Judas saith unto him, (not Iscariot,) Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the World? JOHN xiv, 22
THESE words of the apostle Jude, may be considered as either the language of inquiry or of admiration; or probably of both. He wondered at the condescension of our Lord, in the promise, (ver, 21.) though he did not already understand how it should be fulfilled, and begged some further explanation. As all who truly love Christ, are equally concerned in the subject, it must be highly worthy of our attention and careful investigation, being very wonderful and affecting. Let us accordingly endeavour to examine, the nature and evidences of diivine manifestations.
FIRSTLY: The nature of divine manifestations.
Let us inquire, What is it for Christ to manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world? We observe, NEGATIVELY,
First, A spiritual manifestation of Christ is here intended, and not merely an acquaintance with our Lord’s humanity on earth. Judas Iscariot had the latter equally with the eleven. But the privilege in the text is common to saints in all ages.
Secondly: It implies much more than the manifestation of his natural perfections in the works of creation and providence.
Thirdly: It is more than the discovery he has made of’ himself to all under the sound of the gospel, by the bare letter of the word. It is not a speculative acquaintance, without an answerable frame of heart.
Fourthly: It is not any merely rational operation of his power or spirit upon the natural conscience of men in general. What some call the light within is not this manifestation of Christ.
Fifthly: It is far from consisting in any imaginary appearance, or fanciful view of Christ’s human nature now, as if on the cross, or surrounded with a kind of glory.
Sixthly: It does not chiefly consist in a discovery of personal interest in his benefits, or the manifestation of his love to an individual.
CONCESSION.-First: Every spiritual manifestation of Christ will produce an earnest desire of interest in him, and appropriation. of him.
Secondly: Spiritual manifestations are often attended with a high degree of assurance of interest in him.
Thirdly: All spiritual manifestations afford some evidence, that those who enjoy them are interested in Christ Jesus.
Yet the following ASSERTIONS appear well founded :
First: A mere persuasion of interest, (without any spiritual manifestation accompanying it) has nothing gracious in it.
Secondly: Some true Christians may possibly retain some persuasion of interest in Christ, when grace is very little in exercise, though they have at that time, no remarkable or fresh manifestations of Christ to their souls. But real Christians cannot be satisfied in such a, frame, much less willing to abide in it.
Thirdly: Many of the worst of hypocrites may have a strong confidence of their being in a happy state, favorites of God, (John viii, 41.) and interested in Christ; though they never had any spiritual manifestations.
Fourthly: Christ has truly manifested himself to many, who yet, through doctrinal ignorance, temptation &c. have not yet been assured of their interest in him. Nevertheless, they have seen his glory, as of the only-begotten of the Father; admired him; panted after him; resolved to die at his feet; would not willingly offend him in anything; loved him for his own excellence, and for his goodness, and wonderful grace in saving others.
Fifthly: Some, under very great manifestations of Christ to their souls, (though assured of interest,) have been raised above the consideration of their own safe state. Their sweetest, most spiritual, and refined joys have arisen from somewhat higher than any selfish considerations! They have at such times, as it were, forgot themselves, and could not bear to withdraw their eyes from Christ’s .own glory, to consider themselves, or dwell on their own safety.
Sixthly: For Christ to manifest himself unto us; as he does not unto the world, is for him so to enlighten the mind by his Spirit, as that the spiritual beauty, excellence and glory of Christ, as displayed in the written word, shall be realized, and make an answerable impression on the heart: even the glory of his divine perfections, power, mediatorial offices, vicarious obedience and death, is so manifested as to produce a heartfelt sense of his excellence, loveliness; and worthiness; and the wonderful glory and love of the whole trinity, as displayed in his mediatorial work. 1 Cor: ii. 9, lO.12. 2 Cor.iii.17,18. iv.6.
So then, this manifestation of Christ to the soul, is not by the discovery of new truths concerning him, not before contained in his word; but by impressing the heart with a lively sense of the excellence of discoveries already made in the Sacred Scriptures, the foundation for which was laid by regenerating grace; and which inward sense of the Saviour’s excellence and glory is revived, and increased from time to time, by the influence of the Holy Spirit on the soul.
Nothing can be more free and undeserved than this divine influence; but it will be best known if we have been made partakers of it, by considering its evidences and effects.
SECONDLY: The effects and evidences of divine manifestations.
First: A deep conviction (proportioned to the manifestation) of the meanness, unworthiness, guilt, past and present sinfulness of the soul thus favored; humbling its pride, and filling it with self-abasement. This is exemplified in the language of Old-testament saints. Thus Jacob, “I am less than the least of thy mercies.” Job, “Now I repent and abhor myself.” David, “Who am I, and what is my father’s house?” Isaiah, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips.” Daniel, “My comeliness is turned into corruption.” And Jude, in the text, How is it, that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
Secondly: A conviction of our entire dependence on Christ, both for righteousness and strength; thankfully falling in with the design of his redemption; resting with complacency in his plan of salvation; feeling our need of his mediation; and sensible of our weakness and insufficiency to follow the Lord, except continually upheld.
Thirdly: An assurance of the reality and excellence of the objects manifested; i. e. the person and grace of Christ, They shine with such a divine glory, that, they needs must be realized.
Fourthly: A conviction that there is much more to be seen and admired in Christ, than has yet been manifested to the soul; and consequently an earnest increasing desire, to know, love, and enjoy more, which prevents resting in present attainments, and induces the soul to resolve never to stop its pursuit, till it shall enjoy all it wants, and awake in the complete likeness of Christ.
Fifthly: A glorying in this salvation, renouncing all other Saviours, and all other portions; as seeing that there is enough in him to satisfy, though in the want of all things; and that all other things are nothing without him.
Sixthly: A concern to honor and glorify, in all possible ways this blessed Redeemer; never thinking he can be exalted enough; longing that others may see, admire, love, and be devoted to him.
Seventhly: Tenderness of conscience, fearing the least sin, or rather looking on none as little; with a jealousy of our own hearts, and a holy fear of dishonoring God our Saviour.
Eighthly: Not only a spirit of devotion towards God, and peculiar complacency in his people; but universal benevolence, or a spirit of pure, gentle, humble, meek, patient, forgiving, disinterested love towards all mankind.
Ninthly: The transforming efficacy of these manifestations, producing universal holiness and love to all God’s commandments.
Tenthly: Preparation for heaven, anticipating both its enjoyments and employments; drawing off the affections from the world, and causing them to be set on things above.
That God has a peculiar people, who are the objects of his sovereign, distinguishing love. Can any of you, who have seen his glory, account for it in any other way?
The unspeakable excellence of true religion. How far are its pleasures preferable to all others!
We may hence learn, The nature of vital faith.
1. That it is somewhat more than a bare assent to the truth of speculative notions.
2. That it is somewhat better than a ·bare assurance of interest in God’s love, or that Christ died for me. And that the essence of faith, and especially the first act of faith, does not consist in believing that Christ is mine, or that he died for me in particular, For, (1.) There is no such proposition in scripture, as that Christ died for anyone in particular, except such as answer to gospel descriptions; or otherwise for the elect, who cannot be known till they are made to answer these descriptions. (2.) Nor could this be true faith, upon the plan of general redemption; for then every one who admitted that sentiment would be saved, which no sober Arminian would assert. (3.) If there were such a proposition in scripture, it would require no change of nature to believe it; nor would there be any thing gracious in the belief of it. Suppose God should tell an unconverted man that Christ died for him, that his sins were forgiven him, or that he was elected, without a spiritual manifestation, he would only be the same or worse than ever.
3. True faith is a high and exalted thought of Christ, the testimony of God concerning him being received as true, and good as well as true, so that he is accounted altogether lovely, and, his salvation worthy of all acceptation. He is considered worthy that God should intrust his glory, and we our immortal souls, in his hands. Thus they who applied to Christ when he was upon earth, came with a confidence in his power, and a high opinion of his goodness, tenderness, and willingness to relieve; but without an assurance of his goodwill to them in particular.
Learn, how Christians should judge of their experiences. Not by manner, impulses, &c. but by their nature and effects.
What a gift is Christ! What a blessing is his mediation!
(1.) Without a Mediator, we should have had no such glorious manifestations of God. He has revealed him. “He that has seen me, has seen the Father.”
(2.) Without a Mediator, it would not have been consistent with God’s dignity and purity to have manifested himself to us.
(3.) No discovery of God, without Christ, could have afforded any relief or consolation to such sinners as we are.