to give you more grace for present ones. The Lord keeps His people poor, that He might keep them dependent. They shall have no grace in hand, that they might live daily, hourly upon His bounty. It is under the pain and pressure of a present trial we learn the value and preciousness of this grace, and fly to its appropriate and boundless supply, and find in our personal experience the promise fulfilled, "My grace is sufficient for you."
We only add, the Lord will give dying grace. That day, that solemn day so long anticipated, so fearfully dreaded, comes, but with it comes the GRACE that cheers its solemnity, sustains its sinking, strengthens its languor, quells its fear, disarms its dread, and transforms it into a scene of life, of bliss, of glory. You who, all your lifetime in bondage through the fear of death, die a thousand deaths in the anticipation of one, give your gloomy, desponding apprehensions to the winds, and calmly, hopefully wait the appointed hour. With your sickness will come the grace that sanctifies it; with your parting will come the grace that soothes it; with your dying will come the grace that sustains it; with your death will come the grace that disarms its sting, and glorifies God in it. He, who from His infinite fullness gave you grace to live, from the same boundless, exhaustless source will give you grace to die!
And then followsTHE GLORY! "The Lord will give grace and glory." If there is any one revealed truth more true than another, it is this, the final GLORIFICATION of all who believe in Jesus. "Whom He justified, them He also GLORIFIED!" The translation of the Christian is out of grace into glory. In the first place, the Lord gives the first-fruits of glory in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the renewed soul. First-fruits are specimens and pledges of the harvest. The apostle speaks of the saints of God as having "the FIRST-FRUITS of the Spirit." And Christ our Lord is said, by the same apostle, to have "risen from the dead the FIRST-FRUITS of those who slept." He, then, who has the Spirit of God dwelling in him--and every soul born again has this--binds to his believing heart a sheaf of the first-fruits of heaven. Oh, realize this in your personal experience! Don't you know that if you are a temple of God, the Spirit of God dwells in you? And he in whom the Spirit dwells, by that very indwelling possesses the pledge, the seed, the dawn of future and eternal glory. Heaven opens to your believing eye. Often pause amid the weariness of your heavenward journey, and recline upon the sunny slopes of the Delectable Mountains, and gaze upon the glory so soon to burst in all its fullness and splendor upon your soul.
The Lord gives us FITNESS for glory. It is an impressive thought that each day's history in the life of the believer is a schooling, a training of his soul for heaven. The deeper discovery of indwelling sin, the more experimental teaching of the Holy Spirit, the increase of our intimacy with the Lord Jesus, the discipline of sickness, of sorrow, of trial, all, all is but to mature us for the inheritance reserved in heaven for those who, for that inheritance, are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Oh, accept every stroke of His rod, every lesson of His love, every dispensation of His providence, every gift of His grace, as sent to prepare you for the prepared glory! Let your interpretation be, "This affliction, this rebuke, this event is designed by my Father to promote my personal sanctity, to wean me from creatures, to disengage me from earth, and to set me to seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God, and to terminate in His own undivided and endless glory."
The Lord gives, also, the TITLE to glory. No individual can legally make good his claim to an earthly domain without a valid title. Look well to your title-deed to the inheritance of glory. There is but one--it is the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, received by faith, put upon us by the Holy Spirit, and authenticated by a holy and a godly life. This was the panting desire of the apostle, "That I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
Christ's merit is our merit for heaven. Christ's worth is our worthiness for glory. Christ's cross is our ladder to the throne. The groundwork of our glory, then, is the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus--the finished work of Immanuel--the perfect obedience He gave to the law in His life, and the infinite satisfaction He offered to Divine Justice in His death. Invested with the righteousness of Christ--your own righteousness abjured and trampled in the dust--when you pass into eternity, and knock at the gate of glory, it will in a moment open to your touch, and usher you within its untold, its ever-telling, ever-deepening happiness and splendor; and so you shall ascend from grace to glory.
Then comes the GLORY ITSELF! Who can describe it? To stand in the presence of God--to behold Jesus in His glorified form--to be perfectly like Him--to mingle with the goodly fellowship of the apostles, with the noble army of martyrs, and with the spirits of just men made perfect--to be reunited with the saints from whom we parted on the confines of glory--to come again with Jesus when He appears in the clouds of heaven--in a word, to be forever with the Lord in the new heavens and the new earth--oh, this, this is glory indeed! We know but little of heaven in its details. God has given us a grand outline in His Word, and this must suffice for our present limited range of knowledge, and satisfy our present ardent aspirations, until the blissful moment when our personal experience shall put us into possession of the fullness of joy that is in God's presence, and of the pleasures that are at His right hand for evermore. "As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness--I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness."
From these general statements let me, in conclusion, reiterate a few particulars of the coming glory of the saints. 1. It will be the glory of perfect HOLINESS. Transporting thought! All remains of sin will be annihilated; and, body and soul pure and sinless as Christ is pure, we shall be arrayed not only in the beauty, but resplendent with the glory of holiness. Oh, how the heart bounds in anticipation of that state!
2. It will be the glory of perfect LOVE.Dwelling in the home of love, standing in the Divine Center of love, and bathing in the crystal sea of love, our love to God and to the Church of God will be perfect. All that tainted and jarred and shaded it here below will be consumed in the conflagration of the last day, and we shall be complete in holy love.
3. It will be the glory of perfect KNOWLEDGE. That which is in part done away, we shall then know even as also we are known. The dark environment through which our intellectual powers now look will then be exchanged for the perfect expansion of all our faculties; and with the vast field of divine knowledge thrown open to our view, the unfettered, unclouded soul will expatiate in a world of study and thought, illimitable in its range, infinite in its resources, and eternal in its duration.
4. It will be the glory of perfect COMPANIONSHIP. The social instincts of our being, developed and sanctified in the highest and noblest degree, will then revel in the goodly fellowship of apostles and prophets, of the nobler army of martyrs, of the spirits of just men made perfect, of the whole assembly and church of the first-born, and an innumerable company of angels, with whom we shall sit down at the banquet of the Lamb. Oh, what a glory will encircle that august and blissful assembly!
5. There will be the glory of REUNION. Even the heathen philosophers cherished dim, vague conceptions of this. Socrates, before he drank his poison, cheered his last moments with the prospect of meeting and conversing with his beloved Orpheus and Homer. But Christianity not only reveals the fact, but unveils the glory of the future condition of the renewed soul. And not the least glory which it flashes upon the believing eye is, the certain, the intelligent, and holy reunion and communion in heaven of all who knew and loved each other in this life, and who died in the assured hope of meeting again forever in the life which is to come.
6. But, transcending all glory will be the glory of BEING FOREVER WITH CHRIST. Whom, not having here seen, we loved; but beholding Him now in beatific vision, how intense will be our affection, and how consummate will be our glory! I marvel if for ages we shall desire to gaze upon any other object than Jesus! It would seem as though He would fill the entire orbit of our admiration, love, and bliss--the all-glorious, all-absorbing, all-satisfying One. Bending upon each saint a smile of ineffable complacency and love, how will He welcome each to glory as the precious fruit of His soul-travail, introduce each one to the Father, and enfold all within His loving and capacious bosom! Oh! is not this prospect worth living to gain, and worth dying to possess? Until then, let us seek to have more heavenliness, and to live more entirely for heaven. Looking and longing for the glorious appearing of the Lord, be it our aim to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live godly, righteously, and soberly in this present world; that, at Christ's coming, we may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
"For the Lord God is a sun and shield--the Lord will give grace and glory--no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11
"Death comes to take me where I long to be;
One pang, and brighter blooms the immortal flower.
Death comes to lead me from mortality,
To lands which know not one unhappy hour;
I have a hope, a faith--from sorrow here
I'm led by death away--why should I start or fear?
"A change from woe to joy--from earth to heaven--
Death gives me this--it leads me calmly where
The smile that long ago from mine were riven
May meet again! Death answers many a prayer.
Bright day, shine on! be glad--days brighter far
Are stretched before my eyes than those of mortals are!
"Death comes, but with it comes the Lord of death,
The Christ who gave His life a sacrifice for me;
And I with joy will yield my parting breath,
Wrapped in the splendor of the home I then shall see–
And thus from GRACE to GLORY I shall go,
Have passed from earth, with all its scenes of weariness and woe."