THE GLORY OF CHRIST SEEN
Extracts from The Tree of Promise by Alexander Stewart of Cromarty, circa 1864 We beheld his glory.—John 1.14.
Having spoken of what the glory of Christ is, and in what it consists, we shall now inquire what it is to behold this glory.
John may very possibly allude here to the Transfiguration, as “Peter does in his second epistle (ch. 1.17): ‘For he received from iod the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am we\ pleased.’ But the fact is, that Christ manifests His glory in His wonderful words and works. ‘This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory’ (John 2.11). It is een in the whole tenor of His life, and especially in His death and resurrection. There were multitudes, however, who witnessed His miracles and heard His discourses, but who saw not His glory. And here are multitudes who read of both, and are equally blind. ‘We peak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of he princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would
not have crucified the Lord of glory’ (1 Cor. 2.7,8). And again, at verse 14, ‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit )f God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know hem, because they are spiritually discerned.’ But this blindness can be removed: ‘For until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ’ (2 Cor. 3.14, and 4.6). This veil had been removed from the ;yes of John, and from those of his fellow-apostles and all other believers. And what did they see? They saw the sun—they saw the glory of Christ—the grace and truth which shone forth in all His words and actions, and which shines still in the Bible. Let us beware of mistakes here.
1. There is much about Christ to astonish and please natural men, even when they fall short of seeing His glory. We have a remarkable instance of this, when on one occasion He appeared in the .synagogue of His own native town of Nazareth: ‘All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth’ (Luke 4.22). But yet how little they were affected by them appears from the fact, that before His address was finished, ‘they were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city’ (vers. 28 and 29); and would have killed Him, had He not ‘.scaped by a miracle. There are many hearers of the Gospel who are in a similar position still. There is much in God’s Word to command attention,—fitted to alarm the conscience, to occupy the understanding, to enlist the affections and hopes. But if Christ is not embraced, there will be no life produced—the Word will have no transforming effect.
2. Beware of a mere sentimental religion. There is much about Christ fitted to affect our intellectual sentiments and tastes. He has been a subject for painting, music, poetry, and romance in all ages since His own time. Such a religion, however, is the worship of the Beautiful rather than the worship of God—a religion that charms he senses by the ‘lively song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and :an play on an instrument.’ The times of the apostles were too rough and stormy for such a religion as this. There has, however, been abundance of it since. But it has ever left the heart as hard, the understanding as blind, and the conscience as dead as it found them.
3. As with some, religion is a matter of mere feeling, which is not founded on doctrinal truth, so with others, it is a mere matter of argument and doctrine without feeling. Such a religion, however orthodox, is not the religion of the Bible. It produces no effect on he heart. It betrays its utter hollowness by its want of power over he emotions and the practical life. It is the mere profession of a creed, which has no experimental or practical power.
4. Both emotion and practice may sometimes be produced by what is still only ‘another gospel.’ God is served by an endeavour to do the ‘works of the law.’ Such works, however zealous and good, are not inspired by the grace of the Only-begotten. There is, too, a species of ultra-evangelism, in which the doctrines of grace are nade to give way before an unbounded charity. Such works and feelings, however, are not based upon the truth of the only-begotten Son of God.
Let us now advert to some of those effects which indicate true spiritual views of Christ’s glory:—
1. True humility and brokenness of heart, such as that of the patriarch Job when he exclaimed, ‘I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42.5,6). The prophet, too, experienced this feeling upon obtaining a sight of the glory of Christ: ‘Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips’ (Isa. 6.5). So did the Apostle Peter: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Luke 5.8). And so also did John, when the glory of Christ was shown him on the isle of Patmos: ‘When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead’ (Rev. 1.17). How blessed to see our littleness and vileness in the light of His benign majesty! There is nothing of the servile or mean in it, and neither is there anything that savours of pride. Angels veil their faces before Him. And not less should the humble homage of sinners be paid to His superior worth, and their affections attracted by the beauty of His perfections.
2. His glory inspires a reverential awe. It awakens the fear of God. If there is ‘a divinity that hedges in a king,’ how much more truly may this be said of the King of Glory! None who see His glory ever after dare to take liberties with His names and attributes. They .how no levity or contempt. Theirs is a profound respect, which rises into awe and fear. It is not the crouching terror of the slave, but a fear that is consistent with love. The ‘fear of God,’ the ‘fear of the Lord,’ are expressions very frequently used in Scripture to describe rue religion. This fear shows itself in their respectful bearing towards all the truths of the divine Word.
3. While this glorious One humbles and awes. He also attracts. In he days of His humiliation, publicans and sinners drew near to Him. The ‘woman that was a sinner’ wept at His feet. Hence His people are said to ‘seek the Lord,’ and ‘to follow on to know the Lord.’ A sight of His glory from time to time makes poor creatures seek Him all their days. They seek Him in His ordinances. These lave an unfailing attraction for them: such is the value they now set upon Him, such the desire to have Him as their portion. To have union with Him and an interest in Him, they could part with everything in the world. Having found the pearl of great price, they are willing to sell all that they have to buy it. The apostle counted all things but dung, that he might win Christ, and be found in Him.
4. They who have seen the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, unhesitatingly confide their guilty, helpless souls to His hands. The invitations to sinners to come and trust in Christ for salvation are innumerable. But it is His own glorious grace and truth that has given them force and meaning. This is He whose ‘worth’ inspires the praise and service of angels. He has not saved them, but yet His glory inspires their love. This is He in whom the Father has pronounced Himself well pleased—He whom all men are bound to love by the first great commandment— in whose gracious hands they may safely confide soul and body. ‘They that know thy name shall put their trust in thee.’ ‘I know in whom I have believed.’ She who worshipped, crying, ‘Lord help me,’ was not sent away unheard.
5. He who has beheld the glory of this glorious One has a tender regard for His authority and His commandments. It is not a mere matter of conscience with him, as distinguishing between right and wrong; it is conscience toward Christ. Sin is henceforward not merely transgression of moral law, it is sin against Christ.
6. Regard to Christ inspires a deep interest in His Church. Those who love Christ, love the brethren. Those who are saved have a fellow-feeling for each other, as well as gratitude to their common Saviour. Loving Him who begat, they love those who are begotten of Him. And not only do they love individual believers, they love the Church, and are interested in it collectively. It is because there is so little regard to Christ that the Church is so often treated as a mere foundling. Its interests are considered something extraordinary, to be attended to after the world has received due attention. The apostles saw His glory, and we see the effect in their labours for the Church.
The Glory of Christ Seen
THE GLORY OF CHRIST SEEN