<< Daniel 7: The Son of Man Brought to the Ancient of Days >>
13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. DANIEL VII
There is no subject more interesting to the thoughtful Christian than the true knowledge of the Son of Man. When the Lord had been saying many remarkable things to the people as to the suffering and the glorification of the Son of Man, they exclaimed at length, Who is this Son of Man? In the divine words before us the Son of Man is a prominent object. He is described as being brought before the Ancient of Days, and there receiving dominion, glory, and a kingdom, which will never pass away. A dominion of this kind is clearly a divine dominion; it is to be the final condition of the Church and the universe ; the government of the Son of Man is a kingdom which shall not be destroyed. The reply to the questions. Who is the Son of Man? and why is that name used ? involves most interesting and instructive considerations. The first reply which would suggest itself to tho mind of the enquirer, would probably be, the Lord Jesus is the Son of Man. It was a name He frequently used respecting Himself, and everlasting dominion could be given to no other than to Him. But that reply is scarcely close enough, or definite enough. The Lord Jesus, in His humanity, is called the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. The question before us is, Why is he called the Son of Man? Who is this Son of Man? A reply that has been put forth by superficial teachers has been, He was called the Son of Man to show that He was only a human being; to denote His proper simple humanity; to show that He was some mere man's son. Yet the Lord fully reproved this when He excited inquiry among the Pharisees by saying, "What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he ? They said unto Him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make Mine enemies Thy footstool ? If David then call him Lord, how is He his son ?" —Matt. xxii. 42—45.
The Son then is David's Lord, and in this scene described by the prophet He receives unending dominion. These are very far from being the characteristics of a mere man.
It may be suggested that the Son of Man means the material form which the Lord took from the Virgin Mother, and that it is called the Son of Man from its mortal derivation. But this supposition will be undoubtedly corrected if we consult the teaching of the Lord with due attention. He declares that the Son of Man descended from heaven, and was in heaven at the same time that he was on earth ; that the Son of Man could be spiritually eaten and drunk; that the Son of Man exercises all judgment ; that the Son of Man illuminates the mind; is Lord of the Sabbath day; and is to exercise all power and authority in the last, best, everlasting age of the world. None of these things can be understood of mere body, or of what was derived from Mary, The copious instruction given in the New Testament upon this subject makes its importance evident. It is indeed the great doctrine to be studied by any one who really desires to know His Lord. The Father, as the all-originating love from which the universe and every thing created has come, though unknowable truly, without the Son, is not an object of dispute to faith, however far off he may be. The divinity and supremacy of the Father is universally admitted. The Holy Spirit is comparatively easy to understand as the divine influence of love and light from God upon the soul of man. But the knowledge of the Son, this demands, and will reward our patient research. Who is this Son of Man?
That the Son is the name of the Humanity which appeared in the world on the incarnation of God, is clear from the fact that there is no Son mentioned in the Old Testament as connected with the Divine Being, except once in the second Psalm, and then it is evidently a prophecy concerning the Son who would in time be born, and once in the sixth verse of the ninth chapter of Isaiah, where it is plainly the human nature which God the Father assumed that is meant by son and child. There is a mistranslated passage in Daniel in which the angel which rescued the three faithful servants of the Highest is called the Son of God, instead of a Son of God, but as He is called an angel further on in the same chapter, few are inclined to dwell upon that as a proof of a Divine Son before the Lord came into the world. And, indeed, as the speaker Nebuchadnezzar. is a heathen and idolatrous king, few would suppose that he would be a lucid and trustworthy teacher of orthodox views.
The natural, clear, and simple view, then, of the Son is, that it means the Humanity which the Lord, the eternal, assumed by the instrumentality of the Virgin, containing in it divine qualities from God the Father, and human nature, as we have it, with all its imperfections from the Judean Mother. The angel Gabriel said, That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Luke i. 31). The term Son implies succession and production, and hence the previous existence of the producer or Father. An eternal Son cannot have had a producer or father existing before Him, because nothing can be before what is eternal. Son implies a beginning; what is eternal has no beginning, therefore the ideas involved in the two expressions in the phrase eternal Son, are contradictory and destructive of each other. There may be a son born in time, but there cannot be an eternal Son.
In the usages of the original languages of the Scriptures the term "Son" has a very wide application. Whatever thing is produced from another thing is called its son. A bough is the son of a tree (Gen. xlix. 22); sparks are the sons of fire (Job v.7); arrows are sons of the quiver (Lam. iii. 13). We have sons of valour (1 Sam. xiv. 52) ; sons of stripes (Deut. xxv. 2) ; sons of Belial (Jud. xx. 13) ; sons of iniquity (Hos. x. 9) ; sons of pride (Job xlii. 34). In all these instances the idea is manifestly not that of a distinct person produced from another distinct person; but any existence produced from another is called its son. So the body of a man may be regarded as the son of his soul, because it lives, and is built up from the life of the soul, and yet is not a separate person from the soul, but its covering and means of communication with the world. In like manner the Humanity with which God clothed Himself when He came into the world for its redemption, is called His Son. He produced it, formed it, clothed Himself with it. It is therefore rightly called His Son. He was not, however, separate from His Humanity as a human father is separate from a human son ; He was in His Humanity like the soul is in its body; the Father and He were one (John X. 30). The Lord's Humanity is called the Son of Mary, the Son of Man, and the Son of God. Let us consider it a little under each of these heads.
And when we speak of the Lord's Humanity, or of humanity in general, we must bear in mind that human nature is not a simple element, but a wonderful organization of spiritual and natural forms, " We are fearfully and wonderfully made." The body is an amazing system of innumerable vessels arranged by infinite wisdom in matchless perfection from the brain outwards. Though undoubtedly finite, a sense of infinity impresses us at every step while we examine the wonders of the human frame. The bones, wonderfully varied, each to its use, are the rocky framework affording foundation and support to the whole. The circulatory system in the body far excels the most perfectly arranged apparatus in a city, or a kingdom even, for supplying water, gas, and drainage. The best arranged army of labourers constructing a magnificent palace is not worthy to be compared to the beautiful and orderly array of blood globules permeating incessantly the avenues of the human structure, and restoring vigour, beauty, and substance, wherever deficient, to the palace in which the immortal man resides. Who can tell the wonders of the brain and nervous system, that unparalleled network which conveys vitality, motion, and sensation to every fibre of the living fabric, and has done the work which we are slowly and imperfectly imitating with the electric telegraph ever since the first human body was created? We are, indeed, marvellously fashioned ; the whole universe of nature has its counterpart in man ; he is a world in miniature.
But if the body is a wonderful congeries of organs, still more so is the soul. Its lowest activities, which manifest themselves as bodily life, energize every part of the frame, and are the secret underlying causes of all its living appetites and transformations. No sooner is the soul gone, than corruption and disorganization take the place of all the active perfect formation we so lately beheld. The bloom of beauty fades, and withers in decay; a constant proof that the lowest things of the soul are superior to all the perfections of the body. Then we have the degree of mind which animates the senses, and by their means observes and stores up within itself the innumerable treasures of knowledge and of science. No one can number the sensations of a single sense on a single day. A whole army of sounds impresses the ear, of sights offers itself to the eye. Each sense has its world of sensations, to which it acts as the door, and in which it lives. The impressions made, no man can number, but they are stored up in their appropriate places in the thresholds of the soul, to be used by it in perfecting its views and principles. These are mental magazines, from which the spirit draws the raw material to form the beautiful tissues of thought, idea, and fancy in which it loves to live. Above these are the rational powers, and those affections for higher truth which urge man on to penetrate beneath the surface of things, and see the real essences, the true and the good. Here are those sacred appetites which thirst for right, which long for the enduring; which weigh, measure, compare, and calculate, and out of seemingly chaotic masses of observations on nature and on man, educe clear and beautiful deductions, which bring us nearer to the explanations of both. Here are those affections which prefer the true to the seeming, and ensure the progress of the human race. Without this super-sensual degree of the human soul man would remain an unprogressive animal, bound to the senses and appetites like the brutes which perish. But we have a still higher degree, the spiritual, the religious, the inner man. This seeks for higher truth than that of nature. It longs for a higher world. It is the sanctuary of the soul, in which there should be lighted the golden candlestick of heaven's own light, where the shew-bread of heavenly goodness should be on the altar of a heart devoted to charity and to God; and whence the incense of praise and prayer and faith should ascend to the Lord of all. The Israelitish sanctuary was a type of this little heaven in the human soul. In its firmament are the love of God, wisdom from God, and rays of spiritual glory countless as the stars. The natural man is the natural universe in miniature, the spiritual man is the spiritual universe in miniature. And within all is the holy of holies, the divine dwelling-place with man. For God has an inner divine receptacle from which His still small voice speaks the language of mercy and of love. Out of this in the highest chamber of the soul an inner voice of blessing descends; or if man is unhappily forgetful of the path of duty, reproof and warning are given. Here the Lord meets with man to counsel and to save him. Happy are they who never close this door of mercy in themselves.
Such is a faint, brief, and imperfect outline of that wonderful being man. A sketch only of what is meant by human nature; each part might have been filled up by an incalculable number of particulars. But this must at present suffice to give us an idea of what the Lord assumed, in entering into human nature in our fallen humanity. The portion of humanity which was fallen, and in ruins, was what is called the natural man. The heaven within, like the heaven above, is beyond the reach of human defilement. We close it against ourselves when we sin, but it remains uninjured. The world within, but not the heaven, we have desecrated and disordered, and this, like the world around, required subduing and reclaiming. We had no power of our own to do it. No man could give an example, or supply the influences required. The Lord had shone into our humanity as long as there was anything in us to reflect His light with saving power. At length "the light shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not''— John i. 5. " He looked, and there was none to help. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor : therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him ; and His righteousness, it sustained Him." — Isa. lix. 16. " Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder : and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." — Isa. ix. 6. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel ; for He hath visited and redeemed His people. And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began ; that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us."— Luke i. 68-71.
The mighty God then assumed fallen human nature with all its forms, and the human body, from the mother. This humanity was the Son of Mary, " made of a woman, made under the law." — Gal. iv. 4 This humanity had the imperfections, and tendencies to evil, in our common nature, in Him: for "the Lord laid on Him the iniquity, of us all." — Isa. liii. 6. " How can he be clean that is born of a woman ? " — Job xxv. 4. " Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ? not one." — Job. xiv.
4. " He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." — 2 Cor. v. 21, He had to be tempted in all points like as we are (Heb. iv. 15), that He might subdue and sanctify our nature in Himself, and then give us power to sanctify ours. For their sakes He said, "I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified by the truth." — John xvii. 19.
But while, from the mother, human nature was received in a fallen state, and was her son ; from the Father within, there was received the embryo of a divine human nature ; the power of the Highest overshadowed her, and a Holy Thing was formed in her. This Holy Formation in the human nature, and the commencement of its glorified state, was as the angel said. The Son of God. A Son because it was a production, a formation from what was prior to itself, and therefore it was not eternal, as Son, but the Son of God because God produced it, from His own holy divine nature.
We have the Lord's humanity now before us as it was at the the incarnation, partly and interiorly divine from the Father within, who had assumed it; partly human from a fallen human mother. This latter part needing to be transformed, sanctified, and glorified, so that the Son also, like the Father, might have life in Himself (John v. 26), "and wield all power in heaven and on earth." — Matt. xxviii. 19.
The consideration next requiring our attention is, what is that in the Lord which is properly meant by the Son of Man? It is not uncommon to hear the view advanced, and this has sometimes been used as an argument against the incarnation, that divine and human are opposites. They are not so; man is a likeness of his Maker. Whatever there is in man when he is in order, finitely, there is in God infinitely. God is an infinite Divine Man. God as He is in Himself, in the depths of Deity, unmanifested, is above all human thought. When He manifests Himself it is in attributes of Love, Wisdom, and Power, and these are all human. So far as man knows God, he knows Him as a Divine Man. All things in creation have a human likeness about them, both in heaven and earth so that all heaven may be likened to a single angel (Ps. xxxiv. 7), and the Church on earth to a single man (Eph. i. 23). All animals even are, more or less, perfect imitations of the human form, and plants are resemblances at a greater distance to man. How could all this be unless the manifested Creator were a Divine Man? The hidden or secret principle of Deity is the Divine Love, the manifesting principle of Deity is the Divine Truth, the Word, and it is Divinely Human; a Divine Man. The Divine Truth which descended from the Lord into the angels, and shines in heaven as holy light, is the Son of Man in heaven, and the same as filled the Humanity of the Lord. The Son of Man in Him and the Son of Man in heaven both signify the inner light of Divine Truth. The Word, or the Divine Truth, being the Son of Man, it not only existed in heaven as the Lord said (John iii. 13), but descended into His own human nature, there to be tempted, there to fight against every evil tendency, there to suffer inwardly all that His body underwent outwardly, there to purify and sanctify the human, and make it a sacred receptacle of the fullness of the Godhead. All spiritual conflict is done by Divine Truth: the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Eph. vi. 17): love is within the truth, but in the time of temptation is not seen. The Son of Man being the Divine Truth or Word which was made flesh, or became man in the Lord (John i. 14), we may readily understand all that the Scriptures say concerning the Son of Man. When the people who heard people speak of the Son of Man having to be lifted up, said, Who is this Son of Man ? He replied, “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light" — John xii. 35, 36. The Son of Man and the light must mean the same thing, or the reply of the Lord would be no answer to the people. " He who soweth the good seed,'' the Lord said on another occasion, “is the Son of Man.” — Matt. Xiii. 37. All good seed corner from Divine Truth. When speaking of those who reject Him, the Lord said again, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.'' — John xii. 43. And while He informs us here that the Word will judge, in another place He declares, ''As the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man." — John v. 26, 27. Judgment of course can only come from the light of Divine Truth ; that only can manifest the internal nature of all, discern, discriminate, and and judge. When the Lord spoke those mysterious words, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you (Ver. 63), they were hard to be understood by those who had no relish for the spirit and life of His words. But to those who drink in their divine wisdom, and incorporate in them selves the goodness to which that wisdom leads, and by which it is accompanied, it is known that "the flesh of the Son of Man is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed." — Ver. 55.
Much is said in the Scriptures of the Son of Man being crucified and glorified. And, when we understand the Divine Truth both in the Lord and from the Lord to be meant, these declarations become most instructive. For what is so much opposed by erring and evil men, as the very Divine Truth which is seeking to save them? To represent this, the Lord who was truth embodied, was pleased to permit the Jews to ill-treat Him personally, precisely as they and all who deride His Word do in their hearts when they finally reject Him. They crucify Him afresh (Heb. vi. 6). The Son of Man, the Divine Truth, however, though crucified and trampled upon, will finally triumph. He will be glorified. The Son of Man was glorified in the Lord's person again and again, until everything in the humanity which was not in agreement with Divine Truth was rejected, and Divine Love and Wisdom possessed His entire nature. This was meant by the remarkable words, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him” — John xiii. 31, 32.
When Divine Truth descended into the unglorified Humanity of the Lord, it would find almost everything in disagreement with itself. It would be a stranger, just as the Lord was, among His own people. " 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." — John i. 9 — 11. In the temptations the Lord endured, the truth in Him would be contemned, despised, rejected, crucified, in every way ill-treated; but inasmuch as He always conquered after He had allowed the tempting evils fully to manifest themselves, so the Son of Man was always finally glorified. This took place first with one principle in Him, and then with another, and then another, to the end of His abode in the world, and therefore it is said, ''The Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.'' And again, '' God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him." Divine Truth was glorified when the evils and false principles from which struggles came were cast out; then the divine was manifestly united with it, and it ruled the whole mind. We would especially call attention to the divine words, ''God shall also glorify Him in Himself," which show that there only seemed to be separation between the Father and the Son while the Son was unglorified. When the work of glorification was completed, He was so united as that they made only one consciousness. God glorified Him in Himself.
There is another remarkable passage in relation to the Lord's glorification, which has presented difficulty to many who wished to see clearly that the Lord and the Father are one as He said. It has been supposed to involve insuperable objections to the doctrine of the New Church, but, in reality, those doctrines alone can explain it. It occurs in the Lord's prayer to the Father. '' And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."— John xvii. 5. And, on this passage it has been said, and with some appearance of truth, if the Lord and the Father were one person, why should He pray to the Father? Did He pray to Himself? We will presently offer what appears to us a complete solution of the difficulty. But, in the meantime, allow me to point out that the difficulty is equally great, and to us it seems much greater, on either of the other two modes of thinking which could be offered by Christians who think differently from us.
Let us suppose this passage to be brought forward by one who considers the Father and the Son to be two separate and distinct divine persons, one equal to the other, and each all-powerful. May we not ask, how it happens that an all-powerful person should pray to another to do anything for Him? Why could He not do what He wanted for, and of Himself? If it be said, it was His suffering Humanity that prayed; we answer, that throws us upon the New Church explanation. For is it not more likely that the Father would be His own Divinity to which He prayed, rather than that He should have another Divine Person of His own, but take no notice of that, but pass by it, and pray to another and distant Divine Person, for what His own Divinity could equally have given ? To us, the supposition of two divine persons does not lessen, but greatly increase the difficulty. Let us observe, that the passage implies a separation between the two, which is to cease; they are to become One. " Glorify thou me," it is said, " with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." But according to those who believe in two divine persons, they would remain two separate selves after the Lord's glorification equally as before. The Lord might have a glory co-equal with the Father, but it would not be the glory of the Father's own self. As we have said, then nothing is gained in the explanation of this passage, by the doctrine of two or three divine persons, but an additional obscurity.
But what shall we say, when this passage is urged by those who consider the Lord only a man, like other men, and praying to the Divine Majesty for help, as other human beings do? Are we not fairly entitled to ask, what can be meant by a mere finite human being asking to be glorified with the Father's own self? What can be meant, by a person born only between thirty and forty years before, having had glory with the Father before the world was ? It would be a strange audacity, for a mere mortal to ask to be incorporated with the Almighty's own self. And certain, a worm of yesterday, could not have had glory with the Father before the world was. Neither the explanation offered by those, who teach there are three divine persons then, nor that of those who deny the proper Deity of our blessed Lord, will give a clear idea of the passage; let us inquire what light the doctrine of the New Jerusalem can throw upon it ?
We have shown that the Son of man signifies the Divine Truth, This was in the Lord as the Divine Wisdom before the world was. "It was the Word, that was with God," not as another person, but as His own Wisdom, His Divine Understanding, His Infinite Reason, and was God (John i. 1). This had descended into the Humanity apparently alone, just as with us in our regeneration, we receive truth first, and love afterwards. From truth we advance, from truth we labour, and from truth we contend against our spiritual enemies and conquer ; and then we look up and pray for love, with its blessings to descend, and it is so. Those beautiful words are fulfilled —
" Let ardent zeal our bosoms warm,
To make each other blest;
And love and truth combined, shall form
Their heaven within the breast."
In temptation, too, we should bear in mind our consciousness is always double. It is as if two persons were within us; one affected by the temptation and the pain, the other consisting of our higher, holier feelings, seemingly above us, and at a distance. This double consciousness is strikingly brought out in the address of David to the lower consciousness of his soul, as if it were another person, " Why art thou cast down, my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within me ? hope thou in God : for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."— Ps. xlii. 11.
The Lord was our leader in the Regeneration. He glorified His own Humanity as He regenerates us. The chief difference is, that He sanctified Himself; He laid down His life and took it again by His own power (John x. 18). We can only do it by power from Him. He fought against and conquered all the powers of darkness in redeeming us (Isa. lxiii. 3). But we, by His mercy, have only so much to struggle with as we can bear. The steps, however, and the experiences are alike. Hence, from what occurs in our own spiritual labours, we may have some clear idea of the states through which our Redeemer passed. The apparent separation between the Father and the Son, and the Son addressing the Father, did not prove they were distinct persons, any more than David's address to his soul, and the apparent separation between them proved that they were two distinct persons. Whatever separation there was, also we must not forget was to be put an end to, when the Lord was in His glorified state, and was so in every act of glorification. For after every temptation He was so far glorified as to reject the evil from which He had been tempted, and bring down Divine Goodness instead, and so His Humanity was perfected through suffering (Heb. v. 9). Hence, after such states, He spoke as one with the Father, and the possessor of all the Father had: "All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and show it unto you.” — John xvi. 15. Again : “All mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.'' — xvii. 10. As the humanity was glorified, it received power over all things, to give eternal life to every soul which permitted the Divine Love, or the Father, to influence them to receive it. How clearly this is stated in the opening words of this prayer: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him."The Son received power from the Father, to give it to man. Not, however, from the Father, out of, but from the Father in Him. "I in them," He says, "and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one." — Ver. 23.
We finish this part of the argument, with the entreaty to our readers, never to forget that the Lord the Redeemer was the Father, as well as the Son, and then we shall always have the means of keeping a defined view of one glorious Divine Being before us. The prophets taught this, the Lord Himself taught it. Isaiah proclaimed of Him, whom He described as the Son, "He is the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace." Again : "Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting." — Isa. lxiii. 16. To Philip, who said, "Show us the Father?" The Saviour answered, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then. Show us the Father ? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me ? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me." — John xiv. 9 — 11.
We should always remember, that there never was a personal separation between the Father and the Son ; "I am not alone," Jesus said, " because the Father is with Me." — John xvi. 32. And any appearance of separation was only temporary, like the appearance of two minds in man in some states of his religious experience, and as this with us is over when we have finished our course, and our whole mind is formed to the harmony of heaven, so in the case of the Lord, when His divine works of redemption and glorification were completed. He was for ever the First and the Last in one glorious Divine Person, "Lord of lords, and King of kings."— (Rev. xvii. 14.) “The third day I shall be perfected “ (Luke xiii. 32). In the Divine Humanity, thenceforward " dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." — Col. ii. 9. But, such being the case, now arises a question in connexion with our text. In the vision of the prophet, there manifestly appeared a distance between the Ancient of days, and the Son of man. “He came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him."
In the scenes beheld in vision by the prophets, in which the Divine Being is introduced, it is necessary to remark, that it is not the Lord's own Divine Person who is seen, but only a representation of Him, in the world of spirits. He dwells in the sun of heaven, in light inaccessible, which no man can approach unto (1 Tim. vi. 16). When the Lord is described as seen by John, as a Lamb, as a Lion, as standing among candlesticks, we are rarely not to suppose that the sacred presence of the Lord was actually under those shapes, but only that such representations of the Lord were seen as to correspond to some great lesson intended to be taught respecting the future states of the Church. When He was beheld as a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, it was to teach us that the Divinity of the Lord's Humanity had been denied from the foundation of the church. When a representation of Him was seen in the midst of the golden candlesticks, it was an intimation that the Lord is the centre of all light to the churches which illuminate an otherwise benighted world. In the same manner, to the spiritual eyes of the prophet Daniel, was exhibited this wonderful vision; first, of the Lord divided into two, distant from each other, and then as brought together forming One. This was to teach that the church would worship a divided God, but at last they would be brought to see that the Ancient of days and the Son of man were One, and then He would have a dominion which would not pass away, and a kingdom which would not be destroyed.
The whole of the remarkable figures which passed before the prophet's wondering gaze, were typical in their spiritual sense of the states through which the Christian Church would pass. We say the Christian Church, for we are not speaking of any political sense, which its letter might be supposed to bear, but of the spiritual sense, which has relation only to the Church as the Lord's spiritual kingdom. Its first state is described as a lion with eagle's wings, mentioned in the fourth verse of this chapter. And this extraordinary representation truly describes Christians as they were in their first, best days of devoted faith and love. They were as lions, bold for the truth. They went forth to reprove sin, superstition, and idolatry, wherever they found it. They spoke of righteousness , temperance and judgment to come, before kings and cottagers alike. They cared little for the ad vantages of earth, they sought a better country. They had eagles' wings, because the loftier soaring truths of religion are described by these singular correspondences. " They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength ; they shall mount up with wings as eagles ; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint'' — Isa. xl. 31. After a season of sublime meditation and lofty thought, their attention to the practical duties of life, and their exercise of every manly virtue, is pictured by the lion standing on its feet, and a man's heart being given to it. Then were Christians men indeed. They won from their persecutors admiration and esteem. They went forth, according to the equally-striking description of John, where another phase of their character is described by a white horse. Rev. vi., " conquering, and to conquer."
But, alas! the pristine state of virtue and intelligence was too short lived. When the force of their religion became felt, and their influence sought for political purposes, they were seduced by the bribes of power and wealth. Their leaders became great dignitaries, and worldliness of conduct, and looseness of life, took the place of the angel-like excellence of former days. This is meant by the next figure which Daniel saw, like to a bear. This animal is a mass of gluttonous appetites, and well represents the unelevated condition of the natural man.
After this, a third beast arose, a leopard, a spotted and ferocious animal. This beast is indicative of a perverted faith; a system of religion made up of truth, mingled with falsehood, with a spirit as destructive as the savage malignity of the leopard. The superstition of the middle ages was truth and error, the black spots thus mingled together. They held the doctrine of the Trinity, but the black spot of persons introduced gave rise to a huge idolatry. They held the necessity for good works, but the black spot of merit was introduced, and turned the good into evil; they held that the Scriptures should be read, but the black spot of, only by the clergy, made that an instrument of slavery, which was intended to give spiritual freedom. They held the certainty of the resurrection, but the black spot of flesh carnalized and darkened that doctrine, and robbed it of its glory. The doctrine of the world of spirits, that blessed arrangement of Divine mercy by which mistaken, but sincerely good persons of every persuasion, may be brought harmoniously into one fold, by the truth which they missed here being given to them, was changed into purgatory. Indeed, every true doctrine was so perverted by dark mixtures of baleful error, that it became truly a leopard's skin, instead of the white garment of Divine truth, and the spirit of persecution waged in the name of the Prince of Peace, cruelly depriving of life, and every blessing, those whose only crime was obeying the dictates of their own consciences, showed how truly the spirit of a savage beast pervaded the church. Though there was some beauty still left in it, the beauty was that of a leopard.
The wings of a fowl represent the appearances of elevated thought by which such a superstitious religion imposes on mankind, seeming to soar to heaven, while its real objects are altogether earthly. The four heads represent the apparent agreement produced by false reasoning of this fallen state of religion, with the sacred teaching of wisdom, intelligence, reason and science, the four great heads of instruction among mankind.
Lastly, there appeared a dreadful beast, terrible and strong exceedingly, with great iron teeth, stamping the residue of all that was valuable under its feet, and having ten horns.
This beast was the symbol of the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, into which the Church would sink at last. This doctrine really makes all virtue unnecessary for heaven; all morality a work of supererogation, and by some of its maintainers it is declared that good works, if done from religious motives, destroy rather than save. It had great power, signified by the ten horns, but it was the power obtained by pandering to evil passions. This doctrine, more than any other, brings a Church to its end. The best powers of religion to elevate man are rejected by him who adopts this destructive error. It plucks the three grand doctrines of religion, love, faith, and works, up by the roots, for what it calls faith is no faith, not being a faith in what the Lord taught. It is plausible, speaks much of the nothingness of man, and the greatness and sovereignty of God, but it denies that sovereignty where it ought really to be acknowledged— in keeping God's commandments, — and sets its own false reasonings, instead of loving and true obedience. Hence come frauds under the appearance of sanctity, a sensual hardness against truth, streams of immorality destructive of marriage, and all the real virtues of life, combined with a ready means of making all right for heaven, however filthy, deformed, and impure of soul, if only this dogma be adopted. Oh! no one can tell what fearful consequences have flowed from this doctrine. It devours the earth (the Church), treads it down and breaks it in pieces. The utter end of the Church, meant in the Scriptures by the end of the world, is thus produced.
Then judgment was performed. The Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hairs of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning. A fiery stream issued, and came forth from before Him; thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set and the books were opened.
In the world of spirits judgment always takes place when one Church has come to its end and another is about to begin. The judgment, we must always remember, is in that world which we enter after death. It is appointed unto men once to die, and after death the judgment. The scenes on such occasions are such as here described. An innumerable company of angels, the presence of the Lord powerfully amongst them, the divine influx like a stream of fire affecting all minds, laying all secret states open, and bringing out the real dispositions of the vast multitudes there assembled. The books are opened. All are adjudged to their places, and thus the spiritual atmosphere is cleared. The persuasions of the old dispensation may continue on earth, for a season and a time, but without dominion over others. A new dispensation begins. And, as we see in our text, it begins by bringing the Father and the Son of Man together. It has already been shown that they were never really separate. The Lord Jesus was from His advent ever the Father and the Son ; the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. xii. 2); our All in All (Col. iii. 11). Yet for centuries in the minds of professing Christians there had not been this united view of the Lord. The Father had been regarded as the Infinite Supreme, high above all, and of terrible attributes, inducing awe and dread. The Son was believed to be an advocate with the Father, to plead our cause, but not as being Himself the hearer and granter of prayer. There was an immense distance between them, until at last a great body of professing Christians believed that the distance was all that between Infinite and finite, God and man, for the Saviour was only human. The prayers of Christendom had not been directed to Him as having all power in heaven and on earth, but to the Father, with the addition totally unsanctioned in Scripture, for His sake. He was almost invariably placed at the end, not at the beginning of a prayer.
But, blessed be the Divine Mercy, men were to know better. They would bring the Son of Man to the Ancient of Days. They would regard them both as one Divine Person adoring the Father in the Son. The New Church would be the bride, the Lord's wife. She would know and acknowledge Him to be her maker, her Saviour, and King; God over all; blessed for ever.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)