« הקודםהמשך »
It is interesting to reflect on the state of the disciples during the period which intervened between the Lord's crucifixion and resurrection. Whatever glimpses of truth they may have had respecting the Lord and His kingdom, they certainly continued to look to Him as a temporal king, the restorer of the temporal kingdom of the Jews. They might look for His ultimate triumph through suffering, but could hardly view it through death. The Lord's crucifixion must therefore have been the extinction of all their former hopes. They continued after this to meet together, and converse on those subjects which must have engrossed all their thoughts; but it appears from all that is recorded of them, that their united memories and reflections had never even suggested the truth which their Scriptures teach, and which the Lord had repeatedly declared, that Christ would be put to death, and would rise again the third day.
There was no doubt a special providence in all the states through which the disciples passed. The things relating to the Lord's resurrection were hid from them; not only to prepare them for acknowledging Him and His kingdom in their true character, but to make them representatives of the state of Christian experience. They were held together by an influence the nature of which they themselves did not understand ; and were led by a way which they themselves knew not
to the acknowledgment of Jesus in His truly Divine character, and to the adoption of those high and holy views of His doctrine, which they were to make known to mankind.
These things, interesting in themselves, become deeply instructive when considered as ensamples, as written for our admonition on whom also the ends of the world are come, with whom old things must pass away, and all things must be made new.
In the Book of Revelation, the Lord, we find, was represented to John as a Lamb as it were slain, prophetically describing the state into which even the Christian Church would fall as to its ideas regarding the Redeemer and Saviour, when He would no longer be believed in as “ the living,” or as “Him that liveth,” but would be regarded as one among the dead.
The Lord is considered as being among the dead, when He is believed to be a created and finite being, whether that being be a mere man or the highest of the angels, the first-born, or rather firstcreated, of every creature.
All men, and all angels also, as being created, are in themselves dead. They have no life in themselves ; they live from God who alone has life, because He alone is Life ; and if the stream of life from its Divine source were intercepted for a moment, all finite existence would cease.
If the Lord is considered to be finite, He is virtually numbered among the dead; He is considered to be a recipient of life, and as such finite, thus limited in His capacities and power; Himself dependent, therefore unable to sustain others. It is but a modification of this lifeless idea respecting the Saviour to believe that He has a Divine nature as well as a human nature. It is not the divinity of His Godhead, but the divinity of His manhood that is the ground of the salvation of men. It is the humanity which was dead and is alive again, and which liveth for evermore; and which hath the keys of hell and death. It is because in Jesus Christ God is man, and man is God, that there is communication and conjunction between God and man,
and between man and God. We cannot become adequately receptive of the light and life which were manifested in Jesus Christ, but through a knowledge and belief in the divinity of His humanity. While the Lord lived in the world, but in a humanity like that of another man, His disciples, although they saw His person and His works, and heard His instructions, yet remained natural in all their ideas and in all their aims. They could not, indeed, have any idea of the divinity of the Lord's humanity, until it had been actually made Divine by glorification; and they could not become spiritually-minded, until, from the glorious body of the Lord, the spirit of truth had been shed abroad upon their understandings and hearts. But had they continued, after the Lord's resurrection and ascension, to look up to Him with the same carnal notions, they would have remained in the same carnal state, and attained no elevation of sentiment and character.
It is, therefore, because the Christian Church has descended from that exalted faith which the Lord's resurrection and ascension wrought in the Apostles and disciples, that religion has in a great measure ceased to be a living principle,—that it has at least lost much of that vitality which made the early Church the wonder and admiration of the surrounding nations.
Not only does the Church regard the Lord Jesus as merely human, but as still retaining the marks of His mortality, the wounds which His material humanity received upon the cross. How purely material must be the ideas, and how natural the faith, of those who can seriously contemplate the Saviour as such a spectacle! They not only look intellectually for Him within the sphere of finite life, but under the form, if not of suffering, at least of marred humanity. They look for Him therefore where He is not. To such the words of the angels may be addressed : “Why seek ye the living among the dead ? He is not here, He is risen.”
But the time has come when the Lord shall no longer be sought for among the dead as one of them; when it will be seen that every creaturely attribute and accident is infinitely beneath Him—that having freed Himself from mortality and put off every particle of dead matter, He is now above the sphere of finite existence, and alone hath immortality. The Church, therefore, as a body, will in all future time see Jesus as the Life itself, and worship Him, as the Apostles did, after they had seen and known Him, as the Resurrection and the Life; as He that liveth, and was dead, and is alive for evermore,
The individual members of the Church will, however, realize in their own experience the states through which the Lord's first disciples passed, froin their first acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah to the final confirmation of their faith in Him as the Saviour of the soul, and the Sovereign of an eternal kingdom of truth and right
For every son of man is natural before he is spiritual ; and every convert to the Lord and His righteousness is at first natural, both in his apprehensions and in his faith. Indeed, all faith is
natural before it is spiritual, and the spiritual is gradually formed in the natural, and is ultimately produced or born of it, as the germ from the seed. Natural faith is analogous to that of the disciples while the Lord was with them and was seen by them in the flesh, and spiritual faith is analogous to that of the disciples after the Lord's resurrection, when they no longer knew Him after the flesh but after the spirit. The transition between the states is analogous to that of the disciples at the period of the Lord's death and burial; for there must be a death of the natural that the spiritual may come into life, and henceforth be the true and living faith in the divinity and all-sufficiency of the Saviour.
These states are no longer produced by changes in the Lord, such as those which He underwent during the progress of His glorification on earth.
They arise entirely from the states of mankind themselves; and they are similar in all, because all men are by nature the same, and all have to be regenerated by the Lord as He Himself glorified His humanity, that glorification having been the work of the Lord in the flesh, from which and according to which the regeneration of men is effected. To follow the Lord in the regeneration is to pass through all the general states through which He Himself passed. These were states of trial and suffering, attended by a continual putting off of nature and putting on of divinity ; and His death was the last of the sufferings from temptation by which this was effected. Regeneration is also a putting off of what is natural and a putting on' of what is spiritual, and the final act of passing from the natural into the spiritual state is that which is so often spoken of in the Scriptures, as putting off the old man and putting on the new, as dying to sin and living unto righteousness, as passing from death unto life.
In all great changes of spiritual life there is a state of vastation and desolation, in which the very life within us seems to die. The ground and reason of this will be seen if we reflect on the progress of spiritual improvement.
All truth is first admitted by some affection and confirmed by a persuasive principle. The first affection from which we receive truth is in a great measure natural, and so must the persuasive principles be also. The great change of state which has to be effected before we can become regenerated, consists in transferring the truth from a natural to a spiritual affection, and removing the persuasive principle, which is capable alike of confirming what is true and what
is false, for a principle of confirmation from the perceptions of truth. In this respect we are all like the Apostles. We first build on a foundation of our own. Our ends and even our conceptions are natural. The Lord may have been conceived or even born within us, but only as a natural man, His Divine Truth has made its advent into our minds, but we have clothed it with our own natural thoughts and affections. This frail humanity must be put off and a Divine humanity put on. That is to say, our natural thoughts and affections must be removed, and spiritual thoughts and affections must take their place. Those are the old man, these are the new. The old man must die that the new man may live. The change is entirely analogous to that which our Lord underwent; for we are regenerated as He was glorified. Nor do we truly, that is to say spiritually, know the Lord till this change is effected in us. He is not to us the living Lord until He alone lives in us. We must not seek the living among the dead, by seeking Him among our natural and worldly thoughts and affections ; for these in and by themselves are dead. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as a flower of the field : the grass withereth, the flower fadeth ; but the Word of our God shall stand
All that is natural must fade; only that which is Divine can survive and endure. When the kingdom of our imagination is overthrown, then can the true kingdom be established within us.
We might have applied this text to other particulars, where the living is not to be sought among the dead; but we have thought it most suitable to the season in which the Lord's resurrection is commemorated, to confine our attention to the great subject of the Lord's glorification, both as it was completed in Him, and as it must be effected in us if we would become new creatures.
FAITH AGAINST SIGHT.
What is the anchor on which the Christian should rely for salvation ? Are we to rest satisfied with our works and ignore the claims of faith? There is a tendency, when works are regarded as the one thing needful, to despise the emotional aspirations of the soul. I plead for Faith.
The man who watches the lives of himself and others cannot fail to see the impotence of human nature. The circumstances which surround man are so little under his control, that an exalted position with