"Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 1:20)
We have been dwelling for some little time on the resurrection of Christ, and, as dear old Dr. Hawker acknowledges, we are never tired of the subject; and especially while we view the all-important fact, that each Person in the glorious Trinity was engaged in it, and that the mighty power, and eternal, self-existent Godhead of Christ was declared thereby--for He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. (Rom. 1:4) Now we look at the language I have just read as supplementary to those remarks which have engaged our attention in the foregoing discourses; and I do not know that anything would have brought me, with a mighty effort, to struggle my way hither, in great pain, but the anxiety not to break the thread, at least till this and three other sermons, if God will, be delivered, which will complete the Third Volume. I have asked Him to grant me that privilege, and then I will not ask Him to give me another day upon earth.
Do observe, in the language of my text, where Jesus is placed--where Jesus is gone--to the right hand of God; and, bear in mind, that He appealed to His disciples and those around Him while preaching to them, "What, and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before." He was there before; and, as He appealed up where He was before." (John 6:62) He was there before; and, as He appealed to the Father in the 17th of John, "Glorify thou me with mine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." So that Jesus was glorified with the Father's own self. He dwelt in the same self-existent Deity, in the bosom of the Father. He left that bosom, according to His own statement, and says, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world." Again, "I leave the world, and go to my Father." (John 16:28) This was too plain to be misunderstood.
Now I want your attention, as far as my strength will go, to three things in these words. The first is, the throne of eternal majesty, essentially His own right, which Jesus occupied from eternity--then the humiliation to which He stooped from it--and then the enthronization resumed. "Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places."
Do lift up your hearts to God that I may have a little from excruciating pain--while I attempt to offer a few thoughts on these important truths.
I. The throne of essential and eternal majesty, which from everlasting belonged to Christ. Sovereign of all worlds, ruling in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, swaying the scepter as a right of His own self-existence, which the Father owned, and which the Holy Ghost taught the apostle to call "the scepter of Christ." Well, then, we are forbidden to find any fault with the manner in which He sways that scepter--it is not your business or mine--it may be often swayed in a manner quite contrary to fleshly inclination and desire, but it cannot be swayed contrary to infinite wisdom. His own essential and eternal self-existence secures that while He does what seemeth Him good in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and forbids that any should say unto Him, "What doest thou?" He cannot do wrong. I want my mind brought sweetly and placidly to this. It is a right scepter. If He sways it to bring a scourge on the land, it is right; if He sways it to bring affliction on any of His people, it is right. Poor nature does not like it, but so it is. If He sways His scepter to thwart our carnal desires and imaginations, it is right. We are a long time, beloved, in learning that prayer which most people teach little children, "Our Father--thy will be done." I confess I have found it hard work to say that for the last forty years; still, my faith says it must be so, and shall be so. Now this scepter of righteousness, this righteous scepter, which Jesus sways from His high throne eternal in the heavens, set up from everlasting or ever the earth was made, demands righteousness in all the creature performs; and while He bestows and communicates it to all the election of grace, it is so far a scepter of righteousness that He will execute righteous judgment upon all who live and die haters of His gospel and His truth, and He will extend from the top of His scepter, as Ahashuerus did to Esther, life, and privilege, and promise, "Whatsoever ye ask shall be done." Oh, what a scepter our Jesus sways. And do not forget, that this was done before the world was, that before Adam was formed, before the angels fell, in the eternal self-existence of His own essential and eternal Godhead, He sways the scepter over all worlds.
Well, then, mark, that He was upon His high throne long before He descended--settled all things pertaining to the worlds He made by His own fixed decrees, as well as upheld all things by the word of His power. All was settled. There is no such word as chance or accident in the Christian's vocabulary. The ancient settlements of the Divine mind drew the entire map of creation and time, and marked every spot, every individual circumstance, as well as every individual person, that should inhabit this globe, and what part they should act on it. All was set down. "He hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." (Prov. 16:4) And "is there evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6) My hearer, I fear we often too much overlook the ancient and eternal right of Jesus on His throne with His Father. Look into the 8th of Proverbs, and see there what is said concerning His Father setting Him up from everlasting. "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills were brought forth: While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there; when He set a compass upon the face of the depth; when He established the clouds above; when He strengthened the foundations of the deep; when He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment; when He appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and my delights were with the sons of men." And it is our mercy that they are now.
Gaze a little further on this glory of our precious, glorious Redeemer, in the essential right of His own eternal throne and scepter, He supports all things, but is supported by none. "With whom took He counsel, or who instructed Him?" Who can help Him out in the great matters He undertakes? Why Arminians say, We can. Great fools! They say that Jesus has done His utmost, and they must do the rest. Now I should set them, first of all, to turn their attention to God's work of creation, and mend that; and then to God's work of providence, and mend that; and when they have done these two things successfully, I will allow them to begin about what they want to set about, but not till then. "Known unto the Lord are all His works, from the beginning of the world;" (Acts 15:18) and He who "upholding all things by the word of His power," (Heb. 1:3) "he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." (Dan. 4:35) "He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree;" (Luke 1:52) He overturns nations and empires according to His will, and raises up a nation like that of Israel out of a handful of Hebrews, and gives them His blessing. Blessings on His name, He is the sustainer and supporter of all by the word of His power.
Just mark, I beseech you, that He is one with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the glorious Trinity. I hope never to deliver another discourse, whether I deliver many or few, without keeping to this point--the glorious, essential, fundamental doctrine of the Trinity, there is no Christianity without it. All is infidelity if that one doctrine be abandoned.
Then I come to this important point--my glorious Redeemer is one with the Father and with the Holy Ghost in the ordination of a covenant salvation, according to the settlement of the covenant of peace, and that one was not without the other, nor before or after the other. It is true, you will read of the Father's gift, and you will read of the Son's responsibility, and of the Holy Spirit's registration, writing the names of the Lord's people in the Lamb's Book of Life; and it is truly cheering to my soul to know, that there is no part or feature of the covenant of salvation left contingent, because all was ordained from everlasting. Do you not remember reading, even while the apostles preached, that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed," (Acts 13:48) and not one more nor less? So that there is an ordination of precious souls individually to eternal life; and the testimony of that ordination in their personal experience is their being brought to believe, made partakers of saving faith, and the proving that they are the workmanship of the Holy Spirit, that they belong to God the Father in sovereign choice. This is the salvation which I have been preaching to you these thirty years and more; and I hope, when I have gone home, you will not forget it, nor allow any other salvation to be preached here.
Now just mark, I pray you, how each Person in the glorious Trinity is officially engaged under responsibility each to other. I hear people talking about God making a covenant with them. I would not thank Him to make a covenant with them. I would not thank Him to make a covenant with me; for, sure I am, that however easy the terms I should break it in an hour, and therefore I should shrink back from signing it. But when I find that the council of peace was between them both, and that the Father was officially engaged in paternal love to give, and the Son was engaged in suretyship, affection, and betrothing tenderness, to accept, and receive, and redeem His Church, and the Holy Ghost was engaged in the capacity of Preceptor and Comforter, to bring down the things that pertain to Christ to the souls of His people, and show them to them, I come at once to a point of certainty, to that which affords me support in the most trying and distressing hours; I come at once to mark my security in Christ, first given on His eternal throne before all time, then revealed in His suretyship bond, then made manifest in His humiliation, which we shall presently have to touch upon, and then brought home, and appropriated, and applied, and enjoyed in my soul by power Divine. Now that is a salvation worthy of God, and suited to man.
Again, mark, that upon His high and holy throne He has been everlastingly venerated by all the heavenly hosts. The angels, that kept their first estates, have venerated and do venerate Him as their Preserver. I believe that the whole of the angels would have fallen if Christ had not done by them as He did by us, made choice of some, and upheld them by His power. Those that kept their first estate did so because Christ sustained them; consequently, they cannot but venerate His precious, glorious name; and, if they are allowed so gloomy a thought at all, they would be ready to say at once, "We had been in chains and darkness with apostate spirits now, had not our precious Christ upheld us." "Kept by the power of God." And that it is which accounts for their vigilance in flying to obey His commands. He said in His humiliation, that He could command more than twelve legions of angels to come to His aid, but how then could the Scriptures be fulfilled? I have imagined, as I have looked within the vail, that I could see twelve legions of angels, looking down on the precious Christ of God, fluttering their wings, and begging permission to go and minister to Him. Some of them had ministered to Him in the temptation in the wilderness; for when Satan left Him angels came and ministered to Him, and glad enough were they of the employment. So that when they view Him as their preserver and supporter in their primal purity and pristine glory, they are vigilant in going forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation; nay, more than this, to them that shall be victims of His vengeance. One destroying angel, at Jesus' high command, shall destroy 185,000 Syrians that were invading Jerusalem, in one night, and in the morning they are all dead men. What cannot our Jesus accomplish with or with angels. Blessings on His name, His angels, His ministering spirits, delighting to do His will, are always on the wing to fly at His command, to bring comforts, blessings, joys, and protection unto the heirs of God and the heirs of glory. And who shall guess--for it is a subject wrapped in a great deal of obscurity in Scripture--who shall guess the thousands of visits, night and day, that angels pay to "the heirs of salvation?" If you look, for a moment, at that solemn occasion of the angel meeting Balaam with a drawn sword in his hand? Balaam was not allowed to see him, he was an invisible visitor, but the ass saw him and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall. Balaam, with his hard heart of unbelief and rebellion, smote the ass; and by-and-bye the Lord opened his eyes to see the angel, and the angel said, "Unless the ass had turned from me surely now also I had slain thee and saved her alive." Angels appeared in many shapes to God's people under the law, and they are continually set forth as very vigilant in executing His commands, whether upon friends or foes. Oh, my hearers, look well and confidently for this Divine protection, which thy Jesus not only affords with His own almighty arm, but employs His invisible agents also to afford to His redeemed Church. He has positively told us, that such is His delight in employing these ministering spirits, that even at the last day He "shall send forth His angels, saying, Gather together mine elect from the four winds under heaven." (Matt. 25:31) And again, "He shall say to His angels, Gather together the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn." (Matt. 13:30)
II. Now, having dropped these few remarks, let us proceed to say a little about the humiliation to which Christ stooped from His eternal, essential throne. "Who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God," (Phil. 2:6) yet He "took not on Him the nature of angels," much as He loved them, and much as He employed them, but He "took on Him the seed of Abraham," (Heb. 2:16) and "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:8) We cannot abandon this topic just yet.
Now look for a moment at the glory of His person, which I have been dwelling upon in the other part, to see who it was that stooped so low--"the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person" (Heb. 1:3)--the object of adoration in heaven among angels and glorified spirits; and yet He so determined upon emancipating His Church from her thralldom, that He "humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;" and even before He reached that climax of His sufferings, just mark how He humbled Himself in performing the work of obedience. He did not assume Herod's throne, though Herod was very jealous about it. He need not have been, for Christ had not come to seek it. He did not pretend to be a ruler and governor of earthly things, but took upon Him the lowly, humble character of a carpenter, went down to Nazareth with His parents, and worked at that business from the time He was twelve years of age till He was thirty, before He entered on His ministry. What humiliation that the Lord of glory should be seen in this character! What humiliation, that He who had all worlds at command, and was Lord of all, should become servant of all. We view Him when He comes forth from His obscurity, if I may so speak; having there obeyed the law, and magnified it, and made it honourable, (Isa. 42:21) He comes forth to enter upon His ministry; and when He begins to work miracles, and display the greatness of His power, and the multitude would take Him by force, and make Him a King, He purposely avoided them, and would not accept the dignity. I mark how He hungered and thirsted, how He spent cold nights on the mountains, besides His being led forty days into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and there has never been humiliation like it. The God of glory stooped so low--and what for? His Church was enthralled, enslaved, led captive by the devil at his will in common with the rest of the world, and He had bound Himself in solemn covenant bond for her emancipation, sanctification, and glory. All must be accomplished; He must perform His work Himself; the zeal of the disciples must have no part to perform, but forsake Him, and flee, that He might tread the winepress alone. (Isa. 63:3) The Jewish banditti and the Roman soldiers must perform their part--the crown of thorns, the cruel spittings and scourgings, must all be felt. Why? His Church is dear to His heart; His Church must spend an eternity of glory with Him; His Church must be ransomed, at any cost or price, from the ruins of the fall, and brought home to everlasting glory. Therefore it was that He laid down His life for His sheep. I wonder men are so fond of so mocking the sufferings of Christ, as to declare that He laid down His life for goats, and swine, and dogs, and all. There is no such thing in the Word of God. His own language is, "I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:15)
And then observe, in this lowliness of His humiliation, He had engaged to reckon with law and justice, that not a jot or tittle of the law should pass away till all be fulfilled, that no abatement cistern justice should even be asked or accepted, that the sword should awake and smite Jehovah's fellow, (Zech. 13:7) that an imfinite atonement should be demanded and paid, a perfect obedience demanded and accepted, that the law-book might be for ever closed, and the sword of justice be for ever sheathed from the election of grace, and that the glory which the Father promised to give to His Church should not be withheld, but be fully bestowed in His own time.
Then observe, this stoop of humiliation was for the purpose of establishing His mediatorial kingdom on earth. That the kingdom is the Lord's, as it regards His sovereign sway over all worlds, we have seen; but He came to establish another kingdom, that should consist not of meat and drink, not of temporalities, but of "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Now this kingdom has been established, and it has been perpetuated on earth almost 1900 years since Jesus descended to His humiliation. The gates of hell have done all in their power to overturn it; the powers of darkness are still trying to uproot it; and I believe that the chief end of the mob that is to throng London is just simply that expressed by the prophet, "Many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion." (Micah 4:11) I really do not think that either Infidels or Papists would care much (except for their own interest) whether it was a Protestant Church or Romish Church, or Greek Church, provided there was no vital godliness. It is that which they hate, and on account of which they want to persecute every party where a shadow of it is supposed to be found. But do not lose sight of the other part of the sentence in that verse which I cited--"They know not the thoughts of the Lord;" and as long as I have breath and power to pray, I shall pray to God to rule in the midst of His enemies; and notwithstanding all my fears, which I cannot help, however you may censure me for them, I must have a clear conscience; my prayer is, that His spiritual kingdom which is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," may abound in all directions. It is this after which my soul pants. I do not care about the kingdom of Christ as righteousness and peace, if there is no joy in the Holy Ghost; but give me these three things perpetuated, and I rejoice to witness His mediatorial kingdom upon earth as immovable.
Then just view the matter of fact, that this mediatorial kingdom of His He is to present before the Father. It is to be perfect and complete. In whatever way, or by whatever means, many of them may get out of the wilderness, and get home--safely home they shall get--and every one of them shall appear before God in Zion--not an elect vessel left behind--not an enemy can hold one in his clutches whom Jesus has redeemed--not a sickness, sorrow, care, or persecution can remove one from His hand, because He has sworn, "neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (John 10:28) Oh, ye believing family of God! trust Him, cast your care and the Church's care upon Him, confide wholly in Him, look to Him for constant supplies of grace to keep your faith alive--that under all circumstances, however painful, we may be brought to "Thy will be done." How I do long to learn that prayer, "Thy will be done," and leave events with the Lord!
III. I will try to say a few words upon the other particular of the subject--the enthronization resumed. The Father has raised Him up, having suffered the penalty, paid all, done all, conquered all, rescued all the election of grace from the ruin of the fall. The Father hath raised Him up--not to go through another scene of poverty, persecution, despising, and ridicule, but set Him at His own right hand, as the emblem of power, and that, too, in heavenly places. Then I view my glorious Christ ascended up to where He was before, and exalted up far above all heavens to fill all things, that from His high throne He may manage still all the affairs of His Church, invested with official authority, insisting on the progress and prosperity of His Church, imparting all supplies of grace, even grace for grace, and having engaged, under solemn responsibility, to bring all His redeemed and regenerated family to sit with Him upon His throne.
But there are more heavenly places than one. It is given in my text in the plural. I grant the first meaning to be, on the throne of glory in the invisible world, in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost, having all power given to Him in heaven and in earth, that He may give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given Him, viewing Him there enthroned, and never more to quit the throne. But I look for Him in other places. Why, the closet is a heavenly place when Jesus is there, and is seen at the right hand of the Father on purpose to intercede and hand down blessings to those who believe on His name. The Scriptures are heavenly places, when His glory is seen, and His yea-and-amen promises are appropriated and enjoyed; the house of God is a heavenly place, and this has often been, when Jesus manifests Himself as He does not to the world. Ah! and the heart of the child of God is a heavenly place, when the Holy Ghost consecrates it for the throne of Christ. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16) And when He fulfills the promise, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be Their God, and they shall be my people," (2 Cor. 6:16) it is a heavenly place, no matter whether it is in John Bunyan's dungeon or along with the martyrs of Jesus; it is a heavenly place, and nothing but His smile can make a heavenly place of it. It must be the light of His countenance, the tokens of His love, the joys of His salvation, the fulfillment of His promise, the whispers of His love, that must constitute a heavenly place where Jesus manifests Himself.
Then observe, He is seated at the Father's right hand, as well as all these heavenly places, to give of His fullness for the reception of His Church; and therefore the apostle said, "Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16) Glory to His name, that we have liberty to come as often as we feel our grace vessel empty, and have it replenished, crying unto Him, "More grace, "Lord; more grace, Lord!" as I have been obliged to do in sleepless nights, and hitherto He has deigned to support. So that all the fullness treasured up in Him, bodily, is intended for His Church, and He will be glorified in His Church, by giving it out, and, as our excellent Morning and Evening Portion father tells us, "Christ is more glorified by giving out than we are by receiving." He needs empty vessels to give out His fullness into; and I am sure you and I need His fullness to fill our empty vessels. This shall be done, for "the Lord God giveth grace and glory, and no good thing will be withheld from them that walk uprightly." All glory to His name, that the very nature of His covenant bond, the very nature of His kingdom, the very nature of His Father's oath to Him, render all these things secure. We have nothing doubtful, nothing contingent, nothing we can barter away, nothing we can purchase, nothing we can earn, that is worth having. All must descend from the Father's covenant love, in paternal kindness--all must flow through the channel of the dear Redeemer's substitutionary character, and all must be brought down and applied by the gracious Teacher and holy Sanctifier of the people of God.
The excruciating pain I am suffering will not allow me to go on any further, and I must abruptly close, praying God to bless these few hints for His name's sake.
"High on His own almighty throne
Whose eyes, like flames of fire, are known
Through the celestial plains.
Crown'd by His saints and angel host,
The justice, truth, and love
Of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Are crown'd in Him above.
Clothed in a vesture dipp'd in blood,
He wears the conq'ror's crown;
And He who once on Calv'ry stood,
Now reigns in high renown.
His name adored in heaven and earth,
Th' incarnate Word of God;
His blood is of eternal worth--
Go, sound His fame abroad."