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be heirs of salvation." Yet they believe that he is now visible to angels and archangels, and that the Lord sits upon his throne among them? What, then, is the real difference? where is the force of the objection, excepting to our carnal conceptions?
But (they say) sin is here. True, it is so now; and that the Lord should on that account be nearer to us even now, as a present help, than these objectors really think, is a great condescension : but it is not degradation; for the Lord can never be degraded by doing that which he has willed to do: and therefore the only question is, “ What saith the Scripture?” There the question begins, and there it ends.
If these objectors had been unfortunately gifted with more logical heads, they must have been inevitably Socinians; for, if we are to talk of degradation, what can be more so, according to the standard of human intellect, than the notion that the Holy Spirit should dwell within the decaying, offensive, and sin-polluted body of a human being ? According to their ideas, the Saviour, our Lord and our God, was degraded by passing through the womb of the Virgin; and according to their logic, at all events, the Holy Spirit, to avoid degradation, should cease to dwell with us when our bodies become loathsome from sickness! the bed of a dying Christian ought to be without consolation! and that Spirit, which would have repelled the assaults of Satan, ought to have retired in disgust!
These objectors make a mere man of the Lord, ascribing to him the animal senses of a human being, and then cry out upon others for degrading him! They cannot keep in mind, that in the sight of the Lord all his works are equal, and that there is nothing offensive but sin. Their carnal conceptions would admit the notion of the Lord's appearing in the form of an archangel, if it were propounded in Scripture; but they are staggered at the idea of his assuming the form of an earthly king, because they do not comprehend, that, compared with the greatness of God, both are equally nothing ; and because, while occupied in comparing the creatures with each other, they forget that both are equally the work of the Creator's hands, and that he could change the one into the other in an instant. These objectors, in the same way measuring every thing by their own carnal standard, believe that God dwells in heaven-meaning a place of his own making; but they cannot admit that he can dwell on earth, which is also a place of his own making: But why not? Because they think (and, if they knew their own thoughts, they would confess it) that the two places are made with different materials, and that the Creator did not make the materials. This alone can be their reason for thinking that the earth possesses inherently qualities which must always, and under all circumstances, render it incapable of becoming either paradise
or heaven. It is plain that these objectors do not think that the presence of the Lord constitutes heaven, or that sin is the cause of the present condition of this earth and its inhabitants; but that the earth itself has a something in its composition above the controul of the Divine presence; and that, if the Lord were to erect his throne here, instead of exalting the earth, the earth would lower Him! I once knew an ultra-Socinian, who by the powers of his intellect had arrived at the conclusion that God was not Almighty : these objectors do not seem to be aware, that when they apply the word " degradation” to the Lord, they set up a supposed power above his will. Whatever we find in Scripture falls within the term "condescension.” To assume any thing which has not Scripture for its warrant, is not to " degrade” the Lord, but to commit the sin of interpolating God's word. The word “ degradation " is out of the question : the terms "scriptural" or "unscriptural” can alone be properly employed, in considering the operations of the Divine will.
Mr. Irving very ably overthrows these objectors on their own mode of reasoning, by observing, that “to rule as a King is a less humiliation than to be crucified as a malefactor.” This is a conclusive answer to the objectors, upon their own narrow basis ; though, in point of fact, the Lord is always equally glorious. These objectors cannot help making a human being of the Lord, and do not comprehend that his glory is independent of circumstances. “ 'If,” say they, “ we could, with the Socinians, suppose him a mere man, we could conceive a throne on this earth would do him honour.” Now this is not a fair way of stating their objection ; for they really do mean that such a throne would do him dishonour; and, meaning this, they do make the Lord a mere man, as completely dependent on outward circumstances, as the Socinians : the only difference between them consists in the three letters which form the syllable dis—both are evidently thinking of a creature, and not of the Creator.
To what a groveling view of Divine things has the standard of orthodoxy fallen! To bear a testimony against the Catholic bill, as the work of Infidel indifference, was a duty; but who can wonder that our Established Church should be thus shaken, when we see Mr. Irving assailed with such silly objections as the human intellect can afford, on a subject beyond its grasp, instead of being met on Scripture ground, which is our only guide ? I am not competent to say whether Mr. Irving is right, but any one may see that these objectors are wrong. Their best attempts at argument shew that they stand on the very verge of Socinianism, and depend on their natural understandings more than on the revealed word of God. They think themselves rational Christians, merely because they are so blinded that they cannot see to the end of their own absurdities. They talk of the impossibility of a sinner being in heaven; as if heaven were a place, and not a condition, and then argue, that, because a sinner cannot be there, the glorified God-Man cannot be here. If so, they must believe that he never was upon earth; and that Jesus, who did come, was a mere man.
But let us pursue the investigation a little higher, and inquire wherein the glory of Christ consisted. It may be summed up in one sentence: He was “ God manifest in the flesh.” The Godhead is in its own nature infinite, incomprehensible, and undiscoverable ; but it is the office of Christ to manifest whatever the creature can comprehend of God. In this office, and for this end, the Son-who was Very God from all eternity, and as such invested with all the glory of the Father-came forth in the fulness of time, and took" flesh as son of man : thus uniting both natures in the one person of Christ, never again to be divided, never to be manifested otherwise than in conjunction; in order to exhibit in creature form, to every created being, that glory which he had with the Father, as his only beloved Son, from everlasting. “ These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth : I have finished the work which thou gavest me 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 ” (John xvii. 1-5). Now, his glory as “ perfect God” is evidently incapable of addition or diminution : it was the same when in the bosom of the Father, as when on earth united to the “ perfect man" in him “ dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” or as now in glorified humanity “seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” It is clear, therefore, that as the Divine nature of our Lord was incapable of any accession of glory, the human nature alone, in the God-Man Christ Jesus, could be the subject of glorification; and that it is this humanity, impersonated with Divinity, which by the union has received such exaltation, that before it every knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This being evident and undeniable, the incarnation was nó degradation of the Son of God; for it was taking up humanity in that state of degradation which the Fall had brought upon it, and raising it to the highest state of glory by
the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. Degradation is not to be admitted even here, when the Son of God “ took upon himself the form of a servant;" much less, then, when he shall come forth the second time, exhibiting humanity in the glorious perfection to which he has exalted it: no longer the Man of sorrows, despised and rejected of men, but King of kings and Lord of lords.
Nor shall the earth always continue to exhibit on its surface those lamentable traces of the Fall, in sin and sorrow and misery, which alone give occasion to the idea of degradation we are combating. The prophecies all close in a promise of blessings showered down upon the earth; a restitution of all things; when “ Satan shall be bound” (Rev. xx. 2), and the now groaning creation have the “glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. viii. 21); when none shall hurt nor destroy, ar the land shall become like Eden, the garden of the Lord. When God looked upon his creation, he pronounced it very good; and when Adam, before his fall, heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden, he shunned not the interview; and we never dream of degradation. The Lord also appeared to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses : he came down on Sinai ; he dwelt between the cherubim ; he filled the temple; and all these before the incarnation : and shall we now prattle about degradation, because he has taken into union with himself humanity derived from this earth, and shall exhibit upon the earth the glorious climax and consummation of the purpose of God in creating the universe? Nay, let us rather take him literally at his word, wherein he declares so unequivocally, to the Prophet who beheld the glory of the Lord returning to his yet future temple,
" Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever” (Ezek. xliii. 7). Amen : even so : come, Lord Jesus.
THE STUDY OF PROPHECY A QUESTION OF DEGREE. The great question now at issue between those who study Prophecy and those who study it not, is almost entirely to be resolved into a question of extent and degree. Those who study Prophecy maintain that all parts of the word of God are equally worthy of attention; and that man may not select a portion of Divine revelation, saying, This is profitable, and this I will study; and reject another portion, saying, This is not profitable, and this I will not study. Those who
do not study Prophecy grant that it is the word of God, in as full a manner as those other parts of revelation which they do study, but they confine the necessity of studying it to certain periods of the world, or certain classes of persons, or times of leisure, which may remain after having fulfilled those duties which they consider as more important. They suppose that the whole scheme of God is summed up in certain doctrines, which they call emphatically the Gospel; and that the Christian's sole object should be to understand these doctrines, and to apply them to his own soul. We maintain all these doctrines as strenuously as they do, and press home upon each other's consciences the paramount necessity of being rooted and grounded in these : but we stop not here; we press on unto perfection. It is not merely the Gospel, but the Gospel of the kingdom, which is every where announced in Scripture; and the good news with which we congratulate each other, is the glad tidings of the coming glories of our Lord. A man must secure his own personal salvation before he can understand, much more before he can delight in the study of, that glory which shall be revealed; but, these preliminaries being secured, it does appear to me narrow, and selfish, and groveling, not to expatiate in that ample revelation of the latter-day. glory with which every prophecy in the Bible finishes; and I delight my soul in the contemplation, that all the elect of God shall not only escape the misery of hell, but shall feel themselves glorified in being instruments of effecting the great purpose of God, and exulting in the successive developments of his designs through all eternity. They are raised out of the narrow, selfish, personal feeling of mere safety, into the ennobling, generous, dignified rank of becoming monuments of the Divine glory.
But there are many humble, pious minds, who, from fear of becoming presumptuous, may not feel willing to indulge in these exalting hopes. To such persons I would address some considerations, drawn from the times in which we live, which have convinced me of the imperative duty which now rests upon us of studying Prophecy.
I am fully convinced, from the study of all the Scriptures, that we are now on the eve of a crisis incomparably the most important that the world has yet passed through. Greater than the Deluge, for it is the baptism of fire (2 Pet. iii. 5, 12); greater than the deliverance from Egypt, which shall no more be remembered nor come into mind (Jer. xxiii. 7,8); greater than the destruction of Jerusalem, or any other national calamity, for it shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time, no, nor ever shall be (Dan xii. l; Matt. xxiv. 21; Mark xiii. 19). Nor shall it be only a time of affliction, but it shall also be a time of subtle deceit; when false Christs and false prophets shall arise, deceiving, if it were possible, the very elect®(Matt. xxiv. 24; Mark xiii. 22). In a crisis like this, which is approaching-so full of peril, and so pregnant with