“Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.”
These words are a portion of that heavenly song of “a multitude of the heavenly host” sung at the birth of Jesus Christ.
“Glory to God.” These are the first three words in the song. Is it not this very language of all the manifest elect of God? Others may glory in men, in their wisdom, might and riches (Jer. 9:23). They may glory in their own blasphemous doings, in their missionary societies to save souls, theological colleges, Sunday Schools, means and instrumentalities. They compass sea and land to obtain converts to their religion, and never fail to perpetuate the practice of those of whom the prophet Habakkuk writes, “They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plentious.” But the taught of the Lord are cut off and saved from such doings. In themselves how can they glory? The Holy Spirit is pleased to discover to them what they are in themselves: poor, loathsome sinners, and under divine tuition they see, and learn that vanity is stamped on all earthly things. They have the same spirit of the psalmist when he cried, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake” (Psalm 115:1). Having had revealed to him something of the majesty and excellent glory of the Holy One of Israel in the condemnation of transgression in the law, and justification most sweetly realized in the blood and righteousness of Jesus, the believer is prepared and does in spirit cry, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). The heavens, and the earth, the deep places, all proclaim the glory of God. Oh what wonderful works are to be seen in the creation of God. “The ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious.” Therein the holiness, the terrible majesty, and eternal justice of God are made known and felt in the hearts of the Israel of God. But the glory of the ministration of righteousness, the ministration of life doth exceed in glory (2 Cor. 3:7-10). In the gospel of the grace of God is that glory that far outweighs and outshines all other manifestations of the glory of the King of glory, it is “the glory that excelleth.”
“Glory to God in the highest.” It over-tops all others. Oh, the surpassing infinite riches of the glory of the blessed God, which shines forth in the face of our beloved Emmanuel. The sun, the moon, the stars, the sky, the earth, and all that is therein, shall fade, and crumble, and be no more; and all the pomp and glory thereof shall pass away. As it is said of the law, the ministration of condemnation, so of all things else, they have “no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth” (2 Cor. 3:10). The glory of the Lord in the universe is but transient, but for time, but in the Word, the Son of God made flesh, in Jesus, Emmanuel, is the eternal, immutable, superlative glory of the everlasting God. In this unfathomable mystery is the fulfillment of the eternal, immutable counsel and oath of Jehovah (Heb. 6:17-18). When the Word, the Son of God, came into the world, was made flesh, born of a virgin, made under the law, the covenant head of all the chosen and loved of God, the Mediator of the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, then was fulfilled the word of God by the prophet Micah: “Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall be come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” This had been promised and foretold in the prophets, had been signified in the types and shadows under the law, and now “the due time” is come, and the Son of God in the joy of his heart, in his eternal love to his bride, the church, and in loving covenant obedience to God the Father cries out, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure: then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5-7).
“Glory to God in the highest.” The will of Christ was to do the will of him that sent him, and to finish his work, and in fulfilling the “all things,” (oh blessed be the name of the Lord, not in one jot or tittle did Jesus fail) ordered in the everlasting covenant (2 Sam. 23:5), all the attributes of the eternal Godhead in glorious, sweetest harmony were declared, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (l Tim. 3:16). The Lord Jesus Christ went forth for the salvation of Zion , and in his obedience, suffering and blood he wrought salvation, brought in everlasting righteousness, redeemed his people from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them, saved them from their sins, justified them in his precious blood, and reconciled them unto God. He traveled in the greatness of his strength, mighty to save. Jesus Christ, our dear Redeemer, “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Thus Jesus went forth for the salvation of his people. “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power” (Hab. 3:3-4). It is in salvation that the eternal excellency of Jehovah is revealed. The justice and mercy, grace and love, yea, every perfection of God is declared to the eternal glory of the blessed God of Israel (Rom. 9:23; Rev. 1:6). This song which “a multitude of the heavenly host” sang at the birth of Jesus has never ceased to be sung. Even today it is the song of the believer in Jesus. While time shall last, and all eternity, all the loved, chosen and redeemed of the Lord will be praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest” (Rev. 4:9-11; 5:12-14).
“On earth peace.” Oh what welcome, soul-cheering tidings is this to the distressed and oppressed child of God. What disorder and discord does the enlightened child of God behold among mankind. In that knowledge that flows from the operating of the Holy Spirit what a terrible and sad condition they realize themselves to be in by nature. It is their bitter experience to feel that “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” though they labor most diligently to have it otherwise. The enmity still remains without abatement, this desperate and horrible plague rages within. It is their experience, and language, as recorded of the woman in Mark 5:26: “She was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.”
Those ministers of Satan, transformed as ministers of righteousness “in preaching” another gospel, which is not another (Gal. 1:6-7), urge poor sinners to make their peace with God. Oh what a task! How utterly impossible for a vile transgressor ever to accomplish! Oh what conflicts with sin and Satan, what tossings to and fro, what unrest, what anxious thoughts possess the poor quickened sinner. His sins are as an army of bitter foes in cruel war against his soul, for the manifest child of God, called by God’s grace, being made a partaker of the divine nature, being born of incorruptible seed, cannot be at peace with sin, but possessing Spiritual life he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and the longings of his soul are for entire freedom from sin, to see, to feel, to know that all these hateful foes are forever annihilated. No sooner does the poor sinner experience the quickening power of God, then the warfare begins between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, and the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; there can be no agreement, no concord between them. Wherever these two are found there must be war. The sinner, therefore, in whom the Lord has begun his work of grace feels and fears there is no peace between his soul and the mighty and holy God. Oh how troubled is the poor soul amidst the aboundings of his iniquities. The adversary, the gates of hell, fight against the loved ones of God, and there can be no peace between the seed of Christ and the seed of the devil.
“On earth peace.” Such is the song of the multitude of the heavenly host. Jesus, of whom they sing, is “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). He is the Mediator of the covenant of peace (Isaiah 54:10). “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” The dear Lord is our peace. Oh at what a cost he procured it. He made peace through the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). “The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). God hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, in the body of his flesh through death, to present us holy, unblamable and unreprovable in his sight. Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed. Oh, our precious Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, in his obedience and blood vanquished and made an end of all our foes; and the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, reveals in the heart what Jesus is, and what he has wrought in our behalf, then we joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. All our enemies, all our transgressions are purged in Jesus’ blood; death and hell are overcome in the blood of the Lamb. The law, which is holy, just and good, has received at our Surety’s hand full payment of all its righteous demands, and the vessels of mercy in whom the Holy Spirit has revealed the wondrous doctrine of peace with God can indeed with the apostle Paul exclaim, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Oh what sweet tranquility flows into the soul when the poor troubled sinner is experimentally put in possession of the atonement of Christ. It is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul (Lev. 17:11). It truly is a peace that passeth all understanding, keeping the heart and mind through Christ Jesus. It is “perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3). It cannot be bettered. There is no contingency therein. It is ordered in all things and sure. The covenant of peace shall not be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy upon thee (Isaiah 54:10). How comforting, O believer in Jesus, is this enduring, eternal peace, that not all the powers of sin and hell can ever mar. Thy warfare is accomplished, thine iniquity is pardoned (Isaiah 40:1). What! mine? Perhaps some poor soul is saying, So I at one time thought my sins were all gone, every voice of accusation was silenced, the devil and all his hosts fled when Jesus in his power and love and blood was revealed unto me, and in my heart his voice was most sweetly heard, saying, thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee. But oh what trouble, what wars and conflicts have I encountered since then. The evils in my heart; my sweet comfort and peace in Jesus has been most cruelly disturbed, and now there is warfare. I find I still have a carnal mind which is enmity against God. The old man is not gone, but is lively, and is so corrupt I fear that I shall be utterly overcome by indwelling sin, and prove a castaway. Oh what a mystery is the life of a child of God. The apostle Paul exclaims, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). It is by faith that we now experience peace with God. And “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The Lord Jesus has saved his people from their sins in his death. He died unto sins once. We rejoice to know that Jesus rose from the dead, and dieth no more. He rose for our justification, and is now within the vail for us, the Lamb as it had been slain (Rev. 5:6) in resurrection glory. O, dear people of God, we have hope that we shall be like him, though now sharp conflicts with sin and Satan are our lot. In these things we have a taste of the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ, and if we suffer we shall also reign, when, in the resurrection, we appear with all the ransomed of the Lord. We shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. The Lord Jesus Christ shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Phil. 3:21). Then no more will the carnal mind, the old man, the lusts of the flesh, plague and distress us. Our conflicts will all be over, for Jesus, in his precious blood, has destroyed all our foes, and this by faith, of the operation of God, we believe. And in the power and goodness of the Lord, even now, by faith, we can sing, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” We shall overcome at last (Gen. 49:19). “On earth peace.” When God giveth us quietness, who then can make trouble? (Job 34:29).
“Good will toward men.” “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Yea, he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11). “He will save” (Zeph. 3:17). Who or what then shall hinder? “Good will toward men.” This is “the good will of him that dwelt in the bush” (Deut. 33:16). Everything provided in the good will of God is precious. There is no lack, nothing faulty. Oh how good! It cannot be frustrated. It contains mercy (Rom. 9:18), grace (Exod. 33:19), eternal life (John 6:40), righteousness (Isaiah 62:1). Yea, all that the elect of God need for time and eternity is found in the good will, the covenant, testamentary will of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. “Glory to God in the highest.”
FREDERICK W. KEENE
SIGNS OF THE TIMES, pages 65 thru 69.