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of it to Christ by the Apostles ? Was it not thus the everlasting gates lifted up their heads, that the King of Glory might return to his Throne? This view is not contrary to Scripture or the articulated faith of the people of God, as far as I know. And it certainly opens up grand conceptions of the glory of Christ, as well as of the mighty vastness of our Father's House, in which are many mansions.
Although there are but few themes, if indeed there are any, in the whole range of theological contemplation, more noble than this one--very few more sublime and profitable for devout reflections-yet it is a subject of considerable difficulty, and of much controversy among learned men, both ancient and modern. It is the more important, therefore, that in our remarks we should endeavor to keep the facts as stated in the Holy Scriptures distinctly before us, and try to know the meaning of the terms in which these facts are set forth.
I do not understand that the Creed or the Word of God teaches, that Christ's sitting at the right hand of God means that He is not equal to the Father. I do not see that the learned controversies that have been carried on about the place of honor among the ancients, or with the Romans, have any thing to do with this point. Whether with the Romans the highest place of honor was at the right hand or at the left one, has nothing to do with this Article. All we need to know is, that the Bible speaks of the practice of the Hebrews. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we have the expressions, “ the right hand of the Majesty,” and “the right hand of the Throne of the Majesty," and "the right hand of the Throne of God," clearly intimating that this was the place of honor. Accordingly, we find in the 80th Psalm, 17, that the man whom
THE RIGHT HAND IS HONOR.
God loves and honors is the man of his right hand. And Solomon says: “A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart is at his left.” The meaning of this is, that right-hand things are wise, useful, excellent, good ; and left-hand things are just the contrary. In Joseph's placing of his sons to receive his father's blessing, we find the elder on Jacob's right hand, as the place of the highest honor. And Job complains of the want of respect among the young men of his day for the aged, by saying that things had come to such a pass, that even the lads, the youth not of age, assumed to take their places at his right hand. And our Lord himself declares that at the last day, His people will be set on his right hand, as a token of his approbation and of the honors to be done to them ; but the wicked on his left, in testimony of their disgrace. The sacred writers certainly refer to the custom of the Hebrews, and mean by the right hand, the place of highest honor-denoting dignity equal to that of the Father. Chrysostom says: “If inferiority had been intended, the Scriptures would have placed our Lord on the left hand of the Throne.” And Theophylact says: “Christ sitteth on the right hand, and on high; in order to show that He is equal in dignity to the Father.” And another old writer says: “The Father offers Christ his Son an exalted place by himself on his Throne; and, for the purpose of doing him honor, he has set him in an everlasting seat at his right hand."*
Is Christ, then, greater than the Father? So some Socinians have charged us with holding. They say it must be so, if our views of the dignity of sitting at the right hand of the Father Almighty are correct. But the Apostle takes an entirely different view : “When all
* Quoted from Witsius, vol. ii. p. 242.
things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, who did put all things under Him." 1 Cor. xv. 27. It is clear therefore that sitting at the right hand of the Throne of God does not mean superiority, but only that He is equal, not inferior. The Father is considered as sitting in the midst of the throne, and our Lord as Mediator is next in dignity. Nor are you to suppose that the seat on the left of the throne must always be filled with some other person who is inferior. When King Solomon desired to show that there was no one whom he would honor more than his mother Bathsheba, he placed her on his right hand, whereas if he had placed her at his left side, leaving the seat at his right side, vacant, it would still have implied there was some one to be preferred to his mother, although not then actually occupying the seat of dignity. The representation of the Persons of the Godhead as occupying a throne refers to the administration of the Mediatorial kingdom of our Lord Jesus. And his Session at the right hand is a metaphor, signifying that He occupies the place of honor, of power, and of joy. And so also,
The term sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty in heaven is metaphorical, not expressive of literal posture, but implying dignity, sovereignty, repose, continuance, and the exercise of supreme judgment and authority. Our learned men have shown that it denotes, first, honor. Servants stand, but the master sits. Angels stand around the Throne ; but Daniel says, “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit." And in showing Christ's superiority to angels, the Apostle asks : “To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on my right hand ?''
Secondly. It expresses judicial and royal authority: “Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the
SITTING AND STANDING,
twelve tribes of Israel." Matt. xix. 28. And it was predicted of the Messiah that He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his Throne. “In mercy shall the Throne be established, and He shall sit upon it.” Zech. vi. 13. Isa. xvi. 5.
Thirdly. Sitteth at the right hand of God denotes rest and long continuance in dignity. It refers to the glorious rest which the Redeemer enjoys.
- Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Ps.
“For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet." 1 Cor. xv. 25.
We must not think, however, that our Lord's sitting is inconsistent with Stephen's vision of him “standing at the right hand of God." Here the word does not denote posture of the body so much as his perfect readiness to receive the martyr's soul. Sitting expresses his glorious rest and authority; and standing declares his readiness to protect his servant. Thus Gregory the Great says: “We must consider what is intended by Mark's expression, 'He sat on the right hand of God,' and by Stephen's saying, 'I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Why does Mark affirm that He sits, while Stephen avers that he saw Him standing ? But know, brethren, that it belongs to a judge to sit; to a warrior, or helper, to stand. Since, therefore, our Redeemer, being exalted to heaven, even now exercises universal judgment, and will come at last as the Judge of all, Mark describes Him as sitting after He was received up; for, in consequence of the glory of His ascension, He will appear as Judge at the end of the world. Stephen, engaged in the labors of the contest, beheld him whom he regarded as his helper in a standing posture ; because He fought for him, and supported him by his grace from heaven, that He might obtain the victory over the perverseness of His persecutors on
The meaning, then, of the words : “And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty,” is that Christ in his person and in his kingly office occupies the highest glory. This is the crowning part of His exaltation. Even on earth He was transfigured, as an illustration of the glory that was in him, but then veiled, and in his resurrection He came forth from the dead to an immortal state, and in his ascension “He was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God.” This glory is peculiar to Christ. “ He set him at bis own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things.under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” Eph. i. 20, 23. From this passage of the Apostle it is clear that Christ is above all prophets, teachers, and legislators of past ages, and of the present and of all future ages of the Church. Men and angels, however glorious in his service, are under Him. 'So it was with Moses and the Prophets, and so it was with his own Apostles, and so in all ages to come, Christ is far higher than all the angels. No creature is associated with Him in his dominion. He is the sole, Supreme, only “Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.”'
But it is said, believers have the promise of reigning
* Quoted out of Witsius, vol. ii. pp. 248, 249.