"The Glory that Excelleth."

2 Corinthians 3.

1869 220 This chapter contrasts two glories — that of "the letter," and that of "the Spirit" — law-glory, and gospel-glory, or old and new covenant glories.

Moses, as he stood at the foot of the hill, reflected or represented the glory of the law. The children of Israel instinctively shrank from it as Adam did from the voice of the Lord God in the garden. It was intolerable; and Moses had to put a veil over his face.

Moses, as he stood on the top of the hill, was in the light or sphere of the new covenant. The glory he saw was the glory of "the Lord," or of "the Spirit," the glory of God in the face of Jesus. And he necessarily took the veil off his face. This is very simple and full of comfort.

The old and new covenants are just, in this way, the contradiction one of another. The old calls on man to act for God, the new reveals God as acting for man. (See Heb. 8) If the soul instinctively apprehend death in the one, it instinctively apprehends life in the other. If the old demanded a veil, the new takes it away.

The first operation therefore of the glory which Moses saw on the top of the hill was to remove his veil. The light of life was shining in that region, and Moses must walk there with open face. It was not the voice of thunder that was heard there, but the voice of the truth, and Moses could not but listen. He was all eye and ear in so happy a place. He used great plainness or openness. And Paul tells us that he was in spirit exactly one with him in all this.

The second operation of the same glory is also blessed. For as it rent the veil off Paul's face, so did it leave its own impression on his face. This was another virtue which was in it, With unveiled face Paul beheld that glory and was changed into the same image from glory to glory. And he lets us see through this Second Epistle to the Corinthians, how in various rays or features of glory, he was manifesting the truth of the new covenant, or savouring of Christ (a fellow-worker with Him), and thus changed into the same image.

Here, however, a distinction full of beauty and of comfort presents itself. The first of these operations is perfect, because it was accomplished solely by the Lord on Moses or Paul. When they turned to the Lord, the veil was taken away, as it will be from Israel by and by. The second of them is imperfect, because it was carried on by the Spirit in Paul. It was a progressive operation meeting with resistance from nature in Paul. We are not to measure the one by the other. This is comforting. We are not to say, because I am not fully changed into the same image, therefore is the veil not entirely taken away. This very scripture resents such a conclusion, because it shows the veil gone altogether, but the image only coming as it were progressively. Indeed, it teaches us to say this — that the veil was no more able to stand the light of the glory which shone on the top of the hill, than the Israelite was able to stand the light of the glory which shone at the foot of the hill. The face of a sinner cannot abide the one nor the veil on his face the other. But it likewise teaches us that the second of these operations is also very excellent.

The apostle sought to reflect that glory before which he was set, as well as to enjoy it. And as I have said before, the exhibition of this in a desultory informal way is very much the business of this epistle. The early chapters present the apostle in much of the spirit, and in many of the leading moral energies, of his ministry; and such he expressly connects with the Lord and the truth which he had received, and before whom he was walking. Thus, his stability (2 Cor. 1:17-22) — his healing a repentant brother (2 Cor. 2:5-10) — his being a savour to God in all his ministry (2 Cor. 2:14-17) — his not fainting in his labours and his renunciation of all deceit or dishonesty (2 Cor. 4:1-2) — his dying daily (2 Cor. 4:10-11) — his hoping for resurrection (2 Cor. 4:13-14) — his personal devotedness (2 Cor. 5:14-15), these and other characteristics of his service in the churches he exhibits as so many reflections of that glory he was beholding, and into the image of which he was, as from glory to glory, changing. The third chapter is, thus, in the midst of this, a disclosing of the spring of all that grace and strength he was exhibiting in his labours in the gospel. And this is real ministry.

What beautiful rays of glory shine in this way! And they are but reflections, faint reflections, of that great original glory, the glory of God in the face of Jesus, which he was ever beholding. And then what wondrous consolation springs to our souls from this! For if Paul could thus serve — if he could walk in such ways of personal grace and devotedness in the midst of temptations and sorrows, and all this for others. what riches and glory of grace must we have to do with and to trust seeing that his ways are but the reflections of all that! This is, indeed, consolation. The glory which Moses reflected caused him to hide himself, for he could not bear it; the glory which Paul reflected brought him into the midst of the need and sorrow of others, there to act in full self devotedness and grace.