The Transforming Power of the Glory

What is the practical effect of "looking on the glory of the Lord with unveiled face"? (2 Cor. 3:18.) Paul is here contrasting the ministration of death with the ministration of righteousness. Though the glory in the former consumed, because it only appeared with a claim on man who was unable to meet it (for righteousness was not fully established), yet Moses bore in his face marks of its transforming power. Because of man's condition, it was fearful in its bearing on him; yet, as we see in Moses, no one could be in it without partaking of its excellency. Moses' face therefore bore distinct traces of it. Israel refused even to gaze on the effects of it on Moses' face. Man, when seeking to maintain his own righteousness before God, shrinks from admiration of the transforming power of God; Israel therefore, in asking Moses to place a veil on his face, only declared the moral distance of their own hearts from God. Hence the veil is transferred to their hearts.

But now, says Paul, there is a wonderful contrast. It is now the ministration of righteousness, and that from the same glory. So was it announced (in Luke 2.) when the glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds. The Son of God was come to establish righteousness from the same glory from which had come the claim of righteousness. And therefore, if the glory had the power to produce such effects on the face of Moses, when man in his then condition could not look at it, how much more now, when it is a ministration of righteousness! Hence the "apostle declares that we use much boldness, and, looking on the Lord with unveiled face," are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory. It effects a moral transformation into its own likeness. Humbling though it be to admit it, any association with that which is morally superior to us must have this effect on us. If we decline to inferior associations, we deprave our better tendencies; but if we are occupied with moral superiority, we always adopt rather than improve. We adopt a new habit of action instead of only improving any existing one, and as the glory of God is unique and morally supreme, if we are conversant with it, we naturally, and almost unconsciously, adopt its characteristics and qualities, so that we are really in the process of transformation, and not merely of improvement.

I turn now to the traces of these effects, and how we may notice them. It is remarkable how differently we view the same things at different times. This may be even when we feel them most, but then we are in the spirit of our mind most above them. The same painful question occupied the mind of the Psalmist when outside the sanctuary and when inside; but it is evident that he was a totally different man as to feeling, when in one and when in the other. The light of the glory had so transformed Stephen, that he was practically superior to the violence levelled against him; but he was all the more affected for those who perpetrated it; so that I should say that the chief traces of the moral effect of the glory are a greater sensitiveness to the evil afflicting me, but a marked and sensible elevation above it.

Again, how can I distinguish "looking on the glory of the Lord" from any other spiritual exercise? If this be difficult, it is so simply because the soul is so slow to enter into the counsel of God in His grace to us, or to realise that counsel as a manifestation of His own heart, in the person of His only begotten Son, from the very centre of the glory. The grace which has reached us has its origin in the glory; it belongs to it, so to speak; and it is not answered, according to its native interest, until it connects us with the glory. If I understand the origin of this grace, and how I am bound up with it, I must understand its associations. Its origin is the centre of the glory; its association is the Person of the glory; and when I find myself in this association, through the grace of God manifested to me, I am "looking on the glory of the Lord." If the light made Paul blind (as a man*), he never lost the remembrance of it in his soul; therefore, he called it "the mark."

*Sir Isaac Newton was so affected by looking at the sun with only one eye, that for three weeks, in a darkened chamber, he was haunted by a circular glare and image of it. May we be by faith so full of the glory of the Lord, that it may be ever before us, making us practically like Him, supplying us with power for our difficulties, and with abounding praise to Him who has blessed us with such a rich salvation.