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in heaven. He has made the atonement, and we are comprehended in it; but our salvation, individually, is still a doubtful matter, and is yet to be wrought out by our agency and his. There is not a doctrine of our holy religion ; there is not a duty of common life; but when the mind thinks properly upon them, it connects them with the scene of our Lord's present transactions; with what he is doing in heaven preparatory to the consummation of all things.
The consideration of this momentous subject naturally embraces Christ's mediatorial kingdom and office, of which three principal particulars are related; First, That he is invested with all authority and power: Secondly, That by virtue of this investiture, or derived honour and pre-eminence, he is qualified to be our Intercessor with God: and, Thirdly, That at the end of the world, he will resign this authority and office, which are only of temporary duration, “ that God may be all in all.” Let us, on the present occasion, consider the two former of these particulars.
I. After our blessed Saviour's resurrection from the dead, he made divers manifestations of himself to mankind for the space of forty days, and proved, by the production of the same body in which he had died upon the cross, that he was the same identical person whom they had known when alive. At the last of these manifestations, he is thus stated to have addressed his disciples, “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” He had, therefore, received from God the Father certain new prerogatives as the reward of his obedience unto death, by virtue of which he was entitled to exercise a complete sovereignty over all things. The first exercise of this sovereignty was then enforced by his giving commission to the Apostles to teach and to baptize; to teach repentance, and to baptize for the washing away of sin. Having thus constituted his visible Church in the company of his twelve apostles, and appointed them its advocates and supporters, he went up into heaven, in his human body, in the presence of the apostolical assembly, and the clouds received him out of their sight. But at the same time that he left this Church in its infant state, he gave it this assurance, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world;" which words clearly and expressly assert his constant presence with, inspection of, and guardianship over it. Removed from it as to all visible and bodily intercourse, he nevertheless solemnly declared, that, in a real and positive sense, not figuratively, nor ambiguously, but actually and intimately, he would be with it to the very end of time. So far we have his own words, from his own lips, spoken on the earth to his intimate and highly-favoured friends, immediately before they were to lose sight of his visible and animating presence.
of the kingdom or sovereignty awarded him for his obedience unto death. This is signified to us, in the declaration of St. Peter, who, speaking of him, says, he “is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” Or, as it is more fully expressed by St. Paul, who, magnifying the grace and omnipotence of God, ascribes the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the working of this mighty power, “ which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, 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.”
These passages show the extent of the dominion with which our blessed Lord was invested, on his ascension into heaven, and are in perfect accordance with what he said to his Apostles, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
The phrase, “ the right hand of God,” signifies the highest station of honour, being a phrase borrowed from the custom of great men, who sit nearest to the king according to their eminence. And the full import of both the passages amounts to this, that Christ was exalted above every being in the universe, and endued with sovereignty corresponding to such elevation, the Creator and the Creator's power being alone excepted. For St. Paul says, quoting from the book of Psalms, “He hath put all things under his feet;" that is, God hath subjected all to the dominion of Christ. “ But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him;" that is, when the Psalmist saith, God hath put all things under Christ, it is manifest, that God himself is excepted, who did put all things under him.
The distinction which is evidently made in the two natures of Christ throughout this view of his character, must be carefully observed and kept in view; otherwise, the sense will appear confused, and the instruction which it contains be lost. God and Christ are here spoken of as two separate beings, because whatever relates to the mediatorial character of our Lord, belongs to his humanity. It was absolutely necessary to make this distinction, lest the perfect God and perfect man, which made up together the one great Redeemer of our souls, should be considered as one entire nature, and the parts which each undertook to perform in our redemption, should become mixed and indeterminate. What is said, therefore, of God's giving power to Christ; of exalting him to his right hand; of investing him with the fullest sovereignty; and of Christ's receiving such power and dignity, and taking upon himself the exercise thereof, has reference to the human nature, which alone was capable of advancement. As that Divine Being who is in the form of God, he was always in possession of the fullest sovereignty. Whilst standing on the earth, and conversing with Nicodemus, he declared to him, that he was even then in heaven. But this
* John iii. 13.
inherent power was now veiled in the flesh; and, submitting to the constraints of human nature, he did not attempt or affect to appear with godly honours. * His divinity was then subservient to his humanity, and it was in some sense lost sight of, that the scheme of our redemption might be accomplished in the flesh. As man, he suffered and died and rose again, the man Jesus Christ, the man-God. The nature in which he did this was that in which he was afterwards glorified. It could admit of degrees of glory and recompense, and it accordingly set down, with supreme authority, at the right hand of the omnipotent God.
The recollection of this two-fold nature of Christ solves at once the difficulties which regard his exaltation, and serves to explain and render easy, the otherwise complex accounts which we have of him. Hence we perceive, that what St. Paul says of his “ being more* highly exalted,” as the rendering of the passage to the Philippians, (Phil. ii. 9.) where he treats of the subject, should properly be, that is, being exalted to a higher pitch of glory than he had before he came into the world, is not a strange and doubtful expression, but one that is perspicuous, satisfactory, and intelligible, for it relates to the glory of his office as Mediator, not to the essential glory of his nature and godhead. In his last prayer, before his agony, he beseeches God, “ And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” And
Bishop Sherlock, Vol. iv. Sermon 1.