J. G. Bellett.
from Miscellaneous Papers
(R. L. Allan)
When we think of grace, we think of our interests in Christ; when we think of glory, we think of our interests with Christ. The first subject is really the deeper, the more personal and affectionate. It takes us to the heart of the Lord; the second takes us to His circumstances.
And yet, it may be a symptom of weakness, if we too fondly and too exclusively hang over the subject of grace. And it is a symptom of strength and simplicity, if we find ourselves attracted by the thought of glory, and feel ourselves at home in it. Because, if we can, in such a spirit, deal with glory, and ponder it with ease and delight, it shows that our souls have already dealt with grace and are established therein.
These are true notices of the state of the soul, I judge. Still, however, as I said, grace is really a deeper, more wondrous subject than glory.
When the glory is reached, it will be the grace that will be abstracted, and be the animating subject of everlasting songs and recollections. And so even now. The soul that makes glory its theme without affectionate glances at grace will but weary us; while he who can affectionately triumph in grace, and makes that his theme, unequal perhaps to go beyond it, will still be grateful to the heart. Thoughts of grace may dwell alone in the soul, but thoughts of glory may not.*
*Moses and the congregation in their song triumph in both grace and glory. Miriam and her maidens echo the thought of grace only. And yet Miriam's gentler strain is very welcome to the ear. (See Exodus 15)
The strongest, richest, happiest condition is when the soul can use all the arguments, all the incentives, all the attractions which grace and glory alike minister to it. This is Paul's state, characteristically I may say, in 2 Timothy. He urges his dear son to "be strong in the grace," disclosing some of the riches of it, and also holds out to him "the crown of righteousness." And this 2 Timothy was Paul's last word, his "swan's song."
Those histories in the Old Testament which illustrated grace are more our constant delight than such as exhibit glory, though this, in its measure, will depend on the state of the soul, and in some cases, as I said, may betray our weakness.
One is too disposed to walk in company with the watchful spirit, the self-judging spirit, the spirit which is full of care that a good conscience be kept. But our company should also be the recollection of the boundless grace of God. That should rise and gladden the heart abidingly. Our journey to glory should be taken in the sunshine that the conscious grace of God imparts to the way-faring man.
It is then we honour Him, and answer the expectations of His heart, and the purpose of His plans and counsels. For nothing can He value like His grace. Why does He promise that His eye and His heart shall be in the temple perpetually? (See 2 Chr. 7) Is it not because in the temple there was the witness of His grace? The place of angels did not afford His eye that object. And yet angels as creatures were more beautiful, and heaven as a place far more magnificent, than the priests and the temple at Jerusalem. But angels and heaven did not tell Him of His grace in the way that the temple did. And there lay the attraction. That was the secret why His eye and His heart affected that spot so intently.
The revelation of this grace of God, the style of the revelation of it, is as wonderful and different from all beside, just as is the grace itself.
The love of God disclosed in the gospel is a love which passes knowledge. And yet the story of it is told without glowing expressions to give it effect, or any help, as from language or description, to set it off to the heart.
This is a wondrous thing. Attempts are not made in Scripture to carry the sense of this love to the soul beyond the simple telling of the tale of it. It is told, but told artlessly. This is the style, the general style or method, of the Book of God.
Take one instance of this, from the house of God to which I have already referred. Take Exodus 28, where we get the dress of the servants of that house. These garments of the high priest, who was the mystic Christ, the Son of God serving in the sanctuary, are full of deep and precious mysteries. They express to the intelligence of faith a love that passes knowledge. And yet, throughout the chapter, there is not the slightest effort to produce an impression correspondent with that — none whatever. The dress of Aaron is simply hung up before our eye, without any description to attract attention to it or command the heart.
Is this human? Indeed it is not. This style is as much above man's, as the grace it unfolds.
And this grace in the sanctuary of old was the very way of Christ in the day of His personal ministry. He never used language, if I may so speak. His style had nothing of a glowing, eloquent declaration of His love about it. There was nothing of ardour either in manner or word to enforce on the disciples the conviction of His affection. But there was ample material for the heart to assure itself of that precious truth. All His way (passed in calmness, and, as far as could be, in silence) was a material which one, who could appreciate it, would have used for the demonstration of a love that thoroughly passed all description. Wondrous method of the God of all grace and all perfections! It is the office, the covenant business of the Holy Ghost, to interpret all this mysterious love. It is for Him to take Jesus and show Him unto us. Christ made no effort to persuade us of His love. That was not His way. The Lord of the old sanctuary, as we have also seen, made no such effort. Each of these passed before the eye of faith calmly, and, as it were, silently, but the Spirit and the renewed mind find ample matter to discover, and to feed upon a love that passes all knowledge.
And happy and profitable it is to have it vividly impressed on the soul, that it is in company with the God of grace we pursue our journey day by day, or take its successive and changeful stages. The 23rd Psalm would witness this. There the saint addresses himself to his journey, not knowing what may betide him, but in the assurance of this, that, be it what it may — want, sorrow, failure in righteousness, or conflict, nay, death-like circumstances and conditions — still God in grace is ever near to supply the strength, the comfort, or the restoration.
We get the same doctrinally, or as taught us by the apostle. Being justified by His death, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom. 5) It is not merely the grace of God at the cross that is to be remembered, but the grace of God in Christ's life in heaven that is to be used and enjoyed every day. The life of Christ in heaven for us measures and accompanies the life of a needy and defiled saint on earth.*
*The hidden thing is as real as manifested; the doings of the Lord in discipline of us are open; His pleadings for us are secret; one on earth, the other in heaven — but both equally real.
So in Hebrews 4. If the two-edged sword make enquiry and disclose the corruption in us, the high priesthood of Jesus is ever at hand to answer for them. As under the law, the ashes of the heifer were laid up in a clean place, outside the camp, for the constant use of the one defiled by the touch of death. The relief was ever at hand, relief provided by grace. Let what judge or accuser may raise his voice to condemn, he is always met by the intercession of Him who is seated at the right hand of God. (Rom. 8) The accuser is heard, comparatively, at a distance, but the Intercessor is seated in the place of dearest intimacy and highest dignity. And thus, in another form, grace displays itself, and accompanies us all along the way.
Here, however, I am drawn aside a little. I have just said that the voice of the accuser or judge is heard comparatively at a distance, and not from that place of nearness and dignity from whence the voice of the Intercessor comes. But I do not, when I say this, forget that the accuser of the brethren is in heaven. I know it; but still I say he is at a comparative distance. The vision of the Messiah in 1 Kings 22, the opening scenes in Job, the Lord's word in Luke 10:18, the teaching of the apostle in Eph. 6, and the action in Rev. 12, all tell us that our adversary, our accuser, is in the heavenly places; but those heavens are a lower heavens than His Father's house, or the place of the excellent glory. There is a region to which the prince of the power of the air has title and access now, as of old he had title of access to the garden of Eden; to carry on his accusings there, as once he conducted his temptations in the garden. This region is called heaven, or the heavenly places, where spiritual wickednesses are. (Eph. 6)
This, however, is a lower heaven. This is not the Father's house. This is not the residence of the excellent glory. It may be the seat of power or of government, but it is not the place of the excellent glory.
And I understand this to be the place to which the holy Jerusalem descends, to take her connection with, and government of, the millennial earth. (See Rev. 21)
She had, however, descended ere she reached that spot, a witness that she belonged to a higher place, and so she does. She is more properly or personally an inmate of the Father's house, which is in higher regions, for the place of the family is higher than that of the government.
The marriage of the Lamb takes place in the Father's house. (Rev. 19) A marriage is a family action, and suits a family dwelling. But when the marriage is celebrated there, the Bride is introduced to the place of dominion, which is a lower place, because she is seen as descending to it.
Now it is this lower place, this lower place of government, or of connection with the earth, this region occupied by the Lamb's wife in the day of her manifested glory, which constitutes the heaven or the heavenly places of the principalities and powers of darkness in the present time. From that heaven they will be cast down: and then, in due season at last, that place will be occupied by the redeemed and glorified Church, the Lamb's wife, which is to have the government of "the world to come."
And I may add, the scene eyed by Peter, James, and John on the holy hill, was a scene laid rather in that place of power or of government than in the Father's house. And this I say for two reasons. First, the excellent glory or the place of the Father was separated from that hill (see 2 Peter 1:17); secondly, the place of that scene was within the ken or vision of the earthly people, and so will the place of the holy Jerusalem or the Church in government be, but so will not be the Father's house, or "the excellent glory."
All this has value for us. It witnesses to us that the family scene is above the courtly scene, that the place of affection is higher than the place of power. But all is grace.
"Join thou, my soul! for thou canst tell
How sovereign grace broke up thy cell,
And burst thy native chains:
And from that dear and happy day
How oft by grace constrained to say
That grace triumphant reigns!"
Grace, like everything of freedom, delights to use its freedom. This we may see in such a scene as that of the eunuch in Acts 8. Grace also delights in displaying the variousness of its ways: this we may see in such a history as that of David. The soul that is established in grace, as another once said, will be found rather reasoning from what God is, than from what we ourselves are. O precious occupation of the heart, to be going over and over again the grace and glory we receive from Him!