« PreviousContinue »
only be your Lord, but your brother, and that he might be the more fit to be a companion for such a worm of the dust. This is one end of Christ's taking upon him man's nature, that his people might be under advantages for a more familiar converse with him, than the infinite distance of the divine nature would allow of. And
upon this account the church longed for Christ's incarnation : Cant. viii. 1, “O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! When I should find thee without, I would kiss thee, yea, I should not be despised.” One design of God in the gospel, is to bring us to make God the object of our undivided respect, that he may engross our regard every way, that whatever natural inclination there is in our souls, he may be the centre of it; that God may be all in all. But there is an inclination in the creature, not only to the adoration of a Lord and Sovereign, but to complacence in some one as a friend, to love and delight in some one that may be conversed with as a companion. And virtue and holiness do not destroy or weaken this inclination of our nature. But so hath God contrived in the affair of our redemption, that a divine person may be the object even of this inclination of our nature. And in order hereto, such a one is come down to us, and has taken our nature, and is become one of us, and calls himself our friend, brother and companion. Psalm cxxii. 8, “For my brethren and companions' sake, will I now say, Peace be within thee.”
But is it not enough to invite and encourage to free access to a friend so great and high, that he is one of infinite condescending grace, and also has taken your own nature, and is become man? But would you further, to embolden and win you, have him a man of wonderful meekness and humility ? Why, such a one is Christ! He is not only become man for you, but far the meekest and most humble of all men, the greatest instance of these sweet virtues that ever was, or will be. And besides these, he has all other human excellencies in the highest perfection. These, indeed, are no proper addition to his divine excellencies. Christ has no more excellency in his person, since his incarnation, than he had before; for divine excellency is infinite, and cannot be added to : yet his human excellencies are additional manifestations of his glory and excellency to us, and are additional recommendations of him to our esteem and love, who are of finite comprehension. Though his human excellencies are but communications and reflections of his divine; and though this light, as reflected, falls infinitely short of the divine fountain of light in its immediate glory; yet the reflection shines not without its proper advantages, as presented to our view and affection. As the glory of Christ appears in the qualifications of his human nature, it appears to us in excellencies that are of our own kind, that are exercised in our own way and manner, and so, in some respects, are peculiarly fitted to invite our acquaintance and draw our affection. The glory of Christ, as it appears in his divinity, though it be far brighter, yet doth it also more dazzle our eyes, and exceeds the strength
or comprehension of our sight: but as it shines in the human excellencies of Christ, it is brought more to a level with our conceptions, and suitableness to our nature and manner, yet retaining a semblance of the same divine beauty, and a savor of the same divine sweetness. But as both divine and human excellencies meet together in Christ, they set off and recommend each other to us. It is what tends to endear the divine and infinite majesty and holiness of Christ to us, that these are attributes of a person that is in our nature, that is one of us, that is become our brother, and is the meekest and humblest of men; it encourages us to look upon these divine perfections, however high and great, yet as what we have some near concern in, and more of a right to, and liberty freely to enjoy. And on the
other hand, how much more glorious and surprising do the meekness, the humility, obedience and resignation, and other human excellencies of Christ appear, when we consider that they are in so great a person, as the eternal Son of God the Lord of heaven and earth!
By your choosing Christ for your friend and portion, you will obtain these e two infinite benefits:
1. Christ will give himself to you, with all those various excellencies that meet in him, to your full and everlasting enjoyment. He will ever after treat you as his dear friend; and you shall erelong be where he is, and shall behok. his glory, and shall dwell with him, in most free and intimate communion and enjoyment.
When the saints get to heaven, they shall not merely see Christ, and have to do with him as subjects and servants with a glorious and gracious Lord and Sovereign, but Christ will entertain them as friends and brethren. This we may learn from the manner of Christ's conversing with his disciples here on earth : though he was their sovereign Lord, and did not refuse, but required their supreme respect and adoration, yet he did not treat them as earthly sovereigns are wont to do their subjects; he did not keep them at an awful distance; but all along conversed with them with the most friendly familiarity, as a father amongst a company of children, yea, as with brethren. So he did with the twelve, and so he did with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He told his disciples, that he did not call them servants, but friends; and we read of one of them that leaned on his bosom. And doubtless he will not treat his disciples with less freedom and endearment in heaven: he will not keep them at a greater distance for his being in a state of exaltation ; but he will rather take them into a state of exaltation with him. This will be the improvement Christ will make of his own glory, to make his beloved friends partakers with him, to glorify them in his glory, as he says to his Father, John xvii. 22, 23 : “ And the glory which thou hast given me, have I given them, that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them,” &c. We are to consider, that though Christ is greatly exalted, yet he is exalted, not as a private person for himself only, but as his people's head; be is exalted in their name, and upon their account, as the first fruits, and as representing the whole barvest. He is not exalted that he may be at a greater distance from them, but that they may be exalted with him. (The exaltation and honor of the head is not to make a greater distance between the head and the members; but the members have the same relation and union with the head they had before, and are honored with the head; and instead of the distance being greater, the union shall be nearer and more perfect. When believers get to heaven, Christ will conform them to himself; as he is set down on his Father's throne, so they shall sit down with him on his throne, and shall in their measure be made like him.
When Christ was going to heaven, he comforted his disciples with that, that after a while, he would come again, and take them to himself, that they might be with him again. And we are not to suppose that when the disciples got to heaven, they found himn keeping a greater distance than he used to do. No, doubtless, he embraced them as friends, and welcomed them to his and their Father's house, and to his and their glory. They that had been his friends in this world, that had been together with him here, and had together partaken of Sorrows and troubles, are now welcomed by him to rest, and to partake of glory with him. He took them and led them into his chambers, and showed them all his glory; as he prayed, John xvii. 24 : “ Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me, that they may behold the glory which
thou hast given me." And he led them to his living fountains of waters and made them partake of his delights; as he prays, John xvii. 13, " That my joy may
be fulfilled in themselves;" and set them down with him at his table in his kingdom, and made them partake with him of his dainties, according to his promise, Luke xxii. 30, and led them into his banqueting house, and made them to drink new wine with him in the kingdom of his heavenly Father; as he foretold them when he instituted the Lord's Supper, Matt. xxvi. 29.
Yea, the saints' conversation with Christ in heaven shall not only be as intimate, and their access to him as free, as of the disciples on earth, but in many respects much more so: for in heaven, that vital union shall be perfect
, which is exceeding imperfect here. While the saints are in this world, there are great remains of sin and darkness, to separate or disunite them from Christ, which shall then all be removed. This is not a time for that full acquaintance, and those glorious manifestations of love which Christ designs for his people hereafter ; which seems to be signified by Christ's speech to Mary Magdalene, when ready to embrace him, when she met him after his resurrection, John xx. 17:“ Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”
When the saints shall see Christ's glory and exaltation in heaven, it will indeed possess their hearts with the greater admiration and adoring respect, but will not awe them into any separation, but will serve only to heighten their surprise and joy, when they find Christ condescending to admit them to such intimate access, and so freely and fully communicating himself to them.
So that if we choose Christ for our friend and portion, we shall hereafter be so received to him, that there shall be nothing to hinder the fullest enjoyment of him, to the satisfying the utmost cravings of our souls. We may take our full swing at gratifying our spiritual appetite after these holy pleasures. Christ will then say, as in Cant. v. 1, “ Eat, О friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” And this shall be our entertainment to all eternity! There shall never be any end of this happiness, or any thing to interrupt our enjoyment of it, or in the least to molest us in it!
2. By your being united to Christ, you will have a more glorious union with, and enjoyment of God the Father, than otherwise could be. For, hereby the saints' relation to God becomes much nearer; they are the children of God in a higher manner than otherwise could be. For, being members of God's own natural Son, they are in a sort partakers of his relation to the Father : they are not only sons of God by regeneration, but by a kind of communion in the sonship of the eternal Son. This seems to be intended, Gal. iv. 4, 5, 6: “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that are under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”—The church is the daughter of God, not only as he hath begotten her by his word and Spirit, but as she is the spouse of his eternal Son.
So we, being members of the Son, are partakers in our measure of the Father's love to the Son, and complacence in him. John xvii. 23," I in them, and thou in me.—Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” And verse 26, “ That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them.” And chapter xvi. 27,“ The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” So we shall, according to our capacities, be partakers of the Son's enjoyment of God, and have his joy fulfilled in ourselves, John xvii. 13. And by this means we shall come to an immensely
higher, more intimate, and full enjoyment of God, than otherwise could have in been. For there is doubtless an infinite intimacy between the Father and the 1 Son; which is expressed by his being in the bosom of the Father. And saints
being in him, shall, in their measure and manner, partake with him in it, and the blessedness of it.
And thus is the affair of our redemption ordered, that thereby we are obliged to an immensely more exalted kind of union with God, and enjoyment of him, both the Father and the Son, than otherwise could have been. For, Christ being united to the human nature, we have advantage for a more free and full enjoyment of him, than we could have had if he had remained only in the divine nature. So again, we being united to a divine person, as his members, can have a more intimate union and intercourse with God the Father, who is only in the divine nature, than otherwise could be. Christ, who is a divine person, by taking on him our nature, descends from the infinite distance and height above us, and is brought nigh to us; whereby we have advantage for the full enjoyment of hiin. And, on the other hand, we, by being in Christ, a divine person, do as it were ascend up to God, through the infinite distance, and have hereby advantage for the full enjoyment of him also.
This was the design of Christ to bring it to pass, that he, and his Father, and his people might all be united in one. "John xvii. 21, 22, 23, “ That they all ill may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one
in us ; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which ! tbou bast given me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are
one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." Christ has brought it to pass that those that the Father has given should be brought into the household of God; that he and his Father, and his people, should be, as it were, one society, one family; that the church should be as it were admitted into the society of the blessed Trinity.
THE FINAL JUDGMENT : OR THE WORLD JUDGED RIGHTEOUSLY BY JESUS CHRIST
Acts xvii. 31.-Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness
by that man whom he hath ordained.
These words are a part of the speech which Paul made in Mars' hill, a place of concourse of the judges and learned men of Athens. Athens was the principal city of that part of Greece which was formerly a commonwealth by itself
, and was the most noted place in the whole world for learning, philosophy, and human wisdom ; and it continued so for many ages; till at length the Romans having conquered Greece, its renown from that time began to diminish ; and Rome having borrowed learning of it, began to rival it in science, and in the polite and civil arts. However, it was still very famous in the days of Christ and the apostles, and was a place of concourse for wise and learned men.
Therefore, when Paul came thither, and began to preach concerning Jesus Christ, a man who had lately been crucified at Jerusalem (as in the 18th verse), the philosophers thronged about him, to hear what he had to say. The strangeness of his doctrine excited their curiosity; for they spent their time in endeavoring to find out new things, and valued themselves greatly upon their being the authors of new discoveries, as we are informed in verse 21 They despised his doctrine in their hearts, and esteemed it very ridiculous, calling the apostle a babbler ; for the preaching of Christ crucified was to the Greeks foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 22. Yet the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, two different sects, had a mind to hear what the babbler had to say.
Upon this Paul rises up in the midst of them, and makes a speech; and as he speaks to philosophers and men of learning, he speaks quite differently from his common mode of address. There is evidently, in his discourse, a greater depth of thought, more philosophical reasoning, and a more elevated style, than are to be found in his ordinary discourses to common men. His speech is such as was likely to draw the attention and gain the assent of philosophers. He shows bimself to be no babbler, but a man who could offer such reason, as they, however they valued themselves upon their wisdom, were not able to gain,
His practice here is agreeable to what he saith of himself, 1 Cor ix. 22, “ That he became all things to all men, that he might by all means save some.” He not only to the weak became as weak, that he might gain the weak; but to the wise he became as wise, that he might gain the wise.
In the first place, he reasons with them concerning their worship of idols. He declares to them the true God, and points out how unreasonable it is to suppose, that he delights in such superstitious worship. He begins with this, because they were most likely to hearken to it, as being so evidently agreeable to the natural light of human reason, and also agreeable to what some of their own poets and philosophers had said, verse 28. He begins not immediately to tell them about Jesus Christ, his dying for sinners, and his resurrection from the dead; but first draws their attention with that to which they were more likely to hearken; and then, having thus introduced himself, he proceeds to speak concerning Jesus Christ.