« PrécédentContinuer »
THE VISION OF GOD.
1 CORINTHIANS Xiii, 12.-Then we shall see face to face.
It is often mentioned as one of the noblest privileges of the saints in heaven, that they see the face of God, and that God dwells with them in a manner in which he does not dwell with the inhabitants of any other region of the universe. "As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "The tabernacle of God shall be with men, and he will dwell with them; and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." "Now, we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face; now, I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known."
It is not to be inferred from these expressions, that God will ever be an object of direct perception to the bodily senses of the saints: for "God is a spirit," and all that we know of the nature and attributes of body and spirit, of matter and mind, leads to the conclusion that material organs can discern only that which is material. With reference to God himself, it is mentioned as one of his distinguishing properties, that he is the Being who is "invisible," that "no man hath seen him at any time, nor can see him ;" and if, as a
spirit, he cannot be seen by the bodily eye, by a parity of argument, it may be presumed that he cannot be perceived by any other bodily sense or organ.
While we have this reason to presume that God himself will not be an object of direct or immediate perception to the senses, even of the glorified body of the saint, it does not follow that he may not operate in various ways on that body. In the constitution of our own nature, we have experimental evidence that matter and mind may be so connected that the one shall powerfully affect the other. But He who formed the body and created the spirit of man, and connected them by links so close and mysterious, must be able to operate on both, in a manner more powerful than either operates on the other. It involves, therefore, nothing incredible or improbable, to suppose that in heaven God will operate directly on the glorified body of the believer; that he will make it the vehicle of conveying to the soul perceptions the most wonderful, and sensations the most delightful; and that he will make it the medium of awakening in the soul a sense the most vivid of his immediate presence, and of his benignant and omnipotent influence.
Not only may the Almighty operate directly on the glorified body of the saint in various ways now unknown and inconceivable, he may also exhibit in heaven some material and sensible emblem of his presence.Such an emblem as the shechinah, the cloud of mingled splendour and gloom which resided of old between the cherubim in the tabernacle and temple, and which is often mentioned in the Old Testament as "the glory of the Lord." That there will be exhibited some similar emblem in the heavenly temple, is rendered probable by the assertions in the epistle to the Hebrews, that the ancient tabernacle contained "the shadows of
heavenly things," and "the patterns of things in the heaven;" and by the expressions in the book of Revelation, that the New Jerusalem " has in it the glory of God," and that "the glory of God lightens" or illumines it; expressions which seem evidently to allude to the ancient shechinah, and to be descriptive of some similar emblem of the divine presence; and if such an emblem be exhibited in heaven, we may safely presume that, in amplitude and grandeur, it will surpass the ancient shechinah, as far as heaven itself will surpass, in extent and splendour, the tabernacle of Moses, or the temple of Solomon.
If I mistake not, it is chiefly in reference to the material and sensible manifestation of the divine presence and glory in heaven, that we are accustomed to say that, while God is essentially present throughout the whole infinitude of space, and while he is graciously present with the church and with the saints on earth, he is gloriously present in heaven. But "God is a Spirit," and therefore this manifestation of his presence and glory in heaven, of which we read so often in scripture, must be chiefly of a spiritual nature; a manifestation, consequently, addressed not to the senses of the body, but to the faculties of the mind.
For the illustration and improvement of this text, let me invite your thoughts to three things:-The object of the vision here mentioned; the mode of it; and the effects of it. In dependence on divine aid, I. Let us consider briefly the object of the vision here mentioned.
You will observe, that while the text expresses most energetically the clearness and distinctness of this vision, it does not specify the object beheld." Then we shall see face to face." But what shall we see? There can be little doubt that, while the expression
may refer to celestial or spiritual things generally, God, or the face of God, is the object principally intended. The text contains an allusion to the honour conferred on Moses, of whom it is said, that "the Lord spake unto him face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." It would seem that the second person of the Godhead appeared to Moses in a human form; and it is to this appearance, and to the intimacy and familiarity of the manner in which that divine person held intercourse with Moses, that the language just quoted refers. In the text, the expression "seeing face to face," is evidently employed in a figurative sense, as referring chiefly, if not exclusively, to the perception of the spiritual glory of God,—that glory of which only we are now to treat. This is proved not only by the consideration formerly stated, that God, being a spirit, his glory must be chiefly of a spiritual nature, but by this additional consideration, that this imperfect vision of God, described as "seeing through a glass darkly," and with which the vision mentioned in the text is contrasted, is a mental, not a corporeal operation. And, accordingly, the vision here spoken of is represented as substantially the same thing as the mental operation of knowing.—“ Now, we see through a glass darkly; but then, face to face: now, we know" only "in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
God himself, then, or the face of God, that is, the spiritual glory of the divine nature and character, will be the chief object of vision to the heavenly inhabitants. Now, think for a moment how transcendantly grand and wonderful this object is. Those material objects and scenes which enchant the eye or ravish the soul by their beauty, their splendour, or their sublimity; the smiling landscape, the ocean tossed into fury or smoothed into "a molten looking-glass," the azure
sky, and the refulgent sun,—these objects interest us chiefly by the mental associations and emotions which they awaken. And much as they interest or delight us, how faint the impressions they produce, compared with the impressions produced by mental powers and moral qualities, by profound wisdom and lofty genius, by heroic fortitude, tender compassion, and disinterested love. In the character and conduct of our fellowmen, mental powers and moral excellencies are presented only as scattered fragments and dim shadows; and, even in their purest and brightest form, created power and excellence are only a feeble emanation, a glimmering and sickly ray from the underived and infinite splendour of God. In him all perfections, natural, intellectual, and moral, centre and dwell, as the rays of light centre and dwell in the sun. What a magnificent and transporting spectacle, then, to the mental eye of the glorified saint, to behold the various attributes of the Almighty,—his spirituality and immutability, his eternity and immensity, his infinite power and wisdom, his holiness and benevolence,-both as streaming forth in radiations of glory over the innumerable provinces of the immeasurable universe, and as dwelling in his own nature, as in their original source,
-as in an illimitable ocean of light, and purity, and goodness! From their very nature, moral excellencies are far superior to intellectual talents and attainments; and there is, therefore, nothing presumptuous in asserting that the moral attributes of God constitute, with respect to him, "the glory that excelleth." It is in the character and work of Jesus Christ that we are furnished with the most instructive and the most impressive display of those attributes. He is "the image of the invisible God;" and by "beholding the divine glory" manifested in his unveiled face, believers are