Page images

4.6. It was Stephen's encouragement to the suffering of his martyrdom to see the glory of God, and Jesus standing on God's right hand ; Acts vii. 55,56. When John saw him on the Lord's day in the Spirit, he beheld his eyes as a flame of firey and his feet like burning brass in the furnace, and his voice was as the sound of many waters, and in his right hand were the stars, and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword, and his countenance was the sun that shineth in his strength ; Rev. i. 14–16. His voice alsu did proclaim his glory, “I am the first and the last. I am he that liveth and was dead ; and behold I am alive for evermore. Amen. And have the keys of hell and of death ; ver. 17, 18. It was the Lord of glory that was crucified ; 1 Cor. ii. 8. God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory, (1 Tim. iii. 16.), where he is glorified with the Father in the praises of the saints; Rev. xii. 13. The glory in the holy mount was great at the giving of the law; but it was no glory to that of the Gospel administration, (2 Cor. ii. 7. 10.), much more to that of the glorified Redeemer, who hath overcome, and is set down with the Father in his throne; Rev. iii. 21. Yea, the glory that will be given to God for ever, will be through Jesus Christ ; Rom. xvi. 17.

And indeed it is a very great question whether we shall immediately see the essence of God in heaven, or only see him in the glorified Redeemer; and whether Christ will not then be the Mediator of our fruition, as he was here the Mediator of acquisition. But certain we are, that God will be everlastingly pleased and glorified in the person of the Redeemer, as well as in the church which is his body.

(9.) And reductively it may be said to be God's end in this blessed work, that he may more fully demonstrate his vindictive justice, according to the Gospel, or law of the Redeemer, upon them that finally reject his grace, than it would have been manifested on the terms of the law of the creation on Adam and his offspring. Though Christ came not into the world (primarily) to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved ; yet was it his purpose that unbelievers that love darkness rather than light should fall under the special condemnation; John iii. 18, 19. And that they should not “ see life, but the wrath of God should abide upon them;" ver. 36. God would not so much as permit them to reject his salvation, but that he knows how he may be no loser by them : " He suffereth with much patience the vessels of wrath, to make his wrath and power known;" Rom. ix. 22. The mouths of the condemned will be utterly stopped, and they will be left speechless when they are judged on terms of grace, much more than they would have been if they had been judged only by the first law: when they see Christ and heaven that was offered them, and remember their wilful and obstinate contempt of them, their own consciences and tongues shall justify God, and confess that he is righteous in the most dreadful of his judgments. “If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward, how shall they escape that neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and then was confirmed by them that heard him, God also bearing them witness with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost;" Heb. ii. 3, 4. And “if they escaped not, that refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not they escape that turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: for our God is a consuming fire;" Heb. xii. 25. 29. So much of the ends of Christ's undertaking in our redemption.

In which you may see that there are divers things which demonstrate the glory of the forementioned attributes of God, in this Gospel dispensation. (1.) It shineth forth in the

person of the Redeemer as he was on earth, in his nature and wonderful conception, and his perfections. (2.) And it also shineth forth in the actions of his life, overcoming the world, and the devil, and perfectly fulfilling the law of God: so that the image of his father did shine forth in his conversation. (3.) And also in his death and sufferings was the Father glorified, as I shewed before. (4.) And also in the most wise and holy frame of those laws by which the grace of the Mediator is conveyed, and the church governed. (5.) And by the image of God, by the impress of those laws on the souls of his saints, and by the holiness of their lives, the glory of God is also demonstrated. (6.) As also by the justifying sentence of the judge, and the glorious reward bestowed on the faithful. (7.) And by the condemning sentence and execution on the ungodly, in whom vindictive justice will be honoured. (8.) And in the perfection of the

individual saints, and their perfect love and praise. (9.) And in the saints as embodied in the heavenly Jerusalem, the glory of which will be the glory of God. (10.) And principally in the blessed person and work of the Redeemer. In all these will God's glory shine forth for ever.

Quest. But to whom is it that God doth thus demonstrate his glory?

Answ. 1. To the saints in this life, in that degree as is suited to a state of grace, and the condition of a traveller that lives by faith. We are apt to look upward, and long after fuller revelations of the heavenly kingdom and mystery, and marvel that God will not shew himself more fully to his saints on earth. Fain we would know more of God and Christ, and the life to come; and it is oft matter of some temptation to us, that God doth not satisfy these desires, but leaveth them in so much darkness, that are willing of his light. But this is because we do not consider how much of glory consisteth in the light; and that grace is more in the desires of it than in the possession : and if we should have as much of it as we desire, it were but to bring down heaven to earth. - Means must be suited to their ends: God will discover to us so much of his glory as may quicken our desires, and keep alive our hope, and patience, and endeavours; but not so much as shall satisfy us, and answer our expectations : for heaven is not here.

We must not carry our home about with us, but travel towards it, that we may reach it at the last.

2. God doth even now demonstrate the glory of his forementioned attributes, in the work of redemption, not only to his saints, but to the angels of heaven. The consideration of this hath often satisfied me, when I have been tempted to wonder at the work of redemption, that God should so far condescend as to be incarnate, and make such glorious discoveries of himself, and yet that so few in the world should take notice of it, and he should have from men so little of the honour that he seemeth by his preparations to expect. But the most part of the world did never once see the glory that shineth to them in the Redeemer. But God hath another world besides this, and other creatures besides man, in all likelihood incomparably more numerous (perhaps thousands for one) and certainly more excellent. And though Christ did assume the nature of angels, and came not to redeem them that needed no Redeemer, yet may the lustre of this work of redemption appear to the angels more clearly than to man; and God may have a thousand-fold more glory from them that are but the spectators and admirers, than from us in our present darkness, that are yet possessors. As we that are here on earth do look upon and admire the glory of the sun, which is as it were in another world, and out of our reach ; so the angels much more may gaze upon the glory of the Son of God, admire the Lord in the work of our redemption though they were not the redeemed ones : so that unto them doth God shine forth by it in his excellencies.

Perhaps you will say, “That cannot be; because this is but seeing him in a glass ; when the angels see him face to face, and immediately behold his blessed essence; or else how can the saints expect that beatifical vision ?? To which I answer; First, that I am uncertain whether seeing face to face be an immediate intuition of the essence of God, or only such a sight of his glory in those emanations, that are as appropriated to the place or state of bliss. God's essence is every where; but that glory is not every where: and so I know not whether our present knowledge be not called enigmatical, and as in a glass, comparatively to that glory prepared for the saints. But, secondly, I answer that certain I am that God is demonstrated to his angels in the Redeemer, yea, in the church itself, which is the subject of his grace, and that they are both affected, and employed about us accordingly. He that spoiled principalities, and powers, and openly triumphed over them, and by death overcame him that had the power of death ; Col. ii. 15. Heb. ii. 14. and had so much to do against the evil angels as enemies, no doubt is joyfully observed by the good angels. And he that is set so "far above principalities, and powers, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named in this world, or that which is to come;" (Ephes. i. 21.) and is 'gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God, angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject to him;" (1 Pet. iii. 22.) no doubt is honoured and admired by angels. And indeed it is expressly said, “ Let all the angels of God worship him;" Heb. i. 6. And what are they all but “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation ?" Heb. i. 14. And therefore sent forth

by Jesus Christ, the Lord of saints. Which makes some think that the title of angels was never given to any of these spirits, till the Mediator's undertaking, and that it was only as they were his deputed messengers, or servants, for the ends of that undertaking. Sure we are, they attended his birth with their acclamations, and his life and sufferings (as far as was meet) with their service, and that they are deputed to bear his servants in their hands, that they dash not their foot against a stone ; that they are ascending, and descending, and are present with the churches in their holy worship, and that they rejoice at the conversion of one sinner; and that the least of Christ's servants, have their angels beholding the face of God; and that the law was given by their disposition or ordination, and they attend the departing souls of believers; and that they contend against evil spirits for our good, and are encamped about us, and that they shall attend the Lord at his coming to judgment, and be his glorious retinue and instruments in the work; and that they are numbered with us, as members of the same heavenly Jerusalem, and that we shall be like or equal to them; Luke ii. 14, 15. Mark iv. 11. Luke xxii. 43. Acts x. 6, 7. 22. Psal. xxxiv. 7. xci. 11. Matt. xiii. 39. 41. xvi. 27. xxiv. 31. xxv. 31. xxvi. 53. Luke xvi. 22. Matt. xviii. 10. 2 Thess. i. 7. Luke xx. 36. Mark xii. 25. Acts vii. 65. Gal. iii. 19. Heb. xii. 22. 2 Pet. ii. 11. Luke xv. 10, Johni. 51. Yea, men must be either confessed or denied, owned or disowned before the angels; Luke xii. 8, 9. See Rey. xix. 18. iii. 5. But if all this seem not sufficient to persuade you that the angels are so far interested in the affairs of God about the redeemed, as to behold and admire him in his blessed work, take notice of the express affirmations of the Scriptures; (1 Pet. i. 12.) “Which things the angels desire to look into.” And why, but to see and admire the wisdom, and power, and goodness, and mercy, and justice of God, shining forth in the Redeemer ? If this be not plain enough, mark well those words, Ephes. iii. 10, “To the intent that now unto the principalities, and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church, the manifold wisdom of God." You see here that the church of the redeemed is that admirable looking-glass, which God hath set up to this very intent, that his angels may in it or by it behold the manifold wisdom of God; yea, and that

« PreviousContinue »