J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 2.)
If there be a spiritual coming of the Lord, it was clearly the first coming, for though He came truly in the flesh, He was not so known save spiritually - none could come to Him, as so come in the flesh, save the Father which had sent Him drew them; "It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I speak unto you they are Spirit and they are Life." Accordingly He spake and was known in testimony - He was known as the Word by His words, they had the power in which He appeared, to draw to Himself then; "He that heareth my words and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life."
It was only spiritually He was known, though He was manifested in the flesh - it was only in the word which He spake that He was received, for they which believed on Him by miracles He would not commit Himself to. In a word, as it was hearing the word and keeping the word which was the sowing of the Son of Man, so it was not manifestation to men, but veiled, and manifested to be the Person (though men ought to have known Him) only to those whose eyes were opened by His word to see Him through the Father's grace. This is argued in John 6, and its principles opened out in chapter 8. So John came in the spirit and power of Elias, though he was that very, true one of whom the prophets had testified.
The real personal coming, if we should distinguish, of the Lord Jesus, though the same true one then, is then in manifestation clearly the second, when it shall not be merely a revelation to believers of Him; for the point of John 6 is that it was as really so when He was present in the flesh as when exalted and hid with God - but "every eye shall see him, they also which pierced him." It is clear this is far more thoroughly personal, than appearing as the carpenter's son revealed only to those who were drawn of the Father as given unto Him. Christ is spiritually present now; so effectually He was when in the days of His flesh, for He then came not judging or executing judgment, which He must do in Person, but testifying in the word of testimony - spiritually received then indeed in Person in the execution of judgment - the great governing ordinance of God, in which He Himself is honoured in the execution of it.
So also the Church now knows Him, and the glory in spirit; in fact, in respect of this all are on a par, as Jesus appeared so as that they only who were taught of God could know who it was - the Son. So those, amongst whom Jesus was in the flesh, did in moral fact only see the Son as we see Him now, i.e., the moral character of the perception was the same, so that blessed as His presence was, it was expedient for them that He should go away.
276 Nor has the glory of the Son ever been assumed in manifestation at all - Jesus glorified the Father upon earth, and now saith He "Glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." It was the time of the Son's humiliation not His glory - the transfiguration was in part an exhibition of it - God was also glorified in Him in the perfect actings and obedience of the Son of Man. But the Son of God has never as such had, i.e. as regards us, His proper glory - that is reserved solely for His coming, which if it be not personal with this object there is no honouring of the Son in His proper honour. It is the only real personal coming of the Son of God - the fulfilment of the great object of the Father, of God - that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. To that end judgment was given Him; therefore the Revelation speaks of Him previously as the faithful Witness, i.e., of the Father. The character He gives Himself on earth, and now from heaven, and having wrought our redemption, is "Behold he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him." Here there is properly the personal coming of the Lord; before, He manifested God in the flesh, ascribing the glory to the Father - then all glory is ascribed to Him. If it were by the Spirit only, it would be only what was before, it would not be the proper glory of the Son. What we want is the manifestation of the Son - in the glory of all surely - but precisely and properly in His Person, so that all shall see Him, for the Son's sake, though with the delight and in the glory of the Father, when shall be the manifestation of the sons of God now hid with Christ, i.e., as Christ is in God.
If there be no personal coming in glory of Jesus, specifically in Person as the Son of God, all as it were is lost, though that cannot of course be; but His Person ceases to be the great question of glory, which it is, with the Father - with the divine Being - with the eudokia (good pleasure) - with the I AM (the Jehovah) of glory.
277 His first coming was in witness - though it were indeed the Son; His second coming is in Person, when every eye shall see Him, and the glory of Him who was hidden be known. On the questions solved in this, hinge all, all true divinity - the knowledge of the Son, all rests in this glorious appearing, and the Church is merely just a witness, till that appearing, of the truth of Him (to their own blessing) who shall then be manifested, and they, being also in the truth, believing the truth, with Him in glory.
Let the Church deny this, and it ceases to be a Church - it ceases in its plan and acceptance - it is gone - it must be cut off in its form. God may pass by - He may bear with, as He does daily with all of us, ignorance and slowness of heart; but let the Church deny this - the ground of its existence has ceased - it has ceased to exist in the sight of God. The Spirit has no office in it, for its office is to testify of Jesus, the glory of Jesus as having all things that the Father hath; but if this be not accomplished, His present title is denied - it is a false one. The Church is witness that it is true - a painful, suffering witness, because He has it not now; let her deny that He is to have it, and what is she suffering for? Nothing! She is joined to the world - she has ceased in her existence. Hence also he who denies the voice of the Spirit in the Church ceases to own the witness of the glory, for the Spirit alone can bear witness of the glory - the apostles also bore witness to all that they had actually seen in Him from the beginning - and therefore the Church ceases.
It may be mixed up, i.e., in us, in our ministrations, with our errors, weaknesses, our unbelief may quench it, we may mistake also, as unspiritual men, other things for it, but if it ceases the Church ceases, it exists not. But it has not ceased to exist in the Church - God has not left Himself without witness, let every thing be judged, but let not God be denied.
Herein I think - I speak now of no recent appearances in the professing Church, but of the truth abstractedly by itself (they may, as regards this, be or not be such) - the Evangelicals and Dissenters, and their haughtiness are the infidelity of the Church, and the immediate cause, i.e., in proximate operation, of its cutting off. It is, the professed faith of it, joined the world, and therefore the Church exists no longer. Truth that saves an individual may be casually ministered, but they have no faith as a Church, and therefore, when the truths in which this consists are brought forward and are denied, they can no longer be recognised in such a character - the excision approaches of the Church - such is the position now. It will speedily be carried into manifest effect.
278 The acknowledgment of sin as unto death - of the Cross - of the power of reconciliation in Christ - the atonement - and the testimony of the Word from God, as believing and submitting to God as true in it in Jesus, constitute individual faith saving the soul; a man is a competent member of the Church or a Church. The presence of the Spirit, i.e., the Holy Ghost, and the coming again of the Lord Jesus - His real manifestation in glory due to Him, constitute the faith of a Church - held in humility they are its glory and its hope. Simple apostasy substantially denies all these, as the Roman Catholic rulers.
The three first may be held, and the Church ready to perish, though they be blessed and saving truths; and the holding of them, denying the others, will be for the holders of them in that character a more awful position, as regards the Church, than any other. God expects the reception of His truth from them - holding it (they say "we see") therefore, they not doing so, judgment comes. In fact the Evangelicals are properly so but feeble allies of the Dissenters whom - I speak not of individuals who may yet remain perhaps as saints among them - I abhor. The Evangelicals I rather pity - they are attempting, honestly, I dare say, to join the Church and the world. The Dissenters, very dishonestly as to their own principles, the world and the Church; while the world, poor world, has given up the Church, and the Church under divine guidance is, I trust for His mercy and security as it surely shall be in it, giving up the world. May God, even our Father keep us humble, holy in spirit and conversation, and leaning in faith upon His word as our resting place, and Him in the sureness of His love, and very humble, giving us grace, patience, and that of faith, which is for our profit and blessing, and qualify us for His glory, forgiving us our weakness for Jesus sake, our Lord, and in Him.