"And upon His head were many crowns" (Rev. 19:12.)
F. W. Grant.
Few prefatory words can be needed to introduce to our readers the series of papers which, if God grant time and ability, may follow this. I propose to take up, in reliance upon divine grace to enable me, the personal titles and glories of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Scripture declares them to us, for the worship of our hearts, and that, in meditation upon so fruitful a theme, we may perhaps realize more distinctly what He is to us, and, as it were, crown Him with His many crowns. For this He looks for from us, to give Him the glory which is His: in doing which our own souls will surely enlarge their possessions, and find more the wealth with which He has endowed us, living in the blessed beams of that effulgent glory, and being brightened by it: "with open face beholding the glory of the Lord," and being "changed into the same image from glory to glory."
Our study will be, therefore, above all a devotional one, if God grant the desire of my heart, as He knows it. Perilous, indeed, it would be to approach such a theme in any other than the spirit of a worshiper. To look into these divine infinities without realizing in whose Presence we stand would be profanity. Yet our safeguard is not in refusing to draw near where grace invites and welcomes us, but the opposite. The place of nearness is where alone we are safe: the sanctuary is our refuge. And while we look upon Him of whom it is written, "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father," our comfort and assurance lie in this, that, in so far as Scripture speaks of Him, it speaks to be understood; and the only thing that can be the part of faith is to seek to understand it.
We have only, then, to be humble, — to follow Scripture, not to go before it, — to stop where it stops, or where our knowledge of it fails, to own this, — and surely we shall find, here as elsewhere, that "all Scripture" is divinely "profitable." Let us be learners simply; not speculators or critics, but disciples; and at the feet of Jesus we need feel no fear.
Our study will necessarily therefore be doctrinal: it could be nothing else. We shall not be satisfied with putting together texts of Scripture: we shall ask what they mean, and what when put together they mean. It is the character of the word of God, in its apparently simple, as well as in its most difficult passages, to invite research, and to hold back something to be the reward of diligence. It is a land never exhausted by the harvests that it yields; nay, which acts towards us as though it were enriched by them. And as God gave all His people of old title to the land He gave them, and would make agriculturists of them all; so, in a more complete way has He given every believing soul interest and title in this good land of his inheritance, which it is his by his own diligence to make fruitful.
Thus it is ours to develop from Scripture its doctrines in such a way as to get more than what is on the surface, and what as being the result of our own industry, our own work in Scripture, will necessarily provoke the question, Is it, then, after all, really what Scripture says? It is to develop a "creed," as we say; and a human creed is never in itself authoritative, just because human. It can only point to the scriptures from which it is derived, and say, there is my authority. But that at once leaves room for and necessitates all kinds of various exercise, which the careless and slothful and timid would alike eschew, but in which lies the maintenance of true spiritual health. My creed represents for me, not my own thoughts, but the effect of Scripture upon me, as I have learned it in more or less daily intercourse with it and with the minds of others, and in the application of it to practical needs. In my own creed, gained after the manner named, it is Scripture and nothing else to which I bow, which I own as authoritative: it is the effect on me of its authority; and not to have it would be to mean the lack of living acquaintance with the living Word.
Yet here, at once, is the opening for controversy, which, whatever our dislike of it, we cannot escape, save by cowardice or indifference. So that instead of a harvest-field Scripture looks like a battle-field. The Christian centuries ring with the din of strife. And we cannot but see, moreover, that God was over all this for good. The generally accepted "creeds" which, whatever may be their defects, yet embody so much of the fundamental faith of Christianity, were won out of long conflict with successive forms of heresy. And that in which they are most defective is that as to which little or no controversy had yet arisen. Warfare we need not fear, if in it we have not the mere spirit of the warrior, but the bands of Benjamin go forth under the leadership of "fruitful" Ephraim (Num. 2:18-22). Truth has certainly to fear no conflict. Its banners never fell in a fair open field.
Is this, then, what Scripture leaves us to? Yes, to the need of having an ear to hear if we will be "overcomers;" to be men of God, if we are to have the profit of Scripture. Truth cannot live without warfare in the midst of a world away from God; and God has not taken pains to make things so plain as that every careless soul shall, spite of his carelessness, know what is truth, but the earnest and exercised shall know: as the Lord has said, "Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice" (John 18:37). And this has its proportionate application in the case of every Christian.
The crowns upon Christ's head are either His personal glories, or at least in most direct and intimate connection with these. Hence the moment we take up these, we enter upon fields of incessant controversy. The effort of the enemy has been, in all ages, against Christ Himself, and even in the present day new forms of error have arisen, which it will not help souls to ignore, but which rather must be kept in view throughout. Nor will it do to say, "Let us keep to the words of Scripture," apart from the serious inquiry as to what its words mean. Satan's manner is to plant his batteries a long way off, and hide them from view as far as possible, but where he knows they will nevertheless do effective work; nor can we spike his cannon without unearthing his batteries. He is much more careful as to things than words; and to answer him we must show that words mean things.
But while we cannot ignore the forms of error which are in the present day so numerous, and oftentimes so much disguised; yet to put forth Christ in all His fullness, in the various glories in which the Word presents Him, this I would fain have the aim of the papers here beginning, from first to last. No higher aim can be, though one may realize all the more the poverty of attainment. Yet here, if one be true in it, the help of the Spirit of God may assuredly be counted on. He is among us to glorify Christ; to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us. And the poorest and feeblest, if heartily and honestly (let us add, humbly) in His hands for this, will surely prove what is more than human energy for the attainment of it. May He grant it now.