Sunday, August 8, 2010

John Gill and "unseen Christ" "the unseen Saviour" "unseen Jesus"

Christ, who is now hid, and out of the sight of bodily eyes, is in heaven, at the right hand of God; but ere long he will appear a second time, and not only to those that look for him, but even every eye shall see him; and his appearance will be a glorious one, and his saints shall appear in glory with him, and shall be like him, and see him as he is:
Christ is not to be found in the camp, in the world: he is above, in heaven, at the right hand of God; and that going out of the camp externally, or leaving the world only in a way of profession, is or no avail, without going to Christ: yet there must be a quitting of the world, in some sense, or there is no true coming to Christ, and enjoyment of him; and Christ is a full recompence for what of the world may be lost by coming to him; wherefore there is great encouragement to quit the world, and follow Christ: now to go forth to him is to believe in him; to hope in him; to love him; to make a profession of him, and follow him:
he has others under him, whom he employs in feeding his sheep, and who are accountable to him, and must give up their account when he appears: at present he is out of the bodily sight of men, being received up to heaven, where he will be retained till the time of the restitution of all things; and then he will appear a second time in great glory, in his own, and in his Father's, and in the glory of his holy angels:
for I know whom I have believed. A spiritual knowledge of Christ is necessary to faith in him: an unknown Christ cannot be the object of faith, though an unseen Christ, as to bodily sight, may be, and is. Knowledge and faith go together: they that truly know Christ, believe in him, and the more they know him, the more strongly do they believe in him: such who spiritually and savingly know Christ, have seen the glories of his person, and the fulness of his grace; and they approve of him, as their Saviour, being every way suitable to them, and disapprove of all others; they love him above all others, and with all their hearts; and they put their trust in him, and trust him with all they have; and they know whom they trust, what an able, willing, suitable, and complete Saviour he is. This knowledge which they have of him, is not from themselves, but from the Father, who reveals him to them, and in them; and from himself, who gives them an understanding that they may know him; and from the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: and be it more or less, it is practical, and leads to the discharge of duty, from a principle of love to Christ; and is of a soul humbling nature, and appropriates Christ to a man's self; and has always some degree of certainty in it; and though it is imperfect, it is progressive; and the least measure of it is saving, and has eternal life connected with it: and that faith which accompanies it, and terminates on the object known, is the grace, by which a man sees Christ in the riches of his grace; goes to him in a sense of need of him; lays hold upon him as a Saviour; receives and embraces him; commits its all unto him; trusts him with all; leans and lives upon him, and walks on in him till it receives the end of faith, even eternal salvation.
Rev 22:4 And they shall see his face,.... The face of God, so as he is not to be seen now; they shall see him as he is; not only the angels, who always behold the face of God, but all the saints, risen and changed, being pure in heart, and perfectly holy; they shall see him face to face, they shall have intimate and familiar communion with him; they shall enjoy his favour, and have the freest and largest discoveries of his love; and they shall see the face of the Lamb; they shall behold Christ and his glory both with the eyes of their understanding, and with the eyes of their bodies; and this is a very desirable sight, and will be very glorious and delightful; it will be fully satisfying, and will make the saints like unto him; it will be free from all darkness and any interruption, and will always continue.

And his name shall be in their foreheads; they shall be known to be his servants, as if his name was written and bore on their foreheads; it will be a clear case that they are the children and people of God; now they are, but it is not known, at least not so known as it will be in this state; and they will also in the fullest and freest manner own God to be their God, and the Lamb to be their Redeemer; they will be under no fear of man, nor be under any temptation to be ashamed of Christ, or of his service; see Rev_14:1. Some think there is an allusion to the inscription on the mitre of the high priest's forehead, "holiness to the Lord", the saints being now openly, visibly, and perfectly holy.

From Gill's exposition of the book of Solomon:

"While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof." (Song of Solomon 1:12)

Christ, though now in heaven, and so invisible to the bodily eye, yet is the Object of faith, love, hope, and joy; "whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory," 1 Pet. i. 8. The distance of place no way hinders either the communications of grace to us from Christ, or the exercise of our grace on him; but while he is there, he is giving it forth to us, and we are exercising it upon him; it is the manifestation of Christ's love and grace to us that makes our spikenard send forth its smell.
"Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes." (Song of Solomon 1:15)

2dly, By the church's eyes may be meant the eyes of 'her understanding being enlightened' by the Spirit of God; and more especially the eye of faith, by which a soul takes a view of Christ's glory, fulness, and suitableness, and looks unto him alone for life and salvation; which may be compared to doves eyes: 1. For the clearness and perspicuity of it; the dove, as has been already observed, is a quick and sharp sighted creature; the eye of faith penetrates into those things 'within the vail,' brings distant things near, and makes unseen things manifest unto the soul; for it is 'the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen:' the things which the eye of nature and carnal reason could never take cognisance of, are observed by faith; whose object is an unseen Christ, and the invisible things of another world, which' eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.' 2. For its singleness and simplicity in looking only to Christ: the dove (f) is an exceeding chaste and loving creature to its mate; the eyes of doves look only to their mates, to whom they keep an inviolable chastity: faith looks only to Christ, and nothing else; it looks only to his person for acceptance with God, and not either to its duties or its graces; it looks only to Christ's righteousness for justification, and not to its own works, whether they be moral or evangelical, works done before or after conversion; it looks only to his blood for pardon and cleansing, and not to its tears of humiliation and repentance; it looks not to its frames, nor grace received, for its supply and support, but to an all-sufficient and inexhaustible fulness of grace in Christ: now this is the pure, single, and chaste look of faith, which is so pleasant and delightful to Christ Jesus. 3. For finding out, and feeding upon the pure and wholesome doctrines of the gospel : the dove (g) singles out and feeds upon only pure seed and grain, and rejects all other, as not being agreeable and proper food; so a believing soul cannot feed and live upon any thing; he cannot live upon the husks which swine eat, but upon the 'wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ;' any food will not do, none but the 'bread of life and the hidden manna;' it is the earnest desire of such a soul, that the 'life which he lives in the flesh, might be by the faith of the Son of God;' he would always live on Christ and with Christ, and cannot be satisfied with any thing short of him; for having once tasted ' that the Lord is gracious,' he evermore desires this bread. 4. For the exceeding beautifulness of it in Christ's eye; as the eyes of doves are beautiful and delightful, so is this eye of faith to Christ, his heart is even ravished with it; 'thou hast ravished my heart,' says he, in chap. iv. 9. 'with one of thine eyes:' Christ's eyes, for the beauty and glory of them, are said to be, in chap. v. 12. 'as the eyes of doves, by the rivers of Water, washed with milk, and fitly set;' and so are the church's here; nothing more beautiful than the eye of faith. 5. For the meekness and humility of it; doves eyes are meek and humble, not fiery, fierce, and furious, as some Creatures', nor proud and lofty as others. Faith is a low and humble grace, it takes nothing to itself, but ascribes all the glory to Christ; it renders the disposition of a soul possessed of it mild and meek, not fierce and cruel, for 'faith works by love:' a fiery temper, and a furious disposition do not become a believer; nor is it either excited or encouraged by faith; which promotes a meek, humble, and lowly spirit, of which Christ, the object of faith, is the best example, who says, 'learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart;' who checks the furious, and resists the proud, but takes delight and pleasure in the humble soul, whose eyes are up unto him alone.

"His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." (Song of Solomon 5:16)

A little to consider the manner in which the church delivers herself in these words; which appears to be, 1. In the strength of faith: she could comfortably appropriate Christ to herself, under each of the characters here mentioned; and though she had not the sensible manifestations of Christ's love to her, which she was desirous of, and had not those visible instances of his friendship she had formerly experienced, yet she did not doubt but that he was both her beloved and her friend. 2. She seems to speak in an exulting and rejoicing manner; her soul was filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory, as an effect of her faith in an unseen Jesus; and indeed she had all the reason in the world to rejoice in the views of her interest in such a beloved, and in such a friend, whom she had before described. 3. She seems also to speak in a kind of boasting manner, 'This is my beloved, and this is my friend:' and indeed believers may do so; for though they may not glory in themselves, nor in any thing done by them, yet they may in Christ, and in what he has done for then: and so the Psalmist David did, Psal.xxxiv.2. who says, 'My soul shall make her boast of the Lord:' and thus the church did here before the daughters of Jerusalem, and what effect this whole discourse of hers had upon them, may be seen in the following words.
"Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee." (Song of Solomon 5:16)

'My beloved is gone down into his garden,' &c. It is true, he is so; but though he is gone, and I am left alone, he is departed from me, and when he will return, I cannot tell; perhaps I may never see his face more here on earth, in a way of sensible communion and fellowship with him, as I have heretofore done, though I hope I shall; yet if I never do, I am satisfied as to my covenant-interest in him, and union to him; I know that I am my beloved's, and that my beloved is mine; here lies the glory and excellency of faith, thus to believe in an unseen Christ:
"Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead." (Song of Solomon 6:5)


[B]y eyes may be meant, the enlightened eyes of the church’s understanding; the eyes of her faith, love, and knowledge; that eye of faith which looked upon Christ in the dark and was the evidence of an unseen Jesus to her; so that she could say, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine:’ this eye of faith, I say, had pierced the heart of Christ, won it, and got an entire conquest over it; which obliged him to say these words, ‘Turn sway thine eyes from me,’ etc. That love which she had shown unto him, though absent from her, discovered in a variety of expressions to the daughters of Jerusalem, appeared exceeding fair and beautiful to him; her strong and constant affections to him, being attended with solid judgment, and an exact knowledge of his person and grace, took much with his heart, struck the passions of his soul, which shewed and gave themselves vent in such expressions as these. And these eyes of faith and love, I take to be principally intended here.
"Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus." (Song of Solomon 7:4)

By these eyes of the church, may be meant ‘the eyes of her understanding,’ which are enlightened by the Spirit of God, particularly those of faith and knowledge; which may be said to be as fishpools,

1. For their perspicuity: faith can behold things clearly, which are invisible to, and are out of the reach of carnal sense and reason, and therefore is called ‘the evidence of things not seen;’ it can look ‘within the veil,’ and view an unseen Christ, with all the invisible realities of another world.
"Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame." (Song of Solomon 8:6)

The church expresses the ardency and vehemency of her love to, and zeal for Christ, by comparing them to coals of fire; live coals, such as have their coruscations, which flash and flame, and are bright and vehement; and to these her love may be compared, for the following reasons:

1. In such coals of fire there is light; so there is in the church’s love to, and zeal for Christ. for though she believes in, and has love for an unseen Christ; yet not for an unknown Christ; for, ignoti zulla cupido; her zeal is not a blind, misguided zeal, but is according to knowledge,
From Gill's A Sermon on the Death of Mr. Edward Ludlow:
An object seen and enjoyed leaves no room for the exercise of hope about it; wherefore the apostle says, hope that is seen is no hope; that is, what is seen and enjoyed is not the object of hope; and hope can be no longer conversant with it, since it is in actual possession; concerning which the same inspired writer in the same place thus strongly reasons; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Christ is the object of our hope, and he is unseen by us, with our bodily eyes, is only seen by faith; he is gone to heaven, and is at the Father's right hand, out of our sight; but we hope and believe that he will come again and receive us to himself; and therefore we expect him our Saviour from heaven, to raise our bodies, and change them, and make them like his own, and to re-unite them to our souls, and give us perfect happiness with him: the glories of the future state we are hoping for, are unseen realities; what eye has not seen, nor ear heard; eternal things we are looking at by Faith, and which are a support under present afflictions, are invisible; they are within the vail, into which faith enters, and gives a glimpse of; and hope follows, and waits for a clear light and full enjoyment of.
"The meek shall increase their joy in the Lord" (Isa. 29:19), this is done by enlarged discoveries of the love of God, directions into it, and a fresh shedding abroad of it in the heart; by Christ, the Sun of righteousness, arising with healing in his wings; by some renewed sights of Christ, and appropriating views of him; and by an increase of faith in him; for as that grace grows, there is a furtherance of joy, called, "The furtherance and the joy of faith;" it is in a way of believing souls are filled with joy and peace, and through a sight by faith of an unseen Jesus. Meditation on the love of God, and person of Christ, contributes much unto it; and prayer is often a means of it; God makes his people joyful in the house of prayer: the preaching of the gospel is frequently blessed to this purpose; it has a tendency to promote spiritual joy; and, indeed, the end and design of it is, "that joy might be full" (Phil. 1:25; Isa. 56:7; 1 John 1:4).
Special faith is a spiritual thing. It is a spiritual sight of Christ. Yea, faith is the eye of the soul, the enlightened eye of the soul opened by the Spirit of God, to see the glory, the excellency, there is in our Lord Jesus Christ: to see his glory as the glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth to see him as the able, willing, all-sufficient, and most suitable Saviour. Faith is said to he the evidence of things not seen. It has a sight of unseen things, as of the unseen Saviour; and in its continual and constant actings is a looking unto Jesus. Looking off from every other object (a man’s own righteousness, and every thing else) unto Jesus Christ the Lord our righteousness, as the living Redeemer, the only and all-sufficient Saviour. It is no other than a soul’s going out of itself to Christ, to lay hold upon him, and trust in him for everlasting life and happiness. Expressed often by a coining to him, influenced by his Spirit and grace, and the declarations of grace he makes, saying, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give rest. (Matt. 11:28) And all that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37) A poor sinner, sensible of his wretched lost state by nature, and of what he deserves, is encouraged to go out of himself to lay hold on Christ, who is the tree of life to them that lay hold upon him. It is, I say, a going forth and laying hold of Christ, under a sight of sin and a sense of danger, of ruin and destruction without him.
I am to consider the knowledge the apostle had of the object of his faith; and which every true believer also has. I know whom I have believed.

Faith in Christ, is not a blind and implicit thing, a faith in an object unknown; no, it is in a known object. Faith and knowledge go together! where the one is, the other is also. Though there may be, and is, faith in an unseen Christ, that is, who is not seen with the bodily eyes; whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8) yet an unknown Christ can never be the object of faith. He must be known, or he can never be believed in. Our Lord said to the blind man, whom he had cured, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? (John 9:35) The poor man made answer, and very wisely, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? Suggesting, that he must know him, before he could believe in him. He knew there was such a person as the Messiah, that was to come into the world as the Saviour of Sinners; but as yet he did not know him, and therefore says, Who is he?
From Gill's Of the Knowledge of God:
[A]n unknown object cannot be the object of love; an unseen person may, "Whom having not seen, we love"; but an unknown person cannot be truly and cordially loved; God must be known, or he cannot be loved with all the heart and with all the soul. The wise man says (Prov. 19:2). "That the soul be without knowledge is not good", or rather it may be rendered, "without knowledge the soul is disposed to that which is not good;"[1] it cannot be well disposed towards God, nor be fit for any good work, or for the right performance of any religious exercise, but is disposed to that which is evil; where ignorance reigns no good thing dwells.
From Gill's Of the Grace of Hope.
1c1. First, in general: things to be hoped for are represented,

1c1a. As things unseen, of which faith is the evidence; and gives encouragement to the exercise of hope upon them; "Hope that is seen, is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Rom. 8:24,25), the glories of another world are things not seen, so as thoroughly to understand and comprehend, yet hope of enjoying them, upon the divine promise, is conversant with them, which enters into that within the veil (Heb. 6:19).

1c1b. They are things future, yet to come, and therefore hoped for; hence saints are exhorted, "to hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto them, at the revelation of Jesus Christ," when he shall be revealed from heaven, and appear a second time; and therefore are directed, "to look for that blessed hope," the hope laid up in heaven, the hope of happiness to be enjoyed, "at the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13; Titus 2:13).
[H]ope is sometimes compared to an anchor, because of its great usefulness to the Christian in this life; "which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast" (Heb. 6:19), this world is a sea; the church, and so every believer, is like a ship sailing on it; Christ is the pilot that guides it; hope is the anchor of it; and a good hope is like an anchor cast on a good foundation, where remaining fixed, it is sure and steadfast; and as the ground on which an anchor is cast is out of sight; so Christ, on which hope is fixed, is unseen; as are also the glories of a future state, it is concerned with; and as an anchor is of no service without a cable; so not hope without faith; which is the substance and support of it: a ship when at anchor is kept steady by it; so a soul by hope: none of the things it meets with, afflictions, troubles, and temptations, can move it from the hope of the gospel, from the service and cause of Christ; but it remains steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. In some things hope and an anchor disagree; an anchor is not of so much use in storms and tempests at sea as when in a calm, or in danger near rocks and shores; but hope is of use when the soul is in a storm sadly ruffled, discomposed, disquieted, and tossed about with sin, temptation, and trouble; hence David, in such a spiritual storm, cast out the anchor of hope; "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God!" (Ps. 42:11), and says the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 17:17). "Thou art my hope in the day of evil." A cable may be cut or broke, and so the anchor useless; but faith, which is that to hope as the cable is to the anchor, will never fail, can never be destroyed; an anchor is cast on what is below, on ground underneath; but hope has for its objects things above where Jesus is; when a vessel is at anchor it continues where it is, it moves not forward; but a soul, when it abounds in the exercise of the grace of hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost, it is moving upwards, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, and enters into that within the veil; and what gives it the preference is, that it is "the anchor of the soul," and its epithets, sure and steadfast, serve to recommend it; and which certainty and steadfastness of it arise from the author, object, ground, and foundation of it.
Secondly, with Christ: fellowship with him is what the Lord’s people in the effectual calling are particularly called unto (1 Cor. 1:9), and what Christ himself invites them to (Song of Sol. 4:8), and which lies,
Upon his Person, as the Son of God, beholding his glory as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, and the express image of his Person; when he appears to them altogether lovely, and the chiefest among ten thousands, and the only and all sufficient Saviour, able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him; and when they are encouraged to look to him and be saved, and live by faith on him, the Son of God, who hath loved them and given himself for them; and when their love is attracted to him, the unseen Saviour, and the desires of their souls are to his name, and to the remembrance of him; and they have hope of eternal life, and an expectation of it, as the free gift of God through him, and rejoice in him, having no confidence in the flesh, then have they fellowship with him.
Faith in Christ is signified by seeing him, and looking unto him; an unknown Christ cannot, but an unseen Christ is, and may be, the object of faith: faith is the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1), the principal of which is an unseen Christ: the believer by faith beholds the glory of his person, the fulness of his grace, the excellency of his righteousness, the preciousness and efficacy of his blood, and the suitableness of his salvation; and it looks to him, for peace and pardon, for righteousness, eternal life and happiness; and keeps looking to him as the author and finisher of faith.