By H. Forbes Witherby.
26. The Liberty of the Glory.
The liberty of the grace of God — fitness of spirit soul, and body for the glory — the power of hope — creation waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God — eternal life, light, and love.
The liberty of the grace of God is the present portion, the liberty of the glory, the prospect of His children. God met us in His grace in our estrangement from Himself, pardoned our sins, brought us to Himself, made us to know His love as our Father, put His Spirit in us, and gave us to rejoice in His Son. All this is grace, perfect grace, and the child of God is in the holy and happy liberty of this grace in the presence of his God.
We have as our present privilege by Christ "access by faith into this grace wherein we stand." We have our prospects also, and which for excellency can only be compared with the blessing of the present favor; we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom. 5:2.) What the glory of God in its full extent is, we know not, but sufficient has been told to make us eagerly long for the day of its display. His glory as Creator is declared by His heavens; His glory in the new creation will be declared in His children.
A glory far transcending the glories of this creation awaits His people. Christ the Son of God, the risen Man, is the head of the new creation, and its glories will be worthy of Him. Glimpses of heavenly glory have been seen for moments on this earth. One was granted on the mount of transfiguration, and again the glory shone from the face of Jesus in heaven as Saul was on his way to Damascus. The prize of the calling up on high awaits the children of God. They will be made like Christ, glory will be revealed in them, they will shine with Him, manifesting the glory of God.
It is our joy to know that we are not waiting for the manifestation of grace: "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared." (Titus 2:11.) Each believer is a grateful witness to this fact, for "according to the riches of His grace" God has redeemed us from this world to Himself by the blood of His Son; He has forgiven us our sins, and by grace we are saved. We can joyfully say, as applying the passage to our very selves, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Rom. 5:20.)
God's grace towards us is perfect this very day. Do we view ourselves as we were in our sins upon this earth, enemies to God and alienated from Him by wicked works, still we think of that which is greater than our sins and deeper than our natural hatred to God — even His grace toward us. Do we lift up our eyes from ourselves and all that we are by nature, and look to heaven — there in glory we see Jesus the Beloved One of God, who died for our sins; and we learn, "to the praise and glory of His (God's) grace," that we are accepted, brought into divine favor, in the Beloved, where He is. The grace of God in its riches is for us as sinners in our poverty and misery, meeting us in our sins; the grace of God in its glory is for us as His people, washed and made fit for heaven.
Our sins are removed by the blood of Jesus shed on earth, and this being so, we are taken into the acceptance of Christ, who is in heaven. The riches of the grace of God are for us in our lost and evil state by nature; the praise of the glory of His grace, is His work and purpose in taking such as we, into the very love and smile which rests upon His own Son in heaven. In the presence of this grace of God we are in liberty, we go about this world, and perform our daily duties in the consciousness of His free favor toward us; the glory is yet to come, and for it we hope.
When we are in the glory we shall be so fashioned as to be in liberty there. We might have a place set apart for us in a palace, but before we could enjoy it, two things would be necessary; first the palace must be entered, next we must be in a fit state to enter it. Sup posing we were taken to the palace just as we are, from the midst of the rough usage of daily life and toil. Our everyday attire and demeanor, as we might so express it, would not conduce to our liberty. We should require to be conformed to the character of the palace in order to be at home there. Now, not only have the children of God glory awaiting them, not only has the Lord said, "I go to prepare a place for you," but He will make His own perfectly suitable for the bright place into which He will bring them.
Frail humanity could not bear the weight of glory, the present state of our bodies could not partake of it. The three disciples, who saw the Lord and the two glorified saints enter the cloud, feared, as they beheld these glorified men in such a place. It was a strange sight to witness men pass into the glory with the Lord. But Moses and Elias were perfectly at liberty in the Shekinah with Jesus.
The blessed Lord's appearance became changed on that day, "the fashion of His countenance was altered" (Luke 9:29), the Man of Sorrows shone for a moment as the Man of Glory, "His face did shine as the sun." (Matt. 17:2.) He was the "same Jesus," but "altered." He is now glorified in heaven, and the light of His glory is "above the brightness of the sun." (Acts 26:13.) Heaven's brightness shines from His face, not even the sun's — the greatest light this earth knows. Before that brightness Saul fell to the ground, and seeing Him in heaven, John fell as dead at His feet. (Rev. 1:17.) We have faint ideas of the present glory of Jesus the Lord, but eventually the child of God, from the youngest to the eldest, will be at home in His presence as He is. All will be glorified together with the Lord, and all will appear in glory with Him.
These bodies will be transformed. Like Moses and Elias on the mount, we shall be "men .. . in glory." (Luke 9:30, 31.) The child of God will be clothed upon with his house, which is from heaven: The tent of mortality will be exchanged for the house of incorruptibility. In this tent we groan. Sorrows around and pains within us, occasion the grief. Sighing according to divinely-given affections and hopes, is quite distinct from discontent and murmurs. The apostle was a man of praise and ecstasy, yet he groaned, being burdened. The love of Christ in him, the indwelling Spirit made him do so. Deep sympathy with suffering, and sorrow for sin and surrounding wickedness, and desires to be with, and like Christ, called forth his sighings: "For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." (2 Cor. 5:2.) "Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption — the redemption of our body." (Rom. 8:23.)
The child of God is waiting for the redemption of his body; his body is not yet redeemed, but is still in the frailty and corruption attendant on this creation. His spirit, not his body, is at liberty in God's presence. Glory is to be revealed in him (Rom. 8:18); and he will be altogether changed from his present estate and condition.
Divine knowledge now possessed is imperfect. "We know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. . . . Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor. 13:9-12.) However much we may know, how little it is at the most! Many cannot fail to be sensible in themselves of a sorrowful immaturity of knowledge of Christ and of God His Father. "The measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13) is not yet reached by us. We look on the unseen as through a window of dulled glass; the character of the glory is not in our full view, Here we are learners in the school of God; there we shall stand in the fulness of the adoption, with our lessons learned and the liberty of full age come.
Do not we most usually think and speak as children, and are not our thoughts, too, generally crude and ill-formed, and our utterances disconnected? Even the few giants in knowledge that exist, "know in part." But, then when glorified together with Christ, we shall know as known. We shall see "face to face" Himself the light of the eternal day, His glory and the glory of His God being the ceaseless sunshine of the eternal home. It will be our joy to see His face, and His name shall be in our radiant foreheads. (Rev. 22:4.) Each of the many sons shall be the reflex of Himself. Each among the countless multitudes of the redeemed, shall shed abroad the brightness of His light for ever.
In the liberty of the glory He will look into our hearts, and we shall look into His heart and find nothing but love. No mean thoughts will crowd our spirits then, all will be pure and holy, and all full of love in the light. We shall behold His glory, fully understand Him, and have perfect communion with Himself and His Father. "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory." (John 17:24.)
In the liberty of the glory we shall look into each other's hearts and find nothing but love; no restraint or constraint will then exist, no separation, no distance, no coldness amongst the children of God. Each one will be in his right place, and each will be perfectly transparent to the other, God shining through each, to the glory of His own name and character. What a contrast with this present time, its bickerings and strife, its jars and discord! Yet even now, if Christ were all to the children of God, not only would they be more heavenly, but earth would be like heaven where they were. Can we do other than sigh for the day of glory, yet with patience wait for it?
The power of hope even in the things of this world is a vast force within the human breast. Hope to the christian is an immense strength; "We are saved by (or in) hope." (Rom. 8:24.) The hope is sure and certain, it cannot fail. Ht is not like hopes built upon an earthly basis; the foundation for our hope of glory, is God and His glorified Son. No limit short of glory with Christ in heaven, is the outlook of our expectations. No one can be subject to disappointment, for God is the faithful promiser. Each individual child of God will be brought into the fully-developed privileges and honors of the sons of God, every divine-given hope of joy will then be consummated, every faithful word of God fulfilled.
"Conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29), is our destiny, and when this fills the heart, it is an irresistible impetus to the affections. How this hope has lighted up the long hours of suffering, cheered the dying, and soothed the wearied! Many a faint-hearted traveller to eternity, has it invigorated and quickened into zeal; for the time is short, and suffering will soon be passed for the child of God. Many a saint, depressed by reason of the way, jaded by the buffetings of Satan, and sick at heart because of his malice and cowardly wiles, has it lighted up into a very flame of ardour; for the end is near. Many a slothful servant has this hope stirred into fresh devotedness, awaking him from his spiritual torpor and mysterious inactivity for the salvation of souls, and for the good of God's people. Eternity is at hand. Its brightness already beams before the eye of faith. Faith soon will be lost in sight. Servants of the Master, awake, then! seek not ease below, arouse and work; now only during this little while is the opportunity for telling the sin-stricken world of the once crucified Saviour, of present peace, and of coming glory for those who believe in Him; now alone is the time to cheer the faint-hearted and to comfort the weary now only is the time to battle on for Christ's sake through adversity and enemies, strong in the hope of the approaching day.
The very fact of hope dwelling in and stimulating the soul, is evidence that there is much awaiting the child of God. It tells its own tale to the world, which has no hope, no certain prospect for time, whose eyes are sightless, and oh! how dark for eternity! "What a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for"? (Rom. 8:24.) What the world offers man sees, but for what God spiritually gives it has no sight. Faith possesses all things, and hope stretches on to the fulness of the possession, yet in no rest less mood, for patience sits by the side of hope in the christian's soul, and teaches him to wait for the glory of his God. "If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." (Rom. 8:25).
The hope of being conformed to the image of God's Son has a purifying effect within the heart. "We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." (1 John 3:2, 3.) The steersman's eye is fixed on the glory, and by his hand the vessel's helm answers to the object in view. By the light of glory he shapes her course: that light which pierces through earth's darkest gloom and densest fogs.
Holiness and purity follow the hope of being like Christ; he who is looking forward to be like Christ in heaven, seeks to be like Christ on earth; he whose prospects are the brightest, hastens on the path of holiness with quickest step. The prospects and the path are in accord with each other.
The purpose of God is to bless creation through His children. Here on the earth made partakers of the divine nature, here where sin and death abound, being given eternal life, and here, as to the body, having the self-same lot as other men, the child of God is the channel of blessing for men generally. But failure and self-seeking too often clog the communication, the souls of men are not watered, and God is hindered from using His children, as would be the case were humility and Christ-like character prevalent in them. In the coming day "we shall be like Him," and all evil being absolutely removed from us, we shall be the pure and perfect channels for God to use for His own purposes of light and love.
There will be nothing then to mar the bright shining out from us of God in us. We see a transparent cloud floating before the sun in the pure blue sky, and note its excessive brightness, yet the light is not its own, but that of the sun shining through it. Such an illustration seems to indicate what, speaking spiritually, a child of God glorified will be, even a lovely, unsoiled expression of God and of Christ, — a fair transparency through which God shall shine. When John saw the holy Jerusalem having the "glory of God," he noted "transparent" golden streets, and stones "clear as crystal," and the city itself as "clear glass."
Creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God; its groans will cease on the day of their glory. Hope was left in the cup of its sorrow when, by reason of man's sin, creation was made subject to vanity. Suffering and death are not to hold in their arms God's creation for ever. It "groans and travails in pain together until now." There rises up to God a moan from His suffering creatures on this earth, an unison of sorrow from its four quarters, as day by day passes by.
What human mind can conceive the immensity of misery that exists upon this globe? The very thought of suffering on a large scale so overwhelms the mind that it grasps it not, and so it is easier to consider it than the detailed misery of one misfortune. We feel compassion, and are moved to tears, over one starving child; we hear of famines and of thousands perishing, and fail to grasp the meaning of the words. But every sigh, every sorrow, every pain — every detail of each grief over the whole face of His creation is known to God, and the cry thereof rises up to Him.
But presently His creation will break forth in lasting song heaven and earth will utter the love of Him who has redeemed the people of God by His blood, and angels with loud voices will re-echo His praise. (Rev. 5:11-14.) Then will creation be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory (lit.) of the children of God. (Rom. 8:21.)
The earnest expectation of the creature, the stretching out of its neck in eager longing desires the manifestation of the sons of God, for it is the divine purpose that His creature man shall he the communication of blessing in His creation. At the first, Adam was the intelligent ruler of what God had made on this earth; he named the animals, each according to its nature, and through him the praise of this creation should have risen to the Creator. Sin has plunged the whole creation into confusion and distress; but the purpose of God will yet be fulfilled on the sure basis of resurrection, for the resurrection will be the day of glory for the sons of God.
Life, and love in their fulness, and without the supervening circumstances incidental to this present life, are near at hand — the perfect freedom of the children of God approaches. All will soon be made like to Christ as He now is; all will presently have entered life everlasting; all will be before God according. to His nature, holy, and without blame, in love. Fellowship with the Father and the Son will be without interruption, the indwelling Spirit will never more be grieved. The marvellous words of the Lord to the Father will be fully realized: "And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may he one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one." (John 17:22, 23.)
This brightest of all bright prospects nears daily, this glory is at our very doors. The sons of God are waiting with the expectant creation for their manifestation, they are longing for the redemption of the body. Our cherished graves cry out for that day, our broken hearts weep out their yearnings, our silence and bereavement sigh for it; we are hoping to see our dearest once more face to face, to see them not as we last beheld them, in their dying weakness, but glorious in the accomplished hope of eternal life.
That transient scene of coming glory witnessed upon the mount of Transfiguration, indicates the holy friendships and sweet companionships of heaven. Communion with Jesus will be then our joy. The crowns of rejoicing composed of glorified saints who on earth were brought to God by the servants' means, await the weary worker of this hour; the holy fellowship of men and women, who followed Christ on earth, will then be resumed, never more to be broken. Weakness of body will soon have passed, flagging of mind will soon never more be known; and instead, for ever and for ever, fresh gladness, fresh songs, fresh sights of Jesus', fresh knowledge of the Father.
Happy are they who now in this day of salvation come to Christ as guilty sinners. He came from heaven to teach us of heaven, and to give the eternal life to all who come to Him. Happy are they who have learned, in His death and resurrection, God's righteousness, and who, receiving the Son, obtain the eternal life; happy, even now, in a world of sin, and sorrow, and death. But what mind can conceive, what tongue utter, their eternal happiness in glory! What lips can frame the language which shall express the lengths and depths, the breadths and heights which the child of God in glory shall know of Life and Light and Love!