Christ in the Glory.

(Notes of an Address.)

"When He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. … And when Peter was come down out of the ship he walked on the water, to go to Jesus" (Matt. 14:23-25, 29).

"He being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus" (Acts 7:55).

There is a connection between these two passages. In the fourteenth chapter of Matthew we have the first clear indication of the Lord's rejection by the Jews, and in the seventh chapter of Acts this is consummated. It is not that the Lord was not foretelling His rejection in previous chapters, but in the fourteenth chapter we have the fact that His messenger is put to death.

It is a matter of great moment to us; and yet the saints have lost the sense that the One Who has the right to this scene has been rejected. How little sense have we of the absence of Christ as we walk down here! The Corinthians had lost the sense of this; so the Apostle writes to them, "Ye have reigned as kings," and adds, "I would ye did reign." It is easy to lose this sense of our Lord being absent.

This chapter shows what true hearts would do the moment His rejection is indicated. What does the Lord do? What course does He observe when rejected? There are two things brought out. First He goes into the desert (verse 13), and shows that He is unchanged toward the people who need Him. His heart is the same. He uses miraculous means for ministering to the needy upon earth. No matter what the world thinks, He must even be cut off, but it is as if He said, "I do not change in my affections to those around Me." His heart is ever the same to the poor of the flock.

Secondly, If He is unchanged to His people, He is entirely changed to things. He leaves things as He finds them; but He walks above them. He does not change winds. He did it once, but not now. People can see that all goes on in a tumult now; but He does not allay the tumult of the waves, or the fierceness of the' winds. He is gone above them all. Where is He? Raised far above all principality and power. Faith learns, thus, His true place preparatory to our finding ourselves in the place of a Peter — a stone in the living building. Faith leaves everything and everyone — ship and all in it — no matter what, even if it seems protection, to join Him, and take the place of apparent helplessness; but really that of supreme power. Peter walked on the water: true he did not do it long; still he did walk as well as Christ for the time.

In anticipation of His rejection, we get what characterises His walk, and the place we should take, and what is opened out to us. In Acts 1, it is said to the disciples, "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." He is offered to the Jews as ready to return to the Nation. It was not merely that He had been rejected, crucified and slain, but He was offered to come back to the Jews from the glory. God's purpose in grace to Israel, was to fulfil the statement of chapter 1, but they refused. They said, "We will not have this Man to reign over us." This wonderful offer of God to Israel is deliberately refused, not by the mob, but by the Council.

What is the course that is now disclosed for the saints of God on earth? It is not a question of His coming back, for He has been palpably rejected. We are not looking for Him to come to earth, but we are looking for Him in the air. We must remember the condition of things when He comes. When it is to earth He must rule, and He cannot do so over things as they are. Scripture shows the path for the saint, and where his strength lies in the midst of this scene of trial and sorrow, in the place where our Lord is not — where He is rejected. People do not see how this affects them. It is very simple; but we often lose a truth because it is simple. You never find out what a truth is until you practise it; and when you begin to practise it you will find out how utterly powerless you are. Truth is a thing that has life in it, and power in it. People say we cannot understand it, and the reason is they do not practise it. It is a hard thing to make a child that has never walked put his feet to the ground; but when once he has done it, it is a thing you would not easily make him leave off. To keep your eye on the Lord seems a simple thing, but it is a thing that has life and power in it, and the moment you begin to practise it, you will find what a powerful thing it is. Stephen, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up to heaven; there was an end to earth and its hopes.

Look at Elijah and Elisha: when God was going to show Elisha his power over things as they are, he wants a double portion of Elijah's spirit. What are the conditions on which he gets it? "If thou see me when I am taken from thee" (2 Kings. 2:10). We may be sure he was afraid to take his eye off him all the way lest he should lose the benefit. What does this indicate? That I must keep my eye in another direction. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth." This proves that He is not here. Must we not challenge our hearts? Are we seeking the things above? Where am I looking? This is very simple, a child can understand it. People may say, "I do not know what good it will do:" but it is everything to be looking to the source whence everything should come, instead of, as people are doing, looking for something to grow out of this scene. "Your life is hid with Christ in God." "Have your mind on things above." This involves the fact that we are dead; that we have lost connection and interest in everything down here — for that is the force of a person being dead. This is practical.

The fourteenth chapter of John shows how the Lord makes provision for His people on earth when He is about to leave it. This chapter is often read when a person is going out of the world, because they are shut up to every-thing but Christ; but why should it not he so now when death is around us in this scene. "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me." These words show how He meets His people in His absence, and how He would have all their thoughts centred in Himself. If I believe in a person I do not see, it is faith not sight. He says, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself;" and again. "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you." This is a most blessed truth, and there is not a heart that is true to Christ who does not know it. Many look to Christ as a benefactor, but we have to get beyond that. I am united to Him: I am no longer merely a recipient. "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." This is given to meet His people during the day of His absence. It goes far beyond merely looking to Christ as a benefactor. When the heart is the least true it affects us. Things around us are not changed; trees may be as beautiful as ever, flowers as fair and lovely, but it casts a shade upon them. It is vain to tell me your heart is true to Christ if it does not; it could not be otherwise. The One that causes the blank is the only One that repairs it. The Spirit of God is the only One which can fill up the blank of Christ's absence. The head of a family could not say to his own, "I will come to you during my absence;" but Christ can. The Holy Ghost is the only One who could fill the blank. Do you feel His absence? You cannot go on without Him. How could you get on without your life? "Skin for skin, yea all that a man hath will he give for his life." You must admit that He is your life; you are united to that blessed One. How can you get on without Him?

We read that, Stephen "being full of the Holy Ghost looked up stedfastly into heaven." We do not all have a vision; but this vision reveals the line we are upon. We are not exactly alike in apprehension, but we get here the new order that God is setting forth. He would have us occupied with Christ where Christ is. We see the consistency. God says as it were, "you have rejected my Son from the earth, and I am going to take my saints to be with Him where He is, in heaven." There must have been a revelation before man could be taken into heaven. God must be glorified before man could find a place in the glory of God. That wonderful verse in John 13, "Now is the Son of Man glorified" must be accomplished, and that is the cross. The cross has swept away all that is offensive to the eye of God, and then, as Stephen, man can look up stedfastly into heaven, and see the glory of God, and Jesus.

Moses could not bear to stand in the sight of the glory of God, nor could Habakkuk; but here was a man who could look straight up into heaven. It is the very beginning of a new order of things in which the Apostle says, "We all, with open face, beholding … the glory of the Lord." What is the effect? We are transformed into something of His image? No, but into the "same image." When we read such a passage and accept it as truth, we are amazed at the little perception we have of the magnificent purpose of God toward us. When the saint of God gets a sense in the soul of this place of nearness to the Lord in God's own presence, it is no longer a question of what suits me, or of what I want, or of what I like, but what God in His own thoughts desires about me. We see people experience this on their death beds. Why? Because they are getting nearer to God. We take our place of nearness to God, not according to our own desires, or wants, but according to His sense of how welcome we are to the heart of the Father.

Stephen saw Jesus, and gave his spirit to Jesus. And look at the circumstances: it was not only that Stephen had to meet death, but at the hands of the people most respected in the world — from his own nation — And for what? Was it for doing wrong? Nay, it was, "Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth." How does he conduct himself? Are the waves rough; are the winds high? They are; but Stephen is unmoved. And they stoned Stephen "praying" (N.Tn.). He is still preaching, and no sermon could be more emphatic. What a thorough abnegation of self! What a dropping of all down here! What a reaching forward to the prize! They were battering him with stones; still he goes on praying: so calm, so safe, so satisfied. And what about the people? Unchanged as ever. Still, in feeling like his blessed Master to the last, his last thoughts are thoughts of love for them. So unmoved by the stones that he can pray for them; not one word about self; he is thoroughly at rest. One might read this, and if it were not in Scripture one would say it was all imagination.

The believer must find that while he has a home in heaven, he has a race to run down here, and he must do it "Looking unto Jesus." This is a course of faith, not of sight. There are two orders of trial; one in running, and one in wandering. You may get down to Egypt, like Abram or Isaac, and pick up a thorn which will stick to you for life; but do not confound the trials you meet with in running with those you meet with in wandering. If I am running, or racing, I must lay aside every weight, knowing I have a bright home above. If I am running with posts I must keep within and fulfil my ordinary duties which I find there. I cannot run outside. If I get outside by wandering, I must come back in shame, very likely with a thorn for which I may suffer through life. God will not remove the thorn.

Keep your eye upon Christ where Christ is, walking in the energy of the Spirit, looking up. This is the new thing of which Paul speaks when he says, "We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, even as by the Lord the Spirit."