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VIII.

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THE AGENCY OF JESUS CHRIST SINCE HIS

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Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day,' and for

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THE assertion of the text might be supported by the consideration, that the mission and preaching of Christ have lost nothing of their truth and importance by the lapse of ages, which has taken place since his appearance in the world. If they seem of less magnitude, reality, and concern to us at this present day, than they did to those who lived in the days in which they were carried on, it is only in the same manner as a mountain or a tower appears to be less, when seen at a distance. It is a delusion in both cases. In natural objects we have commonly strength enough of judgement to prevent our being imposed upon by these false appearances; and it is not so much a want or defect of, as it is' a neglecting to exert and use, our judgement, if we suffer ourselves to be deceived by them in religion. Distance of space in one case, and distance of time in the other, make no difference in the real nature of the object; and it is a great weakness to allow them to make any difference in our estimate and apprehension. The death of Jesus Christ is, in truth, as interesting to us, as it was to those who stood by his cross: his resur

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rection from the grave is a pledge and assurance of our future resurrection, no less than it was of theirs who conversed, who eat and drank with him, after his return to life.

But there is another sense, in which it is still more materially true, “ that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” He is personally living,

, and acting in the same manner; has been so all along, and will be so to the end of the world. He is the same in his person, in his power, in his office. .

First, I say that he is the same individual person, and is at this present time existing, living, acting. He is gone up on high. The clouds, at his ascension, received him out of human sight. But whither did he go? To sit for ever at the right hand of God. This is expressly declared concerning him. It is also declared of him, that death hath no more dominion over him, that he is no more to return to corruption. So that, since his ascension, he hath continued in heaven to live and act. His human body, we are likewise given to believe, was changed upon his ascension, that is, was glorified, whereby it became fitted for heaven, and fitted for immortality; no longer liable to decay or age, but thenceforward remaining literally and strictly the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. This change in the human person of Christ is in effect asserted, or rather is referred to, as a thing already known, in that text of St. Paul's epistle to the Philippians, wherein we are assured, that hereafter Christ shall change our vile body, that it may be like his glorious body. Now, the natural body of Christ, before his resurrection at least, was like the natural body of other men ; was not a glorious body. At this time, therefore, when St. Paul calls it his glorious body (for it was after his ascension

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that St. Paul wrote these words), it must have undergone a great change. In this exalted and glorified state our Lord was seen by St. Stephen, in the moment of his martyrdom. Being full, you read, of the Holy

. Ghost, Stephen looked up steadfastly unto heaven, and saw the glory of God *, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. At that seemingly dreadful mo. ment, even when the martyr was surrounded by a band of assassins, with stones ready in their hands to stone him to death, the spectacle, nevertheless, filled his soul with rapture. He cried out in ecstacy, “ Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” The same glorious vision was vouchsafed to St. Paul, at his conversion; and to St. John, at the delivery of the Revelations. This change of our Lord's body was a change, we have reason to believe, of nature and substance, so as to be thenceforward incapable of decay or dissolution. It might be susceptible of any external form, which the

, particular purpose of his appearance should require. So when he appeared to Stephen and Paul, or to any of his saints, it was necessary he should assume the form which he had borne in the flesh, that he might be known to them. But it is not necessary to suppose that he was confined to that form. rather appears in the revelation of St. John, in which, after once showing himself to the apostle, our Lord was afterwards represented to his eyes under different forms. All, however, that is of importance to us to know, all that belongs to our present subject to observe, is, that Christ's glorified person was incapable of

The contrary

The "glory of God," in Scripture, when spoken of as an object of vision, always, I think, means a luminous appearance, bright and refulgent, beyond the splendour of any natural object whatever.

dying any more, that it continues at this day; that it hath all 'along continued the same real, identical being, as that which went up into heaven in the sight of his apostles; the same essential nature, the same glorified substance, the same proper person.

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But, secondly, he is the same also in power. The Scripture doctrine concerning our Lord seems to be this; that, when his appointed commission and his sufferings were closed upon earth, he was advanced in heaven to a still higher state than what he possessed before he came into the world *. This point, as well as the glory of his nature, both before and after his appearance in the flesh, is attested by St. Paul, in the second chapter of his epistle to the Philippians.Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God." He did not affect to be equal with God, or to appear with divine honours (for such is the sense which the words in the original will bear), "but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore," i. e. for this his obedience even to the last extremity, even unto death, "God also hath highly exalted him;" or, as it is distinctly and perspicuously expressed in the original, "God also hath more highly exalted him," that is, to a higher state than what he even before possessed; insomuch that he hath "given him a name which is above every name: that at," or, more properly, in," the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord,

*See Sherlock's sermon on Phil. ii. 9.

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VOL. VII.

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to the glory of God the Father:" exactly agreeable to what our Lord himself declared to his disciples after his resurrection. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in the earth :" Matt. xxviii. 18. You will observe, in this passage of St. Paul, not only the magnificent terms in which Christ's exaltation is described, viz. " that every knee should thenceforward bow in his name, and that every tongue should confess him to be Lord;” but you will observe, also, the comprehension and extent of his dominion, “of things in heaven, of things on earth, of things under the earth.” And that we are specifically comprised under this authority and this agency, either of the two following texts may be brought as a sufficient proof: “Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of you;" Matt. xviii. 20, which words of our Lord imply a knowledge of, an observation of, an attention to, and an interference with, what passes amongst his disciples upon earth. Or take his final words to his followers, as recorded by St. Matthew : “ Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world,” and they carry the same implication. And, lastly, that, in the most awful scene and event of our existence, the day of judgement, we shall not only become the objects, but the immediate objects of Christ's power and agency, is set forth in two clear and positive texts : “ The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God," John v. 25; not the voice of God, but the voice of the Son of God. And then, pursuing the description of what will afterwards take place, our Lord adds, in the next verse but one, “that the Father hath given him authority to execute judgement also, because he is the Son of Man :” which is in perfect conformity with what St. Paul announced to the Athe

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