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He says to his disciples, "I am the vine, ye are the branches. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in me." The Apostle is directed by inspiration to call Jesus Christ "the chief corner stone in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." And under the guidance of the same Spirit, the Apostle calls Christ the husband, and the Church the wife. And again he says, in the Epistle to the Colossians, in exact agreement with the language of the text, "And he is the Head of the body, the Church." These expressions declare a union between the Redeemer and the redeemed so close and tender, as to awaken our astonishment at Christ's condescension, and our warmest gratitude in view of his love.
The text exhibits an arrangement of divine wisdom. God, Jehovah, gave his own Son to be head over all things to the Church which is his body. This passage is full of the most important instruction.
I. We have in it a view of the exaltation of the Church. It is indeed called the body, and Christ the head, to show his superiority, but we must not suppose that because the Church is a body, it is on this account insignificant or worthless. The character of the body will depend upon the head with which it is joined. We are accustomed to depreciate the excellence, and to deny the glory of our natural bodies, because they are associated with the flesh, which the Scriptures pronounce corrupt and cursed; but then this is a corruption and a curse not literally of the flesh, but of the moral nature. The body of man regarded in itself, contemplated in view of its structure, its capacity of development, its delicate and intricate machinery, its adaptation to all the wants of the living being, and its mysterious connection with the spirit that dwells within its chambers-this body is the most wonderful and glorious of all the visible works of God. The body of a living creature, when properly considered, reflects more honor upon its Creator than the solid masses of many senseless worlds. This body is essential to the completeness of the soul. Here on earth, what is the soul without it? We sometimes call these bodies the fetters of the soul. We call them clay in opposition to spirit. We think that when the soul is freed from these clogs, it will rise to the enjoyment of its full measure of blessedness and knowledge and glory; but yet this truth is also plainly taught in the Scriptures, that a body is essential to the highest development, and to the complete perfection of the soul in eternity. I do not suppose that the disembodied spirit, awaiting the sound of the trumpet that arouses the dead, though in the enjoyment of complete bliss, or in the endurance of unmitigated wo, can either enjoy or suffer as much as when it shall receive its body from the grave and be arrayed for immortality.
A body-of what character we cannot now form an idea-a body is essential to the perfection of the immortal spirit. Such a body Christ himself consents to honor and exalt, as the habitation of his own divine nature, while he shows himself to the adoring hosts of the redeemed, and receives their homage as King of kings and Lord of lords. It is not necessary to connect any idea of disparagement with the Church, because it is called the body of Christ; even that which is named in the figure, this body of clay, is a display of the power and wisdom of God, fitted to call out the highest praise. Each one of us has occasion to use the adoring language of the Psalmist, "I will praise thee, O God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." But then, what gives its value to the Church, considered as a body, is that it is the body of such a head. The head gives character to the whole being. This is the chief exaltation of the Church, that, as a body is essential, in connection with a head, to make up a living being, so in a certain most important sense, which must now be more fully explained, the Church, as a body, joined to its divine head, is essential to the existence and completeness of the glory and majesty and everlasting dominion of the Son of God as the Redeemer and Saviour of lost men. Certain it is, that Christ could not be what he is without the existence of his Church. He would be divine, one with the Father, "glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders." He would be worshipped in heaven, but he would not be known as Redeemer, or Mediator, or Saviour. He would not be regarded as a king while he had no kingdom. He could not be considered as the head if there were no body, or if he were, it would only be to exhibit his incompleteness in this respect. This idea, which seems so important and so interesting, and which in this connection so exalts the Church, is stated in the language connected with the text. It is a remarkable expression, and deserves especial consideration: "And gave him to be the Head over all things to the Church which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." The Church, his body, is his fullness, or, as is the exact meaning of the word, his completeness-that which is wanting to make him perfect-not in his character as God, or the eternal Son, or the Lord of Angels, but as Saviour, Redeemer, Mediator, and King of Saints. Paul says of believers, "and ye are complete in him"-without Christ, man is, and remains an imperfect being. He needs Christ, whatever else he may possess to make him complete in true wisdom, or spiritual excellence, or eternal safety, or infinite glory and bliss. And here we are taught that the Church is the fullness of Christ-he is complete in his people; of course in respect to his purposes of mercy and his work of grace; which yet are the most glorious exhibitions of his nature. We almost shrink from the thought, so much does it elevate the Church. The Church is not merely his chosen
flock to be saved by his blood-not merely his adopted family to be received into his kingdom and made happy there forever, but it is his body, his flesh; for the Apostle says, still more boldly, "for we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones." The Church is the fullness, the completeness of Christ. It is on this account in part, that the Father promised the Son that he should not make the sacrifice of himself in vain-that he should see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied-that he should have a seed to serve him-in short, that he should be complete in his connection with the Church, both on earth and in heaven. Already does Christ the Redeemer exhibit his glory in this char acter to the older inhabitants of heaven as he receives the homage of that portion of the Church that has already crossed the flood and joined itself to his glorious throne; and on earth how can he manifest himself to the ungodly except in this way, showing the power of his grace and exhibiting the riches of his love in calling a people out of the world and bestowing upon them the blessings of his salvation? Would Christ be what he is now in heaven-would he be throughout eternity what we are assured he will be, if, having made his sacrifice, and continuing his merciful intercession, all men should be left to hardness of heart, should resist his mercy, and not one be saved to sing in heaven the praises of redeeming love. Such a result would not, could not rob him of a single ray of his personal and essential glory, for as God he would still stand forth arrayed in spotless holiness and complete perfection; but he would not be exalted to the throne of dominion over the redeemed host, who shall now vie forever with the angels in their notes of praise. The Church is the fullness of Christ.
But lest there might be any unholy exultation-lest any thing of credit might be arrogated by the Church, the apostle ascribes all the excellence of the Church to Christ. It is the fullness of him that filleth all in all; the very existence of the Church-its spirituality, its connection with the Redeemer, its ultimate excellence, when according to his promise, he shall "present it to himself, a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing" --all this is derived from Christ; he filleth the members of this spiritual body with all their graces. The Lamb of God prepares for himself a spouse; to her it is granted that "she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, and the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints." Soon shall be heard "the voice of the great multitude as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." The Church shall be cherished by the Redeemer as a wife of youth. Of her he shall say, when she is received to his embrace, "Thou art all fair, my love-there is
no spot in thee." What honor thus to be united with Christ. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church." All this love and favor is secured to the people of God because Christ is the head and they the body.
II. We have another truth taught in the text; the main instruction of the passage. It is the superiority of Christ. He is the head! Language more expressive of excellence could not be used. Literally interpreted, the text declares Christ's exaltation among the exalted. The head is the most honorable part of the body. It is the throne of the intellect-the home of thought. In it the organs of sense are located. It is the especial dwelling of the soul, that looks out from the guarded windows, that listens at the surrounding galleries, that holds its court within its hidden chambers, issuing thence its orders and there receiving reports from the whole system. The head as the centre of thought, gives its character to the whole being; for say what we will of the heart as the seat of the affections, and thus determining the moral qualities, yet it ever remains true, "For as a man thinketh so is he." Upon the countenance we look to determine the intellectual and moral character of the individual. The head has all authority; to the head is committed all care.. This language, implying Christ's superiority, is established by many other passages of Scripture. It is said by prophecy of Christ, "I will make him my first born, higher than the kings of the earth." "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of glory, hath raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, far above all principalities and powers and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come, and hath put all things under his feet." The Church on earth is more precious in the sight of God the Father than any thing else the world contains-nay, than the world and all in it besides. For its sake, the blessings of Providence and grace are bestowed upon mankind. In his purposes of mercy and love towards his people, God bestows favors upon sinners who are joined with them in the relations of this life. Upon this Church shall be poured the treasures of God's glory; his power to make it holy and happy shall be exerted forever; and yet as the head of this body is Christ placed. This is to be Christ's redeemed family, this his everlasting kingdom. He shall reign by the appointment of his Father in uninterrupted dominion forever and ever. He is the Head! However intimate may be the communion of the Church with her Lord-however highly exalted she may be by this connection, in the reception of the blessings God confers upon her-she will ever be in such subjection to her Lord-she will ever be so inferior, as properly to be regarded only as the body of which he is the head.
This superior excellency of Christ consists in part in his divine nature. As when he was upon the earth wearing the outward form of humanity he was not divested of his deity, but through the veil, the glory of the Godhead would sometimes shine forth, so that that human voice seemed to carry with it the authority of Jehovah, as it healed the sick, and raised the dead, and quelled the tempest, so, in heaven, as the head of the Church, though we are assured that Christ will have a glorified body like the arisen bodies of the saints, and be known there as the elder brother of the redeemed family, yet this will not be at the expense of his divinity; this he will retain, with this he cannot part, and in this he will ever be worshipped as the Lord of angels, as well as the King of saints.
And not only thus will he be exalted, but as the Author of their salvation will all the redeemed exalt him forever. He is their Head in this respect. He contrived, he purposed, he executed, even amid sufferings, the plan of redemption. His ardent love impelled him to the sacrifice required; he stained the shameful cross with his own blood, that, thus sprinkled, it might turn aside the avenger, the angel of death; he sent the Spirit to move upon the souls of sinners and subdue their opposition to his will, to open their eyes, shut up against his beauty, and to unstop their ears, deaf to the music of his inviting voice, to renew and sanctify the soul, and to keep his chosen in the path of life unto the end. He has been ever present in the believer's experience-in every scene of his eventful life he has exercised control; in sorrow, he has been near to comfort; in temptation, to strengthen; in danger, to defend; and in death, to cheer and animate with heavenly hopes; until now safely gathered into his kingdom above, the happy spirits of the redeemed are ready to exalt him, not only as King of Heaven, but as the author of eternal life. Each shining member of that church on high, gathered at last from every nation to dwell forever at the right hand of God, looking up to him, who is there gratefully acknowledged as the Head not only of the Church, but of all principality and power, will be ready, with an emphasis which Thomas could not express, to exclaim, "My Lord and my God!" Christ shall be the glorious Head of the Church forever and
III. This passage also gives us light in respect to the nature of the present connection between Christ and his Church. It is here represented by the connection of the head with the body. As the head is essential to the life of the body, so is Christ essential to the very existence and life of the Church. Its spiritual being has been derived from him, and for its continuance it is entirely dependent upon him. The body would not sooner lose all its powers and turn to corruption, if the head were removed, than