« AnteriorContinuar »
seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. i. 8).
This brings us to another characteristic of the Church : it is a citizen of heaven. This does not mean that the place called heaven is the end or local goal of its earthly sojourn ; but that the citizenship, community, or commonwealth of Christ's people is now in heaven. “For our conversation,” that is to say, citizenship, " is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. iii. 20, 21). “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace; wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. i. 3-6). “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sin, hath quickened us together with Christ- by grace ye are saved—and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus ” (Eph. ii. 4-6).
These Scriptures, and those of which they are specimens, point to an association with Jesus, too close, too sacred, to mean merely something which shall be in the future. They describe a present privilege of the most hallowed kind. They can teach nothing short of this, that there is a union, nay, a oneness, between the Saviour and His people, which results in their being virtually wherever He is actually present. The high priest of Judaism had the names of the tribes of Israel upon the precious stones of His breastplate when he appeared before the Lord in the Holy of Holies; but our Lord Jesus Christ, the High Priest of our profession, appears in the presence of God, not only as our forerunner and representative, but as embodying His people in Himself. The arrangement of the eternal purpose, in respect to this, is truly wonderful. He is there, not for Himself merely, but for His Church. Hence Paul writes, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Why? “ For ye are dead,” - ye died-crucified with Christ, " and your life is hid with Christ in God ” (Col. iii. 1, 2). This last position is uncommonly beautiful and suggestive. Where are saints, that is the reality of them, their life, themselves, not their earthly shadows? In heaven, "hid with Christ in God," until the time of their Lord's appearing. The life of the Church is in the keeping of the ascended Saviour, and He is able to keep it until the day of
His return, when both He and His saints will for the first time, always excepting the typical glance on the mount of transfiguration, become visible in unveiled glory. Nay, further, as if to show the impossibility of any church-life apart from Christ, it is immediately added that He Himself is our life : “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. iii. 4). In this line of thought, indeed, we cannot speak of Christ and His Church as separate. He is the Head, they are the members; He is the Life, they are the body He animates. Hence such glowing gems of speech as these : “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John i. 4). “I am the resurrection and the life” (John xi. 25). “I am the way, the truth, and the life
'" (John xiv. 6). “The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John i. 2). “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (1 John v. 11). “ The Church which is His Body” (Eph. i. 22, 23). He is the head of the body, the Church” (Col. i. 18).
From all this then it is clear that the union of the saints with their ascended Lord is in His life. Virtually where He is there are they ; for their life is with Christ, nay, Christ is their life. For any members of this celestial community, therefore, this body of the heavenly calling, to pass their days amidst the surging billows of doubt, or under the dark cloud of unbelief, is a wrong done to Christ, and a heavy affliction brought upon themselves. Let us feel that we have no sin that He has not expiated, no sorrow in which He does not sympathize, no discipline that He does not conduct for our welfare, and no future that is not completely under His control, and the animation of a Divine faith and a joyous hope will sustain us to the end, whether that end be our unclothing or our being clothed upon. Let us understand clearly that we have no life apart from Him, no interests which are not His, and no work to do in the world but to bear witness for Him, and the cloud-shadows of the wilderness will not be interpreted as interruptions of our communion with the Father and the Son, far less as omens that our salvation is in peril, and that the work of the Anointed of God is a failure so far as we are concerned. These black bewildering thoughts have no justification in the record, and we should not grieve the Spirit of Christ and rob ourselves of joy by cherishing them.
The Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This precious truth meets a difficulty which otherwise would press heavily upon us.
That difficulty may be thus stated. Admitting all that you have said respecting the heavenly citizenship of the saints, their oneness with Christ their life, and their consequent privileges and safety, it must be allowed, upon the other hand, that the individuals composing this chosen family dwell in mortal bodies, are exposed to trials and temptations from the flesh, the world, and the devil, and are confessedly insufficient of themselves to fight the battle which
all this involves. How then is this state of things to be met ? The triumphant answer is, It has been met! It was anticipated from the first. Our Lord left not His sorrowing ones with only a legacy of tears and a prospect of fierce persecution. He left them the boon of His own peace, and the promise of His abiding Spirit. That promise was fulfilled at the appointed time, the glorious evidence that the Son had taken His place at the Father's right hand, the accepted High Priest of the temple not made with hands, and the accomplishment of His purpose to consecrate a living temple on earth. Shortly afterwards, consequently, men in whom that Spirit dwelt, guiding them into all truth, could write to their fellow saints in this fashion : “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you ?” (1 Cor. iii. 16). “Ye are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. vi. 16). “Now therefore
* ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord ; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit ” (Eph. ii. 19-22).
Thus the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, consecrates the saints, and a second time prepares "a body" for Christ. His blessed services
" to that body are manifold. He cleanses, enlightens, cheers, strengthens, leads, checks, rebukes, humbles, as the ever varying circumstances of the case may require. By Him they are enabled to bear up under trials, to appropriate Divine promises, to grow in grace, and to live in the world so as in some measure to glorify God. Led of the Spirit, they mind the things of the Spirit. as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. viii. 14). He is the Spirit of adoption by which they call God Father, the witnessing Spirit by whom they know that they are the children of God, and the gracious helper of our infirmities; “for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. viii. 26). He is the distributor of the various gifts which the Church needs for mutual edification, and the services to which her Head calls her. And He is the sealing Spirit, and the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of the glory of God.
All these facts again point to the complete efficacy of our blessed Saviour's meditation, in consequence of which the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven to dwell and operate in the hearts of men whom He first unites to Christ. What a thought-the Son of man, at the right hand of God in heaven, and the Spirit of God in the hearts of men upon the earth! What shall we say to these things ? O the boundless wisdom of our God, and 0 the stupendous achievements of this blessed Second Adam, Emmanuel, God with us!
Surely the story of the Church when it shall form the subject of lofty thought and eloquent speech, by unclouded intelligences in the ages to come, will bring out more and more the manifold wisdom of God and the exceeding riches of His grace.
The Church has a glorious future. In relation to this the Holy Spirit is also working. He is making the saints meet for their inheritance in light. He is anointing the kings and priests of the next dispensation. Surely we may conclude that the justification, adoption, separation, cleansing, and spiritual training of a man point to a future, not of honour and dignity which shall merely terminate upon himself, but of high services of some kind which shall benefit others and glorify the Lord under whose authority and by whose appointment such service shall be rendered. It is hardly conceivable that all this expenditure of Divine thought, and application of Divine agency and Fatherly watchfulness over His children whilst they are subjected to the chastening which He sees necessary, mean nothing more than the perfecting of the saints, the reaching forward to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. If we can glorify God here in our nonage, amidst all our follies, and notwithstanding our feebleness, by work and labour of love, by kindness, forbearance, charity, by doing good to all men as we have opportunity, especially unto them who are of the household of faith, is it possible that when we shall have acquired our full intellectual and moral powers, shall have left behind for ever the burden and the darkness of mortality, and stand in all the vigour of perfect men in resurrection, there will be no employment for us, no honourable service to our great King,—then in possession of His royal rights,and no practical outlet for our wondrously strengthened and perfected faculties? Who can believe this ? The thought is impossible to men who find in holy activity one of the joys of existence, and whose deep consciousness of obligation to Christ often prompts the question, “What shall we render to the Lord for all His benefits to
The fervour of apostolic prayers for the development of grace and the increase of knowledge in the saints, suggests that the harvest fruits in resurrection-life of this seed-time of being will be something greater far than the lustre of a passive glory. That glory will also be seen in active service. Under the present dispensation, angels are ministering spirits for those who shall be heirs of salvation; but unto the angels God hath not put in subjection the world to come ; for it will be ruled, under the Prince of Peace, by those who are seen in apocalyptic vision, saying, “Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. v. 9, 10).
In the parable of the Pounds the future sovereignty of the saints is clearly exhibited. Because the people thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear, our Lord describes a certain nobleman going into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. He delivers money to his servants, with the charge, “Occupy till I come.” On his return, having received the kingdom, he investigates the conduct of the servants during his absence, rewarding the diligent and punishing the indolent. The man whose pound had gained ten pounds receives authority over ten cities, and he whose pound had gained five, is appointed ruler over five cities. Here is the principle which, I doubt not, will be adopted by our Lord in the distribution of power and authority in His coming kingdom. The Holy Spirit is now dividing gifts and graces to every man severally as He will, for the upbuilding and completion of the body of Christ, and when the body shall be complete the Lord will select from it those who are to be the princes of His vast dominion “ under the whole heaven.”
It is honourable to take rank amongst the princes of the earth in this mortal state; but what will it be to stand among the crowned kings invested with authority by the King of kings in resurrectionlife? Some of those who are utterly unknown to the potentates of the world, and who pass their lives in difficulty and trouble, striving hard to do what is right and honest and true, are nevertheless destined to a royal dignity immeasurably superior to any that was ever reached by the greatest sovereigns of history. To be “ the brethren ” of the “ Lord of all,” is a privilege, and to bear rule with Him is a prospect well fitted to make His saints submit to any mode of discipline He pleases, for they may rest assured that the nature of their training has reference to the position they will be called to occupy in His kingdom.
Meanwhile the promises to the conquerors suggest what vast variety of reward and what special honour the Lord intends for His faithful ones. There is the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God to Him that overcometh in the Church of Ephesus; he that overcometh in Smyrna shall not be hurt of the second death; the hidden manna, the white stone, and the new name are to him that overcometh in Pergamos; he that overcometh in Thyatira, and keepeth the Saviour's works unto the end, shall have power over the nations ; he that overcometh in Sardis shall be clothed in white raiment, and Christ will confess his name before His Father and before His angels; to the conqueror in Philadelphia the Lord speaks thus, “ Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and I will write upon him my new name;" and to him that overcometh in Laodicea, the Lord says, “I will grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.”