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towards the accomplishment of “the mystery of Christ, which was hid for ages,” is seen the wonderful dignity and glory to which man is exalted. For in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ manhood is exalted far above all principality, and power, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come-far above angels; for He hath not taken their nature, but ours, into union with Himself.* And not only are man's dignity and glory seen in the exaltation of our nature, but the unspeakable blessedness to which he is called — the perfect union and oneness which subsists between God and man in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore did our Lord pray " that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” There is, indeed, such a marvellous depth of divine truth in the words of the apostle before quoted, that our souls are absorbed, as it were, in the contemplation of it, and we feel as though we could dwell upon it for ever, ascribing glory to the Triune Jehovah, like the cherubim before the throne, which rest not day nor night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” « Now that He ascended (says the apostle), what is it, but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.”+ The wonderful act of the incarnation of the eternal Son, and the two natures which now subsist in indissoluble union in the person of Him * Heb. ii. 16.
+ Eph. iv. 9, 10
who sitteth on the throne, is implied in these words with incomparable dignity and simplicity. As though he had said, “If He had not first descended, He could not have ascended : for none but He who is God can sit on the throne of God. No creature can sit there—none but He who is co-equal with the Father can sit on the Father's throne;" and therefore did He pray the Father, when He had finished the work which He had given Him to do—“ And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” The words of the apostle also declare the great end for which “ He ascended up far above all heavens”—“that He might fill all things.” The exaltation of our nature to the right hand of God was another necessary step in the constitution of the Church of Christ. The incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension were all necessary to the formation of His Church. He prepared for the establishment of His Church on earth, in the ministry of His word—in the calling of His disciplesand in the baptism He administered (though He baptized not, but His disciples). But the Church was not constituted—the body of Christ was not formed, until after He ASCENDED: then it was that the Son of Man was glorified—then He received the Holy Ghost for the Church--then He sent him forththen He who was GENERATED holy, became the great RE-generator of His people---but not till then. “And as many as received Him, to them did He give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
This mighty work could not be accomplished in us, but by the Holy Ghost, given unto us by virtue. of the ascension and glorification of Christ. And it is an acknowledged fact, that whilst the Lord Jesus remained on earth, the Holy Ghost was not given, because He was not glorified. To fulfil the work of regeneration in us, He must proceed from the risen and glorified Christ; therefore did our Lord say to His disciples, “ I tell you the truth : it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you.” Not, therefore, until “ the day of Pentecost,” were men regenerated, and born from above of water and of the Holy Ghost. On that great day of the anniversary of the Law given from Mount Sinai, written by the finger of God on two tables of stone, was the greater glory seen, in writing that Law on the fleshly tables of man's heart, by the Holy Spirit. For then did man love God with a perfect love, and his neighbour as himself; then were the disciples of one heart and of one soulmat one with God, and at one with each other-perfectly joined together, and united in the heavenly bond of Love—that great and best of all. the gifts of the Spirit, without which all our doings are nothing worth—containing and embracing, as it does, every other, even as a girdle embraceth a man, or a key-stone uniteth and supporteth an arch. Thus was man truly regenerate, and, being endowed with the holy and blessed Spirit of God, brought forth
these precious fruits. The disciples resembled their Lord—were not of this world--and their meat and drink were to do the will of Jesus, even as He rejoiced to do the will of the Father. The constitution of Christ's Church was indeed glorious--yea, most glorious—far exceeding in glory anything which ever appeared on this earth before.
But this work of regeneration, great and glorious as it was, is not all that characterized the Church of Christ, but was necessary and preparatory to another gift of God, even the gift of the Holy Ghost, to dwell in His Church by HIS PERSONAL PRESENCE. And as every great truth is seen in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, so is this. He was generated holy; yea, He was the Son of God, in whom the Father was well pleased, yet was He baptized with the Holy Ghost; “ the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form as a dove, and abode upon Him." Their distinctness is manifest. Regeneration is one thing, and the gift of the Holy Ghost as an indwelling God is another.
66 Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying · Abba, Father.” Therefore are these two acts of the Lord ordained in His Church for making us partakers of the fellowship of Christ-regeneration, and the gift of the Spirit. The former is conferred in baptism; the latter in the “ laying on of hands.” And they are thus distinguished by St. Paul—“ The doctrine of baptisms, and the laying on of hands.” Hence, every work of the Spirit in regeneration, which we read of in the New Testament, was followed by the « laying on of
hands."* Hence, too, this sacred rite is continued in the Church, and the baptized children of the Lord, brought into the bond of the new covenant, and to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, and regenerated by the Spirit, are, when judged fit by the Church, brought to the bishop to be confirmed by him, that they may receive additional grace, and, as members of Christ, be made partakers of His Spirit. This high and heavenly endowment, for which regeneration prepares, is thus beautifully stated in the prayer of the Church used on that occasion : “ Almighty and everlasting God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins; strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength ; the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear, now and for ever. Amen." And this 66
sealing of the Spirit”+ is not less strikingly expressed in the words which accompany the act of
laying on of hands.” « Defend, O Lord, this thy child with thy heavenly grace, that he may continue thine for ever, and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit more and more, until he come unto thy everlasting kingdom. Amen.” Moreover, that this act is for conveying additional grace of the Holy Spirit, in accordance to the mind of the Lord, expressed
* Acts viii, 11-17.
+ Eph. i. 13, 14.