Miscellaneous Writings

Part 1

J. T. Mawson

Compiler's Note

Articles taken from Magazines: Scripture Truth (1909-1975), Simple Testimony (1901-1925), Edification (1927-1939), Our Calling (1910-1913), Loving Words (1914), Scattered Seed (1900-1903), Words of Grace (1908), Help and Food (1923, 1927), the Scripture Truth supplement “Christ and the Assembly”, and a handful of The Gospel Messenger (volumes 53-58), as well as books of notes of meetings, “Ministry for the Church of God” (Aberdeen 1922) and “The Epistle of Christ” (Leeds 1937), “Narratives for the Young”, and hymns from Gospel Tidings and Spiritual Songs hymn books.

The articles are sorted alphabetically according to, first, articles that appeared in Scripture Truth, a magazine that J.T.M. edited from it's conception in 1909 until his homecall in 1943 (Section 1), followed by articles that appeared in other magazines (Section 2), and finally poems and hymns (Section 3). Some articles appeared in slightly different forms in other magazines from articles which appeared initially in Scripture Truth. These have been included with both variants, one version in the first list, and another in the second list.

Many further articles which in “Scripture Truth” are simply titled “Editor,” in years where our brother was the stated editor of the magazine, have been omitted from the collection due to uncertainty over whether they were penned by J.T.M. or a helper.


“I Have Fought the Good Fight”

On the evening of July 19th last, John T. Mawson, the beloved Editor of this Magazine, drew his last breath, and “absent from the body” was “present with the Lord.” For a number of years he had suffered more or less from asthma, and on a number of occasions the attack rose to such a pitch of intensity as to endanger his life. He was carried through them however until this last attack which, lasting exactly a week, brought his pilgrimage and service to a close. Our readers may like to know that though in bodily infirmity, owing to the virulence of these attacks added to the weight of years, yet he was enabled to speak twice on the Lord's Day, eight days before his departure; once to a group of believers on Luke 19, the nobleman going into a far country and leaving his servants with the instruction, “Occupy till I come;” and then again in the evening preaching the Gospel from Luke 7. With these two messages his service closed.

Commencing to preach the Gospel when very young he was granted a period of service which extended to a little over 50 years, and he was used to the conversion of many. Possessing a pastor's heart as well as the gift of an evangelist, at the beginning of 1909 he started this Magazine, in collaboration with another servant of God, H.D.R.Jameson, who however did not long survive, and from 1912 he carried on the work alone. By this means, and by his other published writings, he has been used much to help those who have through grace believed. He kept the faith, and his course is now run. We believe too that it may truly be said that he fought the good fight. The story of God's people has been disfigured by many strivings and contentions that have been by no means good, but from that type of fighting he was singularly free, for he was marked, as we can testify, very largely by the spirit enjoined in a Timothy 2:24—“The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.”

Those who have known him longest are most ready to speak of him in similar terms. Here are three extracts:—

“Perhaps I am able to go back in memory as far as or farther than, most to the early days of our beloved brother, J.T.Mawson, for we were together in Gospel campaigns (mostly in tents) in Canada , the U.S.A. and Jamaica from 1894 on. What struck me from the very beginning of his ministry was his emphasis on God's grace . If I have an ever deepening sense of His wonderful grace, I owe it, I truly believe, to the early impressions I received from the one who was for so long my beloved and valued partner in the Lord's service, The touching way in which be often referred to the Lord Himself, even the way be used to pronounce the name Jesus has left an ineffaceable mark upon my memory.”

Again, another says,

“We had hoped that our beloved brother, J.T.Mawson, would have been spared for further service, but the Lord has thought otherwise. We rejoice for his sake, for no more will he be faced with these terrible asthmatic attacks. After many years of strenuous service he has reached the end of his pilgrim journey. He will be remembered as the earnest evangelist whom God used mightily in the Gospel. Many of his children in the faith will read these lines, and thank God they ever heard his faithful messages used to their eternal blessing. He also united the gift of a pastor with that of an evangelist, and his ministry ever exalted Christ, calling for an answer on the part of his hearers that they should be indeed the epistles of Christ known and read of all men. Not only with voice but also with pen he sought the salvation of sinners and the edification of saints. Volume after volume has come from his pen. The end of this year would have completed his thirty-fifth year of service in editing the well-known monthly magazine Scripture Truth , which owed its origin to his desire to feed the flock of God. It has gone all over the world, and helped many lonely workers in the mission fields.

“Perhaps what struck the writer more than anything else was the way in which dear John Mawson ripened in the things of God as life advanced and sufferings dogged his footsteps. Especially when there was opposition against him in certain quarters he took it so much like his Master, never hitting back, never complaining. God moulded and fashioned him in such sort that he was the unconscious instrument in God's hand of showing us what the Christ-like spirit is in times of adversity. We shall miss him sorely, but the example he has left behind will lead us to follow more earnestly in the same steps. His whole spirit would turn our eyes from himself to the Lord whom he loved and served in his spirit.”

And yet again, another,

“It was with mixed feelings that on Monday evening, July 19th, at 10.30 we received a telephone message telling us that an hour and a half earlier our beloved Editor had fallen asleep.

“We could not but sorrow at the passing of one who had so devotedly served the Lord for so many years; on the other hand we could only rejoice that his much suffering for so long a time was ended and that he was at home with the Lord.

“For well nigh fifty years we had known him, and only a few weeks before his home call we had been together speaking of the things of the Lord.

“Nothing would have been more repugnant to him than anything suggestive of praise, but we can say, he loved the Lord; he loved the saints; and he loved His service in the glad tidings.

“Now he rests from his labours and his works do follow him. To his devoted wife and to his daughters our hearts go out in sincere sympathy. The representative company that assembled in the quiet little cemetery at Pitlochry was evidence of the widespread esteem in which our brother was held.

“Now there comes a loud call to our young brethren, not necessarily to step out in public service, but each just in the sphere in which the Lord has been pleased to place him, and in happy fellowship with the company to which the Lord has called him, to serve Him with reverence and with godly fear.

“Thus may the home-going of our brother be used by the Lord for the stirring up of us all to increased devotedness; more diligent service; and greater desire to be here for His glory till we see Him face to face, for His dear Name's sake.”

The present writer is a fourth who had known and esteemed him for nearly, if not quite, fifty years. In heartily endorsing what the others have said, he bears thankful witness to the grace and help received through him, and thanks God for the privilege of having known him.

On the first page of the first issue, for January 1909, its character was declared; Here is a reprint of what there appeared:—

“The title of our magazine will be sufficient evidence that we wholeheartedly accept the Scriptures as given by inspiration of God, and as such we hold that they have authority to bind the conscience, and are the final court of appeal in every question of doctrine and conduct.

“They are replete with comfort for the saints of God, and are all-sufficient for correction and instruction in the way of righteousness; so that by them the man of God may be throughly furnished unto every good work.

“The Scriptures will always be prized by the children of God, not only because they come from God, but because they speak of Christ, and indeed it is only as this is seen, and Christ is loved, that they are understood.

“We shall endeavour, as time and space permit, to draw out from the Scriptures the things concerning Christ, believing that the surest way of preservation from the seductive movements, doctrines, and spirits that abound, is occupation with that which is good; for who is he that shall harm you if ye be followers of that which is good.'

“All good is centred in, and flows from Christ; and it is as He is paramount in the lives of His people, that they are happy themselves and useful to others.

“Then Christianity becomes a reality—no longer visionary, but practical; no longer mere doctrine for the mind (important as that is), but power in the life.

“We have a link—an imperishable link—with all those who love this living Lord and Saviour in sincerity and truth. In His Name we greet you.

“May we seek earnestly to build ourselves up in our most holy faith, to pray in the Holy Ghost, and to keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

“Now unto Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Saviour be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.”

 

“A Banner For Them That Fear Him”

Psalm 60

David hd his ups and downs as most of us have, but they are strange words that he uses at the opening of this 6oth Psalm:—“O God, Thou hast cast us off.” Is that true? Does God not cast off those who are His? Not one of us who have believed could say that. Cast down we may be, and often are, and good for us too, for “God comforteth those that are cast down” (2 Cor. 7:6), but cast off, never; God cannot deny Himself. He cannot be false to His word. There are wonderful words in the Old Testament which assure us that that could never be. They are meant in the first place for Israel , but we may appropriate them. Take this:—“Hearken unto Me, O house of Jacob, Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isa. 46). And again:—“Can a woman forget her sucking child? . . . Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold I have graven thee upon the Palms of My hands” (Isa. 49). But the New Testament makes assurance more assured, for there we are in our own sphere, and we read, “He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”. So that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me” (Heb. 13); and most wonderful of all, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8). It is as clear as can be that we shall never be cast off.

But David continues his complaint. He says, “Thou hast scattered us.” The two things would go together—to be cast off by God would be to be scattered one from another. But God has not cast off His flock, yet it is certainly a scattered flock today. Why? It is not God who has done this. The Lord Himself said, “The wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” Whereas He laid down His life to gather them together in one, that there might be one flock and one Shepherd (John 10). “I know,” said Paul, “that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20). His prophetic words have been fulfilled, and God's fair flock is a divided and scattered flock, and the shame of it is ours. The scattering of the flock is the devil's work, but he would never have gained an entrance into it if the flock had hearkened to the voice of the Shepherd. It is our carnality and self-will that has made us dull of hearing and has given the devil his chance. “Now I beseech you,” wrote the Apostle, “by the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that ye be perfectly joined together, in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1). Have we listened to that beseeching? No, alas! we have not, we have been disobedient. And so the charge that follows is just and true.

“Ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal?” (1 Cor. 3). It would be well for us to face up to such solemn words as these and see how we stand, for those who make the loudest boast of walking in the truth are often the most sectarian in spirit and practice. It is fleshly pretension to talk of being seated in the heavenlies in Christ if we are sunken down in Corinthian discord and carnality, and are indifferent to the commandments of the Lord which Paul was inspired to write (1 Cor. 14:37).

But David did not only lament a scattered nation, but a shaking earth also; he looked around, and wherever he looked there was trouble; said he, “Thou hast made the earth to tremble, Thou hast broken it. . . it shaketh.” And that certainly describes the state of the nations today. David was bewildered. He had looked for peace and the kingdom of God on earth, and lo! war, and disaster upon disaster, and in his bewilderment he complained, “Thou hast made us drink the wine of astonishment.” In these days many are drinking from that same cup—they are asking, Why? It is a question in their hearts continually, if not on their lips. Is God responsible for the broken, shaking earth? Can its miseries and groanings be laid at His door? Nay, as the church cannot blame God for its scattering, neither can the world blame Him for its shaking. It is “man's inhumanity to man that makes countless thousands mourn.” Men reap what they sow; if they prefer the devil's way to God's they will get the devil's malice instead of God's mercy. Disobedience of God's law lies behind the world's wars. It has been so from the beginning. Genesis 3 records the first disobedience and defiance of the Divine will, and Genesis 4 describes the first destruction of human life, a man murdered by his own mother's son. The one follows the other as night follows day. It is cause and effect.

And yet we must be careful here lest we give the impression that God is an indifferent spectator of the ways of men, or powerless to intervene. He is God and over all: His throne must ever be universal and supreme. “He ruleth by His power for ever; His eyes behold the nations, let not the rebellious exalt themselves” (Ps. 66:7). But this is the acceptable time, the day of grace and salvation, and “God is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God finds no pleasure in the miseries of men, their groanings make no music in His ears, but when one sinner repents there is joy in heaven. But He will have the last word in the affairs of men; He has said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay”; and when He does intervene He will finish the work (i.e., He will settle the account) and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Rom. 9:28).

What then? With a scattered flock and a shaking earth, shall we abandon hope? Is the throne of God shaken, are His purposes scattered? Turn again to David. From the verge of despair he looked upward and away from the scattered flock and shaking earth and encircling gloom; and his distress was changed to delight, his sighs gave place to song, for he saw a banner unfurled and flying free and fair above him. “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of truth, that Thy beloved may be delivered.” That banner leads a victorious host. It was first lifted up when Israel fought with Amalek in the desert and broke his power with the edge of the sword. Then Moses raised his altar to the Lord and called it Jehovah-nissi—the Lord my banner.

The banner of the Lord cannot suffer defeat: it is held aloft by the undiminished power of the Holy Ghost. Hear how Paul describes it in his farewell letter to his son Timothy. “Be thou not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord.” The testimony of the Lord is our banner today. Upon this banner I see quartered a manger cradle, a cross of shame, an empty tomb and a throne of glory. It is all Christ. Christ come down to manhood in great humility; Christ crucified; Christ triumphant over death; Christ Crowned with glory and honour, and most surely coming again as King of kings and Lord of lords. Christ is the truth, and the “banner is displayed because of the truth, that His beloved may be delivered.”

Things could scarcely be worse than Paul describes them in this farewell letter, yet he is a poor soldier of Jesus Christ who has not felt the thrill of triumph that runs through every page of it. Paul's “nevertheless” and “notwithstanding” rebuke all defeatism, and the whole letter is a trumpet call to “everyone that nameth the Name of the Lord.” The banner of the Lord is not a sectarian banner: there are such all over the field of conflict—filthy rags—but this is the Royal Standard, and every “good soldier of Jesus Christ” rallies to it.

David's cry to God was, “Save with Thy right hand and hear me,” and God will answer that cry, not only for Israel and the nations but for us also. Christ is the Man of God's right hand (Ps. 80:17). He is the “arm of the Lord,” “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1), and we, for His sake, are the “beloved of God.” He can deliver and He will. We need not fear: no power of evil can prevail against the will of God. The scattered flock is one flock and shall be gathered together in one as surely as Jesus died with this in view. It will be at our “gathering together unto Him” (2 Thess. 2:1). It will be at His coming when “the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4).

He will put the world right also for He shall judge it in righteousness (Acts 7:11) and “the work of righteousness shall be peace and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isa. 39). “In His day shall the righteous flourish: and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth” (Ps. 72). David's hope was in God, and so is ours, and in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. He has said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid; ye believe in God, believe also in Me.”

David's doubts and fears were all dispelled and confidence and joy filled his soul, for he remembered that “God hath spoken in His holiness” (v. 6), and what He hath spoken He will most surely perform. He had promised the land to Israel, and though they had failed to possess it owing to their lack of faith in Him, He would and will bring them into it, and the very foes that had kept them out of their possessions—Moab, Edom and Philistia would be compelled to witness and add to their triumph. But “God hath promised some better thing for us”; ours is a heavenly inheritance, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” “It is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” And they have been revealed to us for our present triumph and joy.

But David asks, “Who will bring me into the strong city? Who will lead me into Edom ? Wilt not Thou, O God?” And his own answer is, “Vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for He it is that shall tread down our enemies.” Like Israel of old, so we in our day have strong foes who would keep us from enjoying our God-given blessings. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12), and we may well ask, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Our answer is, “Our sufficiency is of God.” The world, the flesh and the devil are subtle and mighty foes, but, “my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” and “ye shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” And thus the banner that He has given to them that fear Him shall lead us on to final and complete victory.

A Biography in Prophecy

Isaiah 53

If any one enquires of me as to this greatest chapter in the Old Testament, as did the Ethiopian Chancellor of Philip the evangelist, “I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself or some other man?” I can but answer as Philip did, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8). That name which is above every name is the sure key to the chapter, there is none other, and of Him who bears it, it is my determination and privilege to speak. Here we have set in true and divine order the sufferings of Christ and the glory that shall follow. The chapter gives us in vivid terms the great steps in the history of the Lord from the manger-cradle to the universal throne, from the First Advent to the manifested glories of the Second Advent, it is on this line that I ask you to consider it with me.

The Prophetic Word

"Who hath believed our report ?

The prophets had spoken, telling in appealing words of His coming, of His great love for His people and His determination to save them; but who cared for the prophets? Who believed their report? Not many. So few indeed, that an aged widow knew them all in Jerusalem and could speak with them! Yet there they were, that godly expectant, few who looked for redemption in Israel , for God did not permit the light of faith and hope to wholly die out; but the mass of the people were indifferent to any words that God had sent to them by His holy prophets.

 

His Birth in Jerusalem

"And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed .”

“The arm of the Lord” is a divine title. In the 51st chapter of the prophecy the arm of the Lord is called upon to awake for the deliverance of the people as in the ancient days. “Art thou not it” cried the prophet, “which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for thy ransomed to pass over.” The arm of the Lord was manifested in such glorious power at the Red Sea, that even the sceptics in Israel 's host must have been convinced. But now, where do we see the arm of the Lord? Not in the thunder, the lightning, the earthquake or the fire, not in the mighty wind that divided the sea, but in a Babe in the manger at Bethlehem . A weak Babe, apparently entirely dependent upon His mother's breasts for sustenance! Could that lowly Babe be the arm of the Lord? Yes, He was, but to whom was He revealed? for verily a revelation was necessary if He was to be known; a revelation which only faith could receive. And not many received it.

A few did, such as the shepherds of Bethlehem, and the aged Simeon, and the widowed Anna, and Elizabeth the mother of John, and the Virgin mother who treasured the revelation in her heart. Just these, and very few beside them, for the eyes of the heart had to be opened before men could see in that lowly Babe the arm, the strength of the Lord.

 

The Hidden Years

"For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground .”

Here are described those thirty hidden years in which our Lord grew up before the eyes of Jehovah. Other eyes did not discern the freshness of that apparently insignificant and tender shoot, but no words can describe its beauty in the eyes of God. “Thou art My beloved Son in whom is all My delight,” are words in which are summed up all that those hidden years meant to Him.

And it was in a dry ground that He grew. He derived no nourishment from His surroundings. Israel had become debased and degraded, an apostatising and barren nation. They were like a sun-parched desert in which God could find no pleasure, and the godly no sustenance. Not from the schools of the Rabbis, nor from the teaching of the scribes did Jesus draw His supplies as “He grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40). No, they contributed nothing to Him; all His springs were in God. He was cast upon God from the womb; He hoped in God when He was upon His mother's breasts; and in His law He meditated day and night as He grew up to the full stature of a man.

 

How He Appeared to Men

"He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him."

Thus He appeared to the eyes of men. He had attracted no notice during those hidden, quiet years. The absurd and blasphemous legends of the Romish church have no foundation in fact. Men had no eyes to see or hearts to appreciate Him, who was altogether lovely in the eyes of heaven. If He had come with power and arrogance, crushing all opposition to His will beneath all-conquering feet, they might have admired and followed Him, but they could not understand His holy separation to God, His loveliness, His meekness and His lowliness. The grace of heaven was unattractive to their eyes; they had no use for Him who sought only the honour that comes from God and lived only to serve, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister.

 

His Entrance on Public Service

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as if were our faces from Him; He was despised and we esteemed Him not."

This was what He received when He stepped out of seclusion into public ministry. Many a man has been rejected by his fellows, yet respected, but this Man—who was none other than the Lord of glory, was despised as well as rejected. How scornfully the great men of the nation spoke of Him; with what disdain they said: “Is not this the carpenter?” “This fellow receiveth sinners!” “He hath a devil and is mad, why hear ye him.” And even those who did not treat Him with the undisguised contempt of the Pharisees, hid their faces from Him and His appeals of love. In the last great test, when His visage was more marred than any man's they were afraid to speak out on behalf of Him whom their leaders despised. None, save perhaps one or two women, understood the meaning of His deep poverty; His sighs and tears moved the multitude only to derision and laughter.

 

The Sorrows of His Life

"Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted .”

But it was not for Himself that He sighed and wept, but for them. He would have lifted every sorrow from their hearts, and been exceedingly joyful in doing it, but they would have none of it; they were blind to their blessing, and hugged their sins and rejected Him. It was for them He wept. In the midst of men, because of what men were—sin-loving, devil-deceived, God-hating—He was the Man of sorrows.

Yet their enmity did not change His love. How greatly He loved them! Right on to the end of His day of service He served them with unwearied mercy. He healed their sick; He touched their lepers with a compassionate and powerful hand; He gave sight to their blind, and delivered multitudes from the blighting tyranny of demons. And let no one suppose that these were acts of power only as when He created the worlds. No, He felt their miseries and bondage; in His tender heart He carried their burdens; He was afflicted in the midst of them because they were afflicted; virtue went out of Him to heal them, and His spirit was weighed down by the loads that He lifted from them. It was in His spirit that He felt these things, for His sinless, holy body could not be seized upon or defiled by disease, even though His enemies said, “An evil disease cleaveth fast unto Him” (Ps. 41:8). But they thought that God was against Him when they saw His sorrow: that He was stricken and smitten of God. Why was He so poor if He was in God's favour? Why should He sigh and weep? If God were pleased with Him would He not be popular with Pharisees and priests? So they reasoned and reasoning thus they appeased their consciences while they rejected Him.

 

His Cross

"But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed .”

Now we reach the cross, the great end for which He came into the world. The nation of Israel will yet take up these words; for the veil is to be removed from their hard and unbelieving hearts; at His feet and with broken and penitent spirits they will bow down in wonder. But we also, who are not of Israel , but are sinners of the Gentiles, we can find room enough for us in this great statement. We might well ask, why He, the Prince of life, bowed His bead in death? Certainly death had no claim upon Him, and could have had no power over Him, had He not submitted Himself to it. The enmity of His foes, fierce as it was, was not enough, no matter how fixed was their determination to do it to account for His death. Then where shall we find the answer to our question? We find it here. It was for our iniquities and transgression that He suffered and died, that by His stripes we might be healed. And those stripes were not those that men laid upon Him, but those that fell upon Him from the throne of eternal justice. What was it that carried Him to the cross, and enabled Him to endure until justice could demand no more from Him? It was love, invincible, eternal love, the love of Christ that passeth knowledge, love to us who had no love for Him.

 

Our Condition For Whom He Died

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all .”

What words are like God's words? Here in two brief sentences there is described our character and condemnation. Like sheep we have strayed and have, in our straying, shown the folly of our sin; “we have turned every one to his own way,” and thereby have declared the wilfulness , the wickedness of our sin. What but the just condemnation of God could fall upon us, after we had so definitely and deliberately declared what we are? But God has undertaken for us, and whether it be the folly or the wilfulness of our sin—all our iniquity He laid upon our Surety. It is the saved remnant of Israel that is speaking in these wonderful words, but every believer may use them, for “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

 

His Character Who Died For Us

"He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth .”

The Spirit of God would not engage us wholly with the great work that has been done for our salvation, but with Him who has done it, and here is described His character and the way He met all the sufferings that men and devils forced upon Him. There was no resentment in His heart and no resistance to evil. It was the will of God that He should suffer and in absolute subjection to God's will He went to the cross. “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as He hath given Me commandment even so I do. Arise let us go hence,” are surely words that should fill us with wonder and worship, for they describe as no other could, this holy subjection, this complete obedience to the will of God. “And they took Jesus, and led Him away. And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull” (John 19:16-17).

 

His Apparent Complete Eclipse

"He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken .”

So complete and unanimous was His condemnation by His judges that it seemed as though the desire of His foes would be realised when they said, “When shall He die, and His Name perish” (Ps. 41:5). He was cut off out of the land of the living. The whole earth groans beneath the ways of Adam's generation. Violence and corruption, pride and selfishness declare what his progeny is; the world is full of Adam and his disobedience; but this Man, the obedient One, shall His heavenly graces that shed their fragrance amid the moral putrefaction of Adam's world survive? Shall He have a generation that shall fill the earth with His beauty? It did not seem like it when He was led to the cross and when He was stricken for the transgression of the people. “It is expedient,” said the godless high priest, “that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” He did not understand the meaning of his words, but when he succeeded in his design, it did appear as though the visit of our Lord to this world had been a disastrous failure and that He had spent His strength for naught and in vain.

 

His Burial

"And men appointed His grave with the wicked [correct translation] but He was with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, neither was there guile in His mouth."

It was the custom of the Romans to leave the bodies of crucified criminals upon their crosses until the carrion birds had cleaned the bones of every shred of flesh, but as a concession to the Jewish laws, which said: “if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God)” (Deut. 21:23), they permitted the bodies of Jewish criminals to be buried at nightfall; and the custom was to dig a rough hole near the spot of the crucifixion and cast them in there. These soldiers, who had gambled for the clothes of the Lord, were keen to get back to their dice and their wine, and had prepared beforehand a grave big enough to hold the three corpses.

They made His grave with the wicked, for He was nothing more to them than these other poor wretches, and they had their brutal work to do, and the sooner it was done the better for all concerned.

But when the great work was finished, and the darkness was past and His beloved Son hung dead upon the cross, God stepped in and cried, Halt! No further were men permitted to go on dishonouring the One who had done His will with a perfect obedience. His enemies were thrust aside and from this point onward He was honoured and revered by those who loved Him. “He was with the rich in His death.” God had held His man in reserve, and now Joseph, the timorous and secret disciple, stood forth with the courage of a lion, and in the very teeth of a hostile world, and regardless of all consequences, took his stand by his crucified Lord and begged His body. It was an unheard of thing! Whoever before had set any value on the body of a crucified criminal? It was so strange that Pilate made special enquiries as to whether He was really dead, and then he granted Joseph's request. The sacred body was wrapt in pure linen with a hundred pounds of spice, and Joseph and Nicodemus with two or three women gave Him the burial of a King.

And here lies the meaning of the grave being introduced before the sufferings are fully told. The sort of grave He was to fill, was not an after thought, either on man's part or God's; both were prepared and ready before He died.

 

His Death as God's Judgment

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He hath put Him to grief when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin .”

Justice has often miscarried in this world's sad history, and men have suffered for crimes of which they were not guilty; but here was not a miscarriage of justice; though He had done no violence neither was there any deceit in His mouth, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him,” and there is no unrighteousness with the Lord. He is the just God. He is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works (Ps. 145:17). Oh, why did the just God bruise Him, who is “that just One” (Acts 22:24)? Why did God who is holy forsake Him “that is holy, Him that is true” (Rev. 3:7)? Why was the sinless One put to grief? There is only one answer, and it is that God chose to deal with Him as our Surety and Substitute. It gave God no pleasure in the way in which we understand pleasure, to do this. but it was the only way if He was to be a Saviour God, for just He must ever be. And this bruising was not the physical wounds that He endured, but the indescribable sufferings of His soul when He was made an offering for sin. Injustice there was from man's side, inveterate and unrestrained wickedness was in the judge's seat and absolute goodness at the bar; sin upon the throne, crowned with almost universal acclaim, and holiness on the cross, despised and execrated by Gentile and Jew. But God was over all and permitted men to go thus far that they might fully declare themselves in their hatred of Him and that He might show in absolute justice the exceeding riches of His grace to them.

 

His Resurrection and Present Work

"He shall see His seed, He shalt prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands."

Not until resurrection could He see His seed, for “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12). And it was after death and in resurrection that He said to Mary “Go unto My brethren, and say unto them. . . My Father and your Father, My God and your God.” These were His seed, His generation, and the multitudes who “have believed on Him through their word” (John 17), are the answer to the lament of the prophet, “Who shall declare His generation, for He was cut off out of the land of the living?” “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of One, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2). His life, His character, His graces are not lost, the earth is to be filled with them through His seed, and their great destiny is to be conformed to His image that He may be the Firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Israel also will be gathered and He will be able to say as He presents them to God, a redeemed nation and a wholly right seed, “Behold, I and the children that Thou hast given Me.”

And He “dieth no more.” He lives “after the power of an endless life.” He has glorified God and saved His people by one offering. He prolongs His days into eternity; God's answer to those who would have cut Him off for ever.

And “the pleasure of the Lord” prospers in His hand “for Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, or to give repentance to Israel, and the forgiveness of slim” (Acts 5:31). And to this day He is working from His throne in glory and wino fling men for God.

 

His Coming Again

"He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied."

A great hope fills our hearts and His, and I believe that I am justified in bringing it in here, though the Old Testament does not speak specifically of it. We have read in the Word that “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word; that He might present it to Himself a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). When that hour of presentation of the church to Himself comes He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. He will say the prize is worth the price, for His church will yield everlasting joy to His once broken heart as she receives His boundless love into her heart and responds to it without reserve. How near the hour of His supreme joy may be we cannot tell, but this we know, He has said, „Surely, I come quickly; and His church, the Bride of the Lamb replies, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

 

His Glorious Kingdom

"By His knowledge shall My righteous servant instruct many in righteousness, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

He will establish a kingdom according to God's own righteousness and everyone who enters it will be instructed by Him in ways of righteousness, and He Himself will be for ever the manifestation of the righteousness in which He instructs His subjects; for they will never forget that they could not have been in the place of blessing at all if He had not borne their iniquities. “And He shall be great . . . and of His kingdom there shall be no end,” but He shall have companions with Him in that kingdom—the great and the strong—and who are these? Those surely who have taken character from Him and learnt His ways, and have delighted to follow in His footsteps; to suffer with Him and for Him in the day of His rejection that they might reign with Him in the day of His glory. He that is greatest among you let him be as the younger; and he that is chief as he that doth serve . . . I am among you as He that serveth.” Yes that is the way of true greatness and for it strength is needed; and it is those who are conscious of their need of strength that are made strong, for He has said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

But among the crowns that shall shine upon His sacred brow in that day of glory this shall shine with the greatest splendour—He is the Lamb that was slain. This shall never be forgotten: He poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.

A Chamber for the Man of God

2 Kings 4:8-11

This 4th chapter of 2 Kings is one of the most delightful and instructive in the Old Testament. It begins with a famine and it ends with a feast, plainly proving that God has come into it by the way. Elisha the man of God, who stood for God and showed what His goodness and grace were to a needy and sinful people, is the great figure in it, but he does but illustrate the fullness that there is in our Lord Jesus to meet every need that any man or woman can have. Thus we will view him. Elisha shall show us what the Lord Jesus is as the dispenser of the grace and blessings of God.

The chapter opens with a bankrupt widow, a speaking picture of a burdened unforgiven sinner, but Elisha met her need, and not only was her debt paid—the past all settled—but she had “the rest” to live upon: the future was all secured and provided for. So it is with all who have turned to the Lord Jesus Christ in their need—they are justified freely by the grace of God—cleared for ever of their guilty past—but their future is also secured: the grace of the Lord is sufficient for them.

But the figure changes, the bankrupt widow, now forgiven and free, gives place to a great woman with great possessions. And this very change has been wrought in and for us. Christians, we who were once bankrupt sinners are now a great people through the grace of God. I hope we are not great in our own eyes, and I hope that we do not desire to be great in the eyes of the world; yet we are great in the eyes of heaven, for we are the children of God. Hear the words of Holy Scripture: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, and IF CHILDREN THEN HEIRS; HEIRS OF GOD AND JOINT HEIRS WITH CHRIST; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8). No angel has so high a place as that, nor can any claim so great a destiny. I saw crowds of people waiting in the streets the other day and learnt that the king's daughter was expected to pass, and when she did she was given a respectful and loyal tribute by the crowds, and perfectly right—honour to whom honour—she is a great person in the land and the people acknowledge it. As you and I walk in the streets nobody notices us; we have no honour in this world, for we are nobodies in its estimation; but the day is coming when we shall enter our own land, the golden gates to the Father's house will be thrown back for us, and in that day the angels of God will line the shining way and welcome us home—the sons of God brought to glory by redeeming blood. This is the dignity that God has put upon us; may our ways be consistent with it. Let us live as the children of God should, as those who have great resources and a great destiny.

We owe everything to our Lord, and it is right we should consider Him and His desires. What does He desire? Above all things He wants our company. True love can be satisfied with nothing less from us. Notice in our picture that THE MAN OF GOD PASSED BY THE HOUSE OF THE GREAT WOMAN CONTINUALLY. It is thus that our Lord acts. He seeks for a place within our hearts and lives. And the Holy Ghost has come to take of the things of Christ and show them to us, and thus He passes by us continually to win a place for Himself in our hearts. It is thus that we see Him in Revelation 3. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” He says, “If any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me.” The man of God did not force himself upon this woman's hospitality, but when she constrained him he went in and ate bread with her. It has been said, and truly said, that “we get as much of the company of the Lord as we desire.” If we constrain Him He will not deny us His company; it is this that His heart yearns for and it is a joy to Him when yearning for Him awakens in our hearts.

I gather that these occasional visits of Elisha to the Shunammite's house were wonderful times for her, insomuch that she determined to have him there not as an occasional visitor but as one of her household, a constant guest. And we, have we not known seasons of joy when we admitted the Lord to our hearts? In sorrow we have sought Him and He has blest us with His own comfort; in times of depression He has cheered us, and turned our mourning into songs of praise. He has touched our hearts with His love and we have been ashamed of our neglect of Him but rejoiced in His grace that abides ever the same. These seasons may not have lasted long, but they were wonderful while they did last. He gave them to us that we might long after Him more and do what this great woman did for Elisha.

She said to her husband, “Behold, now I perceive that this is a holy man of God , which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber on the wall . . . and it shall be when he cometh to us that he shall turn in thither.” Her perception was right—she was a wise woman. Oh, that we may be all like her in regard to Christ; but if we are to be, as she prepared a chamber for Elisha, so we must prepare a chamber for Christ. The heart is the chamber—your heart, dear Christian. It may not be very large but it may be the guest-chamber of the King of glory. But how can the heart be prepared for Him? Let us learn the lesson that the story of this wise woman teaches.

She was a practical, thorough kind of woman, and I have no doubt that the first thing she did was to use the broom and clear out the cobwebs that were hidden in the dark corners and sweep out of the chamber all that was unsuited to the desired guest. Test yourself here, dear Christian. Are there lurking in your heart things that you cherish that keep the Lord out of it? Ah, if you do but see Him passing by, and get one glimpse of His glory, these cherished things will be filth and rubbish to you; you will feel them to be encumbrances, occupying time and space that the Lord would fill, and you will want to be rid of them. Do you say, “I have tried often to give up habits and things that I know are wrong but have only failed, until I have almost despaired”? Yes, I know that experience and I know what you need—a true sight of the cross upon which Jesus gave Himself for you to redeem you from all that iniquity that holds you and to purify you unto Himself, to be His own peculiar treasure. You need that backward look to the cross, and then an upward look to the glory into which He has gone, and the Holy Ghost who dwells in you can give you both, and the Holy Ghost will be the power within you to bring you into conformity to Christ. It is in the presence of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit that we are enabled to condemn and turn out of our lives what is contrary to Christ, and best of all, and most needful of all, to judge and turn from sinful self.

The Lord Himself will come to our aid if we place ourselves without reserve in His hands, and we may take up David's words and say to Him, “Search me, O God, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me.” Lord, take Thy candle and go through every chamber of my life from its topmost turret down to its deepest vault. Light with Thine own light the dark recesses in it and show me things as they appear to Thee!

Now comes the furnishing of the chamber. Into the one that she prepared for Elisha the great woman put A BED, A TABLE, A STOOL AND A CANDLESTICK. The bed is the place of rest. You remember the words, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls.” The yoke of the Lord means submission to His holy will, and His will is good and perfect and acceptable. It is not against us but for us, and when we yield ourselves to it the inward conflict and restlessness give place to quietness and rest. And as we learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart, the envyings and jealousy and ambitions of men that make them fret and fume do not trouble us; we can leave ourselves and our concerns in God's hand and in confidence in Him find rest. This is the first thing; we have no chamber fit for the Lord to dwell in if this is absent, but in such a heart He will find His pleasure and rest.

Then follows the table, and this speaks of communion. “I will sup with him and he with Me,” said the Lord. He desires to enter into our things, our joys and sorrows, for He loves us and is interested in us as our dearest and truest Friend, and He desires to bring to us His own comfort and grace in all that may cause us grief, but He would also lead us into His things, for He wants us to sup with Him, to have communion with Him in His things as His friends. A heart that is at rest from itself and consequently free to hold communion with Him is a heart that is delightful to Him.

The stool came next, and we must not overlook this. Mary understood the need and blessedness of the stool, for she sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word, and we can only be maintained in communion with Him as we sit at His feet and learn of Him. The old restlessness will re-assert itself if we neglect this; but as we sit at His feet we shall abide in Him and His words will abide in us, and we shall ask what we will, for hearing His word and speaking to Him in prayer go together. At His feet we learn of Him, and the more we know Him the more we love Him, and He has said, “If any man love Me he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” The chamber will not be tenantless if we show our love to the Lord by hearing and keeping His word.

Then the candlestick will be there. Our bodies will be full of light, having no part dark; sincerity and truth will mark us and we shall shine for Him who dwells within our hearts. The light that has shone in will shine out.

Into this chamber swept and furnished the man of God came and lay there, and the Shunammite was a happy and honoured woman. May the spiritual reality pictured in this Old Testament story be true in every one of our lives!

A Dearth in the Land, Death in the Pot, Then Bring Meal

 

“A Death in the Land”

"And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets" (2 Kings 4:39).

 

"A death in the land!" How that would please the devil. For would not the Godless nations that hated Israel say with scornful utterance: “Is that all the Jehovah in whom you have boasted can do for you? You came to this land when it flowed with milk and honey, and behold it now, dry as a sun-baked or rainless desert, and you, the chosen people, beloved of the Lord, hungry and dying. Our gods are better than yours.” But Israel only was to blame; they were suffering because they had broken the commandments of the Lord, and because they were suffering the devil was delighted, the tender heart of God was grieved, and His name was blasphemed amongst the Gentiles.

"A dearth in the land!" How often we hear the sad tale told by saints of God who mourn the fact that error has usurped the place of truth; that their souls are not fed as in former days; that when they ask for bread they are given the stones of man's vain imagination, stones that no power can turn into bread, but which are the devil's imitation of it, his invention with which he mocks the craving of the soul. They read of the days when Christ was ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit and the churches were edified; and when with hearts on fire the Christians witnessed for Christ and looked and longed for His coming again. They can remember the time when even their hearts were greatly cheered and made happy by ministry which was according to the Word of God; but which in these days has become unpopular; and has been forced to give way to that which feeds the fleshly mind, and to amusements galore. For it is said: “Must not we provide something bright and attractive for the people; must not they have entertainment and recreation; and is not this the churches' mission?” And the saints of God are suffering, and the tender heart of the Lord is grieved, and His name is blasphemed by those that love Him not, for they say: “Then has your Lord failed you? Is your Christianity played out? Does it no longer satisfy? Then welcome to our board. Let us cater for you. Eat of our fare, for it is better than yours.” And the world and the flesh and the devil preside at the feast; and love to Christ grows cold, and spirituality wanes, and Christian life is sickly and ready to die; and the world, while it patronizes and flatters and smiles, can barely conceal its contempt of a seduced and faithless church.

It would be an easy matter to fill volumes with an exposure of this condition of things, but those for whom we write do not need such an exposure; they know it and deeply feel it, and some of them go from their Sunday services to weep and pray before the Lord about it all. The questions they are asking are: What is the cause of this woeful dearth? And: Is there any remedy? Why is the Lord's fair garden laid waste? and: Why do His lilies droop and die? May we hope to see these lilies again lift up their heads and disclose their beauties and shed their fragrance for His joy? These questions we desire to answer.

This condition of things has undoubtedly resulted from the fact that the saints of God have left their first love, and so have grown indifferent to His Word and careless as to His Name. Like Israel of old, they have grown slack concerning His will. They have given ears to those who first questioned and then denied the Word of God, until they know not what God has spoken, or whether He has spoken at all; they have no guide for their feet and no lamp for their path. They are like a ship at sea without compass or chart being driven by false winds to certain wreck. Moreover, they have broken down the barriers that separated them from the world that crucified their Lord, as Israel mixed herself with the nations, and the foul weeds that are native to the world have shed their seeds in the fair garden of the Lord, and now grow rankly, there indifference to the Word of God and association with the world are the result of the loss of first love to the Lord, and are the great devastators, the reasons for the wide-spread dearth.

Elisha came to Gilgal, and there the dearth was, and the sons of the prophets were hungry. Now Gilgal was the last place at which you would have looked for dearth. It was nigh to the city of the palm trees on the banks of the life-giving Jordan . It was there that the Israelites first celebrated the passover feast, and ate the old corn of the land. It was a place of happy memories, and those sons of the prophets would know all about its history, and sadly recall the good days long since past. But the presence of Elisha in the midst of them changed everything.

Elisha the prophet was typical of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the man whom God sent to His people—whom He sent to them because He pitied them in their poverty. And in the midst of Israel he manifested the grace of the Lord. He looked for no merit in those that He blessed; it was sufficient that they came to him bringing their need as their only introduction. In the power and mercy of the Lord he was equal to every trial. He helped kings and great captains, and he blessed bankrupt widows and loathsome lepers. No manner of circumstance baffled him, and the resources of God that he commanded were sufficient for every need he met. It is because of this that I say he stands as type of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is good to have the Lord Jesus Christ to turn to, for He is full of grace and truth, and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Him. No problem or difficulty, no circumstance or crisis in which either individual saint or company of Christians can find themselves can be too great for Him. He is equal to every test, and His grace is all-sufficient. “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Wonderful, most blessedly wonderful, and for ever adorable Saviour!

There is one way, and only one, in which His grace and power and wisdom may be ours. It is at our disposal, at the disposal of every individual saint, and of every company of God's people the wide earth over, but we must turn to Him for it, and in turning to Him acknowledge His authority. He must be supreme. Surely He has a right to be supreme in His church! Did He not love it and give Himself for it, that He might “present it to Himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it might be holy and without blame?” Are not the saints of God bought with a price, a price that never can be priced—the precious blood? And, if so, has He not the right to control and command, to be absolute in the affections and ways of His people? Who will dare to challenge His right? To whom shall He be accountable? And yet as Israel once cast Him out of His own vineyard, so now is He cast out by a large proportion of His professing church. He stands outside a closed door, as at the Laodicean church. His Word has not been kept, His name has been denied. This is, above all things, the cause of the great dearth.

The only remedy is to go back to first things. “Thou hast left thy first love . . . Remember, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” There must be a return to the beginning, and in the beginning Christ was everything. His will was paramount He alone was

“honoured, loved, adored.”

Let the saints of God who mourn the dearth give the Lord His rightful place in their midst, and if any are in religious associations where this is impossible let them at once and for ever sever themselves from those associations, let them do it for the glory of His name and for the good of their own souls. Let none be satisfied with anything short of the absolute assurance that He has the supreme place in the midst of their gathering, that He—and not men—controls. Then shall they be able to count upon those mighty resources that dwell in Him, and He will sustain them in the freshness and vigour of true Christian life.

We may not expect things to be as great as they were in former days, but there is no reason why they should not be as bright. And yet they will not be small, for no grace that the Lord bestows, or blessing that His presence gives, can be small. "Set on the GREAT pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets ,” said Elisha. They must be fed. So the Lord can feed His saints, as He fed Israel in the wilderness when He rained down bread from heaven for them. Look not to men of learning, lean not upon the servants of the Lord. But turn directly and completely to Him. Own His supremacy, and do His will simply and whole-heartedly, and leave every difficulty and all the consequences in perfect trust to Him.

 

“There is Death In the Pot”

"And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage for they knew them not. So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof" (2 Kings 4:39-40).

 

When we go back to the beginning, we learn that the first thing in Christianity is the acknowledgment of the Lordship and Headship of Christ, and then, that believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and forming Christ's body are necessary to each other; that they are all dependent one upon the other, and that each contributes to the prosperity or harm of the whole. This truth is solemnly taught in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. The help we render to each other is also most blessedly shown in Ephesians 4, the chapter in which the Lord's glorious supremacy over all things is declared. We read there: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body UNTO THE EDIFYING OF ITSELF IN LOVE” (vv. 15-16).

The harm we may do to each other is illustrated in our story. They went out, these sons of the prophets, to gather herbs for the meal that Elisha had commanded. And one gathered wild gourds—his lap full—and came and shred them into the pot of pottage. His ignorance and folly almost resulted in the whole company being poisoned; there was death in the pot.

It was from a wild vine that he gathered his gourds, from a plant that had not come under cultivation—fit figure of the evil flesh. Of it we read, “The carnal [fleshly] mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). It is that which has not, and will not come under God's cultivation. And it always brings forth death and corruption, “For to be carnally minded is death” (Rom. 8:6), and, “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:8).

Now every believer is either walking in the Spirit or in the flesh; each one is pursuing the things of the Spirit or the things of the flesh, and whether we will or not, what we are, and how we live, and what we pursue, and that of which the heart is full affects all with whom we associate.

Suppose by way of illustration that envious feelings, or a hard and unforgiving spirit, is allowed or cultivated in the heart of any believer towards any of his brethren; or suppose one brother becomes jealous of another because he seems to have more honour than himself,—these are bitter roots from which will spring “hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, and strife”—works of the flesh, and most deadly in their effect wherever they show themselves. How often have we seen happy Christian companies blighted and broken by “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking;” or as a result of one or more who ought to have served all in love, lording it over the Lord's heritage. Our association with all the saints of God is a divinely-formed association, and we must not, we cannot, ignore it. The spiritual prosperity of one is a help to all, and the works of the flesh in any means harm to all. We can no longer live as though we alone are affected by our living, “for if one member suffer all the members suffer with it.”

It was a happy thing for those sons of the prophets that Elisha was at hand, and that they had sufficient wisdom to refer the case to him. It is a most blessed and comforting thing to know that we may cry to the Lord, even when things are at their worst. He is our resource when death instead of life is in the pot. How different would things have been in the church of God , if the saints of God had had enough wisdom to do this, instead of trying themselves to put things right when they have gone wrong. How many a disaster might have been averted if instead of officious meddling there had been a lowly and broken-hearted crying to the Lord. If that which has proved beyond our skill to put straight had been simply carried to Him. If we had said to the Lord, as the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “O, thou man of God, there is death in the pot.”

There has been much failure in this respect, but He fails not, and we may count upon His deep and tender interest in His own, and counting upon this we shall not be disappointed. Moreover, He has the means whereby sorrow may be turned into joy, and spiritual health recovered to those who are sick unto death.

 

“Then Bring Meal”

“B ut he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot and be said, Pour out for the people, that thy may eat. And there was no harm in the pot" (2 Kings 4:39-41).

 

We have pointed out in a former paper that one of the chief facts of Christianity is that the members of Christ's body are necessary to each other, and that every one of it is either a help or a hindrance to every other co-member of that one body, according as we walk in the Spirit or follow the things of the flesh. We need to have this great truth pressed upon us, for the times in which we live are selfish times, and it is so easy for us to think that we have only ourselves to please, and that we can do as we choose without regard to any other person. It is upon this most pernicious principle that the evil flesh which is within us acts, and it is thus that it serves the law of sin, for it is not only indifferent to the welfare of others, but it is also insubject to God. It is enmity against God: “for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” ( Rom. 8:7). As we have already shown, the flesh is like the wild vine from which one of these ignorant sons of the prophets gathered wild gourds his lap full; if we tolerate or cultivate it our laps also will be filled with the sorrow and shame of its deadly fruits. And how terrible these fruits are! Some of them are enumerated in Galatians 5:19-21:—

“Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and the like.” These things may not all appear equally heinous in our sight, but they are all the works of the flesh. Yes, variance, strife, and envyings are as truly the works of the flesh as adultery, heresies, and murder. Corruption and death always follow in their wake, not only for the individual who gathers any one of them, and who, to change the figure to that most solemn one given by the Holy Ghost, must reap what he has sown, for God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7), but for many others also, who are associated with him as a member of Christ's body. It is because this is so that we are exhorted to “Follow peace with all men, and HOLINESS, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, AND THEREBY MANY BE DEFILED” (Heb. 12:14-15).

“There was death in the pot.” These sons of the prophets, had they all been wise, might each have had the honour of contributing to the common good, but, through the ignorance of one and the folly of all, the meal that was intended for their nourishment threatened to do incalculable harm to every one of them. They brought in the poison and spoilt the feast, but they had no antidote for the harm that they had done. They were wise enough, however, to perceive this and to cry to Elisha, the man of God, and in doing this they laid their distress down in the presence of the power of God, which worked through him on their behalf.

Here is clearly indicated for us the way of wisdom in times of difficulty and sorrow. The Lord, of whom Elisha was a type, is our resource in every trouble. If we think of the responsibility of the saints of God to maintain the truth of God and to edify one another, these days are not better than any that have gone before. From the beginning and throughout the centuries carnality and failure have marked the church's course. We can see this, and were the church's history written for us by the finger of God, what sad reading it would be. There have been times when the flesh has broken out outrageously, shocking even the natural conscience, but this, whenever or wherever it happened, was but a symptom of the general condition: fruit of the wild vine allowed to flourish in the very garden of God , and the common shame of all.

We ought to have learned lessons from the past, but history has repeated itself in our day, and our failure is less excusable than any that has gone before.

Yet the Lord has not changed and He cannot fail. He has always been the resource of His saints when they have fallen upon evil days, and He is so today. But the failure must be owned and the need confessed, and this means the humbling of our pride. We have often thought, when we felt that there was death in the pot, that we, by the application of some principle, could turn it into life; that we could straighten and correct that which was crooked and wrong by some ecclesiastical action of our own devising, perhaps; and it was often flesh reproving flesh, because it was not the peculiar kind of flesh that we favoured; and confusion has been made worse confounded and the evil increased ten-fold. We have saved ourselves, probably, from the deep heart-searching that should have been ours, and preserved our pride and boasting, but have failed to reach the root, and have it all out and confessed and judged. May the Lord give us grace to feel this if it is so, and to confess it so that we may be cleansed from all unrighteousness, and may He preserve us from growing indifferent to the condition of things amongst His saints; and may we never fail into that fatalistic state of mind which says, “What is, must be; there is no remedy.” May we be honest enough to make no attempt to hide our need from the eyes of the Lord, but, instead, lay it all before Him, and say, as we feel it deeply and with tears, “Oh, Thou Man of God, there is death in the pot.”

Elisha's remedy was not far to seek, for He said, "Then bring meal". And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.” We have no wish to be fanciful in our application of this story to our present need, but it strikes us as being remarkable that Elisha called for meal and used it as the means of healing the pottage, and not salt as in the case of the waters of Jericho (chap. 2). And our thoughts are carried back to the Levitical offerings, one of which was the meat, or meal offering (Lev. 2). This offering was made of fine flour, and typified the life of the Lord Jesus here upon earth.

Every heavenly grace shone out in perfection in Him in manhood, for He was everything that the heart of God desired that man should be. But there are two traits that seem to be specially made prominent by the Holy Ghost for our help: they are His humility and obedience. They are set before us in that wonderful passage in Philippians 2.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, 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. 2:5-8).

This is Christ as the meal offering, and He is presented to us in this character that we might admire, adore, and imitate. Think of His humility:

“Heaven's arches rang as the angels sang,

Proclaiming His royal degree;

But of lowly birth came the Lord to earth,

And in great humility.”

Though He were in His own person the everlasting God, yet He did not disdain the Virgin's Womb and that lowly birth in Bethlehem 's stable.

Though He were Lord of all, He accepted without resentment the despising of the people, and continued unweariedly to serve them. When His disciples contended who amongst them should be greatest of all, He, their Lord and Master, bent low to wash their feet. He sought no honour, no name for Himself; His joy was to do His Father's will, and to serve the weakest and the worst. And this path led only to the cross, with its degradation and unparalleled shame. He knew from the beginning that this would be the end, yet He murmured not was obedience that led Him along that road, but His humility was as perfect as His obedience, so that no thought of His own reputation or question as to the rightness of the path entered His thoughts. It was the will of God, and in that He delighted.

At Philippi the wild vine of the flesh was beginning to produce its bitter fruits of pride and division. These had not developed as much as in some of the churches to which Paul wrote; but death was working there and his keen eye detected it, and to arrest the growth of these pernicious things and antidote their deadly effects he brought Christ before them in this way. The meal was cast into the pot.

This is the great remedy. By this is discovered to us the hatefulness of every carnal work. All fleshly pride stands rebuked in the presence of that lowly life so meekly lived, and if this mind that was in Christ Jesus be in us we shall walk in grace toward each other and in obedience to God; we shall with lowliness of mind each esteem others more excellent than himself, and in humility and obedience work out our own salvation. What place could strife and envy have amongst the saints of God if this mind were in us? Yet this is only possible as the meal is cast into the pot—as we feed upon this life-sustaining food.

We wonder at Thy lowly mind,

And feign would like Thee be;

And all our rest and pleasure find

In learning, Lord, of Thee.”

Evil cannot be ignored where it appears, and the works of the flesh must not go unjudged. But no true judgment can be arrived at save in the presence of the perfection of Christ and His cross. There evil does not appear less evil, but we see it, not only as it spoils our own spiritual good, but how it appears before God; then how great is the relief to turn from it to Christ.

The Holy Spirit is ever ready to fill our thoughts with Christ, and since He is the true food of every saint, we find practical unity and fellowship as we feed upon Him. And not only fellowship with each other, but with God also, for He is the Bread of God.

A Final Word

A Farewell Address given on March 11, 1926, at Detroit , Michigan , U.S.A.

"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (Revelation 22:20-21).

 

Think our farewell words to you, my dear friends, tonight, may well be upon these closing words of Scripture. They give us the last word from our Lord Himself to His church on earth; the response of the church to that last word; and thirdly the final benediction of the Holy Ghost.

It is exceedingly interesting to see that the last words of the Lord to the church on earth are “Surely I come quickly.” It is equally interesting to see that the first message from the glory, after the Lord entered into it was about His coming back again. Before ever the glorious truths that are unfolded for us in the epistles are given to us we have this message from the glory. The disciples had seen their Lord caught up from them. They lost sight of Him, for a cloud received Him out of their sight. But from the very gates of the glory into which the Lord had entered there came two angels upon swift pinion to tell them this—“He is coming back again!” The first message from the glory after, the Lord entered into it was that He is coming back again, and His words are “Surely I come quickly.”

Why did the Lord Jesus Christ utter these as His last words, and why was this His first message from the glory? It seems to me that it is very much like a mother who has to leave her children for a while. Her last words to them are “I will be back soon, my dears,” and then if she has the opportunity of sending them a message from the distant place where she has gone, this is the message “I am coming back soon.” Why does she send a message like that? She knows right well that no message will please them better. She knows that it will appeal to their hearts, but it seems to me that there is a greater reason than that. She longs to be with her loved ones, and when she says, “I am coming back soon,” it is her own heart that is finding expression. So in these words of the Lord His tender heart finds its expression saying, “I come quickly.” Yes, He loves you, dear Christian, even though your heart has grown cold towards Him, and nothing will satisfy Him but having you with Himself in that glory, and with that end in view, He is coming back.

It will be a wonderful time, will it not, when you see your Lord? Then the brightest moment that you have ever known in your Christian life will be infinitely exceeded by the joy that will be yours when you see Him face to face, who laid down His life for you. We are told very plainly how He will come. We are told that “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Wonderful words those, are they not? And we can put no construction or interpretation on them than that which they plainly bear. Actually, the Lord is coming and every saint shall respond instantly to that shout as His one happy, united company; every difficulty and division that ever harassed them disappearing in a moment. Somebody has said that these difficulties and divisions will take a long time to settle. Dear friends, I declare unto you the truth when I say they will disappear in the twinkling of an eye. “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” We shall pass into His glory with triumphant hallelujahs on our lips; to be His bride, the Lamb's wife forever.

He is coming with a shout. Why will He shout? His will be a shout of victory. And I want you to notice the sort of victory it will be. Ephesians says very plainly that Satan has his seat in the heavens—the throne of his power is there, from thence he controls the world's kingdoms, and exercises his malignant sway over men. And in that very spot Christ is going to meet His church. If there is one thing the devil would like to do today it is to keep your heart out of heaven. He labours hard to keep your hearts from heaven, and how successful he often is. He keeps some of you chasing the dollar, going after pleasure, and thinking of yourselves. And if he could, he would keep you out when the Lord comes. What a triumph it would be for him if he could thwart the Lord in His determination to have His church, if he could rob the Lamb of His wife. But he cannot do it; in the very seat of Satan's power, Christ will meet His church. I can understand those evil principalities, those powers that serve the devil, and that, as Ephesians 6 tells us, are in the heavenlies, shrinking back into their native darkness to let the church go through. Not a hand or voice raised against it. The ransomed church and her Lord and Redeemer meeting there in the air; Satan, with all his power and subtlety, beaten and baffled and unable to hinder that glorious meeting.

The Lord will shout an assembling shout to which all the saints of God shall answer, both dead and living. Why does He shout? The Scripture speaks to us of the patience of Jesus Christ . What does that mean? It means that He is waiting. He has been waiting with great patience for nearly two thousand years. Waiting for what? Waiting to throw the arms of love around His blood-bought bride and to have her for Himself without a rival. It is the love of His heart that finds expression in that shout. It will be a shout of joy—pent-up gladness and love. Thank God, it is this that we are waiting for. And the devil will not be able to hinder it, though now he tries to rob the saints of this hope.

The world derides it. You will find men of light and learning in this world laughing at it, scoffing at it. Not very long ago, a pamphlet was sent from this country to me across the Atlantic , and the writer of it took up this very subject. He was one of the leading professors at one of your great universities. He said that the early Christians believed that they would be suddenly translated from earth to heaven. I am glad that he admitted that, that was something gained. But, said your learned professor, they were ignorant of the sciences; if they had only understood things that we understand now, they could have been under no such delusion. For instance, he said, the law of gravitation would make such a thing as that impossible.

But the law of gravitation is not so great as the voice of the Lord! Listen to these thrilling words: “Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our body of humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto His body of glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:20-21). Yes, the power of the Saviour will subdue all things to Himself, even the law of gravitation. And the law of gravitation—what of it? Suppose I have a piece of steel and I throw it on the table there; it is held in the grip of the law of gravitation. It has no power in itself by which it can release itself from the law that holds it. But if I took a powerful magnet and held it above the steel, what would happen? The steel would spring to the magnet. The working of magnetic attraction would set it free from that other law.

Do you know the great Magnet? Yes, surely you do. The great Magnet is Jesus. Why, He has already drawn your heart. It was once held in the grip of the law of sin and death. You were a hopeless captive. But your eyes of faith beheld Him. And His voice reached the depth of your heart, and He became the great Magnet to you. Your soul bounded to Jesus. He set you free from the law of sin and death. What He has done for your heart, my friends, He will do for your bodies. And in a twinkling of an eye you will be for ever with the Lord.

But the learned professor did not read his Bible, or, if he did, he did not understand it. Scripture says we shall be changed. These bodies of humiliation—these natural bodies—will be changed into spiritual bodies, into bodies of glory. I can well understand natural laws, such as the law of gravitation, affecting natural bodies, but what natural law can control spiritual bodies? Natural laws for natural bodies by all means, but spiritual laws for spiritual bodies. Natural laws are good for natural bodies, and the law of gravitation is a beneficent law for us while we have natural bodies; without it we should be all flying off at various tangents into space. But when these bodies are changed into spiritual bodies, then they will no longer be held by natural laws. They will then be controlled by spiritual laws, and the greatest of these is that Christ is the centre of God's universe in deed and in fact, and He will draw us to Himself and hold us there for ever.

But it is not the event we are looking for so much. It is the Person who is coming. It is Jesus. In this chapter. He speaks of Himself. “I, Jesus,” he says. And it is wonderful to find that after the unfolding of all the terrible judgments that are to be—after He has been presented to us in all His majesty and power as King of kings. and Lord of lords, the great Judge of all—He speaks to the hearts of His saints saying, “I, Jesus.” He knows well that that Name will reach your heart. He knows well that that Name will send a thrill through your soul. “I, Jesus,” He says, “have sent my angel to testify these things.” And he that testifieth these things saith, "Surely I come quickly .”

What is our attitude towards Him? Reference has been made to the twelfth chapter of Luke's Gospel. The Lord speaks there of His servants waiting, watching and working, and happy indeed it will be for us if we are found in that threefold attitude towards the Lord. Waiting implies readiness; watching implies expectation; working implies that our hearts are interested in His interests. I will illustrate: There is a mother, she has been away for a little while, and at last the day has come for her return. The children don't know just what hour she will arrive. Mary has gotten up in good time. She goes about with great zeal putting the house in order, She says: “We must all be ready for mother.” And at last all is in order. They are waiting. But they keep running to the window and to the door to look out, what for? They are watching, they are expectant. They could scarcely be expectant unless they were ready. And then look at Mary! She goes into this room and that to see that everything is straight, though she has been there a dozen times. And then she takes the children and looks them up and down and sees that they are just what mother would like them to be. She is working. Her mother's interests are hers. Ah, would we like, when the Lord comes, to be like that? To see all our brethren and sisters just as the Lord desires them to be? Are we so interested, so concerned in His thoughts about His saints that we seek earnestly that they may all be just like He wants them to be when He comes? The Lord grant that it may be so, that we may be waiting, watching and working. Then we can truly say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” You see it is first the cry from His lips, “I come quickly,” and then there is the response from His saints' hearts, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Oh, is it so with us? Is that cry breaking from our yearning hearts? What a triumph for the grace of God, that we should have Christ as our Object! Christ who is not in the world, but who is coming again. That we should be looking for Christ and saying, “Come, Lord Jesus.” When He comes, that will be glory for us. He came down to sorrow and shame, to the deep woe of Calvary in order that we might be with Him in glory.

But what have we in the meanwhile? That brings me to the Spirit's final benediction. The Spirit has infinite love for all His saints. And in winding up the Holy Scriptures He says “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints,” for so it should read. Thank God, the saints of God have a wonderful heritage now. And that heritage is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints.” What music there is in that expression, and it has a familiar sound about it, hasn't it? The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! We have heard those words before somewhere. Where is it that we have heard them? Our hearts are carried back to the beautiful verse in the eighth chapter of Second Corinthians: “For ye know, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” I want you, dear friends, to get hold of this. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints. What is it? It is something that we know. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But how do you know it? You know it by the way it has manifested itself. How has it manifested itself? He who was rich for your sakes became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich. Oh, wonderful and blessed word as this wonderful benediction, this! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is all the love of that blessed Person active towards us for our blessing, for our joy, for our enrichment. He became poor that we might be rich. He was rich, and yet for your sake He became poor.

He was rich. What words can tell the greatness of His wealth! Think of His riches. Think of His power! The mighty Creator! The eternal God! The Only-begotten which is in the Bosom of the Father! The Lord of angelic hosts! How rich was He! Yet for your sakes He became poor. He was here upon earth a poor man. He cast the stars before Him as the silver pathway for His feet, and yet He trod the filthy streets of those Eastern cities, without a home. He trod that rough way to the cross and was forsaken by all His friends, and was nailed thereon as a malefactor and no voice was raised in protest. In that dark hour no light shone upon Him from above. No comfort reached Him from beneath. He was alone! Why was the Lord of glory so poor? Why did He suffer thus? It was for your sakes. He became poor that you might be rich. And the wonderful grace that brought Him down to Calvary 's Cross is the grace that will be with us until we see Him in the glory. Don't you see, beloved Christians, that in this there is everything we need? I don't know what your needs are. There is within every human entity a secret chamber into which no other mortal being can enter. The nearest and dearest to you cannot understand your deepest feelings. You may say, “Nobody understands me,” and it is true that we are not fully understood by any fellow mortal. There may be a bitterness in the centre of your soul that you cannot express to your dearest friend. But Jesus knows! That wonderful grace that brought Him to death on your behalf gives Him the right to enter your innermost being. He can fill that secret chamber in your soul with a sense of His love, and He can make you rich, though stripped of everything that men may value; rich in the knowledge of Himself. We are put into contact with heavenly supplies. Sometimes we run hither and thither in our folly for help, and we try to manage for ourselves. The Lord wants you to pour your trouble in His ear. And there are heavenly supplies for all earthly needs. Individually you may have the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and be rich, though you possess nothing. And in the family life you may have His grace. I would like to see the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ coming down into all your domestic circumstances, and smoothing the difficulties, and binding the family together. There is grace to make your family a harmonious, a united family, from which ascends praise to the blessed Lord. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ could come down into your homes and do that.

And do not let us get narrow in our vision of the saints of God. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is to be towards all the saints. And we should be manifesting this grace towards them. This grace must form us and characterize us, and it must shine through us in our dealings with one another. Oh, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! What was it that He said to His disciples? He said, “I am among you as He that serveth.” That was the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Uncouth and illiterate men were they, and with them was the Lord from glory, with all His blessed, perfect human sensibilities. For not only was He God, perfect in His Godhead glory, but He was Man also, perfect in His manhood. Not only were the attributes of God ever His, but all the sensibilities of man, apart from sin, were His also. And when He came into contact with that which was uncouth and rough and uncomely, He felt it. These men were all that, and yet He was their servant! “I am among you as He that serveth.” If there was one task more menial than another, that fell to His lot. Oh, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! See Him gather the children to His bosom and bless them. See Him speaking to the outcast sinners that no Pharisee would own. See Him stretching forth His hand, touching the leper from whom all men shrank. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! And the marvellous thing is that that grace may be in you and in me, and be manifested in our conduct one toward another.

It comes out beautifully in the third chapter of Colossians where we are called elect of God, holy, beloved. We are to put on lowliness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forgiving on another, even as Christ also forgave you, so also do ye. That is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Forgiving! Forgiving! Oh, if you can forgive, that is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But somebody says: “That is what I can't do. You don't know what harsh things she has said about me, or how badly I have been treated.” But if you forgive, that will be the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hear what Peter has to say about it. He had been listening to the Lord, and he was conscious that the Lord was saying things to him that he had not been used to hearing, and his astonishment found voice in his question: If my brother sin against me seven times must I forgive him? “I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven,” was the Lord's quiet answer. And Peter might well have said, “Impossible.” But I can understand the Lord replying: “Peter, I am not asking you to treat your brother in any other way than the way I am treating you.” Ah, that makes it easy. It is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the way He is treating me. He is forgiving me seventy times seven, and if I cannot forgive my brethren the same way, my heart has lost the sense of His grace.

Oh, beloved saints of God, what peace, what harmony and what fragrance for God there would be if this grace of our Lord Jesus Christ were active in the midst of the saints! And remember it is the parting, the final benediction of the Holy Ghost. It is as though the Holy Spirit of God, having before Him the whole volume of truth, selects this as the most blessed of all benedictions. Let these precious words sing their music to your souls.

Before morning we may be in the glory. Before morning we may see His face. His promise to come may be fulfilled. If there is anybody you have not forgiven, you had better do it tonight. If there is any saint of God, against whom you have a grudge, you had better straighten it all out before you sleep. If the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with you actively, you will.

Whatever you do, let the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ shine through you. If it shines through you, it will bless others. You will go forth in the fragrance and power of it. There is nothing so mighty as grace. What has grace done? Grace has subdued sins. Where sin abounded—where it rolled like the Atlantic billows—grace rose higher than all and did much more abound. Grace has saved us—hard, reprobate, sinful wretches, rebels against God; grace has reached us and saved us. There is nothing so great, so mighty, as grace. That grace is to be in you and me.

And while grace is mighty, oh, it is tender. There is an infinite softness about it. It moulds and fashions the spirit. How blessed it is to meet a man who is moulded and fashioned by grace! Somebody said to a dear servant of the Lord—someone who was of a very socialistic turn of mind—“There will be no gentlemen in heaven.” “I beg your pardon,” was the reply, “there will be nothing but gentle men there.” Let us be gentle men in our dealings one with another; kind, tender-hearted, of lowly mind, forgiving one another.

May the hope of the Lord's coming, may His last message from the glory, have a place in our hearts. May there be the response, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and then let us with confidence wait for Him, confident that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, inexhaustible and all-sufficient as it is, will be with us from day to day. The Lord grant that for His Name's sake.

 

A Great Calm

“The Lord is always nearest when He is most needed. This may not always be realized but it is a great truth. He was beside the ship in which His disciples toiled and battled with the storm, unknown and unlooked for, no prayer from them brought Him to them, it was His own affection—they were precious to Him. Prayer arises when He is known to be there, but He is there by His own love. My necessity is the appeal to His love, my trouble leads Him to be beside me in the direst moment, and when I recognize Him in His anxious, tender interest in me, then I receive Him into the ship—into my circumstances; He enters into them Himself—and when He Himself is recognized, He enters into my circumstances with me and the effect is wonderful—THERE IS A GREAT CALM” (J.B.S.)

 

Consider the circumstances of the incident, so beautifully interpreted by the writer of the above paragraph. Mark 6:46 tells us that the Lord had gone into a mountain to pray. Let that be the first great fact for our contemplation. We may be sure that those disciples had their place in that prayer of His that night. He was an intercessor on their behalf. They were left alone apparently, left alone to face tempestuous seas and rough winds, yet they were not forgotten. He was praying for them and praying for them because He loved them. And has He ceased to be interested in His tried and troubled disciples who seem to be left to face seas of woe alone? No, He is what He ever was, and on the mountain of glory—the right hand of God—He prays for His own, for so says Romans 8, “Who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” It has been said that, “so great is the Lord's love for us, that if it were necessary He would come from heaven and suffer Calvary's woe and death again for us”; and that is true, but it is not necessary, thank God, that He should do that, for “by one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified.” But it is necessary that He should live for us and serve us by His intercession, and this He does and will do to the end, He will do it because the love that fills His heart is unchanged, it is the same love that made Him sacrifice Himself for us upon the cross. We must realize more fully this living love, this living service of our Lord for us, for it is necessary for our daily salvation. It is a ceaseless service and effectual; He ever liveth to make intercession for us.

Now while His heart and voice went out in prayer for His storm-tossed disciples He did not lose sight of them. Verse 48 tells us that "He saw them toiling in rowing .” And as then so now He looks upon His own. He prays and He sees. One He sees upon a bed of pain with no hope of relief while life lasts; another pressed and sorely tried by circumstances that threaten to crush all brightness from the soul and change the songs to continual sighs, another He sees groping and stumbling along a way both bleak and lonely, made bleak and lonely by the breath and hand of death. He sees these and all His saints who suffer and toil, and He lives to make intercession for them and to draw near to them in their troubles and to make them more than conquerors in them.

“He saw them toiling and . . . He cometh unto them.” Their need and His love brought Him there. They would have seen Him long before they did had they not been so bent upon their own efforts to bring their boat to port; but when their sailor-skill was baffled and their strength was done, He was there, when they dropped their oars and ceased the struggle, He was there—there to enter their ship—to come into their circumstances and bring His own peace with Him and share it with them; to steer them into a great calm. It is even so today. His love brings Him swiftly to our relief, not always to change the circumstances, some of them cannot be changed, but to change us, to calm us by His own presence, and to make us more than conquerors by His love. Yet many suffering saints miss all this, and why? Because they will continue to toil in rowing; they will persist in meeting their trials in their own strength; so bent are they on the endeavour to straighten out their tangles and steer their own frail vessel through the stormy seas that they do not see Him coming to them, walking on the water—the Master of its fiercest waves. But their extremity is His opportunity, and when they have no might He becomes their strength, and a sense of His nearness changes all.

“He came to His disciples, saying, BE OF GOOD CHEER: IT IS I; BE NOT AFRAID,” And that was enough for them; it is enough for us. Our great Intercessor prays for us, sees us, comes to us, and in the sense of this we can be more than conquerors through Him, and that because we know that nothing can separate us from His love—neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword. These things bring Him near to us because He loves us, and because of this we who are saved by His blood shall be saved by His life. Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we trust and murmur not, are undismayed and triumphant, for He is there, where the greatest trial is; and surely He will be to the end; it is the great High Priest, the Intercessor, and Leader of His own, who says, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

 

A Great While Before Day

 

"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (Mark 1:35).

I got a great lift recently in reading the first chapter of Mark's Gospel. When I came to verse 35, I had to stop and give thanks to God, for as by a flash of light from heaven I was made to realize that I could never be up too early for the Lord. My troubles may begin with my first conscious moment, but He has risen up before them, and is always ready for them. He is always ahead of them and of me. And with Him there is the needed grace to carry me through every trouble, whenever and wherever they may arise.

The statement I have quoted is a most beautiful one. The Lord had many towns to visit, had much service to do in them, had many needs to meet and sorrows to sooth; the miseries of the multitudes would surge about Him when the day awoke, but they would not take Him by surprise or overwhelm Him, for He had risen up before them all, and was prepared for every one of them; the supplies in Him were equal to the day's demands. He viewed the whole range of those demands in communion with His Father. Each individual case passed before Him, and was the subject of His intercession in that solitary place into which He went to pray . Isaiah 50:4 comes forcibly and blessedly to the mind at this point. “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned [disciple] that I should know how to speak a word in season to [succour by a word] him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned [learner, or disciple]”. Wonderful description of our Lord's life of service on earth! But not less wonderful than His life now, for He ever liveth to make intercession for us ; and intercession is communion (see Genesis 18. 33); communion between the Intercessor and God with whom He intercedes about the subjects of His intercession. And the intercession is made and heard before the need arises in its strength. “I have prayed for thee,” He said to Peter while yet He was all unconscious—fast asleep as to having any need at all.

Great is the encouragement that the contemplation of Him in His life of service while on earth yields for us, for in that service HE SHOWED HIMSELF, and He does not change; His readiness to meet all need is the same now as then and the grace with which He does it is unabated. If the thousands of God's saints who are burdened and groaning, whose light for God is almost extinguished under a load of care, are to be raised up and revived, if they are to lift their heads as overcomers and sing instead of sigh they must realize this great fact. The Lord rose up before their need, He knew it all before it awoke to perplex and worry them; this must not be a mere article of their faith to which they give an indifferent and perhaps a reluctant assent, but a deep conviction in their souls which will make them yield themselves and the day's burdens to Him at the beginning of it, which will make them cast all their care upon Him.

I am in no sort of doubt that I am on the right line here, and I urge this great fact, this blessed, encouraging, peace-giving fact, upon my readers, your needs are never ahead of the Lord; they may have surprised you, but they have not taken Him by surprise. I preach in this paper an all-sufficient Christ—ever ready, ever able, ever willing; who rose up a great while before the day of your troubles awoke. And I further urge each reader to read what I write for himself, and without reference to another, to read as though this paper were a particular and private message addressed to himself alone; and to say, “This burden that has grown so heavy and presses upon me so sorely was all known to the Lord before I felt it at all, and He rose up before it, if not to remove it, to carry me through it. I will go to Him about it, and lay it all from my side at His feet, for I and it have been and are the objects of His particular interest and thought.”

It is a marvellous thing to draw near to Him with a sense of this in the soul; to know that before I awoke in the morning He had risen up and was thinking of me, and was waiting and prepared to hear and answer my waking cry. It fills the soul with awe and with gratitude, with awe because of what He is, with gratitude because He is all that He is for me. Is this a selfish view of things? It is only as we view things in this way that we shall be delivered from self and selfishness—for it is help from the Lord that delivers—the grace that is in Him, that stoops from the height of His glory to the depth of our need. It is Himself and His abundant sufficiency that lifts us out of our selfishness and sets us free to praise Him and live the day's life without murmuring and disputing.

A New Eden

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Philippians 4:8-9).

 

I have heard this passage described as “a new Eden ,” a veritable paradise of God, and so it is. The old Eden was beautiful with all manner of fruits which were good for food and God was there; but our first parents forfeited their right to be there by their disobedience, and they were driven out of it, and the sword of the Cherubims flamed every way to guard the entrance and prevent any attempt on the part of the sinners to return.

But here is a new Eden opened up for us, and the ENTRANCE TO IT IS THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST; by that cross the way has been opened wide unto this paradise where everything is good, and we may roam amid its beauties and feast upon its glorious fruit—things true and honest and just and pure and lovely and of good report, things of virtue and worthy to be praised. What fruit, what blessing awaits us in this Eden ! It is all Christ, and as we rejoice in His loveliness and He is our food and our souls live and roam amid the glories of His person, the God of peace will be there and we shall walk with Him and He with us. And the great Apostle, who knew and loved this paradise of God so well, had nothing to say to the saints beyond urging them to enter it; it is his final “finally.” And what need we beyond it? “FINALLY, BRETHREN, THINK ON THESE THINGS.”

A Parable and a Fact

Don't murmur, Christian, for it is a most unchristian, a most ungodly thing to do. Nothing dishonours God more, nothing does greater damage to the soul. It was the chiefest sin of all the sins that Israel committed in the wilderness, for it meant that they did not believe that their God was fit to be trusted. It did not change His merciful care for them, but it aroused His just anger against them.

“Be it content with such things as ye have.” Your circumstances have your greatest blessing in view, and God who considers and makes all things work together for your good, knows just where you live and how.

I read a parable that I will pass on to you in my own words.

A child wandered into a garden and was attracted by a beautiful flower growing there. “How lovely how sweet,” she exclaimed as she inhaled its fragrance. Then looking down she saw the black soil in which it grew. “What a shame,” she cried, “that such a sweet flower should be planted in such dirt; it ought not to be.” And she pulled the plant up by its roots and carried it to the water tap to wash the dirt from them, but even as she did so the flower wilted and the plant began to die. And the gardener said, “You have killed my choicest plant.” “But I was sorry for it in that black soil,” wept the child. “But I chose the spot and collected and mixed the soil in which it grew because I knew that only in them it would come to perfection and now my thought and care and labour have been in vain.”

Have you read of the beautiful and useful things that Hiram made for the house of God in Jerusalem ? The story of them is told in 1 Kings 7:38-51, and we read, “In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarthan .” The clay ground was a necessity if the house of God was to be furnished with vessels, just as the black soil was necessary to the growth of the fragrant flower. Neither the parable nor the divinely recorded fact require interpretation, the point for us is to receive the instruction. “Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10).

A Priceless Gem in a Golden Setting

A Sunday Evening Address

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15).

There could be no simpler statement of the gospel than that, and for that reason I have chosen it as my text tonight.

 

A Priceless Gem

A priceless gem in a golden setting. I will speak of the gem first. It is this saying: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners .” We are all familiar with it, yet I proclaim it afresh. I would speak of it as though it were the first time you were hearing it, as though never before had you heard the good news that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

There are many Christians here; your hearts ought to thrill to this word. It was written by a great servant of the Lord to his own son in the gospel, and these two found a wonderful communion in it, for “the exceeding abundant grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” and the love of God had been displayed in the fact that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am sure that as Paul wrote these words his heart was profoundly moved, for the coming of Christ into the world meant so much to him. It had saved him, blest him, changed him, and filled him with a lifelong gratitude to his Lord.

It is not surprising that this saying should find a place in this letter of instruction to a young servant of Christ, for the fact that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners gives the impulse to all true service, and it must lie at the basis of all sound and effectual preaching. Paul did not want Timothy to forget it, he could not forget it himself—no preacher should forget it. The man who does not rejoice in it and preach it has very little to say that is worth listening to, and I should advise you, my hearers, to give him scant attention.

This saying is a most fitting one for this company, for there are sinners here, the very sinners whom Christ Jesus came into the world to save. Indeed, the text would suit every sort of congregation that you could gather, whether poor or rich, illiterate or learned, high or low, for all have sinned. How universal is its appeal! It is God's message to all. We may carry it from pole to pole, through every clime and to men of every colour and creed, and everywhere it ought to command the deepest interest, for there is no man that sinneth not, and every sinner needs a Saviour.

I propose to divide the saying into, three parts:

(1) The One who came—CHRIST JESUS CAME.

(2) The place into which He came—INTO THE WORLD.

(3) The object of His coming—TO SAVE SINNERS.

 

The One Who Came

We must begin with the One who came, for apart from Him there is no gospel for men, no Saviour for sinners. It was Christ Jesus who came. But who is He? The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to this. When John was moved by the Holy Ghost to write of Him he scorned and discarded all introductions and preambles and made haste to get at once to his great subject, as he declared, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made . . . and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” He is God, the Creator, eternal in being, almighty in power, infinite in wisdom, and He came into the world to save sinners. Of old, when the corrupt and guilty cities of the plain were to be judged and destroyed, two angels were sent to do it; and when rebellious men were to be rebuked for their iniquities, the Word was sent by holy prophets. But now the time had come, not for judgment, nor for rebuke, but for salvation; and neither angels nor prophets were equal to this great work. For this the Word must become flesh, the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father must become man. The day of salvation could not dawn until He appeared, but when Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners the light of that glorious day began to shine for all.

How wonderful it is! He was Jehovah who gave the Law at Sinai, and since that Law had been flouted and broken He might have come with flaming fire taking vengeance, but He did not.

“He did not come to judge the world,

He did not come to blame,

He did not only come to seek,

It was to save He came:

And when we call Him Saviour,

Then we call Him by His Name.”

To save sinners He had to come down to them. Since they were men He had to become a man, though in Him there was no sin, as all Scripture shows. He was as holy as a man on earth as He was in His eternal Godhead—just as sinless when He walked the filthy streets of those Eastern cities as He was when He sat upon His throne and created the angels. He is God, infinitely holy; He is man, spotless and pure. A holy mystery is this! A mystery beyond the range of the human mind, but not beyond the reach of faith.

"'Tis darkness to the intellect,

But sunshine to the heart.”

We may rejoice and exult in the angel's message to the shepherds of Bethlehem when he said, “To you is born a Saviour,” and with them we may bow in wonder and worship beside the manger in which was cradled Christ the Lord.

 

The Place Into Which He Came

Christ Jesus came into the world. It was the only way, but the world did not welcome Him when He came. There was no room for Him in the habitations of men: a stable was His shelter and a manger His bed at His birth. Nor did His great compassion for men and His gentle words and tender mercies change the world's thoughts about Him, the more it saw of Him the more it hated Him. It could not endure Him. It cried, “Away with Him,” and spat in His face and crucified Him. Such was the world into which He came.

He knew well all that it would cost Him to come, He knew how men would treat Him when He did come. He was not taken by surprise when they despised and rejected Him, for He knew all men. The depth of their sinfulness, the hardness of their hearts, the blindness of their eyes was all known to Him. He knew that sin and Satan held them in an awful thrall, that they would prefer their corruption and sins to the choicest of heaven's blessing. He knew that coming into the world would mean for Him a life of sorrow and a death of shame, and knowing all He came. He came from the unsullied glory into this world that reeked with moral putrefaction. He came to be the light in the world's darkness. He came to declare the heart of God to men who did not know Him. He came into the world to save sinners.

If there had been any goodness in the heart of the world it would surely have been discovered and developed by the life of Jesus here. Never were such words spoken as He spoke, never were such works done. He stretched out His hands to the weary and laden, and invited them to come to Him for rest. He offered satisfaction and eternal life, and proclaimed in the ears of men that “God is love.” In Him God was beseeching men to be reconciled to Him. It was all in vain, their ears were heavy and they would not hear. His heart was moved with compassion for their miseries, and He fed them when they were hungry, He healed them when they were sick, He blessed their children, He went about doing good; but the world was only moved to deeper hatred.

The world that treated Christ like that has not changed one bit, and the only hope for us is to be saved out of it. If you are still unsaved, my hearer, you belong to the world, you are part of it, sharing its sins now and soon to share its doom. You may say, “Preacher, do you not belong to the world?” No, thank God, I do not. I did once, but the great Saviour of sinners has redeemed me by His own blood, and I belong to Him now, and He has said of all who believe on Him through the gospel, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” The man who believes the gospel belongs to Christ and to heaven; the one who rejects it, or neglects its entreaties, belongs to the world that spat in the face of Jesus and nailed Him to a cross. On one side or the other each one of us stands tonight.

Such was the world into which He came, such were the men to whom He appealed. Nothing could be clearer than the solemn truth that in men dwells no good thing, that it is not a reformer or a teacher or a guide that they need, but a Saviour who is able and willing to save sinners, and this brings me to the third division of our saying.

 

The Object of His Coming

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. If they could have saved themselves He would not have come to do it. If men could have saved themselves God would have let them do it, and when they had accomplished the great work He would have put the crowns upon their brows and said, “Well done!” But no sinner can save himself, much less can he ransom his brother from sin's slavery.

A Saviour was needed and there is only one Saviour. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved.” It is strange that sinful men do not feel their need of Jesus; it is strange that some refuse to own it. I talked to one of these, a doctor in Melbourne . He told me that he had loved the Lord his God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself. I expressed my astonishment, and told him that he was the only man I had ever met who dared to make such a claim. “You have no gospel, Doctor, and since you are not a sinner you do not need one,” I said. “Oh yes,” he said, “I have; my gospel is, Be true to the god within you, and all will come right in the end.” I replied, “Sometimes I go into the slums and talk to those who are down and out, to the drunkards and the degraded. I have a gospel that I carry to them; it is, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . Would you advise me to throw over my gospel and carry yours to that sort of folk instead?” He coloured a little as he answered, “No, I think your gospel will suit such people better than mine.” “Doctor,” I said, “listen to this. God says, ‘There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.' The drunkard in the slums, and the doctor in his surgery, are alike sinful in the sight of God. They both need a Saviour, and Christ Jesus came into the world to save both.” Is not this good news to every one of you? Surely no word that you can hear can give you greater joy than this, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! You may say, “Why, Lord, that means me; I am a sinner, and if Thou didst come to save sinners, then Thou didst come to save me.”

But think of what it cost Him! To show to the full His love to guilty men He had to die. His works and words and His holy life were wonderful, but they could not take the sting out of death for us, they could not deliver us from Satan's power, or save us from the just judgment that our sins deserved. To do this He had to die for us, for without the shedding of blood there is no remission. Hear what the Scriptures say, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” And again, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” And again, “When we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

There is a challenge to every one of you in this saying. It is as to what response you have made to the Saviour's approach to you. I ask you to consider what He has done. Think of the great love that filled His heart for us when He died for such as we are. I would that all here were like a young Scotsman to whom I talked at the close of a meeting like this. He knew that he was a sinner and he wanted to be saved. I turned him to a verse of Scripture which I have already quoted, Isaiah 53:5. I explained to him that it spoke of what Jesus suffered on the cross for sinners, and asked him to put himself into it, to change the plural pronouns into singular ones. He understood me and read, “He was wounded for MY transgressions, He was bruised for MY iniquities; the chastisement of MY peace was upon Him, and with His stripes!”—then he burst into a big sob and could not finish the verse. I put my arm round him and asked, “What is the matter?” He answered, “I can't understand why He should have loved me so much as to die for me.” My reply was, “Neither can I understand it. And God knew that neither you nor I could understand it, and so He calls it in His Word, "the love of Christ that passeth knowledge .”

I preach this great Saviour to you tonight. “He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” He is willing and able to save you, and all whom He saves He keeps. He gives to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them from His hand. And yet this preaching Christ is alike my joy and my despair. My joy , for I speak with gladness of Him who has saved me and whom I know to be brighter and better than the brightest and the best that the world can give; and yet my despair , for I feel that my words are dull and cold words when they ought to throb and burn, and move you, and bend you, and bring you in full surrender to the feet of Him of whom I speak.

 

The Golden Setting

This saying is the gem. Now for a few words about its setting. A man said to me after a gospel meeting, “If only what you have been telling us were true!” I answered, “It would be very good, wouldn't it?” He admitted that it would. “Let me assure you,” I said, “that it is as true as it is good,” and my text declares it to be so. IT IS A FAITHFUL SAYING. It will not deceive or disappoint you. It is true, it is faithful. You have heard and believed thousands of false sayings from the lips of men in your time; your credulity in that respect is amazing; but here is a saying from the lips of God, and it is not false but true, and it is good as it is true. Have you believed it with your hearts? You may safely do it, for it is a faithful saying. I wish you to consider earnestly that part of the setting.

Another may ask, “But is it for me? How may I be sure that it is for me?” The text answers the questions, for it tells us that the saying is WORTHY OF ALL ACCEPTATION. It is worthy that every man, woman and child should receive it. It reaches out to the greatest of men and they need it, and it comes down to the meanest of men—they, too, may believe it. All excludes none. This saying, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, is worthy of your acceptation, it is for you. That is another part of the setting that I want you to consider.

A young actor had come to hear the gospel, and at the close of the meeting he said to me, “If you knew what God knows about me you would not say that I could be saved.” He felt his badness, and it may be that some here are like him, feeling that they are too bad to be saved. It is quite possible that you could not be worse than you are, but, even so, look again at our saying, examine further the setting in which it appears. The one who was inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it exclaimed as he did so, OF WHOM I AM CHIEF. It was as though he said, None need despair, Christ Jesus has saved the preacher, and if He has saved the preacher He can save you. The chief of sinners is with Christ in glory. He is there because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And for the same wonderful reason you may dwell for ever in the same glory.

It seems to me that my text meets every difficulty and answers every question that you can raise. It leaves you without an excuse. It encourages you to put the great Saviour to the test. If you do that now you will begin to learn His grace, His tenderness, His power. He is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

 

"A Reproach upon All Israel"

Read 1 Samuel 12

Partyism is the greatest curse that the Church of God has known

Nahash the Ammonite was a scoffer, and the condition into which Israel had sunk gave him the opportunity to scoff at what should have been amongst their most cherished possessions—their unity as a nation, and their care for one another as brethren. In Joshua's day they had fought shoulder to shoulder to make their God-given possessions their own, and even after Joshua's death something of this spirit survived, for Judah invited "Simeon his brother" to share with him in the battles of the Lord, and afterwards he went with "Simeon his brother" when his turn came to fight, and they were wonderfully successful in their God-directed campaigns (Jud. 1). But in Samuel's days that spirit of unity and goodwill had vanished and I judge that it was this that provoked this grim and scornful humour on the part of Nahash. Tribal interests had superseded national unity, and even tribal interests seem to have narrowed down to what was entirely local and this made the cities of the land easy prey for their foes.

Jabesh Gilead had a sad and tragic history. When all Israel “from Dan even unto Beersheba , with the land of Gilead" was aroused to indignation at the terrible evil that had broken out in Benjamin, the city of Jabesh Gilead alone remained indifferent and neutral. It was evidently nothing to them that the Name of Jehovah had been greatly dishonoured and the people of Israel greatly disgraced, and Israel in their zeal had meted out the same judgment to them that they had executed upon the evil-doers and those that sheltered them. In this we feel that their zeal outstripped their sense of justice. It was right to abhor and to judge the dreadful evil, right to treat those who sheltered the evil-doers as the evil-doers themselves, for they were accessories after the fact, and their refusal to separate from the evil only showed that at heart they were one with the evil-doers. So far Israel acted according to the Word of God, and we are instructed as to this same line of conduct in the New Testament (2 John). But the indifference of Jabesh Gilead was not the guilt of Benjamin, their conduct was bad and called for condemnation, but as there are degrees of guilt so there are degrees of penalties, and we feel that less drastic measures would have met the case and achieved happier and more godly results.

From that time the men that remained of Jabesh Gilead must have felt isolated from the rest of the nation and this may have been the cause of their willingness to yield to Nahash and hand over their city to him. They may have reasoned, We have neither friendship nor fellowship with the rest of Israel , why should we suffer in the endeavour to hold this outpost for the nation? Better yield to the enemy and be at peace. But the Ammonite intended not only to dominate their city but to lay a reproach on all Israel . He seemed to be determined to expose their divided condition. It had been their boast that they were one nation with one God, and often had they exulted in the song of Moses. “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord?” He would give the lie to it all and show that they were no better but rather worse than other nations, and so his terms of peace were that every man in the threatened city should lose his right eye. He over-reached himself, Jehovah would not permit His people to suffer such a reproach as that, but His way was to unite the people under one leader. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and the people came out with one consent to deliver their brethren whom once they had all but destroyed. It was a heartening revival of care for their brethren, and Nahash learned to his sorrow that the unity of Israel at which he had scoffed was a reality after all when God moved among the people, while his followers were all “scattered so that two of them were not left together.”

We might muse upon the story and enquire whether it has no lesson to teach us. May not the apparent many victories by the great adversary over the saints of God be the result of their disunity? And that disunity the beginning of his triumph? We have no doubt that often when questions have arisen in the church which have called for action in the Name of the Lord Jesus there has been “righteousness overmuch” and too little grace and brokenness of spirit; vindictiveness too has often played its sinister part, and zeal for a so-called principle which may have been nothing more than an opinion, has often been greater than care for the life and souls of the saints. In these things the deceiver has had his way, and, alas, when it was supposed that the truth had triumphed, it was the devil.

If a sense of the oneness of the saints as brethren was revived in our souls would there not with it arise a greater care for all? And would not this fill us with desire to stand by those who are harassed and afflicted by the enemy?

These times are analogous to those of 1 Samuel 12. Satan and the world scoff at the disunity of the church of God . It is the thing of which they reproach it above all else, it has become a byword, and because of it Satan has grown very bold and is making further inroads upon it. He has proceeded, in fact, to do what Nahash threatened to do, to put out the right eyes of many of those who at one time seemed to stand for the truth. We see denomination after denomination losing what light they once had, turning from the truth and embracing modernistic views that are in direct antagonism to it, we see companies of Christians, because of their isolation from other Christians, becoming more and more one-sided in their views, keen perhaps to follow one line of things and blind to another. It is the work of the Ammonite—the devil's work indeed. He has succeeded in shutting up one part of the truth in this circle made by man and not by God, and another part of it in another circle of a similar character, so that the whole of the truth may not be given out in delivering uniting power to all who desire to hear it wherever they maybe. The sympathies of many who love the Lord are bound up and confined by these circles and do not flow out to all who call upon the Lord; it seems nothing to them that the devil is attacking and blinding so many of those who bear the Name of Christ; they do not realize that this is their reproach. This partyism is the greatest curse that the church of God has known.

There can be no victory over the saints as they obey the commandments of the Lord. The wicked one touches them not as they are subject to Him, for the hand of the One whom they obey becomes their protection; and His commandments are His expressed will for them, and these are that they should love one another and be of one mind, that they should be united and not divided. While we grieve that the church has wandered from the practice of the truth, we may pray that we with many more may be recovered to it, but this can only be as we come afresh under the influence of the one Head and Leader of the saints of God—our Lord Jesus Christ. All the saints are united by the Holy Ghost to Him and in Him. How profound was the effect upon the late J. N. Darby when he awoke to the fact that his Head was in heaven, and that his Head, the exalted victorious Christ, was the head of every saint—of the whole church of God . That did not mean the building of another sect and so adding to the confusion, it meant deliverance from all sectarianism or partyism; it gave liberty to walk in the truth. As the Spirit of God came upon Saul uniting all Israel under him in sympathy for their oppressed and threatened brethren, so would He work today, we believe, if saints were freed from their party prejudices and indifference to the state of their brethren in Christ and were carried out of their sectarianism by the fact that there is one Spirit and one body, and one Hope, one Head, one Leader and Lord, one God and Father of all, and that the saints are one.

May God so work in the hearts of His saints that they may discern what an evil thing this partyism is, and refuse it as being of the devil and the flesh, and show renewed diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This is of God .

 

“Abba, Father”

 

At the beginning of this year let us take up afresh this Name, which is in truth the beginning of all Christian language. The babes know the Father, (1 John 2:13), and ABBA is the language of the babe; yet there is a sweetness and wealth of meaning in it that the oldest saint on earth has not wholly comprehended. It is remarkable that it has been left untranslated into our English tongue, and, indeed Paul, as inspired by the Holy Ghost did not give its equivalent in Greek, in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. It is left there as the Lord Himself used it, when in His agony of blood He bowed down in prayer in the Garden. It is left for us, and given to us and we may take up the very word, the very sound, that came forth from His mouth when He addressed His Father there.

Let us consider it as and when the Lord used it, for then we may gain a fuller entrance into its meaning. His disciples were not able to watch with Him in that solemn hour, but we may look back to it now and contemplate Him there. What holy unquestioning submission, what confidence pervaded His prayer! He shrank from what lay before Him, if it had been possible He would have asked to have been saved from it, but the Father's will was supreme, His will must be accomplished whatever the cost and suffering might be, and so when the agony was past He said, “The cup that My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”

It is Mark that tells us that He said, “Abba Father.” Mark who writes of Him as the perfect Servant. His path of service had brought Him to this dark hour when He had to say, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death.” To whom could He turn? Only to Him whom He served with that holy and perfect devotion and in whom was all His trust, He put the whole matter into His hands saying “Nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” Again we say, what blessed submission, what confidence, what trust, and what intimacy! And what heart can conceive the affection with which the Father viewed Him then. He had said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life . . . this commandment have I received of My Father.” Did not that love flow forth upon Him in the garden? and was He not conscious of it? It surely did, and He surely was, and it seems to us that in the presence of that upflow of confidence and holy submission to the Father's will, and that downflow of unspeakable affection we learn something of what the Name, Abba implies. It describes a relationship in which the knowledge of a perfect love finds a response in perfect trust. It is thus we see it revealed. It was perfectly revealed in and by Him.

But we have been brought, according to inconceivable grace, into this relationship, and the Name, Abba, may be upon our lips as we address our prayers to God. The Name describes for us the character of the relationship. It is not one of bondage or of fear. We do not stand at a distance but we draw near. It implies a holy intimacy coupled with deepest reverence. It describes a love towards us and care for us that attracts us and attaches us with unbreakable bonds to Him who bears that Name, a love and care that creates within us an ever increasing trust and true submission. In view of the sufferings of this present time of which Romans 8 speaks, and which many of God's children are feeling keenly, this Name is most sweet, most blessed. It is in the sense of it that we can say “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.”

And Galatians 4:6 helps us. “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” This Spirit is the Spirit of God, but in this special character and active in this special way. It is the Spirit of His Son, and surely if we are to know the meaning of this cry we must contemplate His Son.

“Thou shalt call Me, My Father, and shall not depart from Me,” was God's word to a backsliding people in ancient days, and it seems to us that this Name, Abba, is that that will keep us from wandering, and preserve us from worry. In the knowledge of His perfect love and care for us we shall rest, and whatever our lot may be in the future, submission to His will and trust in His love will pervade our lives until the sufferings of this present time give place to the glory that shall be revealed in us, who are the beloved children, and destined heirs of God.

“About a Stone's cast”

 

"He went a little farther" (Matthew 26:39).

"He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast" (Luke 22:14).

A great crisis had been reached in the life of the Lord Jesus. He had not separated Himself from His disciples in this way before, nor had they ever parted company with Him. They would not leave Him, for they could not do without Him. When others turned their backs upon Him, they said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And so bound to Him had they been that He said to them: “Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptations.” They were His lovers and friends, and though they did not understand much of the sorrow that filled His soul, yet there was the sympathy of love in their hearts towards Him, and this was very precious to Him.

But now the parting time had come, if He was to fulfil the will of God. They follow Him to Gethsemane ; they had done so many times before, for Jesus oft-times resorted thither with His disciples, and in the past they had watched with Him in the silence of the night beneath those olive trees while He held communion with His Father. But now it was different, and He says to them: “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder .” Who can tell what that “yonder” meant to Him?

He was about to enter the great conflict, and He “looked for comforters,” and as Peter and the sons of Zebedee seemed to enter more fully into His thoughts than the other disciples, He takes them with Him. Surely these three could give Him what He looked for, and watch with Him through that terrible hour. But no! He must leave them also; He must go “a little farther,” and, alone—or, as we read in Luke, He must be “withdrawn from them about a stone's cast.” In Matthew He is King, and it is the prerogative of David's royal Son to act in His own right; so there He went “a little farther.” It is there His own act. In Luke He is the obedient and dependent Man, filled and anointed by the Spirit to do the Father's business. He was completely subject to the leading of the Spirit, and so there He is, “withdrawn from them about a stone's cast,” He is withdrawn by the Spirit and the Father's will.

His disciples could not travel with Him now, for though it was but a stone's cast that He was removed from them, in reality the distance was immeasurable, and the road was one which had never been, nor could be, trodden by any other human foot. They were never to be associated with Him again in the old way; that was a chapter that was now closed for ever, the links were broken, and keenly He felt it.

Three times in the midst of His own great conflict in that garden He went back to them; for though they were unable to tread the path that He was treading or watch with Him in it, His love towards them could not change; and they were also to pass through a stern sifting, and He wanted them for their own sakes to watch and pray; but there was no response now to His earnest desire, the comforters He looked for failed Him, "He found them asleep .” Then, when they did awaken from that strange sleep, terror-stricken at the sight of His sorrow, “they all forsook Him and fled.”

Lover and friend were put far from Him, for mere human sympathy could not help Him now, for no human heart could understand His exceeding sorrow; none had ever known it, it was superhuman, it was the sorrow of the Holy Son of God going to bear our sins in His own body on the tree—to be made sin for us there, and to endure the hiding of God's face until the work was done.

“Alone He hear the Cross,

Alone its grief sustained.”

He had told them that this break would be for “a little while.” As a tender mother on leaving her fearful child assures it that she will “soon come back,” so He assured them that they should see Him again. “A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me: because I go to the Father” (John 16:16). That little while passed; it included that time of sorrow to which we have alluded, and those three days and three nights in which He lay dead in the grave; but it passed, and ere the sun was up on the first day of the week the grave was empty and the Lord was risen indeed. What triumph must have filled those mighty spirits, those ministers of His that do His pleasure, when the great enemy DEATH lay crushed and defeated at His victorious feet! How gladly would they have celebrated His glorious power and sang His praise to men as once they sang His lowly birth! But this was not the Lord's way. Unattended by angelic host, He went after His broken-hearted and despairing sheep, and gathered them together in one flock in the evening of that day. We are not surprised to read that “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord”; for the time of separation was passed, and He was with them again—not on the old footing, however, for He breathed into them, as the last Adam, the life-giving Spirit—and they were bound up with Him in the eternal bonds of a new life. And so are we.

He will never again be removed about a stone's cast from his well-beloved flock, for as the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, the Leader of their salvation, He has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” And they can say, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Moreover, He is the Head of His body, every member of which is united to Him in life, and by the Holy Ghost, completely and for ever. He is the Firstborn among many brethren, and they are one with Him in His Father's thoughts and love. He is the Sanctifier and they are the sanctified, and they are one with Him, and for this cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.

We look back to that “little while” when He went “a little farther” in deepest gratitude of heart; for we could not have sung “No separation, O my soul,” but for the sorrow that He passed through then. Now, like the disciples, we are glad; for no dark clouds can now obscure Him from the eyes of faith, and He is near us, a living glorious Saviour, greater than every trial through which His flock may pass. Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil: for He is with us; and it is but a little while and we shall be with Him to whom we are united, in the Father's house on high.

 

Acquaintance with our Saviour

From a letter,

“A sentence in one of the addresses impressed me very much; it was, ‘God's great desire is to make us LIVINGLY ACQUAINTED WITH OUR SAVIOUR WHERE HE IS.' Now I believe that everyone who knows the Lord at all, wants to know Him better and better, to come into real living touch with Him and to feel the warmth of His love. The only means to this end I know of is the written Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, but sometimes we read the Word and do not get that living touch we long for. I read in the Gospels the beautiful story of the Lord's life on earth, His love and compassion, His grace and His patience, and then I think of Him where He is, but that does not seem to bring Him near enough. IS IT MENTAL EFFORT THAT IS REQUIRED FOR THIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH OUR SAVIOUR WHERE HE IS?”—Young Believer.

 

No, acquaintance with our Saviour where He is is not achieved by mental effort, nor necessarily by reading of His life in the Gospels, though we cannot neglect this if we are to know Him. But acquaintance with Him is much more than knowing something about Him; it is knowing Himself, and this must be where He is and as He is, for it is a present and personal knowledge. We arrive at it by a spiritual journey, which may be long or short according to our purpose of heart and appreciation of Himself and His love.

We began by learning that He had done great things for us, our deep need as sinners made us glad to hear about Him. It was good news to us when we heard that He was our substitute when He suffered on the cross, and that there He put away even our sins by the sacrifice of Himself. The relief was great, our burdened consciences were purged, we were forgiven, and had peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and we were very grateful to Him for it all. But there was more than that in the gospel story. It told us that it was His great love that made Him die for us, and a love for Himself, deeper than our gratitude for blessings received, awoke in our hearts, so that even though we have not seen Him we love Him, and while still not seeing Him, yet believing, we rejoice in Him. But these two things, faith and love in and for the Saviour, do not spring up in the mind but in the heart, they are not the result of mental effort or growth but they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work within us.

But if we have not seen Him we long to, and if He has won our hearts by His love we want to know Him. Knowing about Him is not enough, nor will a mere acquaintance with Him satisfy us, the word is too cold to describe that for which the heart longs; nothing short of an intimacy of love without distance or reserve is the goal of love's desire. But this must be with Him where He is, not a looking back to where and what He was—though without the knowledge of the past we could not know Him as He is—nor a looking forward to where and what He will be though without that our knowledge of Him would be faulty—but a present and continuous intercourse with Himself, and that as to His present position, activities and love. It is well expressed in the well-known lines—

“Lord Jesus, make Thyself to me

A living, bright reality

More present to faith's vision keen

Than any outward object seen,

More dear, more intimately nigh

Than e'en the dearest earthly tie.”

To that we would add that the Spirit of Truth which proceedeth from the Father has come from heaven to dwell within us that the desire may become a realized fact.

But where is He? “Whither is thy beloved gone, thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? and we will seek Him with thee” (S. of Sol. 6:1). Yes, where? He is not here, for His life was taken from the earth; and the meaning of this is not always readily learnt. The Ethiopian learnt it. He was reading those words, than which none can make a greater appeal to the Christian heart: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb before his shearers, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth .” From that Scripture Philip preached unto him Jesus, and as he listened to the story of the utter humiliation, the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus, the glory of this world lost its lustre and faded from his eyes, and another Object filled his vision—Jesus, whose life was taken from the earth—and he cried, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” He would follow Him, he would turn his back on the world that had rejected him, he would be identified with Him an His death as far as this world was concerned; even self and all its former aspirations must go in death. He was eager for it, nothing must stand in his way. It was as though he said—indeed, he did say by this act: Good-bye, world, Jesus for me! Good-bye, old life of sin and sinful ambitions, Jesus for me! Good-bye, self and selfish hopes, Jesus for me! That I believe is the first true step to living acquaintance with Christ where He is.

But how could we surrender the life of sin and self, which every true disciple must do (Luke 4:27), if we did not know that we have a new life! We have been born again into a new life, it is the gift of God to us, and the Object of the new life is Christ, and it must seek Him wherever He may be. He is not on earth but in heaven, a real, living Man there. Stephen being full of the Holy Ghost looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus (Acts 7:55). And Saul of Tarsus heard His voice from that same glory (chap. 9). And we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour. On earth He was crucified, in heaven He is enthroned; He was hated here, He is adored there, and the knowledge of this reveals the world's true character and makes us turn away from it and set our affections upon things above where Christ sitteth.

But there is another side to the question. The Lord is active in loving service towards us in the place where He is, and our need makes us look up to Him. We feel that we must have daily succour and strength which in ourselves we do not possess. From whence can it come? It comes from our Lord in heaven. "Seeing then that we have a great high Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God .” We look up to Him in our countless needs and become acquainted with the tender sympathy of His heart. It is good to see how His compassion flowed out in constant service to needy people when He was on earth, but that is not enough for us, we need that compassion of which His heart is ever full for ourselves. He does not withhold it, and we learn as we draw near to Him that He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, yes, even with ours. So we come boldly to the throne of grace, for He sits upon it, and we have no fear of drawing near to Him; from thence we obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. It was thus that Paul the Apostle knew Him when he besought the Lord thrice that the thorn in the flesh might be removed from him. How overwhelmed and satisfied he must have been with the answer: “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” There Paul gained a deepened acquaintance with his Lord, not only as his great high Priest who fully sympathized with him in his distress, but as his Lord, who is the great Administrator of heavenly grace and power, and he was glad to have the thorn since it put him into such complete dependence on the Lord and yielded such sweet communion with Him. It is well to know where our resources are when great demands are made upon us, and if our needs and distresses become the opportunities for a fuller knowledge of the grace of our Lord, we shall be helped by them in our acquaintance with Him.

But Paul shows us another side of his life in Philippians 3. He tells us that he had abandoned every advantage that natural birth and achievement had to give him for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord . He had gladly cast them all away, as a man would cast away a useless and putrid load, for present acquaintance with Christ in glory. It was not his need now, but Christ Himself, brighter and better than the brightest and best that earth could offer. The wonder of that acquaintance had a most remarkable effect upon him, it filled him with determination to actually reach his Lord where He is, nothing should hinder him, suffering and death would be as nothing to the desire that filled his soul, but like a hound at full stretch on the track of its quarry, he reached forth and pressed onward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Such a concentration of spiritual energy fills us with amazement, and yet that was the effect of a present acquaintance with Christ upon the pattern Christian.

The Spirit of God who dwells in us is indispensable to this acquaintance with our Lord where He is. Who could have conceived that the Father would have sent the Spirit to indwell us, but He has done so, for, using your quotation in your letter, “God's great desire is to make us livingly acquainted with our Saviour where He is.” The Spirit has been given to us with this in view. By Him we are joined to Christ where He is, and He is our means of communication with Christ; He it is who takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, and gives to us the capacity to understand them and the power by which we reach our Lord in our faith and affections now. The Holy Spirit leads us along the spiritual journey that we must take if the desired acquaintance with our Saviour is to be realized. There is nothing mysterious about this, the simplicity of an undivided heart is really all that is needed on our part, then we are ready to turn away from the world, and to say, No, to self, for the treasure we have found in our Saviour's love.

Now, as to reading the Gospels. They will certainly increase our knowledge of the Lord as we read them, and the more we know of Him the more we shall love to read them. If there are persons in our lives whom we dearly love, we desire to learn all we can about them, every detail of their lives is of interest to us. It is so in our reading of the Lord's life here, and the more so because what He is was displayed in all His ways and words; what came out in revelation then abides in Him today, and what we read of Him becomes food for our souls, for it is Himself. Our love for Him finds in these God-inspired records that in which it delights, and by which it is increased and nourished, and what we learn as we read them becomes the substance of our worship and our communion with the Lord. In the Gospels we have the word of Life revealed and declared to us that our fellowship might be with the Father and the Son, and that our joy may be full.

But we need the Acts and the Epistles also, in them we learn that the One who has become so attractive to us is now exalted in heaven. God has made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ, He has highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name; He has become the centre of attraction for us, and we see Jesus not receiving honours from men but from God, and we are willing to let the world go by and have Christ for our gain, to think of Him, depend upon Him, commune with Him and become like Him.

Much ought to be said on this deeply important question which your letter asks, but this must suffice for this paper.

 

Adorning the Doctrine

A Word to Young Christians

 

"Adorn the Doctrine of God our Saviour, in all things" (Titus 2:10).

The doctrine of God our Saviour is THE GOSPEL. It tells us that God is good and doeth good. How glad we are that we ever heard it; without it we had lived without God, without Christ and without hope in the world; and what would such a life have been to us?

“A walking shadow; a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more . . . a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

So much for a life lived without the knowledge of God, but when such a life is done, what then? “After this the judgment,” when account must be given to God for it all. But the gospel has brought light and substance into our lives, we have something to live for now, as we shall see, and we have a glorious hope for the future. Let us thank God and rejoice that we ever heard the gospel. Now we are called upon to adorn the gospel, and how can we do that? Is not the gospel perfect in its beauty? Yes, so we thought it to be when first the light of it dispelled the darkness in which we groped, and we were right, and if it is already perfect, what can we do to adorn it? Truly, we cannot add anything to it, we might as well try

“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,

To throw a perfume on the violet,

To smooth the ice, or add another hue

Unto the rainbow, or with taper light

To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish.”

But we can bring out in lives that have been renewed by it, the beauty that is in it. The world does not see any beauty in it, and we cannot wonder at that, for when He who is the theme of it was here He was despised and rejected of men, He was without form or comeliness to them, and when they saw Him there was no beauty in Him that they should desire Him, but “to you who believe He is precious, the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely One.” What Jesus was the gospel is.

Take a hyacinth bulb. A parcel of them was once left in a kitchen, and the cook, who mistook them for onions, said, “They had neither taste nor smell, so I threw them out.” But plant that dry looking root, with neither taste nor smell, in a bowl; give it water and light, and then behold it sending up its glorious spike of flowers and filling the whole house with its fragrance. But all the beauty that cultivation brings into evidence was there in the bulb before it was disclosed. So it is with the gospel. We who have believed it must live out its blessedness before the eyes of our fellow-men, to whom it has neither taste nor smell, and so adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. What a responsibility, yet what a privilege lies within the reach of us all! In this world that reeks with uncleanly savours and the stench of sin we may produce and shed abroad the sweetness of the grace of God, we may be imitators of God, going about doing good.

The exhortation was first addressed to servants, slaves who had been sold and bought in the public markets. And four ways in which they might do good was set before them. They were to be obedient to their own masters; and meek in their behaviour towards them, not answering again; and honest , not purloining their master's goods; and faithful , showing all good fidelity. OBEDIENCE, MEEKNESS, HONESTY, FAITHFULNESS! Practical qualities these, and how good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, and what a contrast to the spirit and ways of the world as we know it.

Young men and women who have professed the Name of the Lord, see that you do not come behind in these things; it is up to you all to show what the grace of God can do in lives like yours. You do not need to go to the mission field for this; do it in the house where you live and in the place where you work.

Have you got your Bibles open at Titus 2? If so notice that verse 11 begins with “For,” and proceeds to give the cause which only can produce this desired effect, and it is this that we must now consider, “FOR THE GRACE OF GOD THAT BRINGETH SALVATION HATH APPEARED UNTO ALL MEN.” The grace of God is the activity of His love towards those who deserved His wrath, and it subsists for us in our Lord Jesus Christ. We shall understand it better if we see it in Him, and we have not got it at all if we dissociate it from Him, for grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, and He dwelt among us full of grace. The grace of God which is salvation was not sent to us but brought to us. It was not sent by an angelic messenger, it was brought by God's beloved Son. Many people look upon this blessing as they do upon a present sent to them by parcel post. There it is, they have got it, and are glad to have it, for is it not a token of the love of the distant friend? But he is not there; how different it would have been if he had brought it. And along with this mistake these same people spell salvation, IT; that is the wrong way to spell it, surely; it should be spelt HIM, for if you have Him, the Saviour, then you have salvation. Moses understood it when He sang, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and He become my salvation.”

Is not this what the Lord meant when He said to the publican in the tree, “Zaccheus, make haste and come down, for today I MUST ABIDE at thy house.” And as He crossed the threshold of that happy man's home, He said, “This day SALVATION come to this house.” Why? Because He had come to it, Jesus Himself was salvation. When He brings salvation to us, He comes to stay with us. It is as though He said, I love you so well, and I have sought you so long, I will never be parted from you. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We have the blessing, but we have the Blesser, too. The grace of God has given to us the desire to adorn the doctrine, and the nature and power that can do it. What we need now is instruction as to how to do it.

As the sun arises in the morning for all, so the Lord Jesus appeared for all men. Alas that so few appreciate the grace that He brought. But we are glad, are we not, that our hearts have been opened to give Him a welcome? may we treat Him well who has come to us and show all good fidelity to Him. He has blessed us, He has saved us, we are His. But that is the beginning of the ways of grace with us. Grace saves us, and also teaches and instructs us in the way of righteousness, as we read, “TEACHING US THAT DENYING UNGODLINESS AND WORLDLY LUSTS, WE SHOULD LIVE SOBERLY, RIGHTEOUSLY, AND GODLY IN THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD.” We are now in the school of grace. Does the thought of school bring back memories of hard tasks and stern teachers? Those things belong to the old school and school master whose name is LAW; the school of grace is different, for the saviour is the Teacher there. It was He who said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light .” If He is our Teacher how attractive the lessons must be, and He teaches not only by His words but by His ways. He is our pattern and guide, and we are to be imitators of Him. We entered His school on the day that He saved us; we shall be in it until the end of our days on earth; then and not until then shall we graduate; may we all do it with honours for His joy.

The teaching is not theoretical but practical. We must know the doctrine, of course, if we are to adorn it, but in this school of grace we are taught to walk rather than to talk. We must learn how to behave ourselves in three spheres of life: in the inner, personal sphere we are to live soberly, in our relations with others we are to live righteously, and in our relations with God we are to live godly. Christ has set us an example that we should walk in His steps, and all this was lived out perfectly by Him when He was here.

Do you know the beautiful hymn, some verses of which are

“O Lord! when we the path retrace

Which Thou on earth hast trod,

To man Thy wondrous love and grace,

Thy faithfulness to God.

Faithful amidst unfaithfulness

'Mid darkness only light,

Thou didst Thy Father's name confess,

And in His will delight”?

As we sit at His feet and consider Him, we admire and adore and sing:

“We wonder at Thy lowly mind,

And fain would like Thee be,

And all our rest and pleasure find

In learning, Lord, of Thee.”

It all becomes so real, so wonderful, that we are glad to turn our backs upon our former life; we deny ungodliness and worldly lusts . These two things make up the life of the world; they mean, “We won't have God, and we will please ourselves.” But for us, God has become so attractive through the gospel that we cannot live without Him, and His light has revealed to us how pernicious our own way was so that we now choose His way instead of ours.

And grace has made us expectant, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost has given us a hope of which we are not ashamed. We are “LOOKING FOR THAT BLESSED HOPE, AND GLORIOUS APPEARING OF OUR GREAT GOD AND OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.” The blessed hope is the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ, to fulfil His own word, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am there ye may be also .” There are those who teach, that only those who are faithful and watching, will be taken when the Lord fulfils this word; they insist on what is called a “partial rapture” which will be a reward for faithfulness and labour. If that were so—which, thank God, it is not—this hope would no longer be A BLESSED HOPE; for who of us would care to lay his hand upon his heart and say, “I am one of the faithful”? If we have a true sense of our own frailty we confess that we are unprofitable servants, but this hope does not depend upon what we are but upon what God is; it has been given to us by the grace of God, IT IS ALL GRACE; but "to him that worketh the reward is not reckoned of grace but of debt .” is a blessed hope, not because it is acquired by fulfilled responsibility but because it has been set before us by sovereign grace.

The glorious appearing will follow that blessed hope; indeed, it is part of it. The glory of our Saviour shall fill the world in that day. It does not fill the world yet; this is the night in which we have to shine as lights and be witnesses to the blessedness of the gospel, but the morning is coming when the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. The world will not rejoice when He appears; all nations of the earth shall wail because of Him, but we shall rejoice in that day. And what is it that has made the difference? The next verse tells us, “WHO GAVE HIMSELF FOR US.” Such was His love, and His glory will not change this, and because He loved us and gave Himself for us, we shall not be afraid when He comes in His glory, and because we love Him we shall rejoice to see Him exalted where once He was dishonoured.

He gave Himself TO REDEEM US FROM ALL INIQUITY. We were slaves, but He has set us free, and the price of our redemption was His blood. He gave Himself to deliver us from the bondage of sin and to lead us in the paths of righteousness, and “THAT HE MIGHT PURIFY UNTO HIMSELF A PECULIAR PEOPLE.” He wanted us entirely for Himself, His own peculiar treasure, and for this He would separate us from every evil thing and from every rival and from every yoke.

It is blessed to be able to sing,

“Lord Jesus, Thine,

For ever to recline

On love eternal fixed and sure.

Yes, I am Thine for evermore,

Lord Jesus, Thine.”

But there is more than that, we are to be ZEALOUS OF GOOD WORKS. We learn in secret, but we show our progress before the eyes of others. The Christian is not called to be a monk, wasting his days behind monastery walls, but as Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good for God was with Him, so are we called to follow in His steps, and to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour by good works. In this matter we must not be slothful. Our spiritual force and progress are not gauged by our intellectual knowledge of the doctrines of the epistles but by the way we carry out the exhortations in them.

I would press upon you that the schooling is in secret. Cultivate secret intercourse with the Lord; sit at His feet when no eye but His can see you, and He that seeth in secret shall reward you openly. You will gain wisdom and strength in secret, you will learn there what resources you have to draw upon when the test comes; then come forth, to love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven [characteristically so]: for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. So blessed and good is He!

 

All-Sufficient Grace

A Sunday Evening Gospel Address

"Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest" (2 Kings 4:1-7).

 

We find the prophet Elisha in many different circumstances, and confronted by many great difficulties, but we do not find him in any circumstance, or confronted by any difficulty, that he was not equal to, he was never baffled, never found wanting. He met all sorts of people in all kinds of distresses—kings, soldiers, lepers, bankrupts and he had just the blessing that each needed. He was God's representative in the midst of a distressed nation, and he dispensed to those distressed sinners the grace of God—he brought to them the blessing that was in the heart of God for them—in this way he sets forth in figure the Lord Jesus Christ, and I want you to remember that in speaking of Elisha I am only using him as a type of the great Saviour. Christ is my theme, I want to point you to the One who is the great antitype of God's prophet in this second book of the Kings.

It is a moving story of this widow and the way that Elisha met her need. We see the need first of all, then the grace that met the need. It is a picture in which the dark background of the sinners' need throws into bright relief the wondrous grace which is in Christ for them. A widow in the Scriptures is a figure of perfect helplessness and an object of pity, and this widow was a bankrupt, her case was doubly sad, but it portrays the case of every sinner out of Christ. I want you to look at this picture, my hearers, and see yourselves in it, you are bankrupt sinners, and you cannot relieve yourselves of your liabilities, you are “without strength.” The Lord Jesus Christ, who always spoke the truth, propounded a parable in the Pharisee's house, in which He spoke of a certain Creditor who had two debtors, who could pay Him not a cent. God is that Creditor and we are those debtors. I address myself to those present who have not yet come in their need to the Saviour, and I ask you, Have you realized your condition of debt and guilt and helplessness? If you refuse to face it in the day of grace, you will be compelled to face it in the day of judgment.

The widow awoke to her serious position when THE CREDITOR CAME TO PUT IN HIS CLAIM. Thank God, He, the Creditor, is not putting in His claim today. Instead, He is offering to relieve sinners of their debts, He is proclaiming forgiveness to all. “God was in Christ [when He came into the world] not imputing their transgressions unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”

People in their pride refuse to take their true place before God, they do not like to go down and confess the truth. They delude themselves with the thought, that after all there is something in them that God can accept, and after all they may be able to gain His favour by their works. If you are one of those people, the day is coming when you will be terribly undeceived, when the scales will fall from your eyes, and you will understand, and that right truly, how you stand before God. When will that day be? you ask. It will be when the Creditor puts in His claim You are drawing near to a terrible hour in your history if you are without Christ. Every pulse of your heart brings you nearer to that hour. You say, what hour?

The hour of your death! The clock of time is ticking out your days, and every swing of its ceaseless pendulum brings you nearer to that hour when you will step out of time into eternity. What is it that makes men who do not know God afraid of death? It is what comes after death. After death the judgment. When you pass out of this world, you will meet God and His judgment on your life. Some tell us that there is mercy after death, but God's Word does not say that. We believe in mercy with all our hearts, God is rich in mercy, He speaks of it an His blessed Book, and offers it to all, but not after death. After death, God says, the judgment—the Creditor will put in His claim then, for “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Then you who have refused to submit to God and own the truth about yourself will discover that you are bankrupt indeed with nothing to pay. Then it will be justice—then it will be judgment without mitigation.

This widowed woman realized that the creditor was about to put in his claim, and in her need she turned to the man of God. There was one person in the land to whom she could go, and to him she went, and found that he was prepared most graciously to listen to what she had to say. So gracious was he that I can understand her telling him the whole story. He would encourage her to keep nothing back the full amount of the debt, and how the debt was contracted and how long it had been standing against her. He said to her (and there was grace in the words he uttered), “What shall I do for thee, tell me what hast thou in the house?” But how shall I describe to you the grace of Jesus? I can tell you how He treated me. I came to Him as a needy sinner, and He made me feel that He was glad to see me, I felt that He was my Friend—the Friend of sinners, and that I could tell to Him what I could not tell to any other. As He treated ins, He will treat you. If you feel your need, go to Jesus, He never cast out any soul; if you turn to Him, you will find that He is the blessed Man of God of whom our picture speaks. You will find Him prepared to take up your case and meet your need.

Said Elisha to the woman, “What shall I do for thee? What hast thou in the house?” And she said, “Thine handmaid hath not anything in the house save a pot of oil.” House-proud she may have been at one time, but piece by piece the household gods had gone, and now nothing was left but a pot of oil, of little or no value in her eyes. Said Elisha, “That is all you need.” That simple pot of oil was all that was needed. I want to tell you, that there is close at hand that which would have met your need long ago, if only you had turned to the Saviour, it is that of which the oil speaks—it is the grace of God that bringeth salvation. God has got a wonderful blessing for you—His grace is more than sufficient for you. He can not only relieve you of your debt—He can fill your heart with joy and gladness.

This was olive oil that was so near to the widow's hand, for that land abounded with the olive tree from which the oil was procured. How was the oil procured? The olives grow on the green olive tree, and the olive tree speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the One who in the Psalms exclaims, “I am the green olive tree in the house of my God.”

Before the oil could be obtained from the berry it had to be pressed and ground in the mills, and before the oil of God's grace could flow for us this blessed Person, who was the green olive tree in the midst of a barren world, had to go into the mill of judgment. He had to suffer beneath the stroke of God's justice, for righteousness had to be satisfied, and at the cross of Christ we see righteousness satisfied. There He was made sin for us, He was delivered for our offences, He died for the ungodly. The blessed Christ of God rendered to the claims of justice all that justice could claim. He paid a great price when He gave Himself for us, and as a result the grace of God is flowing freely for sinners today.

Then said the prophet of God, “Go, borrow thee vessels of all thy neighbours, EVEN EMPTY VESSELS NOT A FEW, and bring them into the house, shut the door upon thee and thy sons, and pour out into all those vessels.” Away went the widow, believing the word of the prophet, and gathered into the house empty vessels, and when the house was full of empty vessels and the doors shut, then she took the oil, and to her astonishment it ran and poured and flowed until every empty vessel was full. I have no doubt those vessels were all very different in size, shape and material—there would be among them some small and some great, some beautiful in shape and others rude and rough—they were no doubt very different in outward appearance, but they were all alike in this respect—they were empty vessels. What is an empty vessel? An empty vessel is a vessel out of which you can get absolutely nothing, but into which you can put exactly what you please. Are you prepared to go to the Lord like that—to tell Him you have nothing to give Him,—that you cannot bring anything to Him in payment for the blessing that He is prepared to give to you?

Oh come to Him, and say—

“I am an empty vessel,

Not one thought or look of love to Thee I ever brought,

Yet I may come and come at once to Thee

With this the empty sinner's only plea, Thou lovest me.”

There are no two sinners exactly alike as to external appearance, character, or circumstances; some are rich, others poor, some learned, some ignorant, some are religious and others profane, these things do not matter, but this does matter—they must be empty vessels. This is essential to blessing. I press it upon you, you must lift empty hands to God if you would have His blessing. You can pay nothing and do nothing and say nothing on your own behalf, except that you need the grace of God.

The oil flowed and poured until all the vessels were full of the oil and there was not a vessel left, and WHEN THE LAST VESSEL WAS FILLED, THE OIL STAYED. That is a serious consideration. If you refuse to take the place of an empty vessel before God, you will surely miss the blessing, for the day is coming when the grace of God will cease to flow or you will be beyond the reach of it. In the New Testament: we read that “the door was shut.” Those who had got the oil in their vessels went into the marriage feast and the door was shut. Those who had not got the oil went to buy it, and they found that it could not be obtained. They were too late, the oil no longer flowed, they had neglected this great salvation and were shut out of the marriage feast. Ah, be not like them.

“Make haste, make haste! the blessing is for thee;

The cup of everlasting love is free.”

When all the vessels were filled, the widow hastened away to the man of God and told him what had happened, and what joy must have filled her soul!

Then Elisha said, “GO AND SELL THE OIL AND PAY THY DEBT.” Was there sufficient oil to pay the debt? There was sufficient. I can understand some sinner saying, Is there sufficient grace to clear away my debt—is there forgiveness for me? I remember when I came to Christ, I had the feeling in my heart that there could not possibly be anything greater than my sins, but I learned that where sin abounded grace did much more abound. The grace of God was sufficient to pardon my sins and to justify even a guilty sinner like me. The grace of God is sufficient to pardon you. Just as the flood in Noah's day covered the highest mountain, so can God's grace cover the highest mountain of your guilt today, and if you come to God, no matter how foully stained with sin you are, He can cleanse you and can justify you freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Then you will look back on the dark past, and say, The debt is paid, the past is all wiped out, God Himself has got nothing against me. He has justified even me.

In the 8th chapter of Romans we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” If God justifies a man, He is justified and cannot be condemned, for God's verdict must stand. But that does not come to a man because he deserves it. It is a wonderful thing to see that those who are justified are not so blessed because of what they are, not because of what they have done, but because of what God is and because of what Christ has done. It is what God is that is set forth in His great salvation, He is the God of all grace and He has got a righteous basis for thus blessing us, and that basis is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The work of Christ has given God a right to justify those who believe in Jesus, and if you will believe in Jesus tonight God will justify you. It is “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness.” I ask you, can you refuse to believe in a God like that? Can you refuse to believe in a God who has provided such a wonderful salvation for you, a God whom we see set forth at Calvary ? That is the God whom I desire you to know. Upon Him you must believe, and if you believe in Him, then this wonderful blessing is yours.

But that is not all! The man of God said to the widow, “Pay thy debt, and LIVE THOU AND THY CHILDREN ON THE REST” There was a wonderful balance. There was a superabundance enough to keep this woman and her children until the end of the story. So you will find it with the grace of God. The grace of God is not exhausted when it pardons our sins—nor when it justifies us. Oh no! there is the rest of the grace and it is at our disposal until the end. We need the grace of God, and shall need it until our feet stand in heavenly glory—until we pass from this world of difficulties into our eternal home. The grace that is in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for every need. There is no circumstance in which any Christian can be found, allowed by the Will of the Lord, but the grace of the Lord is sufficient for him. There is no circumstance into which any Christian can be led by his own folly, out of which the grace of God cannot bring blessing to him—there is grace to restore us when we fall—there is grace to keep us from falling.

Elisha said, “live thou and thy children on the rest,” and when the man of God said live , he meant it. To live means to enjoy life—and it is life that God wants us to enjoy. He wants us to live as those who have eternal life, to live as His children ought to live. He wants us to bask in the sunshine of His blessed love. God Himself is the source and fountain of life to us and Christ is the way the waters flow. And God's blessing is free. He will not sell it. There are two reasons why He will not sell it. The first is, we are far too poor to buy it, and the second is, He is far too rich to sell it. He gives it, and gives it freely, to undeserving objects, for that is just what grace means. Have we thanked Him for it? And do we show our gratitude by still drawing upon His inexhaustible stores of grace, so that we may truly live, and show forth His praises, who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light?

How happy is the Christian who knows the grace of God which is in Christ Jesus. Grace has justified him from all the past, he stands in this same grace for the present, and he will be a monument of the exceeding riches of God's grace for ever and for ever.

“All's Well”

Gloomy thoughts filled my mind as the good ship ploughed the grey waters of the Northern Atlantic: thoughts as to the state of things in the professing Church of God, the increase of worldliness, the departure from the truth of many in whom one had placed hopes, the lack of power in service and testimony, the few who seemed able to truly present the truth as they of old: all these things filled my mind, and upon them I brooded as I lay in the night. The ship rolled from side to side in a stormy sea, and the surroundings were suited to my thoughts. Thus the night wore on; then came the changing of the watch; the middle watch gave place to the morning, and as the bell chimed forth the fact, the voice of the quarter-master rang out “All's well.”

The ship still rolled and pitched, and the darkness seemed deeper than before, but that call of the morning changed my thoughts; I remembered Paul's shipwreck, and how when things seemed their blackest the Angel of God stood by him saying “Fear not Paul.” The ship on which Paul sailed went to pieces, but all hands came safe to land, and it would seem as if this divinely recorded incident has a prophetic bearing: every organization of men will fail as vessels of the truth, and all hopes placed in an arm of flesh will perish, but the work of God will remain, and every soul touched by His gracious Spirit and brought to Christ will come safely to land, to stand there in all the glory of the fulfilment of God's eternal purposes.

This was a heartening theme, and as I dwelt upon it my spirits rose, for the cheery “All's well” sang through my soul, and though I knew that no change for the better could be looked for in that faithless profession that has joined hands with the world that murdered her Lord, “for evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse” (2 Tim. 3:13), yet the bright prospect of God's triumph in spite of all, shone as a light in the darkness. Our thoughts and faith must turn from earth to heaven, to the One whose hand has overturned the dominion of death and who lives now in all the power of resurrection life upon the throne of God. The darkness is passing, and by faith we can see the bright Star of the morning already shining, and we know that all is well.

When at last the dawn broke through the cabin window I took the Scripture Text Calendar to read the text for the day. It was this: “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Isa. 41:13), and “He giveth power to the faint” (40:29). It is thus that faith is strengthened by our gracious Lord, and as He holds the hand, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness, we will keep the watch and look out for the morning, “the morning without clouds;” cheering the darkness about us with faith's cry, “All's well.”

An All-Sufficient Object for the Heart

An address on Jesus Coming, Walking, Dwelling

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel , therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone" (John 1:29-42).

 

Self-occupation makes for ill-health and invalidism. This is an inexorable law of the spiritual life. A self-centred person cannot be either healthy, or happy, If we are to be kept in spiritual health and vigour we must have an object for our hearts and aims outside of ourselves. And I think that we shall all readily admit that being God's creatures He Himself ought to be that object; if He is not, we are living sinful and empty lives. That God may have His right place in our lives, He has revealed Himself to us, not by writing now upon tables of stone but by sending His well-beloved Son. The stern law would never have attracted and won us, but who shall describe the attractiveness of Jesus, our Lord? God was in Christ. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” He said. And He who has revealed the Father rightly becomes now the object of our hearts when we know Him. But how does this come about, how does our Lord Jesus displace self and fill our hearts Himself instead?

 

Jesus Coming

First we learn that we are the objects of His heart. He sought us before we sought Him. We read, “John saw Jesus coming unto him.” What a moment that was for John, and what a moment it is for us when we see this great sight. We sing,

“I came to Jesus as I was,

Weary and worn and sad.

I found in Him a resting place,

And He has made me glad.”

Yes, thank God that is most blessedly true, but before we came to Jesus like that He came to us. Unlovely and sinful as we were He came to us.

John saw Jesus coming unto him, and he cried, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” This was the first public testimony borne to the Lord when He appeared in this Gospel. This first chapter of it opens with a recital of His divine glories. He is God, the Creator, the Source and Giver of life, and the Only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, and it closes with the prediction of glories yet to be, for He is the king of Israel and the Son of Man; but not of those glories that never had a beginning nor of those that are still to be revealed did John now speak. It was JESUS that he saw coming to him, the lowly Nazarene, the Man of sorrows; and of Him he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

We also have seen Him coming to us as the Lamb of God, the One who died for us, so great was His love! He has come to us as the One who poured out His blood that our sins might be cleansed and our souls saved from hell and that He might redeem us to be His own for ever. This was the measure of His love! He came to us and we met Him first as the Lamb of God who suffered, who was the great sacrifice to make atonement for us, who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. O children of the family of God, it is not because there shine upon the sacred brow of your Saviour crowns of imperishable splendour that you love Him, but because He first loved you and gave Himself for you. As the Lamb, holy and spotless, He endured and exhausted the judgment that your sins called for, as the scapegoat He has carried those sins far away, even into the land of forgetfulness, and He has come back without them, and as He showed to His disciples His hands and His side, wounded and pierced for them, so now, He shows them to us. He has come to us pouring out His love in suffering and sacrifice that He might redeem us from all iniquity and win us for Himself for ever.

Yes, He has come to us full of grace and truth, He has come from the height of His glory to the depth of our misery to save us and sanctify us and glorify us with Himself for ever.

“How wonderful! that He the Son has come,

And here for us as Lamb of God has died.

Our sins were laid on Him, He did become

Our substitute, when He was crucified.”

 

Jesus Walking

Now I must speak of Jesus walking. "The next day after John stood, and two of his disciples, and LOOKING UPON JESUS AS HE WALKED, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God .” Seeing Jesus coming has saved us, beholding Him as He walked will sanctify us wholly according to His own desire (John 17). But I would have you notice that between verses 29 and 36 the Holy Spirit comes in. "This same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost .” I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of this. If we are to enjoy vigorous spiritual life, and health, two things are necessary—an all-sufficient, all-absorbing object outside of us, and a patient yet all-victorious power within us. The object outside is Jesus, the power within is the Holy Ghost. But when we think of our Lord and Saviour as “He that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost,” it is in other circumstances than those that we have considered. When we think of Him as the Lamb of God we remember Calvary and its suffering, the thorn-crowned head bowed in death and the precious blood flowing from His side, but when we consider Him as “He that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost,” we look away from Calvary and earth and the grave, we look far above the stars and we see this same Jesus enthroned. Yes, blessed be God, He has put Him there. I ask you, babes in Christ, does it not thrill your hearts to know that your Saviour, once despised and rejected of men is now at the right hand of God? Does it not make you glad and rejoice when you “see Jesus crowned with glory and honour”? It is from that exalted place that our Lord has sent down the Holy Ghost to dwell in us that we might follow Him without faltering and be in living communion with Him who is the very spring of our life and health. How far heaven seems from earth, who can measure the distance? And Jesus is there in heaven and we are here on earth, yet the Holy Spirit within us can make our Lord and Saviour as real to us as if He sat by our side and talked with us face to face.

If we look upon Jesus as He walked, we shall follow Him as the disciples of John did; and He has come to us for this purpose, not only to seek and save us, but to lead us out of the place where He found us. We were dead to God, trying to make ourselves happy amid the glamour and in the filth of this world, and He came into it, Himself holy and pure in the midst of all its moral putrefaction, that He might separate us to Himself and draw and lead us out of the world. He works out His great design by love. He does not drive us, but He binds us to Himself by cords of love. He becomes attractive to us, and then we follow Him. O look upon Him as He walked! How wonderful were His footsteps from the manger to the mount of glory, from thence to Gethsemane, then on to Calvary, through death to Emmaus and the upper room in Jerusalem , then out to Bethany and up to the Father's right hand. We do not wonder that the disciples gazed steadfastly into heaven as He went up. We follow Him this night with our eyes, and the challenge comes home to us. Shall our hearts and our feet follow Him also?

Of course we must face things. We do not move an inch upon this path of God's will for us apart from exercise of heart, and we must make decisions, we must choose and refuse, and tonight, and at this crisis in our spiritual history, we must choose between self and Christ. Did you ever look at yourself in God's light? A celebrated American man of letters was offered £10,000 for his Autobiography. He turned down the offer and wrote, “A man cannot tell the whole truth about himself, even if he is convinced that what he writes will never be seen by others. I have personally satisfied myself on that. You cannot lay bare your private soul and look at it; you are too much ashamed; it is too disgusting. For that reason I confine myself to drawing the portraits of others.” As far as I know, that man was only judging of himself by a human standard, how much deeper will be our abhorrence of self if we see it in God's light. One look will be enough.

“Who knows thee well, will quit thee with disgust,

Thou selfish mass of animated dust!”

If we quit self, we have Jesus instead; we cannot find a fault in Him. The worst that His enemies could say after the closest scrutiny was, He is the friend of sinners. But He was not only free from all evil, He was full of all good. He is the Lamb of God; the gentleness and meekness of Christ were His as He walked, His sympathy and divine compassion were seen in all His ways. If you are depressed and sad, behold Him as He walked by the side of those two disciples that journeyed to Emmaus (Luke 24). If you have been stricken by a great grief, behold as He walked with the tears upon His face by Mary's side to the grave of her brother. If you have backslidden from His ways, behold Him saying to Simon the son of Jonas, “Follow me.”

If you would have your heart filled with worship: see Him as He says, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment even so I do. Arise, let us go hence (John 14:13). Look upon Him as He walked, He took that way of deepest sorrow to accomplish the will of God, and that will was that we, being firmly attached to Him, might be led by Him into the knowledge of the Father's heart and home.

 

Jesus Dwelling

I want you to notice that John stood , and Jesus walked . John had led those disciples of his as far as He could. He must stand now for One greater than he had come, One whose shoe latchet he was not worthy to unloose, and He had come to be the Leader of the flock of God, and His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. But as John stood He spoke, and those that heard him followed Jesus. It is right that you should listen to the servants of the Lord as long as they point you to Jesus and move your hearts to follow Him.

This is what happened in our story, and this was what our Lord desired, for this He had come, and a great joy must have filled His heart as He turned and saw these two disciples following Him. In response to His question, “What seek ye?” they replied, “Master, where dwellest Thou?” It is as though they said, “It is yourself we want, and only you.” Their eyes had seen His beauty and they could henceforth be satisfied with none but Him. And when they saw where He dwelt they abode with Him. And who think you had the greatest joy in that dwelling that day? They of course were supremely happy, how, could it be otherwise since they were with Him? But who can tell how great His joy was? His is a love that cannot be satisfied without the company of the loved ones. He cannot endure that His loved ones should be far from Him and that is why we have the feet washing in chapter 13. He wants us to have part with Him in His own dwelling.

If we follow Him, He will lead us out of the degradation of our sin and the misery of our selfishness into His own place, and tell us that that place is ours. In the Gospel of John He often uses the possessive pronoun. He speaks about things that are His own: “My Father,” “My Father's house,” “My peace,” “My joy,” and so on, and we might well sit entranced as we hear Him, and feel how worthy He is of all that He speaks of, but how great is our wonder when we find that all that He has, He shares with us. We read not only of Jesus coming, and Jesus walking, but of Jesus dwelling also, and if we inquire, “Master, where dwellest Thou?” He answers, “Come and see.” And where He finds His home and rest, even in the Father's love, there we may rest, for He tells us, “The Father Himself loveth you because ye have loved Me.” The Father's house will be our home for ever, the Father's love is to be our dwelling-place now, because it is the dwelling-place of His beloved Son, and He is not ashamed to call us brethren and to declare the Father's Name to us.

If we dwell with Him we shall be like Him, His compassions will fill our hearts, and we shall seek others for Him. Andrew must have learnt how the heart of his Master yearned for others, and so the first thing that He did on the next day was to find his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus. This Andrew was no self-centred invalid, he was vigorous and active, but the spring of his activities was the Christ whom He had found. “We have found the Messias” was his exultant and effective message. Being delivered himself, he delivered others, being attracted by Jesus, he attracted others to Him. He became, by following Jesus and dwelling with Him, a sanctified vessel, meet for his Master's use.

Would you, my hearers, enjoy spiritual health? Then let Christ be supreme in your affections. Behold Him, follow Him, dwell with Him and spend your life in self-forgetful services in His Name in this devil-driven and needy world. May the Lord make these things true of us all in the power of the Holy Ghost.

An Impressive Word

“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Reading the above verse, I was made to realize that this conflict is a far more serious affair than we generally think it to be. It is not a matter of individual conflict with Satan only, but that the powers of darkness are marshalled to oppose the whole Church of God on earth—the “all saints,” of verse 18. The Christian who is alive to this cannot have a lesser circle of interest than the whole Church, for the Church is one; and if the enemy makes a breach anywhere, he has been victorious just there.

Suppose I should stand and my brother should fall, is that nothing to me? It surely ought to be, even though I may be so limited in my affections that I am unmoved by it. If I am unmoved, it only proves that I do not know the character of the conflict, and that I am taking but little part in it.

It is by his wiles that the devil works: he allures the saints of God by what is popular. He entices them from their stand for Christ and the truth by some specious doctrine, or by some element of worldly religion that is not Christ. How he must hate the Ephesian Epistle, and one of His wiles is to make Christians think that the truth in it is too high for them.

Every man must take the armour for himself, but he must not think of himself only. He must pray for all saints, and for the telling out of the mystery of the Gospel—not the Gospel only, but the mystery of it, which is that Christ and His Church are one.

An Old Letter

In looking over some old books in a house in which I am staying, I found a letter which had evidently been laid between the pages of one of them for many years, for it was written from one friend to another during the time of revival that followed the Crimean war. The following is an extract from it:

“I feel very anxious about my soul just now, and have need of all your prayers for me that I might be saved. B——has been very anxious for a long time, but I am happy to tell you that she has found rest; she found it three weeks ago, and is so happy now that she cannot hold her tongue about the sweetness of her Saviour. I trust that we shall all find Him soon. A——and I are both trusting in the Lord, but we have not found peace yet. Since B——was saved three of her neighbours have found peace. What a blessing it must be! We have been long in the darkness thinking we were all right, but my conscience tells me that I am not, but I will never rest until I get hold of Him.

“Grace N——has found her Saviour too, about six weeks ago. If you could only see her letters! Such happiness she has got! The P——'s are just in the same mind; and what a difference in W——, he is so anxious about his soul. They hold a prayer-meeting twice a week there . . . Mr. P——is there; he is so kind, and so anxious for the conversion of souls; it was through his words that I was awakened.”

Many have been the longings and prayers, perhaps too half-hearted and desultory, for a widespread and genuine work of God such as this simple letter records. Could there be a more suitable time than this to ask more definitely and in greater faith that our eyes may see it now? Days of anguish have often been days of blessing to the children of God and to others who do not know Him. “He maketh the wrath of men to praise Him,” and He can turn this breaking loose of the worst passions of men, with its attendant devastation and broken hearts, to His glory in the salvation of souls; and this, as we well know, is of infinitely more value than the march of prosperity which has so suddenly been called to a halt.

All blessing from God is the fruit of His unmerited grace. Yet He has connected it, in His wisdom, with the exercises and prayers of His saints. Let us then not be slow in seeking His face; in divesting ourselves of the spirit of the age, and readjusting our souls to His thoughts and will that we may be vessels meet for His use, and have some part in carrying forth this blessing to hearts that are burdened and broken. Then we may see His gracious working pass from heart to heart and many lips opened to own Him. Not for the sake of men merely, though for their sake truly, for we know that God is not indifferent to their sorrows, for His compassion for them has been well-proved by the life of Jesus here; but firstly and mostly that His own purposes may be furthered, the number of His assembly made up and its rapture to heaven take place, that the Lord's return to earth as the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in His wings, may be hastened, for not till then shall the nations learn war no more.

And in the Garden a Sepulchre

 

"Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they JESUS" (John 19:41).

A garden! We all like a garden; it means to us the fair sunlight or the restful shade; it means beauty and fragrance and colour, and the song of birds, and the joy and ease of life. But in the garden a tomb! Ah! that is another matter. At the thought of a tomb we rise up as though fearing the attack of an unseen foe, the air grows cold, the music dies, and life droops. We love a garden, but not a tomb, for the tomb means—What does it mean? If your heart can tell you, then you know, but if it cannot, you do not. But suppose your heart could tell you all that it was possible for a human heart to know of the defeat and humiliation, the disappointment and loss, and sadness and tears that the tomb in the garden means, the full truth of it would still remain untold, for God alone knows it and He tells it in His own way.

But why should a tomb force itself into the same sentence as a garden? Cannot we have a garden without a tomb? May we not exult in a garden without a tomb near by to cast its shadow on our joy? No, we cannot, they are brought together in God's Word with a purpose, and they cannot be divorced in this earthly life. The garden first and then the tomb, thus is the story told, and how many have heard it and learnt it in bitter woe, and have seen how soon the garden can shrivel and shrink and all its beauty disappear, while the tomb spreads wide its base and rears its monstrous head, until naught save itself is seen in earth or sky.

It is not a tomb and then a garden; that is not the order here. It is the habit of civilized man to plant a garden round a tomb. Sentiment demands it, and the heart cries out for a garment with which to cover naked death, and chooses flowers; and they spring and bloom as a tribute—yes, and perhaps in defiance, in feeble and futile defiance of the tomb. But it is not that, it is beauty yielding to corruption, joy ending in sorrow, day fading into night, life closing in death. In the garden a tomb.

But why is it so? There was once a garden that God planted “eastward in Eden ; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden”—and there was no tomb there. But that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, entered that enclosure of life, and secured the ear of the man's wife and stirred the ambitions of the man, and they thought that the devil's lie was better than God's truth, and with the hands that God had made the gate was opened wide for the destroyer, and “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12). And since that day the tomb has been with us. No matter how full of promise and hope and prophecy a garden may have been, the tomb was there, for sin was there, and death came in with sin and will not retire so long as sin remains That is why.

It is remarkable that God started man upon his career in a garden. Not in primordial slime as a wriggling maggot, or in the virgin forest as a chattering ape, as the scientists (?) would teach us—men who have grown wise in their own conceits, but are fools, blindly fighting against God's own account of things—but in a garden, a scene of ordered beauty and delights, planned and planted by God's own hand. In that garden he stood erect, for “God hath made man upright,” created in the image and likeness of God, and there was nothing lacking in his fair surroundings to complete his joy, and no tomb was there to cause him grief. So satisfied should he have been with the bounty of his God, that the tempter would have shrunk abashed from the fullness of his gratitude. But it was not so, his glorious heritage did not content him, he craved for that which God had withheld, and through that uncurbed desire he fell. Thus death passed upon him, and as no tomb could be in the garden where grew the tree of life, he was banished from it, a sinful and dying man, his only prospect on earth a tomb. Such was man's brief history in God's garden without a tomb.

He carried out of that earthly paradise, however, a craving for beautiful surroundings, and has laboured incessantly to secure them; but if God's garden did not satisfy him, it is certain that his own cannot, and in his own garden there is always the tomb to mock his best endeavours. And is there no hope? Shall the tomb for ever triumph? Let us see.

Among the writers of the New Testament John is the only one who speaks of a garden. He is always great on environment, the setting is necessary in his Gospel to bring out either the full beauty or the stark nakedness of the deeds he records. So he speaks of a garden, and with it he shows us a traitor, a cross , and a tomb . I confess that when I first saw the garden, as John shows it to us, it startled me. The purpose of John's Gospel is to present the great fact that God has come down to men. In it we learn that THE WORD was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And can it be possible that when He came, so suitably to the deep need of men, and entered into man's garden, that He was confronted by the traitor, and condemned to a cross and a tomb? Yes, so it was, men had nothing better than that for Him. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (John 1:10); and when men saw Him they hated Him without a cause.

The traitor's kiss ranks as the most dastardly deed ever perpetrated beneath the heavens, and the name of Judas is universally execrated, but what of those who gave him the money, who bribed him to betray his Master into their murderous hands? They were the chief priests, the teachers of morality and religion, the cultivation of what is best in man was supposed to be in their hands, and they should have driven the covetous wretch from their presence with scorn when he made his base proposals, but they did not; they had determined to rid themselves of Jesus, there was no place for Him in their scheme of things, and they were glad to have the traitor as a confederate in their crime, for they were as base as he. So the Lord of glory was betrayed in a garden, not in the bleak wilderness, where the wild beasts were, and where He had hungered for forty days before His conflict with the devil, but in the garden, in a spot that had been tamed and cultivated by man's labour. Thither He had resorted with His disciples for prayer, and it was there that His quietude—for the agony was past—was rudely broken by the advent of the soldiers led by the traitor.

But that was only the beginning of the treachery and insult, and unparalleled cruelty that He had to suffer. Who can describe the road that He trod from the garden to the high priest's house, and from there to the court of Pilate, mocked by Jew and Gentile, beaten, spit upon, scourged, crowned with thorns and condemned to die, until at last, with a cross upon His shoulders He reached the garden again? The garden of the cross may not have been the garden of the betrayal, but this we know, for the Scripture tells us, that “in the place where He was crucified there was a garden” (John 19:41).

Raised above every plant and tree in that garden was the “plant of renown,” the Son of God nailed to a cross, and in the presence of it we bow; we bow our heads with shame for the sin of man, we bow our hearts with adoration for the love of God: man's sin and God's love, they met in that cross, and it was the proof and the measure of both. It may have seemed to us when first we thought of it, that God did a harsh thing when he drove the man and his wife from Eden for one act of disobedience; but Golgotha clearly declares what lay in that act. It was a blow aimed at the supremacy of God, an act of rebellion against His throne, a challenge to His majesty, and last but not least, a refusal to believe His goodness and love. From the time of the fall onward the chief aim of man was to cultivate his own powers; to make himself independent of God, and to make things pleasant for himself at a distance from God. Alas, he was cultivating an evil nature, and the test of it came when the Son of God came into the world. Then it was manifested what sort of fruit his garden had produced; then it was fully revealed that hatred of God lay at the very root of his nature; a hatred so fierce and intractable that all the grace that was in Jesus failed to abate it. Nothing would satisfy it but the murder of the One who was the Word become flesh, and that murder was of the most deliberate and calculated kind. Not only must the greatest physical suffering be inflicted on the Object of their hatred, but His every sensibility must be outraged and His character defamed for all time. So He was numbered with the transgressors, laughed to scorn by those who beheld His suffering and shame, and given a felon's death. It was not in the uncultivated and wild part of the earth, in the habitations of cruelty, where the naked savage lived his ignorant and degraded life that this sin of mankind was consummated. No, it was “the princes of this world” that “crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8)—“In the place where He was crucified there was a garden.”

If that climax of all sin had been the only side of the cross, there would have been no hope. But God's love was there, and God's love was greater than man's sin. If the cross is dark with the blackness of man's hatred, it is bright with the glory of God's love, and through it He commends that love towards us, for while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Raised up there upon the cross, Jesus was the bread of life, which if a man eat he shall live for ever. And that cross which on man's part was only hatred and murder, has become a new and living way by which sinful men may enter into everlasting blessing; it is the door into a heavenly paradise where death can never come. Thus did grace much more abound where sin abounded.

Now the malice of men would have pursued the Lord beyond death, for “they appointed His grave with the wicked,” as Isaiah 53:9 should read. They had prepared a rough hole near the cross in which to cast His body with those of the thieves who had also died there; but God intervened and “He was with the rich in His death.” In the garden there was “a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus.”

It was a new tomb; we must lay the emphasis upon this. There had never been a tomb like it before, if we judge it by what was laid in it, and by what came out of it. To that hour the grave had stood first in the list of those things that are never satisfied. It had never cried, “It is enough.” And with one exception, when it had bowed to the authority of the living Lord, it held its prey with relentless power. There had ever been a natural affinity between the tomb and what it held, for God had said, “Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.” But in this new tomb there was no such affinity. The death of Jesus was voluntary. He died for the sake of His flock. No man had taken His life from Him, He had laid it down of Himself. He had the power both to lay it down and to take it again. He was the Holy One of God and could see no corruption; death had no claim upon Him, and so the tomb could not hold Him. The grave had never received such an occupant to its close embrace before; it had triumphed hitherto, but now there had entered into it the One who was to break its power for ever.

There seemed to be an eagerness on the part of the Jews to be rid of His body, for they begged Pilate that it, with those of the thieves, might be taken away, and Pilate seems to have been relieved when Joseph besought him that he might have it, for he readily gave consent, and the world rejoiced when the tomb closed upon Jesus. But what a wonderful Seed was sown in that tomb in the garden with the tears and lamentations of Joseph and the women! And how wonderful was the springing up of that Seed on the resurrection morning! Ah, then was the day of victory, the beginning of a new creation.

The garden had been the scene of man's treachery and shame, of Satan's long mastery over man and the length to which he could drive him, and of the power of the grave. It was now the scene of God's victory, sorrow had given place to joy, the night had vanished before the morning light, death had given place to life, for as by man came death, so by man came also the resurrection from the dead, and the joy of heaven found expression in the angel's words, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” An empty tomb at last! The pledge and token of victory over it for all who are Christ's; for Christ is the firstfruits afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming.

The faith of the believer links him up with God's victory, and that vacant new tomb in the garden has changed everything for him, for he possesses a life in the risen Christ that death cannot destroy; and his hopes and joys are no longer resting in a garden, the beauty of which is all spoiled by death and the grave, but he looks on to the time when he will “eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). And if he falls asleep through Jesus, he does so in the sure hope that his body, sown in corruption, shall be raised in incorruption; sown in dishonour, shall be raised in glory; sown in weakness, shall be raised in power. But while such a glorious hope is certain for the Christian if he dies, it is not certain that he will die, for, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:51-57).

It is the light of that world into which death can never enter, that, shining into the heart of the believer, enables him to turn his back upon the earth and lay hold on eternal life. Arid while he does not feel the less that death is here, it holds no terror for him since his Lord both died and rose again. He may sorrow, but not as those who have no hope, and his hope maketh not ashamed, for it is as an anchor both sure and steadfast which holds his soul amid the storms and stress of life, if I may for the moment pass from a garden in which the tomb is to the sea where tempests rage. It is a blessed hope. “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. WHEREFORE COMFORT ONE ANOTHER WITH THESE WORDS” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).

 

“And Peter”

Notes of an address

"But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee : there shall ye see him, as he said unto you" (Mark 16:7).

 

Why should the young man clothed in white who sat in Jesus' empty tomb have been so interested in Peter? Is it possible that angels are concerned about the backslidings of the disciples of the Lord? It would appear so from this incident. All the disciples had faltered and failed, and they all mourned and wept, and there was a message for them all; but Peter had travelled far upon an evil road; he had sinned more deeply than any other, and for him the angel sends a special word. Perhaps, as he thought on his ways, he so loathed himself that be was too ashamed to company with his brethren, and was isolating himself from them as though he were no longer one of them. If so, he had to be sought and found and the angelic message given to him; he had to be told that he would see his Lord again.

Was this heavenly visitant, who held that empty tomb in the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, acting upon orders received from his Lord when he added to his message “and Peter”? Without a doubt he was. When the Lord rose up triumphant from the grave and set the angel there in what had been once the stronghold of now vanquished death, He must have told him thus to speak to the women who were already on their way to that sacred spot. And if so, how impressed he must have been with the grace of his Master when he realized that His first thoughts in the hour of His victory were not the vindication of His own glory or the destruction of His foes, but of His weak and weeping disciples, and above all of Peter. We are not able to say definitely how things affect the minds of angels, for we are but men, yet we may well suppose that this would give that young man in white, and many another angel, fresh cause to wonder and to adore their most adorable Lord.

The angels are His servants, they do His bidding, they have their place in connection with His house and His ways of grace with men. There is joy in their presence over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15); they take a deep and special interest in the manners and conduct of the Lord's disciples, even in the way those disciples dress (1 Cor. 11:10); and they learn the manifold wisdom of God as they see it expressed in the church (Eph. 3:10). Consequently I do not think that I am exaggerating at all when I say that they are concerned about the backslidings of the disciples of the Lord. The young man in white did not deliver his message to the women as a sort of soulless automaton, his heart went with it. This is clear from the way he sought to still the fear in their breasts and to strengthen their faith by showing them the empty tomb and reminding them of the Lord's words. He was concerned about them all, and especially about Peter, for he was more likely to be swallowed up with sorrow than the rest. And the angels, which are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that are heirs of salvation, must be interested in the welfare of those to whom they minister.

The angels of God care for the disciples of the Lord, and I do not doubt that they marvel at the love of God to them, and are more than amazed that they should so often sacrifice their greatest joys for sinful things, that they should turn away from their Lord and often deny Him, and become backsliders, as Peter was. But again, with what keen interest and joy they must watch the Lord's ways of grace until restoration is complete. That is, of course, because they have but one interest and that the Lord's glory, and the interest that they show is the effect of their seeing the love that the Lord bears to those who are His. The angel would not have been so concerned about Peter if the Lord had not been concerned about him, and the angels would not be so concerned about you and me, and the way that we live, and the things that we pursue, if the Lord were not concerned about us. The master of a great house may have thoughts and interests of which his servants know nothing, but suppose a child of the house is dangerously ill, or has strayed away from home, then if they are true servants and the master is a true master, they are all deeply interested. The master's concern affects them every one. So it is with our Lord and the angels who are His servants.

Ought we to be less interested in each other than the angels are interested in us? Surely not. And especially since we may do what they cannot do. They cannot restore the backslider; as far as we know they have no part in this work, but we ought to wash one another's feet (John 13), and “if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). But suppose there is a backslider who secretly mourns his departure from the Lord, but finds his brethren, as be supposes, coldly indifferent towards him, who thinks, perhaps, that no one is concerned about him. Let me say to him, “Though men seem careless of your welfare, the angels are not; they are interested, and they are interested because their Lord is. The restoration of your soul to the joy of salvation and communion with the Saviour is of deep concern to them because they know that this is the Lord's desire and because the Lord's glory is involved in it. Banish at once from your mind the thought that nobody cares, and let the angel's words, ‘and Peter,' speed your feet along the way of repentance to the Saviour who has not ceased to love and care for you, and whom through grace you still love or you would not be secretly grieving about the loss of His company and the joy that it gives.

 

Answers Delayed are not Prayers Denied

On a summer's evening, nigh two years ago, I walked into a meeting for prayer. I had longed for such a meeting all the day, for I had thought of those words, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,” and I hoped, when I found this meeting, that that would be my experience, for I felt the need of it. It turned out to be a small meeting, smaller than I had anticipated, for there were only seven or eight persons present, some young, some old and tired looking. The singing was flat and slow, and the prayers disappointing and dull, and I had begun to wonder whether the evening was being wasted, when an old man of more than eighty years spoke up and said to us, “My friends, I should like to share with you a great joy that I have got today. I must tell you that sixty-five years ago I knelt by my dying mother's bed and she said to me, ‘——you are the only one in the family that knows the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. I commend your father and your brothers to you. Pray for them every day until they are saved.' This morning I got this letter from my last remaining brother, and I will read it to you.” Then very quietly, he read, “Dear, dear brother, I have the very best of news for you, I have yielded myself at last to God.” And the letter, in the simplest language, told how it all came about, and was full of thankfulness to the brother who for sixty-five years had persevered in prayer for him and watched for his salvation.

You will not need to be told that that simple story transformed that little prayer meeting, and that it ceased to be dull and desultory. Eyes became moist and hearts were moved and those who had kept their seats before now bowed their knees. There was thanksgiving first, and then definite and earnest prayer, prayer with a purpose in it, for here was evidence that it was not in vain to pray, and though the answer be long delayed in God's wise ways, yet at last it comes.

Yes, there came into every heart in that little gathering, the consciousness that we were in the very presence of God, that we had received in the old man's story a gracious admonition for our slackness in prayer, and an assurance that God does hear our cries and will answer them at the right time.

We do well when we pray, but sometimes we grow weary when the answer seems long delayed, and we suppose that our prayers have not been heard; and some have even thought that God did not care, and that their matters were too small for His notice. But what is the truth? For sixty-five years one golden vial in heaven had been filling with this dear man's prayers, and as sweet odours they had been to God (Rev. 5:8). And how rich was the answer when it did come, not only for the one whose daily cries had gone into God's ear, but for us also who shared his joy, and for you, too, who are likely to be discouraged because you have prayed so long with no apparent answer, if this simple incident encourages you to continue in prayer with thanksgiving.

“Armageddon” and “Universal Peace”

No, this is not Armageddon, nor will universal peace follow upon the conclusion of this most terrible war in the world's history. Some who direct the thought of the nations have stated that this latter will be the blessing that will issue from the conflict, that humanity, staggered by the appalling carnage, will insist upon general disarmament, and that all the nations of the earth will become pacific henceforward and forever. This is mere conjecture. A forecast made regardless of mighty forces which will still play their part in the terrible drama of man's continued rebellion against God. These forces are: the incorrigible evil of the hearts of unregenerate men; the determined opposition of Satan to God's plans and purposes; and, last and most terrible of all, because of the inflexible justice of it—the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.

Armageddon—“the war of that great day of God the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14-16, N.Tr.) cannot take place while the true church of God is on the earth; the Lord's coming for His saints (1 Thess. 4:15-17) must take place first. It will not be a European war merely, but north, south, east and west will gather their armies for it. It will not be fought in France , Belgium , or Germany , but in the Holy Land, which land Satan will do his utmost to hold against the Lord, so that the promises made by God to Israel of old may not be fulfilled. The Euphrates will be dried up to make a way for the almost innumerable hosts of the kings of the East (Rev. 16.)—the yellow races, probably, who are already beginning to turn their attention to European affairs. The kings of the revived Roman Empire will gather under the leadership of the Beast—Satan's marvel, the superman. And not these only but the kings of the whole habitable world will be marshalled for this supreme war.

The energy of the whole world will be thrown into the conflict, for they will beat their ploughshares into swords and their pruning-hooks into spears (Joel 3:11). There will no longer be the restraining power of the Holy Ghost, for He, who now does restrain for the sake of the assembly which is still upon earth, will have been taken out of the way at the rapture of the assembly to the glory of God (2 Thess. 2:7).

The lust of war will be upon all men—so that those who are weak will say they are strong for the battle (Joel 3:10)—Poor doomed dupes of the devil! They will be gathered by the spirits of demons—Satan's angels (Rev. 16:13), his purpose being undoubtedly to annihilate the Jews, that shall then be gathered in their land, so that God's purpose to make them the centre of the renewed earth may be frustrated. But God will be there also, and the pride of men and the subtlety of the devil shall be made to serve His purpose, For then shall His judgment fall upon the whole force of man's rebellion against Him. The winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God shall be trodden by Him who is the faithful and the true, who in righteousness will judge and make war; the fowls of the air shall be filled with the flesh of fighting men; and the nations shall be broken in pieces like a potter's vessel by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

From that wrath to come we have a deliverer, even Jesus, the one who shall execute that wrath. Him we await from heaven. Blessed hope of our souls!

Universal peace shall follow that great war, for the outcome of it shall not be whether a nation shall be the supreme world's power or not, but that all thrones and kingdoms shall be Christ's, for all opposition to Him will be crushed, and as the Sun of Righteousness, He shall arise with healing in His wings. That the crowns might at last be placed upon the rightful brow; and for the sake of this groaning creation, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as in heaven.”

“As He is”

"We shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).

I was doing my best to comfort a little girl whose mother had gone to be with the Lord Jesus. “You will see her again,” I said, “brighter and more beautiful than ever she was on earth.” Up from the lacerated little heart came the answer, “But I want to see her just as she was. I shall see her just as she was, shan't I?” That was love's cry, as she had known her mother so she wished to see her. What else could satisfy love but that? And this is the desire of our hearts in regard to our Lord. When we see Him we do not want to see a stranger, nor shall we; we want to see One whom we know well, who has won our heart's affection, and so we shall. We shall see Him as He is, as we have learnt Him, so full of tenderness, patience and love. We shall see Him as the One who has come near to us in our days of darkness and sorrow, and held us up when we feared that we would be overwhelmed; we shall see Him as the One who has restored our souls when our fickle hearts turned us into ways of misery and sin. We shall see Him as the One who never forsook us day or night in our earthly pilgrimage, and who has become more to us than father, mother, husband, wife, child or friend. We shall see Him as He is now, our Lover, our Lord, our all.

We shall see Him as He is in the Father's favour, loved by Him, and all glorious in that love, and our hearts will thrill at the sight. This is one of the chiefest joys that His brethren shall ever have. We are to be with Him for this very purpose. For this He prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, WHICH THOU HAST GIVEN ME: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). The world will not see Him thus; they will see Him in the dread majesty of the Judge of quick and dead, as King of kings and Lord of lords, and will wail in their fear of Him; but His own, whom He loves and will love to the end, are to be enraptured by the sight of Him as He is, in all the beauty of His grace and love.

 

 

At His Feet

To be at the feet of Jesus is to be in the most blessed spot in God's universe; it is there that every problem is solved, and every question settled; whether the questions be of sin, sorrow, self, or service; there is no place like this for the guilt-laden sinner; no place like this for the happy or perplexed saint.

 

Jesus is greater than our sins

The first great truth that dawns upon the soul as we come to this place of blessing is that Jesus is greater than our sins; it was this that the sinner of the city proved in Luke 7. He had said: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” It may be that she had heard those words, and so she sought Him out. No doubt she would hesitate upon the threshold of the house of Simon as she saw the frown gather upon the brows of host and guests, but two mighty powers conspired together to bring her to Jesus' feet: her great need drove her there; His great love drew her; and between the driving power of her need and the drawing power of His love, her hesitancy was overcome, and as a tempest-tossed bark finds peace at last in the calm waters of some long desired harbour, so she found a place of refuge and rest at the travel-stained feet of the Son of God. Simon would not have had her touch him; the disciples would doubtless have treated her with scant grace; but He, the lowly Jesus, and yet the mighty Prince of life, allowed her to weep out her repentance and her gratitude at His feet.

She found that He had a heart of infinite tenderness, for He neither spurned her nor fastened her sins upon her, but His hand lifted the burden, and she heard His own voice declare, “Thy sins are forgiven . . . thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace .”

The past, present and future was all settled there for her who had long been the prey of men and the Devil, and her whole heart, cleansed from its evil ways by the sanctifying power of His blessed love, poured out its affection upon Him. “She loved much,” for He had forgiven much.

At His feet she found salvation, and the same priceless boon is still to be found there, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 

Jesus is greater than our service

We do not say that the beloved Mary of Bethany is identical with the woman of the city, we merely point out that she loved the spot where that woman's burden rolled away, in fact in each instance which is recorded of her in the Scripture she is at Jesus' feet. The first of these instances is in Luke 10:38-42. We have no word for condemnation for Martha's service, the service was right, but the servant was wrong, she had missed the secret of a peaceful and unburdened spirit, and “many things” cumbered her, whereas “one thing” and one thing alone, Himself ; was Mary's object.

We often admire Mary for taking the place of the disciple on this occasion; may it not be that we waste admiration on her that might well be bestowed upon the Lord? for He it was who drew her to that place of blessing, she had but responded to His drawing as the needle to the magnet. He came forth from the Father to do the Father's business—to fill up the hearts of sinful men and women with a satisfaction and joy of which the world knows nothing. He, at whose feet Mary sat without a fear, was none other than the One before whom mighty angels veiled their faces, crying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts”; but she knew Him in the revelation of His grace; as the Breaker of the bread of life, His words were the words of eternal life, and her heart delighted to feed upon them. Oh! if only Martha had known that He had come not to be ministered unto but to minister, that His heart found a peculiar and unspeakable joy in filling up the vacancies in human hearts with the knowledge of His Father and Himself, the Father's sent One, she would have left her serving awhile and joined her sister at His feet, and there found the satisfaction that Mary found. May we prove this also, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 

Jesus is greater than our sorrows

The chill winds of bereavement had passed over that home of peace at Bethany , and the sisters were crushed and broken and bewildered by the wrecking of their circle. When all hope had failed them, for their brother lay in the sealed sepulchre, Jesus came to them. And when Mary was come to where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet saying unto Him, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:32). With a broken heart she cast her heavy sorrow at His feet. What passed between them is not recorded for us, for there are moments such as these when the communications that pass between the Lord and His sorrowing saints cannot be expressed. The sense of His love and sympathy is too deep for words. One thing we know: He walked by her side; and in His company, with Himself so near, her heart must have said, “All is well.”

Presently His voice of power unloosed the bands of death and set the captive free; but Mary saw something more wonderful than His power. She knew His sympathy, for she saw His tears; and never would she have known how much He loved her, or how tender was His heart, or how all-sustaining His sympathy, had it not been for that great sorrow. Sorrowing saints of God! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 

Jesus is greater than self

The last we read of Mary is in John 12, and it is fitting that the record of her life should close there. The pound “of spikenard very costly” would have distinguished her in the midst of her acquaintances, but she lavished it upon Him, well knowing that He was going into death. The world had nothing to give Him but a shameful cross and a grave, and she only amongst all His loved ones seemed to realise this, and she said by her action, “The best I have shall go into His grave, for He is worthy.” The Lord interpreted that action, and said, “Let her alone; against the day of my burying hath she kept this,” and “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matt. 26:13).

Thus the Lord valued that which was despised of men, that which was the result of self being eclipsed and Christ all in all. It was this point that Paul had reached when he said, “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).

To this point the Holy Ghost would lead us, and it is at the feet of Jesus that these lessons are learnt. Soon (may the Lord hasten the day) every ransomed soul will bow before Him, in the Father's home on high, there to cast our crowns before those blessed feet once pierced in death for us, and forever, without a rival in our hearts, to worship and adore Him who has won our hearts. But if worthy then to be our all in all, He is also worthy now , for “Jesus Christ (is) the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”

 

Atonement and the New Theology

 

The Question is asked, "What is the difference between the New Testament Teaching as to Atonement, and the views of the New Theology Leaders?"

The sheerly anti-Christian character of the “New Theology” has often been exposed, and there would be no call to answer this question were it not that the deadly virus of this teaching is spreading fast, and breaking out, in one form or another, in unexpected quarters. It is like the leaven in the measures of meal, and subtle as the snare of the devil in Eden , and consequently, it is still necessary to lay bare its delusions, and present the truth of what it denies.

We are not alarmed, or even surprised, at its appearance or popularity, for the Holy Scriptures, which are our guide in all these questions, have warned us that “of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30), and that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Thess. 4:3-4). So that the truth of the Bible is established by the very teaching that seeks to undermine its authority, and the omnisciency of its writer proved by the acts of its would-be destroyers.

God is denied by this teaching; it is true that its chief interpreter states, “to disbelieve in God is an impossibility,” but he also explains that his God is the “Mysterious Power which is finding expression in the universe, and is present in the tiniest atom of the wondrous whole . . . whatever else it may be, it is myself"!

Sin, in its true nature , is denied: for we are told that “evil is a negative not a positive term, the shadow where the light should be,” “the devil is a vacuum,” and “sin has never injured God except through man. It is the God within who is injured by it rather than the God without.”

The one Mediator between God and man is denied. New theology has clothed the man of its imagination with the name of Jesus, but he is not the Lord Jesus Christ of the Gospels. “Jesus was God, but so are we ,” it boldly states. He did not give His life a ransom for all, “and many a British soldier has died a death as brave as Jesus.” His death merely lay across the path along which duty led Him, His determination to do His duty and the frenzy of the populace were the only factors in the cross of Christ, and in it the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23) had no place.

If God is man, and man is God; if the doctrine of the fall, as taught in Scripture, is mischievous, and the true teaching as to it being the coming of God into humanity; if sin is a blundering search after God; then there is no need for atonement at all, and every prophet that aforetime gave witness to Christ, and every apostle and servant of Christ that has proclaimed this doctrine in the name of God throughout the ages, is found a false witness of God.

R.J.Campbell tells us that he goes further back than Jesus, to the ancients of the East, for some of his thoughts: he will have to go further back still to find the origin of them, for the “Ye shall be as gods” of the lie in Eden, is writ large across every page of this laudation of fallen and corrupt man; and the writer is a living witness to the solemn words of the Son of God, “if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matt. 6:23).

And though we are constantly told in ‘The New Theology' what the “thoughtful reader” will do, we venture to say that the honest, exercised and truly thoughtful reader will reject the whole system of teaching as being self-contradictory, without foundation or authority, and a veritable Sahara in which the hungry and thirsty soul will search in vain for the Tree and Water of life.

 

The Truth of Atonement

When the truth of atonement truly dawns upon the soul of a man, he confesses that he is the chief of sinners, while he glories in God through our Lord Jesus Christ; he finds that in his flesh dwells no good thing, and yet he stands clear of all condemnation in Christ, and is compelled adoringly to exclaim, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! . . . for of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36).

Atonement presents God in His true place as God—the Almighty Ruler of His far stretching realm—it throws into prominence His inflexible justice and perfect righteousness; justice and righteousness which must be maintained at all cost, but it also manifests His great compassion, His infinite tenderness, His glorious love. By it sin—rebellion against the Creator—is shown up in its terrible character, it is exposed and condemned, but the sinner is saved and his heart won to everlasting allegiance to the One whose love would go to the very uttermost in order to ransom him from the ultimate consequence of his lawlessness.

 

Is it Immoral?

It is said that the doctrine of substitution is immoral, that it cannot be right for one man to suffer for the sins of another, and verily if Jesus had been only man such an objection might have had force. But He is God; were it not so the doctrine of atonement could not stand.

He became man for the vindication of His own law; the Source of all justice stooped even to the sinner's place, and submitted to the penalty that the eternal throne imposed for the vindication of His own everlasting righteousness. In this glorious plan, we do not see the guilt of one creature unjustly laid upon the head of another creature; but we see the infinite wisdom and love of God providing a way by which He can lavish His love upon men, and yet be consistent with His character. We see God taking upon Himself the whole cost of the redemption of men.

Had not God a right to do this if it pleased Him? Some men may despise and reject His way of salvation, but it will be His eternal glory, while they will reap the sad fruits of their folly, beneath the weight of their own sins, and the just judgment that those sins deserve.

 

The Love of God Manifested

Now the Scripture plainly shows that love lies behind all that God has wrought. The glorious gospel verse, John 3:16, is well known to all:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And Romans 5:8 is not less precious:

“But God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

From these Scriptures we learn that instead of the cross proving that God is an angry, hard-hearted Being, it is the very thing that has manifested His love in all its glory.

The wisdom, love, and power of God combined to bring about a salvation which shall be the glory of God and the joy of the universe for ever. The cross of Christ is where all this glory shone out.

Infinite wisdom devised the plan.

Eternal love found the means.

Almighty power carried out the work.

At the Cross infinite wisdom solved the problem as to how God could save and yet be righteous; and almighty power met and overthrew all the forces of darkness that would have kept men from God.

When Jesus hung upon the cross, love bared its bosom to the storm of righteous wrath, and when from spear-rent side there flowed the precious blood, this love shone out in all its splendour. The cross of Jesus was the triumph of love, there love was enthroned, but enthroned upon the everlastingly stable throne of divine justice. Love is the crown of justice, and justice is the crown of love, and both have conspired together for the blessing of men, and of this the blood of Jesus is a token and witness to us. Then if this is so, God is for us, and who can be against us?

There never was nor will be anything greater or more glorious than the cross of Christ; His death will be the wonder of ransomed myriads eternally, and the Lamb once slain shall be the light of that city through which will be shed the glory of the knowledge of God to earth's utmost bounds.

 

Some Substitutes

Some in their folly and blindness substitute other things for the blood; in their pride they are bold enough to speak of bearing the consequences of their own sins; and imagine that their own vain efforts at self-improvement, or purgatorial fires will purify their guilty souls; and this latter, the papal lie, is being preached by professedly Protestant lips. Alas! for all who are thus deluded. God says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” He has declared, “It is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul,” and “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” Nor is there a word in all Scripture which would indicate that the fire of hell will make men fit for heaven.

The question may be asked, “Why are men so foolish as to reject this wonderful provision of God?” the answer is given in 2 Corinthians 3:4, the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine in. They are willing to be deluded, and the devil finds in them an easy prey. He hates the blood because it gives him the lie direct. He has deceived men into believing that God does not love them, and the blood is the undeniable and everlasting proof that God does love them.

 

The Consequences of Rejecting God's Provision

But the consequences of rejecting the blood are absolute and irretrievable. For if they died without mercy who despised the law of Moses—which was the shadow—of how much sorer punishment shall he be counted worthy who despises the blood of the Son of God—which is the substance?—for in despising the blood there is the utter rejection of the God whom Christ came to reveal. It is vain to talk of Him as the universal Father. Sinful men need a Redeemer, and God, the Redeemer, has displayed His character in all its glory in the blood of Jesus. It is the best and the last that He can do for men, and if this is cast aside and despised, the just and terrible consequence will be the lake of fire for ever and for ever: the ultimate and only end of rebellion against the Almighty Ruler of the universe.

Children of God, let us pray that the glories of the atoning death of Jesus may be better understood by us, that we may see more fully how every attribute of God has been glorified thereby, how His throne has been vindicated and the love of His heart declared. And may we be earnestly looking forward to that day in the which, as a result of it, there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, and God shall be with men,

“And He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)

And all this shall be founded upon this strong and immovable basis, even the death of Jesus, for in that death God, in all His glory, was manifested.

 

“Be careful for nothing”

 

Careful about nothing, and prayerful and thankful in everything, is the true attitude of those who know God, towards circumstances in this world; and what a life of blessed contentment and peace would this condition of things yield. But it is not natural to any one of us to be thus superior to circumstances, and it may be asked: Is it possible?

The Scriptures not only give us the most blessed precepts and exhortations, hut these precepts are also presented to us, livingly, in men like ourselves. These are witnesses to the fact that a life of obedience to these precepts is not Utopian in character but within the reach of every one who, coming to God, believes that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

The three Hebrew youths (Dan. 3) stand amongst the chiefest of the witnesses to the fact that it is possible to be without care. They were confronted by the cruel power of a pagan autocrat, and threatened with destruction in the furnace of fire, but they stood forth without a tremor in the presence of the power of evil, and refused to be turned from the path of rectitude, saying, “O Nebuchadnezzar, WE ARE NOT CAREFUL” (v. 16).

 

“Our God is able”

Was it reckless bravado on the part of these three young men, or mere indifference to consequences, or the unyielding of indomitable wills that made them defy the Babylonian monarch? Nay, it was their faith in God; they could speak of Him as "our God ,” and they knew that He was behind the circumstances and greater than them all; they knew that He was greater than the proud and wrathful king before whom they stood, and their faith rang out clear and true, when they said: "We are not careful . . . OUR GOD IS ABLE” (v. 17). The case was in God's hand, He was the Arbiter of their destiny, He could deliver them from the fire or carry them through it; but whatever the consequences, they would trust in Him and serve Him. Noble youths! impregnable in their faith in a God well known, they were greater and more glorious than all the greatness and the glory that had gathered in the plain of Dura that day.

 

“His servants . . . that trusted in Him” (v. 28)

And what was the result of this conflict between simple and unquestioning faith in God and the power of this devil-inspired monarch? The fury of the king knew no limit or mercy, and, bound hand and foot, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into the fire. God did not quench or remove the furnace: He did a greater thing, He carried them through it; its hot breath was as the zephyr breeze of summer day upon their cheeks, and in the midst of it, free from every fetter, yoke, and care, they walked in happy concord with the Son of God. Thus by their faith and faithfulness was God glorified, and to the world that knew Him not, it was proved that He can and does deliver His servants who trust in Him.

 

“His servants . . . yielded their bodies” (v. 28)

Yes, their bodies, not their spirits. Their bodies might be bound and burned, but their spirits were free, for they feared not them that kill the body, because the God of body and soul, the God of all circumstances, the God of time and eternity was a great and present reality to them.

 

“Because he believed in his God” (Dan. 6:23)

Daniel, also, is a witness to the blessed fact that God's servants may be careful for nothing, as he is an example, also, of one who was prayerful and thankful in everything. The plotting of his foes, the unalterable decree of Darius the Median, and the den of lions, changed not the prayerful habit of his life, he was garrisoned by the peace of God, in whom he trusted , and as aforetime "he kneeled down his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks to God .”

His enemies clamoured for his destruction, his king laboured for his deliverance: there was peace for neither; but he whose fate seemed to hang in the balance was perfectly and profoundly quiet.

And he was cast to the fierce beasts, but their jaws were locked and barred by angel hands, and Daniel rested in that rough-hewn den as peacefully and well as though in the curtain-hung bed-chamber at the palace.

“So Daniel was taken out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him because he believed in his God.”

 

“God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb. 11:16)

With what dignity does true faith clothe men! God Himself is not ashamed to be linked with them as their God; and this link is a very personal one.

Nebuchadnezzar could speak of Him as “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego,” and Darius could call Him “the God of Daniel,” but these men knew Him through intercourse with Him, and they could call Him “our God” and "my God.” Blessed privilege!

God is the same today: His power is undiminished, and every circumstance in the lives of His people is in His hands. He may not intervene to quench the violence of fire or stop the mouths of lions. He may even permit them to be tried by “cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, by bonds and imprisonments;” they may be “destitute, afflicted, tormented” but He knows the way He taketh, and their reward is with Him. He will say the last word about everything. He has already said it, and no power of men or demons can alter it. “I am the Lord: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another” (Isa. 42:8). “I am the Lord; and there is none else” (45:18). And “them that honour Me I will honour” (1 Sam. 2:30).

 

Bearing Much Fruit

 

"Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you" (John 15:16).

Every Christian heart desires to bear much fruit that the Father may be glorified. If a man has not that desire we may safely conclude that he is dead, with no work of God in his soul. It is our purpose to spend a while in considering how this can be done, and for this we will turn to the very words of our Lord. He shall be our Instructor, and we will be His disciples, sitting as learners at His feet.

I know that the Vine and its branches show us what the Lord and His disciples were when He was on earth. He displaced Israel, who had proved themselves to be a worthless vine, and He brought forth fruit to God where they had failed; but the parable is recorded for our learning, and the analogy between the vine and its branches and Christ and His disciples abides, and the Lord intends that we should learn the lesson that it teaches, and having learnt it bear much fruit. We are not considering the branches that bear no fruit, mere professors of Christ, who have a name to live but are dead, but the true fruit-bearing branches. These are the subjects first of the once for all cleansing power of the word of Christ, and then of the continuous purging or cleansing under the Father's band.

"I am the true Vine .”

We must begin here, for the great I AM of this declaration, is the beginning and source of all fruit for God. He was not a fruitful branch of a vine that already existed, nor the choicest shoot of a struggling and fallen humanity, but He was Himself the Vine from whom all fruit must come. The Jews under the law had been tested and found wanting and their religion was now rejected as a worthless thing, for it produced only bitter grapes. In the philosophy of the Greeks there never had been life or fruit for God—“Man, know thyself” was its highest aim—but Christ had come and all fruit for God is henceforth from Him and no man ever will or can bear fruit except he abides in Him. To use another figure from another Scripture, we are married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” ( Rom. 7:4).

“WITHOUT ME ye can do NOTHING”

is an arresting word; may we understand the full force of it.

"Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (v. 3).

It is here that our vital contact with Christ begins, for I still speak of those who are fruit-bearing branches. His word has made us clean. He is not speaking of His blood here; the precious blood has cleansed us from our sins, from the evil things that we have done, but His word has purged us from what we were. “Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth” (1 Pet. 1:22). His word has reached our souls in cleansing, vitalizing power; we have been born again by it, and purged from every false hope to find our all in Christ. Peter was an example of this when in answer to the Lord's question, “Will ye also go away?” he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou but the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69). He may not have understood the full import of his words at the time, for they were the full confession of the Christian faith. They meant that the temple and its ordinances were now of no account to them; that the priests and their sacrifices no longer appealed to them; that the whole ritual of that religion in which they at one time had hoped to find life had been judged by them as of no profit. They meant that they had turned from their own efforts for life and righteousness to find everything in Christ. “To whom shall we go,” said he, “all else has failed us, the flesh with all its works is worthless. Thou alone hast the words of eternal life; in Thee are our hopes centred now; on Thee our faith rests. Thou art the Life-giver, the Son of the living God.” The word of the Lord had come to His disciples as light, revealing the futility and corruption of all that had gone before, and cleansing them from it, and leading them to turn from it and from themselves wholly to Christ. Of such disciples the Lord could say, “Now are ye clean through the word that I have spoken unto you.” God be praised if Peter's confession is ours.

“Every branch in me that beareth fruit, He [the Father] purgeth, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

No fruit-bearing tree needs more care than the vine, for none has more enemies, and no fruit is more delicate or more easily spoiled. It must be carefully watched and continually purged, and that does not mean pruned merely. It means more than that—it must be cleansed from the pests that attack it and would destroy it. I am not an authority on vine culture, but I do know something of the Christian life and its besetments, and I see a striking analogy between the pests that attack the vine and the things that hinder fruit-bearing in the Christian's life. I am speaking now of the vine as it is cultivated in such a country as this ( England ), where it is an exotic, and so needs more care and protection from adverse conditions, than it would if it were indigenous to the soil. Here the analogy has special force, for the heavenly life which is ours, and which is the only fruit-bearing life, does not belong to this cold world; it is an exotic here. The conditions that surround it are adverse to it, and the enemies are many, for the devil hates to see God's children bearing fruit as he hates God Himself. But what a comfort it is to know that THE FATHER IS THE HUSBANDMAN. What gracious care He will show in our cultivation, for the Father is the Source of all grace. He it is who purges the branches that bear fruit, that they may bring forth more fruit. Perfect wisdom and love combine in His ways with us, and He knows how to enable us to thrive in spite of the adverse conditions and evil influences that surround us, and He knows how to purge us from every pest.

“A holy Father's constant care

Keeps watch with an unwearying eye—

To see what fruits His children bear,

Fruits that may suit their calling high.

“Takes ever knowledge of our state—

What dims communion with His love,

Might check our growth—or separate

Our hearts from what's revealed above.

“Oh, wondrous love, that ne'er forgets

The objects of its tender care:

May chasten still, while sin besets,

And warns and guards us where we are.

“But ne'er forgets, but feeds us still

With tokens of His tender love;

Will keep, till freed from every ill,

We find our rest with Him above.”

One of the chief pests that mar the vine branches and destroy the fruit is the WEEVIL. It does its deadly work in the darkness and cannot be found during the day. If it is to be discovered and the vine riddled of its destructive work, the vine grower must flash the light of his lantern on it in the night. It cannot endure the light and will fall from the vine when the light shines on it. There are evil things that often work secretly in our lives like the weevil, unknown to any but ourselves and God, and their presence only becomes manifest by the results of their deadly work seen in failing spiritual vigour and poor fruit—unholy thoughts, secret intentions, selfish ambitions, perhaps: these are the destructive weevils that if cherished will most effectively spoil our fruit-bearing. When the weevil has got a footing in a vine it is most difficult to dislodge; in fact several fruit-bearing seasons may be utterly lost because of it, and these evil secret things often develop into open evil that may spoil a Christian's fruit for many a day. But there may be things of which even we are not conscious, or that we have not thought of as evil, and yet that God sees are secretly sapping our strength. Ah, we need to pray David's prayer. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 130). It is by the light of His word that He searches. How wonderful is the power it has! It is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4). Blessed for us that it is so!

Another great pest is the MEALY BUG, and no vine can be kept free from it if its surroundings are unclean. If infected plants are near, or if filth is allowed to accumulate in the vinery, the grower may bid “good-bye” to all hope of a fruitful season, the mealy bug will see to that. This shall illustrate the fact that we must not only watch our inner life for the insidious weevil, but we must also take heed to our associations, for “evil communications corrupt good manners.” “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” is a needed and cleansing word. And the Father Himself is specially concerned in this, for the Lord prayed when about to leave His own in the world. “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17). And on this line a clear call comes to us through the Scriptures, “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” And if the fear of the consequences of such separation causes us to hesitate, God pledges His name and word that He will take care of us, for He adds, “And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters.” It is the Lord Almighty who says this. What a wonderful thing it is to have the Lord Almighty as our Father! But some of us may have to live with those who are godless and of the world, and we certainly have to mix with them in our work and business. What about this? Well, as much as lieth in us, we must live at peace with them, doing good unto all, but we may be, and must be, separate in heart and practice from their ways and pursuits. “My son, when sinners entice thee, consent thou not.”

The atmosphere that the leaves of the vine breath must be kept moist and fresh, for if it is allowed to get dry the vine will be attacked by the RED SPIDER, a microscopic pest that can work great havoc in the vinery. And we need heavenly moisture and continual refreshment from above, else our souls will become dry in spite of our separation from what we conceive to be evil things. A man may be very dry in his soul, unlovely and unloving, and yet be a separate man; but such separation is to himself and not to Christ; it is the separation of the Pharisee, and there is nothing so dry as the Pharisee. When a Christian becomes censorious, critical of his brethren, harsh in his judgments, setting up his own opinions, or it may be his own conscience as a standard for others, it is certain that he has not been breathing the atmosphere of love which keeps the soul fresh and makes us suffer long and be kind. “Continue ye in My love,” said our Lord in this chapter, and this is the atmosphere that will preserve us from the depredation of the red spider. The more we see the evil of the world and the necessity of separation from it, the more necessary it is that we should be kept in the enjoyment of the positive side of our Christian life, else instead of showing the meekness and gentleness of Christ, we shall become harsh, and bitter, and dry. The atmosphere that we breathe is all-important.

There is a difference between a moist, fresh, warm atmosphere and damp, depressing cold. If the latter prevails, MILDEW will attack the vine and rob it of its juice and hinder its respiration. The world is a cold, muggy place for the Christian. The latter part of our chapter shows it to us in complete contrast to the divine sphere of love into which the grace of God has called us. It is a sphere of hatred, for it hated Jesus and His Father, whom He so blessedly and fully revealed, and it will hate us because we belong to Him. But our souls may rise above it, if while we are in the world our souls live in our own sphere of love, and breathe the heavenly atmosphere of communion with the Lord we shall not be mildewed Christians; but if we become negligent and settle down in the world, and become lukewarm under its influence, neither cold nor hot, we most assuredly shall.

THE WINTER SEASON is the time when the vine grower gives special attention to the cleaning of the branches, and it is in what we may call our winter seasons that the Father comes very near to us to purge and to prune us. When trials come, perhaps of sickness and suffering, or stress of circumstances, or bereavement, we may be sure that the Father has something to say to us, and that He will make these things which we could not endure were He not near to us, turn out to our bearing of more and sweeter fruit, if we are exercised by them. Let us not allow the thought to enter our minds that God must have something against us when trials beset us, or say as some have said to me: “I do not know why God should punish me like this.” To feel and talk in that way reveals an utterly false view of the vicissitudes of life, and must surely rob those who have it of the great blessing that the Father has for them. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,” and if He left us alone and we were free from all trial, we then might grow alarmed and fear that we were not fruit-bearing branches at all. If we are near Him we shall welcome His gracious work with us, and even if the process is not joyous but grievous there will be great compensation. It has been said, and truly said, that the vine grower is never nearer to the vine than when he is pruning it, and we may be sure that the Father is never nearer to us than when we are passing through trial according to His Will, and we may eagerly look for the peaceable fruits of righteousness as a result of it.

"He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit .”

The Lord's words in this chapter impress upon us the solemn fact that WE ARE RESPONSIBLE to bring forth fruit. It is a chapter of responsibility yet of great privilege. The Father's grace and care and His dealings with us are one side of the question, our responsibility is the other. We have been chosen, ordained and even commanded to bring forth fruit that shall remain What is our response? A glad and willing obedience, surely. Yet human efforts are in vain; the branches are barren and useless apart from the vine. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me .”

“WITHOUT ME ye can do NOTHING.”

The man that abides not in Christ, and is cast forth as a branch and is withered, is an apostate, who turns wholly from the Christian faith because he never had any vital union with Christ. Judas would be an outstanding example of this. No true Christian could ever be in this verse; yet a true Christian may be more or less diverted from Christ by the wiles of the devil, hence warnings are given in the Word and watching is needful on our side. The man who turns to philosophy—the wisdom of men, that will come to naught—in the hope of enriching his life and becoming a more fruitful Christian, is being diverted from Christ, for he is looking outside of Christ for that which can only be found in Him. The man who turns to the ordinances and traditions of men, and to forms and ceremonies, thinking that his religion will be made more appealing and impressive by these things, and that the faith of Christ needs these things to improve and complete it, is being diverted from Christ. These were the snares that were laid by the devil for the Colossians of old. We know them in these days as Modernism and Ritualism, and the majority of professing Christians have fallen into either one or the other. The warning word is more necessary than ever. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ.”

The man who puts himself under the law of Moses and hopes by his endeavours to keep it, and so perfect his Christianity and assist the Holy Spirit that dwells in him to produce more fruit in his life, is being diverted from Christ. This was the Galatian error, and to them the apostle wrote, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth? . . . Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect in the flesh? . . . As many as are under the law are under the curse.” And thorns and briers are connected with the curse, and not fruit.

The man who is puffed up with pride and boasts in the progress of mankind, saying, “I am rich and increased in good and have need for nothing,” is not abiding in Christ, he has been diverted from Him, and knows not, that having shut Christ out of his life, he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. This is the Laodicean error, most terrible of all, in which no fruit can be produced for the Father's glory, and for Christ. Its end is to be utterly rejected as most nauseous to the Lord.

We have considered many things that spoil the fruit of the vine branches and divert souls from Christ, the only source of fruit-bearing, for we must not be ignorant of these things; yet they are the negative side of the matter and we must have the positive side or we shall be barren branches. WE MUST ABIDE IN CHRIST with purpose of heart. This must be a practical and every-day experience with us if we are to bear fruit.

Two things have operated together to make us fruit-bearing branches. The sovereign grace of the Lord that chose us and ordained us that we should go and bear fruit, and FAITH in us that responded to that grace. To abide in Christ is to continue where grace has set us. We have spoken of the Colossian snare; they were in danger of falling into it because they did not realize the greatness and all-sufficiency of Christ. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7). When we came to Jesus as needy, helpless sinners we found Him enough for our salvation. We did not look for anyone or thing to aid Him in this great work, and we were helpless ourselves in the matter. He did it all. As we began so we must continue; as we were then wholly dependent upon Him, so are we now and shall be, for as the branch is a dead stick without the vine, so we have no life apart from Christ. To abide in Him, is to continue in this complete dependence upon Him with which we began. He will not fail or disappoint us. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily, and we are complete in Him, we have no need to go outside of Him for anything. He is the one and only Source of all supplies of spiritual life and sap and vigour.

AFFECTION must be active also as well as faith. Faith may be of such a feeble sort that it may cling to Christ because of the sense of need, and be satisfied to have the need relieved and met, but affection will cling to Him for His own sake and will rejoice in the knowledge of union with Him. He has loved us even as the Father has loved Him. Can we measure love like that? No, His is immeasurable love, yet thus we are loved, and His desire is that we should abide in His love. It was from this that the Ephesian church fell and their fruit was spoiled But is not His love sufficiently attractive to make us desire to continue in it? As His love is the breath of our souls, fruit-bearing will be the simple and natural result.

OBEDIENCE goes with affection, we show our love to the Lord not by our talk but by our obedience to His word. There is one word above all others that He has pressed upon us, it is His one great commandment, “YE LOVE ONE ANOTHER,” and that not, as ye are loved by one another, but, “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” If we are indifferent to His word and if we disobey His commandments we are most evidently out of communion with Him, practical contact has been lost for the time being, and our fruit will suffer. But if we keep his commandments, communications will flow from the Lord to us and these are of the utmost importance in fruit-bearing, for they occupy and enthral the thoughts of the heart, and “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he,” and out of the good treasure of the heart fruit comes forth. “YE ARE MY FRIENDS, IF YE DO WHATSOEVER I COMMAND YOU. Henceforth I call you not servants but friends, all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.”

What an intimacy of life and confidence is opened up to us. Let us trace the way into it. We depend wholly on Him not only for salvation but for the life that we live as saved people; we love Him because He has won our hearts' affections; we obey Him, and He trusts us as His friends, and trusts us so fully that He communicates to us His Father's thoughts and purposes Let us understand it. “The Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that He Himself doeth” (John 5:20). The Son loves us as the Father has loved Him, and all things that He has heard of the Father He makes known to us; we are to love one another as He has loved us, and find fullness of joy in holy communion in these things. It is in this intimacy of love and confidence that fruit is brought forth in perfection and only here. And here we may ask the Father what we will and He will give it, for here it is the life of Christ reproduced in us as we move together in obedience to His word and in union of life with Him. And His great present purpose will be fulfilled in us, for as the whole effort of the vine is to show, the fullness and completeness of its life in the grapes that it bears, so is the Lord's purpose to manifest His life in us in much fruit.

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps. 1:1-3).

Beauty for Ashes

Isaiah 61

The Phoenix of mythology was said to rise up out of its own ashes and soar away to the heavens with renewed youth and plumage of scarlet and gold; but the truth is more wonderful than the fable, as we shall see.

The first verse of our chapter describes the mission of our Lord to this world, about that there can be no question. The first time that He preached in the Synagogue of Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He opened the Book at these very words and read them. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach good tidings to the meek [the poor]; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord .” And He told His hearers that that very day these words were fulfilled in their ears. It is equally certain that the great blessings of His mission were to run in no narrow channel, for while His words were addressed to a crowd of Jews, He showed them how the grace that was in Him would work, it would flow out and on to sinners of the Gentiles, like the Zidonian widow and the Syrian leper. His mission was to the world; He came for the blessing of men, to seek and save the lost, to preach the gospel to the poor.

The time had come for the declaration of the innermost thoughts of God's heart, they could no longer be withheld from men, but who could tell then out? When the outraged government of God was to take vengeance upon the hopelessly corrupt cities of the plain an angel or two were enough; and when rebellious Israel were to be rebuked for their sins or instructed in the way of righteousness, prophets, men like themselves, were sent to them; but when the heart of God was to be revealed, when His great love was to be proclaimed in the world, angels and men were useless; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father was the only one sufficient for this, and so He was sent upon this great mission.

Consider the fact that our Scripture describes; the Son of God came to earth, a Man: “for the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14); that holy Thing that was born of the Virgin was called the Son of God (Luke 1:35); but as Man He was distinguished from every other man, not only by His superhuman birth and His sinless and holy nature, but by the anointing by the Spirit of the Lord with this mission in view. The words that He brought to men were the Father's words, and every one of them was spoken in the power of the Holy Ghost, and they were gospel words, they were good tidings to the poor, and they have reached us, for the words that He spoke abide to this day. He proclaimed the acceptable year of the Lord, a wonderful, happy new year, and that year has not yet closed, for, behold, now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6).

How wonderful was the coming of the Lord, He did not burst upon men's darkness with dazzling splendour, as the lightning that shineth from one end of the heavens to the other or with fire and earthquake to make them afraid, as they were afraid at Sinai; but quietly He rose before the eyes of the watchers, as the light of the morning. And as the sun sheds its glory upon field and forest, and crowns the hills with its beauty, and floods humble cottage and stately palace alike with its light, warming, vitalizing, gladdening all, so He came, for He was the true Light that coming into the world shineth for every man; yet men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. But the sun that fills the earth with its glory reveals the foetid cesspool and the squalor of the slums, and so when Jesus came the condition in which men were, was clearly manifested. What corruption, what need His presence brought to light! But no need was revealed that He was not able to remove, or corruption that He was not able to cleanse. I love the Gospel of Luke, it is the gospel of grace, and I am sure if it were carefully studied it would be discovered the every need that could force a sigh or wring a cry of anguish from a human heart is met there by the One who came to bind up hearts that were broken and to preach good tidings to the poor. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Him for this very purpose, and this was His Father's business, for this very cause He was sent into the world, and He never failed.

And what He was He is; for He is the same yesterday, today and for ever. All that He ever was to men in the fullness of grace that was in Him, He is today. Thank God if we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, He will abide so, and no need on our part will exhaust the grace that is in Him, for His grace is enough for us, and were our need one thousand times greater than it is, His grace would still be enough. The same yearning that brought Him down to men in their woes is in His heart today, with this same beseechings and entreaties He comes to us. All He desires is the opportunity to serve us, and to bless us. If we were only half awake to the joy it gives Him to lift our burdens and to give us peace for trouble, we should be humbled and blest.

It has often been remarked that the Lord ceased His reading of this passage in the middle of a sentence and closed the Book. He read of the acceptable year, but said nothing of the day of vengeance. And that was because the day of vengeance was not then, nor has it yet come, for God is long-suffering not willing that any should perish, and we count the long-suffering of our God to be salvation.

Our Scripture continues, "To comfort all that mourn .”

We pass over the unfulfilled word and come to this which brings us to resurrection; How sad was Mary of Magdala when she cried, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” How sad were those two that walked to Emmaus when Jesus joined them in their journey. How sad was Simon Peter, who had denied his Lord with oaths and curses. They were mourners every one until they saw the Lord, but what comfort and joy came to them when they beheld Him again in resurrection, and so may we rejoice that, “now is Christ risen from the dead.” The gospel we have believed is the gospel of the risen Lord, and this means everything to us. We rejoice and are glad because of the grace that the coming of our Lord brought into this world. We like to be assured that He is sufficient for all our needs, that He is ever at hand to succour us in every time of trouble, and we could not do without this, life would scarcely be bearable without it, nor does God intend that it should be, but there is another side of the truth. The coming of the Lord had a great purpose in view, and the lifting of our burdens, and the binding up of our broken hearts, and the preaching of good tidings to us, are all the means by which this purpose is realized. Our Scripture reveals what that purpose is: "To give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for mourning, the garment of praise for heaviness .”

This could never have been, apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit who has been given to all who have believed on the risen and glorified Saviour. But to understand the blessedness of it we must learn what the meaning of the word “beauty” in this passage is. It means a head-dress; but from a footnote in J.N.Darby's New Translation we learn the sort of head-dress that it is. It is a priestly turban. And the whole truth as to God's purpose for us, as it has been revealed in the gospel, teaches us this very thing. We are lifted from the ashes of our degradation and repentance, and our heads are crowned with the priestly turban. Christ has loved us, and washed us from our sins by His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God.

I know that Israel is in view in the first place, and that all this will be true for them when they their great Messiah see, returning in His glory to bless them; but meanwhile we stand in the place of favour, and can draw near to God in full assurance of faith and worship Him in spirit and in truth, for He seeketh such to worship Him.

If Christ had not come revealing what God is in the great love of His heart this could never have been, for we should not have known God, and not knowing Him we should have been afraid of Him, and hidden from Him as Adam did. But now we know Him, the words that Jesus brought from Him to us are gospel words, and perfect love has cast all fear from our hearts. But our sins would have separated us from God for ever if Jesus had not died, now His blood has removed them, and we are made the companions of the risen Christ. This is a great dignity, but nothing less than this was God's thought for us. The priestly turban has been put upon our heads instead of ashes, and we have been anointed with the oil of gladness instead of mourning: we have received the Holy Ghost, for He which establisheth us in Christ, and hath anointed us is God, and the garment of praise is ours instead of the spirit of heaviness. Every sentence shows how blessedly we are brought to God and the joy that He has in having us near to Him.

Raised up by grace into this new and holy position we can say, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments" (v. 10), and the word ornaments in this verse is the same as beauty in verse 3.

Here is our response to the wonderful revelation of God, and great is the privilege, but do we appreciate it? That is the question. But there is more, for our Scripture continues: "that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified .”

We are reminded of 1 Corinthians 3:9. “Ye are God's husbandry,” planted by Him in His assembly for His own pleasures, and:

“A holy Father's constant care,

Keeps watch, with an unwearying eye;

To see what fruits His children bear,

Fruits that may suit their calling high.”

God grant that this great present purpose of our Lord's coming to earth may have a gracious fulfilment in every one of us.

 

 

Beauty For Ashes

Have you noticed the true meaning of the word translated “beauty” in that beautiful passage in Isaiah 61:3?—“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” with the end in view “that He might be glorified.” The word is only translated beauty in this our passage, but it is not the only time that it occurs in the Old Testament. It is the word that stands for “the goodly bonnets” of fine linen that were made for Aaron and his sons (Ex. 39:28), and for the “linen bonnets” that the priests of the Lord will wear in the millennial temple (Ezek. 44:18). It occurs in this same sixty-first of Isaiah, verse 10, “as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments .” It is really a priestly turban, a joyous and beautiful ornament for the head. As we see this the meaning of the passage dawns upon us. Such is the grace of our God, such the exceeding riches of His grace, that He lifts us from the ashes of our repentance for sin and places us in priestly nearness to Himself. He removes the burden of sins that bowed us in the dust, and raises our heads with joy in HIS presence. We can sing a song of praise to “Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Nothing could be more wonderful than this: our blessing lies in being brought nigh to God and set in priestly relationship with Himself. We have been given access to Him, we have boldness to enter into His very presence now, we, whose place was once in sackcloth and ashes, and it is, as our verse tells us, that He might be glorified. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth God,” and the priests' privilege is to offer praise.

The whole passage bears this out. Our heads are anointed with the oil of joy, and the garment of praise has taken the place of our sackcloth and rags. What a covering is this to have. And thus we stand before our God, accepted in the Beloved, to praise Him and bring forth fruit for His delight—the trees of righteousness planted by the Lord.

 

 

“Behold, He Cometh”

Address given at Bangor , N. Wales , at a Conference for the help of younger Christians, 1933

 

"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:5-8).

 

We are gathered together as those who have believed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and yielded ourselves to Him, and as such we do not belong to “this present evil world,” for He gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from it, according to the will of God and our Father (Gal. 1:4). We do not belong to this dying dispensation; we are children of the day; we are waiting for God's Son from heaven; we belong to the new era, which has as its chief feature joyful submission to the will of God. This era has not yet been introduced and established publicly in power in the world—for we see not yet all things put under the feet of Jesus—but it most surely shall be, for the will of God must be done on earth and His kingdom must come. Christ must have the glory and dominion according to God's decree and Word and in answer to the countless prayers of His saints for nearly 2, 000 years.

We have already entered into the kingdom of God ; we were “born again” for this, and it is right that we should understand what things are necessary to its establishment on the earth. They are three in number. 1. God must be glorified. 2. Death must be defeated. 3. There must appear One who shall be the all-wise, all-sufficient Leader of the nations of the world. And these three things meet in our great Saviour, they are the triple crown that He wears as He appears at the opening of this Book which unrolls for us the way that God will take to His foreordained end. Of these three things I speak with the earnest desire that they may have a definite effect upon our present lives.

Let us consider Him. He is the faithful Witness; the First-begotten of the dead; and the Prince of the kings of the earth. He has glorified God on the earth; He has conquered death, and He shall rule over men with justice, and lead princes in the way of righteousness.

One of the leading statesmen of this country used to quote in his speeches a part of the Angel's declaration at the birth of the Lord. His aim, he averred, was, “Peace upon earth with men of good will.” I suppose that that is the aim of all statesmen, but he overlooked the first part of that declaration, “Glory to God in the highest,” and there can be no peace on earth as long as God's glory is left out of men's scheme. But who can glorify Him? Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, has done it. The first man did not do it, though he was created in the image of God, which meant that he was created to represent God in this lower creation and fill it with what God is, and so glorify Him. He did the exact opposite; he magnified himself and has filled the world with pride and lust, but Jesus Christ came, the second Man, and He is the faithful Witness. He did always the things which pleased His Father; He glorified Him on the earth, and finished the work which He gave Him to do.

I am sure that we all have found pleasure in retracing the path

“Which He on earth has trod.”

We wonder at the deep humility and extreme poverty of His birth in the manger, and discern in it the fact that the world into which He had come would give Him no place, and that neither would He seek a place for Himself in it, though He was its true and rightful Lord. He might have had a place in it and become the head of all its kingdoms by the easy way of subservience to the Devil—at least, that was what the Devil proposed in the Temptation, but then the Devil is a liar and a deceiver, as multitudes have proved by a bitter experience and as our Lord knew well. But Jesus Christ was the faithful Witness and would not compromise with evil to exalt Himself. He was unmoved by Satan's subtle wiles, and the great enemy, grown insolent and strong by his forty centuries of success over men, and with the world at his disposal and the powers of darkness at his back, was baffled, beaten and bound by one solitary and hungry Man in the desert.

His witness was to men. He had come to declare the acceptable year of the Lord; the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him for this mission, but how strange was the reception that the men of His home town gave Him, when first He declared His mission. Being the faithful Witness He could not tone the truth to their prejudices, and they, enraged at His faithfulness, attempted to hurl Him headlong over the precipice upon which their town was built.

He did not come expecting to be popular in the world, and His path of faithfulness to God was

“Uncheered by earthly smiles.”

And though He felt this with a holy sensitiveness, yet it did not deter Him, or turn Him from His mission. In spite of the contradiction of sinners against Himself He blessed their children, fed the multitudes with bread, healed the sick, cleansed the leper, bound up the broken-hearted and preached the gospel to the poor. Never word or act of His was out of place; His words were the Father's words and His works were the Father's works. No man had seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father He hath declared Him, and that so perfectly that those that looked on Him saw the Father.

But if that witness was to be complete, and God was to be fully revealed, the faithful Witness must go to the cross, and from this He did not draw back. He set His face as a flint and went, as it was determined of Him in the Counsels of God and as it was written in the Infallible Scripture. At His cross the thoughts of many hearts were revealed. What man was was manifested; there was no pity in his heart; never before had he been permitted to go his unrestrained way. Always had God kept a check upon his wickedness, saying, “Thus far shalt thou go and no further,” but at the cross the reins were thrown free, and the evil of his heart was unbridled that he might fully declare himself. Then his hatred of God rose up in a mighty wave to overwhelm and annihilate God's faithful Witness; but the tide of love rose higher when Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Nor was that the end. He gave Himself and died for His foes. “And God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Thus was He faithful unto death, that God might be fully revealed and that men might know that “God is love.” Thus has God been glorified, and the work that glorified Him is the foundation of the new era, and what was revealed there will be the light and the glory of it.

But God's faithful Witness the sinless Sin-Offering, could not be holden by the power of death. The great king of terrors has been made to yield to a greater than he. Death has met its Master; it is now a crownless king, without a sceptre, without a throne. Our Lord has triumphed; He is the First begotten from the dead. He lives! I was delighted recently, in reading somewhere of an answer that a Christian gave to the challenge of a Mohammedan. Said the Mohammedan, “You Christians have no tomb, where is your Jesus? how do you know He ever lived? The tomb of our prophet is with us to this day, we know that he lived, and his tomb is the Mecca of every true Moslem, but you Christians have no tomb.” The Christian answered, “We have no tomb because we have no corpse; our Jesus is not a corpse but a Conqueror.” Yes, that is it; we do not preserve a tomb, we celebrate a triumph. The faithful Witness is the First-begotten of the dead. O Christians, do we sufficiently appreciate and glory in the triumph of our Saviour? If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. If Christ be not raised, the devil has triumphed and death is supreme. If Christ be not raised, God has lost His Son and we have no Saviour. But now is Christ risen, and death is defeated; the power of the devil is annulled, the grave has been robbed of its victory, and Christ has become the Firstborn from the dead, and His being the Firstborn means that others are to follow and to share in His triumph.

But see the place that this triumph has in relation to the coming kingdom of peace. I quote from Isaiah 25. First, the faithful witness of Christ will be the light and the power that will “destroy the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations”: they will know the Lord from the least to the greatest; but second, “He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” That could not be unless the power of death had been broken. It has been broken, thank God, for Jesus Christ is the First-begotten from the dead.

And He is “the Prince of the kings of the earth.” Not yet is He acknowledged as such, but to this place has He been ordained, and in view of it “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” The One who was perfect in His obedience shall be absolute in His power, and apart from Him there can be no peace upon earth. The world ought to have learnt this long ago, but it will not learn it; it prefers its miseries and confusion to His intervention, for it has not yet repented of having crucified Him. And lest the glamour of the world's leaders and their plausible words and efforts should blind us to the true condition of the world, let us remind ourselves that it was the princes of this world that crucified the Lord of glory. Not the rabble led in this greatest of all crimes, but the princes, the leaders, the best that the world could produce; they were so blind, so foolish, that they did not recognise the Lord of glory, and they crucified Him. Every effort that the world's leaders can make to patch it up after such folly as that can only make it worse. The faithful Witness, the First begotten from the dead, is the only hope. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other Name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved.” In Him infinite wisdom and omnipotence reside, and when He takes the throne He will rule in righteousness, and the effect of righteousness shall be peace.

The praise that pours forth from His blood-washed people in this Scripture is an interruption in the declaration of His glories, if we omit that for a moment, the declaration runs on. “Behold, He cometh with clouds.” It must be so, it is inevitable, nothing can be right for the world until He is accorded His rights in it. The kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of God and His Christ The first prophet that ever prophesied bore witness to this Coming. “The Lord cometh,” said he, “with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment.” That word must be fulfilled. And the fact that He is coming to judge, exposes the delusion that the world is to be converted by the gospel and so prepared for His coming. If it is to a converted world that He comes, why should all the kindreds of the earth wail because of Him? If the world were a converted world it would surely receive Him with glad acclamation, but because it has rejected Hun, and refused the mercy of God through Him, it will wail at the sight of Him when He comes.

But we who believe are not afraid of Him, we shall not wail when we see Him. We can sing even now this song of triumph “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” What cause for praise is this! We stand clear of all judgment, and it is the coming Judge who has cleared us, and that by His own blood, and He has done this because He loved us. He who will judge the world in righteousness, has not passed lightly over our sins, He has paid the price of them an His own blood. And He has done this that He might bring us nigh to God and His Father—cleansed, clothed and crowned. Can we do other than exult in His greatness and ascribe to Him glory and dominion for ever and ever?

But if we do that sincerely we shall be willingly subject to Him now. Nothing can be right in the world until His supremacy is owned in it, nothing can be right in our lives if we are not owning His Lordship over us. It would be gross hypocrisy on our part to sing this song and yet live unto ourselves.

Brethren, we belong to the new era, we are children of the day. The faithful Witness has brought the light of it to us. As the First-begotten of the dead, He has imparted to us His own life, in Him we live the life that belongs to the day, and He must be our Leader, our Prince. If we yield our lives to Him He will direct us and we shall live wisely and walk wisely, and the peace that belongs to the day will be in our hearts and the light of the day will shine in our lives to enlighten those who are groping in the night. And meanwhile we shall look for His coming. And if we are challenged as to this our hope, we can answer that we have it on the authority of the Lord God Almighty, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, who must have the last word about all things. It is He who says, “Behold, He cometh with clouds . . . Yea, Amen.”

Behold the Bridegroom

 

"They that were ready went in with Him to the marriage: and the door was shut" (Matthew 25:10).

 

Who can deny that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the chief themes of the Bible? Not those certainly who study its pages. However much they may differ as to the manner and the meaning of it, they must all agree that it is kept continually in the forefront of God's communications to men. The first of all the prophets cried, “The Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints.” And as prophets, priests and kings strayed from the right ways of God, and the world's problems became more involved, and its miseries increased, the coming of the Lord, as Deliverer and Judge, became more and more the burden of the men who spoke for God, and the hope of those who believed.

If we had only the Old Testament and not the New, we should find it difficult to understand why in one place His coming is said to be for suffering and humiliation and in another for glory and power and world-wide dominion; how and why His visage would be more marred than any man's, and yet He be exalted and lifted up and made very high and astonish nations by the splendour of His majesty. The New Testament is the key to the Old, and by it the whole subject of the corning of the Lord is opened up for us, and we learn that two comings were in view, at the first of which the sufferings of Christ would be fulfilled and at the second, the glories that should follow. Our position lies between the two.

He came once, not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. Then He was wounded for our transgressions; then He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures. After that He showed Himself by many infallible proofs to His disciples, and ascended to heaven in their sight. With hearts aglow with devotion to Him they gazed with wonder after Him as the cloud of glory received Him, and immediately two heavenly messengers stood at their sides and announced to them the fact that He—this same Jesus, and not another—would so come, as they had seen Him go. It was the first message from the glory after His entrance into it, and it became an integral part of the apostle's preaching—the testimony of the Lord. He had been here, and He had returned to heaven from whence He came, but He would come back again. He would come in glory to judge the world in righteousness, and rule the nations with a rod of iron, and banish sorrow and crying from the earth, and bring in gladness and peace. Those that hearkened to the preaching and believed it, “turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven.” The coming again of the Lord Jesus was a living hope and not a doctrine only to those early Christians; it affected them mightily and they went forth to meet the Bridegroom. The world was well lost for them as they rejoiced in the hope of the coming glory of the Son of God, even Jesus, who had delivered them from the wrath to come.

But while He tarried, the deep slumber, against which they were warned again and again in the epistles of Paul, overcame them, and the prophetic parable of our Lord was fulfilled, “they all slumbered and slept.” The church became totally indifferent to the truth of the Lord's return, and all were alike in this, wise and foolish, true possessors and mere professors, settled down in the world that He will judge at His coming, as though there was no difference between them and it. Their lamps burned but dimly, and the darkness steadily deepened until was reached that period known as the Dark Ages. This was the midnight hour indeed, when the church that professed the Name of Christ, and which should have shone with a great light in the darkness to guide the feet of the people in the way of truth, robbed them of any light they might have had by its gross sensuality and apostasy from the truth.

The history of the church on earth was faithfully forecast in those solemn messages from the Lord to the seven churches in Asia (Rev. 2 and 3), and the period of this dense darkness is described in the central message of the seven, that to the church at Thyatira. In it the depths of Satan were known as nowhere else on earth. At that time popes, cardinals, priests and monks lived openly wicked lives, they turned the most sacred things into subjects for their obscene jests, they were profligate in conduct and profane in their conversation. It was a common saying: “If there is a hell, Rome is built over it: it is an abyss whence issues every kind of sin.” But worse than all, the people were corrupted by these ministers of Satan, and to them were sold indulgences which granted them pardon and secured them from the punishment beforehand of any crime that they wished to commit. And as the great dignitaries of the church required money in order to pursue their rascalities, the people were urged and forced to buy these indulgences or lose their immortal souls. Standards of right and wrong were obliterated, for the people could do what they pleased as long as they paid, and this was called the “richly offered grace of God.” “We Italians,” said a historian of that period, “are principally indebted to the church for having become impious and immoral.”

It is in the message to the church of Thyatira , which describes this midnight period, that the Lord brings out afresh the fact of His coming. There were those in the midst of all its corruptions and darkness who were faithful to Him. A small remnant they probably were, but they were precious to the Lord, as were those who feared Him and talked together about Him in the days when Malachi prophesied. To these the Lord said, “I will put upon you none other burden, but that which ye have already, hold fast till I come .” And wonderful words must those have been for those who had ears to hear during that dark period: "I will give him the morning star .” In the records that have come down to us from those days we find that there were some who “trimmed their lamps,” many more no doubt than we could know of, for the Lord has always had His thousands who would not bow the knee to Baal.

But were they many or few that heard the cry, “Behold, the Bridegroom,” in this midnight hour, it is certain that the Lord then commenced in a special way to prepare a people to meet Him at His coming. He formed and fitted Luther for this purpose, and the most blessed truth of justification by faith instead of works was proclaimed and believed by many. The consequence of being justified by faith is the sealing by the Holy Spirit. We are taught in Romans 5 that when justified by faith the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that is given unto us; and this is confirmed by Ephesians 1:13, “In whom (Christ) ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Only those in whom the Spirit of God dwells are ready to meet the Bridegroom when He shall come, for the oil that the wise virgins took in their vessels is unquestionably a symbol of the Holy Spirit. He only can keep the lamps of our testimony burning during the absence of the Lord.

From that time the coming of the Lord began to have, more or less, a place in the preaching of the Word. But it was not understood by the preachers, nor clearly preached, for the distinction between the church and the world was not discerned, and this great truth, along with all prophetic truth, must be obscure to all who do not see and maintain this distinction. It was thought and preached that the world would first be converted by the preaching of the gospel, and that then the Lord would come and establish His kingdom of righteousness, and this by pious men who no doubt read and studied their Bibles. It is still a popular notion, but as false as it is popular. How it could have gained currency is difficult to understand with such a solemn passage in the Bible as that in Revelation 1:7 “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.” A converted world would surely receive Him with acclamation and not wailing. There are many other passages which are equally emphatic, such as 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Revelation 6:15-17; 19:11-16. But men believe what pleases them, and the thought of the intervention of the Lord in judgment is not pleasant to those who love the world or are involved in its great schemes for its own greatness.

After the Reformation the church soon again settled down in the world. It has been said that the ambition of the Romish church is to dominate the world; it did in former days, and will do so again, and that in Protestantism the world rules the church; it certainly does in the state churches where its very doctrines are secured and fixed by act of Parliament. Hence in the message to Sardis which describes this condition of things, the Lord says, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” And, “I will come on thee as a thief,” which is the character in which He will come to the world, which cares nothing about His coming, except to scoff at it, or hate the thought of it, thus will He come to the unwatchful and indifferent church.

But the cry which went forth first at the midnight of the church's history is sounding louder now, for in the message to the church at Philadelphia the Lord says, “Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” And this word has awakened a response in many hearts, and these bear in some degree Philadelphian characteristics, which are, loyalty to the word of the Lord, devotion to His name and love to all the brethren. May they greatly increase and grow for His name's sake.

Numbers have been recovered to the truth of the Lord's coming. It has become again a real and living hope, but it is only real and living to those who have trimmed their lamps, for two things are infallibly united, devotion to Christ and witness to the world. Those who are really looking for Christ, who are truly saying, “Come, Lord Jesus”; will by their very lives bear a witness to the world, they will shine as lights as they pass through it, for they will not settle down in it.

Their testimony will be that the Lord is coming and that they are going forth to meet Him. The world's fashions and ways, and schemes and ambitions will not engage and entangle them, for they know that it lies under judgment, along with Satan, its god and prince, and that its time is short and its doom is sealed. Yet they will not be indifferent to the needs of men, they will mingle with their testimony the evangelistic cry: “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

This cry, “Behold, the Bridegroom,” is a great test. It finds us out. It tested these awakened virgins in the prophetic parable, and we learn from it that the test is intensely individual. To what community you belong is not the test, nor what profession you make, everything depends upon whether you have the oil in your vessel—Have you received the Holy Spirit? And none can receive Him for another, or having received Him, impart Him to another. Each must receive Him for himself.

The time is short. Fleeter than these foolish virgins imagined were the feet of the Bridegroom, for while they went to secure the oil for their vessels, He came, and they that were ready went in with Him to the marriage, and THE DOOR WAS SHUT. It was too late then for them to buy the oil or enter the door, and their knocking was in vain. The Bridegroom only knew those who possessed the oil, and only those whom He knew passed with Him in to the marriage feast.

Are any who read in doubt as to this vital and indispensable possession? and do they ask, Where can we buy the oil? To buy indicates a personal transaction. You must have personal dealings with God, first as to your own sinfulness and need of a Saviour and then as to the Saviour that He has provided. Paul preached, “repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” and Peter declared, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye (Jews) slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel , and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also THE HOLY GHOST, WHOM GOD HATH GIVEN TO THEM THAT OBEY HIM” (Acts 5:30-32).

“Beside the Still Waters”

 

"He leadeth me beside the still waters" (Psalm 23).

The souls of men are restless, sin has made them so, for “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest.” But the Good Shepherd calls His sheep from their restless wandering and unsatisfied and self-willed straying and brings them to repose at His feet He leads them beside the waters of quietness.

The simile brings a picture of peace to the vision; it speaks of restfulness of heart in a secure retreat. But it does not follow that this quietness of soul springs from external circumstances—these may be most adverse to our natural inclination, yet in the midst of them the heart may be unruffled, as another Scripture says: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.”

One soul-enthralling incident in the life of our Lord on earth illustrates this quietness and peace to perfection. At the bidding of their Master the fishermen-disciples had launched their craft upon as still a sea as ever the sun shone upon. But they had scarce set their oars to the row-locks when the wind uprose and gradually increased until it blew a terrific gale, the very fury of hell seemed to be let loose in that tempest, and the waves roared and rolled about that one small boat with such force that those well-seasoned mariners were seized with a panic of fear. The raging of the waters without the boat created so great a storm of terror within their breasts that they cried aloud to their Master that they would perish. But what of Him? Was He afraid? Did any anxiety of heart show itself in His demeanour? Nay,

“His head was on a pillow laid,

And He was fast asleep.”

Perfect peace, in the midst of the tempest! Blessed repose in the presence of the threatening waves! Why did they not share His pillow? Had that storm increased in its fury sevenfold they would still have been safe, yea, safe as when at His command a great calm laid its arresting hand upon the turbulent waves.

But what was the secret of that wonderful repose? Upon what pillow did the Lord put down His head? The secret was unbroken confidence in God; the pillow was His Father's changeless and almighty love. He was the Man of absolute dependence, more than man, as we shall see, but truly man, committing all His way to God and satisfied to do His will alone. And the God whom He served was behind every circumstance, He sat above the water-flood and put a strong bridle on the mouth of the storm. It could not rage beyond His permission, His love would keep His loved One in all His ways, and the ever-blessed and absolutely dependent Jesus rested there. And, Christian, He gives that pillow to you, so that you may find repose in the midst of trouble, He says, “The Father Himself loveth you because ye have loved Me.” "My peace I give unto you. . . not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). This is a great reality—“He leadeth me beside the still waters” The raging flood without, but the quiet waters within.

The fear of those disciples brought forth an evidence of the divine power of the Lord, a gleam of His Godhead glory. With tender compassion in His heart for their weakness, with the quiet of an eternal calm in His eyes, and with omnipotence in the words of His mouth, He spoke to the storm; and the great billows fell at His feet in mute submission as cowers a spaniel at the feet of his master.

The disciples marvelled at that mighty act, and, indeed, it was wonderful; but whether of the twain commands our deepest admiration, the peace in the tempest, or the power over it?

The former may even be ours, for the latter is always on our side, to be used for us when immortal love sees that the storm has taught us the needed lesson. But it is a greater thing to go through the storm reposing in perfect confidence in Him than to have it removed for us. It is more to His honour when we allow ourselves to be led by the still waters while the floods roll about us, than to have circumstances changed to suit our lack of faith.

“Carest Thou not that we perish?” cried His disciples. Strange words from their mouths, revealing their distrust of Him. How little they knew Him! I wonder, if Simon Peter remembered this faithless cry when years after he wrote to his brethren who were being greatly tried and persecuted, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you." Yes He cares, and Simon Peter had proved it, and so have we, and so we shall still prove it, not because we have faith but because He is faithful.

Christians, let us trust in the Lord at all times; let us recline upon His bosom, and believe that He will not permit a single circumstance, or place us in any situation which will not further in our souls the purposes of His changeless love. So shall we be led by the waters of quietness. And though in the world we shall have tribulation, yet in Him we shall have peace.

Bitter Waters

 

"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter" (Exodus 15:23).

It was not in Egypt that the sons of Jacob had to taste the bitter waters. There they groaned in a BITTER BONDAGE, which typifies the awful tyranny from which a man suffers before he is delivered from the power of the devil by the Lord.

Nor was it on the great passover night, the night of their deliverance from the bitter bondage that they tasted these waters. There they ate the BITTER HERBS with the lamb roast with fire, which typifies the sorrow of heart and repentance which we feel when first we realize that the Lamb of God suffered for us, and that our sins were the cause of the anguish that filled His soul as He hung upon the centre cross of Calvary .

The BITTER WATERS were in the wilderness, and these ransomed slaves reached them there after their foes had perished in the sea, after they had sung their song of triumph to the Lord who had set them free, and when they thought that they had said “Good bye” to trouble for ever. Then they came to Marah, and the waters thereof were bitter. This was an unexpected thing, and it greatly shook the faith of that pilgrim host. It was a strange experience that needs to be explained, and so much the more as it typifies an experience that every ransomed soul must pass through. Saul of Tarsus came to the bitter waters when with overflowing heart he preached to his brethren the Jews that Jesus was the Son of God, and found that they hated him for it and went about to kill him, and that the only way of escape from their fury was to be let down in a basket over the wall of the city, an unlooked-for and humiliating experience for that zealous convert, and a very bitter draught for such a man, sensitive and courageous as he was. A Mohammedan priest, of whom I heard, tested the bitter waters when, having found a living and all-sufficient Saviour in the Lord Jesus, he eagerly confessed His Name to his fellow-priests, and was spat upon for it, and struck in the face by their doubled fists. A sore trial for a proud Moslem who had been trained from boyhood to resent an insult instantly and indignantly.

A little High School girl, of fourteen, whom I know well, came suddenly on these same bitter waters, when on the day after she had owned the Lord as her Saviour, her schoolmates mocked her and refused to travel in the same compartment of the train that took them to the city where the school was, saying they would not ride in the same carriage with “a religious girl.” That was an unexpected and bitter experience for an affectionate child, and she told me that as she watched her old friends disappear one by one she “felt very choky, and could not restrain her tears.”

But a tree cut down and cast into the waters of Marah made them sweet for Israel , and that miracle teaches us that the cross of Christ can sweeten the strangest and most bitter experience for us. It can make us “glory in tribulation.” The bitter waters were made sweet for Saul of Tarsus when he realized that it was for Christ's sake that he suffered, who had suffered so much for him. Then he could say, “I am crucified with Christ . . . the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The waters were made sweet for that Mohammedan priest when, during his great trial, a sense of what Christ had suffered for him so filled his soul, that he said, “When I thought of what my Lord had suffered for me, great joy filled my heart because I was counted worthy to suffer for Him, and I said, If such joy is mine when merely smitten and spit upon for Thy sake, O Lord, how great must be the joy of dying for Thee.” And the waters were made sweet for my little High School friend in her isolation and tears when she began to sing to herself—

“Oh, who can it be with His brow crowned with thorn,

The centre of hatred, the object of scorn?

Exposed to derision, and shame on the tree,

Enduring such anguish, oh, who can it be?

“The darkness surrounds him, no helper is nigh,

No sweet word of comfort, no pitying eye;

Alone on dark Calvary , by faith I can see,

My blessed Redeemer is dying for me.”

That changed everything, and she said, that as she sang, the presence of the Lord seemed to fill the compartment in which her friends had left her, and she was glad that she had told them that she belonged to the Saviour.

It is sometimes supposed that when a man turns to the Lord he will henceforth have no difficulties or troubles. But that is not so; indeed, for that very reason troubles often thicken about him. Those who belong to Christ, and because they belong to Him , are often despised, flouted and persecuted; the world that once courted them can do without them, and often makes them feel that their room is preferable to their company. This is not strange, for it was thus that the Lord was treated, and the disciple is not greater than his Lord. But Marah covers more than this; indeed, in its truest, deepest meaning it involves another experience, and teaches a lesson harder to learn; and it offers water to the taste that could not be drunk at all apart from casting into it the cross of Christ. A Christian, before he knew the Lord, had natural hopes and ambitions, and these he carries with him into the pilgrimage to the heavenly Canaan , only to find them blighted and checked. God's will leads him along a road other than that of his inclination; the will of God runs right athwart the desires of his nature, and he feels it bitterly. How can he drink a draught of that sort, and say “No” to self, and take up his cross daily, and follow the Lord? The cross of Christ is the only answer. In that cross the personal love of Christ for every ransomed saint was disclosed, and the will of God came into evidence also. It was the will of God that we should be redeemed from Satanic bondage by that one and only way; it was the will of God that we should be sanctified unto Himself, and this could not have been realized apart from that cross, as Hebrews 10 shows us. But in the cross of Christ the will of God has shown itself to be set upon our eternal blessing, and it will surely plan the best way for us in this life. It is the knowledge of this that sweetens the trial and enables us to say, “I am crucified with Christ,” and, “the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” This is not something that is learned by faith merely, the waters have to be tasted and drunk, which implies a deep inward experience. Who can turn from self and the most cherished natural hopes for the path of God's will save he who has realized that God so loved him as to give His Son for him, and learns that the will of God is not against him but for him, and is only against everything that would do him harm? It is this that sweetens the waters and shows, as has been said often and well, that my disappointment was HIS APPOINTMENT.

There is more in this instructive and affecting type that we may learn in the presence of the Lord. It covers every disappointment and every bitter experience that we may have in this wilderness world, but the cross of Christ will sweeten every one of them for us, and make us sing,

“O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life's glories dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.”

And lo, the waters are sweet.

 

 

Bitterness and Joy

“The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy" (Proverbs 14:10).

 

"The heart knoweth his own bitterness." There is one heart that fits into that sentence; it is the heart that was broken by reproach; that was melted in the hot furnace of deepest affliction, and that experienced the unspeakable bitterness of Calvary 's woe. It is the heart of Jesus the beloved Son of the Father,

“Who us to save from loss,

Did taste the bitter cup of death

Upon the cross.”

The Father knows and understands what it meant to His Son to bear sin's judgment, and the Holy Spirit can gauge the infinite depths of suffering into which He went when He suffered, the Just One for us the unjust; but none other in the wide universe can share with Him the knowledge of the mystery of those awful hours, the bitterness of the cup that He drank then, or know the cost that redemption laid upon Him.

His sufferings were infinite, and only He whose goings forth were from eternity, and had become Man that He might be the Saviour of sinful men, could have endured them. It was His love that led Him to suffer, and His love like His sufferings passes all knowledge. The suffering is over now and the judgment is all exhausted for us for ever, for He has been raised up from the dead, but His love abides in all its unchanging strength, and it can only be measured by what it suffered.

“How deep the sorrow, none can tell

What was for us endured,

O love divine that broke the spell

Which had our hearts allured.

With heart and conscience now set free,

It is our joy to think of Thee .”

"And a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy .” He has entered into a joy which also passes telling. It shone in all its attractiveness and incomparable glory beyond the gloom of suffering and death, and to reach it He endured the cross, despising the shame. He has entered it now, and in it He has companions, for He is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows (Heb. 1:9). No stranger intermeddles with this joy, nor can understand it. It moves in a sacred enclosure that shall never be profaned by alien feet, but blessed fact, ye who love Him are no longer “strangers and foreigners” (Eph. 2:19). He has called you His friends (John 15:15). You are His companions, through His exceeding grace, to know the secret of His gladness and to share His joy.

His joy is not in the unfallen angels, but in those whom He has ransomed from sin and hell at so great a cost, and who, sanctified in Himself, are now His assembly. So precious are they to Him that wherever two or three of them are gathered together there He is (Matt. 18:20). They are God's husbandry (1 Cor. 3), the garden of His delights, and He desires that they should know His pleasure in them and share in His joy. “God . . . has called us to the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 9). There is a verse in the sixth chapter of Solomon's Song that expresses it. "I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice: I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved .” Do we realize what we are to the Lord, especially when gathered together unto His name? Are we conscious that our adoration is fragrant to Him as sweetest spices, that our company is a joy to His heart, and that our love is sweet as honey to His taste? Surely if we did we should labour more diligently to be acceptable to Him; we should place ourselves in His hands that as He washed His disciples' feet of old, so might He wash ours, and remove from us all that would cause any sense of distance between our souls and Himself, that we might have part with Him (John 13:8). It is our exceedingly great and precious privilege to be pleasurable to Him where He meets “His own,” and here He sees of the travail of His soul even before we reach the glory and are like Him altogether.

But He would have us to rejoice also; we are called to have fellowship with Him, so He says to us, addressing us in most endearing terms, “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” We sit under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit is sweet to our taste. We meditate upon His sorrow and death and learn the fullness of His love thereby; we eat His flesh and drink His blood, for His flesh is meat indeed and His blood is drink indeed (John 6:55). Thus we enter into the reality of a wholly divine fellowship, fellowship with the Father and the Son, and His joy remains in us and our joy is full (John 17:11). May God awaken us by His Spirit to consider more the sorrows and joys of our Lord Jesus Christ and may we yield ourselves to His pleasure.

 

Blessed be God

A man with an experience has something to say, and what he says is worth listening to. Such a man as this was Paul. What a life was his! He tells us about it in his second Epistle to the Church at Corinth . He speaks of his tribulation, of being pressed out of measure, of despairing even of life (chap. 1), of being troubled on every side, distressed, perplexed and persecuted (chap. 4); of patience, afflictions, necessities, stripes, imprisonment, tumults, labours, of dishonour, of evil reports, of sorrows, and poverty (chap. 6); of deaths, shipwrecks, perils, weariness, pains, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness (chap. 11). Did ever a man suffer more than he? and what volumes he could have written about it all if be had been a self-centred man and anxious to make a name for himself!

Let us hear what he has to say; this man, whose life cannot be measured by years but by what was crowded into it, by his labours and losses, his sufferings, experience and knowledge. When his opportunity comes be says, “BLESSED BE GOD.” The benediction breaks out from a full heart; we feel it; it bursts upon us as the relief of pent-up feelings. This man who, unlike others, had neither pleasures nor possessions, whom we should have thought would have cried, "Woe is me ,”—from whom we should have expected a bitter lament, is full of God and His goodness, and when he speaks he says, Blessed be God . He cannot help it; his words are not studied words, they are spontaneous; and in the power of the Holy Ghost they well up out of his heart for God's glory; and they live for us today.

But why should he bless God? He had served God, no man had ever done it with greater zeal; and yet he had suffered more than any; and God, being God, could have shielded him from it all, but He did not. On this score be has some cause for complaint, surely? No, he has none, when he speaks it is all praise and benediction. He has lost all, but he regrets nothing, suffered all and yet he rejoices, and cries, Blessed be God ! We must consider this, and give patient heed to Paul while he unfolds for us this grand secret of his life, for here is something that is not taught in the schools of philosophy, that seems indeed to be superhuman.

The God whom he blesses is “the Father of all consolation and the God of all encouragement” (N.Tr.). And thus Paul knew Him. This was not theology, cold, pulseless theology, correct and orthodox; it was not mental knowledge learned by rote to be repeated again, parrot like. No, Paul had learnt what he knew by experience; he knew God in the very depths of his soul and had proved the greatness of His consolations in his darkest hours. He had got to the Source, to the Originator of every bit of true comfort that ever came to any suffering man or woman on earth, for God is the Father of all compassions. Many and varied are the channels through which His comforts flow, but His heart is the spring of them all, and Paul knew Him, and knew Him as greater than the greatest calamity that could befall a man on earth. God was his resource and his reward and be wanted nothing more.

It was this story of the comfort of God that Paul would tell to the world if it would listen, but most of all to tried and suffering saints. Said he, I was in great tribulation and in it God sustained and comforted me; I was involved in so great a death, and despaired even of life, but God delivered me; I was troubled on every side yet not distressed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed. No human power could have upheld me in these vicissitudes and brought me through them, but God has done it; the excellency of the power is His. He has led me to this hour. And not me alone, but those also who labour with me for Christ's sake. Blessed be God.

There is authority behind that story, the authority that only experience can give, and this experience was not a thing of the past that required an effort of the memory to recall, it was living, present and continuous; to be his as long as life should last, for he says, “He has delivered, He does deliver, and He will deliver.” And then, Paul, when death brings the story to a close, what then? Then I will trust in God which raiseth the dead, even as I do now. How restful and confident, how blessed and triumphant is the man who has the knowledge of God

Now this experience and the way God had revealed Himself to him in it, was not for Paul and his co-sufferers alone, he turns his experience and knowledge into testimony, and the Spirit of God breathes His own power into it. He bears witness to the fact that what God was for him He is for all, and all who are in any tribulation may experience in it the excellency of the power of God and be comforted by His all-sufficient grace.

This knowledge of God, that was Paul's greatest treasure, had shone into his heart from the face of Jesus Christ. He had lived in Stygian darkness until the day that that glorious light shone into him. And every man is in that same darkness into whose heart that light has not shone. Alas, many refuse the light; the god of this world hath blinded their minds, and in their pride they imagine that they can find out God apart from Jesus Christ; fatal, soul-destroying delusion! All who refuse that light are lost, but to those into whose heart it shines it is a treasure beyond all computation, it is salvation and the knowledge of God.

Now Paul started his Christian career with this treasure—the knowledge of God in His infinite grace. He learnt, when he turned his wondering eyes to Jesus, enthroned in glory, and owned Him as his Lord, that God's face was not averted from him because of his sinfulness and rebellion, but that Jesus Christ, exalted and glorified, was now the perfect manifestation of the grace of God which reigns through righteousness. And this is where every believer starts. We have this treasure—greater than any and all the prizes that the world can give—in earthen vessels. But Paul put God to the proof, and made use of this knowledge. He did not harbour God-dishonouring doubts, but went forth to let the light that had shone into him shine out again, assured that no matter what opposition he might encounter God was greater than all and would carry him through. And God did not fail him, His grace and comfort and encouragement were poured into the soul, so that he was not a preacher only but a witness, and the knowledge of God was so worked into and blended with his experience and life that he was a sweet savour of Christ to God. He was bound a willing captive in the chains of love to the triumphal ear of Christ victorious; and wherever he was led the reality of the knowledge of God was manifested in him (chap. 2). It was clear to all who would see that a power more excellent than any human power sustained him, that he possessed a portion surpassing in glory the best that the earth could give, and that a peace of heart and mind was his that no vicissitudes could destroy. This made nothing of him, but it made everything of Christ and God, and for this he gives thanks; this conquered captive cries: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.”

“In the desert God shall teach thee

What a God that thou hast found.

Patient, gracious, powerful, holy,

All His grace shall thou abound.”

This rough way that Paul travelled was only a way; it was not the end for which God had saved him. He had a goal in view, a glorious destiny, and he never lost sight of it. “We know,” he says, “that if this earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” and in view of this, and of being present with the Lord, he calls his afflictions light. It is good to hear him; his words show us the view of things that a man takes, into whose heart the knowledge of God has shone.

The circumstances do not overwhelm him, they are temporal, light and swiftly passing, while the glory is substantial and eternal. “We look,” he says, “not on things temporal but on things eternal.” Here was a man who feared no change in his earthly career, for God does not change and God was his present and everlasting portion. And to him the greatest change of all would be the best of all, and this change he earnestly desired. And why should not he desire it? Was it not right that he should desire to reach the One the knowledge of whom was his greatest treasure? Was it not right that he should long to be present with the Lord, whose love meant so much to him? Was it not right that he should thirst for the unfettered capacity and harmonious conditions that are necessary for the full enjoyment of the glory that was his hope?

For this self-same thing God had wrought him, as He has wrought all those into whose hearts His light has shone. The light that has shone from the glory attracts to the glory all into whom it has shone, and no heart that knows its blessedness will ever be satisfied with anything else. This is the work of God; it was demonstrated in its fullest measure in Paul, but it is developing in all His own, to each of whom He has given the earnest of His Spirit.

Thus “tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope,” and soon the hope will be fulfilled, for God will not fail to bring us to that great destiny for which He has wrought us. Then—

“When to Canaan 's long-loved dwelling

Love divine thy foot shall bring;

There with shouts of triumph swelling,

Zion 's songs in rest to sing,

There no stranger God shall meet thee,

Stranger thou in courts above;

He who to His rest shall greet thee,

Greets thee with a well-known love.”

Then shall we say in the fullness of the knowledge of His wisdom, work and ways—Blessed be God!

 

Blinding, Beguiling, Buffeting

An Address on the work of Satan, and how he is beaten

2 Corinthians 4:3-7; 11:1-3, 14-15; 12:7-9

 

We have in this epistle a sort of autobiography of the Apostle Paul, and I think if you read it from that point of view you will marvel at what the man endured, and how he triumphed. Read the 1st chapter, the 4th chapter, the 6th chapter and the 11th chapter and you will say: How was it possible for a man to endure such vicissitudes as this man endured and yet live undaunted? The secret lies in the happy fact that he knew God as the God of all comfort and the sufficiency of the grace of the Lord. He is going to tell us of what he suffered for Christ's sake, and he begins with a burst of praise, “Blessed be God,” he says, and it is THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT and the Father of mercies that he blesses. He was a happy man who knew God in this character, and this knowledge is within the reach of every one of us, and having it we have a priceless treasure.

 

Blinding

But if there is the blessed God to be known, there is also a great foe to be faced whose intention is to prevent men from knowing God and to harass those who do know Him. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. In three chapters in this Epistle is Satan spoken of. We learn that be blinds people, he beguiles those whom he cannot blind, and he buffets those whom he cannot beguile. Blinding, beguiling and buffeting, this is Satan's threefold work.

He blinds those that believe not in God, for “if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine unto them.” He has been baffled in that respect in regard to us, I trust in regard to everyone of us. But if any of you gathered here are still ignorant of God, and do not know His goodness and grace, the god of this world has succeeded in blinding your minds. May your eyes be opened this very day. What is it that Satan is blinding people in the world against today? It is against the knowledge of the God of all comfort, he is blinding people against their blessing. There is no pity in the heart of Satan, he is the great adversary and the destroyer; none would ever be saved if he could prevent it. He has failed as far as we are concerned, for the light that shines in the face of Jesus has shone into our hearts to give to us the knowledge of God, and this is a treasure that money cannot purchase and of the like of which the earth has no knowledge.

We go through this world with this treasure in our hearts, we know God, that blessed God, in all the fullness of His grace, we know Him as our Father, revealed to us in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.

What a difference this has made to life, how dark would time and eternity have been without the knowledge of God. Everything is changed for us now, as the radiance from the face of Jesus fills our hearts and illuminates our lives and makes us glad.

The love of God, and that we should know that love, is indeed very wonderful and it was that that the devil was against. The devil was bent upon keeping God out of our hearts. Then plainly he is no friend of ours, and when we understand that we will give him and all his works a wide berth, we will beware of the devil who sought to blind us against the knowledge of God. In the knowledge of God lies all our blessing, all our comfort. How are we going to face this great enemy and the tribulation that must be ours in the world that he controls? God will carry us through; it is the knowledge of God that gives us hope, confidence and power, the knowledge of God drives fear from our hearts. As long as we are dependent upon Him we are safe and undisturbed; He holds us in His blessed hand, and if trials even as great as those through which the apostle went confront us, God will carry us through.

But if we have the knowledge of God in our hearts, how will we be affected by it? What manner of people are we? The God we know is greater than every adverse circumstance, do we put God between ourselves and our circumstances, or do we allow our circumstances to come between our souls and God?

I knew a young lady who was just coming into the light, and it was very wonderful to her. She had a Christian friend, to whom she said, one day, “Do you know God?” and the lady said, “Yes, I know God,” then she said, “Why do you worry so much?” . . . Christians, if we know God, if we carry about this treasure from day to day, what sort of people ought we to be? You may be sure it pleases the devil when we worry, it glorifies God when we trust and give thanks. May we be marked by thanksgiving, as those into whose hearts the light of the knowledge of God has come. And if some of us are still doubtful as to what God is, and shrink from wholly trusting Him, let us learn the truth that He is known in the face of Jesus. Look upon the face of Jesus, the face that smiled on the children, that was wet with tears at the grave of Lazarus. That same face that looked with compassion upon the leper, is all radiant with God's glory now. What He is God is. How blessed it is to know Jesus, for in knowing Jesus we know God.

“Sinners gathered round Him, lepers sought His face,

None too vile and loathsome for the Saviour's grace.”

Such is our God.

From the glory where Jesus sits enthroned there has been ministered to us fullest blessing, perfect righteousness has been ministered to us from the very glory of God, as chapter 3 teaches, and that righteousness is our fitness to enter into the glory from whence it has come, so that we may be, and I trust we are, perfectly at home in the very presence of our God, and the knowledge of Him is our boast and our joy. This will make us channels of blessing, for the light that has shone in must shine out. If we awake in the morning with the sense of the knowledge of God in our souls, we shall meet the difficulties of the day as those who know God. There will be a quietness of spirit about us, and people will realize that we have unseen resources that are greater than the demands that life makes upon us, and being comforted by the God of all comfort we shall be able to comfort others and show them what a treasure we have in the knowledge of God, and how rich we are, and how blessed He is. What a triumph over Satan it will be if we can say with Paul, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Only those whose eyes have been open can say this, and they say it while they look upon unseen and eternal things (chap. 4:17-18).

 

Beguiling

But if Satan has been baffled in his effort to blind us against the knowledge of God, he will endeavour now to beguile us from Christ. Paul wrote that he was very jealous over the Corinthian Christians, for he had espoused them unto one Husband, that he might present them as a chaste virgin to Christ, and he greatly feared that as the serpent beguiled Eve, so they should be beguiled from the simplicity as to Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has been taken up out of death by the power of God and has been set on the very throne of God, and the light of the knowledge of God is in His face, and that light has shone upon us and we are in the light now. In all that there is set forth what God and Christ are for us, but now we learn that we are to be for Christ. I want this to arrest and impress us, beloved Christians, we have been espoused to the Man in the glory of God. The day is coming when we are to be presented to Him as His wife, for the marriage day is coming (Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19), but these are the days of His espousal, when He makes known the love of His heart to us, and in which He wants our hearts to be moved with responsive love to Him. These are the days in which He is to be supreme in our affections, shutting out every other object, so that there shall be no rival in our lives to Himself. He wants us for Himself in the light of God in which we have been set, as espoused to Him.

The devil wants now to divide our hearts from Christ so that He will not get His pleasure in us. He will not be able to do this after the marriage of the Lamb has been celebrated in heaven, for we, the church, shall ever be as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21), satisfied with Him and forever wholly for His pleasure, and Satan in that timeless and glorious eternity will have been cast into the lake of fire, his eternal doom (Rev. 20). But now He comes with his beguilings and we need to be watchful lest we be deceived by him; for now that we are in the light, Satan does not come as darkness, he transforms himself into an angel of light (v. 14), and he will set before us thoughts that appear at first to be right just to turn our feet a little way out of the path and make us leave our first love. He will make us self-occupied, and think that we are wonderful people, if he can; he will make us proud, scornful and censorious of others, and think ourselves everything. He will make us think less of our need of Christ and of His glory and grace, and occupy us with all sorts of questions if he can, under the guise of making us more spiritual and useful. He may even try to divide us from Christ by our service. My friends, and you young Christians specially, I want you to understand that the greatest thing you can do in this day of His espousals is to keep yourselves for Christ. Beware of the world and its snares, the devil is behind it; beware of the flesh and its clamours, the devil is behind it. Beloved Christians, is Christ not worthy of our wholehearted devotion? When we think of the greatness of the love that carried Him down into death for us, what have we to say to Satan? “The love of Christ passeth all our knowledge,” are we going to let him seduce us from Christ or chill our affection for our great and eternal Lover?

No, we will not be seduced, for the Bridegroom of our souls is brighter and better than the brightest and best that Satan can offer. We will keep ourselves for Christ and allow no rival to get into our hearts.

“Thine, Saviour, Thine,

No more this heart of mine

Shall seek its joys apart from Thee,

The world is crucified to me,

And I am Thine;

Thine, Saviour, Thine,

For ever to recline.

Oh love eternal, fixed and sure,

Yes, I am Thine for evermore;

Lord Jesus Thine.”

With heart fixed wholly upon the Lord, and satisfied with Him, the devil will be baffled when he seeks to beguile us from Christ.

 

Buffeting

If Satan fails to beguile us, he will buffet us. There was one man that he could not beguile from Christ, and that was Paul, and so Paul became the object of his intense hatred and buffeting and it looked as though he was all but overwhelmed. This messenger of Satan, a thorn in the flesh, was the devil's supreme effort to crush him. It must have been something very terrible, for he does not seem to have asked to have been spared any other suffering, but this was something so special, an infirmity so dreadful, that human strength and fortitude failed under it and be pleaded with the Lord three times that it might be taken away from him, such was his agony. And it was not done for him, as we have often heard. But he got an answer, and what an answer! He found that there was something greater than Satan's buffeting, and the Lord spoke to him personally in giving the answer, “MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE, MY STRENGTH IS PERFECTED IN THY WEAKNESS.” Do you see what we have here? The Lord is at one end of the sentence and Paul is at the other, and His grace, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, lies between. There is the ocean at one end, and there is the thimble at the other end, and the truth is that the ocean is enough for the thimble. Paul asked no more. The Lord was enough. Satan might continue to do his worst, his attack was in vain, it only gave Paul a fresh opportunity of showing how wonderful his Lord was and how sufficient was His grace. And here we are, today, so many little thimbles who may be buffeted by the devil, some of us perhaps sorely buffeted, and we have wondered why, and whether the Lord knows the trials through which we pass. It may be because you have been true to the Saviour and have made a stand for Him and for His interests, things have gone against you. You have been and are being buffeted. If it is indeed for Christ's sake you are honoured indeed, “for if ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye, for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14) and the Lord has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The ocean is enough for the thimble. Satan is a defeated foe, and will shortly be trodden beneath our feet, for the God of peace will do this, as His word declares; but he is not trodden beneath our feet now, and we need to know his wiles, and to be watchful. But, blessed be the name of God, though he may be more than a match for us, and will be if we get away from our Lord, he is no match for our Lord, and he can never get ahead of our Lord, our Lord was always ahead of the devil. Never once did the devil steal a march upon the Lord. You remember how He said to Simon, “Satan hath desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee.” The blessed Lord had looked ahead and prepared beforehand for Satan's attack upon Simon so that it turned out for Simon's good and Satan's defeat.

So He views the path that we tread, and He knows just from whence Satan's attacks will be made upon us, and His grace is prepared beforehand and is enough for us, so that though Satan may buffet, and trials may come, we may be more than conquerors through the grace and strength of Him who loves us and will never cease to love us.

 

Benediction

The epistle that begins with “Blessed be God,” closes with a benediction for us. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all Amen.” What a glorious threefold escort is here! What can Satan do against the triune God? What supplies, what protection, what comfort are ours! And what compensation for suffering and loss does this benediction unfold for us! As we dwell upon it we begin to see what made Paul the triumphant man that he was, we learn how the saint of God can be superior to all the attacks of Satan and how in the midst of trial and distress we may be able to say, “Blessed be God!”

Blowing the Silver Trumpets

A Message for the New Year

“Poor and feeble though we be, Saviour, we belong to Thee!

Thine we are, Thou Son of God, Thine, the purchase of Thy blood.”

"And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver: of a whole piece shalt thou make them" (Numbers 10:1, 10).

What is it that we need first and most, if the months that lie ahead of us, if the Lord will, are to be fruitful in the things that are pleasing to God? How are we to fulfil the relationships of life, and in them adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things? What is it that lies at the basis of all spiritual life and service, and without which we can only fail in every sphere of life? With the exercises that come to most of us, as one year gives place to another, we may well face such questions as these, and if we do we shall find that there is but one answer to them, and it is this: What is needed first and most and continuously, and without which we know nothing of the art of Christian living, is THE FULL AND UNRESERVED ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD'S CLAIMS OVER US. Without this we build without a foundation, we waste our energies, and live unreal and useless lives. God's claims are paramount; since He is God, they must be, and for our blessing as well as for His glory we must own His claims, and obey the word, “YIELD YOURSELVES UNTO GOD.”

This great and indispensable truth is remarkably illustrated for us in the use of the silver trumpets. They figured largely in the every-day life of Israel , for never a day passed when they did not make their appeal to that people. They were blown on God's behalf for the people to hear, and they were blown on the people's behalf for God to hear. It must be noted that they were made of silver, and it is well known that silver in the Scriptures is a symbol of redemption. Every Israelite that was numbered from twenty years old and upward had to bring half a silver shekel as an offering to Jehovah. It was the acknowledgment on their part that they belonged to God, who had redeemed them out of bondage for His own pleasure, and the silver thus offered was devoted to the service of the sanctuary (Ex. 30).

When the priests blew long and loud upon these trumpets they proclaimed to the uttermost limits of Israel that the people belonged to God, that He had redeemed them and had rights over them that could not be challenged. They were to hold themselves at His disposal. It mattered not with what they were engaged—God's call was imperative, and their own pursuits must take a second place; must be abandoned, in fact, and that immediately, what time the silver trumpets sounded out their assembling call.

Let us give attentive ears to the truth that the silver mouths of these trumpets proclaim, for their story has been written for our learning. Do we not bear the sound of them in the New Testament in such words as those in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20? “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, AND YE ARE NOT YOUR OWN? FOR YE ARE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE,” and again in 1 Peter 1:19-20, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye are not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” With clarion blast these words call to our souls. Yet there is nothing discordant in their sound to him that hath ears to hear and a heart to understand; for they do not only tell of an insistent claim but of a great love, a love that paid the price and shed the blood, that it might possess us righteously and without a rival.

The words themselves are pure like silver, for “the words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6), and obedience to the words of the Lord purifies the soul; for we read, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:22). For practical and continuous purity of heart and life we must keep the great fact that we belong to God before our souls. It is the Word of God to us at the opening of this New Year. The silver trumpet of His Word proclaims His redemptive rights over us, and the way of blessing for us is to respond in a glad subjection to His will.

 

1. Calling of the Assembly

The first use to which these trumpets were put was “for the calling of the assembly.” The Tabernacle was the God-appointed centre for His redeemed people in those ancient days, and from that centre His words to them went forth, and to it He summoned them when He would. That was the shadow, the picture; Christ is the substance, the reality; and if we are obedient to the Word of God, Christ will be our one and only Centre. Hear, then, the call of the silver trumpet of the Word in this respect. “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). “This do in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:25). If lethargy of spirit has come over us, or if indifference of any sort has crept into our hearts in regard to these matters, may the Word of God awaken us from it! And let each of us take heed to himself and not be influenced by another, for “the manner of some” must not affect us, but the Word, and the appeal that the Word makes to us is a personal one.

Suppose that when the priests at the Tabernacle blew upon the silver trumpets calling the people together to hear the Word of the Lord, they were so engrossed with other matters that they did not heed the call! Suppose that Judah had a quarrel with Benjamin, and they considered their quarrel to be of more importance than the call of God and so did not respond together to it. Suppose each tribe had made a centre for itself, with its own laws, creed, and regulations. Suppose some were too busy with domestic, commercial, or personal matters, to hear the summons! What then? Would God be indifferent? No. The call would continue until some were aroused by it, and from first one tribe and then another there would come forth those who felt and owned God's claim. And there they would stand at last in the God-appointed meeting place, where He could speak to them and commune with them. Not many, we will suppose, only two or three when compared with the multitude of the people, but obedient to the call of God and united together in that obedience! Would the Lord despise them? Would He refuse to say to them what He would have said to the whole of Israel had they been there? We may be sure that the Word would not be less rich, or the meeting less blessed because not all were there! And so it is and will be as long as God's Word abides, and those who obey it, though but two or three, will prove how faithful He is to it. He cannot deny Himself.

 

2. The Journeyings of the Camps

The people were pilgrims in that great wilderness and they had not to settle down and make their home in it. They were travelling to Canaan , and need was that they should be reminded of this fact. So that when the time came for them to press on, an alarm was blown; the trumpets kept them on the move, and this we need also. How soon we can stagnate and sleep, and forget our heavenly home and calling! Yet God is gracious, and His Word awakens us to renewed Spiritual energy. It blows an alarm and says to us: “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14). “Set your affections on things above, not on things of the earth” (Col. 3:2). “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). In such words as these do we hear the silver trumpets sounding an alarm, lest we should mind earthly things and forget our high destiny and our Father's house.

For these two purposes the trumpets were blown on God's behalf in those times of old, and for us in these last days, the word comes to us saying, “He that hath ears to hear let him hear,” and be not hearers of the Word only but doers of it.

 

3. When in Conflict With the Oppressor

Then the priests had to sound the silver trumpets on behalf of the people that they might be remembered before God. They had to do this when they were in conflict with their foes, for foes they were to meet, and they were never by their own prowess equal to them, and God made them like that that they might in every time of stress depend upon Him. He was their refuge and resource and strength. When they blew the trumpets in the day of battle it was as though they said: “Oh God, we are Thine, Thou hast redeemed us, undertake for us against the oppressor.” And God ever responded to their appeal. And will He disappoint us if we take up this stand in faith? Let us test Him and see. How fierce are the struggles in which some Christians engage! They desire to do right and to be overcomers when sore temptations beset them; they yearn after a victorious life, but they seem to yearn in vain; hope and disappointment have alternated in their experience, and the outcome of it is that finding the foe too strong for them, they are discouraged and ready to give up the fight. Let all such learn to use the silver trumpets. Let the great fact that they are the redeemed of the Lord get a firm hold upon their souls, and let them tell it out to God. Let their cry be: "O God, I am Thine, full of failure I am, often defeated I have been, yet I am loved by Thee, and redeemed by Thee, and at so great a cost; I cannot fight this battle, fight it for me, my foes are Thy foes and Thine are mine, I hide in Thee and own that only through Thee can I be more than a conqueror .”

The Christian life is not a life of ease. It is not described in the Word in the language of the bedchamber, but of the battlefield. The world, the flesh, and the devil are opposed to us if we belong to God. If we lose the sense that we belong to Him we cannot prevail in the fight; but when we blow the trumpets before Him, then will the Word be fulfilled: "Ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies .”

 

4. On the Days of Your Gladness and on Your Solemn Days

These sons of Jacob were to acknowledge God in all their circumstances. Whether they were exalted or brought low, whether they prospered or suffered adversity, whether they rejoiced or wept, the redemption note had to be dominant. How much more do we need this! How else shall we be kept from independence of God when things go well with us? How else shall we be kept from despair when sorrows beat upon us? We are safe in days of gladness if we rejoice before the Lord , and own Him as the Giver of every mercy, and if we hold ourselves and His gifts for Him, the Giver to whom we belong. And we are comforted and sustained if we call upon Him in the day of sorrow. If we blow the silver trumpet and say—

“LORD, I AM THINE, though sorrows gather round me,

And death's dark shadow thwart my path is thrown;

Saviour, Divine, Thy outstretched Hand upholds me,

And being Thine, I shall not walk alone.”

 

5. At the Beginning of Your Months

The beginning of their months spoke of the constant changes in this life. At every change it is our privilege and our safety to depend upon God and to do His will whose we are. "Ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (Jas. 4:15). No change in our circumstances ought to be contemplated, much less completed, without the use of the silver trumpets. “O God, we belong to Thee. Guide us in all our ways,” should be our cry. The young man entering business, young Christians forming friendships, associations, new relationships, should let the great fact that they are bought with a price control them, and pour out the joyous notes of this blessed truth in the Lord's ear. Thus will they be spared many sorrows and preserved from great disaster. "Acknowledge Him in all thy ways and He shall direct thy paths .”

 

6. Over Your Burnt Offerings and Peace Offerings

With these sacrifices the people approached unto God. The burnt offering was a type of our worship, and the peace offering of our fellowship; our worship which has Christ, the beloved Son of God, who went into death, as its subject, and our fellowship which finds its life and its food in Him also. But we cannot approach unto God for worship except as redeemed by the blood of Christ. Vain and presumptuous is the notion of the “modernist” that he does not need this; “without the shedding of blood is no remission.” And the blood that has redeemed us gives us boldness before God, so that we can in holy fellowship unite in worship before Him, but we do it as those who belong to Him. His redeemed ones. Hence we sing the new song unto our great and blessed Saviour: “Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood.”

“I AM THE LORD THY GOD,” is God's final word in the instructions given as to the use of these trumpets.

He can brook no rival. He must be supreme, for His pleasure we were created, for His pleasure He has redeemed us, and His will for us is good, perfect and acceptable. It is not against us, but for us. It is against all that could do us harm and has nothing but blessing for us, and as we own Him and live as those who belong to Him, as we daily, hourly, blow the silver trumpets, we shall prove that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

 

“Born of Water and of the Spirit”

 

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

 

A statement so momentous to every one of us as this is will be best understood by being considered in the setting in which it is given to us in the Word of God. All the words of our Lord Jesus Christ were fitly spoken and they shine in consequence as apples of gold in pictures of silver, and if we are to catch the full significance of them we must pay due regard to the circumstances in which He uttered them.

Naturally we should have thought the words more applicable to the sinful woman of chapter 4, for her case was so evidently bad that a new birth appeared to be her only hope, but instead, the best man in the most religious city on earth was chosen to be the hearer of this tremendous truth, and if it was proclaimed to the best, it is applicable to all. None is exempted from this solemn necessity who would enter God's kingdom; whosoever fails of this, whether Pharisee or sinner, must remain outside of it for ever, for there is no difference as to the nature of men between the best and the worst, however diverse may be their ways and it is the nature of man that is in question here. If this is understood the truth will grip with a greater power and we shall have a clearer sense of what “born of water” means.

We cannot question the sincerity of Nicodemus. In seeking that night interview with the Lord Jesus he acknowledged that things were not right. He probably had a keen sense of his own inability to live up to his own standard, and felt a need in his soul that all his religion had failed to touch, and, attracted by the works of the Lord, he hoped that He would at least be some help to him, and to the condition of things prevailing at the time, having in view the improvement of man as he was , on the assumption that he was capable of improvement. But the Lord anticipated all such conceit as that, and exploded every such notion by the astounding statement, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God .” That was not the statement of a mere teacher, as Nicodemus supposed the Lord to be, who was handing on a message with which he had been entrusted. It was the word of Him who had weighed every man in the balances and found all wanting, and who had said long before, "The end of all flesh is come before Me .”

If there had been one chord in man's fallen nature that would or could have responded to God's touch, He would out of that chord have developed eternal harmonies; if there had been any fibre in that which is born of the flesh that was untainted and holy, and subject to the will of God, there would have been in that fibre a basis of life which under Divine culture would have grown into a glorious kingdom for God, but there was none. There is no part of the flesh that is not flesh, and being flesh it is all corrupt. “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1:5-6). And a stronger statement than that is made by the prophet Jeremiah, which shows us that the flesh is not only corrupt but incapable of cure. “Thus saith the Lord, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up; thou hast no healing medicines” (30:12-13). These things were said of the best the race of men could produce when tested under the best conditions, and they reveal the state of all. And if the language of the New Testament is less graphic, it is not less emphatic. It tells us that “the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63) and “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” ( Rom. 8:7-8).

We are endeavouring to find out the extent of the ruin in which sin has involved man, in order to understand what the Lord meant when He said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God .” The ruin is clearly and conclusively stated in these passages quoted from the Word of God. They show us that man in his sinful, fallen condition cannot and will not be subject to God, and so is, and must be, outside God's kingdom for ever unless he is born anew. We question not that there is an amiability, a generosity, a kindliness, and a certain nobility about many men, showing what man must have been when first he came from God's creative hand, made in His image and after His likeness, and before sin, with vandal malice, marred the work of God. But all that belongs to the sphere of his relationship with his fellows, and the best of that is spoiled by selfishness and sin, it does not enter into his relationship with God, and nothing can be right if a man is not right with God. At the very centre of the being of every man by nature SELF is enthroned, and his own will instead of God's controls him: the flesh, which is his nature as a sinner, is not obedient to the law of God, nor indeed can it be. He was made for God's glory, to be a vessel in which the good and perfect and acceptable will of God might be displayed to the universe, but having fallen, and being now a sinner by nature, God's will is irksome and hateful to him; it is his very nature to run counter to it, and he is not a subject in God's kingdom, but a rebel against it.

The nature of a thing cannot be changed. The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots; men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles; a corrupt tree bringeth forth corrupt fruit and it cannot bring forth any other. So also is the flesh, and that which is born of it is flesh, and “the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, HATRED, VARIANCE, EMULATIONS, WRATH, STRIFE, heresies, ENVYINGS, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they that do these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19, 21).

Then, since this evil nature in man, that he inherits as a child of Adam, cannot be changed, a new birth is an evident necessity, if he is ever to be delivered from it, and take his place in God's kingdom in glad subjection to God's will. He must have a new life and nature as diverse from the old life and nature as light is from darkness, but God alone can bring about this supernatural birth, He alone can impart a new life, and He can only do it in righteousness, and that involves the setting aside in judgment the old nature of self-will and disobedience, and of everything that would challenge His supremacy; and this brings us to the meaning of “born of water.”

The first time that water is mentioned in Scripture is in Genesis 1, where the earth is shown to us, not in its pristine glory as created by God in the beginning, but a fallen earth, shrouded in darkness and wholly submerged by the great waters, a fitting figure of man in his fallen condition—ignorant of God and lying in moral and spiritual death; but the Spirit of God was there, brooding over and moving upon that scene of death. It is interesting and instructive to notice that the water and the Spirit are brought together in relation to the physical new birth of the earth, as they are in relation to the spiritual new birth of men. The former will help us to understand the latter. What I want to emphasize in this connection is that whatever it was that had plunged the original creation into the state of chaos in which it appears in Genesis 1:2, the waters of death and judgment had passed wholly upon it before the Spirit of God began anew, but when He did move, those very waters that had extinguished apparently all hope of life became by the Word of God a life-giving element, and they brought forth swarms of life (Gen. 1:20). Out of death came life.

Coming to the flood of waters in Noah's day, I must lay stress upon the fact that it was here that God said, “The end of all flesh is come before Me.” The incorrigibility of man in his natural condition is here declared, and this answers to John 3. However great God's long-suffering with man may be, this judgment has been passed upon him. The flood was the execution of that judgment upon that generation, and the actual removal of it from God's sight is typical of the great truth that we must all learn, and the sooner the better—that man in the flesh will not do for God, for he is not subject to the will of God, neither indeed can be; the judgment of death has passed upon him, all that he is as according to the flesh must pass out of God's sight for ever, for it cannot please Him. There must be a new beginning. “Ye must be born again.”

The great thought in the water, then, is the setting aside of what man is by nature as a basis of blessing for him; it is the judgment of death on a man as being in the flesh. This I am persuaded must be recognized in John 3:5. It is the end of a man, the end of all his hopes of evolving any good out of himself, but it is God's beginning. But how God can begin with blessing in connection with a man lying in moral and spiritual death, and under God's judgment—for “death [as the judgment of God upon what man is by nature] passed upon all men for that all have sinned”—can only be understood at the cross. From the riven side of the Son of God, hanging dead upon the cross, there flowed forth blood and WATER. And the only Gospel that tells us this is the Gospel which declares that a man must be born of water and the Spirit. The blood was for the expiation of sins, and has special reference to that which God's justice demanded because of our guilt. The water has a peculiar application to what we are by nature rather than by practice. It is death—not our actual death, but Christ's death for us—which has set God free to take us up for blessing, setting aside what we are by nature and giving us a new beginning and a new nature by the Spirit. By it the ground is cleared of what will not answer to God's will to make way for the new life and nature which is altogether of Himself.

But John 3 does not bring to our notice what has been done for us, but what is done in us. It tells of the subjective work wrought by the Spirit of God in a man, without which the work done by the Son of God for him would be in vain, as far as he is concerned. And this brings us to the way it has been done. We read of the washing of WATER BY THE WORD (Eph. 5:26). The truth that opens the eyes of a man to his true condition, and leads him to repentance and self-abhorrence, is the Word of God. It cleanses him morally from the old life, makes him turn from it with loathing.

Thus he is cleansed by the water. He has now God's thoughts about Himself and is well prepared to receive God's thoughts about Christ and to rest in Him as his only hope. "Now are ye clean ,” said the Lord to His disciples, "through the word which I have spoken unto you .” He did not say, “through the blood I shall shed for you,” for He was not speaking of their sins and justification, but of their sanctification for fruit-bearing, of a life and nature which was new to them, the life and nature of the true vine, clean and not corrupt, which was in them all through His Word. Elsewhere the Word of God is spoken of as the incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth for ever, and in this character it carries with it all that Christ is and has done, but in John 3:5 it is the Word in the power it possesses to turn a man from what he is by nature to accept God's judgment upon what he is by nature, so that with repentance and self-judgment he turns to Christ. The Spirit works with and uses the Word as water to this end, and the man emerges from his native darkness and self-satisfaction into light, and faith in Christ. It is not the old nature that does this, not even the old nature changed, but a new nature the man has by the operation of the water and Spirit, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh and will always remain so until death brings it to an end, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and that can never be destroyed. The water sets aside the old and the Spirit introduces the new. The water in the passage is not baptism, nevertheless when the truth of baptism is developed there is that in it which answers outwardly to what the passage teaches. Take, for instance, Romans 6:4, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism unto death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” There is the disappearance of the old and the manifestation of new in figure.

We have indeed great need to consider these words of the Lord, and to be led into a fuller conception of their solemn and profound meaning.

 

Brethren Dwelling Together in Unity

An Address on Psalm 133

I would call your attention to the fact that when we take up the Scriptures to read them, we are not reading the words of men, no matter how good or wise, but we are reading the words of God. That is a fact acknowledged by us as a point of doctrine, but how little we appreciate the tremendous import of it. God has been pleased to express His thoughts for our guidance and our blessing, and we have those thoughts in the Bible. It is the Word of God. If it is the Word of God it carries authority; if it is the Word of God it must be absolutely and infinitely wise; if it is the Word of God it cannot be improved upon; if it is the Word of God we must take heed to it and do it. To cherish a spirit that is foreign to it or to act in a way contrary to it means to set ourselves in opposition to the revealed will of God.

Keeping these things in mind, let us consider Psalm 133. It says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" To whom is it good and pleasant? Surely to all those who love what is of God. But not to them only; the Psalm shows us that it is good and pleasant to God Himself. That when He looks down on this world, filled as it is with hatred and strife, and in which there roll waves of blood-lust, there is something that is good and pleasant to Him in the midst of it, and that is unity among brethren. Let us not introduce any of our “buts” into the passage, but let us take it as it stands, and consider it as the word of God to us, then the beauty and power of it will not fail to affect us.

But who are these “brethren”? How wide is the sweep of that good word? We who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity present in this hall are included in it, surely, but it goes out wider. Let us stand in thought and listen to Him, saying, as He did to Mary, “Go unto My brethren.” We are in such danger of that withering sectarianism that talks about our brethren , and that thinks along narrow lines and in limited circles, that we need constantly to turn back to His words, and to let the love with which they are vibrant thrill and enlarge our souls. He speaks of “My brethren,” and when we understand the meaning of that word, and who they are of whom the Lord thus speaks, let us know that God says that it is good and pleasant to Him when they dwell together in unity.

 

What Unity is like

"It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments" (v. 2).

This precious ointment, the holy anointing oil, is described for us in Exodus 30. If we read from the 22nd verse to the 33rd, we shall find how definite and particular were the instructions given by God to Moses regarding it. And we learn that it was to be for God's sanctuary alone. It had not to be imitated nor had any of the Israelites to have it in their houses. God reserved it for Himself and His own pleasure. He surrounded Himself with its fragrance in His own dwelling, and the reason for this was that it told forth in a type the preciousness of Christ to God as He lived His life of holy devotedness to Him on earth. When men saw Him they discerned no beauty in Him that they should desire Him; but there never was a moment that His Father's eye saw anything else but beauty. From the start of His life to the close of it, it was all beautiful and fragrant: every moment of it, on all occasions, in public and in private, entirely and altogether it was perfect. His words and works that men could hear and see, and the thoughts and the feelings behind the words and works that men could not see yielded alike infinite delight to the Father's heart. We can understand that. We delight to know that that was so—we are assured that nothing but that could be true.

Is it possible that there could be anything like that in the world now? I want you to notice that I am asking a question, and I want you to consider the question well and weigh your answer before you give it. Is it possible that there can be anything in this world today fragrant to God as was the life of Jesus? Yes, thank God, it is possible. Lest you should think that I am saying something that I am not warranted in saying, I will quote the words of the Psalm again; “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.”

It is evident then that the blessedness of unity amongst brethren cannot be exaggerated, and as we consider the way that God looks upon it, we shall all be ready to admit that we should each endeavour with a whole-hearted and continual diligence to avoid everything that would mar it where it does exist, and to restore it where, through folly or self-will, it has been broken. To do other than this would be to manifest a sinful indifference to that which is pleasurable to God.

 

How the Unity can be maintained

The question naturally arises, How, then, can this most desirable unity be obtained and maintained? Well, it cannot be formed, kept, or restored by ecclesiastical rules or regulations, nor by acting upon precedent or tradition. It is not an ecclesiastical unity at all in the sense in which we understand the word. In the government of this land there is a legislative body and an administration for the carrying out of the laws that it places upon the statute book. Now in the Scripture we have administration connected with the assembly of God, but never legislation. The assembly has to give effect to the purposes and the will of God, and these are clearly given in the Word. It has not to form rules and laws for itself. When it began to legislate—supposing that the Word of God alone was not sufficient for its guidance in every time of difficulty, then began the era of its greatest sorrows; and whenever any part of it, any group of men within it, has set about to legislate for itself divisions have become permanent. I suggest to you that you should carefully consider this, and I think that you will find in it the cause of much discord and many unhappy divisions in the church of God . It is a matter of intense seriousness, nor can the evil of it be exaggerated. Think of men making rules and laws for God's assembly in which the Holy Ghost is! What presumptuous folly is this! No wonder that out of it should come the devil's own discord, instead of that harmony which is of God.

If the Lord had to rebuke the Scribes of old because they made the Word of God of none effect by the tradition of the elders, how much more does such folly call for censure today, since in addition to the Word of God we have the Holy Ghost within the assembly to give effect to the Word He has written.

This unity can only be secured and maintained in the life of Christ expressed in us in the power of the Holy Ghost. Christ is our life, and God's thought for us is that that precious and perfect life, which was so fragrant to Him, should be reproduced in us who are members of the body of Christ, and it is as that life expresses itself in one way in one member and another way in another that the unity of the whole goes up in fragrance to God. Colossians 3 gives it to us. Read first chapter 1:27, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you , the hope of glory.” Lay hold upon the words, “Christ in you.” Now read the third verse of chapter 3, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God, and when Christ, who is our life"—keep that in mind, that Christ is our life. Now look at the ninth verse; “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity (love), which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called IN ONE BODY; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

These verses unfold for us the character of the new man in which Christ is all and in all. The graces of which they speak have to be put on, they are to be seen externally, but they are the result of life within. They describe for us things that came out in all their perfection in Christ, and they are now to be the adorning of those who form His body. The fragrant oil of the sanctuary was poured upon the head of Aaron, but it went even to the skirts of his garments. Christ is the Head of the body, and the fragrance of all that is delightful to God is upon Him in perfection, but the whole body must be characterized by the grace of the Head: that very fragrance must flow to the most extreme member of His body here below. It is this that these verses teach us. May we all earnestly seek to have our full part in it.

But how will this work out in practice? Simply enough. If there is a Christian upon earth with whom you have a quarrel forgive him, and do it at once. If there is one who tries and irritates you, show forbearance, put on with regard to him bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, meekness and long-suffering; let love cover all your actions to all who are fellow-members with you of the body of which Christ is Head. Take this group of heavenly graces, make them your study daily, and determine by the grace of Christ that they shall be your standard, even though you fail, for you had better stumble aiming at the highest than walk securely on a lower plane.

It should be abundantly clear to the youngest and the least intelligent Christian that if we abounded towards all who love the Lord in these precious graces discord would be impossible, and that the blending of these things together in the power of the Spirit would be most fragrant to God as being the reproduction of the life of Christ in His members below. And, thank God, every one of us may have a part in this.

 

A Sovereign Cordial against Fainting Fits and other Nervous Disorders

But you may say: “No doubt, unity amongst brethren is most blessed and desirable, but the brethren with whom I have to do are so difficult to get on with; they are cantankerous, self-opinionated, and unspiritual, so that I have despaired of ever being able to dwell in unity with them. In such circumstances what should I do?”

One thing I would ask in answering such a question. Do those brethren earnestly desire to walk in the truth? Do they love the Lord Jesus in sincerity? If so, and if you are like-minded in purpose with them as to this, it is evident that you have grown weary in well-doing, and that you need a spiritual cordial to revive your fainting spirit, and to put fresh energy into your endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit.

Turn to Psalm 45:8. It may be that in this verse we shall find something that will meet the need. "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia out of the ivory palaces where they have made thee glad .” You will notice that in this psalm the Lord is spoken of as being glorious and precious in the estimation of those who in grace have been brought to know Him, and in this verse He possesses a fragrance to them that none else can. Some of the ingredients that make up that fragrance are the same as those given in Exodus 30. There, as we have seen, it is what He is to God; here it is what He is to us. But there is one ingredient here, the aloes, that is not found in Exodus 30. This arrested my attention in considering the passage, and made me search to see how this special perfume was procured. I found in an old dictionary the following account of it. It was the inner wood, or heart of a tree that grew in India , exceedingly fragrant, worth more than its weight in gold, and said to be a sovereign cordial for all fainting fits and nervous disorders. If the learned compiler of that old dictionary had intended to give a description of the love of Christ, he could not have succeeded better.

The aloes tree had to be cleft if the fragrance of its heart was to be disclosed, and it was at Calvary, when cleft by the sword of God's judgment against sin, that the heart of Christ disclosed all the greatness of its love, and there is nothing in the universe more fragrant than that—the love of Christ, which passes knowledge. Further, His love is far more precious than gold. If the world could bring all the gold that it possesses and could place it upon that table, none of us who know the love of Christ would exchange that knowledge for that great price, it is more precious than gold. And it is said to be a sovereign remedy for all fainting fits. This is the answer to your need. You say your brethren are difficult to get on with; that you have done your best to dwell in unity with them, but you have found that it is of no use. You have grown weary in well-doing, and are suffering from a spiritual fainting fit. What is the remedy? This is the remedy—the love of Christ. To come more under its influence and to know it better is what you need. To receive in a fuller measure into your own heart this sovereign cordial, this is the only remedy that I know of.

There seems to be a condition spiritually that answers to the very common nervous breakdown. Spiritual neurasthenia is a serious trouble, and causes much disquiet and trouble in God's family; how irritable, how sensitive, how quick to take offence—how short of patience we often are. But there is a sovereign remedy. It is the love of Christ. How it quietens and soothes us to get near the Lord; how it allays the fever, throws things into their proper perspective, removes fears and suspicions, invigorates and strengthens us, and makes us able to meet the things that otherwise would irritate us, enables us to meet them in the grace of Christ. When we are drawn into His company and begin to realize what His love is—that love that He bears to all His own even unto the end, we become ashamed of our selfishness, our impatience, our irritability, and our hearts warm towards even the most unlovely of our brethren. This makes us strong to serve others in their weakness, as He did when He bent at the feet of His disciples and washed their feet, though He was their Lord and Master. What love was His, and He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps.

It is in the power of His life which has become our life, and as we are maintained by the Holy Spirit in the consciousness of His love to us that we shall set ourselves with renewed purpose of heart to dwell together in unity with our brethren.

 

 

“Bring me a Minstrel”

A Word to Christians whose Lives are out of Tune

 

Three kings: the heathen Edomite, the apostate Jehoram, and the godly Jehoshaphat; a strange alliance this—an alliance that pleased the devil well, but that grieved the God of Judah to the heart. No wonder that disaster, swift and sure, followed upon the campaign, for how could that prosper in which a child of God took part which had been conceived and carried into execution without any reference to the Lord, and in association with those who hated Him?

So these kings went, and “they fetched a compass of seven days' journey: and there was no water for the host;” and it seemed as though the fears of Israel 's monarch were to be realized. “Alas! that the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab .”

Then turned the thoughts of Jehoshaphat to Jehovah; then desired he to know, for the first time in that ill-starred venture, what the Lord would say; and, wonderful mercy! even while he cried out for a prophet, Elisha, the man of God, stood before him.

Mark well this fact, for it will be a help to us in our exercises as we proceed with our subject. We learn from it, as from many other incidents in the Word, that the thoughts of God's saints never turn to Him in vain; no matter what their circumstances, or the cause of them, He is ready to answer even while they call: “They cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses.” How great are the compassions of our God!

But the discord of that unholy alliance distressed the prophet; it jarred upon his spirit, which had been tuned in communion with God, and he would have said nothing at all but for the fact that a saint of God in trouble stood before him. But ere he could speak the word of the Lord the minstrel must be brought: in figure, harmony must take the place of discord.

Let us turn from the picture to the lesson. There are thousands of Christians bemoaning the lack of blessing. In spite of apparent diligent search, they do not find the waters of refreshing; their spiritual life is a desert, like unto “the wilderness of Edom .” Their service and religious exercises have become a matter of routine, and in some cases a burden; and they wonder why!

In the majority of cases the reason is not far to seek: it is association with the world, unholy alliance with the godless for the pursuit of things which satisfy ungodly desires. In every case it is because the life is out of harmony with God.

A minstrel is needed, one who can take up the life and tune the chords of it, so that the discordant present may give place to the melody of a life in subjection to God. The Holy Ghost is the blessed Minstrel who has come from heaven with this purpose in view. But how easily and soon do Christians forget that the Holy Spirit of God dwells within them, how easily and soon do the vain things of this world and of man attract the mind and heart, so is the heavenly Minstrel grieved, the life drops out of harmony with God, and the waters neither spring up in praise nor flow out in blessing.

Christ is the key to which every note in our lives must be pitched, and we must know, and the Holy Ghost is here to teach us, where Christ is, and why He is there. He is on the throne, crowns of God's approval shine upon His glorious head, and we gladly own the rightness of this. But have we realized why He is there? He is there, of course, because the Father delights to honour Him; He is there, of course, because He is abundantly worthy of that place of pre-eminent glory; He is there, of course, because none other place in the universe but the right hand of the Majesty on high is suitable to the One who fully carried out the will of God in making expiation for sin. But He is also there because the world rejected Him; He is there because the world cast Him out, nailing Him to a cross of shame. His exaltation in heaven is God's glorious answer to the ignominy that was awarded Him by a world that hated Him.

Let us contemplate this great and solemn truth; let us contemplate it in the presence of God, and give place in our souls for its meaning—for the meaning of the cross of Christ . In Paul, the apostle, we see a man in whose life the cross held sway, “God forbid,” said he, “that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). He could not play the traitor to his Lord by accepting honour from the world that crucified Him. And if he remained in it, it was only that he might drag men out of it, that he might win their hearts for the One who filled his own with worship, so that they might be, even as he was, “not of this world,” even as Christ was not of it. Let us take this same road, and say to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us:

“I bind Thy shame upon my brow,

Earth's only crown for me”

If our lives are concordant to the world, they are discordant to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and if they are discordant to God everything else must be wrong. The Scripture, which carries with it all the authority of God, shows clearly that there can be no harmony between God and the world, and it will allow no compromise with the world on the part of those who are God's. Paul asks “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? . . . Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:14-17). John tells us that “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). James is stronger than all, for he says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity against God? Whosoever then will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4). These words need no comment, they are self-explanatory, and if, by any subtle reasoning by “the god” and “prince of this world,” we have been led into compromise with the world our unfaithfulness in this respect is the cause of the low spiritual tone in the soul. All such unfaithfulness is sin, and the way of restoration is by confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8).

Other things than worldliness also spoil the music and grieve the Holy Spirit; selfish living, hard thoughts and harsh words about our fellow Christians; an unforgiving spirit, indifference to the claims of Christ. Each one knows for himself wherein he fails, and where failure is there repentance must be. But how blessed it is to know that the Lord stands near us in unchanging love.

“How sweet 'tis to discover,

If clouds have dimmed my sight,

When passed, eternal Lover,

Toward me as e'er, Thou'rt bright.”

But He will have truth in the inward parts, and there must be the confessing and the forsaking of what is not of God.

Where there is confession there will be restoration to communion with God, and the Holy Ghost will bring us into unison with God by making Christ all in all to us. If He has His way with us He will bring us into full accord with Christ in glory, and keep us right as regards the world, and make every chord in our being sound out its full-souled praise to God.

And every word of God will then be sweet to us, and the waters of refreshing will flow into our souls from the living fountain of all good, making our lives to yield fruit for God.

“Business as Usual”

To Workers amongst the Young

 

It has been suggested that “Business as usual” should be adopted as the motto of all commercial houses throughout the British Isles during the great war. I suggest that that will make a good motto for all who serve the Lord, and especially for those who serve Him amongst the young. If there is a change of any kind, let it be of increased zeal and energy in the Lord's cause, for the time is shorter and the need greater than ever it was. And in the present excitement the young, who do not realize the intense seriousness of the times, may be less inclined to hear, and this should make us the more intense and prayerful.

Every one who takes up a service for the Lord ought to be able to give some reason why he serves Him, and no service save that which flows from the constraint of love—the love of Christ—can possibly be acceptable to Him. But He has loved us, and we love Him; and love delights to serve. Love, then, must be the motive behind the service. Anything short of this is utterly unworthy of those who claim to be servants of Christ. And if we are constrained by the love of Christ we shall serve Him for His sake alone. “Ye serve the Lord Christ.” We are so apt to serve before others, to do our work in order to gain their approval. When this is the case the quality of the service is very poor indeed. But if we serve as under the eye of the One who reads the heart and knows the hidden motives we shall take care that the ointment of our service is free from the flies that would give it an ill odour.

There are men today who preach to thousands; they are much before the public eye; their names have become household words, and they seem to be used of God in widespread blessing, while your service is hidden and unostentatious. Are you ever tempted to envy these servants who have a great name? Envy them not. Keep in mind that you serve the Lord Christ. He is taking note of every bit of true service done to Him. In His well-adjusted balances all service is weighed, and He knows its true value. Everything you ever did for Him has gone down to your credit in His book. You shall have your recompense—He will speak words of approval which you will treasure in your heart and memory for ever. How blessed to have a Master so tender and gracious! May you be satisfied with His commendation. Those who are praised of men have their reward now; may you be content to wait for yours.

Service amongst the young is pre-eminently a work of faith and labour of love. Patience of hope, too, is called for. You need these three Christian graces very much developed in your soul. It is a work of faith—you cannot count upon anything in the children, your faith must be in the Lord. It must be a labour of love, because the children are tiresome sometimes, and if love is not at the back of it you will grow weary in the service. There must be the patience of hope, because you must look forward for the result of what you are doing.

 

The Material You Have to Work With

Children are, in the first place, empty vessels. Now, grown-up people are not empty, they are full of their own notions, and very well satisfied with themselves. But with children it is not so. Their thoughts and opinions have not been formed, they are empty, and it is our blessed privilege to fill them. Think of the water-pots in the second chapter of John. You remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said to the servants: “Fill the water-pots with water.” They obeyed to the letter.

There was a blessed enthusiasm about them, for they filled then to the brim ! What did they fill them with? That which the Lord would turn into wine. It is your business also to fill the water-pots to the brim. Fill them with that which the Lord can turn into wine.

I have heard it said that it is useless to teach children the Scriptures. It is all a dead letter to them, say these wise folks. But Paul said to Timothy, “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.” His mother who taught him the Scriptures did not think it a useless work Your business is to fill the children with the water of the Word—the blessed truths of the gospel—which the Lord can turn into the wine of salvation. You may be sure that if we do not fill the children some one else will. The devil is looking out for water-pots, and he will fill them with the poison of infidelity and sensualism, which will kill and destroy. Let it be ours to fill them with the water of the Word.

You will not be able to fill them with the water of the Word unless you are first filled with it yourselves. If you read trashy literature, you must not be surprised if your children turn to folly. Alas, there are those who take up the service amongst children who feed their souls upon mere garbage. No wonder if the children grow up for the world and the devil. Read, by all means. Read anything that can help you in your service, but feed upon the Sacred Scriptures, and make the Bible your chosen book. And do not forget that you must also be in personal contact with the blessed Lord, of whom the Scriptures speak. “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.” Let us, then, be like the servants of John 2, who filled the pots to the brim and then brought them to Jesus. They could not change the water into wine, neither can you. You must do what they did—you must bring them to Jesus; and that necessitates prayer. You cannot be successful unless you are found in dependence and prayer before your Master.

The children are not only empty, but they are every bit as dead towards God as grown-up sinners. You will find it very instructive to search out in your Bible all the cases of children raised from the dead. Study them well, and they will yield you much profit. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, put his hand to this work. Elisha said to him, “Take my staff and lay it on the face of the child.” Ah, but Gehazi had not the spirit for this. He was a self-centred and ambitious man. We can well understand his pride as he walked off with Elisha's staff—the staff that had smitten Jordan , and divided the waters—that mighty staff which had done such wonders! It was in his possession now! Doubtless he imagined he was going to do great things with it as he laid it on the face of the dead child! But there was neither voice nor hearing. Is it possible to take the Word of God—that which is mighty to give life—and use it without effect, so that there is neither voice nor hearing? It is possible . If the staff is to be of any use in your hand you must be in touch with the One in whom is life and power. God grant that you may not be powerless, like Gehazi!

Elisha was very different, and he acted in quite another way. He laid himself on the child, and walked about the house and prayed to God. His every movement denoted the intensity of his exercise, the earnestness with which he sought the life of the child, and his dependence upon God. It will be well for you to learn the lessons, for these things are recorded in His Word for our learning.

 

The Spirit in Which to Serve

The one who deals with children must be like his Lord if he is to be successful. There was Peter, he could stand up on the day of Pentecost and preach so that three thousand souls were converted; but Peter, in earlier days, had driven the children away from Jesus. We must be very careful that there is nothing in us to drive them away. The children shrank shy and afraid from the disciples, but can you not imagine how eagerly they would run to the outstretched arms of the Saviour? Do you think the children feared the Lord Jesus? Was there anything in Him to drive the children away? No. He was infinitely attractive to the weakest of children as He was to the worst of sinners. Mark's Gospel sets the Lord Jesus before us as the true Servant, and in the tenth chapter we see how He dealt with the children. He put His hands upon them, drew them to His arms, and blessed them. They had a place in His heart. If you are like the Lord the children will have a place in your heart. They will feel that you love them, and you will be able, in dependence on the Lord, to communicate to them the blessed things that have made you happy—the things of Christ. The Lord grant that you may be able to do that. But you must be near to Him, for it is at the feet of the blessed Lord that you will learn and be trained for this difficult service.

 

The Result of Your Service

Dr. Arnold, the celebrated headmaster of Rugby, once said, when he looked upon the faces of the boys in his school, that he felt there might be among them a future prime minister—a future commander-in-chief—a future leader of the thoughts of men. But you can say something better than this, as you look on the faces of the children. Yours may grow up to serve the Lord, to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Who can tell what may come out of your class? Here may be a soul-winner; there, one who shall be a constant comfort to the people of God; another, who, perhaps in an obscure place, shall shed the light of the life of Jesus for the glory of God and the blessing of men, and last of all and best of all shall shine in the glory of God for ever. This is the great and ultimate end of all our service. If we keep this in view, how earnestly we shall seek that all the children may be the Lord's. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

By the Skin of his Teeth

A young man of our acquaintance who had lived a careless life was lying extremely ill. One night he dreamt that he was in a room filled with the most beautiful specimens of woodcarving. Now wood-carving had been a special hobby of his, and, in consequence, he examined these works of art with deepest interest. Suddenly the room and all the works in it burst into flames, and he, with great difficulty, just managed to escape from the burning building—by a window, we believe—when it tumbled into ruins. He was saved by the skin of his teeth.

“God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in the vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed” (Job 33:14-15).

This dream was evidently God's voice to our friend, and when we heard it, 2 Peter 3:10-13 sprang to our minds. The passage reads: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, THE EARTH ALSO AND THE WORKS THAT ARE THEREIN SHALL BE BURNED UP. Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness? . . . Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

In the face of such a statement as this, so plainly writ for us by the Spirit of God, it cannot be wisdom to engross the mind and heart with the things of the world, no matter how harmless and attractive some of them may be; for a wise man will not place the results of his patient toil in a building that he knows might be demolished at any moment, nor will he expend labour and wealth upon it, much less will he make his home in it.

We are not raising the question of the right or wrong of things, but pointing out wherein wisdom lies. If we are assured that new heavens and a new earth are to displace these that are present, that a creation which will abide without decay is to appear instead of this one which is so sadly marred by unrighteousness and sin, our wisdom is to secure for ourselves a place within that which is eternal, and work for it; for all the work wrought with the present world-system in view will be surely destroyed. This is the interpretation and the warning of our young friend's dream, and this solemn truth the Scriptures undoubtedly and plainly teach.

There is another arresting word in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, which, though it refers primarily to professed Christian service, might well came in here. Every man's work is to be tested by fire; and some—and their folly must be evident—are building wood, hay, and stubble; such material will perish in the devouring flames, and “if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” The man referred to in the passage is a man whose soul is safe through the precious blood of Jesus, but who has wasted his precious life upon perishing things, and, like our young friend in the dream, escapes by the skin of his teeth. His soul saved, but all his work lost, and his life—in which he might have builded gold, silver, and precious stones—utterly wasted.

Needful is the exhortation, “Let every man take heed how he buildeth.”

“For every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.”

“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

 

“Carest Thou Not?”

When the disciples launched forth upon the sea of Galilee on that evening of which three of the Gospels tell, they needed but little faith to put their Master into the helmsman's seat and commit the steering of the ship to Him, for the wind was fair and the sea was calm. But when the storm uprose and the shore lights were lost in the darkness and they found that He had fallen asleep in the place that they had assigned to Him it seemed to them that they had jeopardized their safety. The good ship might have had some chance of outriding the gale if the helm had been in the strong and capable hands of one of the sons of Zebedee, or if wide-awake Simon had had control, but what hope could there be for it in such a sea while the helmsman slept? As the tempest grew in violence their terror increased, until, when it seemed that the mighty billows would break them utterly, they awake Him with that cry, made bitter by unbelief, "Carest Thou not that we perish ?” And in that cry their Master's power over the storm and His love to them were alike arraigned.

What shame must have been theirs when in answer to their cry He rose up from His sleep and calmed the elements with a word! How outrageous must their doubts of Him have seemed when they beheld the waves obey Him as a dog obeys its master! Ah, why had they no faith? They might have stretched themselves beside Him and known the wonder of unbroken peace in the tempest, and made that night most memorable by their confidence in Him. They might have shared His peace with Him, for it was not indifference that marked that one recorded sleep of His, but peace, wonderful, beautiful, unruffled peace in the wildest storm that ever beat upon that sea. And they were not one whit more safe when that great calm spread itself upon the waters than they were when the great billows thundered upon them, for whether in peace or in calm they were in His care even though He slept. Had they but realized this they might have honoured Him and saved themselves much worry, for if His hand was on the helm all was well.

Let us beware lest we fail in our confidence in the Lord as those fearful men failed. We may have spoken of safety in Him in fair weather, but now we are surely sailing upon stormy waters and are being tested and may yet be more hardly tested as to where our trust is placed. Let us hold firmly to the fact that He cannot fail. Have we committed ourselves to His keeping? He is most worthy of our trust. Can we say as said Paul of old, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day”? Can we pass through the present trial no matter how severe it may become, knowing that He could remove it, but does not do so, seems indeed to be asleep in regard to it, and yet be quiet and restful about it all? It is written, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because He trusted in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:3). Do we know His love and His wisdom so well that we can stay our minds upon Him and put the helm of our tiny craft into His hands and leave it there? Do we ask sometimes, “Carest Thou not?” Let the Scriptures give the answer, "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you" (1 Pet. 5:7).

Let us not lose sight of the end, the eternal home of love that is assured to us by the immutable word of God. Our anchor, both sure and steadfast, is already cast within that harbour of rest.

“And though there intervene

Rough seas and stormy skies,

Though by no mortal vision seen,

Its glory fills one's eyes.

“There shall all clouds depart,

The storms of life shalt cease;

And sweetly shall each gladdened heart

Enjoy eternal peace.”

 

Casting the Blame upon God

 

A little fellow had set his heart upon having a pocket-knife, and pestered his parents about it so persistently that at last they yielded and allowed him to have his own way, and spend his shilling upon the coveted treasure. It was not long before he had cut his fingers very badly with it, and then he turned on his father and said, “You ought not to have let me buy it.”

When we heard the story we were reminded of some who when they fall into any trouble always cast the blame directly upon God. “Why,” say they, “did God allow this to happen?” This is a question that is being asked by many in regard to this desolating war. “Why does God allow it to continue?”

The fact is that all trouble in this world is the result of sin being here, and especially may this be said in regard to this almost world-wide war. Sin is lawlessness—independence of God, the determination of men to go their own way without reference to His will in any matter. If men are determined to please themselves, like the boy with the knife, and, in spite of the warnings and entreaties of God's Word, will persist in the refusal of His will, and of the way that He points out to them as the way “of pleasantness and peace,” how can they complain if they reap the harvest of their own sowing? “God is not mocked” and men cannot flout His will and then expect that He will shield them from the consequences of their folly. “They hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own ways and be filled with their own devices.” Thus it is written in the Word of God, and His Word cannot fail.

If men in this time of trouble would turn to God, not to blame Him for the consequences of their own folly, not to link up His name impiously with their own sinful ambitions and devilish schemes, but to hallow His name by acknowledging that He is just in all His dealings with them, and that His way is always right, and to repent before Him because of their waywardness and sin, then they would immediately find Him to be a very present help in time of trouble, for none ever called on His name in vain.

None of us can do his own will and expect to be immune from the consequences, but blessed it is to know that there is forgiveness with Him that He might be feared, and though the cut fingers may not be immediately healed, yet the heart may be comforted by God's grace, and the valuable lesson learnt, that His way is better than ours. “Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely and shall be quiet from fear of evil” (Prov. 1:33).

 

Caught Up

"The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shoot, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

 

“A Physical Impossibility” Sat the Modernists

A pamphlet came into our hands recently, written by a well-known American University professor. In at he endeavoured to show the absurdity of a literal interpretation of this great statement of truth which is so great a comfort to so many Christians. He admitted that the early Christians believed that at the coming of the Lord all who believed on Him would be suddenly translated to heaven—“caught up,” as our verse puts at—but he contended that that was because they were ignorant of the laws of nature that are known now to children in elementary schools. For instance, he said, such an event is a physical impossibility, and they would never have supposed it possible if they had known anything at all about the law of gravitation.

But what is the law of gravitation? It is a natural law; and what kind of bodies does it control? Natural bodies. Does that, then, settle the matter? Certainly not. The learned professor had not studied his subject; he had not carefully read his Bible, he spoke too soon. Our bodies as now constituted are natural bodies and so are controlled by natural laws, but they are to be changed. The natural will give place to the spiritual, as 1 Corinthians 15:44 tells us. And what sort of laws will control spiritual bodies? Spiritual laws, and the greatest of all spiritual laws is that Christ is the centre of the universe—The Word is supreme, and He is the great magnet of His saints. That is why we shall rise to meet Him when He rises from His throne to meet us. He shall change these bodies of humiliation and fashion them like unto His own glorious body according to the power by which He is able to subdue all things unto Himself (Phil 3). Science cannot discover the spiritual world, for it lies open not to investigation but to faith, and in this spiritual world spiritual laws operate, and knowing this we hold on to and rejoice in the blessed hope, and comfort one another with these words.

Christ and the Church

“Christ never fails, and there cannot be a want in Christ's church without there being an answer to it in Christ's heart" (J.N.Darby).

We know that that must be true, but it is both comforting and assuring to have it so clearly told “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” He could not have done more than that for it, and since He has done so much we are certain that He cannot be indifferent to its needs, it is too precious to Him for that. Not crowns and kingdoms and glories yet to be are His concern now, but the sorrows and wants of His church, and He only can measure these; with it He occupies Himself today. It is His chief interest on earth.

Familiar but remarkable figures are used to convey to us what His feelings are towards His church. He gave the first of these Himself in the first mention of it in the New Testament. A merchant man seeking goodly pearls found one of great price and to purchase it he sold all that he had (Matt. 13). He valued it more than all his possessions, because of its purity, its preciousness and its peerless beauty. Such the church is to Christ. We may not see it like that, for it doth not yet appear what it shall be; but He saw it before ever He made it His own, as it will be for ever—His choicest gem without a flaw.

Then when the church came into actual being—its history commenced at Pentecost—the first word as to it and its nearness to Him came again from Himself in the glory. He arrested Saul of Tarsus, who was the devil's determined agent to destroy it from the earth, with the words, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou ME?” His church is more than a valued and beautiful possession, it is a living thing, it is His body. On this side of the truth we have not a relationship as of two, but an indivisible unity. Christ and His members are one. Jesus of Nazareth, glorified and crowned in heaven, did not say, “Why persecutest thou Mine?” but ME. And the words should arrest us as they arrested Saul; there is surely a fullness in them that is little understood. To persecute one saint of God on earth is to persecute Christ; to despise or neglect one saint of God on earth is to despise and neglect Christ. He is the Head in heaven, they are His body on earth. They are one with Him, united to Him by the Spirit; He has communicated His life to them; to touch them is to touch Him. We shall need to be taught by the Spirit if this great fact is to be real to us, but it is there in the Scriptures for our instruction and meditation and joy.

Paul carried from that introduction to the Lord an indelible impression of the love that Christ bore to His church and of its unspeakable value to Him; and he never forgot that he had persecuted the saints that formed that church. Again and again he speaks of it with sorrow and pain. Hear his cry on one occasion. “I am the least of all the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God .”

“Saints, did I say? With your remembered faces.

Dear men and women, whom I sought and slew!

Oh, when we mingle in the heavenly places,

How will I weep to Stephen and to you.”

But he obtained mercy because he did it ignorantly in unbelief. The Lord forgave Him and filled him with His own love for those he had wasted and destroyed, so that he could write to them, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). He could not lay down his life as the price of their redemption, for he needed to be redeemed himself, and Christ had made the great sacrifice for that once and for all, but he was willing to endure every other sort of suffering for the sake of the church. How close was his communion with his Lord about it! Christ's chief interest on earth had become his, and the nearer we draw to the Lord, the more like Paul we shall be.

But the pearl and the body are not enough as figures, to give the full truth as to what the church is to its Saviour and Head, wonderful as they are, a third figure is called into use, that of the marriage tie. And it is in relation to this that we are told “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5). Here we have love revealed and reciprocated. He gave Himself, not His life only. Indeed His Church could not have been rescued and redeemed if He had not given His life, but it was Himself He gave, He has devoted Himself without measure or reserve in time and for eternity, to the blessing and joy of His church, and that it might be His own without challenge or rival for ever. His love is the source of all His activities. He gave Himself: we look back to the cross for the manifestation of that, there He passed through the deep waters of judgment and down into death, but He has been raised up from the dead and set at God's right hand in heaven, all things having been put under His feet, yet He does not forget His church, His love is unabated, the waters of death did not quench it, the ages of time have not dimmed it, we rejoice in the declaration of it in the past but it is active in the present , for now He sanctifies and washes and nourishes and cherishes it.

He considers His church with a tender solicitude, and uses His word to cleanse it from all the inward workings of evil, and to sanctify it to Himself from all worldly associations, for it must be suitable to Himself, holy in nature and without blame in conduct. He nourishes it by ministering Himself and His love to its affections and He cherishes it because it is moving through a cold and chilling world. And these present activities are to prepare it for the future : for the great marriage day (Rev. 19), when He will “present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” That will be the supreme joy, the consummation of every hope in our hearts and in His, and having reached that highest, that utmost joy, it will abide in that fullness, maintained in it by divine power for ever and ever. The sun shall go down no more; there shall be no night there; throughout the eternal day the church shall be to Him as a bride adorned for her husband, receiving His love into her heart without measure and responding to it without reserve.

Yet His love has a deep and present joy, the joy of serving its object now, for His love finds its satisfaction in service. Of this, J.N.Darby has written, “He tenderly cares for the assembly (church) here below, He nourishes and cherishes it. The wants, the weaknesses, the difficulties, the anxieties of the assembly are the opportunities to Christ for the exercise of His love. She is the object of His affections. If the end is heaven, the assembly is not left desolate here. She learns His love where her heart needs it, she will enjoy it fully when the need has passed away for ever.”

What a theme this is! Strange that we should be moved so little by it! Our spiritual life would be greatly enriched if we gave more earnest heed to it. A deeper knowledge of it would produce a truer sanctification from the world, it would deliver us from all selfish sectarianism, from pride of heart and assumption, it would enlarge and purify our hearts in love to all the saints, and it would above all stir up our affections toward our Lord Jesus Christ, our heavenly Bridegroom, and make us cry with a growing earnestness in unison with the Spirit, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”

Christ Entering His Glory

The Lord Jesus appears in Luke 24 as the risen Lord and Leader of His disciples, gathering them and binding them together in one object and purpose, and instructing them as to the divine plan of campaign for the carrying of the grace of God to earth's remotest bounds.

“He is Risen”

The fact of the actual bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is of the greatest possible importance. The salvation of the souls of men, the vindication of His own glorious person, and the supremacy of the everlasting God are all involved in it. If Christ be not raised, actually and bodily raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. If Christ be not raised, actually and bodily raised, He is not what He said He was, and His life and words on earth are a cruel deception. If Christ be not raised, actually and bodily raised, God has met with defeat, His throne has been sapped at the very base of it, the devil has triumphed, and evil is almighty in the universe.

If Christ be not raised, God's gracious intentions with regard to the blessing of men have been frustrated, heaven shall never celebrate the greatness of God's salvation, no song shall ever roll over the fields of glory, the Father's house shall be sad and silent for ever. The earth shall remain a desert where no fragrant rose can blossom, and a deluge of darkness more direful and disastrous than that flood which smote the world in Noah's day shall roll over the whole race of men in an everlasting mastery.

If, then, everything depends upon the resurrection of our Lord, and it does, for so we are taught in the Scriptures of Truth, it is good for us that we may travel in thought and faith with those who, on the first day of the week, sought the sepulchre where they had laid Him; it is good for us to look into that empty rock-hewn tomb and to hear angelic voices exclaim, “Why seek ye the living amongst the dead? He is not here, HE IS RISEN.” Thank God! And the fact is placed outside the region of question; the Scriptures, the five hundred and over of brethren and Saul of Tarsus who saw Him alive after He was risen, and the happy millions of ransomed men and women who have staked their all for time and eternity upon Christ, and who have sung their song of triumph in the very presence of death, all unite to bear witness to His victory over death; and His own words are to us the crowning of the testimony, “Fear not; I am the First and the Last; I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:18).

Let those who deny the fact produce their witnesses, and bring their proofs to the test, or for ever cease to trouble us with their profane and vain babblings.

 

He Must be Supreme

The Lord appears in Luke's Gospel on a great mission. He called it in His first recorded words “My Father's business” (chap. 2:49). It was “to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins . . . to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (chap.1:77-79). So His first utterance in public service was “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor” (chap. 4:18). And throughout the Gospel the opposition to Him was always because He would unswervingly pursue His Father's business. So they murmured because He did eat and drink with publicans and sinners (chap. 5:30); they said with scorn that He was "a friend of publicans and sinners" (chap. 7:34); they murmured again, saying, "This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (chap. 15:2). And yet again, "That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner" (chap. 19:7). But the Son of Man had come to seek and to save that which was lost, and their murmurings did not hinder Him in this, though death and resurrection lay in the path of its accomplishment.

It was necessary, according to the divine plan of campaign, that others, His own disciples, not only those eleven whom He met on this resurrection day, but all His disciples throughout the succeeding centuries down even to this day, should bear a part in this wonderful mission of making known this grace to the ends of the earth, and in this resurrection chapter the Lord is seen instructing His disciples as to this and adjusting their thoughts to the new conditions.

These disciples, however, were faithless, dispirited, and sad. Strange that it should have been so, for that first Lord's day was the most glorious of all the days that God had made. But the Lord drew near and went with them, and the more we scrutinize His ways with them as He quietly and irresistibly takes the place of supremacy in their lives, the more glorious does He appear to us.

Their confidence in Him had received a rude shock, and yet they loved Him, and were sadly reciting the doings of the past week when "He drew near and went with them." He drew near in more senses than one; there was no sudden display of power and splendour to fill them with awe, but the exercise of that compassion that fills His heart for the ignorant. He came close to them in their sorrow and woe in all that gentleness that had always marked His dealings with them. They were the bruised reed and the smoking flax, which He would not break nor quench. They were broken of heart and sore of spirit, and needed the balm of the great Physician, and He was there to tenderly point out the sickness and to apply the remedy. Such is He who is the Master of all His servants, and thus does He prepare them to take up His service with boldness and joy.

Their fundamental mistake had been, that, in their innermost thought, they had made Him secondary to Israel . This is disclosed in their woeful complaint, “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed ISRAEL .” They had hoped that He would have broken the foreign yoke and made their nation free and glorious in the earth, and if He had done this how great He would have been in their eyes; but, instead, they had seen Him nailed to a malefactor's gibbet. “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.”

He had died, and His death was the grave of all their hopes. They reasoned as men, that since He had died all must be lost, for death is the end of all the glory of man; his thoughts and purposes lie shattered and broken beside his mortal clay. But Jesus was risen again, and resurrection is the power of God, it is God's new beginning and His glory, His thoughts and purposes are all established by it, established in Christ, where disaster can never overtake them, for “He dieth no more.”

Happy are they who, by the grace of God, can transfer their hopes from that race of man which lies under the dread and sentence of death, and centre them in Christ, the Second Man, the last Adam, who has risen above the power of death, the life-giving Head of a new race.

We marvel at the folly and faithlessness of these disciples, and yet we are often taken in the same snare, for do we not often make the Lord secondary in some selfish way to our blessing, our comfort, our soul's prosperity, our success in service, or our cause? We have to learn, as they had, that He must be glorious, no matter how others fare, that He must in all things have the pre-eminence, and everything must be secondary to Him.

They had not believed all that the prophets had spoken. They had had their favourite texts, and those texts spoke of the great power of the Messiah, power that should crush their foes and make them the head of the nations; these they read and cherished and loved, but those that spoke of His sorrows His acquaintance with grief, humiliation, rejection, and death they had neither understood nor believed. With great patience He expounded the Scriptures to them, showing them the things written therein concerning HIMSELF, and how that He ought to suffer these things and enter into His glory. He showed them these things until their eyes began to perceive hitherto unthought-of glories in Him, and their hearts glowed within them at the sight of them.

In the council chamber of eternity it was planned that He should have His glory as the Head and Centre of a universe of blessing founded upon redemption, a universe to which men from all nations were necessary, and by the path of suffering He was tested, and in it His fitness for that place was proved. Every test brought out this fitness in clearer light until the final test—THE CROSS.

Every human perfection disclosed its fragrance in His suffering: His absolute and unquestioning obedience to the will of God throughout all the way that that will led Him, His meekness, dependence, self-abnegation, everything, in fact, that man ought to be according to the thought of God He was and that right onward and into death.

In Him also, the lonely and forsaken Man upon the cross, there appeared in full revelation every attribute of God. No ray of light from without pierced the awful gloom that enshrouded Him as the sin-bearer, but from out of that darkness there shone a glory that shall fill eternity. “All divine attributes were harmonized there—wisdom, holiness, mercy, justice, power, and truth”—and above all and through all the very nature of God, which is love, was declared triumphantly in the very place and hour where His justice demanded that sin should be judged to the uttermost.

Wonderful Saviour! It is along that path of unspeakable suffering that He has entered His glory. But the glory He has entered has added no glory to Him, for He was all glorious as He trod that downward pathway of sorrow and shame, He is not, nor can He be, more glorious than He was when He bowed His thorn-crowned head in death.

If He is now exalted to the Father's right hand it is because that place atone in the wide universe is worthy to receive Him. The diamond has been put in the golden setting He has gone to His own place. Crowns of immortal lustre shall shine resplendent upon His sacred brow, but that brow is worthy of them, nor would they fit another.

As He expounded these things to them, thoughts of Israel must have faded from their minds, and He must have arisen to the supreme place in their thoughts, so that when at last their eyes are opened to know Him they no longer do their own will, nor think of their own interests nor comfort, but that same hour of the night they arise and return to Jerusalem. They did His will, though no command had been expressed; instinctively they knew what He would have them do. His LORDSHIP WAS COMPLETE. But His lordship was exercised in perfect grace, and they did His will under the compulsion of love; no other service is acceptable to Him.

Is it so in our lives? Are we like them, or like Saul of Tarsus, who, when the glory of the Lord shone upon him, cried, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” Apart from such complete submission we are short of His intention for us, and so far are useless in His great designs for the blessing of men. He must be supreme. In all things He must have the pre-eminence.

 

He is the Leader of His Servants

The disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem on that day talking of two things—His resurrection, which was the declaration of His power; and His appearance to Simon, which was the manifestation of His grace —when Jesus HIMSELF stood in the midst of them. He stood there as their Lord and Leader, to direct them as to the world-wide mission upon which they were to go, a different view of things entirely to that presented by John; and in them were represented all His servants who shall serve Him until that mission is completed.

He greeted them with that blessed salutation, PEACE! for theirs was to be a mission of peace, and if they were to prosecute it aright they must be filled with and kept in peace.

With a quiet and matchless dignity He convinces them as to the reality of His resurrection, assures them that it is Himself and none other who stands before them, and opens their understanding as to the teaching of all Scripture concerning Himself. It was this teaching as to Himself that was to prepare them for the mission and to maintain them in peace in it. Out of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms He showed them God's plan and His glory. He showed them that He was the fulfilment of every word that God had uttered whether in promise or prophecy. Their fears, then, that everything they had hoped for was lost, were altogether groundless, for in Him, their risen Lord, everything that God had purposed was secured.

And further, though it was not then declared to them, they afterwards learnt that in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and that they were complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power. All the resources of God were in Him for them, and there was not a power in the universe that could intercept those resources.

Brethren in Christ, are we conscious that our Lord is such a glorious Lord, Centre, Leader, and Head for His servants? Those who are in the knowledge of this will fear no foe, for all the foes are defeated, as His resurrection is witness, they will dread no lack for all the mighty fullness of God is at their disposal in Him.

His presence in the midst of those disciples made them one, one in heart, object, and purpose; for what place could divergent views and selfish aspirations find in the presence of their glorious risen Lord? As they looked upon Him, bearing in His body the wounds of the cross, wounds received in His devotion to them, a tide of love to Him must have surged through every heart, and each would instinctively drop into his divinely appointed place with regard to Himself and each other.

Oh! that we all may see Him in His glory, love, and all-sufficiency; that selfish strife and ignoble pride may cease and perish amongst the servants of the Lord, and that there may be, by the grace of God, a holy determination to yield to Him the supreme place, not only in our individual lives, but as the Centre and Leader of His servants.

 

In the Great Outer Circle

Having assumed His rightful place amongst them and opened their understanding that they might have a right knowledge as to Himself and the new circumstances in which they saw Him, He turned their eyes to the great outer circle of “all nations” and said unto them, “Thus it is written.” Let that sentence impress us as it must have impressed them, and mark the place that THE SCRIPTURES hold in this chapter: first as to His own personal glory, it was "All that the prophets had spoken ;” then in the sacred circle of His beloved servants it was, "All things must be fulfilled, which were spoken in Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me ,” and now in connection with the whole world it is "Thus it is written." There can be no right understanding of any relationship which we may have with the Lord apart from the Scriptures, nor can we rightly act in any sphere with Him apart from the guidance of the Scriptures. They have all-authority; they cannot be broken; the sufferings of Christ were for their fulfilment, and equally for their fulfilling must the grace of God be made known amongst all nations.

And further, mark the place that THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST occupy in this chapter. First, as to His own personal glory, "Ought not Christ to have suffered ?” Then, in the sacred circle of His servants, "He showed them His hands and His feet .” Lastly, in this wide circle of all the world, "Thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise again the third day.”

There is no sphere in which we may move with Him on this other side of the glory in which we may forget His sufferings and death, and on the other side when at home in the glory of God He will still be the Lamb that was slain. The value of the Scriptures is that they keep Him constantly before us, for they unfold to us “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.”

How wonderfully interwoven are these great things: the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, the sufferings of Christ, His resurrection and glory, and the grace of God to all nations. Let no rude hand attempt to tear them asunder, or destroy any one of these divine verities, for if one could be spoiled the whole fabric would be marred.

But what place have the Scriptures and the sufferings of Christ with those who profess to be carrying out this blessed mission in these days? The question needs to be asked, for neither can be popular in the world that knows not God, and the popular taste, alas! is often consulted rather than the will of God.

The preaching of Christ crucified strikes at the root of all the pride of men; it means that he, in spite of all his boasted progress, must abase himself at the feet of the One who hung upon a gibbet, that only by this means can he be in right relations with God.

It means that in spite of all his culture, religion, learning, and power, he is a sinner under the power of death, the judgment of God, for “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). It means that Christ, the holy and the true, upon whom alone death had no claim, went down into it as the judgment of God, and that only thus could it be removed.

This preaching is to the Jew (the religionist) a stumbling-block, and to the Greek (the philosopher) foolishness; nevertheless it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. And how wonderful it is to us who believe, and how great our joy when we see Him, who went into death for us, raised again from the dead. He has sustained the judgment, has passed through the deep waters, “He divided the sea whose waves roared” and has made the depths a way for His ransomed to pass over—the Lord of Hosts is His name. How great indeed is His glory in God's salvation.

"Christ died for our sins . . . was buried and rose again from the dead .” These are the great facts that have to be heralded in every habitation of man, and these facts are according to the Scriptures. And these facts are to be heralded that men may know that in consequence of them a way has been opened by which they may return to God, and returning have all their sins remitted. And these priceless blessings have to be offered in His name ; that is, His servants are to do it on His behalf, as His representatives. His ambassadors, backed by His authority, and, as He told them, endued with the power which He would send them from above. Then “He led them out as far as Bethany , and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them, and it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and CARRIED UP INTO HEAVEN.”

His work was finished, and the glory of God claimed Him, and their raptured eyes followed Him into that shekinah cloud. He is in that glory still; Stephen saw Him there, Saul of Tarsus saw Him there, and we by faith may also see Him there: “JESUS, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, CROWNED WITH GLORY AND HONOUR” (Heb. 2:9).

God grant to us, in His limitless grace, that our eyes and souls may be filled with His glory, and that to serve Him in the spreading of the gospel, which is concerning Him raised from the dead, may be accounted by us an unspeakable honour. Then shall we diligently pursue it in the power of the Holy Spirit until we see Him in His Father's house.

Christ Everything

 

In thinking over the Scripture, “as ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him ; rooted and built up in Him , and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col. 2: 6, 7), I was carried back in thought to my own real start with the Lord. I had from my earliest knowledge of anything known the Gospel, but the time came when I definitely received Him— “You'll trust Him ?” was the question put to me and I said “Yes.” I remember the following day that the name Jesus was continually before me. I printed it in large letters and set it where I could see it continually. It was just Himself— not the blessing that I had received but Himself .

I could not have explained it all then, but now I see that the Spirit of God had led me to Him , it was not belief in a text of Scripture, but the reception of a Person about whom the Scriptures speak, and He was very real to me. I realised a personal link between myself and the Lord and longed to remember Him in His death, but I was afraid to make my desire known. After much faltering, I awoke to the fact that I was losing time and slipping back for I was not keeping His word. I had not advanced in this desire beyond what was individual, it was simply the Lord's love to me and my response to His love, but so far it was very real—and it was Himself and my desire to keep His commandments.

Then followed the desire to serve Him. I felt that to serve Him who had done so much for me would be a great honour and I have no doubt that He then gave me a definite call to preach the Gospel. The opportunity came for me to preach, and I spent some days in careful preparation of a sermon on the wisdom of building on the rock and the folly of building on the sand. As I walked to the preaching room, 3 miles away, there rang insistently in my ears “Behold the Lamb of God” and all my sermon slipped out of my memory. I passed through an agony of exercise and the more so because on arriving at the meeting I could not find the passage of Scripture that I had studied so carefully. And still the voice continued within me, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

It was time to begin and I was reminded of this by a brother sitting near to me. I picked up my hymn book and the first hymn that my eyes alighted upon was “Behold the Lamb, 'tis He who bore my burden on the tree.” I was greatly comforted and felt that I could trust the Lord to give me words to speak upon the text “Behold the Lamb of God.” While I spoke an old man of 74 who had been long anxious, believed the Word, and passed from darkness to light. I was greatly cheered and began to see the way of the Lord. It was as though He said by the exercise I had passed through, “If you are to serve Me you must speak about Me, you must begin with Me. I must be your theme . It was Himself again.

Zeal for the Gospel laid hold of me, and day and night my thoughts were filled with the Gospel and my service in it. On reading C.H.Spurgeon's very helpful and delightful “Lectures to my Students” I longed to get the help I felt he could give, that I might be more efficient in the preaching. But just then the Lord came in and led me one step further. A servant of God visited our town and in the first address that he gave he spoke on Matthew 18:20, pressing the reality of the Lord's presence in the midst of His assembly. It was a revelation to me. It was not the brethren whether nice or otherwise who made the meeting what it was, it was Himself , He gave character to the place. If I went it was to meet Him in His own circle, where He gathered His own about Him according to His own divine right.

I shall never forget the light that this was to my soul. I had to get away from everybody to dwell upon it with the Lord. From that time I have been unable to understand brethren saying “I will not go to the meeting, if such and such a Christian is permitted there; or threatening to withdraw, if what they think right is not done. To me everything lies in the Lord being there, and if He is there I must be.

This was a great joy, but it soon involved me in further exercise, for, I had to face the fact of failure, I discovered that confusion and division had wrought much havoc in that which appeared to me so blessed and which I had considered to be above the failure of men. Moreover I discovered that even those who I believed held on to the truth, had sadly failed in the way they had done it, and the spirit that had been displayed. That party spirit could have entered that sacred enclosure with such disastrous results was to me a heart-breaking surprise. I was greatly shaken and I wondered whether it would not be better to devote myself exclusively to the Gospel, and let all else go as being impossible to carry out.

But I could not do this. I had tasted the joy of Christ and His assembly; to that I felt I must cling, and I went a step further and learned that everything was established and secured in Him . I learnt this from 2 Timothy, and I found from that Epistle that I could hold fast that which I had learnt and that it would be as a light and guide to me in the perilous times; I had got the clue to the maze. It meant that I must turn my eyes from the confusion and be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, remembering Him, raised from the dead according to Paul's Gospel, and test things henceforth by His word and authority. It was Himself again as meeting the exercise arising from our great failure in the truth.

I can see how falteringly I have followed these things so clearly shown to me. Known only to the Lord and myself has been the continual failure in walk according to that which I see and know to be the way of truth. But to these things in His great grace He has held me, and how patient He has been. I realize that, in every recovery of soul that I have known, He has brought me back to the joy of these things. They abide and will so long as the Spirit of Truth abides on earth.

It is plain to me that everything depends upon Christ personally having His place. We are to receive Him , walk in Him , be rooted and built up in Him, every advance is in Him. We may have doctrine and fight for “principles” and maintain a legal separation from what is wrong, but if that is all we shall become withered ourselves and a menace to the peace of our brethren. We shall abound in thanksgiving as together we continue in Him.

There have been many crises in my life, too intimate, too sacred, to commit to writing, but I have found that if He has drawn near to me in them I have gained in spiritual substance, no matter what else I have lost, and I have feebly learnt that for my own blessing as for His glory He must be all and in all, He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End. He is this for God, and He must be this for every creature that is to be finally and eternally blest. This is the lesson that the Spirit of God is teaching us today. Happy will all those be who learn it.

 

Christ in the Book of the Revelation

Notes of Addresses given in Sydney

 

1. The Faithful Witness

It is of the utmost importance that we should see the place that Christ has in Scripture, for we cannot rightly understand any portion of God's Word unless we see the part Christ has in it, for Christ is the subject of all Scripture. Some study prophecy, in order to become acquainted with coming events. You may study prophecy with that end in view and be as dry in your soul as the desert. You may know all prophecy and be able to explain every mystery in Scripture, and yet be as “sounding brass and tinkling cymbal”; but if Christ gets His place in your heart, you will read the Scriptures in order to learn of Him, then every part of it, the Revelation included, will yield its blessing to you, and you will be in the midst of your fellows for the glory of God and their blessing.

The Holy Ghost has come to show us things to come, but the things to come that He will show us are all in relation to Christ, they are His things. He is the theme of these things and the end of them, and happy shall we be if we keep that before us.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is presented first in Revelation in a threefold character; the Faithful Witness, the First-born from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. In that threefold presentation we see Him in the past, in the present, and in the future, in regard to the earth. He has been here, He is not here, He is coming back again. That is the testimony of the Lord, of which we are not to be ashamed.

 

The Faithful Witness

It should be a great comfort to every Christian to know that God has had a Faithful Witness in this world. We are all of us very conscious of our own unfaithfulness. The nearer we draw to God the more conscious we become of it, but the more we rejoice in the Faithful Witness. All God's witnesses, from the very beginning of time down to this present, have been more or less unfaithful. They witnessed for God according to the grace He gave them, but not one of them could claim perfection, except this one blessed Man, Christ Jesus, and He is the Faithful Witness. It was when He was here in the midst of men that He was the Faithful Witness. He came from God to speak the things that He knew and to bear witness to the things that He had seen, as He said to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John. The things that He heard were the Father's words; the things that He had seen were what God Himself is. No man hath seen God at any time the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” He made known in absolute completeness what God is, and maintained in word and deed what was due to God. We read the greatness of God's power in the mighty and countless constellations that He has created, but if we want to know His heart and nature, we turn to the lowly Nazarene, despised and rejected of men. He was a Faithful Witness to that, completely, absolutely, and always. He declared before men what God is, and He lived as a Man in the full blessedness of that which He declared; He had no resources as a Man outside the God whom He revealed.

It was so from the very beginning of His life. He says in the 22nd Psalm, “I was cast upon thee from the womb; Thou art my God from my mother's belly,” and His first recorded words are these—“Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” And the curtain drops at that moment upon His life at Nazareth, and we see no more of Him until He reaches His 30th birthday, and then we learn what sort of a life He had lived behind that veil, for as He came forth into public ministry, the heavens were opened and a voice from the excellent glory declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom is all My delight.” So that for thirty years God had been able to look down upon Him, and in His every thought and word and deed He had found fullest delight. Does it not fill your heart with praise to know that God has found full delight in one Person here below, and that that Person is your Saviour?

I will read a few verses to illustrate His faithful witnessing. Luke 4:16-19, "And He came to Nazareth , where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor: He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord .” He was anointed of the Lord for that mission; to bear witness to absolute grace. He came to make known a God that people did not know nor understand; He came to show what God could be to men, and that when He came near to them He came near to them in infinite blessing. So He read from the Old Testament Scriptures, but His witness to those people of Nazareth was a faithful witness. How popular He might have been that day if He had witnessed to one part of the truth only. They marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His lips. If He had not been a Faithful Witness they would have made Him king, but He did not stop short of the full truth, He goes on to show them that the grace of God flowed out to the undeserving, to those who had neither merit in themselves nor claim upon God; that it could not be bounded by the limits of the nation of Israel; that it would burst every bound and flow out to the Gentiles, and that they whom the Jews despised would receive it even if Israel rejected it: and when they heard His faithful witness they took Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built to cast Him down headlong. His faithful witness not only manifested what God is, but brought to light what man is. He was the One who did both, for the simple reason that He was the light, and the qualities of that light are these, it reveals the sinfulness of men, and yet it shines for their blessing, for God's grace is more than equal to the uttermost need that ever man had.

We see it in the 8th chapter of John. In that chapter He speaks of Himself as the Light of the world. There was a guilty woman brought into His presence, and her sin is laid bare before the Lord. His enemies thought they had got the Lord in a trap. If He did not sanction her being stoned, why, then, He did not uphold the law of Moses; if He did sanction her being stoned, He was no Saviour. His answer was direct, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” and He stooped down and wrote on the ground. The Son of God stooped to write in the dust of death the wonderful story of the love of God. If those Pharisees had understood they would have laid themselves in the dust at His feet and confessed their guilt, but they would not do that. Proud religionists they were! Self-righteous Pharisees! They go out one by one, from the presence of the Faithful Witness, refusing the light because it exposed them, and leaving the poor sinner alone with Jesus. He was the Law-giver, and the Law that they had invoked drove them out, but He had come as the Saviour, and grace that they despised drew her in. And He says, “Neither do I condemn thee.” The light that detected the sin in the self-righteous Pharisees, protected the sinner who remained in His blessed presence, and there we find Him, the Faithful Witness, manifesting what God really is as a Saviour-God.

This witnessing roused up the hatred of the hearts of men, and they plotted to destroy Him, and at length the time came when their plot developed and came to pass, and we find Him led with a rabble at His heels to Calvary's Cross, crucified there as a malefactor by those to whom He came to show the grace of God. They would not have the Faithful Witness. Did the devil hope to extinguish that wonderful light when those dark waves of hatred beat upon Him there? If so, how terribly disappointed he must have been, for when men had done their worst, then we hear the Faithful Witness speaking. His voice rises above all the devil-lashed frenzy of His foes, and we hear Him saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even in the presence of the supreme hatred of men we find Him still manifesting what God is, still letting the light of infinite grace shine forth, still showing how invincible is the goodness of God and how forbearing is His mercy, and because of His faithful witness He died.

We shall come in a moment to another side of His death, to the most important side of it, that side that has to do with the expiation of our sin, but He not only died to expiate our sins, He died as the Faithful Witness. Men crucified Him because of His faithfulness to God.

That is a wonderful passage in the 50th chapter of Isaiah. His Divine glory is brought before us. He speaks of Himself as the One whose arm is not shortened, whose hand is not weakened; He speaks of Himself as the One who stretches the curtain of night across the heavens and hushes the world to sleep, and then He says, “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learner that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary; He wakeneth morning by morning; He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learner.” There we have the Faithful Witness, being wakened every morning by His Father's voice, receiving from His Father's lips His instructions for the day, going forth to fulfil those commands, no more and no less, faithfully witnessing for God in speaking words in season to them that are weary, and returning when the day was done to commune with His Father about it all.

What is the next thing? “I gave My back to the smiters and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not My face from shame and spitting.” The Faithful Witness was put to shame. The Man whom God delights to honour was treated with the utmost insult. They spat in His face, because He remained faithful to God. They crucified Him, because they would not have the light that He brought into this world. The first part of our witnessing to Him is that He has been here, and the second, He is not here. Why is He not here? Because men crucified Him. The Spirit of God is here now, and the 16th chapter of John tells us the very presence of the Spirit of God here in this world convicts the world of sin. That does not mean the Spirit of God is going about convicting individual sinners and making them repent and come to Christ. He is doing that, but the 16th of John does not mean that. It means that the Spirit is in the world because Christ is not, and He is not here because the world rejected Him, and that proves that the world is under sin. The rejection of Christ is the world's crowning sin, and the presence of the Spirit bears witness to that. Sin dominates the world, and the only way to get from under the power of sin is to come to the feet of Jesus, and own Him as Lord, and when you come there you come under His dominion and are no longer under the dominion of sin.

 

The First-Born From the Dead

He is not here. Where is He? He is risen, the First-born from the dead. Peter's witness in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, to the Jews, was twofold. He pressed upon them again and again, “He went about doing good, but ye crucified Him.” That is your guilt. But “God hath raised Him from the dead.” That is God's seal upon His faithful life of witnessing. In that same wonderful 50th chapter of Isaiah, which I have quoted, it says, “He is near that justifieth Me.” Who has justified Him? God.

The chief Priests and the Scribes and Pharisees thought they could keep Him in the sepulchre. They remembered that He had spoken of rising again from the dead. It was very remarkable they should have remembered it when the disciples had forgotten it. So they went to Pilate and asked his help. Pilate said, “Ye have a watch; go your way, make it as sure as ye can .” It seems to me there was a certain irony in that. So they sent a guard and sealed the stone, and I suppose the soldiers would be instructed as to how to deal with the rabble of Galilean fishermen if they came to rob the sepulchre. They were not told how to deal with an earthquake or an angel from heaven! The fishermen did not come, but the angel did, and the earthquake, and those Roman veterans for very fear fell down as dead men. What had happened? God had intervened; God had justified His Faithful Witness. God was FIRST at the sepulchre, and the stone was rolled away from the tomb, not to let Christ out but to let us look in.

He is the First-born from the dead; that means that others are to share His triumph. All they that sleep in Jesus will come out of their sepulchres according to the same blessed pattern, and we who are alive and remain at His coming shall be changed. We are looking for our Saviour, “Who shall change these bodies of humiliation, and fashion them like unto His own glorious body according to the power by which He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.” He is the victorious One; He has come out of the grave. God has triumphed over all the power of death and the devil in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. His resurrection is God's answer to His faithfulness here upon the earth, and is also God's great victory over death. He is the First-born from the dead, and when He comes to take up things for God in this world, He will take them up in the power of resurrection, and in such a way that no voice in the universe will challenge His right to do it. The voice of death is silent; death challenges the work of every other man, but He has overthrown the power of death; He is the Victor, and He has taken us up in resurrection power to share His victory with us. Never doubt the ability of our Lord Jesus Christ to keep you. You may be a very weak Christian; the more you feel it the better, for then you will rely upon His strength the more, and He is able to keep all whom He saves.

 

The Prince of the Kings of the Earth

That is future; He is not yet manifested as the Prince of the kings of the earth; He has no place in their counsels. Yet He is behind the scenes, and He makes the wrath of man to praise Him. All power has been put into His blessed hands, and so we take courage, though we see the tides of evil gathering force and threatening to overwhelm everything that makes for righteousness in the world. Our Lord is on the throne and He can say to these wild waves, “Thus far thou shalt come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed”; and He will restrain them until He takes His household out of the world. The day is coming when He is to be manifested as the Prince of the kings of the earth. That will be a wonderful day, and when that day comes all the kings of the earth will have to take their instructions from Him. He will not need a Cabinet to advise Him, for Isaiah 11 will be fulfilled in Him. "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins" (vv. 1-5).

All the wisdom of God is in Him, and the kings of the earth will look to Him for direction, and in looking to Him for direction they will rule under Him in righteousness. God has spoken of Him, as we read in Psalm 89, as His Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. Oh! that the kings and rulers of the earth would recognize that today; there will be no peace until they do. He is to have universal supremacy. For every insult He will receive an answer in glory; for every sorrow He will have a joy. God will see to it that His Faithful Witness is rightly compensated, and in that day of His compensation all those who have sought in their measure to be faithful to Him will share His glory. He will say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” so that when God brings forth His Faithful Witness crowned with many crowns, He will see to it that all those who sought to be faithful to Him will be crowned as well. But they will cast their crowns before Him, for He alone is worthy to wear the crowns.

When He is presented as the Faithful Witness, the First-born from the dead, the Prince of the kings of the earth, there is an interruption. What was being declared is interrupted by a burst of adoration from the heart of the Church. Like a patriotic audience that bursts into applause as the orator describes the glory of the king, so the heart of the Church cannot be restrained at the Name of Jesus. She must sing aloud His worth. “To Him who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen” (N.Tr.).

In the 2nd and 3rd chapters we read of a great deal of failure on the part of those who profess the name of Christ, and as we go on reading through the book of the Revelation, we find that the apostate Church develops at last into the great whore, and comes under God's unsparing judgment. The Church is fast going to apostasy today—the outward profession, I mean, not the body of Christ, not that which is real. But at the beginning of the Book that sets forth failure, failure, failure—failure amongst those who are real as well as amongst those who are false—it is blessed to find that He loves us. His love is our refuge and our joy. Our failure has not changed Him one bit. We confess our failure, we say, in the words of the hymn:—

“Yet, Lord, alas, what weakness

Within myself I find,

No infant's changing pleasure

Is like my wandering mind.

And yet Thy love's unchanging

And doth recall my heart,

To joy in all the sweetness

The peace its beams impart.”

He loves us just as much today, in spite of our backslidings, as He did when first we came to His blessed feet, or when He was extended on the Cross for us; His love abides the same.

If we are to measure the greatness of it, it must not be by our experience of it; we must go back to the Cross, and so we read, “Unto Him that loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” He paid the mighty price Himself, and the price was His own blood. O wonderful Saviour! Wonderful love! And He has not only removed our sins by His own blood, but He has made us a kingdom. That means He has brought us under God's dominion. It is no longer our desire to do our own wills like the world, rushing here and there seeking to please ourselves, but He has made us a kingdom, we are brought now under the dominion of grace, for grace reigns. And He has made us priests unto His God and Father. We have access to the presence of God Himself. So completely has the blood cleansed away the sins that we can stand in the very glory of God. We who were once saturated from the crown of our heads to the soles of our feet with iniquity are brought by our wonderful Saviour, who loves us, into the Holiest of all, and that is our place today.

After this interruption on the part of the Church, the proclamation of His glories is continued, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” It is a popular error that by the preaching of the Gospel, the world will get better and better, and thus will be prepared for the kingdom of the Lord. If the world is a converted world when the Lord comes, why should all kindreds of the earth wail because of Him? It would surely be glad to see Him, and would receive Him with acclamation. Why do they wail because of Him? Because they are not ready for Him. He will come as a thief in the night to the world. “When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.”

What a day it will be for the world when He comes. The Church will have gone before that day. He may come for it tonight, but the world will not see Him when He comes for His Church. The last time the world saw Him was when He died on a malefactor's Cross. The next time the world sees Him will be when He comes in the clouds of glory with myriads of holy ones with Him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Those who pierced Him, the Jews, will look on Him, and when they see those nail-torn hands and feet, and learn that He was wounded for their transgressions, they will begin to mourn, and the sight of Him will result in conversion, and no doubt some of the distant nations who have never heard of Him will join in that great repentance. The great majority will wail in terror at the sight of Him, and because of their sins and long rejection of His grace, His judgment will come upon them. I want to press this solemnly upon us here tonight; we either belong to the Church that sings her glad songs in His praise, or we belong to the world that will wail at the sight of Him. If you belong to the world come out of it, come to His blessed feet and join with us in the song of praise to His name.

Does anyone say, “We know that these things are written in the Scriptures, but then is He able to carry them out?” or, think, “It seems an extraordinary thing to say that this world that has been building up its political and social life all these centuries, and which, as we hope, has advanced and advanced, will, in a moment, at the coming of the Lord, collapse and come under the judgment of God.” Well, the Lord pledges His own Divine eternal Being on this. He says, “Even so, Amen.” The “Even so, Amen,” of the 7th verse belongs to the 8th verse. It is, “Yea, yea, Amen, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” It is the everlasting, self-existent, omnipotent God, who speaks. All will have to do with Him. The Scribes and Pharisees did not realize that when they despised and rejected Him; poor Pilate, in that brief hour of his power, did not realize that. He saw only a weak Jew at his bar, mocked and hated by the people. But all will awake to the fact that Jesus is the everlasting God, the Almighty, and the men who scorned Him will be compelled to confess Him, and so will you would it not be wise for every one to have to do with Him in this day of grace? I beg of you, I urge you, if any of you in this audience are still unconverted, have to do with this Person tonight. “Kiss the Son lest He be angry and thou perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him”

 

2. One Like Unto the Son of Man

(Read Revelation 1:9-20)

It was in a new, and to him an exceedingly strange character, that John beheld His Lord on this Lord's day in Patmos . He had known Him as the Man of Sorrows, weeping with the afflicted, tenderly pleading with the sinful, and speaking words of comfort to the penitent. He had known Him in such blessed accessibility of grace that not a soul that had any need, feared to come to Him. He had seen the children come eagerly, with glad laughter in their hearts and mouths, to nestle in His enfolding arms with a confidence that even a mother's could not have given. He had seen lepers come, loathsome creatures, offending his eye with their distorted bodies, and polluting the air with their corruption, and he had seen his Master, instead of turning from them with disgust, look upon them with great compassion and touch them with healing power. He had seen wonderful things, and heard words even more wonderful than the works; and the words he had heard and the works he had seen had alike taught him that His Lord was meek and lowly in heart; that He was full of grace and truth; that His delight was to minister to others, to bind up the broken-hearted and to put Himself at the disposal of all. He had learnt that the tenderest heart in the universe beat in the bosom of Jesus, and he had found rest in the hour of his greatest bewilderment in laying his, head upon that bosom.

The last time that John had seen his Lord was as he stood with the eleven at Bethany and watched Him, as with hands uplifted in benediction He was parted from them as He went up into heaven. John had not forgotten that face and those hands—pierced hands; and to see Him again as he had seen Him then was John's great hope.

“But I shall see her again, just as she was, shan't I?” sobbed a little girl to me, as I endeavoured to explain to her that her darling mother had gone to rest with the Saviour, and that she would see her again, brighter and more beautiful than ever she had known her on earth. The change of which I spoke made no appeal to her; “I want her just as she was" was her only desire and prayer. And may not “the disciple whom Jesus loved” have had that one desire filling his heart on this Lord's day of which he tells? He was in the Spirit, musing, doubtless, upon all that he had learnt of the tenderness and grace of His Lord, and longing to see Him just as He had known Him.

And so he shall, and so shall we all; just as He was in the tenderness and grace of His heart, unchanged as to all that attractability that made Him everything to John and to us! Yes even though eternal glories dwell fitly on His brow we shall know Him as He was in all that made Him JESUS to us, for that must abide. At the end of the Book He assures our hearts of this by saying, “I, JESUS.” He would not have us forget that He is Jesus amid all the glories yet to be; nor could we, for glories such as those of which the Revelation speaks will come and go, and be superseded by others throughout the ages of the ages, but Jesus will remain “the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”

John was startled from his musings by a voice like a trumpet; it was not the voice of a lover wooing with gentle words, nor of a comforter soothing a troubled heart, but of a commander calling His army to attention. It was an alarm to arouse the sleepers; a call to action ringing out insistently for the ears of the indifferent. The Lord's rights had been refused by Israel and the world and the churches were becoming careless as to them. They were letting their Lord and His interests fall into a minor place in their selfish love of ease, and that early defection has developed into an awful corruption in the midst of which we live today. Where can we look for whole-hearted devotion to the Lord? Many bodies we see, all professing His name, but where amongst them is there faithfulness to the Person, work and word of the Lord? Rich and increased in goods, and boastful of their gifts and powers and influence are many of them, but the Lord is outside of them, and the treachery that marks them is as black as the kiss of Judas. Hence we still need to hear the voice like a trumpet, we all need it, lest we sleep as do others, and become indifferent to the claims of our Lord. May we have ears that can hear it, and hearts and consciences to respond to it. This was the voice that commanded Joshua, saying, “Get thee up, wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned.”

The voice sounded behind the exiled apostle; he was recalled from his longing for the company of the Saviour in the coming glory to consider things as they were, and would yet be in the church and in the world, and to hear the Lord's judgment as to it all.

The words, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,” belong to the 8th verse rather than the 11th. Still we may consider them here. The speaker is the A and the Z, the beginning and the end of all language. His voice was the first to be heard in the eternal silence. He spoke, and out of nothing the universe appeared; by the word of His power were all things created, and by that same word they are upheld, and will be until they have served their purpose. “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thy hands. They shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail” (Heb. 1:10-12). Other voices have spoken since He called the world into being; the devil has spoken, and his words have produced a kingdom of darkness, a world of pride; sin has spoken with a frenzied voice and built up a kingdom in rebellion against God and a world of misery; death has spoken with the voice of a tyrant, and the whole race of men is held in fear of him, and only the intervention of the Alpha and Omega could bring release from his awful dominion.

But none of these voices spoke first and none of them shall speak last. The great Alpha is also the triumphant Omega and He must have the last word about everything; and when the devil and sin and death have had their full say He will silence them for ever in the lake of fire, with every other voice that challenges the supremacy of God. When He shall say, “it is done,” then all shall stand fast for ever according to the will of God. Brethren in Christ, Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. Consider this well, for it means everything to us. He has spoken life into our souls. He has said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life; and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life,” and no other voice, past, present, or future, can undo His Word. Consider Him well in this character and it will give stability to your faith.

John turned to behold the One whose voice had broken upon his ear with such authority, and he beheld “seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks One like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” The first mention of the Son of Man in the New Testament is in the Lord's own words: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). And this awe-inspiring passage gives us the last. Is it possible that such lowliness and poverty could put on such majesty and power? Yes. For in both Scriptures the self-same Person is presented to us. John had known Him in His poverty and humiliation and had leaned upon His bosom then; he sees Him in His glorious majesty now and falls at His feet as one dead.

The Ancient of days and the Son of Man are one. We are here carried back to Daniel 7 where the vision of the Ancient of days is given in connection with the rising up and the destruction of the kingdom of the fourth beast, Rome, in fact, in its past and yet future forms. In this great power and the head of it, when it reappears, will be concentrated all the will of man; it will be the climax and the crown of his rebellion against God, and it will be specially energized and inspired by Satan and will make a definite attempt to banish God from the earth and hold the kingdoms of it against Christ. But the kingdoms of this world belong to Christ, and as the Son of Man He shall take them, that all people and nations and languages should serve Him. Judgment must precede the establishment of His kingdom; it will be introduced by judgments, and He it is, whom John saw, who will execute them. But He cannot judge the evil that is in the world and ignore it in the Churches; He cannot punish the godless world and allow evil to continue unrebuked amongst those who profess His Name. Hence His words are to the Churches. His own must see Him first in all the majesty of His holiness and the greatness of His justice.

So He appears: "Clothed with a garment down to the feet .” He came first to earth to minister to others. He was then the Son of Man with His loins girded for service and to give His life a ransom for many: now it is not service but judgment. "Girt about the paps with a golden girdle .” His affections are restrained by Divine righteousness. "His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow .” The dignity of eternity encircles the once thorn-crowned brow as a halo. "His eyes were as a flame of fire": to search out every evil thing, and to trace from its origin to its climax every rebellious system that has reared its head beneath the sun. "His feet like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace": indicating that He will march onward in the execution of Divine righteousness against all evil, until every enemy is subdued beneath His feet. "His voice like the sound of many waters": the voice of majesty and authority. "Out of His mouth goeth a two-edged sword": His word is a life-giving word to all who believe, but it will be a word of judgment and death to all who refuse to own His claims.

No wonder that John fell as dead at His feet when He beheld His Lord in this character. But it was well for him, and it is well for us, to know something of the majesty of the One with whom we have to do. How lightly we often treat His claims. How easy it is for us to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and to lose the fear of the Lord. We need to be reminded that sin must come under His rebuke and judgment, that we may search our hearts and ways before Him. The fear of the Lord will keep our consciences active and make us very careful of our walk. Yet the Lord's appearance in such majesty must not fill His saints with terror as it will the world. They have no need to call upon the mountains to hide them from His face as the godless will, for they know Him in another character; they know Him as the One who loved them and gave Himself for them.

How blessed is that which follows: "He laid His right hand on me ,” says John. The hand of power was stretched forth to support him. It was laid tenderly upon him to still his terror, and the voice which he had often heard in former days thrilled his heart again as it gently bade him not to fear. The truth of His glory and His grace here revealed abide for us. He died in deepest humility to save us, He lives in glorious majesty to support us. We may rely upon Him. The hand that will wield the iron sceptre holds the weakest sheep that follows Him now; it is the hand that was pierced for them and it will never let them go. His very glory is on our behalf, and the righteousness that condemns the rebellious justifies and protects all believers.

He is the living One, who once was dead. Why? But He is now alive for evermore. Love carried Him into death. Power has brought Him forth from the grave. What a road He has travelled to His present place in glory. How great has been His triumph. And we can triumph in His victory. And the keys of Hades and of death are in His hand. He is Master of the whole dominion of death, and as we know Him thus the fear of death is gone.

So John was raised up and commissioned to write to the churches the things that he saw —the glories of the Lord—His holiness, majesty and authority; "and the things that are"—the history of the church on earth to the coming of the Lord for the real and the rejection of the unreal. We are in the things that are, though very near to the end of them; and the things that are to be after these —the judgments that are to fall on the earth until the will of God is established in it, which things we have from chapter 4 onward. May we give heed to His words, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

 

Christ, the Eternal Servant

Notes of an address at Sydney on Exodus 27:6-7 and John 12:1-3, 20-33

I invite you to a quiet meditation upon the Lord Jesus Christ in the greatness and devotion of His heart as the Eternal Servant. We know that the Old Testament Scriptures are full of types of Him. He Himself tells us that Moses spake of Him, and in this 21st chapter of Exodus we have Moses speaking most definitely of Him as the One whose love has made Him a Servant.

It is very interesting to see where this law in regard to the Hebrew servant comes in. It follows the 20th chapter, where we have the ten commandments given. It might be asked, “Of what use was it for God to give a law that men did not desire and that they could not keep?” Well, if God had not had the Lord Jesus Christ the faithful Hebrew Servant in reserve, it would not have been of much use, for it could only have put Him in the place of a Judge; it would have brought into manifestation the justice of His throne, while His heart of love would never have been known.

Yet it was perfectly right and in keeping with the claims of His throne that His will should be made known. God had to tell men what His will for them was; they had turned their backs on Him and were doing their own will, and that was a challenge to God's majesty. The world belonged to God, “The earth is the Lord's,” and men in it are His responsible creatures, and He had, in justice and for the maintenance of His throne of government, to make known His will, and so we have the ten commandments, God's will for men here on the earth, summed up in these two sentences, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.” Men broke that law, and all through the generations to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ they broke it, and that which was ordained for a blessing became a curse.

Was it the will of God that the law should avail nothing? Was it to be set aside without being kept? No, God had His Man in reserve, and the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to do the will of God. His first recorded words were, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” He delighted in the title of the “Sent One,” He came to fulfil the law. In Matthew 5 He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil . . . Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.” That word “fulfilled” means “filled out,” the bringing out of all its beauties, the making manifest of what it really was in the thought of God. And the Lord Jesus said, every jot and tittle of it shall be filled out. Down to its smallest points its perfection and beauty shall be manifested. When did that take place? It took place in the life of Jesus here below; He fulfilled, filled out, made manifest, all the beauties of the law—loving the Lord His God with all His heart and His neighbour as Himself. So that the law was not given in vain. God could call the attention of the universe, of the holy angels, and of the devil himself, to that one blessed lowly Nazarene, despised by men, without a place to lay His head; and could say, “There you see a Man in absolute obedience and dependence, bringing out in every thought of His heart, every word of His mouth, every act of His life, the beauty of My will for men.” The law of God has been made honourable in the sight of the universe by God's beloved Son, and its beauty thus livingly expressed will abide for ever.

The Hebrew servant had to serve six years, and after that he could go out free. His master's claims were finished and he was at liberty to go out and serve no more. The moment came in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ here below when that point was reached, when He as Man had fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law and He could have gone out free. The law, which was God's will for man on the earth, had got no further claim on Him because it had been fulfilled. When was that? When He stood upon the holy mountain, and when in the presence of His disciples He was transfigured; when His face shone like the sun and His garments were white as the light, then He could have gone out free, and then a voice from the excellent glory proclaimed Him to be the One in whom the Father had found His delight. The Father Himself bears witness to the fact that He was the faithful Hebrew Servant, who had not failed in one jot or tittle of the law. He could have stepped from that holy mountain to the throne of glory. As a Man He had fulfilled every righteous claim that God could have upon a man. He had loved the Lord with all His heart and His neighbour as Himself. Ah! but now something else came in. The Hebrew servant could go out free, but if he went out free he went out alone. And we come to that crisis in the history of the Lord on earth when the choice lay before Him. It came in John 12, where the Lord said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” If He went out free He must abide alone, but there was something in His heart that would not allow Him to abide alone, and what was that? It was love. His love to His Father, His love to you and me, carried Him beyond the law and made Him a Servant for ever. It is most blessed and wonderful to contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ at that moment. John 12 corresponds with the mount of transfiguration in the other gospels. He could say, “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” He also says, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour, yet for this cause came I unto this hour. FATHER, GLORIFY THY NAME.” What led Him to say that? Love! Love that thinks not of self at all; love that places itself entirely at the disposal of the loved ones. No matter what that terrible hour contained, and He knew it all, He would go through it in His love to His Father and to us.

The Lord up to this time had been bearing witness in the midst of Israel , but now there comes a change. Greeks come up to Jerusalem , and they find out Philip, and say, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” and Philip and Andrew bring them to Him. It was in that connection the Lord says, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone.” If the Gentiles were really to see Jesus, if any of us were to see Jesus, how must we see Him, and where? We must see Him taking up a service that the law did not lay upon Him, a voluntary service of love that made Him the Sufferer. We must see Him lifted up on the cross. Jesus would have been no use to us, He would not have been “JESUS” to us at all, if He had not gone to that cross. It is on the cross we see written, “This is Jesus”—the true Hebrew Servant with His ear bored for everlasting service.

The Gentiles could not be brought to God, Israel could not have been redeemed, the Lord could not have had His Church, there could have been no blessing for any one of us, if the Lord had not undertaken this fuller and deeper service. There are people who talk about the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us. The righteousness of Christ was the fulfilment of the law for Himself, and that is His own righteousness; if that had been all it was for Himself alone and He would have gone out alone, for it could not have been imputed to anybody. Something else was necessary if we were to be made righteous before God, and if Christ was to have us as an everlasting possession. To go back to the type, the Hebrew servant said, “I love my master, I love my wife, I love my children, I will not go free.” He would not be alone, his love would not be satisfied unless he had companions, and he said, that I may have companions I will remain a servant for ever.” Then his master took him and his ear was bored, and henceforth, as long as he lived upon the earth, he carried about in his own body the mark of his servitude. The cross is the antitype of that, and when the Lord rose from the dead and came into the midst of His own, He showed His hands and side. Those wounds answer to the bored ear, they are the everlasting proofs of what His love has suffered, and the pledge that He will serve us for ever.

He says, “Father, glorify Thy name.” His Father's glory was the first thing. Then there comes the answer, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” The Father had glorified His Name through the perfect fulfilment of the law in the life of the Lord Jesus, and in that which was infinitely greater than merely the fulfilment of the law—the revelation of Himself to men. He was going to glorify it again in the death of the Lord Jesus and His resurrection. He was entirely at the Father's disposal, and so could say, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” The world did not attract Him, for “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father,” and “if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him.” The love of the Father was in this faithful Servant. He rejected the world and all that it could offer as evil, and chose to glorify His Father instead. That system of things in which men are trying to make themselves happy away from God, had nothing for the Father, and the Son had nothing at all in it. The prince of this world is cast out; he had been able up to this point to present the world to men and attract them by it, and enslave them by it. There is an old saying that every man has his price, and the devil knows that well, and he knows what attracts men, but the faithful Servant was not attracted by any of Satan's wiles. Satan was powerless in the presence of the Man who had no thought for Himself, who only lived to serve, and who would give up His life to serve for ever.

Then He says, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” He becomes the great centre of attraction. There are needs in the hearts of men, and He by His wonderful service of love can meet those needs. Man is a dependent creature; he must look outside himself for satisfaction, he was made to be dependent upon God and to draw his supplies from God, for God is the One who stretches forth His hand and satisfies the desire of every creature. Man has turned to the world for satisfaction, and that is the way the devil has triumphed; they turn from God, thinking they can find something better in the world. The Lord says, I am going to be lifted up, and if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me, and this He said, signifying what death He was to die. Being lifted up on the cross He becomes the great attractive Centre, the One through whom God meets the deep needs of the souls of sinners and of saints, and will meet the need of the saints for ever, for even in the glory we shall feed on Christ. In the glory we shall eat of the fruit of the tree of life that grows in the midst of the paradise of God, and there our souls shall be nourished by Him for ever and for ever. The countless hosts of ransomed sinners will find their hearts' full satisfaction in Christ; we shall never be able to dispense with Him, we shall feed on Him for ever, and His service, in the midst of the ransomed myriads, will be to dispense all the fullness of God.

“I will draw all men unto Me.” Yes, He had to be lifted up for that, for He must bear our judgment. The One who kept the law in every jot and tittle of it had to bear the curse that rested on those who had broken it in every point, and He, who had lived that sinless life in holy subjection to the will of God, had to bear the judgment of those who refused the will of God. When we discovered our desperate need, when we awoke to the fact that we were sinners in the sight of God and had no hope in ourselves, we had to look for our salvation to Him who was lifted up, and He, blessed be His Name, did not fail us. We were drawn to Him and found that He was able, not only to answer all the claims of God against us, but to fill our hearts with peace and gladness. He served us there upon the cross. He died to serve us, and He lives to serve us still, and in serving us He serves His Father, and in serving His Father He serves us, for it is well for us to keep in mind that we belong to God, we are God's children. Hebrews 2 speaks of us as the sons of God and tells us that He is bringing many sons to glory. He is gathering them out of every clime on the face of the earth, lifting them out of the mire, bringing them by the Gospel to Himself. He has made the Leader of their salvation perfect through suffering, and He, the Lord Jesus Christ, will bring every one of them home to glory. God is doing it through Him.

If we are to serve with the service of love, tender consideration is necessary. If I am to serve you, I must consider you, because I must become acquainted with your need, and I shall not serve rightly unless I consider you tenderly, and the more tenderly I consider you, the more acceptable will be my service. The Lord Jesus Christ tenderly considers every one of us. Someone says, “Nobody understands me.” I beg your pardon, the Lord Jesus Christ understands you. “But,” you say, “everybody around me seems to mistake my motives.” The Lord knows you thoroughly and makes no mistakes, and though nobody else may be able to serve you, the Lord Jesus Christ is most tenderly considering you and lovingly serving you. Everything about you is known to Him, and in serving you He serves His Father, because you are precious to the Father. We are His sons, and do you think He is going to leave one of His sons outside His home? No, He must, bring them all in, and He desires that they should be conducted on their way home in a way suitable to Himself, and so He has committed that to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord has undertaken that service. All the children of God, no matter where they are on the face of the earth, and no matter what their circumstances are individually, are the objects of the tender consideration of the Lord Jesus Christ. The vastness of it is overwhelming. We cannot understand it, how He can be caring for those children of God converted in Central Africa, and caring for us in Australia, and for our brethren at the other side of the earth, and wherever the children of God are; but there is one thing we can do, and that is, believe it, and the proof of it is the wounds that He bears in His glorified body, they are the marks of perpetual service.

Our great High Priest can never fail, and He can never die. He lives in the power of an endless life; but He does not live for Himself; He would not be alone; He lives for us, and He serves us with everlasting service. To His hands we have been committed, and because we are the children of God God could not have committed us into any other hands. It would not have been enough to put us into the hands of Gabriel or Michael. Only the nail-pierced hands, bored for everlasting service, can bear us through the wilderness to the rest of God that is before us. It is the Servant who bears in His body the marks of the love that suffered on the tree that will carry us safely through, and His hands will never fail in their service. He said to Israel , “Can a woman forget her sucking child . . .? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” Yes, beloved Christians, and so are we engraven on the palms of His hands, and those hands hold us in everlasting safety; they are lifted up in intercession for us and in benediction over us—the nail-pierced hands.

Not only did the Hebrew Servant say, “I love my master,” but “I love my wife,” and here comes in a blessed fact, the Lord Jesus Christ is to have a bride. We read of the Lamb's wife, and in order to secure for Himself that bride that she might be His companion for ever, He would not go out free. He would give Himself for us, give Himself that He might possess His blood-bought Church as His wife for ever, and so we get not only the individual aspect of His love in Paul's words, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me,” but we get the other side in Ephesians, where we read, “Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it,” and it is a great day in our spiritual history when we awaken to the fact that we have our part, every one of us, in connection with that which is so precious to Christ, His Church. You have your part in connection with it, and I have mine, and we are all united together in one with every other saint of God on the earth, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, forming the Church, the wife of the Lamb, and the true Hebrew servant says, “I love my wife.” Is He serving it? Yes. Ephesians 5 makes that plain for us, “that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word,” and He “nourisheth it and cherisheth it.” Every bit of spiritual nourishment our souls get comes from Him. He is caring for us in that respect, caring for us that we may become more united in heart, caring for us, not merely as individual plants in the garden of the Lord, but that we may grow together as a body grows. The Lord's service towards us is that we may all be growing up together, in unity and in love. As we know the love of Christ more, we shall be more united in heart. As we know the love of Christ more, we shall be more for the pleasure of His heart, as He sees that which is so precious to Him prospering spiritually. But every bit of spiritual prosperity, whether individually or in the Church of God , is the result of that faithful service of the One who would not go out free.

The 12th chapter of John seems to me to be very beautiful when put alongside that type in the 21st chapter of Exodus. Is there a present result of the service of the Lord Jesus Christ to us? Yes, I think we get it in the opening of John 12. The Lord Jesus Christ was sitting there, Lazarus was there, and Martha, and the disciples. The Lord was in the midst of a company of people who loved Him, to whom He was the supreme object, for had He not lifted from them the dark shadow of death? He was there in the midst of them as the resurrection and the life, and they sat round that table with Him. As they sat there listening to His words, there came Mary with the alabaster box of ointment, and she broke that box and poured its precious contents on His feet, and the whole house was filled with the odour. Just a pattern of what we may have today. The saints of God gathered around the blessed Lord, the resurrection and the life, alive for evermore, the worthy object of their hearts, that worship might flow in sweet fragrance to Himself. How is that produced? Who was the one in that company that broke that alabaster box of ointment and filled the house with the fragrance of it? It was the one who knew more of the Lord's faithful service to her than any of the others. It is as we know Him, His continual service and love towards us, that we shall be able to respond to that love in adoration and in worship, so that He will get something even now as a result of service.

“The labourer,” says the Scripture, “is worthy of his hire.” And if that is so, is not the Lord who labours with no other motive but His own love worthy of some response to His love? Yes, blessed be His name, He is worthy of homage and of praise, worthy by all to be adored.

We should not have been here today it He had not been serving us; we should certainly never gather to remember Him in His death if He did not serve us. It is His service to us, His present continual service to us, that keeps our hearts fresh in His things and enables us still to go on with what is pleasing to Him, and with one another.

 

Christian Fellowship

 

"God is faithful by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:9).

 

The Christian's Calling

Every Christian has been called by the Gospel to the obtaining of eternal glory, and that glory is as sure as the love that brought the Gospel to us. But by that same Gospel we have been called into Christian fellowship, and our business is to attend to this with all our hearts: it is the business of every soul that has received the Gospel, though thousands of Christians never seem to give it a thought. They are most conscientious as to all the obligations that their earthly avocations lay upon them; but this, the calling of God, their divine avocation, seems to have escaped their notice; as a consequence they miss God's intention for them and the great privileges that attach to it. It is possible that they imagine that since their sins are forgiven, and they are sure of Heaven, they can choose just that fellowship that suits their taste the best, instead of seeing that the same blessed heart that planned the Gospel for their salvation, also formed the one fellowship in which their feet had henceforward to walk.

This fellowship is not formed or held intact by any regulations of men: it is established in Divine life and in the power of the Holy Ghost, and ecclesiastical boundaries and devices can only fetter and hinder its full expression and development. There are three things that are necessary to it:

1. One All-controlling Object outside this world—that Object is Christ.

2. One Divine Spirit dwelling within to fix the eyes of all on that Object.

3. The pursuit of the things of Christ here below.

The all-controlling Object outside this world will deliver from self-centredness. The one Spirit within supplies the vital and unbreakable bond between every member so that we are one body. The pursuit of the things of Christ will make us strive together in faith and love for the good of the whole.

 

The Things in which we have Fellowship

The things about which we have fellowship, or share in common, are not of this world, nor are they grasped by the wisdom of man. They are entirely outside the range of his highest conception, for “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for those that love Him (1 Cor. 2:9). They are the things of Christ, the deeps of God, the blessed things which were hidden in the eternal Bosom throughout the ages, that angels would deem themselves honoured even to look into: these things, the choicest that the eternal God could disclose, are opened up for our souls in infinite grace, for “God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

 

The Great Benefits of it

We are all equal sharers in these things, the most advanced saint of God cannot lay claim to a greater share in them than the youngest babe: he may have realised more of their preciousness, have entered more fully into the mighty extent of them, but the things that he has learnt are for all, and if any Christian begins to hoard up what he has learnt as though it were some peculiar treasure of his own, he will at once lose the joy of it, for every other Christian has a divinely-given right to all these things; and it is strikingly true in this matter, that “there is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that witholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty” (Prov. 11: 24).

Christian fellowship may, therefore, be likened to a partnership (always bearing in mind that there is a vital bond by the indwelling Spirit), and an illustration may help us to understand it. Three men are equal partners in one concern, they go out to do business, one North, one South, and the other West. At the end of some time they return to their head-quarters; the first has had no success and fears of absolute failure haunt him; the second arrives from a similar experience and in a like mood; but at last the third comes in, his face is bright and he has good news to tell, for his success has been phenomenal. Now mark how his partners revive in spirits, and why? because his success is the success of the firm in which they all are equal sharers, and instead of his success producing jealousy or division between them, they all rejoice together.

It is even so, no Christian can claim any thing of Christ's as his exclusive possession; it is given for his own soul's joy first, but it is given for the common good of all; so that if one Christian, who has not made much advance in the things of God, meets one who has been prospering in these things, the result of that contact will be a great reviving of heart, and refreshment of soul. May God stir us up to our responsibility in this matter, that we may know the joy of giving out, and passing on, and of having common participation in the things which are the very life of Christians. “There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:25-26).

 

The Great Principles of Fellowship

The three great principles of this fellowship confront us at the very opening of the subject, in verse 9 of 1 Corinthians 1, they are,

1. HOLINESS.

2. LOVE.

3. SUBJECTION TO THE LORD.

Holiness , because God who has called us is holy. Love , for it is the fellowship of His Son, and this brings before us a relationship which exists in divine and eternal love. And Subjection to the Lord for His Son is our Lord.

The greater part of the Epistle (1 Corinthians) is taken up with the removal of the obstructions to fellowship (the flesh in its different phases), but when the subject of the Lord's Supper is reached (which on our side is the constant pledge of our identification with the death of Christ; that which gave birth to the fellowship), these three principles stand out in striking prominence.

First must come holiness: the death of Christ was the full expression of the holiness of God; it was seen in all its intensity when He, the sinless One, took upon Himself the condemnation of sin and the flesh; at that awful moment He had to cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And He Himself supplied the answer to that question, “But Thou art holy” (Ps. 22:1, 3). In the death of Jesus we are brought into contact with the holiness of God as nowhere else, so that in the eating of the Supper we are exhorted to examine ourselves, or be self-judged, and so to eat (11:28). But that which was the full expression of God's abhorrence of sin and all that we are as in the flesh, was also the telling out of His great love to us, a love that many waters could not quench, the unconquerable love of God. Then, it is the Lord's Supper, and it is by the word of the Lord that we have received it (11:20, 23).

In the following chapters this fellowship is seen in its workings. Chapter 12, gives the body formed by the Spirit of God (v. 13), and the Holy Spirit is mentioned eleven times in the first thirteen verses, so that holiness is placed at the very threshold of fellowship. Chapter 13 has love for its subject, for the word translated “charity,” should be love, it is the spirit and character of the life that belongs to the body as being of God. Chapter 14 closes with the words, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto to you are the commandments of the Lord” (v. 37).

There could be no fellowship according to God without these things, and it is the ignoring of them that has led to the terrible confusion in Christendom, which all those who love the Lord Jesus must deplore. Holiness lies at the root of all; there must be the judgment on our part of the world, the flesh, and sin, and all that has come under the judgment of God in the cross of Christ; if we are weak in this so shall we fail in the calling of God. But holiness is not a matter of outward separation from evil (though it includes that), it is an inward thing, a question of nature. It means true heart separation from what is evil, the hatred of iniquity, and the love of righteousness; and it is by this characteristic of the new, the divine nature, that we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:4). But love is as essential as holiness, it is the perfect bond; under its power we shall be ready to lay down our lives for one another, it will make the strong bear the infirmities of the weak, and make each seek the good of all.

Lastly there must be subjection to the Lord that every member may work in harmony with the other, and that each may attend earnestly to his own individual service instead of judging and finding fault with others, which is the cause of many a breach of practical fellowship.

 

The Great Hindrance

The flesh is always opposed to these principles; it may be legal but it knows nothing of holiness; it is utterly selfish and knows nothing of love; it is not, nor indeed can be, subject to the will of the Lord. So that it is the great hindrance to Christian fellowship, and is exposed in its various phases in this Epistle. Schism, arrogance, lust, self-assertion, restlessness, license, and indifference to others, all works of the hateful flesh, were active in the church at Corinth ; these are the fruits of the flesh whether in the first or the twentieth century. But that phase of it which is most destructive to fellowship is the first, for there it intrudes into divine things; and in this form it is more subtle than any other, so the Apostle puts it first and mentions it four times (1:10; 3:3; 11:18; 12:25).

Let us not suppose that sectarianism is only to be seen where it is openly avowed; an inward sectarianism, that which is in the spirit while denied by the mouth, is far worse, for it adds the sin of hypocrisy to that of schism. At Corinth there was no open breach, but in the one assembly the devil had succeeded through the workings of the flesh in destroying the practical unity and fellowship. They were saying “I of Paul,” “I of Cephas,” “I of Apollos.”

These servants of the Lord represented the three gifts that will remain in the church until the end. Paul was undoubtedly the evangelist, for he speaks of himself of having planted, which is the work of the evangelist; Cephas was the pastor by the Lord's own commission (John 21:15-17); and Apollos was the teacher, for he was “mighty in the Scriptures,” and was the one to follow Paul in his work, and water that which he had planted—the teacher's work. Now, instead of accepting these servants from the Lord, and learning through their ministry the varied ways in which Christ may be known, (1) As the expression of the compassion of God's heart to the world, (2) His tender care for the sheep of His pasture, (3) as the Truth in which our souls may be edified, they formed their special lines of ministry into schools and sects.

When the third chapter is reached Cephas is dropped out, for most are ready to appreciate the Pastor's work, and the great division is seen to be between those who refused to sanction the ministry of the evangelist, and those who thought that the teacher was a dispensable quantity; or who leaned to one line of ministry or the other. In their folly they imagined that this was a mark of their spirituality, but the Apostle shows most scathingly that it was the one thing that gave evidence of their gross carnality. Alas, how like these Corinthians are the Christians of this twentieth century, and how Satan has succeeded, in spite of the warnings of God's word, in reproducing the sins of the first century again! May God graciously give repentance, as to this grave insubjection to Himself, and deliver His people from glorying in that which is their shame, and a sure mark that they are walking in the flesh and not in the Spirit.

 

The Remedy for Sectarianism

To see the way the Spirit of God took to meet this state of things is most helpful. He brought before them what the grace of God had made them; so we read “Ye are God's husbandry,” “Ye are God's building,” “Ye are the temple of God ,” “Ye are Christ's” (chap. 3). Every one of these statements shuts out the thought of division, but none of them more completely than the first.

There is great preciousness in the thought of the saints as God's husbandry: He is the Master-Gardener, they are all plants in His garden; and He cares for His plants with an infinite tenderness.

It is His gracious intention that they shall thrive and prosper, and bring forth the precious fruits and fragrant flowers of the life of Jesus, and all His dealings with them are with this purpose in view; He may have to cut and prune them, He may have to pass them through many a process that is unpleasant to nature, but it is all with one end in view.

Are we the special care of God, the lilies of His garden, planted by His grace to produce that which is grateful to Him? Then how thankfully we shall avail ourselves of every provision that He in His eternal wisdom has made for us. Suppose it possible for a plant in a natural garden to refuse water because it had sunshine and air, or sunshine because it had plenty of water, would it not languish and die? It is even so in divine things, and the Christian who imagines that he can do without the truths connected with the special ministry of either evangelist, pastor, or teacher, is sure to suffer great spiritual loss.

But if each Christian views himself individually as a plant in God's garden, he must also look at every other Christian in the same way, then will his dealings with all the Lord's people be most tender, and be will tremble at the thought of injuring any one of them no matter how feeble, for there is the danger of making to perish a weak brother for whom Christ died, and in so doing “sin against Christ” (1 Cor. 8:11-12). Instead of injuring he will seek to help all, and the priceless privilege of helping and refreshing the Lord's beloved plants is put within the reach of all. A sweet poem brings this out, it tells of—

“The Master who stood in His garden

Amongst His lilies so fair,

Which His own right hand had planted,

And trained with tenderest care;

He looked on their snow-white blossoms,

And marked with observant eye,

That their flowers were sadly drooping,

And their leaves were parched and dry.”

So He sought about for some vessel with which to water His precious plants, and found an earthen vessel lying close to His feet. It was small but clean, and so suited for His service; so He carried it to the fountain, and filled it again and again, using it to pour the refreshing water upon those lilies, which were so dear to Him, until they revived and lifted up their heads, and shed forth again the sweet perfume in which He delighted. That tiny vessel was well pleased to have been of use to Him, and said, “I will lie close to His feet on the path-way then perhaps some day He will use me to water His lilies again.”

There are three passages in the Proverbs that we might bring together in this connection

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country” (chap. 25:25).

“He that watereth shall be watered also himself” (chap. 11:25).

“As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters” (chap. 25:13).

This is the work of God and not man, but happy indeed are those who are so freed from schismatic folly and bias, that they can place themselves at God's disposal for His work in the midst of His husbandry.

 

Christianity is not one big “Don't”

A garden would not be a thing of beauty if the owner of it spent all his time and labour in keeping down the weeds. Weeds must be kept down if flowers are to flourish, and he is a poor gardener and a disgrace to his profession who neglects this side of his work; but that is only incidental, his main business is the cultivation of flowers.

She is an unwise mother upon whose lips are constantly the words “Don't,” and “You must not.” “Mary, you must not do that, and go and see what Harry is doing and tell him not to” is not the most successful way of training children. They certainly need correcting, and repressive measures are sometimes called for, but to occupy their minds and hands with good things is the only way to make them thoughtful, kind and useful.

Christianity is not a system inaugurated for the suppression of the noxious weeds of the flesh, it is not one big and perpetual “DON'T,” though many seem to have acquired that idea of it. The law was that, but its repressive measures produced neither flowers nor fruits for God's delight; indeed, they only made the ill weeds grow stronger, and demonstrated beyond all question what the flesh-plant in the soil to which it was indigenous was capable of producing. It is not upon that principle that Christians can “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”

The moral glory of Christianity does not lie in the suppression of evil, but in the expression of a new life. We need to be clear upon this. Christianity—we speak of that which is vital and real, and not of a dead, false profession—is not a new set of ideals calculated to uplift the old flesh-life, or a system of ethics to correct the evil tendencies of it, or the introduction of new forces for its reformation, but a new life imparted to those who believe on the Son of God by the Holy Ghost, who is Himself the Power of it.

Those solemn words “Ye must be born again” (John 3) tolled the knell of any hope of fruit from the old life of the flesh—which is not life towards God but death, for its first principle is to act for its own pleasure regardless of God's will. This flesh has been proved to be a vicious plant in its very nature. To cultivate it is useless, for cultivation will not make the thistle produce figs, nor can it change the flesh into spirit. But those same solemn words ring joyfully with the promise of a new life in a new kingdom—a new life produced by the power of the Holy Ghost, introducing to one who is the subject of His operation into the Kingdom of God—a kingdom not of Egyptian darkness and bondage, but of grace and liberty and love, a kingdom that is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. And against such things there is no law.

The wonderful Bedford tinker had learnt more than the schools could teach him when he made his pilgrim fly from the City of Destruction , crying, “Life! life! eternal life.” He was divinely taught, for it is life that every awakened soul cries out for, and to be delivered “from the body of this death.” Nothing less than this will do for those who feel the burden and the bondage of the old life of disobedience which lies under the condemnation of death, and nothing less than this is the will of God for men. And this life God gives with the liberty that belongs to it. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The old flesh-life expressed itself chiefly in its opposition to the will of God and in all those evil things that the Christian hates, and it needed the law with its pains and penalties to keep it within bounds. It needed the big and perpetual “Don't.” But the new life is entirely different; God is its object as well as its source, and as it draws from its source and delights in its object by the Holy Ghost it needs no external laws to direct it into right channels or to prevent it from running into wrong ones. It fulfils the will of God, but not by constraint and in outward form only, but from the heart, willingly and with joy, for its very nature is to delight in what is of God. Love and righteousness are the two ways in which it finds expression. But is there not the new commandment “Love one another”? Yes, and the dinner bell is a command to the healthy hungry school boy, but it is one that he delights to obey. So this new commandment is not grievous to the child of God who is in a healthy spiritual state.

There is a spontaneity, force, and exuberance about this new life which is irresistible when the soul is in the freshness and power of the Spirit. Two great passages from the words of the Lord describe it. “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). And, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)” (John 7:37-39).

Who shall tell the fullness and power of the life these words describe? None but He who spoke the words and the Holy Ghost who can lead us into the blessedness of it. But while we wonder at these proposals, surpassing in their greatness all bounds of human thoughts and hopes, let us not say in unbelief that they are impossible. The Lord Himself spoke the words, and He did not exaggerate for the sake of a momentary enthusiasm, or in His zeal overstate the truth; these are failings that belong to mortal flesh, but He is the eternal Word and His words are words of truth, as He Himself is the Truth, they are words of spirit and life. We may accept them as they stand and expect the fulfilment of them to the last letter.

We dwell too much upon our experience, or lack of experience, of what Christianity is; or we complain that we do not see this life in its abundance in others, and in dwelling on the failure we sink into a kind of living that is less than God's thought for us, and we imagine that the best we can do is to labour at the suppression of the works of the flesh, and this is the sure way to prove the strength and persistence of it, and thus we are often depressed and weary in the way, instead of ever rejoicing in the Lord in the force and flow of the divine life by the Holy Ghost.

Of course the utter corruption of the flesh must be learnt, we must come to the conclusion, “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” And having learnt that, perhaps by a painful experience, we must also believe that “God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” But do we learn this great lesson, and did God do this great thing merely to make an end of the hateful flesh? Surely not, but that this new life of blessed liberty might possess us entirely—that the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus might set us free from the law of sin and death, that we might joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ and have our fruit unto holiness.

There are those who speak much of surrender, and of the sacrifices that it is necessary that Christians should make in order to be faithful to the Lord, and they do it in that tone of voice and expression of countenance that leaves the impression on the hearers that the Lord's yoke must be very hard and His burden very heavy, and that the path of obedience to God must be one to be trodden with sighs and tears. We also deprecate levity and frivolity, which is doubly sinful in these serious days, in which, more than ever, the Christian ought to be vigilant, sober, prayerful; but these things are not inconsistent with joy in the Lord and a continual triumph in Him, and to put surrender and sacrifice in the forefront and to make everything of that is to throw into the background God and His unspeakable gift, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and what that grace led Him to do for our sakes. Mark well that the living water, the new life in the power of the Holy Spirit, which springs up in glad and holy worship to the Father and flows out in fullness of blessing to men, is not given in return for any surrender on our part or effort that we can make or price that we can pay. “I shall give,” said the Lord, and “if any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”

It is true that we are exhorted to yield ourselves unto God, as those alive from the dead, and our members instruments of righteousness unto God (Rom. 6:13). This is the natural result of having received from Him. But before we are so exhorted God is made known to us in the gospel—“God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Is it a hard thing to yield ourselves to the One whose love to us is so great, and whose will is our everlasting blessing? Surely it is the only natural and the most delightful thing that we could do. And it is as those alive from the dead that this exhortation comes to us. The old life of sin brought us under the condemnation of death; now by the grace of God we are alive in Christ, it is only right that it should be yielded to Him whose gift to us this new life is.

Having yielded ourselves unto God, we have our fruit unto holiness, we “are God's husbandry” (1 Cor. 3), God's garden, and as God's garden we are not to lie as a piece of useless soil but to bring forth the flowers and fruit of the new life. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such things there is no law. No continual “Don't” is needed here. As a garden puts on its most beautiful garb when refreshed by the gentle rain from heaven and bathed in the beautiful sunshine, so we, under the influence of the love of Christ and refreshed and strengthened by the Spirit, are to “put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel [complaint] against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all things put on charity [love], which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by Him” (Col. 3:12-17).

These are heavenly flowers and fruit, exotics in this barren world, to flourish and shed their fragrance in spite of every adverse element, they are the life of Jesus reproduced in us below, and how beautiful and precious they must be to God! To these things let us give our thoughts, and the noxious weeds of the flesh will trouble us less.

Space and time fail us to speak of what we are as children of God, called to be imitators of Him and to show forth His praises. We are not placed by Him under the repressive measures of some legal system that would fill us with dread of Him, but we are given the happy liberty of that life which belongs to the relationship into which His grace has brought us. And in this life we may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, being zealous of good works, filled with joy and peace in believing, abounding in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost, full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another (Rom. 15:13-14).

 

“Cleave to the Lord”

Notes of an address on The First Gentile Church , Acts 11:19-30

 

In these verses there is a divinely-given description of the first Gentile church that was ever formed, and, as it is often God's way to give us a pattern of what He intends any new thing to be at the very beginning of it, we should study the features of this assembly with great interest.

 

How the Gospel Reached Them

The gospel was carried to Antioch as a result of the persecution that had arisen in Jerusalem at the martyrdom of Stephen. And in this there is encouragement for us when opposition meets us in the work and testimony of the Lord. The devil hoped to effectually stamp out the name of Christ when he let his fury loose upon the Jerusalem brethren; he only drove the gospel into a wider field, so that the purpose of God was fulfilled in that it reached the Gentiles. So God makes the wrath of the devil and men to praise Him.

 

The Preaching—The Lordship of Jesus

Those who were scattered abroad through the persecution went as far as Antioch and preached to the Grecians the LORD JESUS. The titles of our Lord in Scripture are not used in a haphazard way; every one of them has its special meaning, and we shall be greatly helped in understanding the Scriptures if we grasp the significance of the names and titles of the Lord as they occur. Here the disciples preached the Lord Jesus. They proclaimed the lordship of Jesus. This is sadly lacking in modern preaching. Men often take up THE NAME with very little reverence. They talk of St . John , St . Paul , St . Peter, and would not think of using the names of the apostles without the prefix, but when they speak of the Son of God He is simply Jesus of Nazareth and nothing more. Not so these early gospel preachers; they proclaimed His glory and called upon men everywhere to yield subjection to Him as the One whom God had made supreme over all.

They preached the name of JESUS in all its precious meaning. It was to them, and it is to us who know Him, the sweetest name on mortal tongue. It tells us of Him, the Man of sorrows, who in lowly grace came down to save us. It tells us of that lovely life in which the infinite tenderness of His heart was ever in manifestation. It tells us of how He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. Wonderful name!

JESUS—it speaks a life of love

Of sorrows meekly borne;

It tells of sympathy above

Whatever makes us mourn.

But this is the name that has been cast out by men, for He was despised and rejected. With the beasts in a stable at His birth, and with thieves on a cross at His death, such was the world's award to Him. But God hath made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ, He hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above every name. The crowns of immortal glory shine upon His sacred brow. He is supreme over all things in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Every knee shall bow before Him and every tongue confess that universal lordship is His by right.

 

The Grace—God Through Him

But there is more in the title “Lord” than authority. He has been put into that place of power to dispense the grace of God to men, and that is a very important side to this great title. In the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans you will find salvation is constantly connected with him as Lord. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus . . . thou shalt be saved” ( Rom. 10:9). Salvation is connected with the Lord. He is the dispenser of the grace of God. This is illustrated, in type, in the case of Joseph. He was made ruler or lord over all Egypt , and all were commanded to bow the knee to him; but in that position he was the dispenser of Pharaoh's favours. To all the Egyptians who sought any favour from Pharaoh the king said, “Go to Joseph.” The Lord Jesus Christ is upon the throne of God to dispense for men the grace of God. The One who loved us so much that He laid down His life to save us is now the One who administers all the grace of God, and all who would have that grace which saves eternally must go to Jesus the Lord.

They preached the Lord Jesus, the only One in whom men can find all that they need, “and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” They believed the glad tidings that were brought to them concerning Christ, but they not only believed, "they turned to the Lord." And here we may discern what many lack. People believe the gospel, but make no progress. What is the matter? They have believed unquestionably, but they have not turned to the Lord. If you turn to the Lord you turn your back upon the world. You find in the Lord, in whom all the grace of God is, a new source of supply. Up to the time of your turning your springs were in this world. You went to it for sympathy and help and pleasure. Now you are right about face. The world is no longer the source of your supply. Instead you say to the Lord, “All my fresh springs are in Thee.”

In difficulties, in sorrow, in weakness, in temptation, or in service, do we at once turn to Him? Are our eyes in that direction moment by moment? If we have truly turned to the Lord we are looking to Him alone, and from Him there comes the supply of grace to meet our every need, for His supplies are all-sufficient.

These people at Antioch believed and turned to the Lord, and the news reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem , and they sent Barnabas to see what was going on, and when he came and saw the grace of God he was glad. The grace they had received and were receiving from the Lord was something that could be seen; it affected their lives in every department of them, and Barnabas was glad when he saw it. It is a good thing when the grace of God is seen. There is nothing so delightful to the anointed eye as the grace of God. It pleases the eye and rejoices the heart. There is no sight like it on earth.

 

A Good Man

Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. Would to God we had a few more men like that! What kind of a man is a good man? The man who is occupied with evil, even if he is bent upon putting it right, is not a good man, because every man becomes affected by that with which he is occupied. The good man is occupied with good. He will look for what is good in his brethren and rejoice when he sees it, and he will help to produce it in them by ministering Christ to them and praying for them. The one who is occupied with good is a good man. We are so constituted that the mind affects the whole person, and if the mind is affected by the things of the world we become worldly in ways and walk. I may not know it, but others will know it. If I am occupied with Christ and good, that will come out; I may not know that it is coming out, but others will see it. Moses when he came down from the mountain wist not that his face shone, but the Israelites beheld it. Poor Samson got into sad company, left the service of Jehovah to dally with sin, and in consequence he lost his Nazariteship, and wist not that his strength had departed from him, but the Philistines knew it. Christians, that with which the mind is occupied is that which affects and forms our character; it comes out in our lives, and others take note of it, whether it be good or bad.

 

The Great Exhortation

When Barnabas saw the grace that was manifested in those disciples, he exhorted them that "with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord .” He had just that one exhortation for them. It was the most important thing that he could have said to them, and it is the most important thing that can be said to us. We need it just as much as they needed it. It matters not how much we know; if we are not cleaving to the Lord we are worse than useless with all our knowledge. It matters not how little we know, if we are cleaving to the Lord we shall make progress.

Mark—he did not say “Cleave to the Shepherd" or “Cleave to the Saviour .” Why? The Shepherd will cleave to us with the hand of omnipotence, for thus He holds His sheep in spite of every threatening foe, and whom He saves are safe for ever. But as LORD we must cleave to Him if we are to rightly bear witness to Him in this world, for all the grace we need is in Him. Just as a general, when he goes to war, will not permit, if he can help it, the enemy to outflank him and cut him off from his base, for he knows that if he is cut off from his base defeat will overtake him, so we, in an enemy's country, must cleave to the base of our supplies. We must keep in constant touch with the One in whom our resources are. Those resources are in the Lord . Thence the necessity of cleaving to Him with purpose of heart. We cannot do without the grace of God, for it is the Christian's vital breath. It is as necessary to our well-being as the sea is to the fish and the atmosphere to the birds, and all the grace of God comes through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

“Much People Was Added to the Lord”

It is not without significance that just at this point we read of the blessing flowing out and men being gathered in. The testimony of these disciples was in power, for their words were backed up by happy Christian lives. They were doers of the word as well as preachers of it. Where this is lacking we cannot expect to see people added to the Lord, and when worldly means are used in the attempt to convert men the case is even worse. Yet with shame be it said that the professing church has harnessed to her labour pleasures that have been conceived in the minds of godless men, and she hopes thus to draw men to Christ. They are being dragged by these methods in the opposite direction, and disaster irretrievable must be the final end of them. To add people to the Lord we must ourselves first be in living touch with Him, for only so can the grace of God find a channel through us whence it can flow out to others. We must cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart.

 

All–The–Year–Round Christians

Barnabas departed to Tarsus to seek Saul, and brought him to Antioch , and for a WHOLE YEAR they assembled with the church and taught much people. If you cleave to the Lord you will cleave also to those who are the Lord's. You know what makes a swarm of bees, every bee cleaves to the queen; hence the swarm. If I cleave to the Lord and you cleave to the Lord and every one of us are cleaving to the Lord, we shall be kept very close together, and together we shall grow in the truth.

The only way Christians can be kept together really and happily, and grow unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, is by cleaving to the Lord. Now here the assembly of God met together, and for a whole year they continued. The whole year is a perfect cycle of time. All seasons are included—spring, summer, autumn, and winter. What we want today is all-the-year-round Christians. Some Christians are very bright in the spiritual summer-time, in the special gospel meetings, or when helpful ministry is being given for God's people. But when things get flat and the summer sun ceases to shine, when the winter-time comes on and things are not so prosperous, then they grow faint of heart and weary. They are not all-the-year-round Christians. The testimony of the Lord not only has its apparently prosperous times, but sometimes the winter winds blow and the storms seem to rage about it. Look at Paul in 2 Timothy. He had to say, “All they in Asia have forsaken me.” They could not stand the winter-time. He had to say, “No man stood with me.” Those Christians were not all-the-year-round Christians. How can we be such? By cleaving to the Lord. He is just as sufficient for the winter-time as for the summer-time. He sends down the spiritual sunshine upon us, and He permits the clouds to gather about us sometimes for our good, but He permits no circumstances in the which He cannot sustain us, and in which we cannot thankfully witness for Him.

It is right that certain animals should hibernate during the winter storms, for thus hath God made them, but it was never His intention that Christians should retire into themselves when days of adversity come, yet many act like this. They think perhaps that other Christians are brusque and cold towards them, and they shrink into themselves. They are not cleaving to the Lord, or they would thaw the frost in others by the summer warmth of their own hearts; or they would be like the hawthorn bush, as the late J.B.Stoney used to say, beautiful it appears in the spring-time, when the blossom blooms thick upon it, but in the winter-time, when the frosts come it puts out its scarlet berries, and the birds that would otherwise starve are fed. Beloved Christians, if we cleave to the Lord we shall be like the hawthorn bush when the frosts come. We shall put out the scarlet berries for the good of others. Christians of that stamp are badly needed today. God grant that we may be such.

 

They Were Known as Christians

These disciples made progress, they grew in the knowledge of the Lord. That is what the Lord would have. We do not desire sensation , but there is something we must be far more afraid of than sensation, and that is stagnation. These did not stagnate, they made progress, and we read: “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch .” Not amid the bright days of Pentecost were the disciples called Christians. That name was reserved for these Gentile believers. It was a term of reproach at the start, but what an honour to bear it. The people watched them and listened to their talk, and they were so much like the Christ, they talked so much about Him, that that was the only name they could give them. “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch .” Oh that we might be called Christians because of what we are; that in the home and place of business we may be known as Christians because we are Christ-like; that they may say, “Well, so-and-so is a Christian, we are sure of that!” How can this be? We must cleave to the Lord for this. This kind of thing does not spring up from the flesh. These figs cannot be gathered from the thistle of fallen human nature. We must be in touch with the Lord. Our roots, so to speak, must be in Him. When that is the case, these things that will make people call us Christians will be manifested in us.

The Lord Jesus was sufficient for your soul's salvation. You knew it was no use for any one else to put their hands to that great work. You were satisfied to let the Lord Jesus do it. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him. Let Him be sufficient for you all along the Christian pathway, as He was sufficient at the start of it. Be just as simple in your faith in Him today as you were then. Every difficulty will then disappear, for as you cleave to Him that grace will flow unhindered to you, and it is that grace which will carry you forward, and in the power of that grace you will be known as a Christian.

 

The Manifestation of the Love of God

There is still another beautiful touch to complete the picture. There came from Jerusalem at this time a prophet called Agabus, and he prophesied there would be great dearth throughout all the world. This was a very serious crisis, for the whole world was to suffer from the dearth. What do these Christians do? Do they say, “Well, we had better get in a stock of corn; we had better lay up for a rainy day and see to it that we are well provided for?” No, they say, “When this dearth comes it will go very hardly with these dear disciples at Jerusalem . We had better think of our brethren's need and make a collection for them.” They were not thinking about themselves. It was not a question as to how the dearth would affect them. It was a question as to how it would affect others. They were thinking about others, and that, dear friends, is the mark given us in Scripture of divine love, the love of God being in the heart. If thou seest thy brother in need, and shuttest up thy bowels of compassion, how dwelleth the love of God in thee? These people had the love of God dwelling in them. They were not selfish. They were not self-centred. They thought about others. That must have been delightful to the eye of God. If the grace that was in these Christians delighted the heart of Barnabas, this love in activity must have delighted the heart of God. It must have been a pleasure to Him to look down into this world, across which might be written in large letters that ugly word “selfishness,” and see this company of Christians so unselfish that they did not think of their own need, but earnestly cared for others. That was the manifestation of His life in them.

But how do we stand, who are believers on the Lord Jesus in regard to this? We are the children of God, and the children of God should bear the character of their Father. He is the giving God. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” God commendeth His love towards us in what He has done. Are we called Christians ? Do we deserve the name because we are like Christ, in whom God was perfectly revealed? Shall that wonderful love of God find a channel for its expression through us? God is seeking channels through which He may express Himself in this world. There in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ He was fully expressed. Every detail in His blessed character was manifested in Jesus. His nature was fully revealed. But the light of the world has been cast out, and now “ye are the light of the world.” We are to be here holding forth the Word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, amongst whom we shine as lights. The glory of God is shining forth in the face of Jesus on the throne of God. That glorious light—God fully revealed—shines forth from that blessed countenance, and it has shone into our hearts to give the knowledge of God. But it does not shine into our hearts to be kept there. We have this treasure in earthen vessels that it may shine out again in this world, where our lot is cast. God is seeking channels through whom He may express Himself. How can we become those channels? Only by cleaving to the Lord. As we cleave to the Lord, we shall be, by the grace we receive from Him, the channels of the expression of what God is in His love in this world, and so will be fulfilled indeed those wonderful words spoken by the Lord to His disciples: “As My Father hath sent Me into the world, even so have I sent you.”

Thus we see, as we pass over these few verses, how important a matter it is for us to be cleaving to the Lord. Everything, whether it be our own soul's progress, the blessing of men around us, or the glory of God through us, depends upon this. The Lord grant that each one of us may be greatly stirred up to "cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart .”

Clouds

Our steamer was expected to reach a small sea coast town on a West Indian island about daybreak, for the disembarking of mails and passengers, and we knew that we ought then to see one of the most beautiful views on earth. A high range of mountains, shading away from a vivid green at their base to a deep purple at their summit, rearing their heads against the glorious blue of a tropical sky, while waving along the shore were feathered palms, as of some fabled land, and all the picturesque surroundings of a harbour, the waters of which were as blue as the heavens above: this was what we had anticipated and talked about. We were early astir, waiting for the morning to break over the eastern sea, but when it did at last appear, we saw not the landscape that we had expected, for heavy clouds hid those mountains with their gorgeous colours from our view and we could only see the foothills that skirted the coast. Those who had not seen the mountains could scarcely believe that they were there, and if they had not been indelibly photographed on our minds, we too should have questioned their existence, so that, even to us they were but a memory.

Our disappointment that morning became a parable to me, and it spoke so loud that I was compelled to listen and consider it. How often in my own life have clouds arisen, obscuring my outlook, and hiding from me “the things that are not seen,” the eternal things; and I know that it is so in the lives of my brethren also. What a disappointing thing the Christian life is when clouds have gathered about the soul, and when the eyes that God has created and set in the heart cannot “see Jesus, crowned with glory and honour.”

“When mists hang dank in front and flank,

And straining eyes can naught discover.”

Things nearer at hand may remain in view—perhaps formal fellowship with Christians, or some service undertaken in brighter days, but the joy, the rapture, the spiritual experience of faith's undimmed outlook: these have vanished, and become a thing of memory, a memory that only increases the unhappiness and forces sighs from the lips that ought to be full of song.

Clouds are of various sorts and are caused by various conditions, but the chief causes are, either the mixing of two currents of different temperatures, or the cooling of the air by diminishing pressure. The cooling of the affections towards the Lord is bound to produce clouds over the soul, and how easily this may be brought about by the currents that prevail in the world; indeed even apart from these, it is the tendency of the soul to decline. An old Christian was asked as to the spiritual condition of the company of Christians, with which he associated. His answer was, “It's all chilled down.” “But what is the cause of its being chilled down?” “There ain't no cause,” he said, “It's just naturally chilled down.” And that, I believe, hits off the situation in ten thousand cases. And so the clouds arise, not from any deliberate backsliding, but through the soul getting lethargic and going to sleep, and becoming wrapt in mists so that the Christ no longer shines effectually upon it. If any are conscious of this “chilled down” condition, and of clouds upon the soul, there is need for an arousal, or spiritual health will decline more and more, and the soul become an easy prey to the world, the flesh and the devil. “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from among the dead, and the Christ shall shine upon thee” (Eph. 5:14, N.Tr.).

There was one great thing that was impressed upon me that morning in the West Indies, and it may be that it will bring consolation to some who are realizing that clouds have arisen between their soul and God; it was this, As the sun climbed the heavens in his strength, it came home to me with great force, what of course I well knew, The clouds were temporary, but the mountains were permanent, the clouds passed and the mountains remained . How I thanked God for that thought, and I thank Him again for it as I write. Even if the world has come in, and as a black cloud covers the whole of your sky, my friend, for whom I write earnestly and prayerfully, turning the summer of your happiness into a veritable winter of discontent, yet we read, “The world passeth away and the lust thereof.” It shall pass for you and your eyes shall see Him, whom having not seen, except by faith, you do love, though now, alas, to your misery and His grief, you have left your first love. Yes, God remains in all the blessedness of the revelation that Christ has made of Him, and Christ remains, the same yesterday and today and for ever. The clouds pass; they do not cover His face but your heart; they have not changed His love, it is your love that has “chilled down”; yet the clouds are not permanent; God and Christ, and the things that God hath prepared for those that love Him, these are permanent, these are eternal.

What a wonderful thing true restoration of the soul is; how blessed it is to feel the chilling mists lifted and dispelled by the strong shining of the Saviour's love, and to feel the light and the warmth of it reaching the soul afresh. It is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. J.N.Darby has expressed it beautifully and for our help in one of his remarkable hymns.

“And yet Thy love's unchanging,

And doth recall my heart

To joy in all the brightness,

The peace its beams impart.

“Still sweet ‘tis to discover,

If clouds have dimmed my sight,

When passed, Eternal Lover,

Towards me, as e'er, Thou'rt bright.”

But this experience can only be known by those who sincerely, and with deep heart-searchings, seek the Lord's presence, and are subjected to His searching. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

But what a hope is ours! a joyful and blessed hope! “We have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

“There shall all clouds depart,

The wilderness shall cease,

And gladly shall each raptured heart

Enjoy eternal peace.”

But now the Lord would have us clear of the clouds, that beholding His glory, we might be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).

Come to the Fountain

 

Wherever the English language is spoken Bonar's I beautiful hymn:

“I heard the voice of Jesus say,

‘Come unto me and rest.'”

is known. It tells of rest, of life, and of light, not only proclaimed to all by the lips of infinite compassion and love, but known, also, as great realities in the lives of those who have heard the Saviour's voice. We are not criticizing the wording of the second stanza of this rightly beloved hymn when we call attention to the exact words of Scripture. They are:

"And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Rev. 21:6).

Notice carefully that it is not the stream of the water of life that is offered to the thirsty, but the fountain, and we believe that there is a reason for this. The Lord knew that the stream would be polluted; that Higher Criticism, New, or German Theology, Eastern Philosophy and all manner of “doctrines of devils” would be poured into it by those who hate the truth. So that, as the stream flowed onward there would be in it a terrible admixture of error and truth, the error gradually predominating until the whole stream became polluted. And this, alas, is taking place, so much so that Dryden's terse lines—

“Some truth there is, but dash'd and brew'd with lies;

To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise.”

might well be applied to much that passes for gospel preaching. It was said sorrowfully to us recently in a northern town, by one who knew the truth and wanted it, “I have been to every orthodox place of worship in this town but I have not heard the gospel in any of them.” We fear that this town does not stand alone, for the time has come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and turn away their ears from the truth, turning to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). But how terrible is the responsibility of those who while professing to be channels for the living water are pouring forth falsehood instead of truth, and how hopeless we should be if we had nothing but the stream to turn to. But it is not the stream that is offered to us, but THE FOUNTAIN! There is no pollution there, from it the living water springs up pure and fresh and free.

“O Christ, He is the fountain,

The deep, sweet well of love.”

And if we thirst of Him we must drink. We need neither preacher or priest to stand between Him and us, and He invites us to come to Him. The work of the Holy Spirit is to call attention to Him, and the whole purpose of the Bible is to tell us things concerning Himself. In Him is all blessing, “neither is there salvation in any other.” In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead, and every treasure of wisdom and knowledge. He is the fountain of the water of life, and it is Himself that He gives. He places Himself and all the blessedness that there is in Him at the disposal of the thirsty. The pure river of water of life will flow in the holy city in the millennial age when nothing will enter to defile (Rev. 21:27; 22:1), but now, whether for salvation or satisfaction, sinner and saint alike must turn to the Fountain, to Christ Himself. All our springs are in Him. All else will fail, and every earth-born stream will run dry, but His sufficiency is inexhaustible and eternal, for He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

“Comfort Ye My People”

 

"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God" (Isaiah 40:1).

 

God is not indifferent to the state of mind of His children. It is not His will that they should be harried and worried, and it is the responsibility and privilege of the servants of God to minister comfort to them, but where in these sad days can comfort be found?

It is not to be found in the daily newspapers. Mark that, O ye Christians who brood over them, and are elated or depressed according to their fluctuating reports. It is not to be found in the doings of valiant soldiers, or the sayings of astute statesmen, or the proposals of visionary reformers, or in the hoped-for final triumph of democracy, for “ALL FLESH IS GRASS, AND ALL THE GOODLINESS THEREOF IS AS THE FLOWER OF THE FIELD. THE GRASS WITHERETH AND THE FLOWER FADETH” (vv. 6-7).

This is the first part of that message that leads to lasting comfort, and if the servants of God are obedient to His commands and true to their commission they will lift up their voices and “cry” this solemn truth. They will not pipe to the people the devil's gospel of evolution, or indulge in that deceptive talk of the inherent goodness in man, or of the blessed goal of everlasting security from all ill to which that goodness is forcing him in spite of his natural disinclination to travel the road. They will tell the truth, and the truth is that the very best that man can produce is as the poppy of the summer cornfield, brilliant and attractive for a day; and then—withered and gone. A man who comes with a message like that may be dubbed a sour and gloomy pessimist, but he is not. He is stating the sober truth, and it is surely better to be aroused by the truth than drugged and deluded by specious lies.

The first part of the message then that must be delivered shows us where comfort cannot be found; it declares that man is void of goodness, and that his works have no stability, but having exposed the false it proceeds to reveal the true. “THE WORD OF OUR GOD SHALL STAND FOREVER.” Peter who heard that word from the lips of the Eternal Word Himself has told us, "This is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you .” It gives us GOD as our object and resource, and reveals Him as the One in whom there is no possibility of failure. It gives us HEAVEN as our goal. So that it lifts our eyes upward and urges us onward . It gives us cheer and hope.

Longfellow in one of his famous poems starts his pilgrim upon an upward path, bravely clutching his banner “Excelsior,” but gives him no destiny to crown his labours, and no power to sustain him in his upward goalless pilgrimage but his own enthusiasm. The word of the gospel gives us heaven as our hope and goal, and God as our resource and strength as we press on to it. It gives us a hope that maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that is given unto us, and in these things there is comfort.

God is our present portion and resource; and hear what our chapter has to say of Him. “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, THE LORD, THE CREATOR OF THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding” (v. 28). What a contrast is revealed to us here between the greatness of God and man who at his best is only as the flower of the grass. And the word of the gospel invites us who hear to cease from man, to withdraw our hopes and confidence from him, and to put our trust without fear or misgiving in this great and wonderful God who is from everlasting to everlasting, and who is not only unchanging in His years and almighty in His power but is also infinite in His pity. So we read of Him, "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength."

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” "But they that wait on the Lord shall renew [or change] their strength they shall mount up with wings as eagles [rise triumphant over every difficulty and depression], they shall run and not be weary [be untiring in their errands of ministry and mercy for the Lord to others]; and they shall walk and not faint ,” tread steadily and with endurance the upward way to “the hope that is laid up for them in heaven, whereof ye have heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.”

We commend Isaiah 40 to the careful attention of our readers; it is a chapter worth praying over and meditating upon. It has been given to us that it might ring its glad peal for our souls, and fill us with cheer and hope and comfort in dark days. It tells us not to rest in our circumstances, or in any arm of flesh, but in God Himself who is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3).

 

Communion

We may well bless the Name of God that He has revealed to us the worth of His beloved Son and brought us into fellowship with Himself concerning Him; for it is that that has become a fact since His Beloved is ours. What pleasure the Father found in Him as He lived His life on earth! We are glad and rejoice that it was so, that in the world, dominated by the devil, its prince, the Father found in Jesus one who in every thought, word and deed answered wholly to His mind. We have no greater joy than to follow in thought His footsteps through the world, always speaking the Father's words and doing the Father's works; never pleasing Himself, though indeed He only, of all the men that ever lived, had the right to do so, and if He had done so all that He did would have been right, but it was the Father that He Pleased, “I do always those things that please Him,” He said. His Father was the sole object of His living, He had no other motive but His Father's glory.

He was here to do His Father's business, and it caused Him to wonder, and must have pained His holy and sensitive soul that His mother and Joseph did not understand this when they found Him in the temple at the age of twelve. We through grace understand it and acknowledge that it was wholly right.

We read the record of the Father's pleasure in Him, expressed in words that shall never be forgotten. “This is My beloved Son in whom is all My delight,” and our hearts are moved to praise and we cannot forebear from saying, “He is worthy.” Infinite perfection called for divine approbation; the heavens could not be silent, the excellent glory must speak, the Father Himself must declare His delight in the lowly Man of sorrows, and we respond to heaven's joy in Him. Those words of the Father's that thrilled the hearts of the disciples awaken a chord in our hearts, and our joy and the song that we raise thereat is our fellowship with the Father—our oneness of thought with Him by the illumination and power of the Holy Spirit.

Would it be right to say that the Father's pleasure in Him increased with every day that He lived on earth? To us it seems so, for the deeper depths of His devotion to the Father's will were more and more revealed as the opposition of sinners and the hatred of men in creased against Him, and as the cross came into view. Hard must that heart be that can pass indifferently such a saying as that that came forth from the mouth of Jesus in John 10 when the cross was not far away, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again,” and if we put alongside of it that other saying, “That the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence” (John 14:31), we have before us the full and uninterrupted love that flowed between the Father and the Son. And we stand by and rejoice with a deep and subdued joy that to us, even to us, this blessedness should be revealed, and that we should have our part in it, for if the Father loved Him because He laid down His life, we know that He laid down Has life for us and we love Him because of it. His love to the Father and His love to us burned as one great flame that the many waters could not quench, and we love Him whom the Father loves and this is the basis and the spring of our communion with the Father.

We contemplate those words of the Lord, “Let us go hence.” That hence meant Gethsemane, Gabbatha and Golgotha for Him, the agony of blood, the assaults of the power of darkness; the shame and the insults and the injustice of men; and those deeper and mysterious sufferings under the just and holy judgment of God. Never shall we understand the full meaning of that cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” It must be forever beyond creature comprehension; but we do know, and as divinely taught we can understand the words, “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). We are assured that if the suffering He endured when He was made sin for us has endeared Him eternally to us, He must have been in those hours of darkness unspeakably precious to His Father, “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” If that sacrifice was to God , it was for us , and if it was precious to God, it is also precious to us, and here we are truly brought into oneness of thought with the Father concerning Him.

The Father's glory visited the Garden, even before Mary of Magdala reached it, and the empty tomb into which she peered with tearful eyes proclaimed the fact that God had raised Him from the dead, and now we know that He is set at the Father's right hand in heaven, and He has been invested there with glories that surpass all other glories; a Name has been given to Him that is above every other name; and at His Name every creature must bow the knee. We follow His exaltation to the highest place in heaven with full approval, as we have followed His humiliation with wonder. The first and the most willing of all who shall acknowledge His worthiness are surely the ransomed saints who form His church, we belong to that favoured company, and we bless the Father's Name who has exalted Him who has become so precious to us.

We await His coming again for the crowns and the kingdoms are His, and His church shall share His glory, for so hath God decreed. But when the splendours and the triumphs of His kingdom shall have reached their termination, and Time shall have ceased to be, the Father's house shall abide and we shall be there “conformed to the image of His dear Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren.” Forever He shall be pre-eminent, the eternal object of His Father's love and of the love of all His saints, and thus it shall be that forever we shall have common thoughts with the Father concerning Him. And we shall share in the love that rests upon Him, for to us He has declared the Father's Name, that the love wherewith His Father loves Him may be in us; not only on us, but in us, the enjoyed portion of hearts that are wholly given up to Him. Thus shall our eternal joy be fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Comparative Studies in the Synoptic Gospels (fragments)

 

The Genealogies—Matthew and Luke

Matthew presents the Lord as Son of David and of Abraham: the MESSIAH OF ISRAEL. His Gospel may be called the Gospel of the kingdom, but the King is not merely Son of David and Son of Abraham, but JESUS—Jehovah the Saviour: EMMANUEL—God with us (chap. 1:21, 23).

MARK presents the Lord as the Servant of God: the great and perfect SERVANT-PROPHET; but “Jesus Christ” is "the Son of God" (chap. 1:1).

LUKE presents the Lord as the SON OF MAN revealing the delivering grace of God amongst men; but of this Man it was said, “He shall be great, and He shall be called the Son of the Highest,” and “that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the SON OF GOD” (chap. 1:32, 35).

In this threefold character He was presented to Israel for their acceptance, and in each character was rejected by them. They had no excuse for this, for His words and works, as recorded in each Gospel, were the fulfilment of the Scriptures which had before borne witness to the fact that He would appear to them in each of these ways.

John is entirely different; there the Lord is viewed as rejected from the start(chap. 1:11), and there is then unfolded in that Gospel that which had not been the subject of prophecy.

 

The Writers

Israel was no longer under its own king, and that Matthew should have been a tax-gatherer (Matt. 9:9), actually an official under the alien rule, but evidences the divine wisdom which selects him to write the Gospel of the King .

Mark, the failing servant (Acts 13:13; 15:38), is selected to write the Gospel which presents the perfect Servant . How grace shines in this!

Luke was a Gentile (Col. 4:11, 14). How fitting then that he should write the Gospel in which Christ is pre-eminently presented in the perfection of His manhood, and so as the vessel of grace for all.

 

The Condition of the People (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2)

But only a small and poor remnant of the people were ready to receive their Messiah. The sad truth that must be told of the mass of the people is, “He came to His own, and His own received Him not.”

They were well content with the Roman yoke and Edomitish king, and were troubled at the news of the Messiah's birth. Herod, in order to rid himself of a rival to the throne, might slay all the young children in Bethlehem if he so pleased; it drew forth no protest from them—they wanted not Emmanuel, for their hearts were far from God, though they drew near to Him with their lips.

 

The Announcement of the Birth of the Lord

MATTHEW records the angel's revelation to Joseph, whom he addressed as “son of David.” Joseph was the legal heir to the throne of Israel , and the announcement made to him is in keeping with the presentation of the Lord in this Gospel. It is significant of the state into which the nation had fallen that the representative of the royal house should be an obscure workman living in the despised city of Nazareth .

The wise men from the East were attracted to the place where the young Child lay by the star in the heavens. They were drawn by this star from their distant home, but were probably deflected for the time being from the right course by the natural thought that the great King would be born in the chief city of His realm. Their going to Jerusalem , however, disclosed the condition of the people; the leaders had an intimate knowledge of the words of Scripture, but Him of whom the Scriptures spoke they did not want.

The fact of the birth of the Lord being made known to the Gentile Magi by the star in the heavens, in contrast to the revelation to those of Israel through the medium of angels, is interesting, showing the difference in the dealings of God with those who were not in covenant relation with Him, and those who were.

Angelic communication had marked the direct dealings of God with His people Israel from the first, but to the Gentiles He had given a testimony as to Himself in creation “His eternal power and Godhead are clearly seen in the works of His hand (Rom. 1:20), and these works were used on this occasion for the guidance of those who, from among the Gentiles, “sought for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life” to the only One in whom these things could be found They were led by the works in creation to the God of them, Him they recognized in the lowly Child in the house of Joseph, and bowed in worship before Him, offering their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and so gave an earnest of the fulfilment of the prophecy, “The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him” (Ps 72:10-11).

LUKE records the visit of Gabriel to Mary, a lowly virgin, at Nazareth in circumstances of greatest poverty, but rich in faith Joseph is introduced in the story, but only incidentally. This also is in perfect keeping with the Gospel, wherein is set forth that surpassing grace that has come down to the very meanest in the eyes of men. Mary might be poor, and Nazareth despised, but these will God take up for the accomplishment of His purposes, and in them shall be demonstrated in the supreme act of His grace that, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

It is notable that in Matthew, when it is necessary to bring in Joseph, not only because he was David's heir, but also because Mary was his espoused wife, great care is taken to guard the truth as to the birth of Christ.

From the commencement of the chapter we read, “Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob,” etc., but the language is changed in verse 16, when we read, And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."

The eight short verses which follow need no comment.

In chapter 2 Joseph received two divine communications, in each of them the Lord is spoken of as “the young Child,” and on both occasions Mary is called “His mother,” but not once is Joseph addressed here as His father. The Lord is marked out, however, as the Son of God in verse 15, “Out of Egypt have I called MY SON.”

 

The Birth of the Lord

This is the sign that God would give to His people, promised centuries before by the prophet's mouth—and what a sign! Infinite grace stooping to deepest poverty, the creator poorer than the meanest of all His creatures, that He might bless all. Yet in that lowest place He was the Son of the Highest ; and as He lay in that environment of poverty the multitude of the heavenly host could praise God and say, “Glory to God in the highest.”

But this sign was one that should be spoken against (v. 34). Blinded by their pride, the people saw no beauty in Him, His meekness and lowliness of heart did not conform with their thoughts of greatness and glory, and so He was despised and rejected of men.”

 

The Character of John's Ministry

In MARK's John's testimony is confined to the greatness of Jesus, and in this testimony he doubly emphasizes his own nothingness before his Lord: he was not worthy “to stoop down” and unloose His shoe. It is fitting that this should be so in the Gospel in which the Son of God is presented as the Servant. In His presence every other servant, no matter how high in honour, must be silent, save to witness to His glory; yea, to do this is the highest honour that they could bear.

 

The Baptism of the Holy Ghost and Fire

John baptized with water, he could bring the truth as to their sinfulness and ruin home to the consciences of the people, and bring them in figure into the place of condemnation and death—the end of a career of responsibility that had been marked by failure, constant and complete. But in the midst of the multitudes of Israel there stood the One who should baptize with the Holy Ghost. John might in figure bring them into the place of death, but Jesus alone could give them life, and the power by which that life should be lived according to God, for He, the last Adam, is a life-giving Spirit. He alone could introduce the new era, the kingdom that should never be moved, a kingdom not founded upon the frailty of man, but established in the power of God. But to do this He had to be baptized with a baptism—a baptism of fire and blood. He had to take upon His own holy person the sins that the people confessed upon the banks of Jordan , and bear them away into the land of forgetfulness. Yea, He had to do more, for He is “the Lamb of God, the bearer away of the sin of the world” (John 1:29, N.Tr.).

 

The Baptism of the Lord (Matthew 3:13-17; 4:1)

The Lord emerged at His baptism from the obscurity of His early life, a life entirely hidden from our eyes save for that one ray of glory that shone through the veil when, at the age of twelve, He said, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” It was given to LUKE alone to record that incident, and it falls in with the character of his Gospel, which, as we have before seen, presents the Lord as the Man of perfect obedience to, and dependence upon God. Every part that went to make up that life, whether childhood, youth, or manhood, was lived according to that rule; and that He had honoured the Father in those secret years is evident, for He was by Him rewarded openly when from the heavens. He was saluted, in the midst of Israel , as the Father's beloved Son. And thus in Him was the great principle of Matthew 6:6 first demonstrated.

The first words given to MATTHEW to record, and only recorded by him, as having come from those blessed lips, carry us along another line of thought. They were spoken to meet the difficulty which arose in John's mind as he realized the glory of the Person who had come to him for baptism. “Suffer now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”

Again the perfection of the Word compels our admiration, and we see that a divine, a master hand, has thrown the portrait on the canvas. Emmanuel comes before us here as the King amongst His people, the King who shall reign in righteousness.

But He would first prove His capacity to rule by obeying, He would demonstrate His own personal righteousness before administrating righteousness for others. This righteousness, which He would fulfil, was the path of God's will for Him in relation to His people, whom He would save from their sins. He is here seen identifying Himself with them, in infinite grace, as they confessed those sins, HIMSELF SINLESS. This path of righteousness was to carry Him onward until, as the scapegoat for Israel , He should bear their iniquities into “a land not inhabited” (Lev. 16:22), which, indeed, He accomplished when from the depths of the impenetrable gloom of Calvary He cried, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (Matt. 27:46). But that path will carry Him still further; it will bring Him to that morning, a morning without clouds, when as the Sun of Righteousness He shall arise with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2), “then with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isa. 11:4).

The King gives character to His kingdom, and He was marked by inward righteousness, He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and though men betrayed and murdered “the JUST ONE” (Acts 7:52), yet unto Him, the Son, hath God said, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom” (Heb. 1:8).

 

The Parable of the Sower

The importance of this parable is evidenced by the words of the Lord, “Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13). The truth that it teaches is elementary, it lies at the threshold of all truth. In a sentence it is this: there can be no yield of fruit for God apart from repentance and the Word of God, for the heart of man is as the field of the farmer which brings forth nothing but rank weeds if left to itself. There must be the ploughing of the soil and the sowing of the seed.

The higher critic, blinded by his folly, does not discern this fact: he discards the Word of God and sows seeds of another kind, the corruptible seed of man's wisdom, in the soil of the heart, and the harvest shall be according to the sowing. Many earnest social reformers are astray here also, they plead for a change of environment, for altered conditions, and hope thus to make men acceptable to God and useful to their fellows, they are wasting their energies as far as any yield for God is concerned, for this there must be repentance: the good and honest heart, and the Word of God sown in that heart, nothing else will do. But repentance would be useless if there were not the incorruptible seed, the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever; this is the absolutely indispensable factor in the matter. Would to God that we realized more truly the mighty power of that Word which liveth and abideth for ever, the Word by which men are born again, by which they are brought out of death into life, and enabled to produce fruit for God, the Word which is God's power unto salvation We cannot be truly effectual in our service for God and towards men unless we give to that Word the supreme place that God has given to it.

In each of the three Gospels a different element in the parable is made prominent, as may be seen from the interpretations given by the Lord.

In MATTHEW it is the soil He said, “Hear ye therefore the parable of the Sower. When any one heareth the Word of the kingdom” (13:18-19). It is not difficult to see why this should be so in Matthew, for Christ is there presented to Israel as the Messiah, it is only in this Gospel that the seed is called "the Word of the kingdom .” And everything depended upon how that Word as to His person and kingdom as received, that Word tested the character of the soil.

In MARK it is the Sower “He said, The Sower soweth the Word” (4:14).

The Sower is the Lord Himself, and Mark calls attention to Him especially in this character, as the Servant of God. His Gospel is “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and he shows us how “Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God :” sowing the Word.

In LUKE it is the Seed . He said,” Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God” (8:11). It is the Word of God, and from God, perfectly proclaimed by the perfect One, and in itself as perfect as the One who proclaimed it, for the word that He spoke was the exact expression of what He was.

Each evangelist gives a different yield as a result of the sowing. Results there must be, results according to the eternal counsels of God and the word of prophecy; for neither the purposes nor the promises of God can fail, they were committed to the Son of God for effectuation.

The results, as given in each Gospel, must be in harmony with the character of the Gospel in which they appear. MATTHEW in giving “some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty,” while, as in all the Gospels, the results in the individual souls that hear the Word are made manifest, presents in a striking way the wider dispensational results of the sowing, when at the full harvest the King shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied. He will look out with joy upon the sheaves that He will bring as the result of His sowing in tears. Nearer to Him than all else will be His church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, clothed in the beauty with which He will clothe her, a perfect reflection of Himself: here is the hundredfold. Israel will stand next, beloved by Him with an everlasting love: in Israel will be the sixtyfold. Then the great outer circle of the nations, brought out of death by the Word of the kingdom, they shall come and walk in the light of the Lord. In the nations thus yielded to the universal sway of Christ the thirtyfold is gathered.

In MARK the results are before us in another connection; it is here the work of the great Sower, the results of which must grow to a full harvest to the glory of God. The yield at first was small; it seemed as though He had spent His strength for naught: just 120 poor and despised people in an upper room, without any power, waiting in prayer. That was the small beginning, the thirtyfold if you will; but the hundredfold will be reaped when the scripture is fulfilled which says, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord” (Ps. 150:6).

In LUKE there is but one measure, and that is perfect—one hundredfold. Here is brought to view what is characteristic of the gospel—the work of God in the soul by the Word of God. In this Gospel only it is said that the good ground hearers are those who hear and keep the Word in "an honest and good heart .” That Word, so received, must bring forth after its own sort; those who so receive it will be fashioned by It, and there will be a moral affinity between them and Him who was the perfect expression of the Word in His ways. The Lord owns such as being of God even as He was. “My mother and My brethren are these which hear the Word of God, and do it” (8:21). It is interesting to see that the incident which draws these words from the Lord is placed after the parable of the Sower in Luke, while it is given prior to it in both Matthew and Mark.

 

The Parables of Matthew

The parables peculiar to Matthew are distinctly dispensational in their bearing, as we should expect them to be from the character of the Gospel. They also illustrate that word of the Lord which is one of the keywords of the Gospel, “The tree is known by its fruits” (12:33). So they look on to the end, to the harvest, the consummation of things whether good or bad at the end of the age, the coming of the Lord. Then shall the righteous be severed from the wicked, the evil from the faithful, the sheep from the goats, and each will go to his own place.

The parables set forth, for the most part, the absence of the Lord, but, though absent, His authority and rights are not relinquished; how could they be? His title to everything must be maintained, or Satan would have triumphed when men cast the Heir out of the vineyard. So the Lord is shown to us as the Householder, the Bridegroom, the Lord of His servants, and the King. His supremacy in all these characters is evident. How great is the privilege of acknowledging this supremacy while it is refused by the world at large.

The kingdom is the widest circle of all, and includes every other, and His rights as King will be publicly declared when He gathers the living nations before Him and divides them as a man divides the sheep from the goats (25:31-46).

The servants, to whom talents were given, while in the kingdom, have a nearer place and a graver responsibility, for they are singled out and specially commissioned by the One who is directly the Lord, and owned as such, they are professedly His servants (25:14-30).

The household is a circle of still greater intimacy; those who form it are attached to the person of the King; they know what is suitable to Him, and are greatly concerned when they discover that in His field He had been wronged. Moreover, they have access to Him, they can carry their exercises to Him, and receive His assurance that the evil shall not triumph, but that all that offends shall be gathered out of His kingdom, and that the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (13:24-30, 36-43). What a priceless privilege is theirs who are servants to the Householder, and who enjoy this near place of knowing His will and being intelligent as to the end of things.

The Bridegroom sets forth a greater intimacy still, though the bride is not here mentioned, for the truth presented is not that of infinite love receiving a full recompense for all its travail, but the rejected One coming at last into His rights (25:1-13).

Space forbids our going into the deeply interesting details of these parables, but we would point out that that which abides is that which partakes of the character of the King, and that which is characteristically evil, and so of the devil, is cast out into the fire, or into the darkness, or into the prison. The things that abide are “the righteous” (13:43), “the good” and “just” (13:48-49), the obedient (21:31), “the wise” (25), the “good and faithful” (25:21), and the merciful (25:31-46). Searching, indeed, is the truth which Matthew unfolds, setting before us as it does the thoroughness with which every circle and individual will be scrutinized and tested by the Lord, when every one will be judged according to his fruits, and not according to his profession.

 

The Parables of Luke

The parables peculiar to Luke are strikingly different from those of Matthew; they set before us for the most part the tender compassions of God, and that grace of His which flows forth without measure wherever there is need. But observe that this grace only reaches those whose need is manifest. In the parables, as in the whole Gospel, the words of Mary, most blessed of women, are illustrated; “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away” (1:52-53)—which words may be taken as a key to the Gospel.

The rich fool goes into eternity stripped of his possessions (12:16-20). Those who possess the oxen, the ground, and the wife, and want nothing outside these things, miss the great supper (chap. 14). Dives passes from his gay attire and sumptuous fare to a shroud and unquenchable thirst (chap. 16). The Pharisee goes down to his house without the blessing (chap. 18).

On the other hand, how untiring is the grace of God. We have not here the attitude of God, but His activity . It is seen in the pardon of the debtors (chap. 7), in curing and caring for the robbed and ruined traveller on the Jericho road (chap. 10), in compelling the hungry and homeless to come into the great gospel supper (chap. 14), in searching out that which was lost, and receiving that which was repentant (chap. 15), and in justifying the publican who had nothing to plead but the mercy of God (chap. 18).

But while the poor and needy become the objects of compassion and blessing, as magnificent as it is undeserved, we are also taught the absolute necessity of dependence upon God the giver. If we have learnt that He is gracious, He would have us to act upon this knowledge, and go to Him with importunity and expectancy, whether for the blessing of others (11:5-10) or for our own deliverance (18:1-7).

Yet we may not too definitely and closely divide one side of the truth from the other, for if in the parables of Matthew's Gospel the rights of the Lord are prominent, yet His grace cannot be hidden; it is seen in His treatment of the labourers in the vineyard, who only toiled one hour (chap. 20); it is seen also in His forbearance with the second son, in that space for repentance was given to him (chap. 21).

While if in the parables of Luke the unmerited grace of God is proclaimed, yet His rights are fully and clearly maintained as set forth in the parable of the Fig Tree (13:6-9), and in the parable of the Pounds (chap. 19).

Contemplation, Adoration and Desire

"For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43).

 

We bless and thank the Lord for these words that came out of His mouth. They reveal His heart to us, and declare that amazing love that must serve and suffer. No human words could describe His glory, the glory which He had with the Father before the world began, and no human thought could soar up to that unapproachable light in which He dwelt in those distant ages, but this we know that He was there when time began. It was His hand that set the pendulum of time in motion, and by His word all things were made. His works declare His power and wisdom, but creation, even in its infinite and illimitable variety, could not satisfy His nature. His love was set upon the sons of men, and He became the Son of Man to serve them and to save them. He did not wait until they asked Him to come to their aid. His own love, love that surpasses all our comprehension, moved Him to leave His throne in glory to be the servant of man's need, and their need did not arise from any earnest desire in their hearts to do the will of God, but from wilfulness and disobedience and sin. It was to minister to sinful men that He came.

Far off from God we had wandered, but He followed us; He sought us and came alongside us to win us, when He was born in Bethlehem . We wonder at His lowly birth, and great humility. He did not come to the Imperial palace, nor to the homes of the proud and great, but to the manger-cradle. The world had no place for Him at His advent but a stable, and He accepted this cold and indifferent reception without resentment, for He had come not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.

We follow Him with wonder in that life of service amidst the sin and moral putrefaction of the world. His surroundings made Him the Man of sorrows; He could not be other in the world where sin reigned unto death. And He looked beneath the surface and knew well the root from whence the world's misery sprang and grew. This root bore bitter fruit when He was here, for when men saw Him they hated Him, but that did not turn Him from His service of love. Their sorrows and their woes moved Him to compassion. Their neglect of Him, and their scorn of Him, and their reviling, and their blindness to their own need and blessing, broke His heart, indeed, but only served to reveal the deeper love and fuller grace that were in Him. There divine goodness was unbaffled and undeterred by evil, even when that evil rose up to slay Him. Then goodness triumphed with a great triumph for the slaying of Him was the saving of them.

He came to seek the lost, and none who sought Him were spurned by Him; the lepers, the outcast and sin's broken drudges were welcomed; they came to His feet and He made them feel that He was glad to have them there, and their needs made Him their servant. And yet how scant was their gratitude. One here and another there, chiefly women, returned to give thanks and to weep in silent adoration at His feet, but the men went everyone of them to their own homes. Men, beasts and birds were all housed and sheltered when the night storms raged, but He had no home on earth; the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head.

“O Lord; Thy wondrous story

Our inmost souls doth move,

We ponder o'er Thy glory

Thy lonely path of love.”

That lonely path, uncheered by the smiles of men, and made hard by their hatred, led onward to the cross, for there were deeper needs and more terrible foes, and greater claims to be met than ever man knew or dreamt of, and to meet these He had to go to deeper depths. It was an amazing descent from the throne of His eternal glory to the manger of Bethlehem , and from the home of the Father's everlasting love to homeless strangership in a world of sorrow and sin, but what mind of man or angel can understand the deeper descent into judgment and death. Yet He did not hold back from that. He humbled Himself, even in His Manhood, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He travelled the distance—immeasurable to everything but the love of God—from the everlasting throne, in its intrinsic and unapproachable holiness and light, to the depths of man's degradation and judgment and death. Not only the malice of the powers of darkness, formidable and ruthless, and man's hatred, unreasonable and without a cause, were there at the cross, to make it terrible, but He was made sin for us. He came to give His life a ransom for many, and that mission involved Him in the unparalleled woe of the Sin-bearer. God's face was hidden from Him as He drank the bitter draught of judgment for sin for the sake of men. “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” He did not save Himself, He could not save Himself. His love and His Father's will made that impossible. He had come to save us, upon this His love was bent, and this was His Father's will. His Father who ever loved Him had a fresh reason for loving Him, when He gave His life a ransom for all.

Great and holy Saviour . . . we rejoice to know that Thou art crowned with glory at Thy Father's right hand, but it is not that that bows us in deepest gratitude and adoration at Thy feet.

“Not because the crowns of glory

Shine upon Thy sacred brow,

Not because all heaven adores Thee

Do Thy people bless Thee now:

But because midst shame and sorrow

Thou didst suffer on the tree

This the cause of their thanksgiving

Why they raise their song to Thee.”

We bless Thee for what Thy soul endured when Thou for us didst bleed. We bless Thee because Thou didst come, not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give Thy life a ransom for many. Saviour, we owe all to Thee, and, spirit, soul and body, we belong to Thee. This now is our chiefest boast.

“Bought with Thy blood most precious,

Whose can we be but Thine.”

Thou art our Lord. To Thee we bow the knee. We desire to do Thy will, O living Lord, and to be like Thee now, as we shall be like Thee in Thy glory.

“Like Thee in faith, in meekness, love

In every beauteous grace.”

We desire to tread in Thy footsteps, and not seek to be ministered unto, but to minister. We pray that we may be delivered from all our selfishness and constrained by Thy love not to live unto ourselves but unto Thee, who died for us and rose again. We cannot give our lives a ransom for others. Thou only, upon whom death had no claim, couldst give Thy life a ransom for others, but we can be chief among our brethren by being the servants of all, and so we may be like Thee for Thou wert amongst Thy disciples as He that served. Thou wert the bondslave of man's necessities. Overshadow us, Lord, with Thy presence, teach us Thy way, move us by Thy love. Throughout these coming days, be they many or few, mould us and fashion us according to Thy holy will. May we be all that Thy grace has purposed for us. Thou hast given us an example, that we should do to others as Thou hast done to us, and we would know the happiness of those who love Thy word and keep it. We would be pleasurable unto Thee, conscious of Thy smile, and have the deep joy of Thy company unto the end. We ask it for Thy dear Name's sake. Amen.

Next chapter »