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2 Cor. iii. 18.—But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass
the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
It was the purpose of the Most High, from the depths of an inconceivable eternity, to create this world destined for the habitation of man.
I have often thought that if the purpose had been revealed to the holy angels, and they had been left to form a sketch or prepare a model of the creation, that every sketch they could have formed, every model they would have prepared, would have been infinitely inferior to what the universe appeared to be when it was actually finished. They then saw the majesty of the design; the wonders of creation unfolded themselves gradually to view, as the stupendous work advanced, in each of which they beheld with delight and adoration the perfections of the Creator, until the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the hosts of them; and God rested from his labours, and hallowed the seventh day as an everlasting memorial of his creating power. With delight, such only as angels can feel, they beheld man, the last and the most perfect of all his works, made only a little lower than themselves, crowned with glory and honour, invested with dominion over the creatures, and adorned with the image and likeness of God himself. This was holiness—this was happiness !
Heaven and earth were united in the most perfect harmony; but this harmony was soon broken, and infernal discord succeeded; sin threw its dark veil over the glories of creation ; man dared to rebel against God, and God withdrew from man the smile of his approbation. The crown of glory was displaced from his guilty head ;
the sceptre of dominion fell from his enfeebled hand; the Divine image was blotted from his heart; and
“Nature, sighing through all her works,
Gave signs of woe that all was lost.”
What effect this awful change then had upon the holy angels, we are not informed, and therefore it would be fruitless to inquire. Probably they might expect, as man seems to have apprehended, that eternal justice having erected its tribunal, and consigning the criminals to condign punishment, would reduce the world to its original chaos. But God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts ; his ways of mercy infinitely surpass the comprehension of angels. He had now a greater object to bring forward, and scenes infinitely more glorious to unfold. The stupendous work of human redemption was to be exhibited, and gradually introduced, and a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth everlasting righteousness, was to arise out of the ruins of the fall, combining the brightest manifestations of the glory of God, with the highest interests of man as an heir of immortality. As the benefit of this wonderful expedient was to run parallel with the ages of time, an immediate revelation of it was necessary, and such was accordingly granted to our first parents, when, in order to alleviate in some degree the horrors of their situation before their expulsion from paradise, they were assured that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent; that the Saviour should retort the blow inflicted by the destroyer, and, in the language of the apostle, "abolish death, and bring life and immortality to light by the gospel."
This promise was the first beam of gospel light which eradiated a guilty and fallen world. During the patriarchal and antediluvian ages, but especially under the ministry of Moses and the prophets, the heavenly light shone brighter and brighter "unto the perfect day ;” and when “the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them who were under the condemnation of the law, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But under what circumstances did the Son of God make his appearanceattended with thousands of thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousands of angels, as when he promulgated the law to his people Israel on Mount Sinai, which sank beneath the weight of his glory? Or did he appear in his proper character, as the blessed and only potentate, commanding all earthly princes to lay their sceptres at his feet, and to follow in his train? You know, my brethren, the answer to this question. Never did majesty appear in so much meanness before; and his was a Divine Majesty. The eternal Word, who made all things, and without whom nothing was made that was made, and in whom is the light and the life of men and of angels, was made flesh, and dwelt amongst men as in a tabernacle. You are not, however, to imagine that glory was wholly concealed by the tabernacle in which it was enshrined, or that its eradiations were not sufficient to convince those who beheld the house, of the dignity of the guest it had the honour to contain. The inspired evangelists seemed to vie with each other in describing the wonders of the transfiguration. They tell us that “the fashion of his countenance was altered ; that his face did shine as the sun ; that his raiment was white as the light of heaven.” The Lord our God became exceedingly glorious, and decked himself with light as with a garment. Overpowered by the wondrous scene, Peter exclaimed in an ecstacy, not knowing what he said, “ Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” His memory retained a vivid recollection of the heavenly vision to the hour of his martyrdom; and hence, in his last general Epistle, when taking leave of the church, and speaking of putting off his earthly tabernacle, he saith, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, concerning the coming, and the power, and the glory of the Lord Jesus, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God 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 well pleased. Which glory we saw, and which voice we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” But the transfiguration was but an indirect and very partial manifestation of his glory, and was rather calculated to dazzle and confound, than to purify and transform. It was only a dim shadow of the Divine nature, and his mediatorial character, in which his glory essentially and relatively consists. It is of this glory that the apostle speaks in our text. “For we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Let us consider distinctly and in order :FirstThe object of the believer's contemplation in the gospel,—“ The glory of the Lord.” Secondly, The medium in which the enlightened Christian beholds this object,—“As in a glass,” or mirror. Thirdly, The removal of those veils by which this glory was concealed from the Jewish nation at the time of his appearance, and by which it is awfully concealed from an unbelieving world, —“ With an uncovered or unveiled face." Fourthly, The transforming power of the heavenly vision,—"Changed into the same image from glory to glory.” And, Lastly, The mighty agency by which this blessed transformation is accomplished,
“Even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” May the Spirit of God, of Christ, and of glory rest on this assembly, and take possession of every heart, and purify it and consecrate it as his living temple ! We are, then,
I. To consider THE GREAT OBJECT OF THE BELIEVER'S conTEMPLATION IN THE GOSPEL,—“The glory of the Lord.”
The term glory, in ordinary conversation, signifies something bright and luminous. Thus we read of the glory of the sun, the glory of the moon, the glory of the stars; and we are told that
one star differeth from another star in glory.” The term glory, as ascribed to the Supreme Being, is used by the sacred writers in two senses, and in two senses only, and signifies either the manifestation of his immediate presence to the outward senses, or the revelation of his being and perfections to the mind and the understanding.
It signifies manifestation of his immediate presence to the outward senses, usually by some visible supernatural radiance. Thus, as the God of glory, he appeared to Abraham in glory on the plains of Mamre ;—to Moses on Mount Horeb, when the bush, though wrapped in flames and in a blaze of glory, was not consumed ;—to the many thousands of Israel, when, at the feast of dedication, he took possession of the tabernacle in a body of light above the brightness of the sun, so that the priest could not stand to minister at the altar, because of the glory of the Lord that filled the house of the Lord ;and, again, to the High Priest, when he entered into the most holy place of the sanctuary on the great day of atonement, in the Shechinah, that held its stationary residence on the mercy-seat between the cherubims of glory. But we are not to suppose, brethren, that the shechinah, or cloud of glory, was God : this would be a fatal mistake, and lead to idolatry. It was only a token of a present Deity, the visible symbol of his presence, whom “no man hath seen or can see, and live.”
But the glory of God often signifies, the revelation of his being and perfections to the mind and the understanding. Thus we are told, “ The heavens declare his glory," and not only so, but the glimmering of the glow-worm, the fragrance of the rose, the tints of the carnation are manifestly the effects of the same power that placed the sun in the firmament, and reared the stupendous fabric of heaven and earth. To the eye of attentive observation his perfections, too, are manifest in the administration of providence
towards individuals, and families, and nations, and churches, and the world at large. But there is one object in the universe, distinct from all the rest, in which we behold the combined effulgence of all the glories of an infinite Majesty. You know of whom I now speak. He is so precisely the resemblance of the Father, he is so essentially one with the Father, that whosoever hath seen him hath seen the Father also. To him the term glory is peculiarly appropriate. Hence he is called, “The God of glory,”—“ the Lord of glory,” — “the Prince of glory,”—“the King of glory,”--the glory of the Gentiles, and of his people Israel; the brightness, the effulgence of the Father's glory, and the glory that shall one day fill the whole earth, when the prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are answered.
Here, then, is the great object of the Christian's contemplation,the glory of God; and the sight of this object by faith is absolutely necessary to salvation. No man can be admitted to the beatific vision of the Divine glory in heaven, who has not seen the glory of God in this world. I pass on,
II. To contemplate THE MEDIUM IN WHICH THE ENLIGHTENED CHRISTIAN BEHOLDS THIS GREAT OBJECT,—“As in a glass."
This object is not beheld in a perspective, from which you perceive something obscurely in the distance, but in a specular, a mirror which gives you the object near at hand, so that the mind can examine its beauties, symmetry, and proportion, while the heart lies open to the full impress of all its loveliness. By this beautiful similitude the Lord Jesus, the brightness of the Father's glory, is intended, as is evident from the 4th verse of the following chapter, which is a continuation of the same subject : “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost ; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.—But God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.” My brethren, the face of Jesus Christ was more marred than the face of any man ; but in that face that was swollen with violence, covered with blood, and forrowed with tears, we behold more of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, than in the whole visible creation. Of the beauty, as well as the propriety of this similitude, you will be sensible if you consider, first, The glorious constitution of our Redeemer's person ; secondly, The glorious harmony of the Divine perfections in the great work of redemption which he has accomplished ; and, thirdly, The fulness of grace and truth deposited in