“ Be

was seen by Saint Stephen, in the moment of his martyrdom. Being full, you read, of the Holy Ghost, Stephen looked up steadfastly unto heaven, and saw the glory of God*, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. At that seemingly dreadful moment, even when the martyr was surrounded by a band of assassins, with stones ready in their hands to stone him to death, the spectacle, nevertheless, filled his soul with rapture. He cried out in ecstasy : hold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” The same glorious vision was vouchsafed to Saint Paul at his conversion; and to Saint John at the delivery of the “Revelations. This change of our Lord's body was a change, we have reason to believe, of nature and substance, so as to be thenceforward incapable of decay or dissolution. It might be susceptible of any external form which the particular purpose of his appearance should require. So, when he appeared to Stephen and Paul, or to any of his saints, it was necessary

he should assume the form which he had borne in the flesh, that he might be known to them. But it is not necessary to suppose that he was confined to that form. The contrary rather appears in the 'Revelation of Saint John,' in which, after once showing himself to the apostle, our Lord was afterward represented to his eyes under different forms. All, however, that is of importance to us to know, all that belongs to our present subject to observe, is, that Christ's glorified person was incapable of dying any more ; that it continues at this day; that it hath all along continued the same real identical being as that which went up

* The “Glory of God,” in Scripture, when spoken of as an object of vision, always, I think, means a luminous appearance, bright and refulgent, beyond the splendour of any natural object whatever. VOL. V.


power. The

into heaven in the sight of his apostles; the same essential nature, the same glorified substance, the same proper person.

But, secondly, He is the same also in power. Scripture doctrine concerning our Lord seems to be this, that, when his appointed commission and his sufferings were closed upon earth, he was advanced in heaven to a still higher state than what he possessed before he came into the world.* This point, as well as the glory of his nature, both before and after his appearance in the flesh, is attested by Saint Paul, in the second chapter of his . Epistle to the Philippians.' “Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” He did not affect to be equal with God, or to appear with divine honours (for such is the sense which the words in the original will bear), “but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” “Wherefore," i. e. for this his obedience even to the last extremity, even unto death, “God also hath highly exalted him ;” or, as it is distinctly and perspicuously expressed in the original, “God also hath more highly exalted him,” that is, to a higher state than what he even before possessed ; insomuch that he hath “ “given him a name which is above every name,” that at, or more properly in, the “name of Jesus every knee

༦ 5 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;" exactly agreeable to what our Lord himself declared to his disciples after his resurrection,—“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. xxviii. 18.) You will observe in

* See Sherlock's Sermons on Phil.' ï. 9.

[ocr errors]


this passage of St. Paul, not only the magnificent terms in which Christ's exaltation is described, viz. “ that every knee should thenceforward bow in his name, and that every tongue should confess him to be Lord; but

you will observe, also, the comprehension and extent of his dominion,—“of things in heaven, of things on earth, of things under the earth.” And that we are specifically comprised 'under this authority and this agency, either of the two following texts may be brought as a sufficient proof: “Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of you (Matt. xviii. 20); which words of our Lord imply a knowledge of, an observation of, an attention to, and an interference with, what passes amongst his disciples upon earth. Or to take his final words to his followers, as recorded by Saint Matthew : “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world,”_and they carry the same implication. And, lastly, that, in the most awful scene and event of our existence, the day of judgment, we shall not only become the objects, but the immediate objects, of Christ's power and agency, is set forth in two clear and positive texts. “ The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God” (John, v. 25); not the voice of God, but the voice of the Son of God. And then, pursuing the description of what will afterward take place, our Lord adds, in the next verse but one,—" that the Father hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man :" which is in perfect conformity with what Saint Paul announced to the Athenians, as a great and new doctrine, namely, “that God bath appointed a day in

. which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

Having shown that the power of Jesus Christ is a subsisting power at this time, the next question is as to its duration. Now, so far as it respects mankind in this present world, we are assured that it shall continue until the end of the world. The same texts which have been adduced prove this point as well as that for which they were quoted; and they are con

; firmed by Saint Paul's declaration, 1 Cor. xv. 24; “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father :" therefore he shall retain and exercise it until then. But, farther, this power is not only perpetual but progressive, advancing and proceeding by different steps and degrees, until it shall become supreme and complete, and shall prevail against every enemy and every opposition. That our Lord's dominion will not only remain unto the end of the world, but that its effects in the world will be greatly enlarged and increased, is signified very expressly in the second chapter of the • Epistle to the Hebrews. The apostle in this passage applies to our Lord a quotation from the Psalms :' “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet;" and then draws from it a strict inference; "for in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that he did not put under him:" and then he remarks, as a fact, “but now we see not yet all things put under him.” That complete entire subjection which is here promised hath not yet taken place. The promise must therefore refer to a still future order of things. This doctrine, of the progressive increase and final completeness of our Lord's kingdom, is also virtually laid down in the passage from the Corinthians' al

' ready cited: “He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet;" for that this subjugation of his several enemies will be successive, one after another, is strongly intimated by the expression, “the


[ocr errors]

last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Now, to apprehend the probability of those things coming to pass, or rather to remove any opinion of their improbability, we ought constantly to bear in our mind this momentous truth, that in the hands of the Deity time is nothing, that he has eternity to act in. The Christian dispensation, nay, the world itself, may be in its infancy. A more perfect display of the power of Christ, and of his religion, may be in reserve : and the ages which it may endure, after the obstacles and impediments to its reception are removed, may be beyond comparison longer than those which we have seen, in which it has been struggling with great difficulties, most especially with ignorance and prejudice. We ought not to be moved, any more than the apostles were moved, with the reflection which was cast upon their mission, that since the “ fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were.”

We ought to return the answer which one of them returned, that what we call tardiness in the Deity is not so ; that our so thinking it arises from not allowing for the different importance, nay, probably, for the different apprehension of time, in the Divine mind and in ours; that with him a thousand years are as one day; words which confound and astonish human understanding, yet strictly and metaphysically true.

Again, we should remember that the apostles,—the very persons who asserted that God would put all things under him,-themselves, as we have seen, acknowledged that it was not yet done. In the mean time, from the whole of their declarations and of this discussion, we collect that Jesus Christ ascended into the heavens, is, at this day, a great efficient Being in the universe, invested by his Father with a high authority, which he exercises, and will continue to exercise, until the end of the world.


« ElőzőTovább »