God Made Manifest in Christ
ST January 20, 1890 God Made Manifest in Christ.
At the first advent of Christ, darkness, covered the earth, and gross darkness the people. Light and truth seemed to have departed from among men, and Satan appeared to reign in undisputed power. Rival sects existed, and among those who professed to be the servants of God were displayed love of preeminence and strife for power and position. Souls who were desirous of light were filled with perplexity and sorrow. Many were sighing, "What is truth?" Ignorance prevailed, but many were looking for something better, looking for light that would illuminate the moral darkness of the world. They were thirsting for a knowledge of the living God, for some assurance of a life beyond the tomb. There were men not of the Jewish nation who prophesied that an inspired instructor would come to teach them of the truth. There were among the Jews men who had not polluted their integrity, who read with eager anticipation the sure word of prophecy that pointed to the advent of the Redeemer. They rejoiced in the promise that God had made to his servant Moses: "I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."
Again they read how the Lord should anoint Him to preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. They read how he would set judgment in the earth, how the isles should wait for his law, how the Gentiles would come to his light, and kings to the brightness of his rising.
Christ came just as prophecy had foretold. He was the "way, the truth, and the life," and the beams of the Sun of Righteousness dispelled the moral darkness so that the honest in heart might see the truth. The absence of outward display and worldly grandeur, called forth comments of disapprobation from the people. Doubt and criticism met him on every side. Christ himself had chosen the human conditions of his life. He had selected the lowliest place in society. He was the Majesty of heaven, and he knew that the world would bear sway by magnificence, carrying everything before its display and grandeur; but Jesus honored those whom the world looked upon with contempt. Christ's birthplace was devoid of conveniences, not to speak of riches and luxury. And his entire life in this world was in keeping with the humble home of his early experience.
The Saviour of the world proposed that no attraction of an earthly character should call men to his side. The light and beauty of celestial truth alone should be the drawing power. The outward glory, the worldly honor, which attracts the attention of men, he would not assume. He made himself accessible to all, teaching the pure, exalted principle of truth as that which was only worthy of their notice. But although so humbly born, so unpretending in life, God did not leave him without a witness. The principalities of heaven did him homage. Wonders in the heavens above and signs in the earth beneath attested his power and majesty. At his baptism a voice from heaven fell upon the ears of men, declaring, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The bright glory of God in the form of a dove of burnished gold encircled him. John declared: "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
Christ came to represent the Father. We behold in him the image of the invisible God. He clothed his divinity with humanity, and came to the world that the erroneous ideas Satan had been the means of creating in the minds of men, in regard to the character of God, might be removed. We could not behold the glory of God unveiled in Christ and live; but as he came in the garb of humanity, we may draw nigh to our Redeemer. We are called upon to behold the Lord our Father in the person of his Son. Christ came in the robe of the flesh, with his glory subdued in humanity, that lost man might communicate with him and live. Through Christ we may comprehend something of him who is glorious in holiness. Jesus is the mystic ladder by which we may mount to behold the glory of the infinite God. By faith we behold Christ standing between humanity and divinity, connecting God and man, and earth and heaven.
Christ came to save fallen man, and Satan with fiercest wrath met him on the field of conflict; for the enemy knew that when divine strength was added to human weakness, man was armed with power and intelligence, and could break away from the captivity in which he had bound him. Satan sought to intercept every ray of light from the throne of God. He sought to cast his shadow across the earth, that men might lose the true views of God's character, and that the knowledge of God might become extinct in the earth. He had caused truth of vital importance to be so mingled with error that it had lost its significance. The law of Jehovah was burdened with needless exactions and traditions, and God was represented as severe, exacting, revengeful, and arbitrary. He was pictured as one who could take pleasure in the sufferings of his creatures. The very attributes that belonged to the character of Satan, the evil one represented as belonging to the character of God. Jesus came to teach men of the Father, to correctly represent him before the fallen children of earth. Angels could not fully portray the character of God, but Christ, who was a living impersonation of God, could not fail to accomplish the work. The only way in which he could set and keep men right was to make himself visible and familiar to their eyes. That men might have salvation he came directly to man, and became a partaker of his nature.
The Father was revealed in Christ as altogether a different being from that which Satan had represented him to be. Said Christ, "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." The love of Jesus, expressed for the fallen race in his life of self-denial and sufferings, is the manifestation of the Father's love for a sinful, fallen world. Christ endured shame and grief and death for those who despised his love and trampled upon his mercy. He paid the debt of man's transgression upon the cross of Calvary with his own precious blood. The men of his own nation, the leaders of the people, were so ensnared by the deceptions of Satan that the plan of redemption for a fallen race seemed to their minds indistinct and unexplainable.
Man was God's workmanship, made after his image, endowed with talents, and fitted for a high destiny. But Satan has worked to obliterate the divine image, and to impress his own image instead of the image of God in man's nature. Jesus condescended to humble himself, to take human nature, and by uniting divinity with humanity, he proposed to elevate man in the scale of moral value. All heaven was poured out in the gift of God's dear Son. Through faith in him the sinner could be justified, and God could yet be just in justifying the sinner; for Christ had become a propitiation for the sins of the repentant soul. The only plan that could be devised to save the human race was that which called for the incarnation, humiliation, and crucifixion of the Son of God, the Majesty of heaven. After the plan of salvation was devised, Satan could have no ground upon which to found his suggestion that God, because so great, could care nothing for so insignificant a creature as man. The redemption of man is a wonderful theme, and the love manifested to the fallen race through the plan of salvation, can be estimated only by the cross of Calvary. The depth of this love even angels cannot sound. That God could consent to become flesh, and dwell among fallen beings, to lift them up from their helplessness and despair, is an unfathomed mystery. He whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, whose dominion endureth throughout all generations, made himself to be sin for us that he might lift up all that are bowed down, and give life to those who are ready to perish.
Oh, that men might open their minds to know God as he is revealed in his Son! Truth came forth from the lips of Jesus, uncorrupted with human philosophy. His words were from heaven, such as mortal lips had never spoken nor mortal ears ever heard. His heart was an altar on which burned the flames of infinite love. Goodness, mercy, and love were enthroned in the breast of the Son of God. He set up his tabernacle in the midst of our human encampment, pitched his tent by the side of the tents of men, that he might dwell among them and make them familiar with his divine character and love. No one could love Christ and pay homage to him without serving and honoring the infinite God. Those who had an appreciation of the character and mission of Christ, were filled with reverence and awe, as they looked upon him and felt that they were looking upon the temple of the living God. Officers were sent to take the Son of God, that the temple in which God was enshrined might be destroyed. But as they drew near and heard the words of divine wisdom that fell from his lips, they were charmed, and the power and excellence of his instruction so filled their hearts and minds that they forgot the purpose for which they had been sent. Christ revealed himself to their souls. Divinity flashed through humanity, and they returned so filled with this one thought, so charmed with the ideas he had presented, that when the leaders of Israel inquired, "Why have ye not brought him?" they replied, "Never man spake like this man." They had seen that which priests and rulers would not see,--humanity flooded with the light and glory of divinity. Those who would behold this glory would be drawn to love Jesus and to love the Father whom he represented. Christ exalted the character of God, attributing to him the praise, and giving to him the credit, of the whole purpose of his own mission on earth,--to set men right through the revelation of God. In Christ was arrayed before men the paternal grace and the matchless perfections of the Father. In his prayer just before his crucifixion, he declared, "I have manifested thy name." "I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." When the object of his mission was attained,--the revelation of God to the world,--the Son of God announced that his work was accomplished, and that the character of the Father was made manifest to men.