THE NEW MAN AND THE ETERNAL LIFE.
We have thus gone through the series of our Lord's reiterated Amens, each of which has opened some further truth distinctive of the New Man and his eternal life. I would in conclusion sum up the teaching thus brought before us. For God, in giving us His Son, has given us this life. And just in proportion as we receive the Son is His life revealed in us. And though at this day, more perhaps than ever, when earthly advantage is so keenly sought, he who chooses this life of Christ, does it at the risk of being cast into the fiery furnace of the world's scorn, as a poor feeble fool and mystic dreamer, there is yet a seed to whom God's kingdom is a present joy, and the life of Christ the one unfailing reality. For such I gather up the distinctive features of this life, that we may more fully see our calling in Jesus Christ our Lord.
But first a word as to the connection of these Amens with Christ's own life. Christ Himself is the fulfilment of them all. In them we have as doctrines the self-same truths which come before us as facts in the life of Jesus Christ. These reiterated Amens describe the working of the life of God in flesh and blood, and Christ is the life of God in flesh and blood. But our Lord calls attention to these truths by words, lest our blindness should not see the facts as they are set before us in Himself under the veil of His flesh. For indeed Christianity is Christ, and Christ is Christianity. He is the Word made flesh. Therefore He is the fulfilment of every true word which ever was or shall be spoken. He is the fulfilment of the law. He is the fulfilment of the prophets. He is the fulfilment of all those hopes and traditions of the ancient heathen world, which were dim unconscious prophecies of Him that was to come. He is the substance and fulfilment also of every good thing which outward nature sets before our eyes, for nature also is a sacramental word. He is the bread, the vine, the water, and the rock, and the way, and the husband, and the tree of life, and the first-fruits, and the morning star, and the sun, and the kinsman-redeemer, and the prophet, and the priest, and the physician. For He is the fulfilment of His own words. Fallen man may say one thing and do another. The New Man is and must be what He speaks. So in reply to the question, "Who art thou?" He answers, "I am that which I speak from the beginning" (John 8:25); for what He said was what He was: His life was the perfect expression and fulfilment of His own teaching. And so, if only He lives in us, His words, even though we know it not, will be fulfilled in us, because His life is the fulfilment of His doctrine.
For what is the Gospel but the manifestation of the New Life which is formed in man by the reception of the Word and Spirit of the Lord. What does it tell us but that a New Man has been brought forth out of our divided nature, in whom the breach is healed, because God has come to dwell in man, that man through death may dwell in God. Is this the mere tradition of something which only once happened, in a far off country, eighteen hundred years ago, or is it the glad tidings of a fact which is through grace for ever true, that by the coming of the Word of God an eternal life is formed in man, even a "new man," "Christ in us, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27; 3:10; Gal. 4:19), who bears the cross, that man may die to his old life, and rises again, that man may live in God for ever. All this was first accomplished for us in Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the First-born Son, first out of life (Col. 1:15-17), first out of death (Col. 1:18); and in and by Him, by His life and death, the work was wrought for us, for in Him God is one with man, and man is one with God. But the work wrought for us in Jesus Christ is the sign and pledge of the self-same work, which God has ever been working, and still works in man by His Spirit. In His thirty years we have all the stages of the one eternal life, as it may be and has been brought forth in human nature. His infancy shows us the eternal life as it was known in Patriarchal days; His youth, the same life as it grew throughout the Jewish dispensation; His baptism opens our Christian position, how through a mystic death heaven opens, and man passes into a spiritual world, and the Spirit descends, and the Father's voice is heard, acknowledging man on earth to be His son. Lastly, Christ's death and resurrection show how man is made for ever one with God, not merely filled with His fulness here, but brought out of the limitations of the fall to be king of kings and lord of lords. Christ's life reveals it all. In Him God's purpose is declared for ever. But to share with Him in all this, He must be formed and grow in us. Then we too shall know something of all these same stages: a time, in infancy, without law: a time, in youth, when, though heirs, like Israel of old, we are under tutors and governors: then the time when heaven opens, and we come to death and resurrection. "The thing that hath been is that which shall be, and there is no new thing under the sun" (Eccl. 1:9). At each stage the New Man is son of God. These reiterated Amens, even as Christ's life for us, only call attention to some of the marks or stages of the appointed way.
Let us then briefly recapitulate this teaching.
First, the New Man's home is heaven. Heaven, shut to the fallen old man, is reopened to the New. So we are first assured that man shall see again his long-lost home, and angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (John 1:51). But how can these things be? Only by a heavenly birth; for the only way into any world is by a birth into it. To enter heaven therefore man must be re-born. A new life must be received, even the life of heaven; for so only can we live in heaven. And this new life comes through Him who gives Himself to be our life, even the Son of Man who is in heaven, who comes to earth that as many as receive Him may become the sons of God, and by the same way which He has gone for us, "born of water and of the Spirit," that is through death to present nature, and through the quickening of the Holy Ghost, may return with Him from earth to heaven, from death to life for evermore (John 3:3-15). But what kind of life is this eternal life? It is a life of rest, the sabbath of the Lord, because the New Man does nothing, and can do nothing, from himself, but only what the Father doeth. Therefore, instead of bringing death into the world, he rather quickens and gives life; instead of being judged, like the old man, he is ordained to judge others. And both by quickening and by judging he fulfils the Father's will, which is to overcome the curse, and to give to others the rest which they have lost through their own self-will (John 5:19-29). Is then this life self-supported? No. It lives by heavenly bread, even by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man who is in heaven; living by Him, as the branch upon the vine, and as the vine upon its root, by the continual communication and reception of the life which through the Son flows ever from the Father (John 6:26-58).
Then this life is also light; and its light frees man from the bonds which darkness ever lays upon him. It comes indeed into our darkness, but it breaks its chains. If we keep the word, we shall soon know. And then, if we know the truth, the truth will make us free. The Son, because He makes us sons, shall make us free indeed (John 8:31-36). This leads to the opening of the divine nature which through grace is ours. For the New Man is a son of God. In Him the Creator and the creature are indissolubly one; for by the coming of the eternal Son into our nature the fulness of the Godhead has dwelt in man, and the manhood has been taken into God. God has become man, that man may say, "I am." The Son of Man is very God (John 8:51-58). Then, because God is love, this life must go forth to serve others, in a service which brings it unto the place of erring needy souls, for whom the New Man gives himself, first like a shepherd walking with his sheep, and then laying down his life that they may live (John 10:1-15). For the New Man serves, not only by spending his strength for those who little understand him: he even becomes a sacrifice for them, content, like a corn of wheat, to fall into the ground and die, that by his self-sacrifice he may unite that which through man's self-will is disunited, and so may bring forth much fruit (John 12:23-32).
What all this costs then opens to us. The eternal life is tried by a humiliation such as mere flesh and blood could never bear. But the New Man knows that he comes from God and goes to God. Therefore he can stoop, not only to wash the feet of those who know not what they receive, but to be rejected for such humiliation, even to be betrayed by one, and denied by another, of those for whom these things are done, and who as yet are unprepared for such self-abasement (John 13:1-38). Yet in this very humiliation there is glory, for God is glorified thereby, and therefore glorifies even with Himself the soul which can thus humble itself, making it a vessel for His own manifestation. The New Man therefore can say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father, for the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works." Light, love, and power, shine out through him. It is not he that lives, but the Lord Himself who liveth in him. Henceforth he must be prophet, priest, and king, for the very works of Christ are the New Man's works, and even greater works are done, when man in Christ goes to the Father (John 14:9-14). But to this crowning joy the way is through sorrow. Through not seeing after the flesh,—for He says, "A little while ye shall not see me,"—man comes to that seeing where the sorrow shall be turned into joy, even fulness of joy, which no man taketh from us (John 16:16-24). Then the perfecting is reached, that perfect union with the Lord, where the will of the creature is swallowed up and lost in God's will; where therefore there is perfect rest, for only one will rules; the two are one, and One is all (John 21:15).
Such is this life, and such its end. We see at a glance how widely it differs in every distinctive characteristic from the way of the fallen old man.
In the first place, this life throughout depends on God, living by Him, and with Him, and for Him, in all things. Unlike the old man, who in his fall would live without God, if he could,—not really without Him, for no creature can be thus independent, but looking to self or creatures more than God, and choosing a path in self-will rather than obedience,—the New Man's strength and joy are all in God, and his highest glory is to know and do His will. When he comes into the world, he says, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:9); and as he departs, his words still are, "Into thy hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46). Throughout it is a life of faith, guided not by self, but by God, in all; and at every stage receiving from Him, depending upon Him, and giving of Him. Thus its Home is not self-made; its Birth is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; its Law is not to do its own will, but what it sees the Father do. So again its Meat is the Father's gift; its Freedom, to be as a son in a Father's house; its Service, in the life of God to spend and be spent for others to the uttermost. This entire dependence and self-surrender mark it throughout. Therefore in all things it can rest. God is its strength, and God can never fail.
Another characteristic of this life is its attendant cross. Joy also it surely has, and rest of heart, and peace with God, and a hope ever full of immortality. But with all this there is present pain. The life of love must suffer here, and be nigh to sorrows, and acquainted with grief. It seems strange that he who cares for all should himself be uncared for. But in this world it must be so. Love suffers here; and the eternal life is the life of love, and not of self-love. In all it sacrifices itself, bearing other's burdens, even dying for them, while yet, like God, it is rejected for a season. And these reiterated Amens, even as Christ's life, though at first disciples cannot understand it, make no secret of the fact, that the cross must be our portion, if we will live the life of God. What is the very first stage but a passage through the waters; and what is the last but a participation in Christ's cup, to make us perfect as our Lord. And all the teaching as to the New Man's service, and his dying, like the corn of wheat, and his humiliation, and his sorrow, and his utter self-surrender, only repeat the same one truth, that the elect must suffer, for only thus is nature overcome, and transmuted into that which can rise to and abide in God for ever. Man as he is must be consumed, that he may be re-made in God's image. This can only be accomplished through the waters and the fires. Not only therefore must the old man die, but the new man, who is brought forth out of the old, as he first grows in the likeness of sinful flesh, and in the place and nature of the old man, (Note: In a note on the statement of Athanasius, that "the Saviour, in taking our body of humiliation, took a servant's form and put on that flesh which was enslaved to sin," Dr. Newman, in the Oxford Translation of the Fathers, edited by Dr. Pusey, says, "It was usual to say against the Apollinarians, that, unless our Lord took on Him our nature, as it is, He had not purified and changed it, as it is, but another nature. ... It may be asked whether this doctrine does not interfere with that of the immaculate conception; but that miracle was wrought in order that our Lord might not be born in original sin, and does not affect, or rather includes, His taking flesh of the substance of the Virgin, that is of a fallen nature. If indeed sin were of the substance of our fallen nature, as some heretics have said, then He could not have taken our nature without partaking our sinfulness; but if sin be, as it is, a fault of the will, then the divine power of the Word could sanctify the human will, and keep it from swerving in the direction of evil." Athanasius' Four Discourses against the Arians, i. ch. xi. § 8, p. 241, note 6. The whole note, which is quite a Catena of authorities upon this question, is well worth turning to.) must bear that old man's curse, till by the fire of God that curse is turned into a blessing. The altar of the Lord reveals it all, where the creature dies and is consumed, to ascend in a new form, as "an offering made by fire unto the Lord."
One other point I notice in this life, that while it is from first to last the same, the very life of God in human nature, yet as here revealed it passes through stages, in which it goes from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7), changing its form as its varied virtues come out into manifestation through the veil of the flesh which for a season hides them. Saints of bygone days were wont to speak of the three great stages of this new life, as, first the Purgative Way, then the Illuminative Way, and lastly the Unitive Way, which are but the varied phases through which the spirit passes from conception to manifestation, each having its distinctive form, but all equally workings of the same one life, the differing forms being the result of the varying growth of the new man at different stages. Not that at any one of these stages there was not always something of all these marks of the one life, but rather that at each stage one or other mark preponderates; the first being specially distinguished by separation or purgation, the second by illumination, the third by unbroken union and communion with the Lord. This series of reiterated Amens has the same advance. Though all are aspects of one life, one can hardly overlook the growth or progress in them. In the first four, in the Home, and Birth, and Law, and Meat, of the New Man, the preponderating idea is Separation or Purgation. Need I point out how in the first there is separation from the world, in the second, separation from the flesh, in the third, separation from the devil, for there is nothing in man more devilish than self-will; to come instead, first to that which is of heaven, then to that which is of the Spirit, and then to that which is of the Father, both in rest and action. But is there not like purgation also in the New Man's Meat, which by giving new blood makes a new creature, free from the diseases and defilements of the fallen old man. The next four sayings trace the Illuminative Way. All that is said as to the Liberty, and the Divine Nature, and the Service, and Sacrifice, of the New Man, speaks not of life only, but of the growing "light of life," which "shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (John 8:12; Prov. 4:18). And then in the last four sayings we have what is Unitive, in the Humiliation, and the Glory, and the Joy, and finally in the Perfected Union, which is the end of all. And yet the varied stages are but one life, as it grows from earth to heaven, and from divided nature to know and rest in God.
Now Christ, as we have seen, is the perfect pattern of the way. In His own life He lived through all the stages by which man comes from earth to heaven. His life is the witness of God's purpose towards the world, and a type of man as God will one day make him. Believers are indeed the first-fruits, pioneers in the path of man's return to God, and pledges of that which through Christ is coming to their brethren. But man as man, that is the world, is the creature which is redeemed in Christ (1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:6-9; 1 John 4:14), and destined to come by Him where He, the Head, has gone already for us. Where then is man at the present day in the path figured for us in Christ? What remains for him to learn, and do, and suffer, here? What is the next great step which he has to take? It is to this point I would call attention. For the days we live in have tokens that some great change is close at hand, and that our race, which step by step has reached its present state, is about to pass, not surely without a crisis, for every advance is through some crisis, into some new and we may believe some higher experience. Does Christ's life give us no light here? Does it not rather show us the appointed way to the consummation, which has indeed been individually experienced by the elect, who, as God's first-fruits, ever lead the way, and of which they are the witness and example, but which, unless I misunderstand Christ's life, is to be reached at last by the race whose nature He has redeemed, and already brought in Himself through death from earth to heaven. If I mistake not, this great change even now is coming on the world. The veil, already rent in Christ, shall pass away. Not the elect only, but man as man, shall see the heavens open, and the revelation of the kingdom and power of our God and of His Christ (Rev. 12:10).
For Christ is man according to God's mind. In Him we see what man can be as requickened and remade by God's Spirit. All through His life there was growing revelation, that is unveiling, of God's life and truth, which through man's fall were hidden from us. From the beginning He was God's heir: but He grew in wisdom and stature here. His circumcision, baptism, and transfiguration, were stages in the path of man's return to God. Was not His death also an advance? Does it not show us the one way by which the world is to be brought to God and heaven? Assuming, as I have said, that Christ's infancy figured the Patriarchal age, which was without law, and His youth and circumcision the Jewish dispensation, and His baptism man's coming to the present Christian ground, even to the knowledge of God's fatherhood, through a mystic death and resurrection; what do Christ's actual death and resurrection and ascension witness, but that there is something for the world beyond man's present state, even a passing through judgment and dissolution, to the things which flesh and blood can never see. (Note: The Hebrew word for age is olam, עלם, which is thus explained by Fürst: "That which is wrapped up, covered over, or concealed. Specifically time, the end of which is hidden, whether in relation to the past or to the future. Hence also eternity, the extremities of which are veiled. From this word comes the Latin velum, and thence again revelatio." (Heb. Lex. in loco.) Parkhurst gives the same explanation of the word.) Saints in bygone days foresaw that the Church would come to a tribulation, which should make her cry, like Christ, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me;" (Note: Speaking of the Church, Nicholas de Lyra says, (Comment. on Psalm xxi.,) "Videbitur a Deo derelinqui;" and he adds, that "it is the Church, as Christ's body, which will then say with Him, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" So again, (on Psalm ci.,) speaking of the time of Antichrist, he says, "Tanta erit tribulatio, quod videbitur aliquibus de ecclesia, quod fides Catholica debeat totaliter deficere. Therefore it is added, in the person of the Church, 'O my God, call me not away in the midst of my days,' by taking me away out of this present life, before the end of the world.") out of which, through the "consumption which is decreed" (Isa. 10:22), she shall be raised to another state, and like her Head, even through judgment, be yet more blessed and made a blessing. Individually each believer has thus advanced with Christ. But there will be a world-fulfilment of the story, when man as man through judgment shall attain to that which Christ as man through death has entered for us.
To me all things seem to witness that this change is at the doors, that Christendom is even now on the very eve of judgment, and yet that the break up of the Church, like that of Israel of old, will raise the world another step, and lead, not only to the departure of the fleshly forms of Christ, but to an outpouring of the Spirit, such as hitherto has not been known, and to an attainment by the race of an opening of heaven and the things of God, which as yet has been the lot of very few. Christ shall be revealed. It will not be what so many are expecting, the continuation of that which now is seen, but the bringing in, or rather bringing out, of that which still is hidden, which, while it will surely shake all that can be shaken, will reveal also something which shall not be moved (Heb. 12:27). But the thought that another and better dispensation will succeed the present is as offensive to many in the Church as the idea that the gospel should succeed the law was to God's ancient people Israel. Those who counted themselves the elect could not believe the passing away of that which had stood so long, and been confirmed by such divine sanctions. Yet man grew out of the Jewish to the Christian stage. And now, if I err not, by the Church's judgment, and through a process very similar to that which happened to the Jew, man is not only to extend what he now has,—much less to retrograde, as some believe, to Jewish ceremonies,—but rather to advance by the development of the life of God within to something still higher and broader and more spiritual. Man progresses, not merely in extension, but in development; for the progress of life is the progress of development; and Christ's life and death are the pattern of the way from flesh to spirit, and from the lowest parts of the earth to highest heaven.
Meanwhile and ever the life which can pass unhurt through all is the eternal life which is already ours through Christ Jesus. It burns as light in the kingdom of darkness, unpolluted by it, and even transforming all that it illumines by its meek yet mighty power. It is the hope of the world, which unconsciously waits for the manifestation of the sons of God; for the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:19, 20). It is called to judge and save the world, though the cross yet presses on it, and the veil yet hides its true glory. The elect can bide their time, though the cross is still an offence. Our real shame is not the cross, but that we so little know it;—not our temptation and humiliation, but that where Christ was rejected and despised we are rich and reign as kings without Him. We are so easily contented to be saved, and not be saviours (Obadiah 21; 1 Tim. 4:16); to be converted to Christ, as people say, and not also converted into Christ, as God would have us. For He has called us through the cross to be conformed to Him, that it may not be we, but Christ, who liveth in us (Gal. 2:20); to see only with His eyes, and to hear only with His ears; to be like Him, quickening spirits (1 Cor. 15:45), by whom He works His will; to know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and that we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 5:20). This is the New Man, and this is the true God, and this is the eternal life.
Such is our calling. Man is God's heir in Christ Jesus. And although the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; though we too, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world; it is no less true, that, when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore we are no more servants, but sons; and if sons, then heirs of God through Christ (Gal. 4:1-7). If then nobility of ancestry in this world lays an obligation upon the heirs, not to disgrace the name they bear by any act unworthy of their high lineage,—if a king's son cannot be mean,—what should they be who know their calling, and their Father's purpose towards them; that they are called with Christ to judge the world, and that, when He shall appear, they shall be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is. Unbelief may still keep thousands strangers to their true life, and to God's purpose towards them. Every one that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself even as He is pure (1 John 3:3).
This then is the sum of the whole matter. The powers of the heavenly life, lost in Adam's fall, have been raised up again in Christ Jesus, and may be brought forth, in like manner, even out of the body of this death, by the coming of the Holy Ghost, and the overshadowing power of the Most High, by whom that "holy thing" is formed in sinful man, which is, and therefore is truly called, the Son of God (Luke 1:35; Gal. 4:19; Col. 1:27). This is the mystery of the Gospel, that the incorruptible seed is still brought forth from our weak and fallen human nature. And the children of this miraculous generation must be like their Head, lambs and sacrifices to God, having the seven horns and seven eyes (Rev. 5:6), that is the sevenfold powers of His meek life, which, through the death of self, come forth as rays out of the life and light which He bestows and brings forth in us. These are the seven spirits of God, which, though once quenched and lost in Adam, when he sunk under the dominion of the serpent's lie, to be as a beast where he was set to have dominion, have been restored in Christ, in the tabernacle which He raises up, where the "seven lights" again are burning, and the "bread of faces," that is the bread which manifests God, is again upon the table (Exod. 25:30, 31). Without this sevenfold spirit, which is the witness that the New Man has come, who concludes the days of labour, and ushers in the day of rest, none can be complete with the double completeness which God has purposed for us; not only to be built up a holy house, in which He may dwell, but to show His virtues and His glories, when, through the rending of the veil, the holiest of all is opened, where light is swallowed up of light, in the glory of the cloud which dwells upon the mercy-seat of God (Lev. 16:2). Such a temple God has already raised up in Jesus Christ Our Lord. Such will He make those who by grace in all things wholly yield themselves to Him, that in them, as in the Head, His image and likeness may be seen, with all the "lights and perfections" (Exod. 28:30; Urim and Thummim mean simply "lights" and "perfections") which belong to the kingdom and priesthood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Unless this seed be quickened in us, we cannot enter the kingdom. Nothing but the Spirit of life, through Jesus Christ, with all the powers of His heavenly life, can make us like Him, or bring us where He is gone before. He must be in us, or we cannot live His life. He must clothe us, as the woman was clothed with the sun (Rev. 12:1), or we shall be naked. He must enrich us with His seven-fold gifts, or we shall be helpless to serve in His service. He waits at the tent-door of our mortal flesh to fill us with His fulness,—to bring forth in us the precious things of which the carnal service of the temple, with its vessels of silver and gold, and its outward water, fire, and blood, and its lamps, and incense, and fine raiment, were but a passing shadow; even to give us His own flesh, to make us clean like Him, and to kindle in us the true fire, which shall transmute and make us light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). But the gate is strait which leads to the manifestation of the glory of the Lord. Self must die that Christ may be revealed. The cross alone opens the kingdom. By it the serpent's head is bruised: by it the image of the beast is judged and broken: by it we pass from our poor house of clay to the fulness of the glory of the New Man, even to the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Christ's life and death still open all. May we be found in that New Man, and in His eternal life for evermore.
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