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JOHN III. 32. “What he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth.” It is an ordinary thought concerning divine revelation, that Christ's mission was but to complete what prophets had begun; and that He added only another link (the most important it may be) to the chain of God's revealed counsels, which from the earliest ages had been running
This by no means gives an adequate view of the testimony of Him who comes from above, [and] is above all.”
For if we find, in the blessed person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the divine substantiation of every preceding type and promise, and anticipate in His reign the accomplishment of every foregoing prophecy, so must we understand that, in virtue of the place from whence He came, He becomes the revealer of truth, flowing from a centre in which prophets never stood, and opens a field of glory on which the eyes of prophets never gazed. For « no man hath, ascended
up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven." “ He that cometh from above is above all; He that is of the earth is earthly and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all. And what He hath seen and heard that He testifieth."
But these revelations of the Son, “these heavenly things,” of which He alone could speak, form the very basis of the church's communion and the bright objects of her hope. It is the grace of God to put us in the place of sons, and then to treat us as sons, in confidence and love, by giving us the Spirit of His Son, and by unfolding to us all His blessed thoughts through Christ, and all the counsels of His will. And how should our individual hearts rejoice in that touching expression of confidence towards us, “ Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you!"
A suffering Christ, and resulting glories, might be learned from the Spirit's testimony in the prophets; and the necessity of being born again, born of water and of the Spirit, in order to even Israel's entrance into the kingdom of God, might be gathered from the same testimony. The earthly things of this kingdom which are Israel's portion, are the subjects of prophetic testimony. But the heavenly things which could only be revealed to us when the cross had opened a way for us into heaven, belong to the testimony of Him who comes from above and is above all.
- What He hath seen and heard,” is the special subject of His testimony, and requires not only the new birth, but the Spirit of God's Son, and the relationship of sons in order to enjoy.
Moses stands as a type of Christ, as a prophet, or revealer of the mind of God; but even in the type, though bearing the same name, he is distinguished from other prophets, in these emphatic words; “ Hear now my words: if there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold" (Numbers xii. 6-8).
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken into us by His Son.” This as to the title of Son is at once admitted to assert for Him who bears it a dignity superior to the whole array of prophets; but it is not always as clearly seen that it marks an equally corresponding elevation as to the character and subjects of the revelation of the Son. This is partly intimated indeed in the terms of this passage, which are expressive of the imperfectness of all preceding communications; but it is fully declared in the words,
"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him."
What pregnancy of meaning is there in the very terms of this passage, if, alas ! familiarity with their expression, and worldliness of affections did not blunt our spiritual apprehension! “The only begotten Son!”65 The bosom of the Father !”—“ He hath declared Him!”
-adequately expressed this wondrous subject—the revelation of God!
The heart might well be arrested to dwell on the grace of God, which shines forth in sending such a messenger to reveal His mind--for “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”—but it is the special revelation made by Christ as the Son, which is our subject.
He is apart from all others in this, that He reveals GOD; and so reveals Him as to bring our souls into association with all that characterises the blessedness of heaven. For truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
He is indeed apart from all others in the accomplishment of redemption. He stands alone as the captain of our salvation; and He is equally alone in the manifestation of the Father, and the revelation of what gives a character to heaven.
Prophets could present God's character and ways as they were manifested in His government of this world, and His dealings with men; and blessed and wondrous are the various traits which are thus brought out; but without the revelation of the Son, the Father must still remain unknown. Now, indeed, can we say, known God, or rather are known of God," as well as
have known and believed the love which God hath to us.” None but He who is from heaven can reveal what is in heaven.
“If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of Man which is in heaven.”
They are not God's counsels about the earth, nor
Christ's glory there, which are revealed by the Son. These are the subjects of the prophetic testimony, and of Christ Himself in the Apocalypse when He takes the prophetic place. But as the Son He presents those revelations through which we have fellowship with heaven, and are called to walk as sons of God and citizens of heaven while pilgrims here on earth.
For even that oracle of the prophet which is taken up in the New Testament, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him," receives a new application in the hands of the Spirit
, and introduces to a far higher sphere of glory than that which attaches to it in connexion with Israel's hopes. It is in the New Testament applied to the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory”; and leads into the deep things of God"; the wondrous portion of that Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood, and which has “the mind of Christ."
Hence the necessity of faith, and a spiritual mind in the Church of God, in order to distinguish between the earthly things, and the heavenly things of scripture, and to apprehend that portion in grace which God has given to her.
While the first tabernacle was standing, its unrent veil and yearly entrance of the high priest with blood into the sanctuary, declared that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest." Nor could the worshipper (as now) with a purged conscience be invited to draw near," until Christ, by His one offering, had perfected for ever them that are sanctified, and opened for Himself a way as the high priest of our profession into heaven itself, there to appear in the presence of God for us." But we must remember that He who ascended is the same that descended first and there is the proper place of the Son in heaven, in the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, distinct from the place. He takes in "resurrection there
There is the love of Christ which in honouring God reaches inobedience even unto death, and in divine
compassion to the laying down of His life for us.
But beyond this, there is the declaration to us of that blessedness which only He who " was in the beginning with God and was God” could declare. It is not circumscribed by the presentation of the happiness of the Father's house, as the object of hope and the home of the weary; but it leads us into the interior joy of that house as characterised by Him whose house it is. It is not creatureblessing nor creature-joy that is the subject of His testimony, who comes forth from the bosom of the Father; but it is the characteristic joy of heaven, as the dwelling place of God-it is that which makes heaven heaven, and stamps its joy with the divine character of the fountain from whence it flows.
They that dwell in Thy house will be still praising Thee," shews the blessed occupation of that house; but when we listen to the voice of Christ telling us what He hath seen and heard, it brings us into participation with the very springs of that divine goodness, from which flows this unceasing heavenly joy. And O let it be remembered that it is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of His Son, that is given in order to enter into the communion and the displayed glory which characterise the home whither we are being led.
But where is the heart to estimate this confidence of love? Where the affections so set free from earth and self, as to be able to enter into this divine and heavenly joy?
How much of heaven in its 'real character may we learn, by following the footsteps, and tracing the ways of that Blessed One, who on earth was owned of heaven! And into what an atmosphere are we introduced as we hear Him, in the parables of Luke (chapter xv.), or in Matthew (chapter xviii.); teaching us the mind of heaven in contrast to the ways of man and the earthly mind ! But what perfection is there that is not found in Him who was God manifest in the flesh, and who would form our souls now by bringing us acquainted with the character and ways, the thoughts and counsels of God, and by leading us into all that distinguishes the home of the divine love.