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the light of the sun;"* the Holy Spirit is life itself" proceeding" from the Father by the Word to infinity, filling all receptive souls
"With comfort, life, and fire of love."
All these in inconceivable degree, yet known realities, are embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily." showeth to the Churches.
These degrees in himself he
The first degree is thus expressed, (Rev. i, 4,) "Grace be unto you, and peace from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come." Here is the profound axiom of the Infinite and Eternal One; the perfect expression of God by God himself in supreme degree.
The second degree is grace and peace from the seven spirits of God. This is placed next to the first, and is distinct from it. For we must not think any of these expressions carelessly given. God is revealing himself here in all his complex being. He is not revealing himself as more than One God, but in all his essential nature. "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John iv. The seven spirits are the All-Perfect Spirit, or all in all of the Holy Spirit; all the fullness of heavenly powers; a certain necessary degree of that " which is and was and is to come."
The third or last degree is "grace and peace from Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness, the first begotten from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, (chap. i, ver. 5. This completes the degrees of the Holy Trine. And since Jesus was "lifted up" from the dead, glorified, so that he receives into his divine-human person all the glory of the
*Paul, Acts xxvi, 73.
Art. iv of Articles of Religion.
"For in him dwelleth," inhabiteth, continually abideth, "all the fullness of the godhead." Believers " 'are filled" with "all the fullness of God." Eph. iii, 19. But in Christ dwelleth "all the fullness of the godhead;" not only divine powers but the divine nature, (chap. i, 19,) bodily, personally, really, substantially: the very substance of God, if one might so speak, dwells in Christ in the most full sense."-Wesley's Note, following Bengel, on Col. ii, 9. See also his Sermon on 1 John v, 20, Sermons, vol. ii, pp. 177, 184. Dr. Jenk's Comprehensive Commentary quotes Barkwell (Bl.) as saying the body of Christ was "deified." Bengel says Σua does not always denote the body, properly so called; but the bread from heaven is said to be his flesh, (John vi, 51, 57, 58,) a more gross term. See Phil. ii, 6–11. What comes down from heaven must be spirit, however clothed on earth. It is living bread indeed.
FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XVII.-27
Father, and thus is able to save all men, and gives the Spirit, therefore to him the song begins, "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, even (or to-wit:) his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." Rev. v, 6. In Jesus Christ is the fullness of divine manifestation. Here is the whole doctrine of God stated in its essence and substance. The trine appears more than "real persons," not certainly two or three Gods, but more than all possible human ideas of persons can be; even states of divinity itself into the view and service of which Christ brings his redeemed ones.* Hence the state is described as that of kings and priests unto God, even the Father. And the worship is given to Jesus Christ, not another God, but that divine unfolding of God which lifts men up unto the highest glories of the divine itself.
Jesus Christ is the word "which was God and was with God," made flesh. He came to the lowest human condition. He assumed humanity lower than we can detect its first principles, even in the womb of the virgin, and passed through all its stages, anointed more and more by the Holy Spirit, till he accomplished his earthly mission. In him the highest divine degree was brought down to be in man. Jesus glorified raises the human thus assumed to the highest divine degree, even up where he was before; "One with the Father." When shall we learn to sing the "songs of degrees," and ascend the ladder of the word from earth to heaven?
That it may be seen that these degrees are all in Christ, mark his address describing himself to the Seven Churches severally: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
*We do not pretend to be wise above what is written, but to adhere with our whole soul to the very letter of the word, and strive to realize it simply in expository statements which shall express in some degree our spiritual sight and reason. Personalities are sometimes used in the Scriptures for principles more universal than person can be. Thus Paul, Rom. vii, 11, personifies sin, saying that it deceived him and slew him, and as a "body of death," (ver. 24.) In 1 Cor. xv, he personifies death as the last enemy, with his weapon or sting, sin, in his hand. It is not a person, but it is a principle more than a real person.
See Hengstenberg on Psalms cxxii to cxxxvii inclusive, commonly called the "Psalms of Degrees," which were supposed to be sung by the tribes on entering the gates of Jerusalem, as they went up to the worship of God, or as they ascended the fifteen steps to the Temple, or as some say to Solomon's house. Quoted by Bonar on the Psalms.
to the Churches: To the angel of the Church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. To the angel of the Church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive. To the angel of the Church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges. To the angel of the Church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass. To the angel of the Church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars. To the angel of the Church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth. And unto the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God," (or the creator from the beginning.) Thus in his manifold degrees Christ addresses his Church.
We see, then, what a lofty pinnacle of blessed revelation is the text, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." Here once more we take our stand and look up again into the heavens. Rise, my soul, rise on these rays of grace; drop thy dull sense and load of clay; cease thy feeble gropings in time and space; break thy fetters, open thine eyes, come out of thy prison-house, spread thy wings, and as an eagle rise and soar, and soaring rise! "Behold a door is opened in heaven," and light is pouring from the throne. The mystery of redemption is held as a book* written before the world began, in the hand of Him that sitteth upon the throne. The prophet is weeping that none is found to open the book and the understandings of men. But soon it is said "the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seals thereof." The
* The law was a pattern of things in heaven. The great book of God is up there, of which the law, the prophets, and Psalms was a shadowy transcript. Christ fulfilled them because they are the counsels of eternity. "Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering for sin thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me," "Then, said I, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me," etc. Psalm xl, 7; Hebrews x, 7–9. "I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart." Hence it appears that this opening of the book is the opening the heart of God, the disclosure of his love and truth.
Lamb is seen in the throne with all the symbols of his infinity; he takes the book that had been in the hand of Him that sat on the throne, and the coronation song commences, all falling before the Lamb, saying, "Thou art worthy! . . for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, and hast made us kings and priests unto our God." This is the revelation of Jesus coming into the glory of the Father, or into his own highest or supreme state which he had with the Father before the world began.* He receives the kingdom. before he comes the second time, or "in the clouds of heaven." Daniel beholds the "Ancient of Days" on his throne of flame and wheels of burning fire, before whom "issued and came forth the fiery stream." "The judgment was set, and the books were opened," parallel with Rev. xx, 11, 12. And in the "night visions" he saw one like the Son of Man " come with the clouds of heaven." "And there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, . . . and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." Dan. vii, 9, 10, 13, 14. But John sees him entering that glory and taking the book to open it, and records the song of inauguration.
“I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four living ones, and in the midst of the four and twenty elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. . . . And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." Rev. v, 6-9.
Now whose faith and reason cannot apprehend the Ancient of Days as the eternal Word (in whom is the Father) in the throne of flame, and the incarnate Word coming as the Lamb slain to unite his divine-human person inseparably in the glory which he had with the Father before the world began ?
* "And now, O Father, glorify me with thine own self, with the glory I had with thee before the world was." John xvii, 5.
"If God be glorified in him he shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him." John xiii, 32.
See article ii of the Articles of Religion.
And who does not see that that stream of fire and flame, and the blood which redeemed, are symbols of that same life of love and truth of God that flows forever from him the joy, the song, the life of heaven? We see that God and the Lamb are one. "The last is first and the first is last." All the attributes of Deity are ascribed to him. He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, holy and true. He is "worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing, for ever and ever."
But it may not be deemed by some satisfactory to rest theology on the rhapsodies of vision; howbeit theology should be as warm as it is bright. And we must confirm the view given, by doctrine literally expressed in the Scriptures.
I. The union of Christ and the Father is specifically declared. "I and my Father are one." John x, 30. See this whole connection. "Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." John xiv, 8-11.
Thus what we saw accomplished by symbols in the Apocalypse is plainly declared by the Saviour. How can any man pretend to draw his doctrine from the Divine Word and set this aside? How can he profess to reverence the name of Jesus, and not credit the exposition of the Trinity, which the faithful and true Witness gives? Here, and in verse 26 and chap. xv, 26 compared, it is emphatically declared to be not a trinity of Gods, but a trinity of One God; a trinity of eternal divine interexistences; the same, perhaps, we may say, not altogether without Scripture warrant, as is in man in finite degree. For, as in man, soul and body and spirit make one, so allowing for the difference in nature, it may be in God in infinite degree. He may be personified in each of the three
* Compare Isaiah vi, 6, 7; John xvii, 17; and Rev. vii, 14, 15.