The Only-begotten of the Father.

"He that cometh from above is above all." John 3:31.

It is only when we begin to "behold the glory of the Lord" in one light and another by the four evangelists, and especially as presented throughout this gospel of John, that our souls gather up, and at last concentrate all their rays in the one great confession of His person as "the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The knowledge of this glory will then prepare us for its blessed counterpart; viz., "the Son in the bosom of the Father" come to declare Him to us.

On our part we thankfully and gladly own, as taught of God, "He that cometh from above is above all;" and in happy keeping with this glorious manifestation of His person, one loves to hear the forerunner say of Him at the outset of this gospel, "There standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose." Consistently too with this testimony, and the further unfolding of Christ's glory from first to last, one loves the sweet savour of Mary's spikenard at the close, when in the maturity of her faith and ripening affection she anointed the feet of Jesus for "His burial," and wiped them with the hair of her head. Between these varying appreciations of John the Baptist and Mary of Bethany, the mother of Jesus likewise holds her place at "the marriage of Cana," and in the full satisfaction and confidence of her heart bids the servants do "whatsoever He saith unto you." Happy and encouraging as these and other such experiences of personal love to the Lord from one and another are to us in our day, yet we only advance in it individually as we are led on by the Word, and our own anointing through the Spirit to Himself, in the deepening knowledge of who, and what He is. We shall find ourselves thus drawn into the circle "of His own glory" by His acts and deeds, and shall be detained there by the immensity of the objects which brought Him down from above, and the weighty words which He spoke, and the mighty work of redemption which He began and finished for the glorious and holy majesty of God upon this earth, ere He departed into the heavens.

In the beginning of His loving ways and intercourse with men and women day by day as "He who cometh from above," we recall likewise with delight those two disciples whom He attracted into the place where He dwelt, and who abode with Him that day. Indeed, from His own dwelling below in the first chapter of John, on and up to "the Father's house" above in the fourteenth, which He is gone to prepare, and into which He is presently coming to receive us, these various habitations could only suit and serve Him as they were owned or shared by "the excellent of the earth," in whom was all His delight. His divine errand in grace to us, was to draw men out of the world to Himself, and attach them by a love which made them feel it was past all finding out, but which nevertheless had them for its object, and found its satisfaction with them and in their company. "His delights were with the sons of men;" and his whole life long was but one gathering-time, in which the whole multitudes who pressed upon Him, either to be taught or to be fed, were His welcome guests. Much more if we add to this His love, which was stronger than death, and by which He saved us on the cross, and brought us to God.

Still, as an example of its varying manner and measure, it may be helpful and certainly refreshing to recall the two extremes - of Nathanael drawn out from under the fig tree to Him; and John, the beloved disciple, drawn to Him in the confidence of loving assurance at the supper-table to repose upon His breast. So again, as "the Son of man which is in heaven," He drew Nicodemus on, that He might, through the cross, give him a title to life, and show him how to see and enter into the kingdom of heaven. How lovingly too He did this by the way of Moses, and the serpent lifted up upon the pole, as foreshadowed in the hour of Israel's calamity at Hormah, and their sore rebuke under the hand of Jehovah! But in His rich grace He descended further down into the depths of human misery than this, that by impassable gulfs and distances from God (to every one else) He might draw sinners out of their distresses and ruin, and attach them by redemption through His blood eternally to Himself and to God. Who does not over and over again recall the day when He sat upon Jacob's well, and tarried for the woman of Samaria to come for its water, that He might give to her guilty conscience and trouhled heart, a drink from the springs of life in glory? How too He loved to reveal Himself, and who He was that drew the living water, as He handed it to her, and bade her thirst no more, neither come hither again to draw! Higher and mightier than the angel of Bethesda, as He travelled on He declined to trouble the water for the first who could step in, but drew forth the man to Himself who was the last - that one who had been bound thirty and eight years, and had no friend to put him in. Immediately He takes the place as "above all," and gave him the power to carry the bed which had hitherto held him as its captive; and in virtue of a transmitted energy which was from above, to take it up and walk, as the every-day witness of the One who had made him free.

After all, this living water to the woman of Samaria, and this loving power to the impotent man at Bethesda, are only some of the droppings out of "the fulness" which dwells in Him. In the greatness of His own glory, which He had with the Father before the world was, He had come down into this valley of Baca, as the Lamb of God, to make it a well, and even be in it as He passed along, like the rain which "filleth the pools." He is come who alone could reach the very core of its misery, and heal it at the fountain-head of its corruption, as "the taker away of the sin of the world." Moreover, in Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and to "as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." Life and light have issued out from divine love in the bosom of the Father, and are brought into the midst of men by "the Word made flesh," who dwelt among us in the veiled, and yet the unveiled, glory of His mysterious manhood.

"He that cometh from above is above all" was manifested in every thought and deed of His life. This brightness of the Father, is the unfailing sun of the new creation of God; and it is in "this glory" He passes along by the well and the pool in this groaning creation. "The glory" of the One in the eternal Sonship, which He had with His Father and the Holy Ghost before ever the world was, accepted the body prepared for Him; and in this manhood-glory it is that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." He it is moreover who has thus entered into the palace of the strong man and spoiled his goods, and taken away the armour wherein he trusted. The height of His own person in the glory of the Godhead, and the depth of His own grace in the humiliation-glory of the body He assumed, were necessary for the accomplishment of the work which was given Him to do - a work which in its result reached to the highest heavens, and delivered from the lowest hell. But whatever the skill and love of the potter, "the flesh profiteth nothing;" for though He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, yet the world knew Him not.

A lapsed world and the usurper were in question before God; and therefore a world that lieth in the wicked one, in its alienation and enmity against Christ the Son. Besides this He had come "to His own" (according to the flesh); "and His own received Him not." Where was He to turn now in such a world, when even these were against Him on whose behalf He came? Could He count upon the excited multitude who ate of the loaves and were filled, and who were moved towards Him in favour every now and then, when they saw the miracles which He wrought in Jerusalem? No! Jesus would not commit Himself to their selfishness and pride, because He knew all men, and "needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man." Their highest thought would be to take Him by force, and make Him a king for their own political ends, and by popular will. Everything on His side with the Father was perfect, and shone out in its brightest and best; and yet at such a moment all was at its very worst with men, and pointing at the greatest moral distance from God. These extremes are manifest as we come forth to stand upon the threshold of this wonderful gospel by John. On the one hand we measure all by Him who cometh from above as the Saviour of the world, and who "is above all;" or view the awful chaos, and confusion, and enmity which came from beneath, and with which sin, and Satan, and death filled it, and wrapped it around.

There is at this crisis of time a parallel to be found between the creation in the book of Genesis, and this beginning of the new creation in the gospel of John; and it lies in this one thing, that when God began to act in each for His own glory, everything was either in a material chaos; or else morally under sin and the curse, and was at its very worst. In Adam's world the darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the earth was without form, and void. We must remember too that it was this very world, made by Him four thousand years before, into which He came as "God manifest in the flesh" - a world which had lost the knowledge of God, and which now knows Him not. Moreover, it is "His own" according to the flesh, with whom He had journeyed by "the angel," and which He had redeemed out of Egypt by the hands of Moses and Aaron, that now received Him not. How vast these differences are seen to be, between the original description in Genesis of "the beginning" of this creation, where man was only seen and known in happy relationship with the Creator, and standing before God in His own likeness too, and the Creator walking with him! In this beginning of the new creation of God in John, after the first had been "made subject to vanity, and when the Word that was with God came forth into this ruined world in grace, it was swarming with millions of hearts which knew Him not, or would only hate Him, even if He revealed Himself to them in the mystery of flesh and blood! Who but He that came from above could bring "life and light" into it, as He did in Himself by His incarnation? Who but He could proclaim "grace and truth" in its streets as He loved to do, so long as they would let Him live to do it? Who but He could "fall into the ground and die" as a corn of wheat, that through His death He might be waved before God in resurrection on the first day of a new week, in triumph, as the first ripe sheaf from off this harvest-field that would eventually fill the heavenly garner? Who but He "could breathe upon His disciples" after He was risen from the dead, and say, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted"?

"He that cometh from above is above all;" for who but He could redeem us to God by His blood, and put us in present relationship with Himself as the ascended One with His Father and our Father, His God and our God? Who, save this Son of the bosom, could thus bring back the Father into a world from which as Creator He had withdrawn in righteous judgment, leaving the cherubim with the flaming sword to keep the way of the tree of life in proof of His holy grief against sin, and of His hot displeasure against the liar and murderer? Who else than this Son from the beginning could walk, though in unknown paths as yet, but still in conscious power, amidst all the ruin of mankind, to meet it and hush it, and call those who felt its heavy pressure the most, to come unto Him for relief, and find rest to their souls? Again, who but He could come forth from behind the cloud that concealed Him to mere flesh and blood (and yet that revealed Him to the eye of faith) in company with the Father, in that work of all other works - as "the quickener" and raiser of the dead? "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."

If challenged in all these glories by the men of the Pharisees, who made a fair show of themselves in the flesh, and who refused Him in all His own characters; who but He could gird Himself with power, yea, step into another position, and as the Son of man declare that "God had given Him authority" to execute judgment also? Have to do with the Son of God they must, for "He that cometh from above is above all;" and if they would not take eternal life and forgiveness of sins, by faith in Him while they lived upon the earth, and talked with Him in the day of grace; He would call them out of their graves to be judged by Him for their sins, and for their refusal of eternal life, in the day of the vengeance of Almighty God. They shall come forth unto the "resurrection of damnation;" for He is to be "the Judge of the quick and the dead." In the meanwhile He could pass along day by day in this world as through a valley of dry bones, and speak a quickening word, by which all those who heard should live, through "the incorruptible seed" dropped into the hearts that received Him. The heavenly source and springs of sovereign grace and almighty power in the Father and the Son must needs be uncovered, and flow forth in power by the Holy Ghost. The time was come to set aside the flesh, and to refuse the six waterpots of purification at Cana in Galilee, or the well at Sychar, or the pool of Bethesda, and the angel of the Lord; for these were but remedial measures, and were neither the fulness of life nor of grace. The ministry of the Son who came from above, and which is now before us, is of a totally different order, and takes its rise in "the bosom of the Father," and flows forth through the unfailing and loving channel of Him who dwelt there; and is dispensed according to no other rule, and given out in no scant or uncertain measure to us who are its recipients. There is but one love, and this love dwells in the fulness of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and is the well from whence the living and healing waters spring forth in our gospel, where all is "from above," and brought to us by Him who is "above all." Sing ye unto it; for this is the well of which Jehovah spake typically to Moses - "Gather the people together, and I will give them drink."

This new wine must be put into new bottles, and with our evangelist the bottles are as new as the wine, and "both are preserved." Mere probation and relief imply help, and mere help is only human support; but quickening into life, is divine power. The vessel itself was in question with Nicodemus; for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Thus in like manner "the wine for the marriage" was drawn from another vintage, and the fruit of grapes which never grew under this material sun. The bottles and the wine were by new creative power. Who does not bow before the Son of the eternal counsels, when presented in this gospel in His grandest act, as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" - He who will eventually bring back and put all the tempted, strayed, and lost, but "elect ones," into correspondence with God? Yea, more than this, bring them into relationship with the Father by means of redemption through His own most precious blood, as the "Lamb foreordained before the foundation of the world"? Who has not stood and wondered at the love of God which surmounted its greatest sin, and only took occasion by it to come down into its darkest hour, and send forth the dove with its olive-branch, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved?

Moreover, what was this in figure but "the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost," that in a new nature, and under this anointing, and as sons of God, we might enter upon our new fellowship with the Father and with His Son in the light where God dwells? "The only-begotten of the Father" is thus declared to us by John, and from His first introduction by incarnation, till He comes up out of death in resurrection, and breathes out the Holy Spirit on His disciples, He passes along in His glories "full of grace and truth." He was thus seen, and handled, and felt; so that one and another could say to us, Out "of His fulness have all we received," and grace "answering to the grace that is in Him." If we group the persons together of whom we have spoken,. it is only to add that Nathanael received of this "fulness" when he left his place under the fig-tree, and confessed Jesus to be "the Son of God," and "the King of Israel." Likewise the wedding of Cana changed its character under this "fulness" to gain another and a divine one, by becoming the scene for the "beginning of miracles," and the place where Jesus "manifested forth His glory." So also Nicodemus, master of Israel, turned his back upon himself and the law of Moses, in order to receive "grace for grace" through faith in "the Son of man lifted up" upon the cross; and, as we well know, the woman left her water-pot to receive from the "fulness," and drink at the spring-head of life eternal. Again, the impotent man left the pool which he had clung to for its healing virtue, and the angel which descended at a certain season; to receive out of the "fulness" that quickening and raising and overcoming "power of life" by which he took up that whereon he lay, and walked.

Sin and transgression, violence and corruption, had ripened the world for the judgment of God in righteousness; but their existence and growth upon the earth, had likewise suited it for the fulness of quickening power and the grace of Christ. It was this turned it into a corn-field "white already to harvest," and fitted for the reaper. The true Boaz had come "in the fulness of time" into His barley-field, and was gathering His sheaves into His bosom, as we have seen in these blessed ways of His with the elect; or else ordering those whom He had sent into harvest to let fall "handfuls of purpose" for the stranger, that the man of the Jews, and the woman of Samaria, and the cripple of Bethesda, and we might rejoice together with the sower and reapers, and gather the fruit thereof unto life eternal. Jesus does not know this world as God created it for a resting-place, but He accepts it as sin and the devil have marred it. He found it fitted only for another sowing and another reaping, and so He uses it "as the sower" who brought the good seed to scatter hroadcast over the earth.

Beautiful and suited is it for us in this our day, according to these and other patterns than the sower, to work with Jesus in His loving ways of emptying the vessels, and then filling them up to the brim, as He passed in and out amongst the sons and daughters of men, with whom "were all His delights" when on earth. Nor is He changed a whit, now that He is in the heavens; for what is the "still small voice," if we listen to the gospel of God from the right hand of the Majesty on high, but "bring me yet a vessel," and in the fulness and freeness of His grace adding, "borrow not a few"? Better still, if when we pass into the depths of His delights, and understand Him when He bids us to "draw out now, and bear to the governor of the feast." And "the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now."

Blessed Jesus! and this is what thou art doing for thine own glory, and the delight of God with the sons of men - the redeemed! Well may we have this scripture engraven on the fleshy table of our hearts "He that cometh from above is above all," till He come again to receive us to Himself, that where He is, there we may be also! J. E. Batten.