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27 November, 2013

Three Degrees of Christ's Manifestation by Octavius Winslow - Part 1

By Octavius Winslow, 1849


My beloved is like a swift gazelle or a young deer.
Look, there he is behind our wall!
Now he is looking in through the windows, showing himself through the lattice." Song 2:9

Such is the infinite majesty, and such the superlative beauty of the Lord Jesus, that were He, in our present state, to stand before us fully unveiled to the eye, overwhelmed with the effulgence of His presence we should exclaim, "Lord, temper Your glory to my feeble capacity; or enlarge my capacity to the dimensions of Your glory!" When in the days of His humiliation He stood upon Mount Tabor in close converse with Moses and Elijah upon the decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem, glowing with the grandeur of the theme, and fired with the thought of the redemption that was before Him, the veil of His humanity would seem for a moment to have dropped, and the Godhead it could imperfectly conceal, shone forth with such overpowering splendor that the disciples who were with Him fell at His feet as dead. After His ascension into heaven, and His inauguration at the right hand of His Father, He again manifested forth His glory in an apocalyptic vision to John at Patmos; and again the same overpowering effects were produced. "And when I saw him," narrates the exiled evangelist, "I fell at his feet as dead."

And yet this is the Savior "whom the nations abhor," whom "men despise and reject," possessing to their eye "no form nor loveliness wherefore they should desire him." This is He to whom the world He created, refused a home, and whom man allowed not to live, casting Him out as an accursed thing, too vile in their view to dwell among them- fit only to die! Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes were fountains of tears, that I might weep, dear Lord, while meditating upon the ignominy, the insult, and the suffering to which my species subjected You. Had another order of being so insulted Your person; so mangled Your form; so requited Your love; so slighted and abhorred You; I might have wept in secret places; mourned, and afflicted my soul, and vowed eternal vengeance against Your calumniators and your murderers! But it was hatred, ingratitude, and malignity wearing my own nature- it was MAN, yes, Lord, it was I myself! But for my sin, my crime, my hell, that spotless soul of Yours had known no burden, that gentle spirit no cloud, that tender heart no grief, and that sacred body no scar. And when I read the story of how You were wronged- how they calumniated You, blasphemed You, scourged You, spit upon You, mocked You, smote You, and then bore You to a felon's death- I could cover myself with sackcloth, and bury my face in ashes, and no more cherish the sin- the hateful, the abhorred, the accursed sin, that caused it all.

But, overpowering as a full unveiling of the majesty of the Lord Jesus would be to us in our present imperfect state, it yet ranks among our most prized and precious mercies, that He does at periods so graciously and especially manifest Himself as to awaken the exclamation, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Holy and blessed are such seasons! Delighted, yet amazed, the believer inquires, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself unto us, and not unto the world?" He answers, and resolves the mystery- as He does the mystery of all His dealings with us- into love. "He who loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." Our experience of these divine manifestations of Christ form one of the strongest evidences of His indwelling in our hearts. To none but those who fear the Lord is the mystery of His covenant revealed. "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him." They whose posture of soul most resembles that of the 'beloved disciple,' are led the deepest into the secret of God's love to us in Jesus. It would seem impossible for the Lord to withhold its disclosure from those who in confidence and in love reposed upon the heart that contained it. Their intimate acquaintance with Jesus must bring them into a closer relation and communion with God; it must result in a deeper acquaintance with Him- His glory, His mind, and His love. Blessed, but much forgotten truth- he who knows much of the Son, knows also much of the Father.

We propose to guide the reader's reflections to a subject of the deepest and holiest interest- the different manifestations of Christ to the soul. To one acquainted, in any degree, with these discoveries, whose Christianity is vital and real, something more than the mere "naming the name of Christ," what theme can be sweeter? Oh that the Spirit of truth, the Glorifier of Christ, may now enlarge our view of this subject; and while meditating on the manifestations of our Beloved, may He approach and make Himself known to us in the way of especial and blessed revelation.

The passage upon which this meditation is based PRESENTS OUR LORD IN THREE DIFFERENT POSTURES, each one most expressive and significant. We have CHRIST BEHIND THE WALL; CHRIST LOOKING IN THE WINDOW; and CHRIST SHOWING HIMSELF THROUGH THE LATTICE. My soul! behold your Beloved, bounding towards you 'like a gazelle or a young deer,' in all the fleetness and intensity of His affections, to manifest Himself to you. "Look, there He is BEHIND OUR WALL!" What wall? Not the wall of the old covenant of the Jewish Church, for that is removed, and can no longer obscure Jesus from the eye of the Church, or prevent His clear manifestation. He has removed it in order to bring Himself near to His people. "But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were once far off, are made near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us: having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances."

Behind this wall Jesus did once stand, and although thus partially obscured, yet to those who had faith to see Him, dwelling though they were in the twilight of the Gospel, He manifested Himself as the true Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of His people. "Abraham rejoiced to see my day," says Jesus, "and he saw it, and was glad." But this wall no longer stands. The shadows are fled, the darkness is dispersed, and the true light now shines. Beware of those teachers who would rebuild this wall; and who by their superstitious practices, and legal representations of the Gospel, do in effect rebuild it. Remember that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes."

But it is behind "our wall" that Jesus stands- the wall which we, the new covenant saints, erect. Many are the separating influences between Christ and His people; many are the walls which we, alas! allow to intervene, behind which we cause Him to stand. "Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I am pained at my very heart;" literally, as in the margin, the walls of my heart. What are the infidelity; (I had almost said atheism), the carnality, the coldness, the many sins of our hearts, but so many obstructions to Christ's full and frequent manifestations of Himself to our souls?

But were we to specify one obstruction in particular, we would mention unbelief, as the great separating wall between Christ and His people. This was the wall which obscured from the view of Thomas his risen Lord. And while the little Church was jubilant in the new life and joy with which their living Savior inspired them, he alone lingered in doubt and sadness, amid the shadows of the tomb. "Unless I thrust my hand into his side I will not believe." Nothing more effectually separates us from, or rather obscures our view of, Christ, than the sin of unbelief. Not fully crediting His word- not simply and implicitly relying upon His work- not trusting His faithfulness and love- not receiving Him wholly and following Him fully- only believing and receiving half that He says and commands- not fixing the eye upon Jesus as risen and alive, as ascended and enthroned, having all fulness, all power, all love. Oh this unbelief is a dead, towering wall between our Beloved and our souls!

And yet does He stand behind it? Does it not compel Him to depart and leave us forever? Ah no! He is there! O wondrous grace, matchless love, infinite patience! Wearied with forbearing, and yet there! Doubted, distrusted, grieved, and yet standing there- His locks wet with the dew of the morning- waiting to be gracious, longing to manifest Himself. Nothing has prevailed to compel Him to withdraw. When our coldness might have prevailed, when our fleshliness might have prevailed, when our neglect, ingratitude, and backslidings might have prevailed, never has He entirely and forever withdrawn. His post is to watch with a sleepless eye of love the purchase of His dying agonies, and to 'guard His vineyard of red wine, night and day lest any hurt it.'

Oh! who can adequately picture the concern, the tenderness, and jealousy with which the Son of God keeps His especial treasure? And whatever would force Him to retire- whether it be the coldness that congeals, or the fierce flame that would consume- yet such is His deathless love for His people, 'He withdraws not His eye from the righteous' for one moment. There stands the "Friend that sticks closer than a brother," waiting to beam upon them a glance of His love-enkindled eye, and to manifest Himself to them as He does not unto the world, even from behind our wall. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."...........