by Octavius Winslow
The Glory of the Redeemer in His Ascension and Exaltation
It is not surprising that the deeper we go into the consideration of the Redeemer's glory, the greater it should appear. It is the glory of the incarnate Jehovah; infinite therefore in its nature it must be, fathomless in its depth, and illimitable in its degree—leaving in the far distance the mightiest powers of man to reach it. Who that is not himself infinite, can understand infinity? "No man," is the emphatic declaration of Christ, "knows the Son but the Father." It is recorded of Epictetus, that, when his hearers said to him, "You have uttered many excellent things of God, but we cannot as yet understand what He is," he truly and nobly replied, "Were I able fully to set forth God, I should either be a god myself, or God Himself would cease to be what He is." What a demonstrative testimony does the declaration of the Son of God, just quoted, bear to His infinite greatness and glory! How fatal is this simple passage to the doctrine which denies the absolute Godhead of Christ! Honestly and prayerfully considered, it must lead to the overwhelming conviction, that he who can only be understood by God, must be God Himself. "No man" (no one—man or angel) "knows the Son but the Father." The mightiest created intellect cannot grasp Him, the loftiest imagination cannot conceive of Him, the most eloquent tongue cannot describe Him. The principalities and the powers, overwhelmed with the greatness of the theme, and the vastness of the idea, sink down before the incarnate God, happy if permitted but to gaze upon His face, and blessed if but irradiated with His smile, or sheltered beneath the skirtings of His glory. And yet, infinitely great and glorious as He is, He graciously invites us to sit at His feet and learn from Him. Precious privilege! May the Holy Spirit, now that we are about to retire from the scene of His dark humiliation, and to follow Him to the height of His glorious exaltation, strengthen the wing of love, and anoint the eye of faith, that to us speeding our flight and clearing our vision, we may be enabled to approach in spirit very near the King, drinking in deep views of His beauty!
As in His sufferings, so in His exaltation, there was a solemn NECESSITY why He should be advanced to a state of supreme glory. In the one case, He could not have become the Redeemer but as He became the Sacrifice; in the other, He could not have applied His redemption, but as He assumed the sovereignty of a king. "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." The reasons which plead for the exaltation of Christ are many and powerful. The consideration of a few of the more commanding ones will serve to present, in some important points of view, the glory and preciousness of this great subject. And, in the first place,
The truth and glory of the Father were pledged to the exaltation of His Son from the scene, and as the reward, of His suffering and humiliation. And here it is delightful to trace the faithfulness of God to His promises. For all that the Father was to His Son, He is to them whom His Son represented. Jesus, in every step of His life, acted as a public person, as a representative. He lived, He labored, He thought, He suffered, He died, He rose from the dead, and was received up into glory, not in His individual capacity, but as the covenant head of His covenant people. So that all that the Father was to Jesus, He is now to the body of Jesus—the Church. Christ revealed the Father to His people, and in return He represented His people to the Father. "He that has seen me, has seen the Father." "No man knows the Father but the Son, and He to whom the Son shall reveal Him." And on the other hand, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One." Thus gloriously does our adorable Emmanuel stand between God and the believer—revealing the glory of the one, and hiding the deformity of the other. Oh, how should this truth heighten our views of His glory, and deepen our sense of His love!
The promise of the Father stood pledged to the exaltation of His Son. It was a part and condition of the covenant of redemption, that if He obeyed the law and endured its penalty on behalf of His people, He should "see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied;" that if He went down, He should return again; that if He sunk, He should rise again; that if He restored honor to the Divine government, reconciling the conflicting attributes of God, in the way of mercy and grace to man, the throne, the crown, and the scepter of mediatorial glory and sovereignty should be His reward. Thus speak the Divine promises. "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief—when you shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." The seed He was to see, and the days that were to be prolonged, were the result of His humiliation, and were to follow His exaltation to glory. "My servant shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high." Not less explicit and beautiful is that promise recorded by the prophet Ezekiel, "Thus says the Lord God; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of its young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon a high mountain and eminent: in the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar." To whom can this prediction properly refer, and to whom can this promise be fully accomplished, but in Jesus? He was the "BRANCH," the 'high Branch;' He was the "Plant of renown," the plant of the Father's setting: in His humiliation He was the 'young twig, the tender one;' in His exaltation He was the 'goodly cedar, planted upon a high mountain and eminent, spreading forth His boughs;' His unveiled and infinite perfections overshadowing His Israel, while supplying them with all manner of precious fruits. With this corresponds the happy experience of the Church: "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste." But the exaltation of Jesus by the Father was as much the fruit of His love, as the fulfilment of His promise. The Father's heart yearned over His Son with a love which, through all His toil, through all His humiliation, faltered not, cooled not, and knew "no variableness, nor shadow of turning." Now, if He loved His Son in His abasement, He wanted also to love Him in His exaltation. If He loved Him in His humiliation, He wanted also to love Him in His glory. His paternal heart yearned to embrace Him once more, who, from eternity, had dwelt in His bosom in all the infinite strength of filial confidence and affection. Thus were the perfections of God pledged to the exaltation of the Redeemer to glory. Justice, truth, goodness, love, all were concerned in effecting the accomplishment of this glorious event.
But the plea for His exaltation found its existence as much in the circumstances in which Christ was placed as in the purpose and love of the Father. As the faithful Servant of the everlasting covenant, it was just, it was the reward of His finished work, that His deepest humiliation on earth should be succeeded by the highest glory in heaven. "For the joy that was set before Him," -the joy of His exaltation, with its glorious fruits, "He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." On this plea for the exaltation of our adorable Lord, we would lay great stress, as one deeply unfolding His glory in this stupendous event. How proper, how righteous does it appear, that the crown of His glory should follow the cross of His humiliation! Toilsome and faithful had been His life; ignominious and painful had been His death. From both there had accrued to God, is now, and will yet be accruing through the countless ages of eternity, a revenue of glory, such as never had been His before. He had revealed the Father gloriously. Drawing aside the veil as no other hand could do, He caused such Divine glory to beam forth, as compelled every spotless spirit in heaven to cover himself with his wings, and fall prostrate in the profoundest humility and homage.
The glorious perfections of God! -never had they appeared so glorious as now. The mediatorial work of Jesus had laid a deep foundation on which they were exhibited to angels and to men in their most illustrious character. Never before had wisdom appeared so truly glorious, nor justice so awfully severe, nor love so intensely bright, nor truth so eternally stable. Had all the angels in heaven, and all the creatures of all worlds, become so many orbs of Divine light, and all been merged into one, so that one should embody and reflect the luster of all, it would have been darkness itself compared with a solitary beam of God's glory, majesty, and power, as revealed in the person and work of Emmanuel. Now it was fit, it was congruous, that, after this faithful servitude, this boundless honor and praise brought to God, His Father should, in return, release Him from all further obligation, lift Him from His humiliation, and place Him high in glory. Therefore it was that Jesus poured out the fervent breathings of His soul on the eve of His passion—"I have glorified You on the earth: I have finished the work which You gave me to do: I have manifested Your name. And now, O Father, glorify me."
His work being finished, the great atonement made, and salvation eternally secured to all the covenant seed, it was fit that the Son of God should return to glory. Heaven was His original and proper place. He was but a stranger and a sojourner here. His mission accomplished, earth, which had once attracted Him to its bosom, attracted Him no longer. As the field of His labors, and the scene of His humiliation, and the theater of His conflict, He had willingly bent His steps towards it. His labors now finished, His humiliation now passed, His battle now fought, and His victory won, He as readily hastened from all below. What stronger ties, what more powerful allurements, had earth than heaven for Jesus? All to Him had been toil and suffering, trial and sorrow. Wearisome had been His pilgrimage, laborious His life, humiliating its every scene, and painful its every incident. Creatures, the best and the fondest, had disappointed Him—sources of created good the most promising had failed Him, and the hour of His deepest necessity and woe found Him treading the wine-press alone, forsaken by man, deserted by God! An atmosphere of sin had enveloped Him on every side; forms of suffering and pollution each moment flitted before His eyes, and sounds of blasphemy and woe fell at each step upon His ear. At whatever point He turned, He saw His Father's name dishonored, His Spirit grieved, His own dignity outraged, His teaching despised, His Gospel rejected, and His authority trampled under foot, by men swearing allegiance to another and a rival sovereign. What greater, fonder, and holier attractions, then, had earth than heaven for Jesus? His resurrection from the dead was His preparative for glory. Leaving the garments of mortality in the forsaken tomb, He wrapped around Him the robe of immortality, and, poised upon the wing, awaited but the signal for His heavenly flight. All that now remained for Him to accomplish was to authenticate the fact of His risen life, place His Church in a position to receive the promised Spirit, breathe His parting blessing, and then ascend to glory. Heaven was His home—loved and longed for! How sweet to Him were its recollections! how hallowed its associations, heightened by their contrast with the scene from which He was now retiring! There, no curse; there, no sorrow; there, no suffering; there, no tears; there, no indignity awaited Him. All was one expanse of glory, all one haven of happiness! But far above all, rose in spiritual and surpassing grandeur, the seat, the altar, and the throne, which, as our Prophet, Priest, and King, He sighed to occupy. A more perfect investiture of Him in these offices, a more complete establishment of His mediatorial dominion, awaited Him. All power in heaven and on earth was to be placed in His hands: all things were to be put in subjection under His feet: and all beings, from the loftiest angel in heaven to the lowest creature on earth, were to acknowledge His government, submit to His sovereignty, worship and 'crown Him Lord of all.'
One more plea for the exaltation of the Redeemer. We find its existence in the relation which the Church sustained to this great event. The ascension of Jesus to glory involved the greatest blessing to His saints. Apart from His own glorification, the glory of His Church was incomplete, so entirely; so identically were they one. We have already seen that the resurrection of Christ from the dead, was the Father's public seal to the acceptance of His work; but the exaltation of Christ to glory was an evidence of the Father's infinite delight in that work. Had our Lord continued on earth, His return from the grave, though settling the fact of the completeness of His atonement, could have afforded no clear evidence, and would have conveyed no adequate idea, of God's full pleasure and delight in the person and work of His beloved Son. But in advancing a step further—in taking His Son out of the world, and placing Him at His own right hand, far above principalities and powers, He demonstrated His ineffable delight in Jesus, and His perfect satisfaction with His great atonement. Now, it is no small mercy for the saints of God to receive and to be well established in this truth, namely, the Father's perfect satisfaction with, and His infinite pleasure in, His Son. For all that which He is to His Son, He is to the people accepted in His Son; so that this view of the glorification of Jesus becomes exceedingly valuable to all who are "accepted in the Beloved." So precious was Jesus to His heart, and so infinitely did His soul delight in Him, He could not allow of His absence from glory a moment longer than was necessary for the accomplishment of His own purpose and the perfecting of His Son's mission. That done, He showed His Beloved the "path of life," and raised Him to His "presence, where is fulness of joy," and to "His right hand, where there are pleasures forevermore."
The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in His most enlarged degree, and for the highest and most gracious ends, rendered the glorification of the Head necessary and expedient. Holding in His hands, not only the keys of hades and of death, but of all the fulness of God, all the riches of the covenant, all the treasures of His Father, He could only dispense these blessings in His exalted state. As it was necessary in the case of Joseph—a personal type of our glorious Redeemer—that he should be exalted to the office of prime minister in Egypt, in order to possess dignity, authority, and power to dispense the riches of Pharaoh, so was it expedient that the great Antitype should assume a mediatorial exaltation, with the view of scattering down mediatorial blessings upon His people. The delay of this event was the only barrier to the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Church. "The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." His own words confirm this statement of the evangelist: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." Now here, second to Himself, was the gift of gifts—the donation of the Holy Spirit, the greatest God could give, the richest man could receive—suspended upon the single fact of the Redeemer's ascension to glory. It would seem as if the baptism of the Church by the Spirit was an event especially reserved to signalize the enthronement of the Son of God in His mediatorial kingdom. God would demonstrate how great was the glory of Jesus in heaven, how perfect was the reconciliation which He had effected between Himself and man, how spiritual was that kingdom which He was about to establish in the earth—the foundation of which His own hand had laid—and how full, and immense, and free, were the blessings ready to be bestowed upon all who, in poverty of spirit, and sincerity of heart, and fervency of soul, should seek them, by opening the windows of heaven, and pouring down the Holy Spirit in all His converting, life-giving, sanctifying, and comforting grace. And oh, how must this Divine and Eternal Spirit, occupying as He did a personal existence in the glorious Trinity, possessing equal glory, honor, and love with the Father and the Son, as equally engaged in securing the salvation of the chosen people—how must He have rejoiced at the consummation of an event which permitted Him to give full vent to the overflowing fountain of His heart's grace and love over the Church which He was about to renew, sanctify, and dwell in through eternity! "The love of the Spirit" pleaded eloquently for the exaltation of Jesus.
To take possession of heaven in behalf of His people, and to perpetuate His office as their intercessory High Priest, it was necessary that He should, at the termination of His sufferings, enter into His glory. "I go," says He, "to prepare a place for you." "Which hope," says the apostle, "we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil; where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus." Thus is the kingdom of heaven secured to all believers. Thus is a mansion in our Father's house made ready for every adopted son. Jesus has gone before to make ready for the glorification of His Church. "I go to prepare a place for you." Oh, sweet words! A place prepared—a mansion set apart for each individual believer! "In my Father's house are many mansions." A mansion in His heart, a mansion in His kingdom, a mansion in His house, for the weakest babe in Christ. The Forerunner has for us entered, even Jesus! How sure is heaven! How certain the eternal happiness of every pardoned and justified soul!
But Jesus took not merely a passive, but also an active, possession of glory for His people. He is there, not only as the Forerunner, but also as the Intercessor. "For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." And with what did He enter? "By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." "Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them." These points will recur to our notice, in the further unfolding of the subject.
Thus much for the necessity of the Redeemer's exaltation to glory. It behooves now to consider THE ASCENSION ITSELF, and the nature of that glory into which He entered.
The circumstance of the Lord's ascension and exaltation meets with frequent and marked allusion in the word of God. The Holy Spirit has attached to the fact the greatest weight. The writings of the Old Testament frequently and distinctly speak of it. "God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet." It is impossible to misunderstand the obvious allusion of these words. He came down as God, He went up as "God manifest in the flesh." The ascension was worthy of His Deity. It was royal and triumphant. He went up as the "great King," and as the mighty Conqueror, "leading captivity captive." Attended by a celestial escort, and amid the shouts and acclamations of all the heavenly hierarchy, He passed within the portals of glory. The demand was made, the challenge was given, the answer was returned: "Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; even lift them up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory." Yes, our Emmanuel, God with us, is "gone up with a shout;" the Lord, Jehovah Jesus, "with the sound of a trumpet." And although no echo of the heavenly minstrelsy was heard on earth, and the cloud which received Him veiled His receding form from the gaze of His disciples, hiding from the view the deepening glory which encircled His ascending flight, yet all heaven reverberated with the song, and grew resplendent with the majesty of His entrance within its gates.
If possible, a still more direct reference to this glorious event is found: "You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive: You have received gifts for men; yes, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." All question as to the reference of this prophecy to the Lord Jesus is set at rest by the apostle, who, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, quotes and applies it to Him. How perfectly does each particular harmonize with the ascension of the Redeemer! "He ascended up on high," "far above all heavens," where no mere creature has ever entered, or can enter—even within the hallowed pavilion of the Divine Majesty itself. "He led captivity captive," chaining to His triumphal car the principalities and the powers—Satan conquered, hell defeated, sin condemned, death vanquished, and the grave dismantled. "He received gifts for men," and to men He gave them; "to some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" "yes, for the rebellious also," for those who, with no plea of worthiness springing from themselves, received the "gifts" as the gratuitous expressions of God's love, the free and sovereign bestowments of His grace. "That the Lord God might dwell among them," even in the midst of His saints, formed into distinct Gospel Churches, "built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit."
The scene and the circumstances of His ascension were of thrilling interest, and deeply spiritual in their meaning. The period, which it is important distinctly to specify, was just forty days after His resurrection; thus affording ample time to establish, by the most irrefragable proof and tangible evidence, this master-fact of His history. Not only did He take this occasion to answer all the reasonings and resolve all the doubts of His still incredulous disciples, but He crowded into this brief space of time, instructions the most needed, precious, and momentous to the well being of His Church. Drawing closer around Him, as if by the new and more powerful attraction of His risen body, His devoted apostles—the future builders of His spiritual temple—He proceeds to renew their Divine commission to preach the Gospel, widening it to the exigences of the world that Gospel was in tended to bless. Opening their understandings more perfectly to understand the Scriptures, He cleared and enlarged their view of His Divine nature, the spiritual character of His kingdom, and the offices, ordinances, and discipline which were to be observed in each Gospel-constituted section of His Church. Thus, even after His atoning work was finished, and the great seal of heaven was affixed to it, our adorable Lord was still engaged in His Father's business, still intent upon promoting His glory, and the eternal welfare of His people. Oh, what love was the love of our Emmanuel! It was no selfish, indolent, inoperative principle; but a love of the purest benevolence, deepest tenderness, and ceaseless action. It was a love ever thinking, ever planning, ever acting, ever seeing, ever speaking, and ever yearning, in behalf of the Church which He carried each moment in the very center of His heart.
And now let us approach the spot where the Redeemer ascended. It was from the Mount Olivet, near to Bethany; so that the two accounts of Christ's ascension recorded by Luke, the one in his Gospel, and the other in his Acts of the Apostles, perfectly agree. How full of great, and holy, and solemn, yes, awful associations would be that spot to Jesus! It was no strange, unfamiliar, untrodden ground to Him. At the foot of that mount, from whose summit He entered into glory, He had been wont to resort with His disciples for holy meditation and prayer. There, too, His sufferings commenced. There He endured the fearful conflict, when His soul was "exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death." It was there, prostrate in the dust, the cup of trembling in His hand, the sweat of blood falling to the ground, He thrice poured out His soul in that touching prayer—"O my Father! if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Yes, it was from the Mount Olivet, the scene of His deep mental agony, and near to Bethany (which signifies the house of affliction), our blessed Lord took His flight to His Father and His God, to enjoy His presence forever, and to drink deeply and eternally of the pleasures which are at His right hand.
And so must it be with all His members. As if to heighten, by contrast with the sufferings of earth, the glories of heaven; as if to give a deeper melody to their song, and a richer sweetness to their joy, and a higher character to their ecstasy, and a profounder sense of the grace that brought them there, it often pleases the Lord that affliction, in various forms, should throw its deepest gloom around the path of the children of God, when just on the eve of translation to glory. And when, in anticipation of a smooth descent, and a cloudless sunset, they have said, with Job, "I shall die in my nest," God, their Father, has seemed to have reserved the bitter dregs of affliction's cup for the dying lips; and, like Jacob, they have been constrained to anticipate, that "with sorrow their grey hairs will be brought down to the grave." Thus "through much tribulation, they enter the kingdom;" out of the house of affliction, and, as it were, from the Mount Olivet, they ascend to the Mount Zion, borne up as in a chariot of fire. Be it so; "He does all things well." Compared with the sufferings of Jesus, it is, in its heaviest form, but a "light affliction;" and, measured with an eternity of bliss, in its longest duration, is "but for a moment."
How touching and instructive was the parting interview! "And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." Oh, how worthy of Himself was this His final blessing! How harmonious with every previous act of His life, was this, its closing one! Blessing to the last, and while with outstretched hands, that blessing was yet breathing from His lips, "received up into glory." Oh how full of grace and love is our adorable Emmanuel! What a heart of overflowing tenderness and blessing is His. Knowing this, knowing it from observation and from experience, supported by the innumerable proofs which crowd every page of the New Testament, is it not a marvel that we should seek our blessing from any other source than Jesus, or that we should breathe our sighs, or pour our sorrows, or repose our aching head, on any other bosom than His? Ah! our acquaintance with Him—our best, our dearest, our most loving Friend—is so limited, we walk with Him so coldly, we follow Him so distantly, we believe in Him so feebly, the greatest wonder is, that in the midst of all, His patience, forbearance, tender and unchangeable love towards us should still be so unwearied and so great.
But who can describe the parting interview and the last blessing? Clustering around Him a lonely, timid band, saddened as they must have been by the thought that they were about to separate forever on earth from Him whom they loved—as many of them afterwards proved—better than life itself; to whom they had been wont to look for guidance, on whom they had leaned for strength, and to the asylum of whose bosom they had fled in danger and in sorrow, they needed His blessing—they needed that which none but Jesus could give to them. They were "oppressed," and He only could "undertake" for them. They were in sorrow, and He only could comfort them. They were tried and perplexed, and He only could sustain and counsel them. And what, may we suppose, would that blessing contain, which He now breathed over them?—The richer anointing of the Spirit to fit them for their work—a larger measure of grace to shield them in temptation, and to uphold them in trial—increased light in the understanding respecting the spiritual nature of His kingdom, and the meaning of the holy Scriptures of truth; and, what to them at that moment would be of unspeakable preciousness—a deeper discovery of His own pardoning love, a fuller assurance of their personal acceptance in Himself, and a richer bestowment of the "peace of God which surpasses all understanding." Thus blessing, He was "parted from them, and carried up into heaven," to intercede for them there; and thus blessed, "they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy," to spread the fragrance, and to manifest the power of His name through all the world.
Let us now ascend in spirit with Jesus, and contemplate THE GLORY OF HIS EXALTATION. That His ascension into heaven was His introduction to a condition of pre-eminent dignity, power, and glory, the Scriptures of truth clearly affirm. Two quotations will be sufficient in proof of this. Thus the apostle speaks of the working of God's "mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and has put all things, under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all." Again, in another place, passing from a most affecting description of the humiliation of Jesus, the same apostle proceeds to draw aside, as it were, the veil of His exalted and glorified state. "Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." How forcible and expressive are these declarations of the high position in heaven to which the Son of God was advanced!
In the first place, He entered fully and manifestly into the glory of His Deity. We may not for a moment suppose that His exaltation added anything to His essential Godhead. This could necessarily undergo no change. His humiliation could not take from, nor His exaltation add to, it. We can suppose the sun pouring light upon a stagnant pool, and yet remain as essentially unsullied as though its beams had but played upon the surface of the most pure and polished lake. Now what was the revelation of Jesus, but the pouring down of the beams of the Sun of Righteousness upon a sin-accursed and sorrow-stricken world? Yet the contact of our Lord with this vast mass of pollution and iniquity, was no detriment to His essential and personal holiness and dignity. His beams of light and glory extracted and absorbed no poison from this stagnant pool, but rather—oh sovereign virtue of His grace! -exerted so Divine, so cleansing, and so purifying an influence, that myriads once sunk beneath its pollutions, have emerged cleansed, sanctified, and saved.
Now the exaltation of Jesus was the full, clear, and manifest revealing of His Deity. He entered into the glory of His Godhead, so long suspended and eclipsed. He was reinstated in His original dignity, and reinvested with His former glory. Oh, how magnificently glorious did the beams of that Sun now shine, which but a little before had set in darkness and in blood! Yes, our Emmanuel entered fully into His Divine glory when He entered into heaven! There it had been from everlasting; there it existed during the period of His humiliation; and there, as a robe of dazzling light, it awaited to invest Him the moment He should pass within the veil of the heavenly sanctuary, and enter the portal of the celestial and eternal palace. Then came the coronation! Then the enthronement! Oh, what hallowed imagination can form an adequate conception of that scene? What tongue describe the splendor of that moment? Attended by a celestial retinue, each angel's harp strung and tuned for a higher strain of melody than that which broke in the stillness of night upon the plains of Bethlehem, He passed within the golden portal, file on file of adoring spirits lining the path that conducted Him to His throne. Then rose the loud acclaim of welcome, as ten thousand times ten thousand struck their golden harps, louder than seven thunders rolling and reverberating along the dome of heaven. Falling prostrate upon their faces, all the celestial host, cherubim and seraphim, and "spirits of just men made perfect," would worship at His feet, while every hand would be extended to place the crown upon His head, and every tongue assist to swell the coronation anthem—"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." Oh, let us catch their thrilling note, and echo back their lofty song:
"All hail the power of Jesus' name!
Let angels prostrate fall,
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all!
"Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all!
"Oh that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall
We'll join the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all!"
This exaltation would also include the full induction of the Redeemer into His mediatorial glory. This had but in a measure developed itself on earth. Our blessed Lord lived in great obscurity as to His personal glory when below. As the Prophet, Priest, and King, haw partially was He recognized; how small a portion of His dignity, majesty, and power, was visible! It was perfectly congruous with the whole economy of His kingdom, that it should be so. That kingdom was purely spiritual; its nature, its laws, its subjects, its progress, and its ultimate and certain triumph, purely and perfectly from heaven, spiritual and Divine. By the early demonstration of this truth, our Lord sought to rebuke the lofty ambition, and earthly hopes, and visionary expectations of the proud and haughty nation, who, pluming themselves upon their national election of God, their miraculous history, their early conquests and former greatness, and sighing for release from the Roman yoke, were dreaming of the pomp, and glory, and conquest of a temporal Messiah. Now it was proper, that even the spiritual glory of our Lord, seen, as it would be, through material objects, and liable thus to be secularized, should be but partially and cautiously developed. Too full a discovery of His glory, and too great a demonstration of His power, might have but strengthened the expectation and fostered the views which He sought so earnestly, and yet so gently, to correct. Even His Church, in consequence of the limited bestowment of the Spirit, was not yet prepared for a full disclosure of His personal and official greatness. Therefore He said to His disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now."
His entrance into heaven was the signal for the full development of His mediatorial power and glory. This was the promise of His Father, and this the reward of His death. "I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." "Unto the Son He says, Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." "I appoint unto you," says Christ, "a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me!" "When You shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." Thus His exaltation at the right hand of the Father was His full induction into the mediatorial kingdom. Now was He exalted "heir of all things" -now were "all things put under His feet," -now "all power in heaven and on earth was given to Him;" and from that moment that He touched the crown and grasped the scepter, and the government was placed upon His shoulder, His truth was to advance, and His kingdom widen, with ever-growing power, until, supplanting all error, and subduing all kingdoms, He was to reign "King of kings and Lord of lords."
But we have yet to consider an essential, and, to the Church of God, a most blessed, part of the Redeemer's exaltation—the glory into which His human nature entered on His ascension into heaven. The Divine and the human nature once united, were united forever. Now there was an honoring, but not a glorifying, of our humanity, when the Son of God assumed it. Its union with the Deity, its fulness of the Spirit—its spotless holiness—its deep knowledge of, and intimate fellowship with, God—conspired to invest it with a dignity and honor such as no creature had ever before or ever shall again attain. But not until its ascension into heaven was it glorified. Oh, through what humiliation did it pass, what indignity did it endure, when below! What sinless weaknesses, imperfections, and frailties, clung to it! It hungered, it thirsted, it labored, it sorrowed, it wept, it suffered, it bled, it died! The poor man's scorn, the rich man's ridicule, what indignities did it endure—it was scourged, it was bruised, it was mocked, it was smitten, it was spitten upon, it was nailed to the tree, it was pierced, it was slain! Oh, what eye but that of faith can, through all this degradation, behold the person of the incarnate God?
But now "we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor." Even after His resurrection, it must be acknowledged that a change, approximating to that state of glory, had already passed over Him. So spiritualized was He, that His disciples, when they saw Him, knew him not. What, then, must be the glory that encircles Him now that He has passed within His kingdom, and is exalted at the right hand of God, "far above all heavens, that He might fill all things!" John, during his banishment in Patmos, was favored with a view of His glorified humanity, and thus describes its dazzling appearance: "When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were bright like flames of fire. His feet were as bright as bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was as bright as the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave." Sublime description of the "glory and honor" which now crown the exalted humanity of our adorable Redeemer! Did the awe-stricken and prostrate evangelist entertain any doubt of the glorious Person who thus appeared to him?—that doubt must all have vanished the moment he felt the "right hand" of Jesus laid upon him, and heard His own familiar voice saying unto him, "Fear not." Oh; what a tangible evidence, and what a near view did he now have of the exalted and glorified humanity of his Lord! At that instant, he saw Him to be Divine, and he felt Him to be human!
Yes! the very tabernacle of flesh in which He dwelt, the identical robe of humanity that He wore, He carried up with Him into heaven, and sat down with it upon the throne. There it is, highly exalted! There it is, above angels, and higher than saints, in close affinity and eternal union with Godhead. There it is, bathing itself in the "fulness of joy," and drinking deeply of the satisfying "pleasures" which are at God's "right hand forevermore." Oh, what must be the holy delight which the human soul of Jesus now experiences! Sin presses upon it no more: sorrow beclouds it no more: the hidings of God's face distress it no more: infirmity clings to it no more: it exults in the beams of God's unveiled glory; and it swims in the ocean of His ineffable love. If the vision upon the Mount Tabor was so glorious—if the splendors then encircling that form which yet had not passed through the scenes of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension, were so overpowering—if the attractions of that spot were so great, and the ecstasy of that moment was so ravishing—what, oh, what must be the glory, the joy, the bliss of heaven, where we shall no longer see Him "through a glass darkly," but "as He is," and "face to face!"
THE BLESSINGS WHICH FLOW TO THE CHURCH of God through the channel of the Redeemer's exaltation, are varied and immense. A brief reference to some of them will conduct us to the close of this chapter.
We place in the forefront the greatest of all, and the parent of all spiritual blessings thus accruing to the believer—the baptism of the Church by the Holy Spirit. Our adorable Lord, as He approached the termination of His sojourn on earth, went more fully into the work of the Spirit, than at any former period of His ministry, laying especial stress on this truth, that His own personal residence on earth in permanent conjunction with the presence of the Spirit, was a union not to be expected by the Church. Why such an arrangement might not have been made, we proceed not to inquire. Sufficient should be the answer to this, as to all questions involving the sovereignty of the Divine will, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight." But the promise to which He directed the eye of His disciples, and with which He sought to soothe their sorrow in the prospect of His personal withdrawment from the Church, was the descent of the Holy Spirit in an enlarged degree, and in continuous outpouring, to the end of the Christian dispensation. This event, dependent upon, and immediately to follow, that of His inauguration in His heavenly kingdom, is thus alluded to: "The Holy Spirit," says the Evangelist John, "was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." "Nevertheless," says Christ, "I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." In a former part of this work, we have already alluded to the instantaneous fulfilment of this gracious promise in the glorification of Christ, tracing some of its remarkable results, as seen on the day of Pentecost. That day, with its hallowed scenes, cannot be too frequently brought before the mind. Were there a more simple looking to Christ upon the throne, and a stronger faith in the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit, and in the faithfulness of the Promiser to make it good, that blessed day would find its prototype in many a similar season enjoyed by the Church of God to the end of time. The effects of the descent of the Spirit on that day upon the apostles themselves are worthy of our especial notice. What a change passed over those holy men of God, thus baptized with the promised Spirit! A new flood of Divine light broke in upon their minds. All that Jesus had taught them while yet upon earth, recurred to their memory with all the freshness and glory of a new revelation. The doctrines which He had propounded concerning Himself, His work, and His kingdom, floated before their mental eye like a newly-discovered world full of light and beauty. A newness and a freshness invested the most familiar truths. They saw with new eyes; they heard with new ears; they understood as with re-created minds; and the men who, while He was with them, teaching them in the most simple and illustrative manner, failed fully to comprehend even the elementary doctrines and the most obvious truths of the Gospel, now saw as with the strength of a prophet's vision, and now glowed as with the ardor of a seraph's love. Upon the assembled multitudes who thronged the temple, how marvellous, too, the effects! Three thousand as in one moment were convinced of sin, and led to plunge in the "Fountain opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness." And how does the apostle explain the glorious wonder?—"This Jesus," says He, "has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has shed forth this which you now see and hear."
This, and this only, is the blessing which the Church of God now so greatly needs—even the baptism of the Holy Spirit. She needs to be confirmed in the fact that Jesus is alive and upon the throne, invested with all power, and filled with all blessing. The simple belief of this would engage her heart to desire the bestowment of the Spirit; and the Spirit largely poured down would more clearly demonstrate to her the transcendent truth in which all her prospects of glory and of happiness are involved, that the Head of the Church is triumphant. Oh, let her but place her hand of faith simply, solely, firmly, on the glorious announcement—Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, with all grace and love in His heart, with all authority in His hand, with all power at His disposal, with all blessings in His gift; waiting to open the windows of heaven, and pour down upon her such a blessing as there shall not be room enough to receive it—prepared so deeply to baptize her with the Holy Spirit as shall cause her converts greatly to increase, and her enterprises of Christian benevolence mightily to prosper; as shall heal her divisions, build up her broken walls, and conduct her to certain and triumphant victory over all her enemies; let her, I say, but plant her faith upon the covenant and essential union of these two grand truths—the Exalted Redeemer, and the Descending Spirit—and a day far brighter than that of the Pentecost shall dawn—a day on which, not three thousand only, but a nation shall turn to the Lord, and all flesh shall see His glory!
Oh never did the Church of God more need the baptism of the Spirit than now she needs it! The days in which we live are fearful. The signs that are around us are significant and portentous. The forecasting shadows of approaching events of the greatest magnitude are darkening upon our path. We cannot be blind or indifferent to the fact, that the elements of evil are combining and consolidating their force for a vigorous and determined onset. The 'enemy' has already come in 'like a flood.' Popery is increasing—infidelity is triumphing—formalism is abounding—God-dishonoring, Christ-denying, Bible-rejecting, and soul-destroying doctrines in rank and rampant growth, are springing forth on every side. The demon of heresy has mapped the world, resolved to possess it for himself. His agents, numerous and disguised, subtle and persevering, are in the field, resisting every opposition, employing every instrumentality, and rushing with a promptitude that is marvellous, and a zeal that is appalling, into every new-made opening. What now should be the posture, and wherein lies the true strength of Christ's Church? How is she to rise to the true dignity and responsibility of her position? Shall she look to her marshaled hosts? Shall she repose upon her stores of wealth, her former conquests, her arsenals of learning, and her titled warriors? Alas! trusting in these alone, her ruin is inevitable. Where, then, shall she turn, and on whom shall she fix her eye? Upwards, where sits her Lord upon His throne, exalted, triumphant, and glorified. Tell her that Jesus is at the right hand of God; assure her that He loves her still—that He wears her name on His heart, and has engraven her upon the palms of His hands—that He is ready to pour down upon her the Holy Spirit in all the plenitude of His reviving, teaching, and sanctifying grace—and you have unlocked to her the secret of her salvation. Yes, nothing but the baptism of the Holy Spirit can bring up the Church to her right position, and prepare her for the approaching conflict. And this, this is the blessing the great Head of the Church is exalted and waits to give.
And why have we it not? What hinders the blessing? We live under the dispensation of the Spirit—we hold in our hands the promise of the Spirit—we have seen in the history of God's American Israel—in the dispensations of His grace in some favored parts of Scotland—in the almost miraculous progress of Christianity in the islands of the South Sea, as well as the extraordinary triumphs of the Gospel and the planting of churches in Burmah and among the Sarens, that there are seasons in which the exalted Head of the Church pours down His Spirit in an especial and remarkable way, converting sinners, reviving saints, and more eminently qualifying ministers for their great work of preaching the Gospel. Why, then, should we disbelieve the doctrine, and limit the Holy One of Israel? We have not, because we ask not; we ask not, because we believe not. Oh for the outpouring of the Spirit upon our pastors, upon our churches, upon our congregations, upon our seats of learning, upon our rising ministry! Oh for the powerful descent of the Holy Spirit, lifting up an effectual standard against the enemy now coming in like a flood!
What the Church of God needs as a Church, we equally need as individual Christians—the deeper baptism of the Holy Spirit. Reader, why is it that you are not more settled in the truth—your feet more firm upon the Rock? Why are you not more rejoicing in Christ Jesus, the pardoning blood more sensibly applied to the conscience, the seal of adoption more deeply impressed upon your heart, 'Abba, Father,' more frequently, and with stronger, sweeter accent, on your lips? Why are you, perhaps, so yielding in temptation, so irresolute in purpose, so feeble in action, so vacillating in pursuit, so faint in the day of adversity? Why is the glory of Jesus so dimly seen, His preciousness so little felt, His love so imperfectly experienced? Why is there so little close, secret transaction between God and your soul—so little searching of heart, confession of sin, dealing with the atoning blood? Why does the conscience so much lack tenderness, and the heart brokenness, and the spirit contrition? And why is the throne of grace so seldom resorted to, and prayer itself felt to be so much a duty, and so little a privilege; and when engaged in, so faintly characterized with the humble brokenness of a penitent sinner, the filial boldness of an adopted child, the rich anointing of a royal priest? Ah! let the small measure in which you have received the Holy Spirit's influence supply the answer. "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" -have you received Him as the Witness, as the Sealer, as the Teacher, as the Indweller, as the Comforter, as the Spirit of adoption? But, rather, have you not forgotten that your Lord was alive, and upon the throne, exalted to give you the Holy Spirit, and that more readily than a father is to give good gifts to his child? That He is prepared now to throw open the windows of heaven and pour down upon you such a blessing as shall confirm your faith, resolve your doubts, annihilate your fears, arm you for the fight, strengthen you for the trial, give you an unclouded view of your acceptance in the Beloved, and assure you that your "name is written among the living in Jerusalem?" Then, as you value the light of God's countenance, as you desire to grow in the knowledge of Christ, as you long to be more "steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord," Oh seek to enjoy, in a larger degree, the presence, the love, the anointing of the Holy Spirit! Christ has gone up on high to give to you this invaluable blessing; and says for your encouragement, "Hitherto have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full."
Another blessing, springing from the exaltation of Jesus, is the view it gives us of His ever-living and unchanging Priesthood. The work of our Lord as Priest was twofold, atonement and intercession. The one He accomplished upon the cross, the other He now transacts upon the throne. "When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." The high priest under the law, after He had slain the sacrifice, took the blood, and, passing within the veil, sprinkled it on the mercy-seat, so making intercession for the people. "The Holy Spirit this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. " But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; nor by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." And what is He now doing? What is His present and high employment? Presenting His own blood each moment before the mercy-seat on behalf of His redeemed people! "He ever lives to make intercession for us." Oh do not forget this, dear saint of God! "If any man sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." This is spoken for the comfort of the mourners in Zion—for those who, knowing the plague of their own hearts, and deploring its constant tendency to outbreak, are humbled in the dust with deep godly sorrow. Look up! does sin plead loud against you? The blood of Jesus pleads louder for you. Do your backslidings, and rebellions, and iniquities committed against so much light and love, call for vengeance? The blood of Jesus "speaks better things." Does Satan stand at your right hand to accuse you? Your Advocate stands at God's right hand to plead for you. All hail! you mourning souls! You that smite on the breast, you brokenhearted, you contrite ones, "who is he that condemns? it is Christ that died, yes, rather, that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." Jesus is the glorious and the successful Advocate. He has never lost a cause intrusted to His advocacy, and never will.
He pleads powerfully, He pleads eloquently, He pleads prevalently, because He pleads in behalf of a people unspeakably dear to His heart, for whom He "loved not His own life unto the death," and presses His suit, on the ground of His own most precious blood and accepted person, and with His Father and their Father, with His God and their God.
"Jesus, the King of glory, reigns
On Zion's heavenly hill,
Looks like a Lamb that has been slain,
And wears His priesthood still.
"He ever lives to intercede
Before His Father's face;
Give Him, my soul, your cause to plead,
Nor doubt the Father's grace."
In the Redeemer's exaltation we have the strongest pledge of His continued sympathy, support, and deliverance in all our trials and temptations. It is delightful to the believing mind to reflect, that in passing from the scene of His humiliation to that of His glory, and in the spiritual change which His body must have undergone, thus to fit it for the region which flesh and blood cannot inherit, His humanity lost none of the tender sympathies of our nature which so closely clung to Him when upon earth. The same compassionate nature—the same loving heart—the same deep sympathy with all our sorrows, and the same outstretched hand to relieve them, distinguished the glorified state of the precious Son of God! Do you think, that though dwelling in yonder region of light, and holiness, and joy, and glory, He has forgotten the days of His humiliation—the "strong cry and the tears" —"the wormwood and the gall?" No, He has them still in remembrance. And can He forget the Church in the wilderness—His tried and suffering people? Never! Hark how He prays for them—"Now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your own name those whom You have given me." "I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil." "As You have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." Yes, He forgets not that His Church is yet in the world—a polluting, persecuting, harassing world, demanding all the infinite resources of His sympathy, grace, and might. Oh how sweet and holy is the thought, that, having passed within the veil though He has, there is still a chain of the closest sympathy suspended from the glorified Redeemer on the throne, touching the most lowly and tried of the redeemed on earth. How can Jesus forget that He still bears our nature, a part of our very being? The "head so full of bruises," the body so scarred, reminding Him of the suffering state of the Church below, and pleading with a power which Omnipotence itself cannot resist, for the support, comfort, and deliverance of every tried and tempted member of that body. "Seeing, then, that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities."
Thus, through the channel of our glorified Redeemer, what immense and varied blessings may the believer expect and receive! "Exalted a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins," will He not with these costly mercies freely give us all things? What an open door is here for a humble suppliant, bowed with sorrow and pressed with need! Do you think that He can close His heart, or withdraw His hand, or falsify His promise? Ah no! our Jesus, in His exaltation, is more mindful of His people in their low state, than the chief butler, in his advancement, was of Joseph imprisoned in the dungeon. He thinks of us still—He speaks a good word for us to His Father—bends upon us each moment a glance of the most ineffable love, with whose expression infinite compassion sweetly blends. Nor is there a moment in which He is not exerting Himself on our behalf, hedging up the way of one believer, and opening the way of another; strengthening the tried faith of some saints, and soothing the deep sorrows of others. Oh, see what costly blessings are bound up in the exaltation of
Jesus! All sanctification to make us holy—all love to make us happy—all wisdom to guide—all grace to uphold—and all glory to crown. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of His grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
The exaltation of Jesus is the pledge of the full glorification of every believer. The certain glorification with Jesus of every believer is a truth as much involving the honor of God, as it does the present comfort and future happiness of the Church. The opposite sentiment—the possibility of a child of God falling short of eternal glory (a doctrine, let it be observed, at total variance with the entire Scriptures of truth), by unhinging the soul from God, and throwing it back completely upon itself, must necessarily lead to low and dishonoring views of the Divine character; while it begets in the mind a spirit of bondage, and a sense of the most painful apprehension, both equally inimical to a fruitful Christianity. But the most solemn, I may say awful, light in which the doctrine of the believer's final insecurity presents itself is, that it casts a thick veil over the glory of Emmanuel. It touches every perfection of His being. Oh, could the dear saints of God, thus tossed in the troubled sea of doubt, and thus agitated with a "fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation," but be brought to see how the Jesus whom they love is wounded, dishonored, and shorn of His glory by this unscriptural tenet, would they not unhesitatingly renounce it as leading to a result so fearful? Can that, I earnestly ask, be a doctrine of Divine revelation, which tends in the slightest degree to shade the glory of Christ?
If one of those given to Him by His Father—one whose sins He carried, whose curse He bore, whose soul He has renewed by the grace of His Spirit, were permitted finally and eternally to perish, where would be His glory? where the glory of His truth? where the glory of His power? where the glory of His love? where the glory of His work? Gone! Every perfection of His Divine being would be impeached, and every beam of His Divine glory would be tarnished.
But all shall be brought safely to heaven. Hark how distinctly and authoritatively He pleads for this their crowning blessing, when on the eve of His mysterious passion, and about to spring from His cross to His throne—"Father, I will that they also whom You have given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory." Sublime prayer! Comprehensive and tender petition! How did the Head long to have with Him, where He was, each member of His body! Having had fellowship with Him in His humiliation, it was His desire that they should have fellowship with Him in His glory. And this He asks, not as a gift, but claims as a right. In virtue of His covenant engagement with the Father, His full satisfaction to Divine justice, His perfect obedience to the Divine law, His finished redemption of His people, He reverently bows at the mercy-seat, and pours out His full soul, and unburdens His loving heart, in the most sublime petition that ever ascended from mortal lip; "Father, I will that they also whom You have given me be with me where I am."
But mark the reason why—"that they may behold my glory." Consummation of glory! Overflowing cup of bliss! Height of perfect holiness! Was it the parting charge of Joseph to his brethren—"You shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall haste and bring down my father here?" Our Joseph, with love infinitely more intense, desires that all His brethren may be brought to heaven, that they may, behold His glory there—the glory of His unveiled Deity—the glory of His glorified humanity—and the glory to which, as Mediator, His Father had advanced Him. Who can fully tell of all the Redeemer's glory in heaven? Or, were it fully revealed, what power to grasp, what faculties to comprehend, what eye to behold, and what tongue to describe, so lofty a theme and so sublime a spectacle as this have we? But we shall behold it! We, too, shall be glorified. The mind shall be adjusted to the mightiness of the theme, and the eye shall be strengthened for the dazzling magnificence of the spectacle. Every physical, and mental, and moral faculty perfectly developed, and sanctified, we shall be a glorified Church, placed in the presence and contemplating through eternity the glory of our glorified Head. We shall behold the Redeemer's glory. "Shall I see the King in His beauty? What! my eye behold His glory?" Yes! if you do see beauty in Jesus now, if your eye beholds glory in Emmanuel, feeble and dim though the view may be, so surely shall you be with Him where He is, and wander over the ceaseless unfoldings of His unclouded glory, and that through all eternity.
But the ungodly, the impenitent, and the unbelieving! Ah! they, too, shall see His glory. But it will be the glory of His justice, in burning wrath, in quenchless flames. Unconverted reader! You do see no glory in Jesus, no beauty that you should desire Him. You see an imaginary glory in the world, a fancied beauty in self; and this blinds your eye to the real glory and true beauty that are in Christ. Oh, in what a dream do you live! What madness do you cherish! What phantoms do you pursue! What a vain show in which you live! You can see beauty in your estate, and loveliness in your family, and attraction in the world, and glory in yourself, and yet see no beauty, no loveliness, no attraction, no glory in Jesus! Oh, what a dark veil is over your mind, and what thick scales are upon your eyes! And thus darkened and blinded, your feet are stumbling over the mountains of death. Soon, the beauty that now delights, and the glory that now attracts you, will have passed away. Fickle and fleeting is it! The ploughshare of ruin will raze its foundation; the flood of desolation will sweep it into nothingness. A fleeting ship—a floating vapor—a passing cloud—a broken cistern—a failing spring—a withering flower—these are its just emblems. Not more unstable the sand of the desert, nor more uncertain the wind of heaven, nor more helpless before the storm, the chaff of the threshing-floor, than the glory with which you have linked your eternal destiny. Death has marked you for its own, and the Judge stands at the door. What will rank, and beauty, and estate, and friends, and money, and this poor world, avail you now? See! how they vanish away, all like a gorgeous day-dream, their glory departing like the setting sun at even, and you are encircled by the dark spirits, and the gloomy scenes, and the appalling solemnities, and the dread realities of Eternity! Eternity! Eternity!
And now you find yourself without God, and without Christ, and without hope. You have pampered the body, but have neglected the soul. You have unheeded warnings, and despised providences, and stifled convictions, and neglected sermons, and have desecrated sabbaths, and have blasphemed God, and have hated the saints, and have despised and rejected Jesus. God, in the plenitude of His patience and patience, has "called, and you have refused: He has stretched out His hand, you have not regarded, but have set at nothing all His counsel, and would none of His reproof: now, He laughs at your calamity, and mocks at your fear; your fear which has come as a desolation, and your destruction as a whirlwind; now that distress and anguish are upon you."
But yet there is hope. The bow of covenant mercy is round about the throne. The cross still stands! The fountain is still open! The ark has not left the shore! The city of refuge is accessible! In a word, Jesus died upon the cross to save the vilest sinners. And now He lives upon the throne, "exalted a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins." Then, haste to Him, haste! From a sinful, polluting, and doomed world, on which the fire of God is so soon to descend, "escape for your life; look not behind you, nor stay in all the plain, lest you be consumed." Beseech the Holy Spirit to discover you your pollution, and Christ's blood; your sinfulness, and His atonement; your deformity, and His righteousness; your poverty and emptiness, and His sufficiency and grace. And let this be your prayer—urged with agonizing and ceaseless wrestling, until, in the personal and happy experience of the blessing, the prayer is answered—"Lord, show me Your glory!" For, oh, be it known unto you, that if you see not the Redeemer's glory by faith on earth, you will never see it in its unveiled effulgence by sight in heaven. But Balaam's mournful prophecy and fearful doom will find its fulfilment in you: "I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not near." Far in the dim distance, curtained within the beams of His own majesty, the Redeemer will be seen upon the throne of His glory, surrounded by His Church—the white-robed and palm-bearing saints, now fully redeemed from all sorrow and sin, beholding the glory and entering into the joy of their Lord. A great and impassable gulf separates you from their companionship; and while you are torn from their view—the gloom and the darkness of hell gathering and deepening around you as you recede—exclaiming, "Lost! lost! eternally lost!" they will be striking their harps, and waving their palms, and casting down their crowns at, Jesus' feet, uttering their ascription in strains of overpowering sweetness, gratitude, and love–
"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!"