« PreviousContinue »
revealed in the last time.” What manner of persons ought we, then, to be? Can you answer that question ? “ What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?'” How clean should our garments always appear. How pure the breath of prayer which communes with Deity. How firm, unbending, unyielding, the confidence of faith that lays hold' of Jesus to wrestle with Him ! Even if old Adam nature halts on his thigh, how exemplary should be the walk of the new man before the world and the Church of God ! And oh! how bright the prospect of shortly stepping across the grave-of passing through stingless death-of stepping across the little chasm between the last footstep in the wilderness and the first in Paradise! to “enter into the joy of the Lord," and be for ever with Him with whom we have had sweet communion on earth, whom we shall then see face to face, and be eternally within the veil!
Beloved, let this blissful anticipation cheer our hearts amidst all the toils, conflicts, and sorrows of our wilderness journey ; let patience have her perfect work, and faith be always upon the look out for the glory that shall be revealed.
May the God who gives both grace and glory command His blessing upon these few remarks, and His great name shall have all the glory.
No. 314 OF GROVE CHAPEL HYMNS.
Lord, I am thine, by second birth,
Redeem'd with precious blood;
And live so far as God!
See, how my longing soul aspires,
To breathe my native air;
Because my God is there.
I cannot live on sensual toys,
Since thou hast given me grace ;
Which shine in Jesus' face.
Oh, draw me nearer-nearer still!
In tellowship with thee,
And all thy glory see.
A Discourse, Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, May 23, 1848,
BY THE REV. JOSEPH IRONS.
“When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave
gifts to men.”—Ephesians iv. 8. The triumphs of the precious Christ of God must ever be a subject of inexpressible delight to all whom He redeemed, and whom He new creates to be capable of enjoying those triumphs with Him. When we find Him descending into the lower parts of the earth, and humbling Himself to death—even the death of the cross—to accomplish, and carry out, and perfect what the Father appointed Him to do in the council of peace, we look with holy solemnity upon His deep humiliation, upon the ventings of the malice of hell against His holy person, upon the enmity of the carnal mind constantly exercised against Him, and upon the outpouring of Divine wrath upon Him, instead of upon you and me: and after all this, having endured the cross and risen from the dead, we behold Him on His taking His leave of His disciples, ascending up where He was before, entering into the presence of the Father again, agreeably to His own declaration, and now come I to Thee," receiving an answer to His own request, “Glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was;" and we should almost forget Gethsemane and Calvary, Here it not for the sprinkling of His blood upon the conscience, leading us to rise in holy shouts of adoration after our exalted 'Lord, viewing Him occupying the middle throne in glory, and thus carrying out and crowning all the purposes of His love, by bestowing gifts upon rebellious man. Now the language of my text, points to these triumphs of our precious Lord as subjects for holy contemplation, in the anticipation that we also shall ascend and dwell with Him, and be like Him, and see Him as He is; and I therefore purpose,
Published in Weekly Nutabers, 1d., and Monthly Parts, 5d.
this morning, to invite your attention to a few thoughts. First of allupon the exaltation of our precious Lord in glory, when “ He ascended up on high. Then, secondly, to his achievements--He“ led captivity captive. Then, thirdly, To the treasure He is distributing-He gave gifts to men."
And before proceeding further, allow me to refer to the phraseology employed here. In the 68th Psalm, from which this passage is cited, it reads, "He received gifts for men;" here it reads, “He gave gifts to men.” I am delighted with the variation, because both versions are true. He received gifts " for men in His covenant character as a Mediator; He gave gifts "to" men, that the glory of them might not be entrusted to any being that could possibly make a mistake. The gifts are all in the hands of Jesus, and can never, by any possibility, fail in reaching the objects of His love, until the vast treasury of heaven is emptied of its fulness.
I.-Let us, first of all, then, contemplate the Exaltation of ChristChrist “ascending up on high." “ When he ascended up on high,” His work was done, and therefore He ascended up on high in His official capacity. As truly and properly God, He was Omnipresent, and always must be, and He therefore speaks of His omnipresence. “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man who is in heaven.' Even when upon earth He was truly and properly God. He was always in heaven, in the midst of its unveiled glory, and yet on earth, doing the mediatorial work at the same moment, while all the terrible vengeance of His justice was known and felt in hell. But the particular view which we are to take this morning refers to His official capacity. He ascended up on high, having finished the work which the Father
Him to do; the heavens have received Him out of our sight—the sight of our bodily vision—but they never could have done so—He had never gone up in triumph; it would never have been said, as the Psalmist sung, concerning him, “God is gone up with a shout, and the sound of a trumpet," had not His work been completed. Had He left anything for poor free-will to perform, or for creature-efforts to accomplish, had there been something defective, either in His obedience to the law, or in His satisfaction of, inflexible justice, heaven would never have received Him, and the cry would never have been proclaimed throughout its courts, “Lift up your heads, oh ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in." There would have been a barrier in the way; a defect in His work; an omission in something covenanted for; a want of satisfaction within the veil, and a frowning Father would have demanded-the purity and peace of heaven would have demanded that He should have gone back to finish His work. But, blessed be His holy name, having accomplished the work, fulfilled the law, magnified, and honoured it, and become the end of it for righteousness to every one that believeth; having paid the penalty, met stern justice, received the sword of vengeance in His own heart, and thereby atoned for all the transgressions of His Church heaven has received Him out of our sight, and He sits where He was before, occupying the throne of His glory, and from thence bestowing gifts upon sinful and degraded man. But do not lose sight of Him in His official capacity of unchanging Headship over His Church, and for His Church. He was Head of His body the Church; the all in all over His Church, in the ancient settlements of Divine love; He was the Head of Isis body the Church, all through every figurative, typical, and prophetical dispensation; the Head of His body the Church, long before He became Incarnate, and every soul from the date of Adam's fall to the day of our Lord's Incarpatico that went to glory, got to glory by virtue of union with Him, being members of the body of which He is the Head, the eternal covenant Head. Nor was He less the covenant Head of His Church, when despised and rejected of men, when abhorred and contemned by the mighty of the earth; when scorned and ridiculed by the Pharisees; accompanied only by a few poor fishermen and tent-makers, as His apostles and followers; when plunged in such a depth of destitution, that He had not where to lay His head—“the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” During all this time of humiliation, He was the Head of the Church, struggling, suffering, and enduring multiplied privations, for her sake. Touched with a feeling of her infirmities, having passed through all the scenes of trial, destitution, and affliction, that pertained to the curse, and to the consequences of the curse upon earth—having endured them all in her name and on her behalf, He ascends up on high, and His headship remaining immutable, He is still the covenant Head of the Church, recognised as such before the throne, and therefore the apostle tells us, that as “a Forerunner," He entered there for us. Do keep your eye upon the express, the definite manner in which the Church of Christ is coupled with Him in His own glorification—“He entered for us within the veil;" and sure I am, that when Jesus was welcomed home with such shouts as the Psalmist predicted, every person, and all the affairs of each person of His mystical body, were presented immediately before the throne.
He is their great Head and Representative, their covenant Head within the veil, and now the Father hears Him always, because “He ever liveth to make intercession.” For whom? For Cain in hell? No. For Judas, who betrayed Him? No. But to “make intercession for all who come unto God by Him"-(they never came)to make intercession for His own Church, for His own beloved family, the gift of His Father, the subjects of His regenerating grace, and the recipients of His love divine. There it is that the unchanging Head of the Church ever lives to represent all the members of His mystical body. Is it (then possible, beloved, that the Father can look with indifference, much less look away, from any child of His upon earth? is it possible that the case of any man of God can remain unknown? is it possible that any want can remain unsupplied, or any good thing not given, when Jesus is there for the very purpose of representing His whole elect family—the whole of the members of His body—the whole of the purchase of His blood, and the “less than the least !” says Paul; "the less than the least" cannot be so little as to be overlooked, because the glorious, unchanging, covenant Head is there, interceding and supplicating for every one that cometh unto God by Him. I cannot allow myself to quit this point without touching a little further upon this blessed, divine, and glorious Headship, so unchanging in its nature, and so essential to the welfare of the Church of the living God. Be it then remembered, that every covenant blessing is entrusted to this unchanging Head, that every promise in the Bible is "yea and amen," even in this covenant Head; that all the treasures of grace and glory, which the apostle calls riches in glory, are by Christ Jesus, our glorious covenant Head, that every member of His Church is as much interested in it, as treasured up in Him, the fulness of grace, as He is Himself. Oh, methinks I hear you say, “this is too strong a statement." Well, let us look at the expressions of divine inspiration about it, “If children then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ;" I pray you, however, that your view of the matter may not be obscure, to refer it to your present position in society. Suppose you were to be assured that you were joint heir with some prince or nobleman, you would at once consider that you were equally interested in all that appertained to the estates and the property of the person in question: only let it be settled and established as a point of law, that you really are " a joint heir,” and you will claim a joint interest and receive joint privileges and possessions. Upon this very ground of the text just cited, the believer in Jesus is authorized to look to the interests of Jesus Christ as his own, and all that He claims, all that He wishes, all that He possesses in His mediatorial character, in His official Headship, is the property and inheritance of every regenerate child of God on the face of this earth.
We pass on, then, to give one thought more on the unchanging Headship of Christ; on the close connexion that exists between the head and the body. There is no possibility of severing the head from the members; “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
-in Jesus, as the unchanging covenant Head of His Church. Here then is a deposit; all the love of God concentrated in Jesus, and you and I "joint heirs” of it—all the richness, fulness, freeness, sovereignty, and inexhaustibleness of the love of Jehovah, centering in Christ, and you and I joint heirs along with Him. I do not wonder that the Apostle sang so sweetly of Him, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” How can this be? Because of our joint heirship. One word more. He ascended upon high in His right as essential Deity. Though I have given priority of order to other particulars, it was not my intention to omit this because it is essential to Him in His mediatorial capacity. We must keep our eye on His essential Deity, for this constituted His right-His eternal right. “All that the Father hath is mine;" He lays His claim to it, and in that memorable request before cited, in which He prays the Father to glorify Him, it is a with His own glory;" the glory He had with Him before the world was. So our precious Christ, as essential Deity, having dwelt a little while on earth for His mediatorial office and work, could not be held down to earth, could not be detained here, neither on the one hand by those who imprisoned Him, nor on the other by those who by affection would have held Him. He must ascend up into heaven, and fill all things. His own essential Deity claimed this honour, and therefore it is said, "God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." He is now at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Oh, blessed, blessed position! A precious Christ in my nature, at the right hand of Deity, filling, the middle throne of Deity, occupying all heaven as the Son, having all power in heaven and on earth to exercise as His in Sovereign right, glorified in my nature, and glorified as eternal