It is clear that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
I. THE WRITER - CHRIST. Many great men, especially great thinkers, have perpetuated their influence and have served their race by their writings. As poets, philosophers, or moralists, they have made a place for themselves in the mind of humanity. The greatest of all, the Divine Man, wrote nothing. It is greater to be than to write; and the Lord Jesus simply lived and worked, suffered, died, and conquered. He could not compress and limit his mind within the compass of a treatise or a volume. He left his evangelists and apostles to write of him; his earthly manifestation thus spoke a universal language. Yet, in a sense, he has always been writing, and he is writing now. He is still daily issuing epistles to the world.
II. THE EPISTLE - CHRISTIANS. As a friend and counsellor, when on a journey and at a distance, communicates by letter with those who need his guidance and the assurance of his interest, so our Lord, though he has ascended on high, is ever sending epistles to the children of men. Every Christian upon whom he impresses his own will, character, and purposes, thus becomes Christ's communication to the world, written by his hand, and authenticated by his autograph. Every individual is a syllable, every congregation a word, every generation of believers a line, in the ever-lengthening scroll, which approaches its close as the ages near the end.
III. THE TABLET - THE HEART. God does not write on stone, as men did in ancient monumental inscriptions, or as he once did on the tables of the Law. Nor on waxen tablets, as men wrote of old with the stylus, in notes of ordinary business or friendship. Nor on parchment or papyrus, as perhaps these Epistles of Paul were written. But Christ writes on tablets that are hearts of flesh. The expression, adapted from the Old Testament, is an impressive one. In the Proverbs, Wisdom invites the young man to write her precepts upon the tablets of his heart. By Jeremiah the Lord promised to write his Law upon his people's heart. Christ takes the human soul and works upon it, and engraves there his own characters, sets down there his own signature, and sends the human nature - so written upon - into the world, to tell of himself, to convey his thought, his will.
IV. THE AGENCY - NOT INK, BUT THE SPIRIT OF GOD. As in the processes of nature we see the operation of the living God, so in grace we discern spiritual handwriting. The Spirit of God most deeply reaches and most blessedly affects the spirit of man. The Spirit carries truth and love home to the heart with an incomparable power. He writes upon the soul in deep, legible, sacred, and eternal characters.
V. THE HANDWRITING AND SUBSTANCE OF THE EPISTLES. What difference there is in the appearance and in the matter of the letters we daily receive! They vary in handwriting, in style, in tone, in matter, according to the character of the writer, the relation of the writer to the reader, the business upon which they treat. But there is something characteristic in all - all tell us something of our correspondents, and of their mind and will. So is it with these living epistles described in the text. Every epistle tells of the Divine Writer, bears witness to the Lord from whom it emanates, is evidently written in his handwriting, and reveals his mind and heart. Every epistle must be so authenticated by his signature that it cannot be suspected to be a forgery. Spirituality, holiness, obedience, meekness, benevolence, - these are the proofs that the epistle is the composition of the Christ. This is to be manifestly, unmistakably, declared.
VI. THE READERS - ALL MEN. There is some writing which only a few can read; the characters may be ill written and illegible, or they may be in cipher, or the language may be scientific and technical. There are letters of private business or of personal friendship, only intended for certain individuals. But there is literature, such as the Bible or the law of the land, intended for the instruction and benefit of all. So, whilst there is religious language only fully understood by the initiated, by a select class - e.g. doctrines, meditations, prayers - there is language intended for all mankind. The Christian character and life can be read with profit by all men. They can comprehend the virtues which adorn the Christian, and which are the manifest signs of the Lord's spiritual presence. If we are truly Christ's, then his handwriting will be legible to all men, and all men who know us may gain some advantage through reading what the Divine hand has inscribed upon our nature. - T.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.1. We should substitute "reflecting" for "beholding." Christians are represented not as persons looking into a mirror, but as themselves the mirrors. They who uncover their souls to the influence of Christ reflect His glory, and by continuing to do so they attain to that glory. It is as if by some process the image of a person who gazes into a mirror should not be merely reflected for the moment, but permanently stamped upon it.
2. Recall the incident which suggested the figure. When Moses came down from the Mount his countenance shone so as to dazzle beholders; he acted, as it were, like a mirror to the glory of God. But Moses knew that the reflection would pass away, and therefore he put on a veil, that the people "might not see the end of it." Had they done so they might have supposed that God had retired from him, and that no more authority belonged to him, and therefore Moses put on the veil; but when he returned to receive new communications from God he met God with unveiled face. But, says Paul, the wrong-headedness of the Jews is perpetuating this veil. When the O. T. is read, there is a veil preventing them from seeing the end of the glory of Moses in Christ; they think the glory still abides in Moses. But when they return, as Moses used to return, to the Lord, they will lay aside the veil as he did, and then the glory of the Lord shall shine upon, and be reflected by, them. This reflection will not fade away, but increase from one glory to another — to perfect resemblance to the original. This is a glory not skin-deep like that of Moses, but penetrating the character and changing our inmost nature into Christ's image.
3. The idea, then, is that they who are much in Christ's presence become mirrors to Him, reflecting more and more permanently His image until they themselves perfectly resemble Him. This assertion rests on the well-known law that a reflected image tends in many circumstances to become fixed. Your eye, e.g., is a mirror which retains for a little the image it has been reflecting. Let the sun shine upon it, and wherever you look for a time you will still see the sun. The child who grows up with a parent he respects unconsciously reflects a thousand of his attitudes, looks, and ways, which gradually become the child's own. We are all of us, to a great extent, made by the company we keep. There is a natural readiness in us all to reflect and respond to the emotions expressed in our presence. If another person laughs, we can scarcely refrain from laughing; if we see a man in pain, our face reflects what is passing in him. And so every one who associates with Christ finds that to some extent he reflects His glory. It is His image which always reawakens in us a response to what is good and right. It is He who saves us from becoming altogether a reflection of a world lying in wickedness, from being formed by our own evil-heartedness, and from persuading ourselves we may live as we list. His own patient lips seem to say, "Follow Me; be in this world as I was in it." Our duty, then, if we would be transformed into the image of Christ, is plain.
I. WE MUST ASSOCIATE WITH HIM. Even one thought of Him does some good, but we must learn to abide with Him. It is by a series of impressions that His image becomes fixed in us. As soon as we cease to be conscious of Christ we cease to reflect Him, just as when an object passes from before a mirror, the reflection simultaneously goes with it. Besides, we are exposed to objects the most destructive to Christ's image in us. As often as our hearts are exposed to some tempting thing and respond to it, it is that reflection which is seen in us, mingled often with the fading reflection of Christ; the two images forming together a monstrous representation.
II. WE MUST BE CAREFUL TO TURN FULLY ROUND TO CHRIST. The mirror must be set quite square to that which it is to reflect. In many positions you can see many other images in a mirror without seeing yourself. And so, unless we give our full front, our direct, straightforward, whole attention to Christ, He may see in us, not His own image at all, but the images of things abhorrent to Him. The man who is not wholly satisfied in Christ, who has aims or purposes that Christ will not fulfil for him, is not wholly turned towards Christ. The man who, while he prays to Christ, is keeping one eye open towards the world, is a mirror set obliquely; so that he reflects not Christ at all, but other things which are making him the man he is.
III. WE MUST STAND IN HIS PRESENCE WITH OPEN, UNVEILED FACE. We may wear a veil in the world, refusing to reflect it; but when we return to the Lord we must uncover our face. A covered mirror reflects nothing. Others find Christ in the reading of the Word, in prayer, in the services of His house, in a number of little providences — in fact everywhere, because their eyes are unveiled. We may read the very same word and wonder at their emotion; we may pass through the same circumstances and be quite unconscious of Christ; we may be at the communion table side by side with one who is radiant with the glory of Christ and yet an impalpable veil between us and him may hide all this from us. And our danger is that we let the dust gather upon us till we see and reflect no ray of that glory. We do nothing to brush off the dust, but let Him pass by and leave no more mark on us than if He had not been present. This veil is not like a slight dimness occasioned by moisture on a mirror, which the warm presence of Christ will itself dry up; it is rather an incrustation that has grown out from our own hearts, thickly covering them and making them thoroughly impervious to the light of Heaven. The heart is overlaid with worldly ambitions; with fleshly appetites; with schemes of self-advancement. All these, and everything which has no sympathy with what is spiritual and Christlike, must be removed, and the mirror must be kept clean, if there is to be any reflection. In some persons you might be tempted to say that the mischief is produced not so much by a veil on the mirror as by a lack of quicksilver behind it. There is no solid backing to the character, no material for the truth to work upon, or there is no energetic thinking, no diligent, painstaking spiritual culture. Conclusion:
1. Observe the perfectness of this mode of sanctification. It is perfect —(1) In its end; it is likeness to Christ in which it terminates. And as often as you set yourself before Christ, and in presence of His perfect character begin to feel the blemishes in your own, you forget the points of resemblance, and feel that you cannot rest until the likeness is perfect. And so the Christian goes from glory to glory, from one reflection of Christ's image to another, until perfection is attained.(2) In its method. It extends to the whole character at once. When a sculptor is cutting out a bust, or a painter filling in a likeness, one feature may be pretty nearly finished while the rest are undiscernible; but when a person stands before a mirror the whole face is at once reflected. And in sanctification the same law holds good. Many of us take the wrong method; we hammer and chisel away at ourselves to produce some resemblance to Christ in one feature or another; but the result is that either in a day or two we quite forget what grace we were trying to develop; or, succeeding somewhat, we find that our character as a whole is more provokingly unlike Christ than ever. Consider how this appears in the moulding men undergo in society. You know in what class of society a man has been brought up, not by his accent, bearing, conversation, or look alone, but by all these together. The society a man moves in impresses on all he does and is a certain style and manner and tone. So the only effectual way of becoming like Christ in all points is to be much in His society.
2. Some of us lament that there is so little we can do for Christ. But we can all reflect Him, and by reflecting Him we shall certainly extend the knowledge of Him on earth. Many who do not look at Him, look at you. As in a mirror persons (looking into it from the side) see the reflections of objects which are themselves invisible, so persons will see in you an image of what they do not directly see, which will cause them to wonder, and turn to study for themselves the substantial figure which produces it.
3. The mirror cannot produce an image of that which has no reality. And as little can any man produce in himself dud of himself the character of Christ.
(M. Dods, D. D.)I. WE MUST EXPLAIN THE OBJECT OF VISION. "The glory of the Lord." Every discovery which the Lord has made of Himself to His rational creatures is for the manifestation of His own glory. The works of creation were intended to show forth His glory. In process of time the Divine Being gave a more complete revelation of His glory, by the ministry of Moses, to a nation whom He had ordained to be the repository of His truth.
II. THE REFLECTIVE MEDIUM. A glass or mirror. Divine revelation is a mirror in which we perceive, and from which is reflected, the glory of the Lord. The ministration of the Spirit exceeds in glory the ministration of death and condemnation, inasmuch as —
1. Its discoveries are more satisfactory.
2. The miracles by which they were attested were more benevolent.
3. The grace of the latter is more abundant than that of the former. By grace here we mean the bestowment of spiritual life and salvation to the souls of sinful men. If we look at the general character of the Israelitish nation, from the time of Moses to the coming of Christ, we shall perceive but little manifestation of genuine piety towards God. But how abundant was the grace when Christ appeared, "in the fulness of time," "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself!" Then Jews and Gentiles received the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit in so copious a manner as to fulfil the beautiful predictions of the prophet: "Until the Spirit be poured on us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest."
III. THE DISTINCTNESS OF ITS PERCEPTION. "With open" or "unveiled face."
IV. THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THIS VISION. "Changed from glory to glory." Thus faith in Divine revelation is a holy perception of the mind, by which the glory of God in Christ is discovered, and this discovery has a powerful reaction upon the soul, and as the object is more distinctly perceived, the progressive sanctification of good men is advanced till they possess the perfect image of their Lord.
V. THE DIVINE AGENT BY WHICH THIS IS EFFECTED. "The Spirit of the Lord," or "the Lord the Spirit."
1. Here the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit are asserted.
2. None but a Divine Being could accomplish His work. The Spirit of God creates the soul of every converted man anew.In improvement of the subject we have been considering I shall make only two observations.
1. How great is your privilege, and how awful your responsibility i
2. The Christian has to leave reflective mirrors for the full vision of the Saviour's glory.
(W. Jones.)I. IN EVERY REFLECTOR THERE MUST BE AN EXPOSURE OF ITSELF TO THE SUN, SO THAT THE LIGHT MAY FALL FULL UPON IT. So if we would reflect the glories of God, we must make a full presentation of ourselves to God. How many of us fail to shire just because of some spiritual obliquity of aim and purpose!
II. A REFLECTOR CAN ONLY ANSWER ITS PURPOSE WHEN THERE IS NOTHING INTERPOSED BETWEEN IT AND THE SOURCE OF LIGHT. We need to have our face unveiled in order to receive the light as well as to reflect it. The introduction of some substance renders the reflector useless. Now observe, the sun is very seldom eclipsed, but when that is so the world itself is in no way accountable; another orb is interposed between the earth and the sun. Even so the Christian's light may sometimes be eclipsed, not because of any fault of ours, but for some wise purpose which God has in view. But it is otherwise with self-caused darkness. The sun, while seldom eclipsed, is frequently beclouded, and by clouds which are due to exhalations arising from the earth. Alas! how many Christians live under a clouded sky, for which they have only to thank themselves.
1. Here is one who lives under the ominous thundercloud of care.
2. Here is another who dwells in the fog of earthly-mindedness.
3. Here is yet another who is wrapped round in the cold mist of doubts and fears, steaming up from the restless sea of human experiences.
III. IF A MIRROR IS TO REFLECT IT MUST BE KEPT CLEAN. I saw an ancient mirror of polished steel in an old baronial hall. There it was, in just as good condition as when fair ladies saw their faces reflected in it in the days of the Plantagenets. But its preservation in the damp atmosphere of Cornwall was due to the fact that generation after generation of servants had always kept it clean. Just think how one small spot of rust in all these hundreds of years would have marred that surface for ever. Oh, Christian, no wonder that thou hast lost thy reflecting power. Thou hast been careless about little things; but nothing can be smaller than the dust which robs the mirror of its reflecting power. Or perhaps thou hast allowed the rust spots of evil habits to spoil thy surface. Let us see to it that we keep the mirror bright and unsullied! The most virulent corrosive acid can do but little harm to the surface of polished steel, if wiped off the moment it falls; but let it remain, and very soon an irreparable mischief is done. Even so you may be overtaken even in a very serious fault; but when it has been promptly confessed and put away, the truth is realised: "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light," etc.
IV. NOTE THE WAY IN WHICH THE ANCIENT MIRRORS WERE FORMED. The metal had to be smoothed and polished by friction.
1. And are we not God's workmanship in this respect, and does He not employ our trying experiences here just to induce this end?
2. The mirror needs to be polished by a skilled hand; and as long as we are in God's hands, He can, and will, polish us for Himself. But when we take ourselves out of His hands, and only see chance or circumstances or stern old mother Nature, in our experiences, these clumsy operators only scratch the surface, which needs to be polished.
V. But there comes a point when the figure breaks down, for THE MIRROR ALWAYS REMAINS A MIRROR — dark itself, however much light it may reflect. BUT IT IS OTHERWISE WITH THE TRUE CHRISTIAN.
1. The light not only falls on but enters into him, and becomes part of himself. The true Christian is not only a light-giver — he is light. "Now are ye light in the Lord." The Christian who puts a veil on his face because he does not care to give, will find that he is also precluded by his veil from receiving; but he who both receives and gives will also find that he keeps.
2. And that which he keeps proves within him a transforming power by which he is changed from glory into glory. Thank God for our capacity of change. There are some who seem to be proud of never changing.
3. We are familiar with the idea that God is to be glorified in each fresh stage of spiritual experience, but are we equally familiar with the thought that each fresh acquisition that faith lays hold of brings new glory with it to him by whom the acquisition is made? From glory unto glory.(1) Is it not glory when first the sinner, dead in trespasses and sing, hears Christ say, "He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live"?(2) Time passes on, and the soul cries again "Glory to God!" as he makes the discovery that the redemption of Christ entitles him to be free indeed from the tyrant power of sin.(3) Time flies on, and still we change. "Glory to God!" cries the working Christian, as he presents his body a living sacrifice, and feels the living fire descend and consecrate the offering. "Glory to thee, My child," the Saviour still seems to answer; "thou art a worker together with Me; thy labour is not in vain in Me thy Lord."(4) Still we change. "Glory to God!" cries the advancing saint, as he sees the prize of his high calling, and presses towards it. "Glory to thee, my child," is still the Saviour's response; "as thou hast borne the image of the earthly, so shalt thou bear the image of the earthly, so shalt thou bear the image of the heavenly."(5) Thus we press on from glory unto glory until it is all glory. "Glory to God!" exclaims the triumphant soul as he enters the eternal home. "Glory to thee, my child!" still seems the answer, as Christ bids His faithful follower share His throne. Oh, may we thus reflect His glory for ever!
(W. Hay-Aitken, M. A.)I. THE CONTEMPLATION OF CHRIST. "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord."
1. The object beheld. "The glory of the Lord," "He is the Lord of all" — of all men, of all creatures, of all things. He is the rightful Proprietor of the universe. The primary meaning of glory is brightness, splendour; and the secondary meaning is excellence displayed, according to its subject, and the nature of the object to which it is ascribed. In which of these senses is glory here ascribed to the Lord Christ? In the latter, not in the former sense. It is not the glory of His might, nor the glory of His majesty, nor even the glory of His miracles, of which His personal disciples were eye-witnesses; but the glory of His moral perfections. God is "glorious in holiness," and "the glory of the Lord" is His moral excellence, comprised and displayed in all His moral attributes. The former are displayed in His works; the latter shine brightest in His Word. In a word, the glory of the Lord was the manifestation of His Divine philanthropy — "of the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward men."
2. The medium in which His glory is beheld. "Beholding as in a glass," or rather, as in a mirror. What, then, is the mirror which receives the image, and reflects back on the eye of the beholders, the glory of the Lord? What, but the gospel of Christ. And Christ is at once the Author, the subject, and the sum of the gospel. It derives all the glory it possesses and reflects, from the glory of the Lord. It receives its being, its name, its character, and its efficacy from Him. It originates nothing; all that it is, all that it says, and all that it does, is from Him, about Him, and for Him. And the image of Him which the gospel receives as the image of the invisible God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, it reflects back as from a burnished mirror, in all its lineaments, and fulness, and glory, and distinctness. The glory of the gospel of Christ, as a mirror, contrasts strikingly with the law as "a shadow of things to come." The good things to come were seen by the Old Testament saints in the types and ceremonies of the law. The view was dim as well as distant; indistinct, uncertain, and unsatisfying. But the sight of the glory of the Lord in the mirror of the gospel is near and not distant, luminous and not dark, distinct and not obscure or uncertain, and transforming but not terrifying.
3. The manner. "With open face." The face is said to be open when it is guileless, ingenuous, and benevolent, and not sinister, crafty, or malicious; or, when the face itself is fully exposed, and not covered. This last is obviously the meaning of the expression employed. With open, that is, with unveiled face. Those who apply it to the face of the Lord make a slight transposition of the words to make the sense more apparent. Thus: "We all, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord with unveiled face." His face is unveiled, and His glory is thus undimmed. It shines forth in all its splendour. If the "unveiled face" be understood of the beholders, according to our version, then the reference is to the more immediate context in the fifteenth verse, and the contrast is between them, and "the veil which is upon the heart" of the unbelieving Jews. Now, all this serves to show that, while the most obvious reference may be to the veil over the face of Moses as contrasted with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, it is not to the exclusion of the veil upon the heart of the Jews as contrasted with the open, unveiled face of the beholders of the glory of the Lord. "Which veil is done away in Christ?" Indeed, both veils are now removed, and done away in Christ: — the obscurity caused by the former is removed by the luminous exhibition of the gospel of Christ, and the blindness of mind caused by the latter is removed by the ministration of the Spirit.
4. The beholders. Who are the persons indicated by, and included in the "we all" who thus behold the glory of the Lord? Is it all we apostles only? or even all we whom He hath "made able ministers of the New Testament"? The expression includes all who are subjects of the new covenant, who are under grace, and in a state of grace, "all who have turned to the Lord" (ver. 16). Not only do all who turn, or are converted to the Lord, possess, exercise, and maintain their Christian liberty, but they are all "light in the Lord." The light of the glorious gospel of Christ, the medium of spiritual vision, is not only held up as a mirror before their eyes, as before the eyes of the world; but the organ of spiritual vision is opened, unveiled, and directed to the image beheld there, radiant with beauty, and reflecting back the glory of the Lord on the eyes of the beholders.
II. CONFORMITY TO CHRIST. The change thus produced is —
1. Spiritual in its nature. All the glory seen on the summit, and around the base, of Mount Sinai, was of a material and sensible kind. Moses saw the glory of the Lord with his bodily eyes; the shekinah, or symbol of the Divine glory, made the skin of his face to shine. It is otherwise with the glory beheld, with the medium, the manner, and the organ of vision here — all is spiritual, and not material in its nature. The gospel reveals, and holds up to view, the things of the Spirit. And spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. They do not act as a charm. Nothing can possibly affect, impress, or influence us mentally, any longer than it is in our thoughts; or, morally, any longer than it is in our memory and in our heart. The gospel of Christ operates according to the attention and reception given to it, and the use we make of it.
2. Transforming in its influence. It is a law in nature, and a truth in proverb, that "like produces like." The man who is much at court, naturally and almost unconsciously catches the air, impress, and polish of the court, so that he become courtly, if not courteous in spirit, in address, in manners and deportment. In going to the house of mourning, which it is better to go to than to the house of feasting, we almost insensibly catch the spirit of sympathy, and feel the spirit of mourning creeping over us. The heart softens; the countenance saddens; the eye moistens. Constituted as we all are, how can it be otherwise? Looking steadfastly and intently at such moral excellence we admire; admiring we love; loving we long to imitate it; imitation produces likeness to Him in mind, in disposition, in will, in walk, and way. Do we thus behold the love of Christ? "We love Him, because He first loved us." Do we behold Him as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world"? We become "dead to sin, and alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
3. Glorious in its progress. The glory of Moses' countenance became more and more dim, by distance of time and of place from the scene and sight of glory, till it entirely disappeared. But the glory of the Lord remains the same, and the glory of the gospel reflecting it remains the same, and the more steadfastly and earnestly we behold it, the more will we be changed into the same glorious image. The expression employed is an evidence that grace and glory are not only inseparable, but in substance identical. So far from differing in kind they are so essentially the same, that the sacred writers sometimes use the words interchangeably. Paul here uses "glory" for grace in speaking of the glorious transformation of believers from grace to glory; and Peter uses "grace" for glory in speaking of the glory " that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ." And the reason is no less plain than the lesson is instructive and important. The partaker of grace is "also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed."
4. Divine in efficiency, "Even as by the Spirit of the Lord," or as the margin has it more literally and properly. "Even as by the Lord the Spirit." It is His prerogative, and it becomes His spiritual dominion to open and unveil the heart, to enlighten the eyes of the understanding, to fix them on the glory of the Lord, to quicken the spirit, and thus to make His subjects "a willing people in the day of His power." This subject sets before us the privilege of gospel hearers, and the honour of gospel believers, and the doom of gospel despisers.It shows —
1. The privilege of gospel hearers. All who have the Word of God, who read or hear the gospel of Christ, are "not under the law, but under grace." They are more highly privileged than were the Jews who were under the law, or the Gentiles who have not the law, and know not God.
2. The blessedness of gospel believers. They are the blessed people who know the joyful sound; they walk in the light of God's countenance.
3. The doom of gospel despisers. They make light of the gospel of Christ; despise the Saviour it presents, and the salvation it proffers, and turn away from "the glory of the Lord."
(Geo. Robson.)I. THE PHYSIOGNOMY OF THE TEXT.
1. The open face. This is the antithesis of the covered face of Moses, and must therefore be Christ's (2 Corinthians 4:6). The idea is physiognomical, face reading. Men profess to comprehend each other's temperaments and dispositions by the study of their faces. Thus a man's face is his character, at least the key to it. In this face of Jesus Christ shines the resplendent glory of God; it is an index of the Divine mind and feelings towards a sinful world. The human face becomes a profound mystery apart from the soul within. Its wonderful expressions cannot be understood except on the supposition of an indwelling spirit. When the sky is overcast, suddenly, maybe, a beam darts through, shedding a glow of beauty over the spot upon which it gleams. The mystery of that ray could not be solved except by the existence of a sun behind. It is only in the same way that the character of Christ can be understood. Denied His Divine nature Christ becomes a profounder mystery than when regarded as God incarnate.
2. It is an open face in a glass. Once it was an open face without any intervening object, when "He dwelt among men and they beheld His glory." But now that His bodily presence has departed we have His face reflected in the gospel-mirror (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is through Christ we know God, and it is through the gospel that we know Christ. The sun, when it has set, is invisible to us. We then look up to the heavens, and there we observe the moon, which reflects the, to us, invisible sun. This moon is the sun's image. Again, looking into the placid waters of the pool, we observe in its clear depth the moon's reflection. God is imaged in Christ, and Christ is imaged in the gospel. Now, the superiority of the gospel over the Old Testament is represented by the difference between the glass and the veil. The veil obscures the face, the glass reveals it. In fact the mirror is of all instruments the one which gives the most correct representation of the original. The idea of a person conveyed by a mirror is immeasurably superior to that conveyed by the best painting. The face in the painting may represent a dead one, but the face in the mirror must represent a living one. If the mirror excels so much the best painting, how much must it excel a shadow! The Old Testament was only a "shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things." A person's shadow will give but a very indifferent idea of him. What, however, would be thought of the person who essayed to draw a picture of another from his shadow? Yet, this the Jews attempted to do in relation to Christ. So "to His own He came, and His own received Him not," because His appearance did not harmonise with their preconceived conceptions of Him drawn from His shadow. Men, therefore, should seek Him in the gospel mirror, where alone He can be seen as He is.
II. THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE TEXT. "But we all... are changed into the same image," etc. Here the apostle explains the effects of this transparent clearness of the gospel teaching. Beholding the Lord in the gospel transforms the beholder into His own image. This is in accordance with the analogy of natural photography. The light falls upon the object, that object again reflects it in its own form upon the prepared glass. The resplendent glory of God falls, so to speak, upon Christ in His mediatorial character; Christ reflects it upon the believing mind; the mind beholding Him in faith. The mind thus reflected upon by the incomparable beauties of Christ's character is transformed into the same image. The work is progressive, but the first line of it is glory, and every additional one the same — "from glory to glory."
(A. J. Parry.)I. THE IMAGE. We must lay Exodus 34:33, etc., alongside of this chapter. So the sight of Christ's glory does far more for us than the sight of God's glory did for Moses. The skin of his face was lighted up; but our very souls are changed into likeness to Christ; and this change does not soon pass away, but continues growing from glory to glory, as might be expected, seeing it is the Spirit of the Lord who works the change in us.
1. Christ, as we see Him in the New Testament, is the most perfect image in the world. Only a little of God's glory was revealed by Moses, but Christ is " God manifest in the flesh."(1) God is Light, i.e., that is holiness, and how plainly that glory is imaged in the sinless Jesus!(2) God is Love, and that love is made perfectly plain by the life of Christ from the cradle to the cross. A poor African could not believe that the white man loved him. His heart was not won by cold far-off words about a far-off people. But love for the African became flesh in David Livingstone, and his life was a glass in which they saw the true image of Christian love.
2. This image is not like the image of the ascending Christ, which faded into heaven while the disciples gazed after it on the Mount of Olives. This is an unfading portrait. Age cannot dim it, earth's mildew cannot discolour it, man's rude hand cannot destroy it; it only grows brighter as it gathers fresh beauty from the blessed changes it is working in the world.
II. BEHOLDING OF THE IMAGE. I never saw the beauty of the sun so well as one day in a Highland lake, whose surface was like a mirror of polished glass. To see the naked sun face to face would have blinded me. When John saw Christ's glory directly, though ii was only in a vision, he fell down as a dead man, and the same glory blinded Saul of Tarsus. The Bible is a glass in which you may gaze without fear upon the glory of the Lord therein reflected, Moses was the one privileged man in his day. But now all Christians can draw as near to God as Moses did, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is this liberty, How can I rightly behold the glory of the Lord?
1. With an open or unveiled face, just as Moses took Off his veil when he turned to speak with Jehovah. A lady visiting a picture gallery on a wintry day shields her face from the biting blast with a thick veil; but, upon entering the gallery, she lifts up her veil that with open face she may fully behold the images created by sculptor and painter. Many veils hide Christ's glory. The god of this world is busy blinding our minds by drawing a veil of prejudice, false shame, ignorance of an earthly mind over them (2 Corinthians 4:4).
2. You are to behold the image in the glass of the Bible. A picture or statue often serves only to remind me that the man is dead or far away, not so the image of Christ in the Bible, Some images, however, fill us with a sense of reality. Raphael painted the Pope, and the Pope's secretary at first took the image for the living man, knelt and offered pen and ink to the portrait, with the request that the bill in his hand might be signed. The image we behold is drawn by the Divine hand, and should be to us a bright and present reality, 3, This beholding must be steady and life-long. Unless you look often at this image and love to do so, you will not get much good from Christ. Even man-made images impress only the steady beholders of them.
III. THE BEHOLDERS.
1. "They are changed into the same image." Some people think that the beholding of beautiful pictures must do great good to the beholders; but when Athens and Rome were crowned with the most splendid pictures and statues, the people were the most wicked the world has yet seen. But the right beholding of this image gains a life of the same make as Christ's. We become what we behold. Two boys had been poring over the life of Dick Turpin and Jack Sheppard. In that glass they beheld the image of lawless adventurers. They admired: they would be bold heroes too. They are soon changed into the image they gaze upon from shame to shame, even as by the spirit of the devil. Here is a gentle, lovely girl. Her mother is to her the very model and mirror of womanly perfection. She gladly yields herself up to her mother's influence, and the neighbours say, "That girl is the living image of her mother"; for she receives what she admires, and silently grows like what she "likes" best. When some newspaper compared Dr. Judson to one of the apostles, he was distressed, and said, "I do not want to be like them. I want to be like Christ."
2. This change is to be always going forward from glory to glory.
3. Your beholding of Christ and likeness to Christ are both imperfect on earth. In heaven there shall be a perfect beholding, and so a perfect likeness to Christ (Psalm 17:15). There as here being and beholding go together. We see this change growing towards perfectness in the martyr Stephen as he stood on the borderland between earth and heaven. Even his foes "saw his face as it had been the face of an angel."
4. Christ's people are to be changed so thoroughly into His image that they shall have a soul like His, and even a body like His. For "as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
(J. Wells, M. A.)I. WE ARE ALL TRANSFIGURED. If you look back a verse or two it is clearly seen that St. Paul means by these words to include all Christian men. "We all" — the words stand in vivid contrast to the literalising Jew of the apostle's day; the Jew, who had the letter of Scripture, and worshipped it with a veil upon his heart; so that when Moses was read in his hearing, he could not see the meaning of the Old Testament, nor look one inch beyond the letter of the book. His religion was stereotyped, so his heart and life could not be transfigured. A religion of the letter cannot produce growth; it has no beautifying power, it cannot transfigure. In Christ, the case is far otherwise; where He is, there is liberty; where Christ is, there must be growth. Paul could not believe it possible that a Christian life could remain stagnant. Wherever there is growth, there must come, in the end, transfiguration. St. Paul felt that every believer must re-live in some measure the perfect life of Jesus. Here is the secret of transformation — Christ within, Christ about us as an atmosphere of moral growth. Fellowship with His perfect life gives human nature honour and dignity. The Thames is beautiful at Richmond, at Twickenham, at Kew, but not always so. At times the prospect, as you walk from Twickenham to Richmond, is spoiled by ugly flats of mud, and the air is not over pleasant, when the heat of summer draws the miasma from the sedgy bank. You may walk upon the bank and see but little beauty there. Wait a few hours, the tide will return and change the entire aspect of the river. It will become beautiful. The smallest river or tidal basin is beautified by connection with the sea. The pulse of ocean, if it raise the level but a few inches, adds dignity and beauty wherever it is felt. The river repeats, on a smaller scale, the larger life of the ocean, answering in its ebb and flow to what the sea has done before. So Paul felt that our nature is glorified because, through the Divine humanity of Jesus, it is connected with the ocean of eternal power and grace. The incarnation, the life, and the sacrifice of the Son of God have lifted human life to higher levels; they have created new interests and fresh currents in our thought and feeling. If our life flow onward towards Christ, and better still, if His fulness flow back upon us, we must, at flood tide, partake of His cleansing and transforming power. St. Paul does not here refer to the resurrection, his tenses are all present, and point to a change now taking place in our imperfect existence: "Changed from glory to glory." There is a glory of Christian character which we may possess even now. "From glory to glory" implies steps and stages. There is a measure of beauty, of strength, of holy character, of transfiguration, possible to the feeblest Christian — transfiguration of heart and life, a glory now, a foretaste of the eternal glory, a firstfruits of the Spirit.
II. THE CAUSE OF THE CHANGE AND THE MEANS OF ITS ATTAINMENT. It is brought about by looking at Christ. "We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory, are changed." To be like Christ, we must look upon Him intently. Then, on the Divine side, there is the inward change. As we look, the Spirit works within. Both things are necessary. As we gaze, the Divine influence comes down upon us imperceptibly. We are all much affected by the things we look at from day to day. A man will find sights congenial to his heart and mind. If he be artistic, he will be on the look-out for pictures and sculpture, or beautiful scenes in nature. If he have a turn for science, he will find objects of study and delight in every field and wood. If we are affectionate, with strong social instincts, our principal attractions will be found in human society. Now all these objects, in turn, react upon us. The artistic mind grows and expands by the study of beauty. The scientific man becomes more scientific by the study of nature; while the social and affectionate disposition deepens in the search and attainment of its object. Apply this to the gospel. Again, we must not forget that the way we look is also important. Our manner of looking at Christ affects us. St. Paul says, we look with "unveiled face." He here contrasts the Jewish with the Christian Church. Look at Christ, look daily, look appreciatively, lovingly, in tender sympathy, and the spirit of Christ will possess you. We may not be able to tell how the change comes about, nor why, neither need we anxiously inquire, provided we look at Christ and feel the Spirit's power. God has many ways. Stand before the mirror, and you will see the light. We care not at what angle you gaze. Look at Christ through tears of penitence, look in hope, in joy, in love; let His light stream into the heart through any one of the many avenues of thought and feeling.
(G. Walker, B. A.)I. THE BEHOLDING.
1. By beholding we are to understand faith in one of its liveliest and most important exercises. Faith is a living principle. It hath eyes, and it beholds Christ. This beholding does not consist of a single glance, of a passing survey. "Looking" is not a single act, but the habit of his soul. "Looking unto Jesus," etc.
2. With open face. Under the Jewish dispensation Christ was exhibited, but it was as it were through a veil. There was a mystery attached to it. But now, when Christ came, the mystery which had been hid for ages is revealed. At the hour when Jesus said, "It is finished," the veil that hid the holiest of all, and the innermost secrets of the covenant, was rent in twain from top to bottom.
3. As in a glass. We, whose eye is dimmed by sin, cannot see God as the spirits made perfect do in heaven. "No man hath seen God at any time." Moses desired on one occasion to behold the glory of God. But the request could not be granted. "No man can see God and live." Yet God gave him a signal manifestation of His presence (Exodus 34:5). Such is the view which God gives to the believer, of Himself in the face of His Son, as a just God who will by no means clear the guilty, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus — a gracious and encouraging view, not indeed of His essential glory, which the sinner cannot behold, but of His glory as exhibited in His grace, and on which the eye of the believer delights to rest.
II. WHAT IS BEHELD. "The glory of the Lord." The Lord, as the whole context shows, is the Lord Christ — the proper object of faith. We look into the Word as into a mirror to fix our attention on the object reflected. In Him as thus disclosed we shall behold a glory. In His person He is "the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of His person." In His work all the perfections of the Divine character meet as in a focus of surpassing brilliancy. There was a glory in His incarnation which the company of the heavenly host observed as they sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will to the children of men." There was glory in His baptism, when the Holy Ghost descended upon Him, and the voice of the Father was heard declaring, "This is My well-beloved Son." There was an imposing glory in His transfiguration. There was a glory, too, in His very humiliation in His sorrow, in the cursed death which He died. There was an evident glory in His resurrection, when, having gone down to the dark dominions of death, He came up a mighty conqueror, bearing the fruits of victory, and holding death in chains as His prisoner; and angels believed themselves honoured in announcing that "the Lord is risen." There was a glory in His ascension. "Thou hast ascended on high, leading captivity captive" (Psalm 24.) He is in glory now at the right hand of God, which glory Stephen was privileged to behold. He shall come in glory at the last day to judge the world. He shall dwell in His glory through all eternity, and the saints shall be partakers with Him of that glory, Now all this glory is exhibited in the volume of the Book, just as we have seen an expansive scene of sky and cloud, of hills and plains, of streams and woods, reflected and exhibited before us in a mirror, and we all with open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord.
III. THE EFFECT PRODUCED.. This transforming power of faith arises from two sources not independent of each other, but still separable.
1. Faith is the receiving grace of the Christian character, and the soul is enriched by the treasures poured through it as a channel. Herein lies the great efficacy of faith; it receives that which is given it, and through it the virtue that is in Christ flows into the soul, enriches and satisfies it, and changes it into the same image.
2. Faith produces this effect, inasmuch as it makes us look to and copy Christ. The Spirit carries on the work of sanctification by making us look unto Jesus, and whatever we look to with admiration and love we are disposed willingly, sometimes almost involuntarily, to imitate. We grow in likeness to Him whom we love and admire.
IV. THE AGENT. "The Spirit of the Lord." Note —
1. The harmony between the work of the Spirit and the principles of man's mind. He does not convert or sanctify sinners against their will, but by making them a willing people in the day of His power. What He does in us He does by us. It is when we are beholding the glory of the Lord Christ that the Spirit changes us into the same image from glory to glory.
2. The harmony between the work of Christ the Lord and the work of the Spirit of the Lord. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, who takes of the things that are Christ's and shows them unto us. The Spirit directs our eyes to Christ, and it is when we look to the Lord Christ that we are changed into the same image.
(J. McCosh, D. D.)I. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A LIFE OF CONTEMPLATING AND REFLECTING CHRIST. It is a question whether the single word rendered in our version "beholding as in a glass," means that, or "reflecting as a glass does." But, whatever be the exact force of the word, the thing intended includes both acts. There is no reflection of the light without a previous reception of the light. In bodily sight, the eye is a mirror, and there is no sight without aa image of the thing perceived formed in the perceiving eye. In spiritual sight, the soul which beholds is a mirror, and at once beholds and reflects.
1. The great truth of a direct, unimpeded vision sounds strange to many of us. Does not Paul himself teach that we see through a glass darkly? Do we not walk by faith and not by sight? "No man hath seen God at any time, nor can see Him"; and beside that absolute impossibility have we not veils of flesh and sense, to say nothing of the covering of sin. But these apparent difficulties drop away when we take into account two things —(1) The object of vision. "The Lord" is Jesus Christ, the manifested God, our brother. The glory which we behold and give back is not the incomprehensible, incommunicable lustre of the absolute Divine perfectness, but that glory which, as John says, we beheld in Him who tabernacled with us, full of grace and truth.(2) The real nature of the vision itself. It is the beholding of Him with the soul by faith. "Seeing is believing," says sense; "believing is seeing," says the spirit which clings to the Lord, "whom having not seen" it loves. A bridge of perishable flesh, which is not myself but my tool, connects me with the outward world. It never touches myself at all, and I know it only by trust in my senses. But nothing intervenes between my Lord and me, when I love and trust. He is the light, which proves its own existence by revealing itself, which strikes with quickening impulse on the eye of the spirit that beholds by faith.
2. Note the universality of this prerogative: "We all." This vision does not belong to any select handful. Christ reveals Himself to all His servants in the measure of their desire after Him. Whatsoever special gifts may belong to a few in His Church, the greatest gift belongs to all.
3. This contemplation involves reflection. What we see we shall certainly show. If you look into a man's eye, you will see in it little pictures of what he beholds; and if our hearts are beholding Christ, Christ will be mirrored there. Our characters will show what we are looking at, and ought, in the case of Christian people, to bear His image so plainly that men cannot but take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. And you may be quite sure that, if little light comes from a Christian character, little light comes into it; and if it be swathed in thick veils from men, there will be no less thick veils between it and God. Away then with all veils! No reserve, no fear of the consequences of plain speaking, no diplomatic prudence regulating our frank utterance, no secret doctrines for the initiated! Our power and our duty lies in the full exhibition of the truth.
II. THIS LIFE OF CONTEMPLATION IS THEREFORE A LIFE OF GRADUAL TRANSFORMATION.
1. The brightness on the face of Moses was only skin-deep. It faded away, and left no trace. Thus the superficial lustre, that had neither permanence nor transforming power, becomes an illustration of the powerlessness of law to change the moral character into the likeness of the fair ideal which it sets forth. And, in opposition to its weakness, the apostle proclaims the great principle of Christian progress, that the beholding of Christ leads to the assimilation to Him.
2. The metaphor of a mirror does not wholly serve us here. When the sunbeams fall upon it, it flashes in the light, just because they do not enter its cold surface. The contrary is the case with these sentient mirrors of our spirits. In them the light must first sink in before it can ray out. They are not so much like a reflecting surface as like a bar of iron, which needs to be heated right down to its obstinate black core, before its outer skin glow with the whiteness of a heat that is too hot to sparkle. The sunshine must fall on us, not as it does on some lonely hillside, lighting up the grey stones with a passing gleam that changes nothing, and fades away, leaving the solitude to its sadness; but as it does on some cloud cradled near its setting, which it drenches and saturates with fire till its cold heart burns, and all its wreaths of vapour are brightness palpable, glorified by the light which lives amidst its mists.
3. And this contemplation will be gradual transformation. "We all beholding... are changed." It is not the mere beholding, but the gaze of love and trust that moulds us by silent sympathy into the likeness of His wondrous beauty, who is fairer than the children of men. It was a deep true thought which the old painters had when they drew John as likest to his Lord. Love makes us like. We learn thai even in our earthly relationships. Let that pure face shine upon heart and spirit, and as the sun photographs itself on the sensitive plate exposed to its light, and you get a likeness of the sun by simply laying the thing in the sun, so He will "be formed in you." Iron near a magnet becomes magnetic. Spirits that dwell with Christ become Christ-like.
4. Surely this message — "behold and be like" — ought to be very joyful and enlightening to many of us, who are wearied with painful struggles after isolated pieces of goodness that elude our grasp. You have been trying half your lifetime to cure faults, and make yourselves better. Try this other plan. Live in sight of your Lord, and catch His spirit. The man that travels with his face northwards has it grey and cold. Let him turn to the warm south, where the midday sun dwells, and his face will glow with the brightness that he sees. "Looking unto Jesus" is the sovereign cure for all our ills and sins.
5. Such transformation comes gradually. "We are changed"; that is a continuous operation. "From glory to glory"; that is a course which has well-marked transitions and degrees. Be not impatient if it be slow. Do not be complacent over the partial transformation which you have felt. See to it that you neither turn away your gaze nor relax your efforts till all that you have beheld in Him is repeated in you.
6. Likeness to Christ is the aim of all religion. To it conversion is introductory; doctrines, ceremonies, churches, and organisations are valuable as auxiliary. Prize and use them as helps towards it, and remember that they are helps only in proportion as they show us the Saviour, the image of whom is our perfectness, the beholding of whom is our transformation.
III. THE LIFE OF CONTEMPLATION FINALLY BECOMES A LIFE OF COMPLETE ASSIMILATION. "Changed into the same image, from glory to glory."
1. The likeness becomes every way perfecter, comprehends more and more of the faculties of the man; soaks into him, if I may say so, until he is saturated with the glory: and in all the extent of his being, and in all the depth possible to each part of that whole extent, is like his Lord. That is the hope for heaven, towards which we may indefinitely approximate here, and at which we shall absolutely arrive there. There we expect changes which are impossible here, while compassed with this body of sinful flesh. We look to Him to "change the body of our lowliness, that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory"; but it is better to be like Him in our hearts. His true image is that we should feel, think, will as He does; that we should have the same sympathies, the same loves, the same attitude towards God, and the same attitude towards men. Wherever there is the beginning of that oneness and likeness of spirit, all the rest will come in due time. As the spirit, so the body. But the beginning here is the main thing, which draws all the rest after it as of course. "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you," etc.
2. "We are all changed into the same image." Various as we are in disposition and character, differing in everything but the common relation to Jesus Christ, we are all growing like the same image, and we shall come to be perfectly like it, and yet each retain his own distinct individuality. Perhaps, too, we may connect with this idea that passage in the Ephesians in which Paul describes our all coming to "a perfect man." The whole of us together make a perfect man; the whole make one image. No one man, even raised to the highest pitch of perfection, can be the full image of that infinite sum of all beauty; but the whole of us taken together, with all the diversities of natural character retained and consecrated, being collectively His body which He vitalises, may, on the whole, be not a wholly inadequate representation of our perfect Lord. Just as we set round a central light sparkling prisms, each of which catches the glow at its own angle, and flashes it back of its own colour, while the sovereign completeness of the perfect white radiance comes from the blending of all their separate rays, so they who stand round about the starry throne receive each the light in his own measure and manner, and give forth each a true and perfect, and altogether a complete image of Him that enlightens them all, and is above them all.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I. THE MIRRORED GLORY.
1. Glory is the effulgence of light; the manifested perfection of moral character.
2. In the gospel we have an exhibition of the blended righteousness and compassion of God; so it is called "the gospel of the glory of the blessed God." And since these attributes shine with softened splendour in Christ, it is called the "gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
3. And we may all behold it. Like the famous fresco in the ceiling of the cathedral, which was brought within easy reach by reflecting mirrors on the floor. We could not all be contemporaries of the living Jesus. But now, in the fourfold biography, we may all at our leisure behold the glory of the Lord.
II. THE TRANSFIGURING VISION. In the very act of looking we are "metamorphosed." The same Greek word used to describe the transfiguration of Christ.
1. Some gaze and are not changed. They have never so felt the evil of sin as to put the whole soul into a look. So multitudes of hearers have their minds filled with Christian truth, but they do not gaze so long, fixedly, lovingly, as to experience the interior and radical transformation.
2. Others gaze and are changed. Flinging away obscuring veils, and fixing the steadfast gaze on Jesus, they are transfigured.(1) This change is moral. By the law of our inner life we come to resemble what we love. Love to the Lord Jesus makes us like Him.(2) This change is gradual, progressive, "from glory to glory." The initial change may be the work of a moment; the complete process is the work of a life-time. Comforting thought to those who grow weary and disheartened after painful struggles to reach an ideal goodness which ever seems to elude their grasp. Cease from working; sit still and look; let His image sweetly creep into the eye and prospect of your soul.
III. ITS GREAT AUTHOR. "The Lord the Spirit." When the veil of unbelief is taken away, the Lord Himself obtains access to the heart and imparts Himself. Where He is, there, too, is the Holy Ghost. He effects the marvellous transformation. He supplies the-needed illumination. He reveals the saving sight, removes obscuring veils, purges the spiritual perceptions, and dwells within as source of the transfiguring and assimilative power.
(A. Wilson, B. A.)1. Every man has a strong natural instinct for greatness and applause.
2. A wrong direction of this instinct originates enormous mischief.
3. The mission of Christianity is to give a right direction to this instinct. Of all the systems on earth it alone teaches man what true greatness is, and the way to attain it. The text teaches three things concerning it:
I. THE IDEAL OF TRUE GREATNESS IS DIVINE. What is the glory of the Lord? (See Exodus 18:19). This passage teaches that the Eternal regarded His glory as consisting not in the immensity of His possessions, the almightiness of His power, or the infinitude of His wisdom, but in His goodness. The true greatness of man consists in moral goodness.
1. This greatness is soul-satisfying — and this alone.
2. This greatness commands the respect of all moral intelligence — and this alone.
3. This greatness is attainable by all persons — and this alone.
4. This greatness we carry into the other world — and this alone.
II. THE PATH OF TRUE GREATNESS IS MORAL TRANSFORMATION. How is man to come into possession of God's glory? t. By means of an instrument — glass. What is the glass? The mirror that reflects the glory of God. Nature is a glass. Judaism is a glass. Christ is a glass. He is the brightest glass of all — reflects more Divine rays upon the universe than any -other.
2. By means of attention to that instrument. "By looking." Men look at the glitterings of worldly glory, not on the glowing beams of the Divine, and hence they are not changed into the Divine. Observe —(1) A concentrated looking on Christ commands admiration.(2) Admiration commands imitation. Christ is the most inimitable being in the universe, because His character is the most admirable, the most transparent, the most unchangeable.(3) Imitation ensures assimilation. Here, then, is the path to true glory — a path clear as day, certain as eternity. All who tread this path must become glorious.
III. THE LAW OF TRUE GREATNESS IS PROGRESSIVE. "From glory to glory." Glory in God is unprogressive, but in all intelligent creatures it is ever advancing. Two things show that the human soul is made for endless advancement.
1. Facts in connection with its nature.(1) Its appetites are intensified by its supplies.(2) Its capacities augment with its attainments; the more it has the more it is capable of receiving.(3) Its productiveness increases with its productions. Not so with the soil of the earth, or the trees of the forest, all wear themselves out.
2. Arrangements in connection with its history. There are three things which always serve to bring out the latent powers of the soul.(1) A new relationship. The wondrous powers and experiences slumbering in every human heart of maternity and fatherhood are brought out by relationship.(2) New sceneries. New sceneries in nature often start in the mind feelings and powers unknown before.(3) New engagements. Many a man who was thought a mere dolt in one occupation, transferred to another has become a brilliant genius. These three soul-developing forces we have here, we shall have for ever.
IV. THE AUTHOR OF TRUE GREATNESS IS THE SPIRIT OF GOD. How does He do it? As He does everything else in creation — by means; and the means are here stated, "Beholding as in a glass." Conclusion: How transcendently valuable is Christianity, inasmuch as it directs the human soul to true glory and indicates the way of realising it!
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. THE GOSPEL IS A REFLECTION OF GOD'S GLORY.
1. The person of Christ reflects the Divine nature.
2. The ministry of Christ reflects the Divine mind.
3. His death reveals the Divine heart.
II. THE BELIEVER REFLECTS THE GLORY OF GOD.
1. Spiritual mindedness (2 Peter 1:4).
2. Immortal life.
III. BEHOLDING AND REFLECTING THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS PROGRESSIVE (2 Peter 2:5-7).
(T. Davis, Ph. D.)
(T. R. Stevenson.).
PeopleCorinthians, Israelites, Paul
TopicsChrist, Flesh, Hearts, Human, Ink, Letter, Manifest, Ministry, Result, Revealed, Served, Spirit, Stone, Tablets, Written
Outline1. Lest their false teachers should charge him with vain glory,
2. he shows the faith of the Corinthians to be a sufficient commendation of his ministry.
6. Whereupon entering a comparison between the ministers of the law and of the gospel,
12. he proves that his ministry is so far the more excellent,
17. as the gospel of life and liberty is more glorious than the law of condemnation.
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Corinthians 3:3
1080 God, living
LibraryTwelfth Sunday after Trinity Gospel Transcends Law.
Text: 2 Corinthians 3, 4-11. 4 And such confidence have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God; 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7 But if the ministration of death, written, and engraven on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look stedfastly upon …
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. III
Transformation by Beholding
The Letter and the Spirit
Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
How to Become Like Christ.
That the Body and Blood of Christ and the Holy Scriptures are Most Necessary to a Faithful Soul
The Ministry of the New Covenant
The New Covenant: a Ministration of the Spirit
General Notes by the American Editor
Let not Country Presbyters Give Letters Canonical, or Let them Send Such Letters Only To...
Note F. Note from Bengel on Rom. I. 4.
The Authority and Utility of the Scriptures
Of the Effects of those Prerogatives.
The Two Covenants: the Transition
The Image of God in Man.
The Holy Scripture.
The Bible in the Days of Jesus Christ
Faith an Assurance and a Proof.
The Unsatisfied Life and Its Remedy
How those who Fear Scourges and those who Contemn them are to be Admonished.
Blessed and Tragic Unconsciousness
Of the Necessity of Divine Influences to Produce Regeneration in the Soul.
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