His glory is so great as to surpass the comprehension of finite minds. But that degree of knowledge which a Christian has of his person by faith, is more valuable than any other kind of knowledge whatever. The apostle Paul, who knew how to estimate it, calls it "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." (Phil. 3:8) He justly counted all things but loss in comparison with this, which shows how precious Christ was to him. Our future blessedness will consist in being with him where he is, and beholding his glory.
The evangelist John, speaking of the person of Christ, tells us, "The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." (John 1:14) But what was made flesh, and dwelt among us? "That Word which was in the beginning, which was with God, which was God, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:1-3) The Word was made flesh by the assumption of human nature, so as to be Immanuel, God with us. This was set forth in the divine prediction concerning his incarnation. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6)
Such is the dignity of Christ's person, that "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9) He tells us in another place, that he is in the Father, and the Father in him; that is, in the unity of the same Divine essence; for he and the Father are one.
He only who is over all, God blessed for ever, was able to execute the business of our salvation, which required the exertion of unbounded wisdom and almighty power.
But it was necessary, in order to the accomplishment of the great work of our redemption, that he should appear in our nature. For in his Divine nature, simply considered, he could not bear our sins, give his life a ransom for our souls, nor rise again for our justification. Neither was there that peculiar relation between his Divine nature and ours, which could give us a special interest in what was done by him. Forasmuch therefore as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he himself likewise took part of the same. This alliance between him and us was needful, to entitle us to the benefits of his meditation. It was thus, that he became our near kinsman, to whom belonged the right of redemption, and from whom alone we could claim relief in our ruined condition. On his becoming man, therefore our deliverance from misery and destruction absolutely depended.
He, in infinite compassion and condescension, sanctified a portion of our nature unto himself, and took it to be his own, in a holy and mysterious subsistence in his own person. By so doing, he has exalted our nature above the whole creation. For the Father hath set the incarnate Saviour at his own right hand, in the heavenly places, far above all principalities, and powers, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. In this view, the Lord Jesus ought to be, and really is precious to them that believe. They see their own nature delivered from the lowest degree of debasement into which it was brought by sin, and most gloriously and divinely exalted in the person of their Redeemer. This consideration affords consolation and delight to their souls. He must surely be precious unto them, who has assumed their very nature into a substantial union with himself, so that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, substantially, and eternally in it. Never can we sufficiently admire the depths of Divine wisdom, condescension, and love displayed in this mystery of godliness.
In his incarnation, he becomes the representative image of God to us without whom our understandings cannot make any intimate approaches to the Divine nature. We behold the glory of the Deity in the face of Jesus Christ. With great propriety he is therefore said to be "The image of the invisible God;--the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person." (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3)
The wonderful union of the divine and human natures in Christ, renders him an object of admiration and adoration both to angels and men. "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." (1 Tim. 3:16) In the person of Christ we behold the most wonderful and astonishing display of Divine wisdom, grace and power. The whole mystery of godliness is resolved into this one article, that God was manifest in the flesh. This is the foundation on which alone faith can rest with security, and the distressed conscience find peace. The inspired apostle does not scruple to say, that "God hath purchased the church with his own blood." (Acts 20:28) That is, He did so who was both God and man in one person. His blood may well be of sufficient efficacy to cleanse us from all sin, and to purge our consciences from dead works. (Heb. 9:14)
He is the sovereign Lord of all. The whole universe is under his government, and at his control. He doeth whatever he pleaseth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. (Dan. 4:35) The mightiest monarchs are but as worms beneath his feet. The thrones, principalities and powers of heaven are subject unto him. He is "higher than the heavens," with all their shining hosts.
"Who," it is asked, "hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand? Who hath meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" (Isa. 40:12) According to the representation of the enraptured prophet Isaiah, who saw his glory, and spake of him, it is even he who shall feed his flock like a shepherd, who shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. "Behold the nations," continues he, "are as the drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold he taketh up the isles, as a very little thing. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him as less than nothing and vanity."
His knowledge is without bounds or limits; for he knoweth all things. His wisdom is perfect; for he is the wisdom of God. His power is infinite; for he is the Almighty. His riches are immense. "To me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Eph. 3:8)
Whatever benefit or blessing we stand in need of, his grace is sufficient, more than sufficient to bestow it. He is able to save sinners, to the uttermost. Being one with the divine Father, he knows, he wills, he performs the same things as the Father does. In his mediatorial capacity, he is the absolute Lord of life and death. He is the head over all things to the church, and manages all providences and all ordinances as he pleases, for the church's good. The book of life, and the keys of hell and death are in his hand. He executes his office with the greatest fidelity, for the honor of the Father, and the salvation of men. What a safe, what a suitable object of faith is Immanuel! There is all the ground that we can desire for the firmest confidence in him, and reliance upon him.
Being in the form of God, he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; he counted it no usurpation to claim a full equality of nature with the Father, since he and the Father are essentially one. Hence all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. To him the following address is made, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." (Heb. 1:8) All the angels in heaven are commanded to worship him, or to pay the same adoration to him as to the Father. For there is no perfection attributed to the Father, but the same is attributed to the Son, in equal degree, and equal glory. As such, he is infinitely worthy of all possible esteem, love and service, both from men and angels.
He claims equality with the Father in his Divine operations, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." (John 5:17) His work and authority are the same with those of the Father, in the preservation and government of all things. And hence the apostle assures us, that "by him, and through him, and to him are all things." (Rom. 11:36)
That the Divine Redeemer is man cannot be doubted by those who, with proper attention, read the history of his life upon earth. His hunger and thirst, his labors and sorrows, his stripes and wounds, his offering up strong cries and tears, his pains and his death, fully prove his real manhood. But when we contemplate him in his transfiguration on the holy mount, we behold his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Then the Divinity, enshrined within his manhood, communicated its radiance outwardly to his body, and even to his garments. "His face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light." (Matt. 17:2) He was "clothed with honour and majesty; Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment." (Ps. 104:1,2)
When we contemplate the wonderful works which he performed, we see that he is the true God, and eternal life. The most boisterous elements in nature cease from raging, and compose themselves into a perfect calm, when he gives the powerful command, "Peace, be still." The most foul and inveterate leprosy is perfectly removed, and that in a moment, when he says, "Be thou clean." The body which had been four days in the state of the dead, returns to life, and rises from the tomb, when he says, "Lazarus, come forth." Disease and death, yea, the legions of darkness are obedient to his omnipotent word. Surely this is the Lord of nature; this is God manifest in the flesh. This is he who says of himself, "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last."
The nature which sinned, according to the rules of justice, was to suffer for sin. The Word, or the Son of God was therefore made flesh, that he might, as he said at his baptism, "fulfil all righteousness." (Matt. 3:15) He was incarnate, that he might have somewhat to offer, more valuable and efficacious than the flesh of bulls and of goats. "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.--In burnt offering and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure; then said I, Lo I come, (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God." (Heb. 10:6,7) And as Christ took manhood, that by it he might be capable of death, so, because manhood is the proper subject of compassion and sympathy, he, who without our nature could not suffer for the sins of men on earth, does now, by means of that nature, make intercession for sinners, and exercise dominion over all men, with a true, a natural, and a sensible touch of pity.
I must beg leave to refer the reader to the learned Dr. Owen, and other able writers, who have given us at large the Scripture doctrine concerning the person of Christ. My present design is only to contemplate the subject in a cursory and devotional way. I freely own, that I am lost when I meditate on the glory of Immanuel. He formed the heavens by his word, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He filleth the whole universe with his immensity. My faith ascends to him in the palace of his glory, surrounded with thousands of thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand mighty angels, always ready to execute his will. And did he become incarnate for us men, and for our salvation? I look down upon myself and say, What am I? Lord, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? (Heb. 2:6) I am but an atom, I am but dust and ashes, and all overspread, with pollution and deformity. And can this atom, this dust, this deformed mass of impurity be the object of redeeming mercy? What motive could determine the Lord of glory to become man for my sake, and to communicate himself in a manner so intimate, so endearing, to a creature so mean and vile? The seraphim round his throne cover their faces with their wings, and cry one to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! The whole earth is full of his glory." (Isa. 6:3) Struck with a sense of his majesty, how justly may I exclaim with the prophet, "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips."--May one of the seraphs come and touch my lips, with a live coal from his altar!
There is an incomparable and transcendent excellency in the person of Christ, in every respect. He is fairer than the children of men; he is altogether lovely. (Ps. 45:2; Songs 5:16) The excellencies which are found in any of his creatures are as nothing, when compared with his excellency. Wisdom in them is but a beam; but he is the glorious Sun of Righteousness. Goodness in them is but as the drop of a bucket; but he is the fountain, the ocean of goodness. Holiness in them is but a glimmering spark, but he is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. He is equal in all glorious excellencies with the Father. His divine nature puts infinite dignity on his amazing condescension, gives eternal efficacy to the sacrifice which he offered up to expiate our sins, and to the righteousness he wrought out to justify our persons.
The righteousness of a mere creature, however highly exalted, could not have been accepted by the Sovereign of the universe, as any compensation for our disobedience. For whoever undertakes to bear the penalty of the law, and fulfill its precepts in the room of others, must be one who is not obliged to obedience on his own account. Consequently, our surety must be a divine person; for every mere creature is under indispensable obligations to perfect and perpetual obedience. And, as our situation required, so the gospel reveals, a Mediator and substitute thus exalted and glorious. For he is described as one who could, without arrogance, or the least disloyalty, claim independence; claim full equality with the Father. Hence it was by his own voluntary condescension that he became incarnate, and took upon him the form of a servant.--And, by the same free act of his will, he was made under the law, to perform that obedience in our stead, to which, as a divine person, he was in no sense obliged.
The nature of our Redeemer's work, as Mediator, made it necessary that he should be both God and man in one person. Deity alone was too high to treat with man; humanity alone was too low to treat with God. The eternal Son, therefore, assumed our nature, that he might become a middle-person, a Mediator between God and men, capable of "laying his hands upon both," and of bringing sinful man and his offended Maker into a state of perfect friendship. He could not, in office, have been a Mediator, if he had not, in his natures, been a middle-person.
The constitution of the Redeemer's person is the effect of infinite wisdom, almighty power, and unbounded love. It is here that the foundation is laid for our hope of everlasting happiness. There is enough in this subject to excite astonishment, gratitude and joy through eternal ages. It is not sufficient to say that it is mysterious; it is mystery itself; the mystery of godliness; the wisdom of God in a mystery. Yet the truth and certainty of it are clearly revealed; And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word; yet to those that believe, it is, and for ever will be, precious!