"No man hath seen God at any time; the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath brought Him out to view." All the purposes of God lay hid in His Bosom. All the worlds were His creation. Visible and invisible worlds were all made by Him. Myriads of creations are in Him. He is rich as God is rich: "all that the Father hath is His." Yet, for our sakes, He made Himself poor. "The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us." He put on the weakness, and the straitness, and the poverty, of the creature. "I came out from God, and am come into the world." Conceive the transition! from the Bosom of the Eternal Father, to this far and fallen world! No words can express this abasement, no line can measure this descent.
Herein is Humility. The Highest would make Himself the lowest. He who was above the heavens would not only come down to the earth, but would "make Himself of no reputation," in the earth! He would be reckoned as no one, He would be an outcast from among men, and meekly take His place amongst cattle. He would hide Himself in a hole of the earth, as though He were "a worm and no man." He chose this Humiliation for Himself. It was in His heart before the world was. The Only Begotten of the Father meditated every step and incident in His humiliation. He would become as One "despised and rejected" of His creatures. He would fulfil the lowest office on their behalf, He would wash their feet, and after having spoken nothing but Truth, and done nothing but Good, though innocent as a Lamb, He would submit to every indignity and cruelty, as though He were the chief of malefactors, and while dying in torture, would suffer Himself to be hissed out of the world, which He came to redeem.
Is there any Humility like His Humility? Can any creature in earth or heaven, humble himself as the Lord of all creatures has humbled Himself? If we could forget that it was "The King of Glory," Who was hiding Himself under this disguise of Humiliation, we should still conclude, from His unexampled Humility, that God would exalt Him above every creature, and give Him "a name above every name." If "the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth Eternity," "dwells with that man who is of a contrite and humble spirit," then on this ground alone, "the man Christ Jesus" is entitled to "the Spirit without measure." But the truth is, that only the Highest could make Himself the lowest, only God could shew in Himself the pattern of uttermost abjection. Only the Lord of all creatures could subject Himself, without a thought of resentment, to the base usage of His creatures.
And such Humiliation is worthy of God. I know of nothing more worthy,—I know of nothing so worthy of Him. If God has made suns and planets, angels and mankind, and has not humbled Himself to help and save His creatures, but some creature has humbled himself to become the Friend and Redeemer of the needy and the lost, then it will follow of necessity that this creature must receive, to all Eternity, more glory and love than the Creator. Compared with the glory of the Gospel, the marvels of astronomy have no glory. The self-sacrifice of the Gospel exhibits more divine Fatherliness than all the gorgeous parade of the firmament. Is it likely then, that the glory of the firmament is the glory of God, but that the superior glory, of Christ's character and work; is the glory of a creature? Say if you like that nature is unworthy of God: but the Gospel is worthy. Nature, being untrue to the Heart of God, must be dissolved; but the Truth of the Gospel, being true to God's Nature and Character, can never pass away. No words can possibly expose the weakness and carnality of the objections urged against the proper Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like persons who have passed and re-passed, all the days of their life, over the surface of some field, and who ridicule the idea of the precious metal being found so near home; such are they; who skim our Gospels, and find no Divinity underlying "Jesus of Nazareth."
Humility is peculiarly the way of God. Indeed, if it were not, how could any relation subsist between Him and His creatures? Neither men nor angels could know anything of the Creator, if He did not humble Himself. To all eternity, the children must abide in ignorance of their Father, if He were not pleased to shew Himself to them: and to shew Himself to creatures, He must humble Himself. To shew Himself to fallen creatures in a fallen world, He must abase Himself. To do them service, He must come near to them: to do them the utmost service, He must become one of them, He must be made flesh and dwell among them.
I am not at all surprised that God should do this. It seems to me that the true and worthy God and Father of such a universe, must be, at heart, such a God and Father. "I am meek and lowly in Heart." And might it not be expected that what God is in Heart, He would become in act and fulfilment? Of all things in earth and all things in Heaven, the most Godlike thing that has come to our knowledge, is the history of Jesus. If "God is Love," then it follows that He would become all, and do all, that Jesus did. If God is infinite Love, and especially if infinite Love is our Father, then nothing is so likely as that "He Who was rich," should make Himself poor, for our sakes, that we through His poverty, might become rich.
All after-Humiliations of our Lord were nothing to the first, namely, that of His Incarnation. The great Humiliation was to make Himself flesh. That being done, the manger and the Cross, and all that lay between, were, comparatively, small considerations. "Being found in fashion as a man," it is not half so surprising that He should surrender Himself to be despised and crucified, as that being Lord of all, He should be willing to be made flesh. Self-intelligent men find difficulty in conceiving Jesus Christ to be the Lord our God, but simple hearts never did, and never will. The law is well known in Heaven, by which this sweet mystery is "hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes."
It was an infinite Humiliation for the King of Glory to come under the roof of our house, but it was an infinite act of grace towards us. It was the very beginning of days to us; not to our souls only, but to our flesh also. For "the Lord of Glory" not only came into our tent, but stayed in it long enough to change it into a becoming mansion for His Deity. He found it dull clay, but He made it more glorious than transparent gold. He found it mortal, a prey to death and the grave; He made it eternal in the Heavens. It was a strange divestiture for Him, to come under our roof, but it was a wondrous investiture and glorification of the house of our body, to be made the dwelling-place of the King of kings, and to go up with Him, no more a clay cottage, but a house of splendours. Henceforth, even clay may look upon itself as redeemed, and may rely upon the promise of having its vile substance changed, and fashioned like unto the Lord's own glorious Body, "according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself."
By making Himself flesh, He made Himself poor indeed, but He brought into our poverty-stricken nature, the riches of His Divine Nature. His delights always were with the sons of men; and to make them rich, He was more than willing to make Himself poor. The eternal enrichment of mankind He regarded as recompense enough for His Humiliation. With great desire, He "came forth from the Father," bringing with Him the hidden stores of the Father, that He might fill our empty vessels. He was pleased to bring all His wealth with Him, and to hide it under the poverty of our flesh, that being hidden there, it might in due time, make our flesh worthy of sharing the honours of His Throne. For, the Word being made flesh, nothing could save the flesh from becoming one with the Word. His in-dwelling changed it from glory to glory, until it became not the hiding-place, but the bodily manifestation, of all the fulness of the Godhead.
Nothing is so little known as the Heart of God. The people who think that they know Him best, and congratulate themselves that they are free from all low and vulgar notions of God, know Him least. Polished, self-righteous people cannot believe that God carries sinners in His Heart. They continue to think; with Simon, that God must maintain His dignity, by treating with great coldness and distance, all persons of doubtful character. But the great, "open secret" of the Gospel is, that God is "gone to be guest with sinners." This is the very pith of the New Testament, and the key to the knowledge of its mysteries. The Incarnation itself is a great difficulty, but it would be more intelligible to a certain class, if Jesus had been less human and less humane. Had He come with state and ceremony, and only kept company with persons of the first class, in piety, literature, and rank, the unbelief of many minds would have been greatly obviated.
"As Jesus sat at meat, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" Again, when He said unto Zaccheus, "I must abide at thy house to-day," "they all murmured, saying, that He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner."
Long before His Incarnation, it was written, "He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence, to both the houses of Israel." Never were words more literally fulfilled. He is a "sanctuary" for the poor in spirit, for babes and sucklings, for the broken-hearted and the helpless, for all who are heavy laden with sin and sorrow; but He is as certainly "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence," to all who are "wise in their own conceits."
In the form of a servant, and especially sitting down with publicans and sinners, He is not at all like the God of the Jews;—not like the God Who brought the Flood upon the world of the ungodly; not like Abraham's God, Who rained fire and brimstone out of Heaven upon the wicked; not like the God of Moses, Who brought Israel out of Egypt, and drowned Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea; not like the God of Joshua, and Samuel and David, Who destroyed kings and nations for their sins, and gave their land in possession to Israel. No, He is not like this, for He walks by the side of sinners, and proposes Himself to be their guest. How different this seems from the awful God of Sinai, from the Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, before Whom Isaiah trembled! Yes, very different, for God has veiled Himself, that He may come near to sinners without consuming them,—more, that He may suffer the doom of sinners, and so redeem them. "O God of Israel, verily, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself."
This is the mystery that was hid for ages, but is now made manifest. The power of God was revealed, the Wisdom of God was revealed, the Holiness of God was revealed, and His Goodness was revealed; but it was not revealed that an unutterable fountain of tenderness was in Him towards the ungodly. The Heart of God was not revealed. Jesus Christ is the revelation of the Heart of God. In Him the Majesty, the consuming holiness, the wrath that had been manifest, were hidden; and the Heart of the Father, that had been hidden, was made manifest. As the Lamb was hidden in the Lion, so now the Lion is hidden in the Lamb. Nothing is lost; nothing is changed, save the manifestation. Jesus was in the bosom of the great and terrible God of the Old Testament, the great and terrible God of the Old Testament is in the Lord Jesus Christ of our New Testament. But man is the slave of appearance: when the "terrors of the Lord" are presented to him, he does not suspect the deeper truth, that the heart of grace and meekness is present, within these terrors: when the Fatherly affections of God are revealed to him in Jesus, in the absence of wrath and condemnation, he forgets that his Judge is present. "Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
It was important that God's relation to sin should be shewn,—that sin should be made to appear exceeding sinful, and an exceeding offence to the Holiness of God. It was necessary that mankind should be taught, patiently and abundantly, by most solemn and awful demonstrations, that God never will, never can give sin any quarter. But while this was being taught, the Heart of God towards the sinner was hidden. This order of development ought not to be "hard to be understood." It is precisely the course which every father adopts towards his disobedient child. At first, he reveals his abhorrence of disobedience, and makes known, or inflicts the penalty: but afterwards, he reveals the unaltered relation of his heart towards his child. So, in these days, which from the beginning were days of promise and expectation, the same holy God, Who variously and awfully exhibited the relation of sin to His Holiness, has manifested the relation of His Fatherliness to the sinner. In His Son, the God of Moses and the Prophets has come to reveal His Heart. But mercy and judgment are equally revealed in Jesus. In Him the love of God receives a full and clear expression, but in Him also sin is judged, and that with an intensity of awfulness exceeding anything that Moses taught, or Mount Sinai disclosed. Indeed, strictly speaking, sin was not judged, till it was judged in Christ. In Him the mercifulness of God, and the irreconcilableness of sin with the Divine nature, are equally revealed. Jewish righteousness and worldly philosophy are confounded: they know not God. And in this age, you need not go far to find a very arrogant, specious philosophy, which would far sooner believe so many millions of miles of sightless, senseless, heartless gaslight, or atmospheric air, to be God, than believe Jesus Christ to be our "God, manifest in the flesh." According to such a philosophy, it would be a diviner thing to be dead ether, or abstract law, than a Divine man.
But if Jesus Christ is our God revealing Himself to His lost,—if the Gospel is the revelation of God's love to the unthankful and to the evil, only those who regard themselves as lost, are likely to appreciate God in such a form, and heartily to realize the way of His grace.
The heart of God, and that only, can prevail over the sinner's heart. And love is humble: it delights in humble services. But the love of God is the humblest of all love, humbler than woman's love, humbler than a mother's love: Condescension cannot properly be predicated of God. God does not think it unworthy of His nature to enter into the closest alliance with His creatures. Nor does He become meek and lowly. He is meek and lowly. The barbarian judges of Thee from the lightning, from the thunder, from the tempest, and never dreams of the Humility of Thy Love. Philosophy judges of Thee from the works of Thy power, from the immensity of space, and from the height and multitude of the stars. Only Thy children know Thy Heart. Philosophy may enlarge the mental powers, but it is only Christian philosophy that delivers the mind from the barbaric reverence for size, distance, power, and majesty.
If "God is Love," He is infinite Love: but it is impossible to represent or conceive the ardour of Infinite Love. What will not human love do, if it can? If possible, it will make itself one with its object, and its object one with itself. But to infinite love, all things are possible. God is quite incapable of being indifferent towards His lost mankind, as is a mother towards her lost child. There is nothing that the Love of God will not stoop to for His lost ones. Of course, if you do not believe this, you must be very hard-hearted, or extremely ignorant of the true nature of our God. Perhaps you wish to "pass by on the other side," saying you are not "your brother's keeper," and are not in the least interested in him. But we are told to pray for ALL MANKIND, and that means that God will restore all humanity in His own due time.