The Divine Artist
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the Glory of the Lord, are changed unto the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
“The metaphors of the Bible, especially of the New Testament, which are used to illustrate the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart and life of the Christian, are as varied as they are numerous. It is represented by the figures of eating and drinking, of tasting and seeing, by walking and running, by washing and cleansing, by light and darkness, by blood and fire, by bread and water, by wine and milk and honey, and numberless other things. And herein many persons blunder and bring to themselves mental confusion and spiritual hurt. It is always well to remember that a figure is nothing more or less than a figure, and it is used simply to illustrate or represent to our minds something real; we must not allow ourselves to make an idol of a figure, as I fear is sometimes done.
You will find that all figures of speech that are used in the Bible, which have reference to the purifying of our natures, and the satisfying of our longings, have exclusive reference to the Holy Spirit. In the Divine plan it seems that the Holy Spirit is the Person who performs in us all the work of salvation from its Alpha to its Omega. Hence when Jesus promises water of the which if a man drinks he shall thirst no more, He means the Holy Ghost; and when we read “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin”; it means the Holy Ghost coming in contact with the human soul, as a result of the shedding of Jesus’ blood, and thus cleansing it from its sin.
It will be seen upon investigation that, the only language which is not figurative in this connection, is when the Holy Spirit is plainly mentioned. It is difficult to get a passage of Scripture which describes the work of God in the heart that is not figurative, and the quotation from Paul at the head of this chapter, is no exception to the rule; still while highly figurative it refers to a matter of fact experience which is familiar to all who are spiritual.
The meaning of the writer seems to be that if we behold God’s glory, and steadfastly and reverently look at His attributes, admiring the beauty of His character and the grandeur of His holiness, by some divine process, by a spiritual photography as it were, we are transformed into the image of God.
In order to see the image into which we are to be transformed, it will be necessary for us to make the inquiry, What is God’s glory? I take it that God’s glory consists in those infinite and gracious qualities which inhere in the Divine character. Among these are His power, His wisdom, His happiness, His love, and His holiness. His power as manifested in creation; in bringing into existence all we see of the material Universe, in producing the entire Universe from nothing and in sustaining everything so wonderfully which He has thus created. His wisdom as manifested in the adaptation of the means to the end, in the adaptation and harmony of one thing to every other thing. In the power which He has placed in the Universe to perpetuate itself. The whole creation is a unit; so to speak one vast machine, and everything works in harmony and in unison, and produces the results for which it has been designed. We cannot examine anything in the Universe from an atom of matter up to the human mind, or from this world up to the vast network of worlds with which we are surrounded, without seeing the evidence of a designing mind and infinite wisdom. In this God’s glory consists.
Then God is infinitely happy. We cannot conceive of a perfect being, without attributing to him the quality of happiness.
Nothing that happens in this world or any other world, can disturb the essential happiness of God. The Bible represents God as being displeased and angry at sin, but this language is used to represent to us, that sin is out of harmony with God and His Universe, and is a violation of law, which must necessarily produce discord, and bring unhappiness to the person committing sin, as well as to his fellows.
God can never have a feeling, or any emotion, which can in any measure disturb His essential happiness. God is the great fountain of happiness which can never run dry. In this too consists God’s glory.
But more particularly, it may be, that God’s glory is in His love; in that quality of the mind and heart of God which goes out in tender longing, and sympathy, to all the sons and daughters of the human family. In that feeling of unselfish benevolence, which prompts Him to do everything for his creatures which the infinite mind can conceive of. The love of God according to the Scriptures is without top or bottom, and without measure or end. It is like space, illimitable. One cannot conceive of space with an end, and it is equally impossible to conceive of a limit to the love of God, for “It passeth knowledge.” The love of God is one of the most glorious traits in the character of God.
God’s glory also consists in His holiness. In His righteous character, in the quality of His laws, in the justice of His administration, in the fairness and equality of all His works whether seen in nature or revealed to us in the Bible. God is just and equal, and His holiness is admired by all intelligent creatures. Thus I have briefly given an outline of some of the attributes of God, which may be called the glory of God.
It seems, according to this teaching of Paul, that if we steadfastly look at God with a worshipful and admiring mind, beholding in Him these beautiful qualities, that we shall be transformed into the same image, from glory to glory by ” The Spirit of the Lord.”
Then the medium through which we see God’s glory is also suggestive. Paul puts it, as “Beholding as in a glass.” There are many kinds of glasses with which we behold material objects. There are microscopes and telescopes, magnifying and minifying glasses; using the same figure we can possibly bring them all to our aid in looking at the glory of God.
Nature may be said to be a glass through which we can see God’s glory. The Bible is very pronounced in its praise of nature; and the sacred writers borrow many of their songs of love and praise from nature. David says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork,” and Isaiah states, “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the Earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” There are many other portions of Scripture which ascribe glory to God, from looking at Him through the wonderful glass of nature. What these Bible writers state is the experience of all thoughtful persons, for we see God in the storm, we hear Him in the wind, His wonderful power is seen in the rolling waves of the sea.
All the seasons of the year speak the praise of God and declare His glory. When the spring sun warms the earth, and kisses the gentle rose, causing it to burst its beautiful petals and to send out its refreshing fragrance; we witness the power and the glory of God. When the trees throw off the garb of winter and send out their buds and leaves; putting on their holiday attire, and when the birds on the tree tops sing their glad welcome to returning spring, and when nature is covered with God’s green velvet carpet; we have a picture, a glass through which we plainly see the glory of God. All the trees of the field clap their hands for joy, and the mountains and the valleys break forth into singing, when they witness the glory of God in the glass of nature.
But although nature is of God, and tells a wondrous story, still she apparently is not sufficient to reveal to us, all that it is necessary to know concerning the character of God and of human destiny.
Nature is grand, and preaches a glorious doctrine upon all questions which she interprets, but there are many vital matters which cannot be clearly discerned in the glass of nature. It is therefore necessary to look into another glass, namely, revelation, to see more fully the attributes of God, at which we are to steadfastly look, in order to be transformed into His image. In the Bible we have revealed to us who, and what God is. In the Old Testament with its wonderful moral law, we see God’s justice and holiness, as well as His mercy and love. To read the laws given by God under the Old Testament dispensation, is to worship and admire the Author of these laws. The moral code of the Bible in its fundamentals, is unimprovable after the lapse of centuries. These laws have entered into and have become part of the laws of all civilized nations. The Bible Code is the foundation upon which the mightiest nations of the world have founded their civil codes; hence the Bible is a clear glass through which we behold the glory of God.
But it is to the New Testament, we must go for a fuller, and clearer knowledge, of those qualities which bring the greater glory to God. Here it is we learn that “Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” In the New Testament we get the full-orbed image of God; here He is revealed to us in all the loveliness of His character. We not only see Him as the All-powerful, the All-wise, the All-just God; but as a God of mercy, pitiful and kind, condescending to have mercy upon those who have gone out of the way, and while retaining His justice, He reveals to us a way by which He can justify those who believe in Jesus.
According to Paul, Jesus of Nazareth is a perfect representation of God. In the second of Corinthians, the fourth chapter and the fourth verse, we read, “In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” And in the sixth verse Paul states, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Thus we see, Paul holds up Jesus to us, as the only perfect medium through which we can see God. In looking at Jesus, and thus beholding the glorious character of our God, we are transformed into the same image, “From glory to glory.” Our gaze at God, through any of these mediums, it seems, will be imperfect, unless the glass is made transparent, and our minds are made clear by the Holy Spirit. “No man can call Jesus the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” When Peter, in answer to a question from Jesus, said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus answered him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
Jesus at one time, after a long conversation with His disciples, said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.” Thus the Holy Ghost is the chief medium through which we see the glorious character of God, and seeing we are transformed into the image of God.
It may be helpful to us to consider the way that we should look into God’s glass. Paul in our study, states it thus, “With open face.” Now this may mean, that a man must look fairly, honestly, steadfastly, and straight into the glass that is held before him. Not with a half look, or a side glance, but with an “Open face.”
A man who would see God as He is, must come to the investigation with an honest mind. I have doubt as to whether there ever was an honest infidel; or for that matter, whether there ever was an honest unbeliever in any of the fundamental truths of the Bible. Jesus said, “If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine.” When the disciples came to Jesus to have explained to them one of His parables which He had just delivered to the multitude, He said, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables, that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear and not understand;” Christ’s disciples were men who wanted to know the truth, but they were much confused at what they had just heard, and as honest-minded men they inquired of Him as to His meaning the multitude waited upon the Ministry of Jesus with various motives; some of them came to set a trap for Him, to catch Him in His words; to seek an occasion against Him by which they could accuse Him before the law. Others came from motives of curiosity; while still others came for the loaves and fishes which Jesus had distributed. Most of the multitude were not honest in their search for truth, and Jesus expressly stated that the truth was taught to such in parables, on purpose to test their honesty.
The same truth which is a stumbling-block to the dishonest man, is revealed to the honest-hearted, and becomes luminous with light and full of comfort. Unto you honest men, it is given to know the mystery of God, but unto you dishonest men, the truth itself is a snare. Truth to one man is a “Savor of life unto life,” and to another man “The savor of death unto death.” To one man truth is the means of his salvation, while the same truth to a less honest man is the means of his condemnation. An honest man will surely find God; God will reveal Himself to him, He will open His Heart of love and tenderness, and show the truth-lover that He is his Father and his Friend, and as the honest man looks at the revelation of God of Himself, he is transformed into the very image of God.
Just as naturally as the needle of the compass turns to the Pole, so will an honest man turn to God. No matter how strong the gale, or how high the waves may roll; no matter how the ship may be tossed, the compass will be true, and by some subtle influence, or law, will point to the North. Thus it is with an honest man, amid all the doctrines and isms, amid all the conflicting theories, and the admitted mysteries, just as surely as God exists an honest man will not miss his way, and God will be revealed to him in His true character. Then rest easy, honest soul, you will surely find the light.
This expression “Open face” also denotes that we should come to the investigation boldly. We need be afraid of nothing. Some seem to think that it is wicked for a man to examine the foundations of things, or to investigate the character of God. But the Bible gives no ground for such fear. We are commanded to “Prove all things and hold fast that which is good.” We should be afraid of nothing; indeed it is our business to investigate. God Himself is a subject of profound investigation.
There should be absolute free thought, we should give our minds full swing, and never be afraid to dig down to the bottom of things. Error fears the light of investigation, but truth courts it. If you hold the truth, nothing but good can come of your examining as to its foundations. Then give your thoughts full liberty, for every new discovery in the spiritual world is a new blessing to enjoy; each new truth you discover, is a new world to become possessed of; each new feature in God’s face, reveals more of His lovely character, and shows some quality of heart or mind which you are to become possessed of, for it is your privilege to be transformed into His image “From glory to glory.”
Then boldly lay your telescope through God’s vast space; search all you can find, and bring down the worlds of spiritual truth and appropriate them to your own soul’s good. Look steadfastly into the face of Jesus, study His example, His teaching master His wonderful precepts, dig deep into the mine of spiritual truth which He has revealed to us. Unearth its treasures; bring up the gold and diamonds, and precious stones which are only discovered by hard fearless work, and have these riches put to your credit in God’s bank.
Appropriate all the spiritual wealth that God has, for “All things are yours.” Depend upon it, you can find nothing in the universe of God, that will not be a blessing, and which you will not be glad to know. When new duties are discovered, these are never ” Grievous but joyous, and in keeping of them there is great reward.” Everything that God made, has been made in the interest of His people, so that, a fuller knowledge of the mind of God, only means a fuller knowledge of the riches that He has provided for His children.
Then, this open-faced gaze must be constant and steadfast. Looking into the glass of God does not weary one. The mind is not necessarily on a strain, but the obedient man looks with all the pleasure, and with all the ease with which he greets the light of day. Hence, with the look of faith and reverent love, one should ever keep his eyes upon God his Father, and having his mind illuminated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, he constantly sees wondrous things in the law of the Lord, and brings out of God’s treasure house things new and old.