Miscellaneous Writings

Part 4

J. T. Mawson

Miscellaneous Writings

Objective and Subjective

I have been asked to explain these terms which are so often used and so little understood. I do not know any terms that could be substituted for them, and certainly it is of the utmost importance that we should understand what they represent, and that we should keep objective truth and the subjective effect of it in their proper, relative places. The objective side of the truth is that which is presented to faith; it gives faith an object outside oneself. The subjective side is the effect that that objective truth has upon one's soul; it is what is done in us by the Holy Spirit. We become the subjects of His work, and thus an answer is produced in us to the truth presented objectively to our faith. For instance: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), is the objective; “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that is given unto us,” is the subjective.

If the subjective side of things takes the prominent place in our thoughts, we are turned in upon ourselves and either become puffed up with spiritual pride or depressed, according to the measure in which we realize or fail to realize our ideals. Nothing spoils and paralyses our Christian living like the over-stressing of the subjective side of things. This is aptly illustrated in the fable of the centipede and the toad. First the subjective working without the objective and then the objective coming into its proper and paramount place.

“A centipede was happy quite

Until a toad, in fun

Said, ‘Pray, which leg goes after which?'

This wrought her mind to such a pitch,

She lay distracted in the ditch,

Considering how to run.

“While lying in this sorry plight,

A ray of sunlight caught her sight,

She gazed upon its beauty long,

Then bursting into happy song,

Unthinking she began to run

And quite forgot the croaker's fun.”

God, His greatness and grace and love; Christ, His unfading glory and surpassing loveliness, the deliverance He has wrought for us and all the great facts of the gospel, and the blessings that are ours in Him, the future glory, in fact all that covers the revelation of God in Christ and His great purposes of grace, and His ways, too, with His saints as recorded for us in the Word, all this is objectively preached and presented to us, for our faith, hope and love. The Holy Spirit has come that all these things might be real in us, and that the knowledge of them should work in us practical deliverance from the world, the flesh and the devil, and that Christ should be formed in us and dwell in our hearts by faith, and this is the subjective side of things. That that commands our faith and love, is objective; the Holy Spirit's work within us to bring us into moral conformity with this is the subjective. The objective must precede the subjective, or we get all sorts of error springing up from the natural mind. On the other hand if we take up the truth without sincerity of heart before God, we become mere theologians, and is different as to what is pleasing to God, and may even go so far as to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. As the objective and subjective go together we shall be imitators of God as dear children.

On Both Sides of the Sea

 

“ And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives ” (Matthew 26:30).

“ In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee ” (Hebrews 2:12).

We Christians are called to be a triumphant people. Through the riches of the grace of God we can sing our songs of praise unto Him, but in this we are like the Israelites when they saw their enemies dead upon the seashore; then in the gladness of their freedom from the cruel oppressor they could sound the loud timbrel and sing the high praise of Jehovah, for He had manifested the greatness of His excellency in their deliverance (Ex. 15). But they did not sing on the other side, when the waters rolled darkly before them, the fierce foe pressed hard behind, and the mountains reared their rugged heads on either side. But Jesus sang on bout sides of the sea.

He “divided the sea, whose waves roared,” and “made the depths of it a way for the ransomed to pass over.” He divided it by passing through it, while all its fury was spent upon Him, and now in resurrection He can celebrate His great triumph, surrounded by those whom He has set free; and so is fulfilled the word, “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee.” But He also sang on the other side. When deep called unto deep, when the waters were gathered to compass Him about, when the waves and billows of judgment uprose to pass over Him: as the darkness of Gethsemane and the deeper darkness of Calvary , with all its shame and woe and ignominy and unspeakable sorrow, confronted Him, then He lifted up His voice and sang unto God.

The disciples may have known the words and the tune, but we cannot suppose that they entered into the spirit and meaning of that praise-psalm; He was the singer in deed and in truth.

It is written, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me,” and herein was that passage fulfilled and God greatly glorified, even though no other heart appreciated or understood what Jesus then did.

When the last “Praise ye the Lord” of that song was reached, He spoke of Himself as the Shepherd—the Shepherd, who, for the sake of the flock, was to bear the smiting of Jehovah's. rod, and in view of this smiting He had to say, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” But in the presence of that unspeakable sorrow He fully approved God's will concerning Him, and to its last drop He would drink the cup that His Father gave Him. In this holy determination, conscious of God's approval of His faithfulness, He sang forth His praise as He entered the conflict. Be assured the music of that singing will never pass away; it will sound for ever in the Father's ear as the melody of a trust that never faltered and a love that was stronger than death.

So He sang then and so He sings now . But now He has companions who can join in the singing that He leadeth: His brethren, who owe their every joy to His sorrow, who are placed, through His death, beyond the reach of judgement's wrathful sea; who are one with Him in nature and life, and to whom He has revealed His Father's name. These can share His joy, and so can sing in concert with Him, for they stand with Him in the unclouded light of His Father's love, and this is their place for ever. But how our hearts are moved in the midst of our joy, and for ever will be, as we remember that He sang on the other side of the sea.

On Eternal Punishment

 

We wish to make our own position clear as to the truth of eternal punishment, and to emphasize the way in which God has revealed Himself in the Holy Scriptures. Not that this wholesome truth needs any apology, but it has often been preached and taught in an unbalanced way, and we wish to hold the balance of the truth.

The objectors say, “You preach a God who has no mercy, and who consigns His creatures without pity to eternal pain.” No, we do not; on the contrary, we preach a God who at His own cost has provided a way of escape for all from this terrible doom—Who “so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), “Who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), Who “commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), Who beseeches men through His ambassadors to be reconciled to Him (2 Cor. 5:20), Whose long-suffering with men holds back the long-predicted judgment, because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

The gospel of God, which is concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 1:1, 3) is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (v. 16) It is conceived in absolute and eternal righteousness, so that through it He can be just and yet justify everyone that believes in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). It begins with the solemn fact that “all have sinned,” and declares that none can obtain righteousness by works; but it offers to all more than they have forfeited by their sins, or could gain by their works, even though their works were perfect; and it offers all that it has to give freely. All this many of those who cavil at the truth ignore, as though it had never been written in the Word of God, or preached in the world by the servants of God.

The cross of Christ, on which He gave Himself a ransom for all, is the great proof of God's love for men and the length He would go to save them; He could not have done more; but it is also the great proof that God cannot pass by the sins of men, as though they were nothing at all. He would not be a God of holiness and truth if He did; hence the gospel which proclaims His love and grace also reveals His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Eternal punishment will be the portion of those who have refused to repent of their sins to God, and who have treated with indifference or disdain His proffered mercy. It is for those “who know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8). Thus we believe and teach; to do other we must abandon the plainest possible statements of the Bible and adopt instead of them the reasonings of the human mind. We accept that Word of God as it stands; the only other honest course is to reject it altogether.

If our readers consider the solemn truth in the light of the gospel of God's grace, we are sure that they will not fail to bless His name for the love that has provided a way of escape for all, nor refuse to acknowledge the justice of the condemnation of those who refuse the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. (Ed)

On Marriage

 

In the city in which I am staying, the editor of one of the daily papers has expressed great concern as to the laxity with which the marriage relationship is treated, and he has appealed to the leaders of religious thought in the city to state what in their view is wrong in this matter, and how it can be rectified. This sad feature of modern life is not confined to one city or country, it is stamped upon every country where western civilization prevails.

Various reasons are given for this state of things—the war with its inevitable loosening of morals, the love of pleasure, the shirking of the responsibilities that marriage entails, and many others; but in reality all these are but different symptoms of the same condition, and only those who reverently read and understand their Bibles can rightly interpret these signs of the times. The cause of the crowded divorce courts is that the fear of God is swiftly departing from the people. Marriage is the first and chiefest of God's institutions for the regulation and blessing of men in this natural life; but if God is not revered His institutions will not be respected. And if men and women enter this relationship with no fear of God before their eyes, if they enter it to please themselves alone, they will break it without compunction for the same reason. It is a sign of the times.

The Bible tells us of a wilful king who will exercise great authority in the earth (Dan. 11:36). Amongst other sinister features of his rule will be these, “He shall regard not the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women.” I take that to mean that he will banish religion and marriage from his realm, the two things that make decent life possible in the world. His reign shall be brief, for swift destruction shall fall upon him and his corrupt kingdom from God, to make way for the righteous reign of Christ. The drift today is in the direction of that impious kingdom, and civilized society is being prepared to willingly accept and obey the will of this coming antichrist.

Nothing is helping towards this great apostasy more than the way the Bible is being treated. It is being discredited in divinity colleges and from the pulpits of professedly Christian churches; it is being banished from schools and neglected in homes. Men chafe at the restraint it imposes upon them, and are refusing its authority, hence ungodliness and worldly lusts prevail more and more, and there are none more to blame for this than those whose “little knowledge” has made them audacious enough to sit in the critic's chair and reject every part of that sacred Book that does not square with their notions.

But of the Christian it is said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” The presence of the children of God in the world preserves it from utter corruption, and will do so until they are taken out of it at the coming of the Lord for them (see 1 Thess. 4:15-17). The world does not understand how much it owes to those who live in the fear of God in the midst of it, but it is necessary that these should be very watchful lest they lose their saltness. Subjection to the will of God as it is given to us in the Holy Scriptures will keep the Christian as he should be in every walk of life, and enable him to be an example to others and a check upon the increasing ungodliness. It is to help in this that I desire to write briefly on marriage.

Except for a brief reference to divorce in the sermon on the mount, the first definite teaching as to marriage in the New Testament comes from the Lord's own lips in Matthew 19. But He only gives emphasis to that which God ordained at the beginning. He sweeps aside the theory of evolution, the popular folly of the day, and puts His imprimatur upon the second chapter of Genesis, saying; “Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female” (v. 4). This was the crowning act of God's creative work, the result of His own counsels, and accomplished for the great good of man. The consideration of this would make the relationship thus created exceedingly sacred to all who fear the Lord. Hear, in this connection, the word in 1 Corinthians 11:12, “For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God .” From God Himself the relationship originated. It is His own special design and work.

Up to the time of a man's marriage the chief relationship in which he stands is that of a son, and his responsibility is towards his parents, but when he marries he leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. Henceforward she becomes his chief care, for he and she are no more twain but one flesh.

Every right-minded man will look upon his wife as the only woman in the world for him, he will desire no other; and that not because he has chosen her for his wife, but because God has joined them together. He will look upon her as the very woman that God made for him; he will treat her as God's gift to him, and more, he will treat her as himself, for they twain have become one flesh; and that by no mere ordinance of man, but by God's own act and decree, hence “what God hath joined together let not man put asunder.”

In the law there was a compromise made between God's order and the hardness of men's hearts; and so under the law men were permitted to divorce their wives; but all that was set aside by the Lord's coming into the world. He came to establish a kingdom in which the will of God would be done, and so He sweeps out of the way the provision that Moses had made because of the hardness of men's hearts, and in so doing astonished His disciples. God had said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an helpmeet for him.” The disciples say, “If the case of the man with his wife be so, it is not good to marry.” But that was merely because they saw the high place in which the Lord set this relationship in His kingdom, without knowing the grace that reigns in that kingdom to enable all who are in it to fulfil every relationship according to God.

There can be no question as to the sacred character of the marriage tie or that it is God's gift to those who enter into it, for 1 Timothy 4:4 states that it is to be received with thanksgiving, and we give thanks for a gift, and if it is God's gift it must be sacred. And further it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. Men are not as Adam was in innocence, they are ignorant, and sin has hardened their hearts. Grace is needed to soften and mould us, and we need direction from God, and dependence upon Him—these we find in the Word of God and prayer. God is acknowledged in the relationship in this way and so His blessing is secured and He is glorified. The Scriptures do not suppose that the Word of God and prayer will be lacking when those who believe and know the truth enter into this relationship; but it does give warning as to things that might hinder prayer.

What an important passage is 1 Peter 3:1-7. The wife is exhorted to live before God, adorned with a meek and quiet spirit which is in His sight of great price, and such living will result in spiritual blessing to the husband, even if he be disobedient to the Word. The husband must dwell with the wife according to knowledge, surely knowledge of the relationship as ordained of God, and the one who so dwells with his wife will treat her not as an inferior, but as needing love and care, because she is the weaker vessel. Husband and wife are heirs together of the grace of life, they look to One source for all that life means, and are equally and together dependent upon that source, and so should pray together.

But it is in the Ephesian epistle that marriage is put on the highest plane, and there we learn that when God instituted it at the first He had Christ and the church in view. It was to be a figure of that which is so much greater. Ephesians 5:22-33 scarcely requires any explanation, but it should be noted that in bringing the blessed truth of Christ and His church before the saints the Holy Spirit says much about the marriage tie. The wife will find her joy in submitting to her husband, as the church to Christ, and the husband will find his delight in loving his wife as Christ the church. What a standard is this! Who can tell the depth of Christ's love to the church or the minuteness and persistence of His care for her?—so ought men to love their own wives, nourishing and cherishing them as Christ the church. And remember there is not an exhortation in Scripture that may not be carried out. It may be impossible with men, but it is possible with God, and His grace is equal to all our need.

If every Christian marriage were entered upon and maintained according to the truth thus revealed to us, what a pattern Christians would be to the world. God grant that His children may not be conformed to the world in this matter, but subject to the Word of God, doing the will of God, possessing their vessels in sanctification and honour unto the coming of the Lord.

“On the Morrow after the Sabbath”

Notes of an address

 

“ And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it ” (Leviticus 23:11).

 

I want “the morrow after the Sabbath” to sing its joyful song to your hearts, and to teach you its triumphant lesson. I do not suppose that the children of Israel understood its blessed import; probably even Moses had but a feeble conception of what it involved, for the greatest day in the week to them was the Sabbath, a Sabbath that could only be attained to after a week of toil; and because all their labour was faulty, because they were sinners all, and by no labour of their hands could they remove their guilt, they never truly enjoyed a Sabbath, and the morrow after the Sabbath could only mean to them, unless they possessed faith's vision, the beginning of another weary round of futile toil. But on this special morrow after the Sabbath of which our Scripture speaks, they had to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest unto the Lord. Ah, we may now rejoice in that which they did not understand. The morrow after the Sabbath was the first day of the week, and that day was the resurrection day; it was the Lord's Day, and the sheaf that was waved before the Lord was typical of Christ Himself, the First-begotten from the dead.

The work is done. “It is finished.” Wonderful words! Wonderful moment when they broke from the lips of our Lord Jesus before He bowed His head in death! May we not reverently say that all heaven would be thrilled by that cry; that to the utmost bounds of those celestial realms it would be carried, and that with it would go a deeper joy than had ever before been known even in those joyful regions? Then followed the Sabbath, the day in which the Lord lay in the sealed tomb. We do not know how heaven was occupied during that day when the Lord of life lay in death, but we do know that His disciples on earth spent the hours in mourning and in weeping, for so Mark tells us. But the morrow after the Sabbath changed everything. They were able on that day to look into the tomb without fear, for their Lord had come out of it. He had vanquished death and broken the dominion of Satan, and gained a great victory for God and for His people. The morrow after the Sabbath speaks of life out of death, of a vast harvest for God from even death itself; for Christ is the Firstfruits, and afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming. It is the beginning of a new creation in which all who believe the glad news have their part, and in that new creation they begin with rest and peace that they could never have secured by their own labours.

“Not the labour of my hands

Can fulfil Thy law's demands.”

Nor could our tears and regrets, nor even our repentance, have cleared us from guilt before God's holy throne. But the finished work and the precious blood have done it, and here we rest. Yes, we find our Sabbath our rest in what Christ has done. Every question that could cause us to shrink away in sinful fear from God was answered upon the cross for the glory of God, and we have rest and peace in consequence. But the morrow after the Sabbath gave a definite and undeniable proof of this, and more, it gave us back our Lord, alive from the dead. So that we have more than a finished work for the salvation of our souls, we have also a living Saviour for the satisfaction of our hearts. “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.”

The morrow after the Sabbath was the day of the Lord's victory. On that day the infernal hosts, the powers of darkness, shrank back defeated into their native night. No longer did the devil hold the power of death. Our Lord has triumphed over him and annulled his power to deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. The keys of death and hell are in the hands of Him who died, but lives again for evermore.

The morrow after the Sabbath was the day of the Lord's vindication. He had been scorned and rejected by men His words had been the subject of their jests. They awarded Him a malefactor's cross, but God raised Him from the dead. Thus did Peter in the power of the Holy Ghost urge the truth upon the guilty Jews. “You crucified Him,” he cried, “but God has raised Him.” And His resurrection was His vindication. It was God's answer to the way that men treated Him.

Because of the morrow after the Sabbath we live and have a living hope. All who sleep through Jesus will rise again, of this we are assured in God's infallible Word. “If we believe that JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For 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” (1 Thess. 4:14-17). With this hope in our souls we can say exultingly, “Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Yes, the morrow after the Sabbath was a joyful day, and the triumph and gladness of it abide for us to this day; and it lifts up our eyes to the future, when in eternity the whole universe will rejoice in the results of the victory of Christ, and the eighth day—the eternal day—shall be a Sabbath (Lev. 23:39), an unbroken day of eternal rest.

“One Sinner that Repenteth”

 

There are one thousand five hundred million inhabitants of this world [in 1919]—all sinners—yet we read, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” We are not told that anything else moves heaven to this special joy, but this we are told, twice over, in one discourse by the Lord Himself, and He never repeated Himself without a purpose. The name sinner is an ugly word, but it fits us all, and it is not qualified here by any adjective that would make this revelation of heaven's interest in men applicable to one class only. Whether the sinner be young or old, high born or of lowly birth, black or white, religious or profane, is all the same in God's reckoning; it is the person that counts, the person, with a never-dying spirit, capable, if repentant and reconciled, of the supreme joys of communion with God in heaven for ever, or if not, of speechless woes in the lake of fire.

We may not be able to understand it, but such a statement twice made by the Lord ought to impress us with the value of souls, ought to teach us at least that nothing in the wide earth can compare in value with the souls of men or be worth seeking and saving in comparison with them.

TWO GREAT EVENTS, one past and one still to come, may help us to realize the value of one sinner, and heaven's joy at his repentance. That which is past was enacted at Calvary . Upon the centre cross erected there the Son of God was impaled, condemned to a malefactor's death by the popular clamour and deliberate verdict of the Roman judge. But when that sentence was executed, so far as men were able to do it, a thick darkness covered the earth, wrapping the day in an impenetrable gloom. Out of that darkness there arose the never-to-be-forgotten cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me”; and in that cry there was expressed the unfathomable suffering into which Jesus went when He was made sin for us. And He died, shedding His blood for the remission of sins. Why? “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” is the answer. As we consider that scene the value of one soul must grow upon us, for that was the price of its salvation. The coming event is told by the seer in Revelation 19:6-7. Says he, “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thundering; saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” Here is the height of the joy as yonder there was the depth of the sorrow. Here is the full and blessed fruition of yonder travail of soul. Here is the multitude of sinners who have repented viewed now according to God's purpose as a holy and suited wife for His Son, and the joy thereat is not merely in heaven in the presence of the angels of God, but rolls in mighty volume to the uttermost bounds of the universe of bliss.

Every soul that repents hastens that day of joy, is one more gathered out of the world for God's honour in that hour. It is this that causes joy over one sinner, for heaven looks on to the completion of God's work and sees in every soul another for that great aggregate. And it is our privilege to be in communion with heaven and with the heart of God over repentant sinners. If we live in the presence of the sorrow of Calvary and of the joy of the coming great marriage-day we shall not lose our interest in the repentance and salvation of souls.

Opened Eyes

 

“A missionary-physician in one of China 's hospitals cured a man of cataract. A few weeks later forty-eight blind men came to him from one of China 's wilds, each holding a rope held in the hand of the man who had been cured. He had led them in this way, walking in a chain, 250 miles to the hospital, where nearly all were cured.” What a moving sight must have been the great-souled and unselfish gratitude of the man who had been made to see, and the pathetic eagerness of those who were blind!

Are we amongst those who can say “Once I was blind, but now I see”? It were well for us to be rightly affected by this priceless boon. The multitudes may appear indifferent to their condition, but let not this discourage us, for many are fumbling blindly after light. It is out happy mission to tenderly and tirelessly seek them out.

The Chinaman, himself a witness to the skill of the physician, and full of gratitude for sight restored, would doubtless seek out his forty-eight friends one by one ; and it is here that the test comes to us. Many would address the crowds if they could, who have neither heart nor energy to seek out the individual.

We have a striking example of the keenness and character of divinely given spiritual sight in the early chapters of the Acts. In chapter 1 Peter and the disciples beheld their victorious Lord ascend in a cloud of glory to His Father's throne.

In chapter 2 they lifted up their eyes upon the multitude and saw them fall, under the power of the truth, at the feet of Jesus, as the full ripe grain falls at the swing of the autumn sickle.

But the eyes that gazed with rapture upon the ascending Christ, and with glad triumph upon the first great victory of the gospel, were just as quick to see the poor lame beggar at the gate of the temple in chapter 3. And they were as ready to stop and proclaim the power of Jesus' name to this needy individual as they would have been to a thousand.

How well repaid were they for this care for the man, for “he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God ” (vv. 8-9).

And not only so: they were brought in consequence before the rulers, who, “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it ” (chap. 4:13-14).

Yes, they had been with Jesus: it was in His presence that they had learnt the value of one soul; from Him they had received the tender compassion and the quick sight that looked out for the poor and needy. They followed Him, and, true to His word, they became skilful in the art of catching men.

God give to us fuller and clearer visions of His glory who has gone to the top, that our eyes may be more ready to see, and our hearts to meet, the need at the bottom.

Our Battle Cry

 

“ Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

 

“A strange languor seems to have come over us which ill becomes those who are called to be soldiers.” Thus wrote a friend to us recently, and we fear that he wrote the truth, not only of those with whom he is familiar, but also of the vast majority of the saints of God. The question is, Is there any remedy, any means by which this languor can be thrown off? In the first case, are we really soldiers? Undoubtedly all who are saved by grace have been called by our Lord so to be. And is the conflict real in which we are called to have part? It is tremendously real, for it is against Satan, the adversary; the powers of darkness, of which he is the leader, and all the wiles and subtleties of which they are the masters. And it is for “the testimony of the Lord;” and for His name and glory, to defeat and tarnish which Satan and the world will use every tactic and weapon that they can invent.

If the opposition were always violently in evidence we might be more on the alert, and less liable to this “strange languor” that so often comes over us, but it is part of Satan's strategy to lure the warriors by love of the world, and to lull them to sleep. And often, also, the length of the conflict or the strength of the foe makes us weary and discouraged, and so the easy prey of this fatal lethargy of soul. Yes, discouragement is one of the chief causes of this languor.

We need arousing every one of us, we need a fresh call to arms. We need to have revived in the consciousness of our souls the greatness of our cause, and the absolute certainty of the success of it; for if we have any doubt as to this we are defeated and driven from the field e'er we have grasped the sword. We need a battle cry that will stir us to a holy and steadfast enthusiasm. It is in this way alone we believe that we shall shake ourselves free of this paralysing languor, and as Holy Ghost-possessed men and women fight the good fight of faith.

Think of that band of disciples whose every hope was buried in the grave of their Lord; how disconsolate they were; how unable to do anything but mourn. How could such unnerved and fearful men as they were be brought to face the foe in stern conflict. It seemed an impossibility. But see them at Pentecost and after; what unconquerable courage, what convincing power they possessed. They were greater, these Galilean fishermen, than the great political and religious leaders of the land who were their first opponents. What was it that had produced so extraordinary a change in them, and that carried them, fearless and joyful, into the conflict? It was one tremendous fact that moved and enthused them, and made them the warriors they were, and that fact was THE RESURRECTION OF THEIR LORD, whom they feared had gone from them for ever. They knew that He had risen up from the grave with a might that was irresistible; they had looked into that grave, the battle-ground where the great foe had bitten the dust; they could say, the Lord is risen indeed; they had looked into His face, and on His hands and His side; and it was this that had transformed them and made them ready to face a hostile world with a glorious testimony. It was this great fact that made the change in them, and if it lays hold upon us rightly and powerfully in its deep significance it will make a change in us also.

We are not forgetting that the Holy Spirit of God had come to abide in them, or that by His power alone they could witness for Christ; this fact is of immense importance, but, mark it well, His power was with them, as the triumph of Christ in resurrection was their theme, for He had come to bear witness to this through them.

Timothy was inclined to grow discouraged, so we judge from Paul's second letter to him; and Paul, who had fought the good fight so long, writes to spur him onward; he hands on to him the glorious standard, and raises afresh the old battle cry of the true witness and soldier: “REMEMBER JESUS CHRIST RAISED FROM THE DEAD according to my gospel.” He did not say, “Remember that you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit”; this should never be forgotten, and it is a fact that at times needs special emphasis (see 1 Cor. 6). But here, when it was a question of nerving a feeble arm, and reviving a fainting spirit, and giving a fresh impetus to a languid warrior, it was the resurrection of Jesus Christ that was brought before the soul.

Our Lord is a living Lord. He has said: “Fear not, I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of death and hell.” That is the great outstanding fact of our testimony; that is the pledge that His standard, about which we gather if we are His soldiers, shall be carried to ultimate and everlasting triumph; that is it which gives courage to the breast of the fighter, and makes him joyfully endure hardness as a good soldier, for he knows that his living Lord is with him.

A chief of the MacGregor clan fell wounded in a battle. Seeing their leader down, the clan wavered, and gave the foe an advantage. The old chieftain raised himself up, while the blood streamed from his wounds, and cried, “I am not dead, my children; I am looking at you to see you do your duty.” This roused them to a new energy, and to a great victory. Our great Leader is looking on, not as weak and wounded, but as the mighty Victor over death, alive for evermore. And He not only looks on His beloved soldiers, but as the Captain of the host He is with them.

“The Lord stood with me,” said the aged warrior Paul, when all his comrades had deserted him—the Lord, risen, triumphant, omnipotent—surely none with whom He is shall ever know defeat. And the risen Lord who is with His soldiers is also the base of their supplies, which supplies can never fail or be intercepted by the foe; thence they are exhorted to “cleave to the Lord” and to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Let us consider it, “THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED.” Let this not be to us merely part of a creed to which we assent, but a mighty force in our souls. Let us seek to labour and to war in that same power by which He rose, confident that this power is available for us in Him by the Holy Ghost; and in the joy and the courage that knowing Him intimately and personally who is thus risen must give. Let us consider this in God's presence, so that the Holy Spirit may make increasing clear to our souls what it means for God and for us, and so that we, like those warriors of old, may be more truly vessels through whom He can bear witness in the world to this great fact. Let us with renewed energy raise afresh the flag—the testimony of our Lord, and shout afresh the battle cry that must inspire the fainting soldier, and rally the weakening ranks. “REMEMBER JESUS CHRIST RAISED FROM THE DEAD.”

 

Our Changed Centre of Gravity

 

“ And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me ” (John 12:32).

“ For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death ” (Romans 8:2).

 

The centre of gravity has been changed for us who know that we are loved by our Lord Jesus Christ. Once it was the world. What an attraction its snares and shams had for us! In spite of our continual disappointments in it, it exercised an influence over us that we could not resist; our unregenerated souls had neither the power nor the wish to move outside its influence, and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—a trinity of evil—made up our lives. We did not know that it was the law of sin and death that held us in this bondage, but it was, and the world which is not of the Father was the centre of gravity for us.

But a new Object has claimed us, and that Object is Christ, and what is so remarkable about this is that it is as being lifted up from the earth that He first became attractive to us. To be lifted up from the earth meant to be put to shame by men and to be accursed of God. The Nazarene, when lifted up and crucified, cried: “I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, and they shake the head, they look and stare upon me” (Ps. 22), and Galatians 3:13 tells us that “it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” Such was the lifting up of Jesus from the earth, and what could there be attractive in that? This is a great mystery; to the Jews it was a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness! A glorious Messiah, crushing their oppressors by irresistible might, would have been attractive to the Jews, and a monster that could have enthroned their vices and made their follies appear honourable would have been welcomed and worshipped by the Greeks; but One who “made Himself of no reputation . . . and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross ” (Phil. 2:8) could not be attractive to natural men; to them He was without form or comeliness, and when they saw Him there was no beauty that they should desire Him.

It is plain that this “lifting up” puzzled those who heard about it, for they say to the Lord, “We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever; and how sayest Thou, The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” To be lifted up would in their view of things be an ignominious close to a promising career. Who would follow or put any confidence in one who had been put to the shame of crucifixion? Surely the Name of the One who had been cut off from the land of the living by a malefactor's death would perish for ever, for who would declare His generation? Light was needed to clear up this mystery, and so the Lord, instead of answering their question as they might have expected, warns them to make use of the light while it shone, to believe in the light that they might be the children of the light. Now light is pleasant and it is good to the eyes to behold the sun; so here the Lord cried and said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in Me should not walk in darkness.”

All things are plain to faith, and Christ crucified—though to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness—is light to us who believe, He is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

Had these people who were so curious to know who was this Son of Man who was to be lifted up, heard that Jesus had said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life”? It certainly appears as though they had, and if so, why should they have forgotten the other side of the great story, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”? The fact is that if it was a necessity because of man's state of sinfulness and utter alienation from God that a kinsman, one made in the likeness of sinful flesh, but sinless, should be lifted up as their substitute and representative, a sacrifice for sin, that a way might be opened for them out of death into life, God Himself has met that necessity by giving His only begotten Son. And the only begotten Son of God is also the Son of Man. The natural man in his philosophical and scientific pride boggles at the incarnate mystery, but how great is the light that breaks into the soul of the one who believes it. It changes everything for us and makes us glory in the cross of Christ, and sing:

“O the cross of Christ is wondrous,

There I learn God's love to me.”

Yes, so great was God's love to the world that He must intervene to rescue men from perishing; so great was His love that He must win them for Himself from destruction. He could not endure that they should exist for ever in darkness without any knowledge of His yearnings after them: hence the lifting up of the Son of Man—God's love-gift to the world! How wonderful it is that upon the Cross upon which was darkly written the hatred of men to God there should be inscribed the love of God to men! The hatred is the background which throws the love into bright relief, and it is the love that has become attractive to us who believe. God is made known to us in Christ Jesus, and He is brighter and better than the brightest and best that the world can offer us. So our centre of gravity is changed; the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us has become the Object of our affections. In Him the love of God shines forth, and has “shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). As a star that had wandered from its orbit but had come again under the influence of the centre sun, so have we, once wanderers from God, because under a malign and destructive influence, returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, and He has brought us back to God.

But it is certain that there must be an affinity between the object attracted and the centre of attraction. However high a man may leap into the air he comes back to the earth, because his body is of the earth; and only those souls are drawn away from the world to Christ in which there is a work that makes them one in nature and life with Christ, and the Scriptures speak plainly of this work. Take John 1:12-13 as an example: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born . . . of God.” It is this work “born of God” to which I refer, by it all who are the subjects of it have a new life and nature, and they must gravitate to Christ.

They will do so completely and bodily when their bodies are changed and fashioned like unto His body of glory. I know that the teaching of Holy Scripture as to the dead in Christ being raised, and those that live and believe on Him being changed and caught up to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17) is scoffed at as being a physical impossibility: the law of gravitation would prevent it, it is said. But those who scoff are ignorant of God, and they do err, not knowing the Scriptures and the power of the Lord. It is, of course, a scientific fact that natural bodies are controlled by natural laws, and if these bodies of ours could not be changed, the scoffers would have ground for their laughter. But what saith the Scriptures? Twice we are told that we shall be changed . “Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed . . . and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51-53), and “He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21). We learn that we are to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven, that mortality might be swallowed up of life (2 Cor. 5:1-4), and that we are to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16). Now when these natural bodies are changed into spiritual bodies—bodies of glory—will natural laws control them any more? Certainly not. They will then be controlled by spiritual laws. If bodies of earth must gravitate to the earth, bodies of glory will gravitate to glory, and such bodies will be ours by the power of the Lord. When the rapture of the Church takes place not one natural law will be violated or displaced, but we shall be released from the natural law by the change that will take place in us “according to the working of the power which He has even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:21, N.Tr.). That is future, it is the blessed hope which lifts our hearts in joyful expectation, and it is as sure as the Word of God.

But I speak of the present. A change as great as that which will take place in our bodies has already taken place in our souls, and Christ has become our new centre. He draws us to Himself in our thoughts and affections. But the flesh is still in us, that old nature that loves the world and the evil things that are in it, and consequently the law of sin and death has the opportunity of operating against us and holding us in its thrall: hence we need to know the power of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, for this alone can make us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). We have a new object outside of us—Christ once crucified for us but now enthroned in glory, living for us there and making intercession for us; and we have a new power inside of us—the Spirit of life, the Holy Spirit, and the new power works in us in relation to the new object outside of us) and the liberty of eternal life is ours, it is as we mind the Spirit's things, and this means as Christ fills our vision, for of Him the Spirit speaks, that we experience this liberty of life and peace, but nothing less than this is the true life of the children of God.

It is not brought about by self-occupation, but by occupation with Christ; not by denouncing the bad, but by being occupied with the good; not by any effort of nature, but by the Holy Spirit. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus will make us free for the happy service of the blessed God after the pattern of the freedom in which Jesus served Him when He was here.

And the Spirit within us is the power by which we set our affections on things above, on Christ Himself where He is, and so He is our new centre of gravity; by His sweet constraining power He draws us after Him, and we know Him as the object bright and fair that fills and satisfies our hearts.

Our Circle and the Lord's

John 2:1-11, 12:1-8

 

There are two spheres of life in which we may know and serve the Lord; they are the natural and the spiritual. In the natural sphere we are in relationships which have been ordained by God the Creator, and it is very blessed when He is acknowledged in these. When He is, we may experience and prove the interest and mercy and grace of our Lord in them, and they may yield much comfort and blessing to us and glory to Him. Now while what is spiritual should pervade and give character to the natural sphere of life, there is the spiritual sphere into which what is of nature does not enter, it is the sphere where Christ in His own blessedness is everything, and if we are in it, it is for His pleasure. We get a glimpse of the natural sphere in John 2 and of the spiritual in John 12.

John's Gospel is the Gospel of the glory of the Son, and one of the first things revealed to us in it concerning Him is that He is the Word, the Creator of everything that was made. We learn also that He is divinely interested in the works of His hands, for He became flesh and dwelt among us This is a great mystery, for there was no desire on the part of the world that He should come, and when He did come it did not know Him, but this did not change Ham, He came full of grace and truth to take men as He found them and bless them where they were. He was not coldly distant from their joys and sorrows, their laughter and their tears, for this Gospel of John shows Him to us rejoicing at a marriage and weeping at a closed grave, the brightest and the darkest moments in domestic life.

He was the Creator who at the beginning had created the marriage relationship as the crowning work of His creation, and now, though He had come to bring in a new creation that would not be marred by sin as the first had been, He did not brush aside the first as being beneath His notice, but He accepted the call to the marriage of His friends in Cana in Galilee, and there He manifested forth His glory by His first miracle.

Marriage is the beginning of domestic life, and I want to urge that it has the Lord's sanction and that His presence may be known in the Christian home. It is in relation to the everyday home life that we read, “He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13). These God-ordained relationships in the natural sphere are being more and more despised in the world as godlessness increases, but it must not be so with us who desire to walk in the fear of God all the day long. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters: all these relationships may be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer to our blessing and God's glory; on the other hand, to be without natural affection and disobedience to parents are signs of the last days and of the steep descent that men are making into irretrievable apostasy.

They were not great or rich, this couple that called Jesus to their marriage; indeed the fact that they had no wine would indicate that they were very poor, but Jesus was the Friend of the poor, and He is the Friend of the poor today, for what He was yesterday He is today and will be for ever. Oh that His servants would proclaim this fact with greater zeal and persistency. It was never more needed than now, for the needs of the poor were never greater, and they are so easily deceived and so ready to lend eager ears to those who make promises to them that they can never fulfil. Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor, and the gospel will not deceive them; it is the revelation of the heart of God.

This bridegroom and bride though poor, and though the ruler of the feast that they had appointed was a man without resources, were highly favoured people, for with Jesus at their feast they wanted nothing. Their Guest became the Servant of their need and He raised the joy of their marriage day to a level they could not have known if He hid not been there. How blessed it is for us to see the first shining of His glory and to learn the heart that was in Him. He who, as I have read somewhere, had refused to turn stones into bread to appease His own hunger turns water into wine to give perfection to the marriage feast of His humble friends.

We should learn from the story that man on his best day is not sufficient for himself, but that the Lord, who is the Creator, is a faithful Creator, and rejoices with His creatures in their joys and pities them in their needs and delights to meet their needs when He is permitted. We who have confessed Him as our Saviour and Lord cannot do without Him in any sphere of life. He is indispensable, but all-sufficient. Let us not fail to acknowledge Him and to do His will and not mar our enjoyment of His good gifts by selfishly living unto ourselves.

Great as are His mercies to us in the natural sphere of life, sooner or later it will be invaded by death and broken up, and what then? Then we find that our Lord can be with us in our sorrow with the same grace as He was with us in our joy. He does not withdraw Himself from us in our adversities. We learn this from chapter 11 of our Gospel. He came to the sisters where they were and He wept with them there. They were to learn the greatness of His power, but He would show them first the deep compassion of His heart, for power never won a heart, it is only love that does that. How great must have been His sorrow and bow wonderful His tears when the Jews exclaimed, “Behold how He loved him”; but Martha and Mary were embraced in that love, and He made it manifest in the circle of their sorrow, that He might draw them into His own circle, as He did in chapter 12.

It is easy to see the difference between John 2 and 12. In John 2 the Lord was there for the sake of His friends, He was there to serve them and to bless and enrich them, and what a failure that marriage feast would have been if He had not been there. In chapter 12 His friends were there for His sake, the feast was not for them but for Him, He was supreme in that hallowed circle. I speak not of His disciples—poor dull clods they were in spite of all His love and patience, and loved not the less by Him for all their dullness—but of Martha and Lazarus and Mary. He had been much to them before, but now He is everything. Their Friend He had been, one in whose affectionate interest they had confided, but now He exceeds all that—He is to them the Christ, the Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life, and more. There is no anger in Martha's heart at her sister's apparent idleness, there is no complaining upon her lips. She is serving her Lord, ministering to Him whose love she had perceived in His tears, who had turned her deep sorrow into triumph and was greater than the power of death. With what reverence, with what holy awe, and yet with singing in her heart would Martha move about her house that day, hands and feet and every movement in harmony with the song within her heart.

And Lazarus who sat with Him at meat, who had seen all earthly thing fade from his vision as his eyes were closed in death, who had felt the breaking of all earthly ties as he passed out of time into eternity, but who had been called back from the silence of the unseen world by the voice of Him by whose side he sat. What a bond there must have been between the Lord and Lazarus, between the Life- giver and this risen man! Martha and Mary would not be less loved, but in that sacred hour, not ties of nature that must all be riven were strongest, but this tie that the hand of death cannot break. When Jesus raised up the little daughter of Jairus, He gave her back to her parents and we read of her no more; and when He raised the widow's son He gave him back to His mother, and that is the last we hear of him; but Lazarus was not raised up that his sisters might again possess him, but that be might he for the joy of his Lord, to give pleasure to His heart; he was raised for the glory of God and to be one of those that made a feast for Jesus and sat at meat with Him.

And Mary—none but the Spirit-taught can understand the part that Mary took. There were some there that had indignation among themselves when she poured her precious ointment on her Lord; they did not understand; but the fragrance of that act rose up to heaven, it rose up to the angel hosts, and beyond them to the very nostrils of the Father, and He will never forget it. I have dwelt upon that scene; in thought I have watched her glide into the inner chamber and bring forth from it that alabaster box of precious nard. She had not used it on herself, she had not used it on Lazarus, though it would surely have embalmed his body and kept it for a while from corruption; she had kept it, mark that word. “Against the day of My burying hath she kept this,” said the Lord. She had kept it for her Lord, the most precious of all her possessions was for Him. She poured it on His head, so Matthew and Mark have told us; it is John who speaks of the anointing of His feet. Some blind critics have supposed a contradiction here, but there is none. I have watched her in thought put the precious ointment upon His head, for He was King, the King of Israel. It is thus that Matthew writes of Him; but He was the rejected King, unanointed, unowned by His people; but Mary said, “I will own Him. I will anoint Him.” Ah, but He was more than the King of Israel; and as the truth as to who He was grew in its glory on her soul, she bowed in adoration at His feet and poured the residue of the ointment upon them. He was her Lord and her God. It was this, the climax of that great act that impressed itself on John, and he was inspired by the Holy Ghost to record what he saw.

What a foreshadowing was this of what was to be, of what is now wherever there is true love to Christ and intelligence as to His desires, for He delights to gather His saints in His presence and have them minister to Him. They may serve Him and commune with Him, and worship Him, as these three beloved saints did. He has His assemblies in the world, and if they are true to the high dignity that is put upon them, they will gather together to Himself and He will be supreme in their midst. There is no mysticism about this, it is a great reality and many have proved it so to be. It is the one thing that we should desire above all things, and the Lord's service to us in our circle of things is that we might reach this end. He serves us in our circumstances that He might relieve us of all anxious care about our needs that we might be free to minister to Him in His own circle.

Of the three, Mary was the most intelligent, she had sat at His feet and learnt of Him and she knew what was suitable on this occasion, though others found fault with her. She anointed Him for His burying. She knew that He was a rejected Christ, and that He was to pass out of the world by death. This fact would expose the world in its true character to her, but she clung to Him, and in thought and spirit she was outside the world with Him. He absorbed her and carried her affections to His own side, He was more to her than everything that she had prized.

And this should mark all His own whom He loves to the end, no matter how they treat Him. We fail of our highest privilege if we miss this, and we rob the Lord of that which is dearest of all to His heart, the response of love and worship from our hearts for His great love to us. We believe there is no occasion like the gathering together of the saints of God to eat the Lord's Supper for this, for it is there that we may respond to His request, “This do in remembrance of ME.” We pray that we may understand its deep meaning better, and while we rejoice that the Lord delights to be with us in our circle of interests, may we not be satisfied with that, but seek in the simplicity of true affection to know the unspeakable blessedness of being with Him in His circle.

Our Commission

A word to those who preach the Gospel at home and abroad

 

“ Wist ye not that I must be about MY FATHER'S BUSINESS? ” (Luke 2:49).

“ Thus it is written, and thus it BEHOVED CHRIST TO SUFFER, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem ” (Luke 24:46-47).

“ And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem , until ye be endued with power from on high ” (Luke 24:49).

 

We must not make the mistake of dividing the work of the Lord into sections, or of thinking of what is done abroad and among the heathen as another work or a different kind of work from what is being done at home. The work of the Lord is one work, wherever it is being done, and there is no difference in the sight of our God between the proud white man who boasts in his liberty and progress, and the dark-skinned heathen in his degradation and superstition. One gospel only can meet the need of each and both. There is one Lord in the glory, the Master of all His servants, who directs them according to His sovereign will and wisdom, and one Holy Spirit on earth who is using the one gospel of our salvation with one great end in view. All who believe that gospel are brought into the one body of Christ—His assembly on earth which, when completed, will be presented to Him who gave Himself for it—His all-glorious bride, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Eph. 5:2). What an end that is to have in view! and every bit of the work of the Lord that is being done on earth by His faithful servants is contributing to that great end. Who would not rejoice to have a part in it, or be willing to be sent abroad or to abide at home as the Lord may direct, in order to gather some out of the world for the Lord for the fulfilment of this great purpose of God! It has been said that “there are vacancies in the heart of Christ and He has sent His evangelists into the world to find souls that will fill those vacancies.” The thought is a sweet and true one; may it stir us up to diligently seek these souls out of every nation, kindred, people and tongue, for the joy of our Master and Lord.

 

Our Commission

If I were asked what right we have to preach the gospel and where we got our commission, I should say we got it from Luke 24. The commissions in Matthew's and Mark's Gospels have a Jewish character, they were given specially to “the eleven.” The Matthew commission has yet to be fulfilled, and the Mark commission was fulfilled in apostolic days; but this in Luke's Gospel is ours and will continue until this gospel day is finished. It was given not to “the eleven” only, but to “them that were with them” also (v. 3), and we come in there. Luke's Gospel is the Gospel of unmeasured grace. In it the Lord is not presented as the King of the Jews, nor even as Jehovah's Servant to gather Israel , but as the Son of Man come to seek and to save the lost, whether they be Jew or Gentile. Indeed, I believe that I am right in saying that it was written by a Gentile to a Gentile, and so it is very specially our Gospel, and while we value Matthew's and Mark's inspired presentation of the Lord—for every view of Him is wonderful and indispensable—we ought specially to prize the Gospel of Luke.

 

The Father's Heart the Source

I want to show you the place that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have in the sending forth of the gospel to the lost. This gospel has come from the Father. It is significant that it is in this Gospel of Luke that the Lord's words as a boy of twelve are given, the first of His wonderful utterances: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” And if we are in doubt as to what that business was, let us listen to the Lord's own account of it: “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.” You will notice that these were the Lord's first recorded words of public ministry in Luke's Gospel, as the others were His first recorded words in private. The Father sent Him, and the gospel that He brought into the world and that He has committed to us has come directly from the Father's heart. Yes, if you would find the source of it you must go past Calvary, past Bethlehem , up above all angels and spiritual principalities, to the very heart of the Father.

Nor must we forget that it is in this Gospel of Luke alone that the first words that broke from the suffering lips of Jesus on the cross were, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He knew well the ear and heart into which He poured that prayer. The Father makes merry and is glad over every soul that is won from the slavery of sin and brought back to Himself. We learn this from the fifteenth chapter of our Gospel, where the activities of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are shown to us in parable and story. As soon as the prodigal arose from the filth of the swine field, so soon did the father run to meet him. We are told that, “when he was a great way off his father saw him,” for the eyes of love are very keen, and “he had compassion on him,” for the heart of love is very tender, “and he ran,” for the feet of love are very fleet; and before the prodigal could utter a word, he was kissed with the kiss of forgiveness, and the robe and ring and royal shoes were put upon him and the whole house feasted and was glad. It is a wonderful picture, painted for us by the Son of God. Is it over-coloured? Did Jesus exaggerate when He thus described the reception that is given to the repentant sinner by the rejoicing Father? Nay, that were not possible. He who is the truth could speak nothing but the truth, and thus He has described for us the way that God welcomes to His heart and home benighted, devil-oppressed, sin-laden sinners. What an indescribable privilege it must be to be the means of bringing about such joy as this, “Joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth”!

We have tasted the joy of such a reception, I trust, every one of us. We have felt the burden of our guilt, the misery of our sinful state, the hopelessness of our future, and we have turned—it was with great trepidation—to God, and He surprised us by the exceeding riches of His grace:—

“Trembling, we had hoped for mercy,

Some lone place within His door;

But the robe, the ring, the mansion,

All were ready long before.”

We know the joy and relief of being kissed by the Father and made meet for His house. But do we know this other joy? “Let US eat and be merry,” said the Father. Are we having our part in that? Are we among the “ US ”? Are we in communion with the heart of the Father in the outgoings of His grace? This is our privilege, and now is our opportunity. NOW—now!

 

The Sufferings of Christ the Cost

Our hearts are moved to gladness as we think of the Father's part in the outgoing of the gospel, but they will be solemnized, deeply solemnized, as we consider the cost. Hear the Lord's own words after He had opened the understandings of His disciples that they might understand the Scriptures: “ Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem .” My brethren, but for this the Father's love would never have been known; but for this sinners could never have been saved from death and darkness for life and glory; apart from this we should have had no gospel to preach, there could have been no way of repentance opened for men and no remission of sins for those who repented. “IT BEHOVED CHRIST TO SUFFER.” Thus it was written. It was no after-thought of His. His cross was not an accident, something unforeseen, it was written that thus it must be. It was written in the volume of the book of God's counsels before the world was founded, but written also in the Holy Scriptures that men of faith in former times might read and hope, and the Scriptures cannot be broken. Some have tried to break them, some have tried to tear from the Scriptures the foretelling and the fact of the sufferings of Christ. They have only done it to their own destruction, for if Christ did not suffer, the Just One, for us the unjust, there is no way to God; and those who deny those sufferings and the reason of them, have no Saviour. It is intensely sad that a great number who profess to preach the Word are doing this very thing. It is bad enough that they should do it in this land, where the Bible itself is a sure witness against them, but how indescribably sad it is that many of this ilk should be going to the mission field carrying a gospel without the cross, a message in which there is no room for Christ who suffered for sinners and no redeeming blood! Thank God we believe the Scriptures, and nothing greater was written in them than this, “It behoved Christ to suffer.” It was a necessity. Those hours of darkness on the cross, when He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” were a necessity. He was delivered there for our offences. Divine, eternal justice demanded this if we were to be saved, and

“No victim of inferior worth

Could ward the stroke that justice aimed,

For none but He in heaven and earth

Could offer that which justice claimed.”

You missionary brethren and all of us who serve the Lord in the gospel, need often to muse upon the cross. We need to consider the great price that has been paid before such a gospel as we have to preach could be committed to us. We need to feel deeply that the atoning blood is the very life of our message; to it we owe all our blessing, and it is the love that made our great Redeemer pay the price that should constrain us to proclaim the fact of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“ And to rise from the dead the third day

But there is more. He is risen.

In the Name of God I urge you to preach Jesus and the resurrection; proclaim a risen, triumphant Christ; tell the people that God has put His seal upon the great work of Calvary by raising the Workman from the dead; tell them that the price is paid and is enough; that Satan's power has been annulled; that death has been defeated. If you leave this out of your preaching it will be weak and ineffectual, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain: ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 1), but now is Christ raised from the dead and He was raised for our justification. Tell the whole truth of the gospel, for sinners need it all. Think of that solemn statement of Holy Scripture, “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). Every man lies under the sentence of death—it is a risen, living Saviour that all need. Would you not be glad to carry to a man lying under the sentence of death in the condemned cell the news that another had suffered the full penalty of the law in his stead? And if you could tell him that this one whose love for him was so great was alive again and was waiting to open his prison door and set him righteously free and wanting henceforward to be his friend and companion, would you not rejoice and make haste to tell him the good news? But such a thing could never be; but that which is impossible with men is God's gospel, and His gospel is much more than that, for those who are delivered from the power of death that lies upon them are set in Christ before God, and are for ever clear of all condemnation and stand instead in everlasting favour.

You have to preach this and preach it to men as they are. It is not education or civilization that the heathen need; we have both in this land, and the godlessness of it is increasing every day. It is this gospel of repentance and forgiveness and favour in Christ that they need and you may preach it to them freely, joyfully, and with confidence.

The gospel must be preached in His Name . You go out as representing Him, and this lays upon you a solemn obligation. So many who have taken up His service misrepresent Him by their tempers, their spirits, ways, manners, methods and associations. To go forth in His Name means to go forth as He would go, to bear His character, manifest His spirit, so that those to whom you speak not only hear of Christ, but see Him in you who speak. It is, as I have said, a solemn obligation that is laid upon you to carry the message in His Name, but it means also that He will support you in doing it. Indeed, the last sight of Jesus that His disciples had in this Gospel was with hands uplifted in benediction over them and in that blessing is all the grace and succour that is needed by every one of His servants on earth.

 

The Holy Spirit the Power

How deeply stirred the hearts of these disciples of the Lord must have been as they listened to His words and had their understandings opened to grasp the meaning of them. The two disciples earlier in the chapter confessed, “Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures,” and at this later talk this must have increased one hundred fold. We can understand how eager they would be to tell what they had heard to others, but the Lord could not allow them to do that then. Their lips were to be sealed until they received power from on high. Until that happened they had to “tarry,” and in this their obedience to Him and their knowledge of themselves would be greatly deepened. We have but to consider the gospel that they were to preach to see the necessity for this. It was planned in the heart of the Father. He is the source and fountain of it, and before it could reach sinful men in its redeeming blessedness Jesus had to suffer. It behoved Him to suffer, and His sufferings were infinite. He was God and Man. If He had not been Man He would have had no blood to shed; if He had not been God His blood would have been without avail. Now to give effect to this divine gospel in the hearts of men, divine power was necessary—a power commensurate with the Father's love and the sufferings and death and triumph of Jesus, and that power lies only in the Holy Spirit of God. The disciples had to wait until He came.

Do you not think that it is the most dreadful presumption on the part of any man to attempt to preach the gospel in his own wisdom and strength? Yet, alas, how often we have gone on with service with very little reference to the Holy Spirit. We have planned out our own work and asked God to bless it, and we have done it according to our own notions or in imitation of someone else and wondered why it was so fruitless. We need not to have wondered!

The Spirit of God is the great Servant. He is the One who is going into the streets and lanes of the city and into the highways and hedges to compel them to come in, that God's house may be filled (Luke 14), and it is our business to work with Him, to be so under the direction of our living Lord that we may be vessels meet for His use, in whom and through whom the Spirit can work. We are wasting time if this is not so; all our labour that is not in the power of the Holy Spirit is labour in vain, and worse, for powerless preaching means hardened hearers or probably empty pews. We are used to this kind of thing in these gospel-despising lands, but what a tragedy it must be when this sort of Holy Spirit-less service is done among the heathen, when the power of God is lacking in the gospel that is preached to them.

We seem to have largely lost the sense of the divine greatness of the gospel, and we seem to have gained (sad gain) an exaggerated sense of our own sufficiency. Hence the barren meetings, the lack of zeal, the decay of power. It is a matter that might well cause us to weep before the Lord.

Let us be assured that the Holy Spirit is still on earth and that His power has not abated one whit, and that He can and will still take up those who are obedient enough, and sufficiently emptied of self, and use them as He used the servants of the Lord of old. Consider them; day after day for ten days they waited and prayed. What obedient men they were! They knew that they were not sufficient for these things; they knew that their sufficiency was of God and they were not disappointed, for when they opened their mouths, “they so spake that many believed.” So it is written, and it is written for our learning. May God Himself give to all His servants deep exercise of heart about this matter. Time is short. Our opportunity is NOW.

Our Daily Life

 

We were asked recently if we could account for the lack of growth on the part of so many Christians who seem both unworldly and estimable. Why don't they develop in the knowledge of the deep things of God and become enthusiastic in the goings forth of the truth. Why are they so dull and heavy spiritually, when the Word of God clearly shows that they ought to be joyous, energetic and fruitful? We ventured to quote the words of the Lord Himself in answer “And that which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” And it is probable that it is the CARES OF THIS LIFE, more than the riches and pleasures of it, that burden those about whom the question was asked. Is there a remedy? We believe there is. It is a fuller knowledge of the Father and His care for them, and if they would know Him they must consider His beloved Son. The object of this paper is to turn the thoughts of those who are anxious and burdened in these days of testing to the Father who has been revealed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Would it not be an immense relief to every child of God who may be in circumstances of trial and anxiety, or in any others that make demands upon them, if they knew that divine love had not only provided for their everlasting felicity, but that God Himself—even the Father—was taking a personal, constant, and minute interest in each individual case? Would not such knowledge, if it were the deep conviction of the soul, bring a great peace into the life and drive away dull care, and set the heart free to enjoy the children's place and portion? We know that it would.

Now to assure us of this God has taken infinite pains in His sure and holy Word: it is bright with many faithful sayings in regard to it, and beautiful with many concrete cases in which His perfect care for those who trust Him is illustrated, but nothing can be more conclusive and convincing in regard to it than the life of our Lord Jesus on earth.

Let us consider, then, how the Lord Jesus acted in regard to the matters domestic, and the general needs of those whom He loved, as shown us in the Gospel of John. In which Gospel, be it remembered, He is shown to us coming forth as the Word, who was with God, and who was God—the great Creator of the universe become flesh for our blessing; and the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, who came forth to declare what He is, and has done this so perfectly that He could say “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”

Is it not, then, most worthy of note and full of comfort to all who need comfort, that in this Gospel, and this alone, He is shown to us as a guest at a wedding, rejoicing with those that rejoice? and is it not equally significant that in this Gospel, and this alone, He is also shown to us weeping with the bereaved sisters at the grave of their dead brother? He who came to show us heavenly things (chap. 3) and to give the power to all that believe on Him to enter into spiritual and heavenly relationships, did not pass by these earthly relationships as though they were beneath Him. He recognized and sanctified them by His presence.

The wedding is the beginning of the home life, and may represent its most joyous period; the sealed grave is the close and the break-up of it, the darkest day of all. And the Lord, who came to earth to show to us the Father, was at both; and is there a day between the two when He is absent? No. He has said: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” and that, be it noted, again in connection with the home life (Heb. 13:4-6). The sense of His presence will make the one who has it contented with such things as he hath; for nothing burdens the heart like discontent, it is really rebellion against the will of God and must rob the heart of all joy and peace.

There are profound depths of spiritual meaning in these two incidents that we quote from John's Gospel, and we should certainly seek these, but in doing so do not let us miss that that lies clear and plain upon the surface. Jesus, who was the Creator, the only-begotten Son of God, the revealer of the Father, associated Himself with His own in the joys and sorrows of their every-day life. Perish the thought that we may only know His presence at the meetings for prayer or worship, that He only connects Himself with what are known as religious services. If this were all, then our religion were artificial and dead, and our Lord useless to us in this present stress, and scarcely of more value than the dumb idols of the heathen. But He comes into the home life when He is allowed, comes in all the plenitude of an inexhaustible grace; rejoicing if we rejoice, and Himself becoming the source of a joy that earthly circumstances cannot yield; and standing by us in days of stress and sorrow, to sympathize with and support the heart that looks to Him. How near this brings Him to us! how real it makes Him! how tender and accessible it shows Him to be!

If this is the case, and only those who do not know the Lord will deny it, then all we have to do is to bring our need to His notice. At the wedding in Cana and at the sorrowing home in Bethany this was done, and it was not done in vain. So that we would say to all who are afflicted and tested, Make your need known to Him—present your case before the Father, whom He was here revealing, and if in His love and wisdom He sees that it be for the blessing of you and yours, and for His glory, He will certainly hear your prayer and remove your trial, but if it would not be for your good to have the trial removed He will still hear you and carry you through it, and make you more than a conqueror in it, for His grace is sufficient for you, and His peace can keep your heart and mind by Christ Jesus and make you superior to the trial.

Commit your whole case to Him. He knows and sympathizes, and He will not permit you to be overburdened; not a feather's weight more than you are able to bear joyfully will be put upon you, and though you may be reduced as to material comforts, you will be greatly enlarged in the knowledge of Himself, who is the Lord Almighty, and who has said: “I will be a Father to you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters” (2 Cor. 6:18). Thus will you prove for yourself that it is possible to be without anxiety.

But these incidents took place during His life before the cross. May not He have changed since His death and resurrection? Lest we should think so He showed Himself to His disciples after He rose from the dead, and His tender care for them was seen to be still the same, and the manner in which He showed Himself to them is recorded for us that we may be assured that He is the same yesterday, today and for ever. In John 21 the disciples set out to do the best they could for themselves without direction from their Lord; and weary work it was, for they toiled all night, and cold and hungry bodies and disappointed hearts were the only results of the labours. But when they turned their eyes to their Lord, who stood in the rosy light of the morning upon the shore, they discovered that He had not forgotten them. THEY WERE COLD. He knew it, and so had gathered coals and made a fire at which they could warm themselves. THEY WERE HUNGRY. He knew it, and so had prepared them a breakfast of fish and bread for their need. Their faithlessness had made them FEARFUL AND ASHAMED. He knew it, and so invited them to sit down before Him, and made them quite at home by His grace, while He gave to them the food that those precious pierced hands had prepared for them. As He cared for those loved disciples, so cares He for you, who are loved as much as they were. And He and the Father are one in this care for you, just as they are one in your preservation from perishing (chap. 10).

Grieve not the tender heart of Christ by doubting Him. The gold and the salver are His, and the cattle that feed upon a thousand hills He sits above the water floods, and all power is given to Him in heaven and earth. He is to us the revelation of the Father, the sure declaration to us of the Father's care, and we may be at all times without anxiety, for “WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD, AND TO THEM THAT ARE THE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE” (Rom. 8:28).

“Your Father knoweth,” and He can do better for you and yours than you could do even were your love and wisdom and power a thousandfold greater than they are. Then yield yourself and your affairs to Him, not with resignation merely but joyfully, as those who have a perfect trust in perfect love.

God intends that great good should come to you out of every trial, and He will see to it that your faith in it shall remain undamaged But there is more, in the midst of it your Saviour and Lord desires that your heart should be unafraid and that His own peace should be yours. How can this be? The peace that He gives is His own peace, and He gives it not as the world gives. The world stands at the doors of its splendid mansions and dispenses its benefactions to the poor and distressed that gather at its gates, but these same poor do not enter the homes from which the good things come. They are not welcomed to the luxuries and the warmth of the dwellings of their benefactors, they remain outside—aliens and strangers. But not thus does our Lord give His peace to us, and not thus could we know it. He opens the door of His dwelling to us, and bids us “Come and see” And His dwelling is His Father's bosom (chap. 1:18)—the infinite, changeless love of His Father's heart. He shows us that that is our home, the place of our rest. He shares it with us as those whom grace has made His friends (chap. 15:15), and His brethren (chap. 20:17). Can any trouble disturb the deep serenity of the Father's bosom? Can earth-born storms create forebodings in the heart that dwelleth there? And this is your refuge, dear Christian heart; here you may rest in quietness and confidence. It is here that divine love displays its choicest treasures to the loved ones, and life is no longer one dull, monotonous care-laden thing, but the joy of Christ is known and the realities of eternal life. “ Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid

Our Daily Lives

 

It is a magnificent book, this Epistle to the Hebrews, and great and wonderful are the things it unfolds for us and in language suited to their greatness. And the climax is surely reached when the writer exults in the assembled glories to which we are now brought in contrast to all that had gone before. Says he:—

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (chap. 12:22-24).

Surely after this something heroic and altogether out of the common would be expected of us. Could those whose associations and dignity are so exalted settle down to ordinary affairs of life? Well, let us see. “ Let brotherly love continue .” That is simple enough, describing as it does the everyday intercourse of the family of God. “ Be not forgetful to entertain strangers. ” There is nothing spectacular about that. It means, be kind and hospitable, and not wrapt up in yourselves. “ Remember them that are in bonds . . . and them which suffer adversity .” That requires not extraordinary powers, but tender, compassionate hearts and sympathies that can flow freely to others. “ Marriage is honourable in all. ” That simply means, enter into and carry out the God-ordained relationships of life in the fear of God. “ Let your conversations be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have .” In this home life be content; don't allow the restless grasping spirit of the world to have a place there; and that will be easily possible If a day-by-day confidence in God upholds us.

It is a very simple life, but it is the life that God loves, for He hath said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE THEE, NOR FORSAKE THEE”' delights to dwell with the lowly, and with those who are simply obedient to His word; and if He is with us we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” So that the spiritual wealth with which God has blest us must not make us fanatical dreamers; not must the hatred of men, for they will hate those who are faithful to Christ, make us fearful. Our business is to be undisturbed, but with steadiness and steadfastness fulfil these duties in life honourably and for God's honour.

“Our Fellowship”

 

It is usual for people of the world who are ambitious to make great efforts to enter into circles of society higher than those to which they have been used. To be familiar with notable people, or with some aristocratic family, or better still, to be presented at Court, or to come into contact with Royalty in any way, is something to be laboured for, and talked about when accomplished as long as life shall last.

That is the way of the world, and what heart-burnings, envyings and disappointments it carries with it, and how utterly poor and unsatisfying it is, especially when compared with that which God in infinite grace has opened to us. Take those Galilean fishermen—Simon and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, as examples. We have no reason to suppose that they were particularly ambitious, for they possessed neither qualities nor attainments likely to grace society, and they probably never contemplated moving out of their own station in life; and yet one day they received a call which changed their whole life and outlook for time and eternity. They heard the call of Jesus, and in response to it they abandoned their nets and followed Him, and they were placed immediately in associations, and given access to and intercourse in a circle of which they could never even have dreamed.

They did not become the companions of scribes, or enter into the fellowship of the haughty Pharisees; they were not put into relationship with the chief priest, or looked upon favourably by the kingly court. No, they were carried beyond all these, beyond the most exalted and exclusive circles on earth, and beyond angels also, into a wholly divine circle, so that they could say, “ Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ ” (1 John 1:3).

They were not introduced into this most blessed society, if we may be permitted to use that word in this connection, as mere spectators, or to pass in and out of it as those who were to be thus honoured for a moment but who had no abiding-place there, but they were brought into it as those who were to know it as their life and portion for ever.

Let us consider their call to this high place and privilege, and remember as we do so that they were representative men, and that what was true for them is true for us, and can be made real to us by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

The first chapter of John's Gospel shows us their introduction into this entirely new circle of fellowship for men. They heard the Baptist bear witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Wonderful title for the Only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father to assume! The fact that HE came in that character put at rest all doubts for ever as to the question of sin being settled for the glory of God, so that no barrier to the effectuation of God's purposes of love might remain. They not only believed the testimony that they heard, but He became at once the Object of their hearts, which had been awakened by the Father's touch, and they followed Him, for from henceforward nothing but Himself could satisfy them, and no place but the place where He dwelt could be home to them. It was this that made them ask with deepest earnestness from their very hearts, illuminated as they were by His glory and wholly possessed by Himself from that moment, that memorable question, “Master, where dwellest Thou?” To their question they received an answer which must have filled them with wonder, and which opened up to them, and for all who receive Him as they did, His own dwelling-place in the Father's everlasting love.

The desire for His company which moved them so mightily was only the response in their hearts to the love for them which was in His heart, and the grand purpose of His coming was to set them free from every hindrance and to cleanse them from all defilement that they might be His companions for ever in the place where He dwelt. Thus has His love expressed itself.

It has been pointed out very beautifully that in John's Gospel the Lord is not spoken of as the “Son of Man without a place to lay His head”; that belongs to other Gospels in which we have Him portrayed to us in other ways. But in this Gospel He had His dwelling-place—a place of ineffable rest, for He is the Only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father. This was His eternal dwelling-place, and it was His home as a Man here below. None shared it with Him before He came into manhood, it was His own peculiar place, but now He had found associates to whom He could say, “The Father Himself loveth you because ye have loved Me” (John 16:27). And of whom He could say when speaking to His Father of them, “Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me” (John 17:23). Yes, He had found those who were now to share with Him the unspeakable rest and joy of the Father's love.

Thus they became the associates of the Only-begotten Son of God. He dwelt among them and they dwelt with Him, and they beheld His glory as the most worthy Object of the Father's love. They heard the Father's voice telling out His delight in His beloved One and their hearts thrilled in unison with the Father's thoughts of Him. And as they lived and walked and dwelt with Him, He gave them the Father's words—words that angels could not understand—and these words entered their hearts and made known to them the Father's name, and opened up the Father's bosom to them with all its wonderful secrets of love. They beheld Him, with ever-deepening wonder, a Man amongst them, yet the only-begotten with the Father. They saw Him despised and hated of men, yet moving onward through all opposition and undisturbed by it, doing that which His Father commanded Him. He manifested before their eyes a life that did not belong to this world, that was not dependent upon anything that this world possessed—even that eternal life which was with the Father. It was the life of His own dwelling-place revealed here upon earth to His disciple, that they might enter into it and share it with Him, that His own joy might be fulfilled in them.

And those Galilean fishermen entered into that which was revealed to them, and the things that they heard and saw and contemplated and handled they have declared unto us by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost that we might also know the fullness of joy that belongs to this most blessed life and fellowship.

What are our thoughts and attitude towards this revelation of the Father by our Lord Jesus Christ, and the divine fellowship which is the result of it? Has it affected our sanctification from the world? or do we still in company with the unenlightened crowds pursue the things of the world and run after its friendships, fellowships, and society? If so we know nothing experimentally of the Father's love: it is not in us; and we are pursuing that which is nothing but lust and pride, and which is most surely perishing.

Can we do this? Not if we have believed the testimony of God to His Son as the Lamb of God, and beheld Him upon the cross suffering for sin as the sin-bearer, there coming under God's own condemnation of it that He might bear it away. No, we shall shrink from that which brought Him into the judgment of the cross for us, and attracted by the unmeasured love that led Him to become a sacrifice for sin for us we shall follow Him as His disciples did, and He will lead us into His own dwelling-place.

It is thus that we shall find the rest and peace and joy that the world cannot give and of which it knows nothing, for we shall be led outside of it, disturbed and dominated by sin as it is, into that region of eternal repose—the Father's bosom—His perfect love. Not our love to Him but His to us—and not only as God the Saviour whose love has been told out to the world, but as brought into this most blessed relationship: Himself our Father and His love to us measured only by His love to His well-beloved, who has been through death that we might be associated with Him in His dwelling-place of “love supreme and bright.”

Let us consider these things and bow in worship in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for this great purpose did not originate with us, it is the fruit of divine and eternal love. The FATHER could not rest until it was accomplished; the SON OF THE FATHER became man to declare the Father's love and to make this fellowship attractive to those who were called to it, and the HOLY GHOST who has proceeded from the Father has come to dwell in the hearts of all who respond to the call of grace that they might apprehend and enjoy the bliss of this new place and relationship with its life and fellowship. It is ours to respond to the labours of sovereign love and refuse everything that would unfit us for fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Our God (1)

 

There is not one of us who knows his own frailty who would care to live a single day without God. We need Him every hour, even though we often forget Him. He has not made us to be independent of Him. We are not equal to the stress and strain of life apart from the succour that His mercy supplies. The breath of passing Time withers up the choicest flowers of this life, and his onward tread shakes and changes things that appear to be most permanent, and we feel more deeply than ever that we must have God as our refuge and resource.

He must be real to us, our knowledge of Him must be personal and practical. We must know Him, not as One who is coldly distant from us, indifferent to our struggles, but as One who stoops in His mercy to consider us, frail creatures of His hand, beset with many trials and perplexities, and who is able to hear and answer our prayers, and do for us more than all we can ask or think according to the mercy and love that are in Him. Only thus shall we be able to call Him our God, and move onward peacefully and with confidence to our destined end.

In a popular weekly review a well-known writer said: “I suggest that the most ambiguous word in the English language is the word God. It stands for many differing concepts of what the word taken as a symbol, or for that matter as a fact means. No doubt in many cases in interest of clearness it would be better if another word was used.” He then proceeded to give some concepts and definitions of God put forward by men famous in literary, scientific and religious circles. He is “the creative process, ” “the life force, ” “the universal mind, ” “the final principle, ” “the completed harmony, ” etc., etc. But such vague terms have no meaning for us, they cannot satisfy the longings of the heart or bring peace into a human soul that has faced its deeper problems, and a subtle devil is behind them, whose intention is to put the true God at a distance from men and rob them of Him as God, supreme and beneficent, who is interested in everyone of us, and who has been revealed in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

We turn from these meaningless conceptions of God to the fountain of life, the Word of the living God, and we learn from its pages that He is the God of patience, the God of comfort, the God of hope, and the God of peace . These four great titles occur in one chapter in the New Testament. There they shine and coruscate, precious gems in His eternal crown. And that chapter is at the end of the Epistle to the Romans, the foundation Epistle. In it God is revealed in His nature and fundamental character. It is the Epistle of the gospel of God. Having unfolded its great truths the Spirit of God brings us to this conclusion, God is the God of patience, of comfort, of hope, and of peace. These great things are absolutely essential to our well-being and their source is in God; they flow down from Him to us in living streams, nay, more than that, He comes to us as the One in whom they abide, to be with us Himself, for we read, “Now the God of peace be with you, Amen.” He is not distant from us, a vague and nebulous being, He is near us, He is with us, He is for us, in patience, comfort, hope and peace, and when we know this we can face the future with confidence, for “if God be for us, who can be against us?”

How blessedly these four things have blended in God's ways with us, developing and completing our faith, and leading us on to full growth in the knowledge of Him.

Patience! We are amazed as we consider how He endured our rebellious ways in those days when we did not want Him, and since His grace broke down our stubborn will that same patience has continued, year by year, until this very day, undiminished in its endurance and tenderness. To this we can bear a grateful witness, as we exclaim, only the God of patience, infinite and divine patience, could suit such as we are, and this God is our God!

Comfort! Not soothing our sorrows only, consoling us as a mother consoles a distressed and tired child, there is all that in it but more. This comfort encourages the discouraged, it imparts strength to weak and hesitant steps, it cheers the drooping spirit, it makes us more than conquerors through Him that loves us, it is such comfort as David knew when he cried triumphantly “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou are with me, Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” And the God of comfort is our God!

Hope! We are in a groaning creation and we groan within ourselves, so chapter 8 of our Epistle tells us, and we know it well in our own experience. We are beset with infirmity; the enthusiasms of youth soon give way to the burdens of life and the weaknesses of old age, “Change and decay in all around we see.” We are permitted to groan, but not to grumble or grouse, but our God is the God of hope, and He has lit the lamp of hope within our hearts. We are looking on to the day, when our bodies of humiliation shall be changed into bodies of glory like unto Christ's own glorious body, according to the power by which He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.

This hope is a living and sure hope, it will never fail us, we rely upon the sure word of our God, the God of hope, and lo, we are filled with all joy and peace in believing, and abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost (v. 13). Our joy is greater than our sorrow, our hope lifts us above all trying circumstances, our groanings are lost in our glad praise. We anticipate the coming glory. The God of hope is our God, and He is moving onward to the fulfilment of His purposes of love; nothing can thwart Him or postpone those purposes beyond His appointed time, but apart from us, whom He has chosen in Christ, they cannot be fulfilled; we are necessary to God's great scheme of blessing. He has bound us up in the bundle of life with Christ and His glory, and ours is an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. As our faith lays its firm grip upon the Word of God and our hope stretches out to the glorious future, joy, peace and hope are ours. How surpassing all other knowledge is this knowledge of God as the God of hope, and He is our God.

Peace! And while we wait the God of peace shall be with us all. Amen (v. 33). If we walk with Him, He walks with us. “How do you know there is a God?” was the question asked of an old saint. “I was talking with Him this morning” was the quiet and effective answer. What could disturb our peace of mind, if there was ever with us this consciousness of the company of the God of peace? The peace of God that passeth all understanding would keep our hearts and minds by Christ Jesus, and we would live day by day as those who know in the experiences of life the God of patience and comfort, and hope, and peace, rejoicing in Him through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to Him.

Our God (2)

 

“ The God of patience and consolation ” (Romans 15:5).

“ The God of hope ” (Romans 15:13).

“ The God of peace ” (Romans 15:33).

The knowledge of God has enlightened our darkness, and we have it as our treasure in our earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4); it is our glory (Rom. 5); but not that only, it is of the greatest practical value to us in the trials of life. I turn to Romans 15 to see how it works out for us when we are faced with things that test us. The subject of this part of the Epistle is how we may help one another who are members of one body in Christ (chap. 12), and consequently in the closest possible relationship one with another. It is recognised that difficulties do arise among brethren; temperaments differ, spiritual attainments and knowledge are not the same, some are weak in the faith and of a legal mind, others are strong and in the liberty of grace, some are not very careful of their walk, and others would set up their own opinions and prejudices as the standard for their brethren and imagine that they were serving God. The devil is a watchful foe and is always ready to take advantage of these differences and sow discord among brethren, and nothing poisons Christian life like that, and brings such misery into it, and robs God of His joy in us. What is the safeguard against this evil? God is the God of patience and consolation, or as another translation puts it, the God of endurance and encouragement: that is the answer.

God has come to us as the fountain of these virtues. He has poured out His patience and consolation upon us, or if we have not yet experienced this which is the portion of all who believe, He is waiting upon us that we may. I question whether anything should impress us more than this twofold way in which we may know our God. We know in part our own waywardness and selfishness. He knows us through and through. Yet when we turn to Him in confession of our folly and sin, as we often must, how wonderfully we learn that He is the patient God and the God of consolation. He has never failed in these qualities, they are divine, and His ways with us in them often make us wonder.

We are His children—through grace, and it is His will that we should be like Him and bear this twofold character in our ways with all who are with us the object of His love and tender solicitude. Our knowledge of Him, (I speak of experimental knowledge), will strengthen us to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. The prayer of the Apostle was “ the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus .” According to Christ Jesus! What a standard is this! Yet God will have no other, and He is able to make us like- minded one toward another, according to that standard. Christ Jesus is our pattern; we must consider Him. In Him we must see what God is to us, and in Him we must learn what we ought to be towards one another. So we read, “Let every one of us please his neighbour for His good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself. ” Is there a more moving statement than that in the whole of Scripture? He was the only one who ever lived upon earth who had a right to please Himself, and if He had done so, everything that He did would have been perfect, but it was not on that principle that He ordered His life: “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O my God, ” He said, and wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business, ” and “I do always the things that please Him.” To do the will of His Father in serving the needy sons of men was the motive and the joy of His life. He “came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

He showed what the patience and consolation of God were, and was reproached for it, as we learn from this quotation from Psalm 69, “The reproaches of them that reproached Thee have fallen upon Me.” That is the second half of a verse, the first half is “The zeal of Thy house hath eaten Me up.” This is quoted and applied to the Lord in John 2, when with a whip of small cords, He drove from the Temple those who had turned it into a den of thieves. He did that alone, we could have no part in such divine and holy indignation, but in these reproaches we may share, and shall if we are like Him, and that which causes the reproaches is as necessary to the well-being of God's house on earth now as was the zeal that cleansed the Temple then.

For what was He reproached? The continual taunt of the despicable religionists of His day was that He companied with sinners. “Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” they ask in Luke 5. “A friend of publicans and sinners” they jeer in Luke 7. “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them, ” is their taunt in Luke 15, and in Luke 19 they murmur, “He's gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.” They could not endure the grace that refused to recognise class and sectarian distinctions, and that laboured for the good of the weakest and the worst. They reproached Him for His condescending mercy, it exasperated them: but it was God's mercy. He was showing forth God's nature and ways, and it was their hatred of God that fell upon Him. We must be like Him and not like them. He was the great burden-bearer, and if we are strong in the grace that is in Him we shall bear the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves, we shall reach out to the ignorant, and to the babes in God's family, and seek the edification of everyone of them and if reproached for it we shall have the compensation of the Lord's approval, and the support of the God of patience and consolation.

And see the result of this, instead of discord among brethren, which is one of the seven abominations to God, we read, “Ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We must be like-minded to do this, but is it not a state of things most earnestly to be desired? and not desired only but sought after in self-sacrificing whole-hearted energy? It is the patience and encouragement of God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that can make this holy happy unity a fact, and produce this praise which is the answer in us to what we have learnt Him to be to us. It is this that the devil would spoil, but God is greater than the devil and we may ever count upon His patience and His encouragement.

But mark well what follows, “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” If our praise springs upward to God our love must flow out to all whom He loves, and it will and does if we receive one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Our reception of one another glorifies God equally with our united praise; indeed, how can we praise Him with one mind and one mouth if we do not receive one another? And again Christ is the pattern; if He has received me to the glory of God, I must also receive those whom He has received. There is not room here for partiality; sectarianism, “the natural weed of the human heart” is outside of this; cliques and parties, the dead sea fruit of the carnal mind, are utterly condemned by it, but there is plenty of room for the operation of the patience and consolation of God. These divine qualities can bring about what it is impossible for our fallen, selfish nature to secure.

“ Now the GOD OF HOPE fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost ” (v. 13). If there are difficulties in the Christian circle, that can always be met and overcome by the patience and comfort of God, what of our life in the world? One of our poets has written:

“This world is a wilderness wide.”

and if it is this to us what shall our lot be in it? Well, God is the God of hope. He has set before us a great destiny. He will not allow either the power of the foe or our weak faith to thwart His purpose for us, and He has told us what this purpose is in chapter 8 of this Epistle. We are to be “conformed to the image of His dear Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren”; we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ Jesus, waiting to be glorified together with Him. We were saved in the hope of this and God would have us filled with all joy and peace in believing this. No matter how great and many are the difficulties, we may abound in hope, for the Holy Ghost has come to us and indwells us as the earnest of that great inheritance, the pledge to us that we shall most certainly enter into it. The pressure upon us may be great, our circumstances very testing, but this only makes the hope more real, and above all these is the love that rests upon us from above which draws us onward to Him whose love it is. So we sing:

“'Tis the treasure we've found in His love

That has made us now pilgrims below.

And 'tis there, when we reach Him above

As we're known all ills fullness we'll know.

Till then 'tis the path He has trod.

Our delight and our comfort shall be;

We're content with His staff and His rod,

Till with Him all His glory we'll see.”

We are more than conquerors through Him that loves us, when we abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

“ Now the GOD OF PEACE be with you all. Amen. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen ” (chaps. 15:33; 16:20).

“He hath said I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, ” and it is the God of peace who has said it, and this is the portion of all who love God and are the called according to His purpose. What blessed company—the God of peace! Life has its downs and ups, its nights and its days, its sorrows and joy, but who would be afraid if the God of peace is with him? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” Only let the heart be set upon Christ, let there be joyful obedience to His word and through every phase of life and in all its vicissitudes the God of peace will be with us, keeping the heart and mind in confidence and peace.

“ And the GOD OF PEACE shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly ” (chap. 16:20).

Then we look forward to God's triumph and ours over Satan himself, he is to be bruised beneath our feet shortly; we are to share in the triumph of the woman's Seed (Gen. 3), and it is the God of peace that will bring us into this. Satan is the adversary; his name means that. Every bit of trouble that ever came on the church of God was engineered by him; all the persecutions that the saints of God have ever suffered lies at his door; but he has a more subtle way of working. He is not Satan only, but that old serpent, who “by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Verse 18 describes his way of working well. “I fear” wrote the apostle to the Corinthian church, “lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11). So here these Roman Christians are warned against those who would bring in divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine they had learned; such were the ministers of Satan and not the servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to be avoided. They abound today, men who preach another gospel, who despise the gospel of God, who tread under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and have done despite to the Spirit of grace. It is Satan's work, and those who would be faithful to the Lord must suffer because of it, but the end is near. God's triumph will soon be complete and we shall share it. Then strife and conflict will give place to peace, for the God of peace will establish and display His righteousness in the heavens and the earth, and the effect of righteousness shall be quietness and peace. Meanwhile we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, for He is THE GOD OF PATIENCE AND CONSOLATION, THE GOD OF HOPE AND THE GOD OF PEACE.

Our Great Hope

The First and Last Words from the Lord in the Glory

 

The enraptured silence of the disciples of the Lord, as the cloud of glory carried Him out of their sight, was broken by the voice of two men in white apparel, saying, “This same Jesus, which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” On swift pinion, from the very gates of the glory into which the Lord had entered, they had come, bringing THE FIRST MESSAGE from Him, as the ascended and glorified Christ, to His servants on earth. So that simultaneously with His taking His place at the right hand of the Majesty on high the announcement was made upon earth of His return to it. Before the Holy Ghost came to indwell the disciples, and to lead them into all those blessed truths that were afterwards revealed; or one word of gospel was preached by them to the multitudes of sinful men, this announcement was made—THE LORD IS COMING BACK AGAIN.

This fact should arrest attention and lay hold of the soul of the Christian with great power, for it proves how tremendously important to the Lord is this second coming, and how He intended that it should have the first place in the thoughts of those who love Him upon the earth.

Sixty years passed by, and the last of those beloved men whose ears heard that first message from the Lord in glory was about to depart; but before he closed his service on earth the Revelation of things to come was given to him, and the last words of it from the Lord, closing up the Holy Scriptures, were a confirmation of that first announcement, “ Surely I come quickly ” (Rev. 22:20). Yes. THE FIRST AND LAST WORDS FROM THE LORD IN THE GLORY TO HIS SERVANTS ON EARTH WERE ABOUT HIS COMING AGAIN.

One of the strangest things in the history of the church is that this hope of the Lord's return was a lost hope for centuries, and that these words spoken by the Lord in the fullness of His love for His own, to cheer them during His absence, should have been so little treasured and understood. It is very strange even now, since the truth of it has been clearly ministered, that it should so little affect the lives of those who know of it, and who have received the doctrine of it, at least. And yet we have not far to seek for the solution to this strange thing; it is revealed in the Lord's words to the assembly at Ephesus , “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4).

 

A Living Hope

To be effective the truth of the Lord's coming must not be a doctrine in the head merely, but a hope in the heart. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). And for this Christ must be supreme in the affections. “What thank ye of Christ?” is still the great test of our state, and the measure of our rightness with regard to this and every other truth of God.

We have seen a young bride-to-be upon board ship eagerly anticipating the end of the voyage, and, as the port of destination came in view, foremost upon the deck, and with binoculars eagerly scanning the jetty for the loved face, and longed-for greeting of the one who possessed her heart, and the glad excitement when at last he was discovered, true to his word, waiting to receive her. The hope of meeting him who was to be her husband was a great reality to her because she loved him and knew that he loved her.

It is here that the church on earth has failed; other things instead of Christ have filled her heart; she has left her first love, and so has ceased to long and look for her Lord, and having failed in this she has failed in everything.

But that which has been lost by the mass may be restored to the individual, for the Spirit of God is still here to make the love of Christ a reality to all who long after Him. And the Lord Himself makes a wonderful appeal to the affections of His saints in the closing chapter of Revelation when He says, “I am the root and offspring of David, THE BRIGHT AND MORNING STAR.” He intends that the heart should be awakened by this presentation of Himself, and that in unison with the Spirit the bride shall say, “Come.”

Mark well: it is the BRIDE that says “Come.” The heart undivided, fully possessed by Him who gave Himself to win her, responding to His strong and changeless love without reserve—this is characteristic of the bride. This is not true of the church today; it will be true of her when she is caught up to the glory: it may be true of each one of us now . But how shall it become true of us? As we yield ourselves to the sweet influence of His love, as we allow His words, “I have loved thee” (Rev. 3:9), to enter our souls, and as we see Him arising in the darkness as the bright and morning star, it will become true of us.

The knowledge of His love will be our crown, the choicest thing that we possess, and this we shall hold fast, for it will be brighter and better to us than the brightest and best that a fickle world can offer.

“ Behold! I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown ,” He has said. Be it ours to reply, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

Our Perfect Pattern

Notes of an Address at High Leigh, 1924, on John 8:3-5, 12-15, 34-35; 14:1; Colossians 3:12-17

 

We are glad to think of that glorious hour of which Ephesians 5:25-27 speaks, when our Lord will present to Himself His church which He loves and for which He gave Himself—a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. In that day, and for ever, His church will remain as a bride adorned for her husband, and He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. His joy in the possession of His church will fully compensate Him for all that He suffered when He went into death to redeem it. Every blood-bought, Holy Ghost indwelt believer on earth is part of that church, and since we gathered here are believers we can rejoice in the prospect before us, and in the fact that then we shall be all that our Lord would have us to be. Now that same church—the assembly of God, is upon earth, and we are part of it, and it should be such as He would have it now. That is my subject. I would address you on the present life and grace of the assembly. I think you will understand what I mean before I come to the end of my address.

Precept is not enough for us, we must have a pattern for our conduct before our eyes, hence the life and grace that should show itself in the church or assembly on earth, is presented to us first in our Lord Jesus Christ. We see it here in this chapter, John 13, which is the first of this group of chapters that really form the centre of this special Gospel. The most wonderful words that were ever spoken under heaven fill these chapters, and those who listened to them were the nucleus of the assembly, they represented there all who afterwards should believe in the Name of the Lord; but before He said one word to them as to what their life and conduct during His absence was to be, He set Himself before them as their pattern.

Mark well how the Holy Spirit has recorded this for us: “ Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands.” Let the force of it come home to us. Whatever the Lord did in this chapter was done in the full consciousness of the incomparable dignity that the Father had put upon Him. His right hand was filled and His left hand was filled, all things had been put into His hands—into the hands of JESUS whom men despised. The whole range of the glory of God had been committed to Him—the control of angels, the blessing of men, the judgment of devils; things in heaven, things on earth, and things under the earth; proof of the absolute confidence that the Father reposed in Him. He knew it, and knowing it, what will He do? What would any other man have done? Would he not have unveiled the glory before the astonished eyes of those who had despised Him and displayed the seals of His splendid office? Did Jesus do this? No, He did not. What did He do? Arising from supper, He laid aside His garments and girded Himself with a towel and washed His disciples' feet. In the tenderness of Divine love He did for them the labour of a slave! I am bringing before you our pattern, I am wanting to show you what the life and grace of the assembly really are. Look at our great Saviour, the Lord of glory, bending low to wash the feet of those uncultured and ignorant men, and doing it in the full knowledge that the chief place in the universe was His. He, the highest of all, served them in the lowest possible service, because He loved them with the greatest possible love. From Luke's Gospel we learn that they, poor self-centred men, so much like our wretched selves, were always seeking self-vindication and striving for the first place, that they were doing it even at the supper table, and that He said to them then what they well knew: “I am among you as he that serveth.” If there was one task more menial than another it fell to Him, to Him their Lord and Master. Many a time had He been up while they slept and prepared their breakfast. You may ask me how I know that. Recall that memorable morning on the shore of the sea, following their night of fruitless toil. They were disappointed men, tired and cold; but they found upon that shore a fire to warm them, lighted by His hands, and bread and coal thereon prepared by Himself to feed them. It was as though He said, “I want you to understand that I have not changed one bit; death and resurrection have not changed me; many a time before I died I showed my care for you by preparing a breakfast for you, and I am still just what I was, your servant.” It was on “ this wise that He showed Himself to them ” for so we read in John 21, “HE SHOWED HIMSELF”; not the splendour of His majesty or the greatness of His power, but His tenderness, His care for their needs, the love that found its relief in serving them, He showed His heart, Himself. And now, says He, As I have done to you, so do ye to one another, I have left you an example.

The assembly is the continuation of Christ on earth. In it He is to be reproduced; His life and grace, who is the Head of the assembly which is His body, are to be manifested in it. The great truth is this, that we are members of the body of Christ. He went down into death, paying there the mighty price of our redemption, He has been raised up from the depths of death and seated at the right hand of the Eternal Majesty, and from that glory He has sent down the Holy Ghost to indwell us—to indwell you and me; and now, indwelt by the Holy Ghost, we are part of Himself. He looks down upon this gathering tonight and says, That is part of Me. This great fact was first disclosed when by His power the Lord struck the fanatical Saul of Tarsus to the earth as he pursued his mission of blood to Damascus . To him He said: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And Saul, filed with amazement, asked: “Who art thou, Lord?” From the glory came the answer: “I am JESUS whom thou persecutest.” He did not say, You are persecuting Mine, but “Me.” And we are that, the youngest Christian here as well as the oldest—of each and all the Lord says, it is Me. He has redeemed us by His blood, sealed us by the Holy Ghost, and gathered us up into His blessed unity; we are members of His body; we are Himself. Pray, young Christian, that you may understand this, and that it may not only be in your head as doctrine, but in your heart and life in power. Christ is the Head of His body, and the life of the Head must flow in its activities through His members. This is the first of all reasons for the body of Christ's presence in the world, His life and grace and character are to come out in us, His members—the life of Jesus made manifest in our mortal flesh. The question is, How can it be?

The answer to our question is not far to seek. The Lord said to them, “Let not you heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in Me .” But did they not believe in Him? They did, but this is not faith for soul's salvation, it is something more than that. He was not only their Pattern, He was also to be their Resource. They were to have Him as their inexhaustible and all-sufficient resource for the carrying out of God's purpose in their lives in the world. He is that for us. He says: “Believe also in Me.” In that short sentence He presents Himself in the fullness and power of His Deity. All that ever God had been to men in olden days—to Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel—He would be to them, and will be to us. We do not see Him with our mortal eyes, but faith sees Him, and all that He is is at the disposal of our faith, He is indispensable, all-sufficient. “Believe also in ME.”

The assembly when gathered together is the place in which the life and grace of the Lord should be manifested, it is the circle also where the authority of the Lord should be maintained. He is Lord as well as Head. Lordship first and then Headship is the order of the truth. I would connect authority with verse 34 of chapter 13, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” He is the Lord and has the right to command. He is not said to be Lord of the assembly, He is Head of the assembly; but He is certainly Lord in the assemblies when they are gathered. They are the circles where His rights and authority must be owned. I know those who can only interpret authority as discipline, judgment, casting out, and putting away. The judgment of evil there must be, of course. I am not setting that aside, but that is abnormal, what is normal is here given to us. The command is, “Love one another.” If we are subject to the Lord, we shall exercise ourselves in this it this. “By this”, He says, “shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Love not in word only, but in deed, love such as finds its expression in service, in self-sacrificing service. Of which our Lord gave us the pattern.

It calls for the setting self on one side, of making little of self and much of our fellow-members. Paul trod this path in his self-sacrificing service. He endured all things for the sake of the elect, because they were precious to Christ. This is only possible as Christ displaces self. A man is self-centred until he meets Christ. You never wished to be anybody else but yourself until you saw Christ. You were full of self-love until you saw Him, then you became sick of self, didn't you?

Many of you are young in the faith, and you have not learnt much about yourselves yet, but what you have learnt has not pleased you; nor have you learnt much about Jesus, but all you have learnt has delighted you. The more you know of Him the more will you abhor self, until you will be glad to look upon self as a condemned criminal and have Christ instead for your gain—that is carrying the cross and following Him, and thus with Christ instead of self before you, you will be able to devote yourself to Him and care for those whom He calls, “Me”. Then will you be living in Colossians 3. Take verse 13, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” It is not here as in the Ephesian Epistle, “As God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you,” but “as Christ hath forgiven you.” It brings before us the manner and the measure of Christ's forgiveness. How has He forgiven us? He has made us part of Himself. He can have nothing against us if He has done that. I want you to understand it, He has not only pardoned every transgression, but He has made us members of His body, we are part of Himself now; we could not be nearer to Him, no relationship could be more intimate, that is how Christ has forgiven us. Now see what flows from this, “so also do ye.” It is John 13 repeated. But what is the bearing of this? Well, it should be plain enough. If Christ has made us members of Himself, He has made us members one of another. If we are one with Him, so also are we one with each other, “we being many are one body.” This is our calling as indicated in verse 15. Could Christians quarrel if they knew this great fact? Would there not always be the same forbearance and forgiveness towards each other as Christ, our Head, has had to each of us? Surely, for the grace of the Head would be in the members of His body if the truth were really in power within us.

Some of us, it may be, are conscious of deadness of soul, we are not making spiritual progress. Why? Let me ask, Are there hard feelings in our hearts against any Christian on earth? Are we harbouring an unforgiving spirit, any of us, against any? That is the reason of the dearth, and all our sighing and longing and praying will be futile as long as that spirit remains.

The Holy Ghost is grieved; the truth of our oneness with Christ and one another is denied, and the devil is delighted if we are not forbearing one another and forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us. A poet has put into Paul's lips

“O men and women, whom I sought and slew,

When I meet you in the heavenly places

How shall I weep to Stephen and to you?”

But let none of us postpone our weeping. If we have wronged any fellow-member of the body of Christ, if we have been overbearing instead of forbearing, hard and vindictive instead of forgiving, let us weep now, and confess it now as sin, sin not merely against a brother or sister, but against Christ. Then restored to the Lord and reconciled to those from whom we have been estranged, we may have Him afresh before us as our Pattern, and learning of Him become like Him. There is grace enough in Him for this, for He is Lord and He is Head, and as we know this we shall live in Colossians 3, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.

Our Resources

Notes of a Bible Reading in Brisbane on John 14

 

I am sure that every one of us here would like to give pleasure to the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ; we should like to be both in our individual and collective life what He desires us to be. The question is, how can we? I think that what is unfolded in this chapter will help us. In it the Lord speaks to His disciples of the resources that would be theirs during His absence from them, and these resources abide unimpaired for us to this day.

Remark. We don't see the outward manifestations of power now such as they had in the beginning.

That is so. The sign gifts such as the gifts of tongues and healing have passed away, and attempts to revive them are not of God, and only lead to confusion, disappointment and depression, and disclose the unwarrantable assumption of those who make the attempt; but all that is vital remains. Nothing remains that might give us notoriety before men, but everything remains that is necessary to make us pleasing to the Lord. And if we love Him we shall be glad of this. The church at Corinth had the sign gifts, and strutted proudly in them, flaunting their powers in order to make much of themselves, entirely regardless of their carnal condition that was grieving the Lord. We do not wish to be like them. The church at Philadelphia possessed none of the gifts, but they earned the Lord's approval by their devotion to His word and Name. They were living in these chapters in John's Gospel, and so may we with the same result.

I want to lay stress upon the words “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” We desire to be here for the Lord, and the desire is right, but if what we desire to be occupies our thoughts exclusively we shall never attain to our desire. If we put it first we are wrong, for we are putting the cart before the horse. The first thing is what Christ can be for us. It is really the only thing; everything else is secured by it. As my soul enters into what He is for me—my all-sufficient and never-failing Resource, able to fill and satisfy my heart, and take captive my whole being by His grace and love, it follows naturally that I shall be for Him. All that He can be for us is wrapt up in the words, “Believe also in Me.” It is what He is and can do for us.

Simon Peter was full of what he could be and do for the Lord. The Lord had said that He was going away, and Peter had not yet received the vision that could look on to the glory. He was not yet ready to say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” He thought only of prison and death, and he said, “Lord . . . I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” And he meant it. He meant it as much as ever some of us have meant it when we have vowed on our bended knees to stand for Christ and serve Him with our whole hearts. Ah! but he had to weep out his disappointment and sorrow for broken vows and wretched failure, just as we have had to do, and will still have to do, so long as our great thought is what we can be for Christ instead of what He can be for us. Peter was on the wrong tack entirely, and the Lord told him that he would deny Him, not once only but thrice before the morning dawned. No, Peter, your self-confidence will betray you. You have to learn that it is not Peter for Christ but Christ for Peter. “Believe also in Me.” On this plane we are safe and on no other. Here we shall have strength to stand, for He will be our strength. No matter what our sincerity and determination on the other ground may be, we shall fail. Do you understand that?

Remark—Yes, I think I do.

Well, you must not be satisfied with hearing the words, and being able to repeat them correctly. You must get the fact into your soul, for it is vital to all spiritual life and victory. You will fail, and fail, and fail, until you come to this in your experience, and everything will be unsatisfactory. It is not what you can be for Christ, but what He can be for you. You have been disappointed with yourself, perhaps disgusted, and are on the verge of despair. To you the Lord says, “Let not your heart be troubled . . . believe also in Me.” Lift your thoughts and confidence from yourself and centre them in Me.

Question. But there is our side, is there not? We would like to serve Him and witness for Him.

Yes, and so we shall. If the Spirit of God has given any of us the desire to serve the Lord, He will also fulfil the desire. We may bear fruit, and be His disciples, His friends, His witnesses. All that is in chapter 15, but chapter 14 comes before chapter 15. We have to learn the meaning of His words, “Without ME ye can do nothing.” Chapter 14 is the “ME,” chapter 15 the “YE.” The first is our unfailing resource, the second the happy result. We all gladly own that we have no life except in Him, and we owe that to His death for us. When it was a question of our soul's salvation we were shut up to Him completely, and He did all for us. But that was only the beginning. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him; rooted and built up in Him.” As you began, so continue; He was our all for salvation, He is still our all for life, and grace, and power. It is not what we are but what He is. “Believe also in ME.”

But notice that first came the words, “Ye believe in God.” All that God had ever been to His people throughout the ages and all that He ever would be or could be, that, said the Lord Jesus, I will be to you. His word is a faithful word; it holds good for us in Brisbane today. When God said to Abram, “Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward,” it was not what Abram could be for God, but what God could be for him. So with Jacob at Bethel , when God declared what He would do for him, it was God for Jacob and not Jacob for God. When David said, “Although my house be not so with God; yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure” (2 Sam. 23:5), it was not David for God—for he confesses how he had failed, but it was God for David—there was no failure there. So we find it all through. There never was anything stable except as it was based upon this, and this ground of blessing is presented with even more emphasis in the New Testament. The Lord says, all that you need in every way I will be to you—I am the basis of your safety and confidence; I am your Resource and your joy, all is in Me. “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.”

Question. How are we to get the benefit of that?

Faith must be in exercise first. It is not sight now as it had been with the disciples, but faith; and our faith will be in exercise just in that measure in which we know the Lord and cast off self-confidence. Faith becomes active and triumphant as we grasp the fact that the great thing is Christ for us . Faith always overcomes. The devil has never been able to defeat one bit of true faith, for faith brings the Lord in. The second thing is, the Holy Spirit has been given to us; we shall come to that presently. But if we had nothing more this afternoon than this “Believe also in Me” we have enough to think about. When this is realized it changes everything, even our praying. We shall not pray so much, “Lord strengthen me,” but “Lord, Thou art my strength, To Thee my weakness clings.”

But there is more than what is individual here. Those disciples were representative men. They represented the whole company of God's saints whose faith was to be centred in the Lord Jesus until He comes again. They were the nucleus of His assembly; and, drawn to Him as they were, they represented all who would yet own His Name and be gathered to Him as their Centre and Head. It was His intention during the period of His absence to have His own gathered to His Name, and He is here preparing His disciples for this. So in chapter 13 He serves them by washing their feet. Their hopes had all been connected with earthly glory, and with Himself as the Messiah who would reign on earth, but His rejection changed all that. The hopes of His assembly are heavenly not earthly; their present portion is a heavenly one, for Christ is in heaven, and if His disciples were to have part with Him it must be in heavenly things. This is also true for us, and we need, as the disciples needed, to be cleansed from earthly thoughts and earthly things which only depress and defile, so that set free from them we may have part with Him, not now in the glory of an earthly kingdom, but in the joy of the Father's love. The feet-washing sets forth this, and the Lord carries on this blessed service by His word to this day .

Then Judas, the traitor, had to go out. He could have no part in this new blessedness, only those who were bound to the Lord by bonds of life and love could enter here. Judas represents the unregenerate man—the flesh—who is so incurably self-centred that he would gladly sell his Lord in the hope of enriching himself. He had had power to work miracles, to cast out devils, and to heal the sick, like the other disciples; but he had no vital link with the Lord, and he went out. The unregenerate man has no place in the assembly that Christ builds.

Lastly, self confidence, such as Peter's, had to be exposed, for that can be only a hindrance wherever it is. It is a perpetual menace to the peace and progress of the assembly. Then the Lord put Himself forward as their Refuge and Resource. He said later on, “I will not leave you comfortless [or orphans], I will come to you” (v. 18). An orphan is one who is without a protector or guide, without help or resource. And if we understand things we shall say, That is just what we are without the Lord, for we have nothing to boast in. We cannot say, like the Laodiceans, “I am rich, and increased with goods and have need of nothing.” No, we are orphans, defenceless and destitute, if we have not the Lord. Well, to a company of nothings such as we are the Lord says, “I will come to you.” And then we have everything, and we glory in the Lord.

Question. Is that similar to what we have at the end of 1 Corinthians 1? It seems to come in well here.

Yes, we are nothing, but the Lord is everything. If we keep that in mind we shall go on in happy, holy fellowship together, finding our common joy and help in the Lord. We could not have more than He is, for all fullness is in Him, and nothing less than Himself will do.

We must now pass reluctantly over the intervening verses to verses 15-17. The Father would send the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth. It is by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us that we enter intelligently and effectually into these things. It ought to be plain to us all that we cannot understand Divine things except as we are taught by the Spirit of God.

Question. Has not all the confusion in Christendom arisen from the fact that the presence of the Spirit is ignored?

Yes, what has been particularly lost sight of is the fact that the Spirit has come in relation to the absence of the Lord from earth and His exaltation in heaven. He has come from Christ in heaven, sent by the Father, to take care of us for Christ, to keep us in living contact with Him, and to unfold His glories to us. There are many who talk a lot about the Spirit, and of being filled with the Spirit, who are full of self-importance and spiritual pride, which is really carnality. A man who is full of the Spirit will be full of Christ. Christ, not self, will be his theme. But the first mark of a man who has received the Spirit and is under His influence is separation from the world. That comes out in striking fashion here. “Whom the world cannot receive . . . but ye know Him,” said the Lord. The world and the “ye” are set in the most complete contrast. The “ye” today is the assembly, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to which an unseen Christ is a living reality. Faith is the great principle of its life and activities, while the world walks by sight, and can only exist by what it sees, and feels, and handles. It is sensual. It has nothing outside the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. It is evident that the assembly, if it is to maintain its true character, must be separate from the world. It is evident that it has resources and a power that the world neither possesses nor knows. The world cannot help us in our life and witness for the Lord. Its principle of action and all its motives are opposed to what is of God. If we adopt them we must surrender Divine principles.

Question. Does the 15th verse show the difference between the disciples and the world too?

Yes. The world hated the Lord, and still does, as chapter 15:18-25 shows, and it hates all who love the Lord. But His own love Him and show it by their obedience.

Question. What were the commandments that they had to keep?

Well, there were two specially—“Tarry in Jerusalem ” and “Love one another.” And they obeyed both. They were able to wait, and they waited in love and unity until the Father sent the Comforter. The hardest thing is to wait. It is easier to act than to wait; but this was the Lord's command, and it was enough for them. Israel in the wilderness could not wait when Moses went up into the mountain; and God looked down upon them and saw their disobedience. They were disobedient because they did not love Him. But in the case of the disciples the Lord could look down upon His own, and speak to the Father about them as those who proved their love to Him by their obedience to His commands. And to that obedient company the Father sent the Comforter. Now, those two precious features should mark us all. Love to the Lord and obedience to His commands; amongst such the Holy Ghost will be ungrieved, and harmony and spiritual progress will result.

Verse 26 shows us what is the great mission of the Spirit as far as the disciples of the Lord are concerned, “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” He separates us from the world and fills us with Christ. He is as necessary to us on earth as Christ is necessary to us in heaven. And if we are to develop in Christian knowledge and grace and power we must pay attention to Ephesians 4:30, which says, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” We grieve Him when we are indifferent to Christ, since He has come from heaven to bear witness to Christ and to show us His glory. When Abraham's servant went to seek Rebekah to be Isaac's wife, Isaac was his one theme, and as long as Rebekah delighted to hear about Isaac the servant would be happy. But suppose she got weary of his talk and anxious to discuss some other matter, he would have been grieved; and the deeper his interest in his mission and in Rebekah as Isaac's bride, the greater his grief would be. So it is with the Holy Spirit. He has come as the Comforter to conduct us safely to the heavenly Bridegroom, and He delights to unfold His glories to us. In this 14th chapter he recalls the past, all that Jesus had spoken to His disciples (v. 26); in the 15th chapter He testifies of the present glory of Christ (v. 26); in the 16th chapter He shows us things to come (v. 13). But whether the past, present, or future, Christ is the Centre of all. If we have ears to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say about Christ He is delighted, if we have not He is grieved.

Question. Would not every kind of sin grieve Him?

Of course. Yet sin in the believer is really the result of having grieved the Holy Spirit. If we walked in the Spirit we should not sin, and we walk in the Spirit as Christ is everything to us.

Question. What happens to us when we grieve the Spirit of God?

Well, we lose our joy, and we are powerless both in worship and service; we are wasting our time, and are in bondage to the flesh. But the Spirit of God does not cease His activities towards us. He is too concerned for the glory of Christ for that. He works to exercise our consciences and to show us our sinfulness and waywardness and the root of it all. But that is not happy work. It is not the normal work of the Holy Spirit. His work is to show us Christ. There is joy in that, there is no joy in showing us ourselves, however necessary it may be.

But even in the warning, “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” there is a wonderful comfort. We do not grieve an enemy, we only grieve those who love us, and tenderly care for us. We may make an enemy angry, or vex a stranger, but it is the tender heart that is grieved by our conduct, and the tenderer and more loving the heart the more easily it is grieved. The Spirit of God loves us tenderly, and is keenly sensitive as to whether we respond fully to the love of the Lord Jesus or not. Hence He is easily grieved, but He never ceases His service of love to us.

Question. What is the meaning of “Comforter”?

It means one who comes to take complete charge of us—an advocate who has undertaken our case and will see it through to a triumphant issue. We are all like a child who has to take a journey through crowded streets and dangerous traffic; what she wants is a comforter, one who will take her hand and guide and lead her safely every step of her way, give her confidence and make her happy and see that her every need is met. Such is the Holy Spirit to us. But He is all this to us by keeping us in communication with Christ, He does nothing for us apart from Christ. He makes all there is in Christ real to us, and enables us to be in constant and effectual possession of our resources in Him. The Spirit of God would be grieved indeed if we made Him our object instead of Christ. He has come that Christ may be pre-eminent with us. He has come to maintain the rights of Christ in our lives.

Well, we have Christ as the Object of our faith and our never-failing Resource for every need, but He has been hated and rejected by the world and is no longer in it. Hence, we are carried in faith and affection outside the world; in hope, too, for we look for Him according to His word to take us actually out of the world to the Father's house, that where He is there we may be also. Then we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, a new and heavenly power of which the world knows nothing, and this also means that our sphere of life and interests lies outside the world. We may live by the Holy Spirit in heavenly things, and may set our affections on things above where Christ sitteth. In that sphere there is peace. “My peace I give unto you,” the Lord said. And that is the sphere and atmosphere in which the assembly exists and thrives. If we desire to enter into what the assembly is, here we find it; a sphere pervaded by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit into which Christ comes and where He is everything, and where the Father's love and interest are known; for, notice further, how the Lord insists that the Holy Spirit would come forth from the Father. “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter” (v. 16). “The Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in My Name” (v. 26). “The Comforter . . . whom I will send unto you from the Father” (15:26). “All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore, said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (16:15). The Father's interest in us is infinite. The disciples were the subject of intercourse between the Father and the Son. The Son would pray to the Father, and the Father would answer the prayer of the Son by sending the Holy Spirit. And this communion between the Father and the Son still abides. It may surpass our comprehension, but there it is. We are lifted into this circle of ineffable and Divine love. The Father and the Holy Spirit are engaged in our blessing for the glory of God's Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and He is exercising His love to us in all its unfailing strength and faithfulness as when He died for us.

But how are we affected by all this? Do we receive these great truths as information only, or do they affect our souls and form our character? Information is good if it results in the formation of Christ within us, and displaces self, and separates from the world. It can only do this as the Spirit of God works in us, apart from this it is a great danger, for our consciences may be quieted by the fact that we know things, whereas we really know nothing that is not made effectual in the reproduction of the truth in our lives. That is a solemn consideration for us all. The devil is crafty indeed, and one of his wiles is to make us satisfied with knowing about these things instead of knowing them in their transforming power; but the Spirit of God is greater than he, and the Spirit dwells in us, while the devil is only in the world, so that as we grieve not the Spirit of God all will be well with us.

And now our time is done, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God our Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with us all. We get in effect that threefold benediction in our chapter.

 

Our Standing and Estate

 

When His Majesty the King bestows his birthday honours he must consider not only the merits of those who are to receive them, but whether they will be able to maintain the new dignity that he wishes to give them. For instance, he would not raise a scavenger to the peerage, for such a man would not have the estate and resources with which to uphold the dignity that such a standing in the realm would demand. A man with a great title and standing but without corresponding resources would be a laughing stock.

Now God has raised all who have believed in Jesus to a place of great dignity. They are “in Christ Jesus,” and there is now no condemnation for them. So Romans 8 tells us, and we learn that not only is this their standing, but they are brought into a wonderful relationship in that standing, they are sons of God—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus. But suppose that the God of grace, having raised us to this glorious dignity—and it is all grace, free sovereign grace that has done it—had left us without an estate or resources by which the dignity could be upheld, how unequal the matter would have been; why, we should have been the laughing stock of every intelligent creature! But He has not so acted. He has given to us His own Spirit. In the early part of Romans 8 the Spirit is mentioned more than a dozen times, and the Spirit is the estate that corresponds to the dignity; in Him is the power and resources.

We are in Christ Jesus, and God's intention is that this great standing should not be in title only but in reality, that we should live as those who are in Him, and the Spirit that dwells in us is equal to this. Thus are our standing and state equal. The cause of much failure among Christians lies in the fact that the indwelling of the Spirit is not realized in its full import; in many, alas, He is a grieved Spirit and His operations are thwarted. So that in them we have the sad spectacle of those whose heads have been crowned with the coronets of grace, walking and even grovelling in the mire of the world. No question can be raised as to their title, but their ways are incongruous, they are sons of God living the lives of beggars instead of showing forth His praises who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.

If we consider the dignity, “in Christ Jesus,” and the relationship, “sons of God,” our hearts will surely be greatly moved, we shall be full of thanksgiving to the God of all grace, our Father, who has thus blest us; but our joy in this will not be maintained and increased unless we give the Spirit of God His place, we must mind the things of the Spirit and through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, then we shall live in this liberty and we shall prove that when God raised us to this dignity, He considered well as to how it could be upheld and He gave to us His Holy Spirit. A power equal to our position and a state equal to our standing.

Papers on Prophecy

 

“The King of the North” and Russia

The following question has been sent to us, “What is it that leads expositors and prophetic lecturers to identify ‘the King of the North' especially with a Russian ruler? In what passage of Scripture is the matter mentioned”? In answer to this and other similar questions we give the following notes.

The career of the future King of the North and his campaign against Jerusalem is given in Daniel 11:40-45; and that of Russia 's great onslaught on the Holy Land in Ezekiel 38:39. These two must not be confused. The first will take place before the appearance of the Lord to deliver Israel and the east after that appearing. Daniel 11 is the only Scripture that speaks definitely of the King of the North, though the many prophecies which tell of the trouble that will come upon Israel from the Assyrian of the future and, probably, “the overflowing scourge” of Isaiah 28:18, have this personage in view.

It cannot be correct to say that a Russian ruler will be the King of the North, if he is to come from the same territory as the king bearing the same designation spoken of in the earlier part of Daniel 11. This king, who proved to be Antiochus Epiphanes, and who fulfilled the prophecies concerning him to the letter, reigned over Syria , the northern part of Alexander's Grecian empire, and became the great persecutor of the Jews, and one of the most blasphemous figures in history. The events from verse 35 to end of chapter await fulfilment, and the King of the North (v. 40) who is to appear must rule over the territory of his predecessor—the northern parts of Asia Minor at present held by Turkey .

As the Turk does not now possess the power that this war-like personage will have, and as what power he has seems likely to be broken, it has been thought that he, or whoever occupies this territory, will come under the rule of, or be allied to, Russia, and so will have Russia's support in his terrible onslaught upon Jerusalem, but we cannot discover anything in the passage to support this thought; it gives the impression that he will act independently of any other political power. Though at the later date to which we have referred Asia Minor, as well as the whole of Persia , will certainly be under Russian control as we shall see, but this refers to a time when the King of the North shall have perished.

It should be borne in mind that there exist great powers in the spiritual world—fallen beings that influence the nations and are entirely opposed to God's intentions as to the disposal of the kingdoms of this world. The greatest of these is Satan, but he is not the only one. Daniel 10 speaks of one who is styled “the prince of the kingdom of Persia,” who fought against God's messenger to Daniel, and prevented him from fulfilling his mission, for twenty-one days, until Michael, who is spoken of as “the great prince which standeth for” the Jews, came to his aid. Another in the same chapter is called “the prince of Grecia.” These references to these heads of spiritual principalities are illuminating, especially as they come into view in connection with the prophecies relating to the sorrows and final successes of Israel , and they help us to understand the fierce attacks that will be made upon Jerusalem .

During this church period God is not putting the world right, but is gathering a people out of it, from amongst both Jew and Gentile, to form the heavenly bride of Christ. But the moment is fast approaching when the church will be completed, and God will begin to prepare the way for the kingdoms of this world to become the kingdoms of the Lord and His Christ. The first step towards this will be the gathering of the Jews into the promised land. The work of God in this direction will stir up the rage of these evil principalities, and especially those that influenced Israel 's ancient enemies and constantly sought to destroy them because they were God's people. They will see in it the portend of their final overthrow, and they will energize afresh those nations over which they have gained an ascendency to attempt to prevent God's purposes by attacking His people the Jews. We know that Satan will give his power to the great head of the revived Roman Empire—the first beast of Revelation 13—and it is probable that these lesser princes in the evil spiritual world will give their power to the various personages that shall appear before God's kingdom comes. This will easily account for nations otherwise weak suddenly displaying extraordinary energy and power. The supermen will be a reality during that period of violence and awful desolations, which will approximate in many respects to the condition of things in the days of Noah when the flood came and took them all away.

The King of the North seems to be specially energized for his work, for when the Jews are put back into their own land, as the sure word of prophecy shows they will be, even though at that time Antichrist will be their king, he comes upon them like a whirlwind, but God's time is not then ripe for their deliverance and his destruction, thence he will find that the King of the South—Egypt—the ancient enemy of the King of the North, has also started a campaign to secure Jerusalem—the prize for which all the world will fight, for himself. With surprising energy he will first attack his rival and subdue him and return and plant his headquarters between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. (This is the regular meaning of the Hebrew, De Wette so translates it. Synopsis, Vol. ii., p. 454.)

He will pitch there because of the tidings out of the east and out of the north that shall trouble him—probably these tidings will refer to the coming of the kings of the East (see Rev. 9:13 to end; 16:12-16); and perhaps also the army of the Beast, head of the Roman Empire. He will be full of fury because of these new rivals to the possession of Jerusalem , but there he meets with utter defeat, in the terse language of the prophecy, “ he shall come to his end, and none shall help him .” The fact that he comes to his end then and there proves, we believe, that he cannot stand for the Russian power. The fate of his army is probably given in Joel 2:20.

Russia comes in later, and is the last enemy that attempts to disturb Israel , then at rest in the land. This great attack is described in Ezekiel 38:39. and has been confounded by some with the attack made by the King of the North. The word itself will help us. “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of Man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, Thus saith the Lord God. Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: and I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarma of the north quarters, and all his bands, and many people with thee” (Ezek. 38:1-6).

Of this passage J. N. Darby says: “‘The chief prince of Meshech and Tubal' is, properly translated, ‘Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.'” (This translation of the correctness of which I have no doubt, is that of the elder Lowth, some hundred and fifty years ago, before these prophetic views were mooted.) And again, “Gesenius gives it as the unquestionable meaning, and adds that without doubt it means the Russian. In the Middle Ages in the East they had the name of Ross.” And again, “If you consult Genesis 10 the generations of the sons of Japheth are named—Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Mesec and Tiras. Of these we get Gomer, Magog, Tubal, Meshech under the same names in Ezekiel 38 as followers of Gog; you will also find Persia, which was united to Media (Madar) . . . these mentioned above are the nations that comprise Russia, Asia Minor, Tartary and Persia . . . They are described as under the dominion of Gog, Prince Rosh (Russia), and Tubal (Tobolsk), Meshech (Moscow).”

The thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of Ezekiel should be read, to understand the vastness of this army that shall come “out of the north parts” and of its terrible destruction by mutual slaughter and pestilence, overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone. Israel will not need to fight, God will do this, for He will magnify and sanctify Himself in the eyes of all nations upon them, and for seven months after their destruction will Israel be burying the dead.

“Perilous Times”

 

We have published the foregoing paper, “The Widening Breach,” in the hope that it may arouse many of our fellow-Christians, who, because they are ignorant of the determined and deliberate abandonment of the truth on the part of many of the most prominent religious leaders, rest secure in the thought that all is well. We believe that these are the “perilous times” of which the Scriptures speak, in the which men—yes, religious men—are “lovers of their own selves,” and not of God, and, in consequence, have no regard for His majestic truths. They see nothing more in these great and eternal verities than time-worn and obsolete doctrines, and they discard them as one would discard a moth-eaten garment of a past generation; they refuse the glorious light of revelation, and walk in the sparks that they have kindled out of their own perishing imaginations, sparks that shalt perish like the imagination that gave them birth, in that day of solemn reckoning, when the unprofitable servant shall be cast into outer darkness (Matt. 25:30).

The devout Christian will not need to be told that that which is held up as orthodoxy, and discarded in some of the quotations given, is not the truth. He will not need to be told, for instance, that it is a travesty of the truth to represent that “salvation can only be obtained by the shedding of innocent blood.” He knows that salvation has been secured for men by the blessed God at His own cost, not by the shedding of innocent blood, but by the offering of the infinitely blessed and holy Lamb of God, who—the Son in the Godhead—became Man, that He might make the great sacrifice, and by His own blood redeem us from the power of sin and from everlasting hell; and that in making this sacrifice He might by it declare, in all its strength and fullness, the love of God to men, and that in such a way that eternal justice might suffer no attain, but that the throne of God might stand in everlasting majesty—inviolate and pure. How blind must those be, who see no glory in Christ crucified! And how Satanic is the effort to rob lost men of this, their only hope!

But the man who tells us that “it is not essential to faith to believe that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,” sweeps all this away; for if Christ were not this, He is not the Word that became flesh—God incarnate; and if He is not that, then the gospel is a fable and the believer a fool.

The servants of God, in former days gloried in the Cross. It was to them “the wisdom and the power of God.” They had had a soul-history; had felt the burden of their guilt; had cried to God in their distress, and had found deliverance and peace through the sacrifice of Christ. By that sacrifice they were emancipated from Satan's thraldom; by it God was revealed to their wondering souls; by it they had a certain hope of heaven; by it they did great works amongst the multitudes dead in trespasses and sins; for they preached it, and the Holy Ghost honoured their work, and saved their hearers. But now, there is a generation standing in their places, their successors in office, but utter aliens to the life and blessing and power which was theirs; and so shameless are they, that they seize eagerly upon weapons of the Bible-hating sceptic in order to destroy the truths that their predecessors loved dearer than life. They are the leaders of those who will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts are heaping to themselves teachers, having itching ears (2 Tim. 10:3). It is sufficient for these that their chosen leaders be men of culture, educated and brilliant. But it is not by such that God's work is done; He hath not chosen these; as it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1 Cor. 1).

It is not a pleasure to call attention to this serious apostasy from the truth; but it is necessary that the alarm should be sounded, that those who love God and His truth might know how to act in regard to it; quit them like men; hold fast that which they have, and earnestly contend for the truth. There must be no compromise with the evil; there must not be, if we are to be loyal to Christ, any fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; clearly and insistently comes the call, the command, “From such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5). “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19). “If there come any unto you; and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid God speed: FOR HE THAT BIDDETH HIM GOD SPEED IS PARTAKER OF HIS EVIL DEEDS” (2 John 10-11). These commands cannot be ignored; they are as much the Word of God, as the truths we desire to defend; and disobedience to the one must weaken our hold upon and joy in the other. May God enable His servants to understand and obey.

Playing the Man

 

I have received a letter from a young Christian who is studying in a Divinity school His purpose is to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, but there sounds in his letter a note of discouragement. He does not find his path an easy one, and the indifference to Christ all about him is a great trial to him. There are many like him I have no doubt in home, office, workshop or school. It may cheer such to consider of what stock they come. This is given to us very quaintly by the inimitable Bunyan, when he describes for us the reception the good Gaius—a pattern of a Christian host—gave to Christiana and her company as they journeyed to the Celestial City.

“Is this Christian's wife, and are these Christian's children?” said he. “I knew your husband's father, yea, also his father's father. Many have been good of this stock; their ancestors dwelt first at Antioch . Christian's progenitors (I suppose you have heard your husband talk of them) were very worthy men. They have above any that I know, showed themselves to be men of great virtue and courage for the Lord of the pilgrims, His ways, and them that loved Him. I have heard of many of your husband's relations that have stood all trials for the sake of the truth. Stephen, that was one of the first of the family from whence your husband sprang, was knocked on the head with stones . James, another of his generation, was slain with the edge of the sword . To say nothing of Paul and Peter, men anciently of the family from whence your husband came, there was Ignatius, who was cast to the lions ; Romanus, whose flesh was cut by pieces from his bones ; and POLYCARP, THAT PLAYED THE MAN IN THE FIRE. There was he that was hanged up in a basket in the sun for the wasps to eat; and he whom they put in a sack, and cast him into the sea to be drowned. Nor can I but be glad to see that thy husband has left behind him four such boys as these. I hope they will bear up their father's name, and tread in their father's steps, and come to their father's end.”

“Indeed, sir,” said Greatheart, their guide, and that most valiant of the King's band, “they are likely lads; they seem to choose heartily their father's ways.”

How marvellously does Bunyan put things! That description of these young pilgrims as “likely lads” could not be improved upon. And in such a way will I describe my young correspondent and all his like. Having in their youth owned Jesus as their Saviour and Lord, what wonderful possibilities lie before them. “I hope they will bear up their father's name,” said Gaius of these likely lads. That name was CHRISTIAN. Wonderful name for anyone to bear! It means, “Ye are Christ's.” And those who bear it will have to suffer for His Name's sake. “But,” says Peter, “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Pet. 3:16).

But if this name is to be truly borne by any they must play the man , as Polycarp did, not at the stake, of course, the devil has given up burning Christians; he discovered that it did not pay him, and he endeavours now to weary them by their lukewarm surroundings. It were better that they were either cold or hot, for the Laodicean influence is deadly indeed. It is, in fact, fatal to the pilgrim, unless he hath purpose of heart, cleaves to the Lord, and plays the man.

But it will surely stir the hearts of the young Christians to run over again the names of these noble martyrs of the Lord whom Bunyan calls our progenitors, and to dwell for a while on Polycarp specially, who played the man in the fire.

We learn of him when he was brought to the stake, the Roman officer, who had charge of the execution, a soldier with a humane heart, felt for the old man, and said, “Have pity on thy great age. Swear by Caesar. Reproach this Christ of thine by but one word, and I will set thee free.” The noble pilgrim, enfeebled and bent with years and suffering, replied, “Eighty and six years have I served Jesus Christ, and He has never once wronged or deceived me, how, then, can I reproach Him!” Then as the executioners were binding the aged saint and preparing the fire for his martyrdom, some who stood by wrote down this prayer as it issued from his lips. “O Father of Thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I bless Thee that Thou hast counted me worthy of this day and this hour. I thank Thee that I am permitted to put my lips to the cup of Christ. And I thank Thee for the sure hope of the resurrection and of the incorruptible life of heaven. I praise Thee, O Father, through our eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, through whom, and in the Holy Ghost, be glory to Thee, both now and for ever. Amen.”

Ah! Polycarp was one of the cloud of witnesses, who bear witness to us that God will never fail, but will uphold by His strong right hand all those who put their trust in Him. Do not fear, young Christian, commit your life with all its problems to God, and in dependence and obedience choose heartily this way in which your progenitors have run, LOOKING UNTO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF FAITH.

Power, Preservation, Permanence

 

Of all the sons of Jacob, Joseph alone was faithful to God, and this faithfulness was seen in his resistance of evil. He became in consequence the object of the malice and the attacks of the enemy. But God was his strength and He did not fail, so we read. “The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” Here was POWER. But not only so, but it is added as a parenthesis. “From thence is the Shepherd.” Here was PRESERVATION. He was cared for all the while. And further, “The stone of Israel .” Here was PERMANENCE. He did not build on the shifting sand. He was identified with the Rock of Israel, and “that Rock was Christ.” And these things were written for our learning.

Practical Godliness

 

We gather from correspondence with friends in various parts that there is an awakening as to the great need of more practical godliness in the lives of Christians, and much exercise that so little of it is seen as a result of all the truth that is held theoretically. If this exercise deepens and spreads it will be a cause for thanksgiving, and it is what we should expect in a day when evil in a most diabolical fashion is filling the earth with desolation. If the children of the devil are manifesting themselves by hatred and murder, the children of God should make manifest that they are His children by works of righteousness and love (1 John 3).

It is not what is held in the head but what comes out in the life, not what we hear only but what we do that tells. We cannot do the works of God unless we hear the words of God, it is of the utmost importance that that should be seen, then we shall value our Bibles more. But we may hear the words and not do the works. The one who hears the Word and does not do it deceives his own self (Jas. 1:22); but he deceives no one else, neither God, nor his brethren, nor the world.

What has the truth that we know done for us? Does it enable us to bridle our tongues when we are provoked? Does it move us to visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and keep ourselves unspotted from the world? (Jas. 1:26-27). If not, what we know is worse than useless, and our religion is vain.

We are not talking about preaching, for a man may be a preacher and yet a castaway. We do not belittle preaching. In those bright early days all were preachers, and everywhere (Acts 11), and we often find ourselves wishing the wish of Moses, “Would to God that [in these days] all the Lord's people were prophets,” but what is not less enduring, or less productive of results, or less acceptable to the Lord, is the keeping of His commandments, for by this we know that we know Him; and this lies within the reach of all.

The misery of a life of selfishness, and the joy of a life yielded to God, the darkness of this world and the brightness of that to which we are going, ought alike to lead us to a fuller and more practical sanctification of ourselves to God and His service; and the love of Christ of which we sing so much will if truly known constrain us in the same direction. And in this each may be a help to all, and none may shirk his responsibility; but more particularly is it necessary that those who minister the word, and so are more prominent than others, should lead in these things. Paul's manner of life did not belie his doctrine. Young Timothy was exhorted to be “an example of believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Titus had to show in himself “a pattern of good works” (Tit. 2:7). But the servants, slaves in that day, also, had to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Tit. 2:10). And all are exhorted—“Consider one another to provoke unto love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).

Let us read more; keep the Word more constantly before each other; pray more with and for each other, and stir up ourselves to do the sayings of the Lord. Thus shall we adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, and, living the Gospel, we shall have more power in preaching it, and so shall all our ways be established, and our works shall abide because founded on a rock (Luke 6:47-48).

“Praising and Blessing God”

 

“ Behold thou shalt be dumb and not able to speak . . . because thou believest not my words ” (Luke 1:20).

“ And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God ” (Luke 24:52-53).

 

The Gospel of Luke commences with a dumb priest in the temple, and closes with a company of men in that same place “praising and blessing God”: proof to us of some great occurrence between the two.

Now if any man on earth ought to have praised God it was Zacharias, for he was a priest, and in the temple of God . Moreover the angel of God had just announced to him most blessed things; but there was no response in his heart to the glad tidings from God: he met them with rank unbelief. As a consequence the astonished Gabriel pronounced God's sentence upon him, and his dumb lips became the outward sign of his inward and spiritual state of unbelief; and this condition was typical of that in which all men are by nature.

It was not for this that man was created, for it is written that whoso offereth praise glorifieth God: God created man for His glory—a well-tuned instrument—to respond to the touch of His infinite goodness with intelligent and joyous thanksgiving. But the devil spoiled God's handiwork by introducing distrust of God into the heart of man; and the chord was lost, and the music died out, and instead of songs of praise greeting God's advent in the garden, Adam—a fallen man, a sinner against God, cowered away in dumb fear from the One who loved and had lost him.

But God cannot be baffled, nor His purpose thwarted, and the apparent triumph of the devil only yielded the opportunity for the establishment of the praise of men upon a secure and eternal basis.

This basis is found in Christ. He came to be about His Father's business (chap. 2:49): this business was to call sinners to repentance (chap. 5:32), to seek and save that which was lost (chap. 19:10), “ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day : and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:46-47). He came to destroy the works of the devil, and to deliver men from his power and bring them to God, so that faith might take the place of unbelief and love supersede enmity, and worship and thanksgiving break forth from hearts and lips, that erst were dumb.

It is intensely interesting and blessed to see then that when He was “carried up into heaven,” His mission to earth completed, there was left behind in this world of sin, and unbelief, and sorrow, and death, a company of men who had been put into tune with heaven, and whose hearts vibrated with responsive praise to that boundless love which had been expressed in the Lord Jesus Christ: they were filled with “great joy, and were continually . . . praising and blessing God.” It will be readily admitted that theirs was a most blessed and desirable condition: and yet this is the normal Christian condition, and where it is absent in true believers there is some cause. But there are certain things which are necessary to it, and these are clearly indicated for us in this closing chapter of the Gospel.

 

The Word of God

The two disciples travelling to Emmaus had no song, for sad men do not sing (v. 17). They had placed their hopes in Christ as the glorious immediate Redeemer of Israel, but instead of realizing these hopes they had seen Him rejected by the Jews and crucified in weakness; and these walkers according to the light of their eyes were returning to their own homes gloomy and disappointed. There was no need for their despondency for that day was the most glorious in all the annals of time: and if the stars of the morning sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy when the earth's foundations were laid, how much more cause for joy was there on this day in which was manifestly established a new creation which can never be spoiled by sin and death!

But the Lord laid bare the cause of their gloom when He said, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (v. 25), and it was necessary for Him to begin at “Moses and all the prophets,” and expound unto them “ in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself ” (v. 27).

Unbelief lay at the root of their sadness: their own thoughts, and perhaps the traditions of men, had a larger place in their minds than all that the prophets have spoken. Hence they did not understand the thoughts and ways of God.

It is important to note the way that the Lord took to lead them out of the darkness into which unbelief had carried them. He did not straightway reveal Himself to them, as we might have expected Him to do; but He threw them back upon the Scriptures . As another has said, “He led them into the infallible Word of God, which discloses to us the divine counsels of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, that their faith might rest on the testimony of God in the written Word

They had neglected to heed all the Scriptures, and so they had missed the precious treasure that the Scriptures contained, the truth as to Himself.

Who but God could have revealed beforehand those sufferings and that glory, and with what reverent joy we who know Christ can turn to the Holy Writings, knowing them to be God-breathed, to find them like unto a golden casket which when opened reveals priceless gems, which glow and scintillate before the astonished eye! It was thus with these two troubled disciples, for as they saw and heard things concerning Himself, their sadness and disappointment fled, and their hearts glowed with hope, and faith, and love.

The first essential to fullness of joy is to believe all that God hath spoken, to accept His word in simple and unquestioning faith; we shall never understand it, or Him, until we do this; for it is “through faith we understand” (Heb. 11:3), and “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

This ministry of Christ is continued to us by the Holy Spirit come down from above, for He has come to take of the things that are Christ's and show them to us; but this is not apart from the Scriptures: they are indispensable to our understanding the ways of God in Christ.

 

The Risen Christ

But the value of the Scriptures is that they turn the thought and eye to Christ . We are therein taught the glory of His shame; for more glorious was He, thorn-crowned and rejected, than if He had been borne to the throne of David amid the acclamations of the multitude of Israel. Upon the dark background of that unmeasured and unrelieved sorrow there shone the glory of His moral perfection. Men despised Him for what they judged to be weakness, when as a lamb He was led to the slaughter, but then there shone forth that infinite meekness, absolute subjection to the will of God, and the strength of a love that no terrors could daunt. Moreover, it was then that the wisdom, and might, and love of God were displayed: that cross was the triumph of the divine heart, and there in that shamed and crucified MAN we see the glory and wisdom of God's eternal plan. Throughout the eternal ages that cross will be our grandest and most profound contemplation.

But the disciples who had lost Him for awhile (for they could not follow Him into that mystery of darkness and sorrow when surged around Him the hatred of men and devils, and when His soul was made an offering for sin) had found Him again: He was with them in all the value of His sacrifice and the power of His resurrection. He was with them as the Saviour who had died for them (v. 40); the Centre to gather them (v. 36); the Lord to command them (vv. 46-49); and the great High Priest to sustain them in the blessing He had secured for them (v. 50).

With hands uplifted in blessing He was parted from them: they knew that He had gone to the exaltation of God's throne, they knew that that place was the only one worthy to receive Him, it was His due: infinite perfection had received just recognition, and in the sense of this their hearts were filled with exultant joy and praise.

We have the same blessed triumphant Saviour, Centre, Lord, and Priest, the One in whose mighty hand all the purposes and promises of God are held securely, so that not one of them will fail of fulfilment. He is given to us to be the object of our love, and our Lord; to dispossess every idol: and, as in all things He is pre-eminent, we too shall worship Him, and be filled with great joy, praising and blessing God.

Prayer According to the Word

 

“I EXHORT therefore, that, FIRST OF ALL, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made FOR ALL MEN; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

Subjection to this exhortation of God's Word will preserve Christians from praying according to a narrow nationalism as though God were the God of one nation only, or of one nation and its allies. In former days, when God for His own purposes proclaimed Himself as the God of Israel, it was right for Israel to pray thus, but it is entirely wrong now, for God's attitude towards all men of every nation is the same in this dispensation of grace—He will have all men to be saved—and “there is one God, and one Mediator between GOD AND MEN, the Man Christ Jesus.” If we are to pray intelligently and in a way acceptable to God we must pray according to this revelation of Himself, otherwise we falsify His character, and this would be a serious thing for those who belong to His household to do.

“ALL MEN” excludes none, whether they act as enemies or friends; indeed, it would seem right on the Christian's part to be the most in earnest in his prayers for those who are against him, for has not the Lord commanded His disciples so to act, and did He not Himself leave us an example in this when He cried from the anguish of the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”? We pray for the salvation of the souls of British soldiers and sailors on land and sea—young, careless, perhaps, standing face to face with death—and much they need our prayers; but the souls of those by whose guns they are menaced are of equal value in the sight of God, and He who has no favourites among the nations of the earth commands us to pray for these as well; and for the silent, sorrowing multitudes, mostly, women, in the background. How much these need to know a Saviour-God, and His great compassions. It is true that our responsibility begins at home, in the circle nearest to us, but God's heart goes out to the whole world, and ours should embrace the same wide circle.

“FOR KINGS, AND FOR ALL THAT BE IN AUTHORITY.” Not for one king only; we are to honour the one king under whose rule we are (1 Pet. 2:16), but to pray for kings, and all who rule; for the liberty of the Christian to serve God, and an open door for the gospel depends so much upon the acts of rulers of the earth, and it should be a matter of equal concern to us that God's people are able to serve Him, and that the gospel should be unhindered in other lands as in this. God's testimony—that He is a Saviour-God—is for all men, and we must connect ourselves with this world-wide grace, or we shall be out of the current of God's thoughts.

And for “ALL SAINTS.” In Christ “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free [British or German]: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). There are many fellow-members with us in the body of Christ who are forced by the laws of their land in which they dwell to take the sword, in what may appear to be an unrighteous cause. These are bound to us by stronger and more enduring ties than any the world knows, and as we pray for all saints these must not be forgotten, or our prayers will grieve the Holy Spirit of God who indwells them, as He does us. May God grant that these in their trials, with us, and all others who love the Lord Jesus, may in these last days be established in holiness before God, even our Father, and be preserved in spirit, soul, and body, blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Preach the Risen Christ

 

“Preach Jesus and the resurrection;” proclaim a risen, triumphant Christ. Tell the people that God has put His seal upon the great work of Calvary by raising the Workman from the dead; tell them that the price is paid and is enough, that Satan's power has been annulled, that death has been defeated. If you leave this out of your preaching it will be weak and ineffectual, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain: you are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15), but now is Christ raised from the dead, and He was raised for our justification. Tell the whole truth of the gospel, for sinners need it all. Think of that solemn statement of Holy Scripture, “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Every man lies under the sentence of death—it is a risen, living Saviour that all need. Would you not be glad to carry to a man lying under the sentence of death in the condemned cell the news that another had suffered the full penalty of the law in his stead? And if you could tell him that this one whose love for him was so great was alive again and was waiting to open his prison door and set him righteously free, and wanting hence forward to be his friend and companion, would you not rejoice and make haste to tell him the good news? Such a thing could never be; but that which is impossible with men is God's gospel, and His gospel is much more than that, for those who are delivered from the power of death that lies upon them are set in Christ before God, for ever clear of all condemnation; they stand instead in everlasting favour, accepted in the Beloved.

Preach the Word

 

Those servants of the Lord are wise and will have the truest success in their service who take their instructions from the Word of God. In that Word we are told “ the servant of the Lord must not strive ” but “PREACH THE WORD.” It is always a mistake and often a manifestation of his folly when a Christian enters into an argument with an unbeliever as to the truth of God, for not by human argument or any carnal weapon are reasonings that exalt themselves against God cast down (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Our business is to preach the truth, for that is powerful, and the consciences of men will always respond to it, whatever their depraved reasoning may do.

We talked one evening with a man who said that the thought of hell was obnoxious to him, the doctrine was absurd, it was impossible that there could be such a place, so he thought; and about it he would have argued, but we declined to do so and contented ourselves by quoting the words of God as to it.

He was awakened from his sleep that same night by the town's fire alarm, and, opening his eyes, he saw flames pouring out of the windows of a factory opposite his house. The first thought that seized him at the sight of those flames was “I'm in hell.” Why was that, since be believed that hell was an impossibility? He was taken unawares, and had not had time to set his reason to work or to marshal his arguments; it was his deep, inner consciousness that was declaring itself, and there at the very centre of his being, underneath all his sophistry and fleshly reasoning, he knew that there was a hell and that he deserved to be there.

That is the part of men that must be reached if they are to be converted to God, and our arguments, however clear, cannot reach them there; they fall harmlessly upon the outworks that the devil has built about the souls of men. But the Word of God is living and powerful, it discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart and can pierce its way through all the infidel reasonings that lie on the surface and that cover the consciences of men, and convict them of the truth.

Then, again, we say the servants of the Lord are wise who preach the Word, and the more faithfully and without admixture they preach it the more thoroughly will their work be of God and so abide for ever.

Present Wealth and Future Glory

 

He would be a foolish man who spent his time looking into an empty purse full of holes and bemoaning his poverty when there was offered to him a bag of bank notes with the invitation to take all that he needed and more. But not less foolish is he who is continually looking into his own heart and life and grieving over his lack of goodness and his failures and inconsistencies when the fullness of Christ is held out to him for his enrichment and joy. To anyone who is guilty of such folly we would say, “Cast away the empty purse; turn away from self; do not let the failure of the past so fetter and embitter your spirit that you can do nothing but fail in the present; but awake to the fact that the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, has been given to you, that He might take of the things of Christ and show them to you. Forget self and delight in Christ; talk no more of your poverty, but rejoice in His unsearchable riches, for they are yours, to enrich you, ennoble you and energize you, so that you may rejoice instead of mourn, and walk with steady step where once you hobbled on crutches, and be superior to your infirmities and a dispenser of blessing to others where once you were nothing but a burden and hindrance to their faith. God is not glorified by your false and self-centred humility, He is glorified when you rejoice in His beloved Son.

We must never forget how all the wealth of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ has been brought to us, or what the price was that He paid to make us rich. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” Most certainly we shall only appreciate it as the love of our hearts goes out to Him in response to His great love to us, and it is only as we advance on this line that we rightly feel our own poverty and the need of His riches. We must learn also, that while all His riches are placed within our reach and we have but to stretch forth the hand of faith and take them, we cannot have them in living experience apart from the Giver of them. A bag of bank notes might be used away from and without a thought of the giver, but not so this spiritual wealth. “Come, buy of the gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich,” He has said; and we might ask, “How can one who has nothing to show but his poverty, buy gold tried in the fire?” The answer is that the buying indicates a transaction with our Lord Himself, it means personal dealings with Him, and involves that soul-exercise that comes with the realization of our poverty and need, and the deep gratitude and attachment to the Lord that the experimental knowledge of His grace produces; and this personal dealing with Him must be kept up if we are really to appear as those who have been enriched and have resources that are more than equal to the demands that are made upon us. The Lord is the Source and Giver, and it is our privilege, and will be our joy if we know Him, to cleave to Him with purpose of heart; and the more simply and fully we are dependent upon Him the freer will be the flow of His wealth to us and our thanksgiving to Him, and in this happy condition we shall be those who have no confidence in the flesh but rejoice in Him.

 

In the last letter that I received from a valued friend, now with the Lord, he wrote, “A RUNNING HOUND NEVER LOOKS AT ITS TAIL.” He was referring to Philippians 3:13-14, “ This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus .” I shall never forget the trite saying, there is a volume of wisdom in it, as will be understood when it is seen that the reaching forth in the verse is the word that describes a hound at full stretch. But the Christian who is continually looking back, and brooding over the past and mourning over his failure, is like a hound that has ceased to run and is feeding on its own tail, if such a thing can be imagined. Nothing vitiates a man's spiritual energy like brooding on the past; nothing hinders him in the heavenly race like this, and it matters not whether it is his sins or his sorrows that he broods over, the brooding itself is fatal to all spiritual growth and strength. Both are dishonouring to God, for if a man broods over his sins he doubts the grace that abounds over them all; if he broods over his sorrows it is probably because he is at war with the will of God. Both sin and sorrow should humble us and make us walk in lowliness of heart before God, and not proudly or boastfully; but there is grace for the sin, and there is sympathy for the sorrow, so that while we feel them, and feel them deeply, we are not to be overwhelmed by them but find our God and His resources in Christ Jesus greater than both, and finding this press onward to the place from whence the grace and sympathy come.

We would not have a man think lightly of his sins, but we would urge upon him that if he has felt them deeply and confessed them truly, he should have the comfort of knowing that he has been forgiven fully, and cast off the hindrance of occupation with them, as Peter did when on the day of Pentecost he charged the Jews with denying the Holy and Just One. They might have said, “You did it yourself, Simon.” “Yes,” he might have replied, “I did, and He forgave me and blotted it all out for ever, and I am not denying Him now, anyhow.” Nor would we think lightly of the sorrows and losses of others, nor speak harshly of them if they seem to be overwhelmed by them, but we would warn them that brooding over them may grow into self pity and rob them of the comfort from on high that would enrich them through the sorrow, and it will most surely hinder them in the race to the glory where every sorrow will have its answer; and where the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus awaits those who run.

Preserved and Perfected by the God of Peace and Power

 

We feel constrained to begin the year with a benediction, and it shall be one of the most beautiful and confidence-producing that the Holy Scriptures contain:—

“ NOW THE GOD OF PEACE, THAT BROUGHT AGAIN FROM THE DEAD OUR LORD JESUS, THAT GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP, THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT, MAKE YOU PERFECT IN EVERY GOOD WORK TO DO HIS WILL, WORKING IN YOU THAT WHICH IS WELL-PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST; TO WHOM BE GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN ” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

No servant of the Lord ever lived so stormy and strenuous a life as Paul the apostle. Such were the persecutions that he suffered and the burdens that he bore, that he said, “I die daily.” There was no relief, no relaxation for him in the conflict in which he was involved as he faced the world, for neither the devil nor men would endure his brave preaching of Christ and Him crucified, and he could do no other, for the love of Christ—the greatest power that ever entered a human life—constrained him. His life was a continuous day and night warfare in which no quarter was given and no armistice proclaimed. Yet he had a refuge, he knew THE GOD OF PEACE. It is the fact that this title is given to God here, that is one of the proofs that Paul was the writer of this Epistle, for the other New Testament writers who lived, we should judge, easier lives than he did, do not use it, while in five other places Paul does; it seems to have been a joy and delight to Him to invoke God in this character on behalf of the saints, and it must have been because He knew so well the strength and support that comes from the presence of the God of Peace.

To the Roman, Corinthian and Philippian saints he wrote of God as the God of peace, and he seems to have exulted in the thought that in all their trials He would be with them, and what more could they have desired? But for these Hebrew Christians he was specially solicitous, for they were being greatly harried, and were in much conflict, and were inclined to grow discouraged and weary. And so in his benediction he enlarges upon what the God of peace had done and still would do for them, and there is great cheer in his words for us.

Many today are discouraged, the pressure in every way is great, and faith and love seem to be on the wane. Certainly as we look back on the past we marvel at the mercy that has brought us hitherto, many a time we faced the future with fear, yet God did not fail, nor will He; and as we face it again as a New Year begins, our faith may take a fresh hold of the God of peace, and we may commit our future into His hands with confidence, and rest in Him. If we make our requests known to Him with thanksgiving, His peace will keep us; if we give our thoughts to things holy and true, He Himself will walk with us. Troubled. Christian, you may have the God of peace as your daily companion, and may be without fear, for that means that though the storm rages around you, your heart may be at rest, for He keeps in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed upon Him, because be trusteth in Him.

But what has the God of peace done? He BROUGHT AGAIN FROM THE DEAD OUR LORD JESUS. Then the God of peace is also the God of power, for He has triumphed over death, and death is the greatest force that ever men knew. We have, generally speaking, more confidence in a person who possesses power, especially if we know that such a person has an interest in us. But all power is with God, and He uses His power in infinite wisdom and love on our behalf. The power of God is always on our behalf, for God is for us, He does not always use His power to still the storm for us, but to keep us quiet and restful in it, which is a greater triumph. The greatest foe, death, has been defeated, and OUR LORD JESUS has been raised up out of it. Mark His title here, he is our Lord Jesus, the Lamb who died for us is our Lord. When we see this, how glad we are to submit to His authority, for He exercises it in perfect love, and in submission to His will we find rest to our souls.

And our Lord Jesus is THAT GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP. Here is preservation for us, for He who died to save us, now lives: to hold us in everlasting security. As the Good Shepherd He made the greatest sacrifice for us and reached us when we were lying under the power of death and Satan, and as the great Shepherd He will lead us safely into “the house of the Lord for ever,” for that is our goal, and there we must dwell, even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death to reach it, for the Lord is our Shepherd.

It was through THE BLOOD OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT that our Lord Jesus was brought again from the dead. That everlasting Covenant is the will of God for our blessing No man's will that is not against the public good, and that had been sealed and signed by him when in a sane mind can be revoked. The everlasting Covenant is the will of the God of peace, His will for blessing it has been sealed by the blood of Jesus, and it demanded that He who died to bring it into force should be raised up to execute it. He is the great Administrator of the will of God. But let us understand the force of it all. The God of peace must do everything in perfect righteousness, for there could be no peace apart from righteousness, and it is in righteousness that He has raised up our Lord Jesus, who has redeemed us by His blood, and now in perfect righteousness on the same basis—the precious blood—He can take us in hand, to bring us into entire accord with His will that covenanted our blessing before ever we had being.

And what is it that the God of peace proposes to do for us from this time onward? To MAKE YOU PERFECT IN EVERY GOOD WORK TO DO HIS WILL. And what a perfection this will be if it is His work. We may have our standards, our notions as to what we should like to be; let us drop them, and yield ourselves wholly to God. He will patiently work in us with His own standard in view, which is conformity to Christ. Let us not be afraid of the will of God. The natural thought of our hearts before we knew the God of peace was that His will must be against us, but it is not so. God's will is good, perfect, acceptable, and so we prove it to be when we present our bodies to Him that our lives may be moulded by His grace. The will of God is for us, and against everything that could be against us. The blood of the Covenant is the proof of this. He brings good works out of us by working in us. What is external is the result of what is internal, He would have our hearts, our secret inward life pleasing to Himself, for He desires truth in the inward parts, and it is His work to produce the motives within us that are well pleasing to Him. And is this possible? Back to our memories come those words that sounded from the Father's lips, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” May we also be well-pleasing to God. Yes, we may, through Jesus Christ our Lord, for thus our benediction continues. WORKING IN YOU THAT WHICH IS WELL-PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.

This New Year must be marked by good works, and they must be the fruit of the life within, the life of Jesus made manifest in our mortal flesh, and as we live within the compass of our benediction, we shall know what the PEACE of God is and His POWER, we shall be PRESERVED by the Great Shepherd whose flock we are, and PERFECTED by the will of God, through Jesus Christ TO WHOM BE GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN.

Press On

 

Don't be discouraged if you are not able to attain to that which you desire to be in a day. Press on.

Don't be depressed if you feel how little you are able to help those who are sad and lonely and down, and that your shining for the Saviour in this dark world is very dimly done. Just keep on.

I was greatly heartened the other day by a simple nursery rhyme. It was—

“One foot up and one foot down,

That's the way to London Town .”

Is there not a world of wisdom in that simple rhyme? There is, surely. It is by a step at a time that we attain our goal.

“Let no one think that sudden in a minute

All is accomplished and the work is done.”

Yes, but if we keep at it steadily and persistently,

“Filling the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,”

we shall fill full our day, and fulfil our Lord's purpose for our life below, and our labour will not be in vain in the Lord.

Prevailing Prayer

 

“ And King Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country ” (1 Kings 10:13).

 

No more successful prayer than this has been placed on record, for not only did the desires receive an answer to the full satisfaction of the suppliant, but from the king's bounty she received abundantly more than she asked or thought. It is thus that our exalted Lord would treat us, and it is for the glory of His great name and for our good that He should so treat us, and there is no hindrance on His side.

King Solomon is a type of our Lord Jesus Christ in His exaltation and glory, and the steps by which the Ethiopian queen arrived at the desired goal is illustrative of the way in which we may know the unstinted giving of the One who is infinitely greater than Solomon.

 

She “heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord” (v. 1)

She heard his fame; this is the first step, for “faith cometh by hearing” and “how shall they believe except they hear.” But many are satisfied with hearing, some even bear and profess to believe the Gospel of God, but seem satisfied with that, they say that their “sins are forgiven for His name sake” and that heaven is their destiny, but they do not seem to desire to become personally and intimately acquainted with the One who died for their redemption. Their hearts are in the world, and it is to be gravely questioned whether they are the Lord's or not, He knows, but they would do well to take to heart those solemn words “ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

As the queen of Sheba desired to see the One whose fame had reached her, so the one who truly believes the Gospel will not be satisfied with its statements merely (blessed as these are) but his soul will be filled with desires after Christ, and at all costs will seek to know Him , for nothing but Christ's company can satisfy the heart that has come under His attractive power. The question of the first disciples “Master where dwellest Thou?” will rise from heart and lip.

 

“She came to prove Him with hard questions” (v. 1)

The queen had many difficulties from which the wisdom of her own land could by no means relieve her; she brought these to Solomon and unburdened her heart to him, and lo, the questions were answered and all the problems solved, according to the God-given wisdom that dwelt in him. It is even thus when the heart turns to Christ. He is made unto us wisdom, and becomes the solution for us of all the problems that confront us because of sin. There are hard questions in most hearts at some time or other; questions as to sins, sin, self, the past, the present, and the future. To all who are burdened and labouring beneath the weight of such questions, He says: “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest.” How blessed to lay our burdens and perplexities at His feet, and take up His burden instead, for “His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.” When we come to Him simply and trustfully, having the eye single, then the whole body shall be full of light, and our path be clear and plain before us.

With her mind relieved of her own difficulties, the queen was free to behold Solomon's wisdom and glory manifested in every detail of his surroundings, until there was “no more spirit left in her.”

She was entranced with his greatness and had to exclaim, “the half was not told me.” Under the influence of his magnificence she made her requests, and we may be sure that the burden of her petitions was that she might show to her people how great he was in whose presence she had been.

In this we see the true condition of heart for prevailing prayer. The heart first set free from all difficulties and the burdens of self-occupation, to be Christ-centred and filled with the glory of His greatness. To have Him eclipse self and every other object is the acme of Christian blessing; this will be the glory of our heaven.

For ever our still wondering eye

Shall o'er His beauties rove;

To endless ages we'll adore

The riches of His love!”

But the more this is true of us, now , the more truly shall we pray in His name, and “whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

It was charged on some of old that “ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (Jas. 4:2-3). We shall not be guilty of this folly if we are near to the Lord, for there we shall learn the exceeding wealth of His giving, and we shall ask .

We shall be guided in our asking by the knowledge of Himself, who is wisdom and truth, and we shall not ask amiss . We shall have our souls so entranced by what He is that we shall not desire to consume it upon ourselves , but will gladly say, All for Him, “in all things He must have the pre-eminence.”

 

“She turned and went to her own country” (v. 13)

She went to make much of Solomon in the land from whence she came, and in like manner it is the Christian's privilege to witness for Christ in this world, and it is in connection with this witnessing that prayer is so indispensable.

It will be well to emphasize the fact that the world is not the Christian's own country. We have exchanged self for Christ, and the world for heaven. Our citizenship is there, and from thence we look for the Saviour; and it is only as the heart glows with a holy and heavenly patriotism that we shall be truly able to witness in the world, which, though not “our own country,” is the place for our testimony to go forth—testimony to an earth-rejected but heaven-exalted Christ.

As we pray that His name may thus be glorified, our prayers will be answered and our joy full (John 16:24).

3 Brief Articles on Psalm 23

 

“He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake”

He does not drive me, nor drag me, but “He leadeth me,” and there is a great tenderness in the way in which He does it. This was illustrated for me the other day when I called upon a young mother. Her baby boy was just learning to walk, and she was anxious that I should see the wonderful progress that he was making, so, taking his small hand in hers, she led him across the room. I noticed that she did not compel him to take the long strides that she could have taken, nor go the pace that she could have gone, but she shortened her steps to his and went as he could go, and spoke gentle words to him all the time in order to encourage his nervous endeavour. As I looked at that interesting sight I said to myself: That is how the Lord treats me. He is touched with the feeling of my infirmity (Heb. 4:15), He understands all my fears and tremblings and all the roughness of the way, and just as I am able to go He leads me, ministering comfort and cheer to me all the way.

He restoreth, or invigorateth, my soul by presenting Himself before my eyes in His greatness and grace; and as I am “looking unto Jesus,” who has travelled the way before me, and as I am held by His hand of power, for He is able to keep me from stumbling, I can tread the paths of righteousness with patience and with confidence.

And it is “for His name's sake”—for the sake of that sacred name that He has put upon me, that name “holy and true” which I bear in an evil and unrighteous world.

 

“He leadeth me beside the still waters”

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 toilsome wanderings, He brings them to repose at His feet, and He leads them beside the waters of quietness.

The simile brings a picture of peace to the vision, a wonderful and blessed peace; 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 and contrary to our every purpose. 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 from the life of our Lord on earth illustrates the truth 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 increased to a terrific gale; the very fury of hell seemed to be let loose in that tempest, and the waves foamed and dashed about that one small boat with such fierce threatenings 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 fear within their breasts that they cry aloud in their anguish. But what of the Master in the midst of that storm? Was His cheek pale with terror? 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! Oh, why did not those disciples stretch themselves by His side? Why did they not share His pillow? Had that storm increased its fury sevenfold they would still have been safe, yea safe as when at the command of the Lord that great calm laid itself down upon the turbulent deep.

But what was the secret of the 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, “ 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 wondrous 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 ever 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 our circumstances changed to suit our lack of faith.

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. In Him we shall have peace.

 

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”

“The valley of the shadow of death” does not mean the death-bed—it may include that, but it is more. It is the road that the pilgrims tread as they journey to the house of the Lord: their dwelling-place for ever. That road lies through the world, and the outstanding event in the annals of this world is the murder of the Lord—“ the princes of this world . . . crucified the Lord of glory .” It is this, first and foremost, that makes it the valley of the shadow of death to those who love Him.

He, the Lord of glory, came into the world, and when it saw Him it hated Him. His feet were beautiful upon the mountains as He published the gospel of peace to men, but thorns grew in the road that He trod, thorns that tore and lacerated those blessed feet in every step that He took. And that path,

“Uncheered by earthly smiles,

Led only to the cross.”

There, cast out by men, He laid down His life for the sheep. Blessed Saviour! how high above all human praise is that great love of His, that love which was tried to the uttermost and did not fail.

The hatred of the world followed Him to Golgotha , it could not be satiated except by His blood; and the servant is not greater than his Lord, and He has said to us, “ If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; ” and “ If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you .” And so the disciples, those who follow the Lord, tread the valley of the shadow of death.

There are other ways, too, in which the world is known by many to be the valley of the shadow of death, for death is here. They have felt its power, its blight is upon the fairest of this earth's prospects for them, for the grave-yard yonder holds all that is mortal of those once dearly loved and well remembered—of a wife, a husband, a parent or a child. And the heart would be lonely, yes, with an unspeakable loneliness, were it not for His company. Those who tread the road of sorrow are treading the valley of the shadow of death.

But what splendid confidence is here—“ I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me .” Let the foes be never so strong and the stress never so great, there is consolation, divinely given comfort in His company.

Permit an illustration. A little fellow returning from school is set upon by bigger boys, who terrify him by their threats, so that he fears to go that way again. But his father says, “I will go with you;” and taking his son's small hand in his strong palm, they set out together. See how the boy squares his shoulders, he seems inches taller as he walks in confidence by his father's side. “There are the boys, your enemies, my child—are you afraid?” asks the father. “Of course not,” replies the boy, “for you are with me, father.” There is no reason now why he should fear, for his father is greater than those who had threatened him.

It is even so with the disciple of the Lord; he can say, “ I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me ,” and He who is with us is greater than the greatest of our foes.

He has met the foes on our behalf, He has met them in dire conflict and overthrown their power. His love to us, love that is quenchless and incomparable, led Him

“To stand betwixt us and the foe,

And to willingly die in our stead.”

He died “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). By His dying He has gained a mighty triumph; He has trodden

“All our foes beneath His feet,

By being trodden down.

He Satan's power laid low;

Made sin, He sin o'erthrew;

Bow'd to the grave, destroyed it so,

And death by dying slew.”

And having fought the fight for us, and gained the signal victory, He is alive for evermore, and He walks by our side, and His company yields confidence and comfort.

“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 unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

It is our privilege to recline in our weakness upon His omnipotence, and to draw near to His heart of tender love, and to be so conscious of His power and greatness, and of His unchanging care for us, that we shall be kept in perfect peace in the presence of every foe, whether man or the devil.

And actual death itself, that which would be so full of terror to us if we did not know Him is shorn of all its dread appearance, for He is near, and its power is gone.

“He gilds the bed of death with light.”

And we are soon to see the day “when 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.”

Purification for Sin

Notes of a Bible Reading in Melbourne on Numbers 19

 

In order to get the full significance of this type, which is one of the most important in the Old Testament, let us notice in verse 4, “ the tabernacle of the congregation ”; in verse 9, “ the congregation of the children of Israel; ” in verse 13, “t he tabernacle of the Lord ”; in verse 20, “ the congregation ,” and “ the sanctuary of the Lord .” Whatever may be the teaching of this type, it had as its special object the maintenance of the holiness of the sanctuary of the Lord and of the congregation of Israel . The ashes of the red heifer were applied to individuals who had become defiled, but it was because each individual had his part in the congregation and was identified with the Lord's sanctuary. “The congregation” sets forth in type our fellowship together, while “the tabernacle of the Lord” speaks of what we are as God's dwelling place. The tabernacle which was the dwelling place of the Lord in Israel was the centre of gathering and the bond of fellowship for the people. The Lord had separated the people to Himself, they were to be holy unto Him, hence they had to be cleansed from all defilement. This ceremonial cleansing is typical of the moral cleansing that we must never neglect if we are to be kept suitable to the place of privilege in which grace has put us.

Question. Will you explain more fully how we are God's dwelling place?

Ephesians 2:19-22 states it very clearly. We who were once “strangers and foreigners” to all Divine privileges are citizens of the heavenly city, and members of God's household. In those two statements we might bring in the thought of the “congregation”; but we are a building also, and that building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. That has in view the completion of the church when it will appear as the holy, heavenly city. But verse 22 states that we are now builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Question. Does that include all believers?

It includes all who have heard and believed the “gospel of your salvation” and so are sealed by the Holy Ghost in Christ (Eph. 1:13).

Remarked. But there are some who claim to know, and they say that not all believers are sealed by the Holy Ghost.

If they mean that some who have believed on the once dead but now risen Lord are yet unsealed, they have either never had the truth or they have given it up. Notice in the verse we are considering it states, “In whom,” that is in the Lord. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” ( Rom. 10:9). All in that verse are in the Lord . They have come under His authority truly, and the Spirit seals them so that they are now an habitation of God “in the Lord” and “through the Spirit.” This passage has all the saints on earth in view, but 1 Corinthians 3 looks upon Christians in any given locality as God's dwelling place; verse 16 says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Being brought together under one Lord, and indwelt by one Spirit, brings us into one fellowship.

Question. Do you connect fellowship with the Lordship of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit?

The Lordship of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit are the beginning of it, but the truth of the one body comes in, and for that we must know Christ as our Head. Then we are children of God, and we know the Father and the Son. Christians have fellowship together in the whole range of revealed truth by the Spirit. But I think that Numbers 19 would give us specially the 1 Corinthians side of it, though I would not shut out 1 John. We are God's dwelling place and as such we are formed into one fellowship.

The book of Numbers is the wilderness book, and it is here that we get this instructive type and not in Leviticus where all the other sacrifices are. In the wilderness Israel were in danger of being defiled, and here in the world, which has become the wilderness to all who have come out of Egypt and have the heavenly Canaan in view, we all are more or less in contact with what is defiling, hence the need of purification. We have not here expiation for sins or guilt, but purification from defilement.

Question. Is there any significance in the animal being an heifer?

Yes, I think there is. The two great offerings that set forth Christ objectively —the Burnt Offering and the Sin Offering—had to be male animals, the first sets forth Christ offering Himself in the unreserved devotion of His heart to God, wholly for us; the second sets forth His sufferings for our sins, and our faith reaches out to Him in this twofold aspect of His sacrifice in which full atonement is set forth. But when the animal was a female, it is typical of a subjective effect being produced in us. The first clears us before God, the effect of the second is to be in our consciences and hearts, it has to do with the condition of our souls.

The cedar wood and hyssop, cast into the burning, speak of man in his dignity and his meanness; from the highest to the least, all alike are under condemnation. The scarlet sets forth the glory of man. All was tested at the cross, the best—the princes of this world—crucified the Lord of glory. It is evident after that, that nothing that man is naturally, nor all the glory in which he boasts, can have a place in God's sanctuary, or bind together or build up the saints of God in Divine fellowship. It is clearly put in 1 Corinthians 1:29-31. After stating that God brings to nought the things that are—man's wisdom and glory—he says, “That no flesh should glory in His presence . . . That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

Now notice verse 4, “Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times.” The tabernacle was the place where all the light that shone at that time was, for the presence of the Lord was there; and before it Israel assembled; it was the place of their fellowship, and it was there that the blood was sprinkled seven times. It seems that we have here in type 1 John 1:7, “ If we walk in the light as He is in the light .” Israel were never in the light as we are, but they had in the tabernacle what light there was. We now are in the full light of God, revealed as Father in His beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and in that light we walk together, we have fellowship one with another. But how can that be? How can we joy in and before God and be in happy fellowship one with another who were once full of sin and have in us still that which is ever ready to turn us from God? The answer is “ the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth as from all sin.” The blood is there, and it has given us purged consciences and a perfect footing in the light. The blood is equal in efficacy to the full shining of the light, and where the blood is, there the sins are not. Think of God's infinite abhorrence of sin, and the claims of Divine justice against it, the blood has met all that. With consciences set free from the sense of guilt, and with hearts filled with the love that provided the blood with this end in view, we can rejoice in God as our Father and we can rejoice in Him together, for here we have fellowship one with another. God has called us to this fellowship, and it is the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Question. If the blood was efficacious what was the need of the ashes and the running water?

In the answer to that question we see how a believer's sins are dealt with. It is a great question, what shall a believer do who has sinned? and the popular answer is, He needs a fresh application of the blood. No, he does not; once for all the question of his guilt has been met by the blood. He will never lose the place that the blood has given him before God. What he needs is the sprinkling with the waters of purification in which are the ashes of the red heifer.

Question. Before going on to that will you say something about touching the dead body, or the bone, or the grave?

The dead body, etc., sets forth the corrupting things of this world through which we have to pass. We may take up these things thoughtlessly, or be snared by them in an unwary moment, or a Christian may deliberately for the gratification of his flesh come into contact with them. In any of these cases he has sinned. But cases are also indicated where it would be impossible to avoid contact with a dead body, and this would set forth the coming into contact with the world and sinful men in daily business. It cannot be avoided, it is defiling nevertheless. This is not sinful, but if the waters of purification are neglected it soon will be, for it does not take long to drag a Christian down to the world's level if he forgets that he is identified with the sanctuary of the Lord; but as he remembers that, he seeks the waters of purification and he is preserved.

Question. Now what are the ashes and the running water?

The ashes were the remembrance of the sacrifice. They were the evidence that the victim had been consumed by fire. They are typical of the fact that Christ died for us. “Christ suffered for our sins.” The running water would speak to us of the power of the Holy Ghost. The two together speak of the fact of Christ's sufferings for us being brought home to our consciences and souls in the power of the Holy Ghost. That produces pain of heart for having tampered with the things of this present evil world, to deliver us from which He gave Himself. It brings us to confession before God, and He is faithful and just to forgive us, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9); thus we are restored to communion. It is not that God requires a fresh sacrifice to meet the fresh sin. He has found all that He required in the One Sacrifice for ever. But we need to be afresh reminded that our sin cost our Lord Jesus the sufferings of Calvary , and thus we are brought to a right sense of what sin is. Only thus are we cleansed from all unrighteousness.

Question. But in the case of a business man who cannot help coming into contact with the world and who is not conscious of having sinned, how is he affected by it?

Well, he feels that there is that in him to which the world appeals and he finds his spirit dulled, and that he has not been able to escape the defiling influences of the world. But as soon as he can he retires to the clean place where the ashes are, and finds relief and refreshment in thoughts of the love that brought Jesus into death for Him. Such thoughts given by the Holy Ghost have a sanctifying, purifying, effect upon him. He makes use of the water of separation.

Question. What is the clean place?

The clean place sets forth the presence of the Lord in your own chamber.

You seek His presence in secret. You do not carry your dulled, defiled spirit to the sanctuary—in other words, the meeting—or you will affect others adversely. You go to God, and everything is brought out and settled there; it is there that your heart is separated from the things that ensnared you, or that threatened to do so, and in the sense of the never-failing grace that restores you, you are able to take up the privileges of being in the sanctuary of the Lord, and of fellowship with the saints.

Question. What is the meaning of the third and seventh days?

They speak of a double action upon us. First our consciences must be awakened to bring us to the confession of our sin, then follows the second, the assurance of a Father's forgiveness. We can only understand what sin is as we see the Cross in God's presence, and we learn that it is only because of what He has found in that Cross that He can forgive and restore us to communion.

Question. Would “let a man examine himself and so let him eat” answer to “the clean place” in connection with the Lord's Supper?

Yes, I should think so. You use the water in the Lord's presence, or allow Him to use it on you. We can all see the need of it, and of the blessedness of it too. It would give us a deepened sense of our own nothingness, but a greater sense of the love of Christ. It would greatly help us to “glory in the Lord,” and it would make us more watchful. We should not only confess the sin, but we should judge the root from whence the sin sprang.

The dead body or the bone set forth all that the world can give us, it has nothing but corruption and death, and we are not to love the world, neither the things that are in it, for “if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him,” and he is disqualified for his place in fellowship.

Question. What do you mean by that?

The man that neglected to purify himself was “cut off from among the congregation, because he had defiled the sanctuary of the Lord; the water of separation had not been sprinkled upon him, he is unclean” (v. 20). A man is lost to fellowship who goes on with the world, and he is unfitted for the presence of the Lord. He may still attend meetings and be outwardly in fellowship, but he is useless. Demas who loved this present world could not go on with Paul, and if there were more power nowadays, such would either have their consciences so thoroughly exercised that they would seek the water of separation in the Lord's presence, or they would not be able to remain outwardly in fellowship. With many the crash comes at last, and excommunication is necessary. The man who neglected this cleansing defiled the sanctuary. I take 1 Corinthians 3:17, to be an extreme case, “him shall God destroy.” That I believe would be the bringing in of doctrines and practices that would destroy the temple of God . But we must remember that His temple is holy, and if we love the world and go on with its pursuits and ways we are altogether incompatible with God's holy temple, and in our measure we defile it.

It is a solemn consideration. The neglecting of this cleansing was the great sin. We are always liable to contract defilement in the world, but God has made a full provision for this, and it is always and immediately available. The great sin lies in neglecting this provision of grace, for it means that the holiness of God is not understood, His sanctuary is despised, and fellowship is not appreciated.

Question. Will you say something about the open vessel?

We have to keep the cover on our souls. If we keep our eyes and ears open to every folly and sin we are unclean. We must withhold our eyes from beholding vanity, and keep our ears closed from listening to sin; and the best way to do that is to have Christ for a covering for the eyes, and have our ears open to His voice. We touch the dead body often in the things we read, and things we see and hear. How often we find evil things that we have read, or seen, or thought, come back to us at the most sacred moments. We need the water of separation for these. And to be preserved from them we need to think of the things that are true and honest, and pure, and lovely, and of good report. In that way our vessels will be covered and we are preserved.

Question. What about the tent?

The world gets into our homes. Those who stay at home are as liable to become defiled as those who go out into the world.

Question. Who is the clean person who sprinkles the unclean?

“ If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1). Sprinkle the water with the bunch of hyssop; that is, do it in self-judgment. Then “ye also ought to wash one another's feet” (John 13:14). A man must be out of the ditch himself if be is to clean the mud off his brother. But if we keep sensitive consciences we shall not need others to intervene. Let us all see to it that we have the vessel of running water with the ashes close at hand for our own use. If we know what it is to be intimate with the Lord, and know the joy His presence yields, we shall be conscious of the least shade of distance—so it used to be said by a beloved brother—and it is true. To cultivate intimacy with the Lord is the great thing.

Question. John says “If any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Do you get the Advocate in this type?

No, I do not think so, but no type contains the whole truth. Moses was Israel 's advocate when they sinned. Jesus Christ is ours, and He exercises His advocacy on our behalf when we sin. It does not say, when we confess, our confession is the result of His advocacy, and not the cause of it. He never loses sight of us and is ever serving us because of the great love He bears toward us. In Him we have life and spiritual health and joy, an that is better than the death and corruption that the world gives. We ought not to have any difficulty in choosing between the two. Let us keep in mind that we, as believers indwelt by the Spirit, are the temple of God, He has brought us into this close relationship with Himself, and we are members one of another; then we shall cultivate in our lives the things that are suitable to these relationships, and shall feel the need of, and not neglect, the water of separation.

2 Questions on Prophetic Subjects

 

The Shout of the Lord, the Voice of the Archangel , and the Trump of God

Explain why the voice of the archangel and the trump of God are connected with the shout of the Lord at His coming.

 

The Passage in question reads, “ For 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 ” (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

The descent of the Lord to raise the dead in Christ and to change the living in Christ and to catch them up together to Himself will have far reaching consequences; they will extend in fact to the whole of mankind; for it will be the initial movement of that power by which He will subdue all things unto Himself.

Mankind is divided in the New Testament into three circles, namely, the Church, Israel , and the Gentile nations; in connection with each the Lord is to have a special glory. We would suggest that each of these is comprehended in this passage.

The shout of the Lord has to do specially with His Church, and those who died in Old Testament days, who will share in some measure in her heavenly part. All these will answer instantly to His assembling shout, and in the twinkling of an eye will appear, radiant and glorious, in the presence of the Lord.

The voice of the archangel would have reference to Israel , for Michael, the archangel, has his place specially in regard to that nation (see Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9). We do not mean, of course, that Israel will be immediately gathered into blessing, for she will have to be brought through sore tribulation and repentance before she is ready to receive the Lord, while the church is already “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12); but the wheels of events to that end will be immediately set in motion at that time.

The trump of God would have in view all mankind, for He will judge men and the world (Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 3:6). Here again, the nations of living men will not instantly appear before Him for judgment, but events will be set in motion that will infallibly bring them there on the appointed clay.

The whole of God's purposes in regard to the earth are held in abeyance until the church is taken out of it, but when that event takes place all things will move swiftly to their fulfilment.

 

The Parable of the Marriage of the King's Son (Matthew 22)

Does the city which is burned up refer to the world? And if so why is the invitation sent out afterwards to others?

 

This whole parable when spoken by the Lord was prophetic of the gospel period. The gospel is really an invitation from God to men to come and share in His delight in His Son. This invitation was sent first to Jerusalem ; for the disciples had to begin there (Luke 24:47); and it is to the Jew first (Rom. 1:16). But they did not want God's pardoning and enriching grace, and in the city which had been guilty of the blood of God's Son, in whom He delighted, Stephen and others were martyred. Consequently, God in His wrath allowed the Roman armies to come up in A.D. 70 to execute His word against JERUSALEM . God calls them His armies, for they carried out His judgment, and the murderers were destroyed and their city burned up. Jerusalem is the city in question, “They which were bidden were not worthy” (v. 8), and Paul takes up this very word in Acts 13:46 as he turns from the Jews to the Gentiles.

After that, the gospel went out into the highways, i.e. amongst the Gentile nations; and the Christian profession has been formed; the wedding has been furnished with guests. They have been brought in by the servants , and many have been brought in who are only there in profession, and who have neither felt nor owned their need of a righteousness which is not their own; they trust in themselves. But the King, who will make no mistakes such as His servants have made, is coming to view the guests. Then there will be discrimination and division, only those who have discarded their own merits and have Christ for their righteousness will abide at the marriage. The rest will be cast out into outer darkness. This coincides with the Lord's solemn word to Laodicea , “I will spue thee out of my mouth,” and it will take place at the close of the day of grace.

“Quit you Like Men, be Strong”

To Christian Young Men in the Army and Navy

 

With most of you life hitherto has been easy, even and protected; the temptations you have endured have not been great; the opposition to your faith has not been violent, and you have probably had the consolation of a Christian home and the help of earnest Christian fellowship as an off-set to your trials. And so you have leaned upon the faith of others and been carried along on a current of godliness without perhaps very great exercise of soul. Now you have been flung into associations and into conditions of living that you would not have chosen; but you are in them, that is the fact that has to be faced, and they are going to test your faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and discover your spiritual mettle. It is more than likely that your whole after-life on earth and your testimony for the Lord will be affected by the way you endure the testing and come out of the crucible. So that now you must be no longer babes, but “ quit you like men, be strong. ”

It is not the physical dangers of the battlefield or the naval engagement that we fear for you, for your future is all settled and secure, as settled and secure as the infinitely precious blood of Jesus can make it, but the evils of the billets, camp and mess: evils, moral and spiritual, at will assail you mightily, and either mar or make you as thorough-going, out-and-out practical Christians. You may have been engaged in spiritual warfare already, but anything you have known in this way has but been skirmishing of a most desultory sort in comparison with that in which you are involved now. Your enemy—the devil—is terrible and tireless, and the weapons in his armoury are many and varied. If he cannot seduce you he will persecute you; from him you will get no quarter, therefore “BE SOBER, BE VIGILANT.” “RESIST” him, “ steadfast in faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world ” (1 Pet. 5:8). Do not be afraid of him or his power; remember that your great Saviour and Lord has already defeated him; that you are safe in Christ, and that

“Satan trembles when he sees

The weakest saint upon his knees.”

The flesh, always on the devil's side, and now having increased opportunities of gratification, will war against your soul; flee from those things that appeal to it. Remember how strong men have fallen and been utterly broken by the flesh. Remember Samson, David, and Solomon. Remember that “ the minding of the flesh is death , but the minding of the spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).

The world, with consummate strategy, will lay snares for you, but “love not the world, neither the things that are in it . . . if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him.” Remember its best things are only vanity; seek them not. You are a child of God, heaven's crowns, gifted by the Saviour's pierced hand, are for you, then why should you seek after the world's prizes? Let its preferments, decorations, distinctions, honours, titles be to its own; let them be in your eyes but as a child's trinkets, and learn, like Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair, to put your fingers in your ears and cry, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” Beset by such foes as these are, “STAND FAST IN THE FAITH, QUIT YOU LIKE MEN, BE STRONG” (1 Cor. 16:13).

You may rest with absolute confidence in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He intercedes for you on high, and He is able to keep you from falling. His grace is as sufficient for you in your new conditions of life as it has been in the home and office and workshop, only now the need is greater, and so you must cleave to Him with fuller purpose of heart. Trust not your own strength, but BE STRONG IN THE LORD. In the secret of your soul, in the inner sanctuary of your life, unentered by any human friend, preserve a place for Him and cultivate His company. Christ the Lord is the base of all your supplies; keep your line of communication with Him intact; guard it well. Learn to speak to Him on the march, at the mess, in the billet, on the battlefield, and in the trenches. Abide with Him.

HOLD TO THE FAITH AND KEEP A GOOD CONSCIENCE or you will make spiritual shipwreck. Don't be laughed or reasoned out of any truth that you have learnt from God's Word. You may not hitherto have seen the value and use of some of these; they may have been mere doctrines to you; now you will prove their reality if you use them. The Word will be a lamp unto your feet and a light to your path; it will be a shield and sword to you. “Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5). The faith is an impregnable fortress; no assault of the devil can encompass its fall. Stand fast in it, quit you like men, be strong. It is equally necessary that you should keep a good conscience, especially before God. You have to “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the King, as supreme, or to governors . . . for so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:13-15). But there may be times when you will be called upon to choose between the wishes of men and what you feel to be the will of God. Don't hesitate in such circumstances: obey God rather than men. As regards what may or may not lie before you, commit your soul to God; have faith in Him: tell Him all your fears, but don't anticipate trouble. Your life is a step at a time. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. The Lord, your keeper, will not slumber. He knows that you desire to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, and He can shape events so that your feet shall tread the most fitting paths and your hands be kept from those things that are objectionable to you. HAVE FAITH IN GOD. Prove now that He is greater than all circumstances, and that He shows Himself strong on behalf of those that trust in Him.

Military discipline will test your temper and give you the opportunity of developing meekness of spirit under trial. The hardships and discomforts of a soldier's or sailor's life will prove whether your cheerfulness of spirit has been dependent hitherto upon your circumstances, and whether you can give thanks in all things. But that which will be the greatest trial of all will be the night and day contact with hundreds of careless, maybe utterly godless and perhaps blasphemous men, with few opportunities of withdrawing from them into some secret place of communion with the Lord. Much grace you will need because of this. But all you need is stored up in the Lord for you; His fullness cannot fail. Remember that it was when Paul was a prisoner, as likely as not chained to his jailers, that he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice.”

If the sin and evil that surges about you makes you feel keenly that you belong to another world and spirit it will be well; for you will be more eager when released from your duties to do as God's people did of old—who, “being let go went to their own company” (Acts 4:23). Make a point of this, seek out Christian fellowship, for much will depend upon how you fill up your leisure time. Temptations such as you have not faced before will be sprung upon you in these leisure hours. Be able to give the answer that a young naval officer used to give to every worldly invitation, “I have no blank evenings.” He meant that Christ filled up all his spare hours.

As regards your relations with your fellow-soldiers, you will be wise if you let them know at once that you are Christians. It is notorious that men in both services respect the true and courageous confessor of Christ, but have nothing but scorn for the hypocrite or the fearful. We were told of a young Christian recently who on his first night in his billet took out his Testament and read a few verses from it and then knelt in prayer. The swearing and loud talking ceased until he had finished, and he was unmolested. The next day one of the fourteen men that shared his hut said to him, “We are a fairly hot set in this billet and it's just as well that there's one God-fearing man amongst us; nobody will trouble you.” In less than a week the same man said to him, “We've been talking about you, and we'd like to have family prayers every night, and you'll have to do them for us.” And so the faithful young soldier had the privilege of reading his verses aloud and of praying with, and for his comrades every day. Your way may not be opened up like that; you may have to go through the fiery furnace of persecution for Christ's sake. Be it so. You can scarcely expect anything else. But He who walked in the fire with the Hebrew youths will walk with you, and you shall glorify Him in the fiery trial.

You will be surrounded by fearful and hungry hearts, and if you cleave to the Lord you will find openings for the peace-giving and heart-satisfying gospel that you have received. But above all LET YOUR LIVES TELL. A man's life can often talk more effectually than his lips. Be always ready, cheerfully and unselfishly, to help others, and to give a reason for the hope that is in you.

You may depend upon the prayers of those who love the Lord Jesus and who love you for His sake and your own. They will remember you in your temptations and exercises of heart when they bow their knees at the throne of grace, and they will make supplication there that you may be more than conquerors through Him that loves you. Remember 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 you know well how great that price was], therefore glorify God in your body which is God's” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Hear again that stirring exhortation, sounding like a bugle call through all the Christian ranks, “ Stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong .” And remember that never has there been given one word of exhortation in the Book of Truth that God is not able to enable you to carry out. HE IS ABLE; ARE YOU WILLING?

Readings on John 1

(Edited by J.T.M.)

 

Brief notes on this golden Gospel will appear monthly for the help of the babes in God's family. They know the Father (1 John 2:13), and consequently desire to know more of His beloved Son in whom He delights. His glory fills this Gospel, and it is to the study of it from this point of view that we invite our young readers.

 

Chapter 1:1-13

“ In the beginning was the Word .” Before time began the One who bears this title was there, and He, THE WORD, “ was with God ” then. Before the first creatorial word broke the silence of eternity, He was the companion, the equal and the delight of the eternal God (Prov. 8:30). This could only be because He, “ the Word was God ”. Faith encounters no difficulty here, for it accepts and rejoices in God's revelation of Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But it is not the Father, nor yet the Holy Ghost, that is introduced to us here, but the Son, and He not yet as the Son, but as the Word. This is a divine and eternal title, and it belongs to Him whom we know as JESUS, our Saviour, and this, of course, makes us eager to know what the title means. It means that whenever, and howsoever, and to whomsoever God has spoken and revealed Himself, He has done it by Him who is the Word; it means more than that—even that all that has been revealed is in Him who has told it out, and that it was there before it was told out.

At the opening of the Gospel we are brought face to face with the glory of this blessed One who is eternally and personally God. It is interesting and delightful to see that at the end of the Gospel (chapter 20, for chapter 21 is a beautiful postscript to the Gospel), Jesus is confessed to be Lord and God by one of His disciples, and we are sure that the whole company of his brethren bowed down in silent acquiescence as Thomas gave utterance to the glorious truth that had broken into his dull soul. At the beginning of the Gospel the truth of the Lord's Person is declared, at the end of the Gospel the truth is believed and confessed, and the Gospel has been written and given to us that we too might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His Name (chap. 20:29).

“ All things were made by Him ”. He was the originator, the designer and the maker of the vast universe and every creature within it, “ for without Him was not anything made that was made ”. How wonderfully these simple yet great statements clear the air for us. We have no need to waste our time and weary our brains in the vain search for some missing link to establish some groundless hypothesis that those who would banish the Creator from His creation have put forth, we begin with the truth that the Word has made all things, that He upholds all things, and will eventually make all things serve His glory. How wonderful must be that wisdom that planned the infinite variety that even we can see in creation, and how great the power that has bound every part of it together and holds it all together in a harmonious universe.

We shall see Him in other relationships in this Gospel, as, for instance, in relationship to the Father as His only-begotten Son, and in relationship to us as our Saviour, Shepherd and Leader. Many of His glories will pass before us that will stir our hearts and make us glad that we know Him, but we begin with His power and divinity. He has created all things, and He must be supreme over all His creation, and able also to control every creature and force within it, whether they have remained in subjection to Him or have broken their fealty and now fight against Him, and He must eventually make the whole universe serve His will and purpose in creating it. What confidence this should give us! What rest of heart and quietness of spirit! We are to learn how tenderly He loves us, that He is the One who when on earth wept when those whom He loved were in sorrow, and His heart is the same today as then, but He who loves us is not a feeble lover, daunted by difficulties and afraid of foes. He is God the Creator; as to power, almighty; as to wisdom, infinite; as to being, eternal.

“ In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men ”. His power and wisdom have been demonstrated by His works of old, but there is more than this for us to learn: in Him was life, and this could not be said of any creature. He has given life to His creatures, natural life, and He will give eternal life to as many as obey Him, but only of God could it be said, “In Him was life, and this life was the light of men.” Darkness is ignorance of God, and if men are to have any knowledge of God it must all come through the Word. This Gospel shows us how that life which is in Him was manifested, and gives us the light that can dispel all darkness. Yet there never was any reason, except on man's side, why he should have been in darkness. For the Creator and Life-giver had made the universe throb with life, and it spoke to men though their ears were deaf to its voice, and it showed the great works of God though their eyes were blind and would not see. The Psalmist speaks of creation in this way, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge” (Ps. 19:1-2). Some were affected by these great works, as Abraham, Job and David, but the majority refused to hearken to their voice, for they did not desire to retain God in their thoughts (Rom. 1:19-21).

Creation ought to have illuminated the minds of men, for it bears testimony to them of the power and the divinity of the Creator, but because of what they were it failed in this, and something more was necessary. Thank God, that which creation could not impart the Creator can. In Him was life! This is what He is in Himself, not what He has done as Creator, but Himself, the source of life and light and blessing to His creatures. To Him alone we must look now.

There came a man from God whose name was John, and he came to bear witness of the Light. He came to say the Light is coming. Just as the moon shines in the darkness, bearing witness to the sun, so John was a burning and a shining light in the night. The moon has no light in itself, it is only as it catches the light of the sun that it can reflect it, and so shed it upon a dark earth; and so it was with John. His soul was enlightened by the glory of the One who coming after him was preferred before him, because He was before him, and when He came John was content to disappear. “He must increase, I must decrease,” he said, just as the moon fades from sight when the sun breaks in his glory on the earth.

John was not the Light, though a faithful witness to it. “ That was the true Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world ”. This does not mean that every man has been enlightened, but the Light shines upon all. Alas! it does not shine into the hearts of all, for they won't let it in. The statement should read, “The true Light was that which, coming into the world, lightens [or is light to] every man.” The Light is the Word, but now He is not creating, but shining for the blessing of His creation. He came into it for that purpose. Yet, though He was in the world, and that not for judgment but for blessing, men neither perceived it, nor desired to. “ He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came to His own, and His own received Him not .” How dense must the moral and spiritual darkness be in which the devil holds the world! How complete must be the alienation from the life of God in which men are by nature! Such a statement as this reveals it all to us. The world did not know its Creator when He came into it. The elements owned Him, for the winds and the waves obeyed His command, and the fish of the sea knew His voice. It was men, made in the image and likeness of God, that did not recognize Him and did not obey Him; and, worse still, His own, that favoured nation to whom God had spoken in the law and by the prophets, who boasted that they were God's people, they received Him not when He came to them. They loved the darkness and not the light, because their deeds were evil. The Creator was a rejected stranger in His own world, and not rejected only but hated.

There could be no other light but the true Light, and if the true Light shone in vain, if men loved the darkness and spurned this Light, there was none other to come, and what then? Must the whole race of men sink under the darkness in which they lived in this life into the outer darkness of the lake of fire? Well, if God's patience had been exhausted by the wickedness of men, Yes; but because it was not, No. A new energy was put forth, an energy mightier than the darkness and death that held men in thrall. Not only did the Light come into the world, the Son to reveal the Father, but the Holy Spirit took up His work in connection with that coming, that the eyes of men might be opened to see and appreciate the Light. So we read, “ But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name: which were born, not of blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God

What inconceivable energy there must have been in that word, “Let there be light.” The darkness of ages fled before it, but we see a greater, a more remarkable energy put forth here. It is active now not to bring about a world or worlds in which the power of God is displayed, but A FAMILY in which His love can find its joy. His purpose was to have children, only such could satisfy His heart: those who should be morally like Him, able to appreciate His love and respond to it. The universe would have been nothing to Him apart from this. It was created for the Son of God and for them who were to be His companions, His brethren; and before He put forth His power to give it being His delights were with them, the sons of men (Prov. 8). And here we find them out of a scene of darkness and death they come, not by man's power, not because they were of high birth, not because they had learned wisdom in the school of men, but because THEY WERE BORN OF GOD.

 

Chapter 1:14-28

“ And the Word became flesh ” (N.Tr.). What great statements there are in this chapter; they break upon us with an abruptness that would startle us if we had not become so familiar with them. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit may give to us a fuller entrance into their meaning. We will put two of them together. “In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh.” The first sentence carries us back into Eternity, the second brings Him who was eternal into Time. First we have what the Word was, then what He became, and this opens up a new chapter in God's relations with men that must issue in eternal blessing to them. It was the Word Himself, the Creator, that became Man. We have got used to this fact, it is an article of our faith, but we should pray earnestly that the immensity of it might possess us. It was not an angel that became flesh, but the Word, and the Word was God. He did not assume human form merely, as in Old Testament days when He appeared to Abraham, but He became an actual Man and dwelt among men. He took our very nature, which in Him was sinless and holy; and this we must press, Jesus was just as holy in His manhood when He lived among men as He was in His eternal Godhead on the throne.

Here we have the mystery of godliness, which is very great, it transcends all human conception, and because of this we must keep to the words of Scripture in speaking of it. Many a fierce battle has been fought in the history of the church over this truth, and creeds have been formulated in the hope of defining and fixing the faith of men as to it, and these have become in turn the subject of conflict; but we require neither creed nor formula, we will be satisfied with the words of the Holy Ghost, the Word became flesh . He became a man and will remain a Man for ever; only in this way could He reach us, only by becoming one of us could He communicate the thoughts that filled the heart and the mind of God towards us.

We do not explain the mystery of the incarnation because we cannot, but we rejoice in the fact that God has come near to us in this way, not to condemn but to save, not to make us afraid by the splendour of His majesty but to win our hearts by His grace.

But in the course of this amazing declaration of the coming of the Word into manhood there are two interruptions. Two witnesses speak out as to who He was who became a Man and dwelt among men, and at the mouth of two witnesses every word shall be established. First, the writer of the Gospel breaks into the middle of a sentence, and exclaims, “ and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father ,” and then when the sentence is finished, the Baptist's testimony is introduced before the truth as to the results of the incarnation of the Word is allowed to flow on as a veritable river of life. What is the reason of these interruptions? The answer is not difficult to give. The Eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among men, not coldly distant from them, but one of themselves, eating and drinking with them with a freedom that angered the Pharisees; and so meek and lowly was He, so without self-assertion or insistence on His own rights that men despised Him. He was nothing to them but a man, a Nazarene, a carpenter, and to some of them, so blind were they, He was mad and had a devil. Those that sat in the gate spoke against Him; and He was the song of the drunkard; so we learn from one verse in Psalm 69. Those that sat in the gate were the rulers, the great men of the city, honoured and respected, and the drunkards were the rabble, the riff-raff, the degraded. Society from its highest grade to its lowest dregs took advantage of His meekness and grace and treated Him with hatred and disdain. They did not recognize the greatness of the Person who dwelt among them full of grace. This was their blindness and sin. It is also the blindness and sin of the present day, for the denial of the Godhead glory of our Lord Jesus Christ is the great lie of Modernism, and it is the canker that lurks in most, if not all, the religious cults that have sprung into being in these strange times. To be wrong as to this is to be fundamentally and hopelessly wrong about everything. It is admitted that He was a man, but it requires no faith to admit that; those who hated Him most admitted that, some acknowledge that He was a good man and so honour Him with the lip, but the Bible truth as to His Person is rejected as an exploded myth. Thus are men blinded by the god of this world, and thus is the only Saviour rejected.

These two interruptions occur, to meet this very opposition to the truth. It would seem as though the Holy Spirit would allow no interval to elapse between the statement of the fact of the incarnation of the Word and the declaration of the unchanged glory of His Person, so there breaks in this exclamation from the Evangelist. The testimony surely is that in becoming Man He did not surrender what He was before. His circumstances were changed and His condition. He who was in the form of God was now in the form of a servant, He who was the Creator had become a man, in the full sense of that word as God Himself would define it, but He was still the Word, and He is confessed by the disciples as the Son. His relationship with the Father remained as it ever was in those timeless ages before the worlds were made. In His humiliation, yes, down to the deepest depths of it, He was still the only-begotten with the Father, and the disciples were permitted to contemplate His glory in this relationship that they might bear witness to it.

It was not an earthly glory but a heavenly that these disciples saw; it was not a human glory such as Solomon possessed, for it had never rested upon a man before, it was a divine glory, and the Man upon whom it rested was a unique and heavenly Man. The distinction that rested upon Jesus was that He was the all-sufficient Object of the supreme delight and love of the Father, and that He lived and found fullness of joy in what the Father was, for He was the Son. He was enough for the Father and the Father was enough for Him. This had always been so, for He said to the Father, “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (chap. 17:24), but John is not talking here about what was in eternity, but that which they had seen in time and here upon earth. No angel could claim this divine and heavenly distinction, it belonged to One alone, and He a Man dwelling among them. Then comes the testimony of the Baptist; he did not speak of the glory of the Son's relationship with the Father, but of the fact that He was before him. He said, “ This was He of whom I speak, He that cometh after me was preferred before me: for He was before me .” There would have been no sense in John's testimony if the Lord had not been more than man, for John was born before Jesus, but as his mother, Elizabeth, recognized in Mary the mother of her Lord (Luke 1), so John now recognizes the Lord Himself and bears witness to His Deity. He was before John, before Abraham, the great I AM (chap. 8).

Omitting these two interruptions then the word reads, “ And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 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 dwelt among us.” The thought here is, He tabernacled among us. He came to stay for a while, He was as a stranger passing through the world, for He came from God and went to God (chap. 13). But in that wonderful journey He was FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. Grace belongs to the New Testament, it came into the world when Jesus came, He was full of it and its fullness was brought to men in Him. It is God's favour to men, and it is infinite and unlimited. God could not have shown His favour to men in a more complete and perfect way than by the coming of His only-begotten Son into the world; this was the best and the greatest that He could do. No other than the Son could tell the love that filled the Father's heart; He came to do this, and that love in its wonderful activities on the behalf of men is the grace of which our verse speaks. It brought Jesus down to men where they were and as they were, and looked for no merit in them, only need; they needed Him, that was enough. It brought Him from the highest height of God's glory down to the deepest depth of that need, that He might remove it for ever by the knowledge of God. That fullness of grace was really the fullness of the Godhead working untiringly for the blessing of men, and it dwelt in Jesus.

How altogether suitable to the needs of men was Jesus. In other Gospels we see that He was equal to all their sicknesses and distresses, and it is beautiful to contemplate Him always accessible, always placing Himself at their disposal; but in John's Gospel there is something more and deeper. It is John's work to show us how He dealt, not so much with the burdens that were on men, but with the ignorance that was in them.

His mercy and power could heal every disease and deliver all who were oppressed from the devil's power, and lift every burden that was on them; but the grace that was in Him could meet and remove the darkness and crookedness that was in them. It was greater than all their sin.

“ And of His fullness have all we received, and GRACE UPON GRACE .” The needs of men, our needs, are greater than any human language can describe, but this fullness is greater than our need, and it pours itself out now for us, as it did upon those disciples, in wave upon wave, just as the sea rolls in upon the shore. It goes beyond all our need, and will, until we are filled into all the fullness of God.

And He was full of truth also; He was the truth. The law was true, but it was not the truth. It did not reveal what God is, nor did it fully expose what man was, nor the world nor Satan; it served its purpose, and has been superseded by grace and truth which came in Jesus Christ and abide in Him. He was the test of everything. What God is, and what man is, has all been shown by His coming, and that coming has not made demands upon men that they cannot meet, but has brought the unsought, unmerited, and inexhaustible favour of God to men to put and keep them right with God for ever.

But God could not have been revealed by anyone less than God, hence we are brought back to the truth of the Person of our Lord. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” It is the Father who is declared, and that by the Son, and the whole wealth of divine love is in that declaration. The Father's bosom was ever the Son's dwelling place; the love that filled it was His own eternal portion and joy, but He has come forth to make it known, and in making it known to share it with others. All human thought is surpassed by this grace that has come to us; it has not come to bless us at a distance from its source, and leave us in the distance; it will not rest until we are brought right home to the heart from whence it all flowed, the heart of the Father. This is the character of the love that is revealed in Jesus. That love could not rest were the redeemed not with Him fully blest. For that love gives not as the world, but shares all it possesses with its loved co-heirs.

 

Chapter 1:19-34

The preaching of John caused a great stir in the land, insomuch that priests and Levites came from Jerusalem to enquire as to who he could be. But he was a faithful witness and would not be diverted from his mission by the patronage of these great and influential men. He had come to speak of Christ, to prepare the people for their Lord and he refused to talk of himself. Notice his negative answers to their enquiries. “I am not,” said he, and again, “I am not.” Blessed and faithful servant he was who could so keep himself out of his discourse, that his Lord might be everything in it. But these religionists from Jerusalem could not understand this self-effacement, it was so different from every principle and motive in their scheme of things, and with evident impatience they make a further demand of him. Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. WHAT SAYEST THOU OF THYSELF? Being thus urged, he answered, “ I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD, as said the prophet Esaias

What a startling declaration was this! How it ought to have thrilled those Jews who heard it, for John was quoting from Isaiah 40, and in that chapter the glory of Jehovah is unfolded for the comfort of His people Israel . It is a wonderful chapter. Let us all read it before we proceed any further with these notes, so that we may see who it was to whom these people were to be introduced if they were only ready for it. In it the tenderness of the Lord is disclosed, for He would “gather the lambs in His arms and carry His lambs in His bosom,” and His greatness is told out, for “He hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out the heavens with a span.” Let us consider Him well. His hand for creation, but His bosom for His lambs, and there they may rest in everlasting safety and untroubled peace. And Jesus is the one of whom the prophet spoke, or rather it is Jesus who is speaking on this wonderful chapter. He is Lord and He is God. With what eagerness these priestly delegates from the Pharisees in Jerusalem ought to have returned to those who sent them for what a message was given them to carry. The man about whom they had enquired was none other than the forerunner of the Lord. His Master's footsteps were already sounding behind him, the day had come of which so many of their prophets had spoken; Jehovah, their God, their Deliverer, their Shepherd, was on the threshold! What would they do? Alas, the announcement moved them not at all. They were a generation without faith. They could not even see behind John's message, and they continued to ask him concerning himself, so different from the disciples of John, two days later, who left him for Jesus. They were ritualists, greatly concerned about the outward form of baptism, and the authority for its performance, but they had neither ears nor hearts for the word of God which John voiced in their midst. How John must have marvelled at their stupidity! This seems to break out in his answer to them. “ I baptize you with water: BUT THERE STANDETH ONE AMONG YOU, WHOM YE KNOW NOT. He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. ”

Did they look about them to see who He could be who was even then amongst them who was so much greater than John, of whom they were enquiring? Probably not, but we rejoice in John's witness to our Lord and Saviour. If He were only man, then John would surely have been worthy to be His servant no matter how great a man He might have been, but He was God who had come into the midst of His people bringing glad tidings. How wonderful to find Him in this same Gospel washing the feet of His disciples. Yes, the One whose shoe's latchet John, than whom none greater was born of women, was not worthy to unloose, girded Himself with a towel and washed the feet of His disciples. But John's witness to the living Messiah among them was unavailing, and he has nothing more to say to them on that line. The next day opens with another testimony.

In this Gospel the testimony of the Baptist is entirely to the glory of Christ. In Matthew's and Luke's Gospels we are told what he said about the multitudes that, ever ready for a new sensation, flocked to hear him. He did not spare them for he was no flatterer of men, but a prophet indeed. But all that side of his service is omitted in John's account of it; what he had to say of Christ is all that is given to us here, and this is both beautiful and fitting. Our thoughts are to be concentrated in the opening of the Gospel upon Christ Himself.

John had borne witness as to the pre-existence of the Lord (v. 15); and to the fact that He was Jehovah in covenant relationship with Israel, ready to fulfil all His words to them according to Isaiah 40 (v. 23). But this witness was in vain, as far as the nation was concerned, and a new testimony is introduced, more marvellous, if that were possible, than any that had gone before. “ The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD WHICH TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD. ” The outlook is no longer Israel merely, it is world-wide.

We shall do well to mark the fact that in this Gospel in which God is revealed in the fullness of His love, the Lamb of God appears in the beginning of it. It surely teaches us that if God was to be known in blessing to men, and if the world was to be put in right relations with Him, the Lamb for a Sacrifice was a necessity; this lies at the basis of everything. And here now was that sacrifice, the Lamb of God's own providing; He is the taker-away of the sin of the world. It is not sins that are in question here—though every sinner may find in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God his sins removed for ever—but it is sin, the terrible principle of opposition to the will of God that has brought in all the confusion and ruin, and from which all sins break forth. This is to be taken away completely and for ever, and in its place everlasting righteousness is to be established and the universe filled with the love and the glory of God.

The One who will do this thing is the Subject here. How great He must be! If a man claimed to he able to take away the sin of a town, or the sin of a street in that town, or the sin of one house in that street, or even the sin of one person in that house, we should say, he is mad, it cannot be done. But here is One who is to take away THE SIN OF THE WORLD! We ought not to have any doubt as to who He must be, He is the Word, the Creator, the only-begotten Son, He alone could be the Lamb of God.

Let us have clear thoughts as to what the sacrifice of Christ means in the Scriptures. The word is commonly used for the surrender of something or someone for the good of another—an extreme case of this kind would be when one lost his life in rescuing a friend from danger; or it is used when one suffers or gives up something, perhaps his own life for the truth's sake, as many martyrs have done. Often these meanings of the word are all that is understood as being involved in the death of the Lamb of God by the superficial religious thought of the day. But there is much more than that. The Lamb of God was Himself the Sacrifice. “Through the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14). “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). “This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). We cannot separate the sacrifice of Christ from the sin that made it a necessity; when He suffered on the tree, it was the penalty of sin that He bore, the righteous judgment of God that we deserved. He was the holy victim upon the altar; not only did God's love give Him, but God's judgment fell upon Him when He was made sin for us, and the sacrifice was not completed until His blood was poured forth. That blood is the basis of all blessing, it makes expiation for sin, by it our sins are purged, and apart from it there is no remission. “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7), and in Him “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). We must keep in mind the true meaning of His sacrifice when we “Behold the Lamb of God.” It is one of the fundamentals of our faith, and apart from the sacrificial death of Christ there is no salvation for any man.

 

Chapter 1:29-34

It is only in this Gospel in which the glory of the Son of God is so fully revealed that John the Baptist's testimony to Him as the Lamb of God is given. This is noteworthy, and from it we should learn at least that in considering the sacrifice that He made upon the cross we must not lose sight of who He was that made it. It was the greatness of the Person that gave efficacy and perfection to His work. He is the Passover Lamb. The Passover is prominent in this Gospel. It was at the Passover that He cleansed the Temple (chap. 2:13). It was when the Passover was nigh that He fed the multitude (chap. 6:4). At the third Passover in the Gospel the people sought for Him in the Temple (chap. 11:55). And at the preparation for the fourth Passover the last solemn scenes which had their culmination in the cross were enacted. And it is in this Gospel only that the words are quoted from the Scriptures, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” We find that this instruction was given in regard to the Passover lamb in Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12.

We remember that in Exodus 12, the Israelites had to take a lamb on the tenth day of the month and slay it on the fourteenth day. For four days it lived with them in the house that was to be sheltered from the judgment by its blood. It was before their very eyes during that period. They might consider it and talk of it and say, “This is the lamb that is to suffer for us.” It is in this way that the Lamb of God is before us in this Gospel. The work of the Baptist was to call attention to Him, and we behold Him from the tenth day to the fourteenth, dwelling among us. We can trace His footsteps from one passover to another until the fourth is reached, and we can say, “This is the true Passover Lamb.” We behold Him as He walks, without spot or blemish. He could in this Gospel challenge His enemies, “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (chap. 8:46), and even the heartless pagan judge had to own three times over that he could find no fault in Him (chap. 18:38; 19:4, 6). As we behold Him we shall surely be moved to follow Him until we reach the place of sacrifice, and there wonder and worship in the presence of the love that led Him to die for such as we are.

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and shame to the uttermost was heaped upon Him; but we do not begin here with that, but with the dignity, the glory of His Person, He is the LAMB OF GOD. God's Lamb provided by God, and for God, and coming forth from Him, and here John breaks out for the third time, “ THIS IS HE of whom I said, After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me ,” but why should He be preferred before, or take precedence of John? “ for He was before me .” At each step in his testimony he maintains the truth as to the One of whom he speaks. He was before John, the Word in the beginning, the Son in the bosom of the Father, and yet “a man.” None other than He could be the Lamb of God.

John had had no previous acquaintance with the Lord, and though he was according to nature His cousin, yet this did not help him to recognize Him when He appeared. He knew Him not, except by divine revelation. It was God who sent him to baptize, who told John how he would know Him, “ Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost .” And John bear record as to this. He saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode on Him. The dove is an emblem of purity and peace. The Spirit could rest upon the Lord as a Man upon earth with peace and complacency, because He was altogether pure and spotless. Thus was He distinguished from all other men, and though as truly a man as any other, yet how different from all others! A Man without sin! The second Man, the Lord from heaven! and He who, through the eternal Spirit that had come upon Him, would offer Himself without spot to God (Heb. 9:14).

And He is the One who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. In the three synoptic Gospels John contrasts himself with the Lord in this respect. He says, “I baptize you with water,” I can bring you down into the place of death, the only right place for you because of your sinful state, “but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” He alone can bring you into life, and impart the Holy Spirit to be the power of the life that He gives. This He has done from the right hand of God in heaven, and thus has the faith of Christ been established on the earth in divine and heavenly power. But the cross had to precede this. First He is the Lamb of God on the cross to meet all our liabilities and for our redemption, then raised up from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God, He baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. He brings those who have redemption through His blood into vital relationship with Himself and His Father by the gift of the Holy Ghost. But this is a divine prerogative, hence John exclaims, “ And I saw and bear record that this is the Son of God

It is instructive to see that a new day begins at this point (v. 35), and two disciples who hear John speak follow Jesus, not because they were commanded to do so, but because He had become the supreme object of their hearts. Their feet could but follow Him who had taken possession of their hearts. And this beautiful result of John's testimony was prophetic of that which now is in this day of the Holy Ghost. It is His great work to take of Christ's things and show them to us, to fill hearts with His beauty so that He becomes all-sufficing. And here we have the fullness of the gospel and the effect of it. First, the Lamb of God, the sacrifice for sin upon the cross. Then that same blessed Person raised up from the dead and glorified in heaven, to give the Holy Ghost to all who believe in Him, and then Himself in that heavenly glory, the supreme object of the hearts of those whom He has redeemed—their Leader, Lord, and Centre.

 

Chapter 1:35-43

Verse 35 introduces THE NEXT DAY AFTER. And what happened on that day sets before us most beautifully what should characterize this present period of God's work on earth.

First, JOHN STOOD. His testimony to Christ could continue no longer; a burning and shining light he had been, but he must pass out of sight in the presence of the Light of the World. He had faithfully led his disciples to this point, to Christ, and this was the winding up of his ministry. Jesus had come and John stood as JESUS WALKED. The God-appointed Leader of the flock of God had come, and John, faithful servant that he was, retires. But before doing so, he looks upon Jesus as He walked, and his whole soul becomes absorbed with Him. What could he say other than what He did say, “BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD!”? Was this word intended for the ears of his disciples, or was it simply the outburst of adoration from a heart wholly absorbed? I think it was both, and thus he introduced his followers to their Lord, and they left John and followed Jesus. Happy John! He came from God, to speak of Christ, and those that heard him speak followed Him of whom he spoke. Here we have the source, the object, and the result of his mission, and in these three things he was a faithful servant and a pattern for us. The two disciples followed Jesus without being told to, and it seemed the most natural thing for them to do. We see in them the way the constraining love of Christ works, the true motive in the Christian's life. There was no stern law laying on them a heavy obligation, they followed Jesus because they could not help it. They had, indeed, come under a law, but it was the law of attraction; the Lord had taken possession of their hearts, and where the heart is, there the feet will be if by any means they can be.

It is instructive that these disciples followed Jesus immediately after the mention of the Holy Ghost. Let us keep the great things of this section of the chapter in their order before us. (1) The great sacrifice (v. 29); here is the foundation of Christianity. (2) The gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 33); here is the power in Christianity. (3) Two disciples follow Jesus (v. 35); here is the centre of Christianity, Christ the great object and attraction. Later, when Andrew sought for Simon and brought him to Jesus, we have (4), the activities of Christianity (v. 40); they have Christ as their start and Christ as their end. But the Holy Ghost has but one object and that is to make Christ glorious in our eyes, and to enable us to follow Him. This, I believe, is what the sequence of things here would teach us. Sincere souls are often troubled as to whether they are walking in the Spirit or not; here is a simple test: when the heart is set on Christ and the feet are following Him, we are walking in the Spirit.

The Lord knew that these two disciples were following Him, for He was drawing them after Himself. Nor is He ever indifferent to any movement of heart after Himself. So we read, “ Then Jesus turned and saw them following, and saith unto them, WHAT SEEK YE? ” What encouragement there must have been for them in this question, and the way it was put! These two men heard the Shepherd's voice for the first time, and would they ever forget it? Their response is immediate; they had seen Him and heard Him, and there is only one answer they could give, “MASTER, WHERE DWELLEST THOU?”

“For oh, the Master is so fair,

His voice so sweet to banished men

That those who hear it unaware,

Can never rest on earth again.”

Only His dwelling place could satisfy them now, His company. Their answer meant, we want you, we cannot do without you. Faith, too, was at work, for they realized that He would be glad to have them in His dwelling, that a welcome awaited them there. This is one feature of faith, it is bold, indeed to those who have it not it seems presumptuous, but with the sense of need that always goes with true faith, there is the knowledge of Him who can meet the need; it lays hold of God and doubts Him not, it finds its refuge and satisfaction in Jesus.

How blessed is the answer that the Lord gives to the earnest enquiry. “COME AND SEE,” and “they came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” Where He was became the home and rest of their hearts. We are reminded here of some lines written by the most famous singer of the last century, Jenny Lind, known as the Swedish Nightingale:

“In vain I seek for rest

In all created good.

It leaves me still unblest

And makes me cry to God.

And sure of rest I cannot be

Until my soul finds rest in Thee.”

These disciples had found rest indeed, in the Lord's own dwelling.

In Matthew's and Mark's Gospels, the Lord speaks of Himself as the Son of Man without a place to lay His head, but it is not that side of things that is presented to us in this Gospel. Here He has a dwelling place; it is the Father's bosom, for He is the only begotten Son, in the bosom of the Father. And how often He speaks of His Father! It was the joy of His heart to reveal Him to His disciples and to speak of His Father's house, nor could He be satisfied until He could say to them, “ My Father, and your Father ,” He dwelt in the Father's love, it was His home and rest, and there He would have His disciples dwell. This wonderful sphere is open for us too. We are to have it as our home for ever, and what a welcome we shall get when we actually enter into it! But now He would have us to make it the home of our hearts. He says to us, “ Come and see

How perfect Scripture is in its unfoldings of the truth! It was not one disciple that followed the Lord, but two; and herein we have a pattern of what Christian communion is. Two men are drawn together by one Object; their hearts go out after one Person, and what could they do but walk shoulder to shoulder after Him? There was no jarring, no discord between them. How could there be? It is when questions and not Christ occupy the mind of Christians that they leave following Christ to quarrel with each other. Here is a needed lesson for us, and how beautifully it is taught to us in this incident! What harmony we see between these two as they follow Jesus! and how blessed must have been their communion together as they abode with Him that day! All sense of each other's peculiarities lost sight of in the presence of His perfection. It will be so in heaven, for

“Every knee to Jesus bending,

All the mind in heaven is one.”

And it is God's will that His children should have a foretaste of this while still on earth and in the midst of earth's discords.

One of the two disciples was Andrew, and he FIRST FINDETH HIS OWN BROTHER SIMON AND HE BROUGHT HIM TO JESUS. He bore an effective testimony to the Lord. “WE HAVE FOUND THE MESSIAS,” said he, and he had no difficulty in persuading his brother to come to the One who had become everything to him. And Jesus knew him, and in the way He addressed him He showed His own right to dispose of him as He would, “Thou art Simon, the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas.” Great monarchs such as Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of those that served them according to their own will, but here the Messiah of Israel exercises His right in this matter and the name that He gives to Simon declares his destiny rather than his character. He was a stone. A stone for a great and imperishable building which is now in course of preparation, composed of living stones. Every believer is what the Lord declared Simon to be. Each has become this by coming to Christ, the Living Stone (see 1 Peter 2). And the completion of this building is the consummation of God's work in this special period of time. It is in Christ, “in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:22).

Four things, then, resulted from John's testimony to Jesus which ought to be the outstanding features of our day, and which will be, when the heart is right.

1. The hearts of those who heard him became engrossed with Christ.

2. They were drawn in unity of purpose and fellowship with each other in following Jesus.

3. They were introduced in communion with Him in His own things.

4. They bore a fruitful testimony to others.

Verse 43 brings in another day, “ the day following ”; and Philip and Nathanael represent the remnant of Israel who will receive the Lord with gladness when He comes again. To Philip was given the command to follow the Lord, and he obeyed it. In Nathanael we see the chastened spirit that will characterize the remnant of Israel at the coming of the Lord to them. They will confess their sins in secret to Him who sees in secret. Every house will do so apart (Zech. 12:10-14). And He who hears their confession will forgive, and the joy of Psalm 32 will be theirs. For then they will be without guile. The Lord will be able to say to each of them as He said to Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.” And they will confess what Nathanael confessed, “THOU ART THE SON OF GOD, THOU ART THE KING OF ISRAEL.” Then will they be blessed indeed, and shall see heaven and earth united in the Son of Man.

Recovery

 

“Backslider!” What an ugly word is this! So ugly that it is usually reserved by us for those who have openly and flagrantly turned back to the world from Christ, but the fact is that the great bulk of Christians are backsliders. Every one of us who ever knew a day of truer single-eyed devotion to Christ than he knows now is a backslider. And that is the reason why spiritual life languishes and the witness for Christ is so dull and feeble, and the need of recovery so insistent.

The church left her first love very early in her history and she has not returned to it. For a while she remained active in service, zealous for sound doctrine, and most rigid as to what she thought were right principles, but the spring of all was wanting, and as the searching eyes of her slighted but faithful Lover penetrated the fair exterior He had to say, “I HAVE AGAINST THEE THAT THOU HAST LEFT THY FIRST LOVE.” O, solemn indictment! most terrible charge for that true Lover to make against the choice of His heart! Did that charge bring the hot blush of shame to the face of the dishonoured church? We cannot say. It may be that some consciences stirred uneasily, and some hearts sighed for the joys that had departed, and some may have sought the feet of Jesus with true repentance. But the bulk passed heedlessly on, caring less and still less for Christ, and giving more and still more room for the world, the flesh and the devil in their councils and hearts, until now, in these awful days, just before the end of her history on earth, she has bolted and barred her doors, and Christ, who died to redeem her, stands outside. Thus did the sacred word foretell the faithless story, and thus has the church fulfilled it to the letter (Rev. 2 and 3).

But stay, it is not our purpose to dwell upon the church's infidelity to her heavenly Bridegroom—we might do that and leave our own lives unaffected—we want, if the Holy Spirit will graciously use our words, to press home upon us all the question as to how we stand in regard to Him today. The failure of the church is no excuse for the failure of the individual, and every Christian heart that is not wholly for Christ is a back-slidden and unfaithful heart, and must face Him as to this either now or at His judgment seat.

He is coming! Coming quickly! But how shall we say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” if He is not first in our affections? He is coming! Coming quickly! But how shall we greet Him with gladness if we have also slighted Him; and if the world and its honours, or self and its desires have been more to us than the sound of His voice and the experience of His love? Awake, O careless heart, to His claims. REMEMBER FROM WHENCE THOU ART FALLEN, AND REPENT. He has not changed. Blessed be His name!

Recovery after Failure

 

“ Being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God ” (Acts 5:30).

“ Where prayer was wont to be made ” (Acts 16:13).

“ As we went to prayer ” (Acts 16:16).

“ And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed ” (Acts 16:25).

 

Will those who are sincerely looking for a reawakening of spiritual life and a revival of the work of the Lord, notice that there is an entire absence of any reference to prayer in Acts 15, except it be at the very end of it. In every chapter in this Book of the triumphs of the gospel, except the 5th, prayer has its place until this chapter is reached; but here, instead of prayer, there is “ no small dissension and disputation ” (v. 2), “ much disputing ” (v. 7); and most sorrowful of all, “ the contention was so sharp between them ” (Paul and Barnabas) that they departed asunder one from another” (v. 39). Prayer comes back into its own place in chapter 16, and there trophies are won for Christ, and the gospel proceeds on its triumphant way.

I have no doubt that in the early part of chapter 15 Paul and Barnabas were compelled to earnestly contend for the faith, though “dissension” and “much disputing” have an ugly sound, and reveal the condition of things in the church in Jerusalem . One wonders whether, if there had been more prayer there would not have been less of this fleshly strife, but why did these devoted men who had together hazarded their lives for Christ's sake, quarrel with each other when the great conflict was over? It looks as though the hour of victory was the hour of weakness. However that may be, strife and division took the place of “if two of you shall agree as touching anything that they shall ask.” It is a solemn and sobering incident, recorded, surely, that we may learn the great lesson that if the servants of the Lord are to prosper in His work they must pray together. Prayer binds the soul more closely to God, it unites the saints in strong and holy bonds and gives courage and power to their testimony to the world. Dissension separates the soul from God, divides the saints in heart and labour from each other and leaves them weak in the presence of the foe.

Where there is “sharp contention” the work of the Lord must languish, and there will be sorrow and dearth; we need no argument to prove that, for many of us have learnt it in our own experience; and we can easily realize how pained and surprised those simple brethren at Antioch, young converts all of them, must have been at this breach between these very servants of the Lord who had been channels of richest blessing to them. But it was well for them that they turned to God when the conflict was over. They rose to the occasion, and were found not wanting when they commended Paul and Silas unto the grace of God (v. 40). Prayer was their resource, or I ought to say, God was their resource, for prayer is merely approach in confidence to Him. Let us ponder these words, “the grace of God,” for they cannot be left out of our theme. The grace of God was very real amongst those brethren at Antioch . On the first visit that Barnabas paid to that place, he saw it and was glad (chap. 11). It had wrought for them and in them at the beginning, and it had not failed them since, and now when they see failure in the servants of God they turn afresh to it. They do not speed Paul on his way as a man of inflexible fidelity, or as one whose spiritual force was enough to carry him on without failure, they commend him to the grace of God—his only hope and stay, and theirs, and ours. They were wise men and Spirit-led men, too, these brethren at Antioch ; their faith did not rest in the steadfastness or the wisdom of either Barnabas or Paul, and it was not shaken by their failure, but in the grace of God. If that grace had been withdrawn, or if the failure of these men of God had been greater than the grace of God, there would have been an end of the work and no recovery, but that grace abounds over all failure and because of it the work goes on.

There are many who feel how barren of all fruit and joy “much disputing” is, and how the work of the Lord suffers when “contentions” prevail, but here is hope for them and for us all; the grace of God abides, and will abound to all who turn in their need to Him. The servants of God may fail and disappoint us, the grace of our God never will, and those who turn wholeheartedly to God will find that His grace will show itself afresh in renewed blessing. It must do so or God has ceased to be the God of all grace. What an atmosphere of freedom and expectation and confidence the grace of God creates, and what a contrast it is to the restraint and misery that must be where contentions thrive!

With the prayers of these brethren behind them and the grace of God with them, Paul and his companions start off on a new mission. But again the record is arresting and thought provoking. It seems as though Paul had not returned to complete dependence upon the Lord's guidance, for full of zeal, and impetuous in the work of the Lord, he had his own plans and intentions, which were not the Lord's. The Holy Spirit had to take definite action with him and forbid him to preach the Word in Asia, and in verse 7, when he assayed to go into Bithynia, the Spirit suffered him not; but in verse 9 there is a change, and he gets clear guidance from the Lord, though it was by a vision and not a direct word. We may conclude that that vision in the night was given to him in answer to the giving up of his own plans and his earnest supplication and prayer, that he might know the Lord's. Of such a character was it, that he and those with him had no doubt that it was from the Lord; they assuredly gathered that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel in Macedonia, and they endeavoured at once to carry out His command, Their confidence in the Lord and immediate obedience and energy in the Spirit are at this point is most delightful, and there follows an account of work unrivalled in its interest and blessedness, even in the Acts of the Apostles. But, mark it well, it began in the place where prayer was wont to be made; it continued as they went to prayer, and it reached its climax in the jail where the unfettered spirits of God's persecuted but happy servants poured out their earnest prayers and triumphant praise. What trophies the gospel, carried by these praying men, won for heaven in that heathen Philippi ! A Jewess, probably famous for her piety; a devil-possessed damsel, notorious for her oracular frenzies, and a pagan jailer, brutal as were all his kind, all blest and made one in Christ, and forming the nucleus of that company of saints that Paul afterwards addressed as “My brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and my crown.”

I would emphasise the place that prayer has in this blessed change from the much disputing of chapter 15 to the triumphs of the gospel in chapter 16, that we may give ourselves to prayer according to the will of God.

Recovery not Reconstruction

 

Some cannot understand the difference between RECONSTRUCTION and RECOVERY in regard to the truth of the Assembly, but these two things have nothing in common.

Reconstruction is the putting together of material that has fallen to pieces.

Recovery comes from the revival of the powers of life within the members of the body.

Reconstruction may be accomplished by the ability of men.

Recovery can only be by the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost.

Reconstruction must result in worse ruin, for all man's work must perish with him.

Recovery means a revival in the truth and in the knowledge of the God whose faithfulness brings it about.

Reconstruction occupies the mind with the material apparently available.

Recovery comes from turning the eye away from the failure and from men, whether promising or otherwise, to Christ in whom dwells all the fullness of God for us.

Reconstruction must be lifeless and formal and powerless against external attacks and inward decay.

Recovery is vital; it breaks through hostile surroundings and will show its power in those blessed traits of divine life, zeal and wisdom, fervour and forbearance, deep-toned joy in the Lord and sorrow that He is so slighted and belied, and a tender interest in every fellow-member of the body of Christ.

We do not intend to labour for the correct expression in words as to what is before us. What we desire for ourselves and for all is to have the experience of it, and then we know it will find its own expression for the glory of God.

There are some who strongly hold that God never restores a testimony that has failed; we confess that we do not know what they mean, but of this we are persuaded, for we see it everywhere in the Word that God in His dealings with His people constantly labours to recover them to THE TESTIMONY THAT HE HAS GIVEN OF HIMSELF. If He did otherwise He would not be faithful to Himself and His purposes. Take the revival in Hezekiah's day, God then recovered His people to the testimony that He had given of Himself in the passover, which was that of their Redeemer who brought them out of bondage. “ So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of King Solomon the son of David King of Israel was not the like in Jerusalem .” Then in the power of that blessed recovery they dealt with the idols within and turned to God in confidence in regard to the foes without. Again, in the days of Nehemiah, God recovered His people to the testimony He had given to Himself as the One who would infallibly fulfil all His promises to bring them into blessing, so that they kept the Feast of Tabernacles, and that in such a way as had not been done “since the days of Joshua the son of Nun . . . And there was very great gladness.” These two revivals of the past dispensation clearly prove that God does not abandon His testimony, even though His people fail in their response to it, and that He is always ready to bring them into the brightest enjoyment of it WHEN THEY TURN TO HIM AGAIN.

When we come to the New Testament the same encouraging thought is impressed upon us, were it not so we could only despair. We find comfort in the Lord's call to Ephesus to repent, for we believe and are sure that He would not have so called them if there had not been grace with Him to restore them to their brightest day when they did so. Moreover, in the fact that the Bride says “Come” to the Lord Jess, in unison with the Spirit we read the hope of recovery to first love, not certainly of the whole church, but, at least, of those who feel how great has been the departure from Him. Yet this response of love is put down to the bride; those who make it will not separate themselves in their thoughts from the church, which is the bride.

The truth as to the assembly, which is the body of Christ, is woven into the whole texture of Paul's epistles, but it is in his first letter to the Corinthian believers that we find it set forth in the simplest way. And many on reading this Epistle are amazed at the awful and universal departure in Christendom from the truth there so clearly stated. Naturally the first impulse of the zealous soul is to put things right, and herein lies the danger of attempts at reconstruction instead of seeking recovery. For instance, chapter 12 shows us that the body is one, but there is not a town in Christendom in which this oneness is not denied in practice. This ought not to be, but how can it be changed? Would it solve the problem if all Christians agreed to come together and find some way of compromise, as an Irish convention seeking to frame a constitution under which all could live happily and as one? No, that would be reconstruction, and could only end in disappointment and fresh disaster. It would be an endeavour to attain what is right in a wrong and human way. It would be occupation with the circumference without reference to the Centre, and if anything were accomplished it would only foster self-complacency instead of self-judgment. We must come at chapter 12 through chapter 1, and only thus can we be recovered to the truth.

It is a common thing to talk of the truth being recovered for us. We object to this expression, as it appears to us to be most misleading. The truth has always been what it was, and where it was, in Christ the living Head in heaven, and in the Holy Spirit indwelling believers on earth, and plainly set out in terms for our faith to act upon in the Word. But believers have departed from the truth, they have substituted other things for it, and it is they who need to be recovered to it. Recovery to the truth does not consist in the adoption of correct ecclesiastical forms and practices, this we might have—and it be only a name to live and yet dead, for the flesh can take up these things and make them the rigid rules of a sect. Recovery consists in the revival of divine life and health in the members of Christ's body which will make them rally afresh to the uplifted standard, the testimony of the Lord, and expresses itself in whole-hearted fidelity to Him, and in love to one another, and it will reach out in spite of barriers to which the divine sanction is not given in order to help other members of the body. For each member has been made necessary to every other member “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another.” If we have lost the sense of this great truth as the Corinthians had in their carnal zeal for their sects and parties and circles we must come to the recovery of it through chapter 1 of the Epistle, and then step by step through all the chapters that lie between 1 and 12.

Chapter 1 tells us that “GOD IS FAITHFUL.” And here lies the basis of all recovery. Were it not for this the failure to respond to the testimony of God on the part of those whom He has called would fill us with despair, but in this we have hope, and in this we can rest. But the blessedness of this great and absolute statement will only be realized by those who have been led to face the failure, whose hearts have been sorely burdened because of it, and who have come to their wits' end in regard to it. It is then that we are face to face with God, and then we learn that God is faithful, and that everything depends upon that.

We learn as we dwell upon the faithfulness of God that He will never abandon His own thoughts in respect to His saints, and that He has found a way by which He can bring those thoughts to pass, and that if we desire to be experimentally and practically according to His thoughts for us He is able to make us so. We learn also that if we have been false to His call, and have grown indifferent to His thoughts about us, that He abides faithful and recalls the heart and recovers the soul-sickness and restores us to His way. That may not all be done in a moment, for God's way is to produce heart searchings and self-judgment, but there is no experience that gives the failing, weak saint such confidence in the faithfulness and grace of God as that of being led into a true judgment of self in the presence of God. Here the soul reaches its Peniel, and can say, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Gen. 32:30). No failure after such an experience can utterly daunt the one who has passed through it, for the lesson has been learnt that the faithfulness of God is greater than the failure of man, and that He holds the truth in His own divine power, and then we are contented to simply obey His Word.

Space and time prevent us from continuing this subject in this issue, but we hope to return to it. Meanwhile we desire to emphasize what we have already stated, that the basis of all recovery lies in the faithfulness of God, and it cannot be brought about except as we have to do with Him in true self-judgment.

“Rejoice and be Exceeding Glad”

 

We had the pleasure, a few days ago, of calling to see an aged Child of God, a farmer, living in an out-of-the-way and wild part of Northumberland. He was in a feeble state of health and confined to his bedroom, where we spent, to us, a very refreshing half-hour. He told us that he was born into this world in 1827 and born into God's family in 1857, so that for fifty-seven years he had known the Lord; time enough truly to test the faithfulness of the Lord as well as his own reality. But what affected us most was a parting word that he gave us from his open bedroom window as we prepared to drive away from his house. It was, “ Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice

We felt that no word from an aged pilgrim to young men seeking to serve the Lord could have been more appropriate. It turned us in our thoughts from the ups and downs of Christian conflict with their joys and sorrows, from the fluctuations of success in service with their hopes and disappointments, and from the varying warmth and coldness of God's saints with their cheer and rebuffs, to Him in whom there is no shadow of changing, to the perennial spring of everlasting joy—the Lord Himself.

We record the simple incident because we wish to press upon our readers the need of definite exercise of soul as to this very definite exhortation, made first to the saints at Philippi (chaps. 3 and 4). We do not rejoice sufficiently, you do not rejoice sufficiently. We felt that we needed those words from the lips of that old saint standing at his bedroom window; we feel that you need to have them pressed upon you. There are sorrows truly that we all must taste and share, and the more we walk in the fear of God the more we shall see in the world and the church to cause us grief; nevertheless with all, and under all, and over all, there should be with us this rejoicing—“As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing,” said the Apostle. And if we are not rejoicing we are not safe . “To write the same things to you, to me indeed, is not grievous, but for you it is safe ” (chap. 3:1).

Weakness in testimony, fruitlessness in life, and failure in service is the one alternative to this joy in the Lord. We are a drag upon brethren, to ourselves a misery, to the devil a sport, and to the Lord a dishonour if we do not rejoice in Him. In short, the Christian who is not rejoicing, or who cannot rejoice in the Lord is a backslider living in sin.

It need not be said, for we know it, that we cannot rejoice in the Lord unless He attracts and charms us, excluding every idol from our hearts, it need not be said, for we know it, that the love of the world and joy in the Lord cannot abide in the same heart, for they are utterly incompatible. We know also, or if we do not we may know, exactly where the leakage in our vessel is, what it is that robs us of this joy in the Lord, blights our testimony and makes us the ordinary ineffectual and sterile Christians that we so often are. Some evil secretly indulged, some unholy ambition, perhaps in spiritual things; some grudge hidden in heart against another, some sparing of a carnal growth in our lives, or winking at evil in our associations. We need all to say, “Search me, O Lord; take Thy candle, and go through every chamber in my life, and detect for me every lurking evil that hinders me from rejoicing in Thee, and give to me the grace I need to drag it out and cast it aside with true repentance for my unfaithfulness to Thee.”

Well, He presents Himself to us in the depth of His humiliation on earth and in the excellence of His glory in heaven, and as we consider Him here and there we know not which to admire most. In every place, and at all times, He is altogether lovely. His humiliation puts to shame all the proud pretensions of men and makes us loathe the strife and vainglory of the flesh, and the excellency of His glory puts into complete eclipse all worldly splendour and distinction. It is as we know Him, and as we know Him still more, that our joy in Him will be full and deep. And it is this that we should seek, not that which is loud and superficial and occasions a mere caricature of Christian joy, which serves only to bring into prominence the one who affects it, but a constant and ever-deepening joy in the Lord which will give tone and power to everything we do and say.

Repentance

 

“ For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death ” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

 

There are two kinds of sorrow for sin, one is the abhorrence of the thing itself, and this will be very keen in the heart that fears the Lord, and is centred in Christ; indeed, it is this heart alone that will sorrow rightly because of sin.

The second is the sorrow that goes with the fear of the consequences, and not because of the hatefulness of the sin itself. This is an entirely selfish experience, it is not “godly sorrow that worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of,” but it is the sorrow of the world which worketh death (2 Cor. 7:10). In this sorrow the devil seems very near to mock the soul in its distress, and increase its fears, as again and again the vow is made that, if the consequences can be escaped, that particular snare will be avoided in the future; he can mock confidently, for, he knows as long as the soul is self-centred there will be a return to the special besetment, as the dog returns to its vomit.

Despair does not enter into true sorrow for sin, for along and with it there is a sense of the nearness of the Lord. He stands by in tender grace to lead the soul into full restoration to Himself. Sin appears in its exceeding sinfulness in contrast to His faithfulness and love; His grace becomes a greater reality than ever; the sin is confessed and forgiven; the root of it exposed and judged; and the soul is cleansed from all unrighteousness.

Revelation, Experience, Practice

 

It is my purpose to address my younger brethren and sisters in Christ in view of the rapidly rising apostasy in Christendom. I know that I shall be looked upon as a pessimist when I say that evil omens are crowding around us. Not long ago, in conversation with a Christian man whom I met on a railway journey, I quoted 2 Timothy 3:13, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” He answered, “I know what you are,” and he proceeded to describe certain brethren, who, he thought, stood in the way of their own usefulness because they expected no improvement in world conditions. Well I will quote from two men, whose warning words appeared in the same issue of a leading morning newspaper, to whom my friend's charge against such as myself could not possibly apply. The first quotation is from a speech by Mr. Stanley Baldwin, at a great political gathering.

“I little thought, as you could have little thought in those days before the War,” said Mr. Baldwin, “that we should live to see ministers of the gospel—and I use that word in its widest sense—suffering for their belief, in countries that we believed to be civilised.

“I wish to say no more about that, but I do not want you to lose sight of certain anti-Christian movements in Europe at the present moment, but to resolve firmly, in this country at least, there shall not be one inch of ground that shall ever be ceded to those who fight a battle against whatever we may mean by religion.”

The second is from the pen of the Bishop of Durham. He writes:

“We in England have hitherto enjoyed comparative immunity from the dangers and conflicts which have befallen our fellow-believers on the Continent. But many facts indicate that our insularity is passing away, that we can no longer stand outside the prevailing tides of thought and practice, and that we may have before long to pass under the same cloud as that which enwraps the Christians of Russia and Germany .

“If it should fall out with us also that the State became hostile to the Church, and invested British citizenship with an anti-Christian character, how should we who profess and call ourselves Christians behave? The materials for conflict are quite plainly accumulating as secularism dominates our public life. Certain it is that Christians can never give to the State an unconditioned obedience. There is “another King, one Jesus,” whose claims must be first satisfied.

“If I mistake not, the ‘Signs of the Times' suggest that the time draws near when we also shall be put to the test. As I reflect on the state of Christendom as a whole, and observe how the tendency to repudiate the Christian tradition seems to be gathering strength, and the agencies of religion steadily decline, I find it increasingly difficult to indulge the mood of complacent optimism which is reflected in our official and semi-official publications. I think the outlook in Church and State far graver than is generally realised.”

Such utterances coming simultaneously from men eminent in their own circles are arresting and impressive, but I venture to say that the danger is more menacing than they indicate. The movements in Europe that they deplore are not only anti-Christian, they are anti-God, and most definitely pagan. Of course, whoever is against Christ is against God. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father (1 John 2:22-23), but hatred of God and His supremacy seems to be the driving force behind these movements. It is “the mystery of iniquity,” no longer working out of sight to undermine in men's souls the fear of God, but coming into the open with the avowed determination of completely eliminating God from human life and affairs.

We may feel that things are not likely to develop so rapidly and in the same blatant way in this land as on the Continent, and we can hardly imagine the State persecuting Christians for their faith; moreover we know that there is a divine check upon the full development of the apostasy, for “He who now letteth [hindereth] will let [hinder], until He be taken out of the way” (2 Thess. 2:7). Yet the attack on the Faith is not less real if more subtle.

In a recent issue of a popular weekly Review a well-known writer said, “I suggest that the most ambiguous word in the English language is the word God. There is perhaps no word that means so many different things to different people as the word God. It stands for many differing concepts of what the word taken as a symbol, or for that matter, as a fact, means. No doubt in many cases in the interest of clearness it would be better if another word was used.”

He proceeded to give some concepts and definitions of God put out by leading men in literary, scientific, philosophical and religious circles, and without controversy these are both ambiguous and strange. He is “a creative process,” “the Life force,” “The great design,” “the all embracing personality,” “the universal mind,” “the First Cause,” “the Final Principle,” “the completed harmony,” etc. etc. Now these masters of learning who express their views of God in these vague terms have a great following among those who wish to be thought intellectual, and their influence is great, for they are the men who are moulding the thoughts of the young men and women by their books and in schools and universities, and the whole force of their influence is to put God at a distance from men, not to deny Him altogether, perhaps, for that would not serve the devil's end in this land, but to rob them of Him, as a supreme Personality, who is interested in every one of us, and whom we may know and love and worship, and to whom every one of us shall give account (Rom. 14:12). Violent persecution would be preferable and far more healthy for Christians than that.

How shall we resist this influence, which is casting its blight over the Christian profession? and stand and contend for the truth upon which the eternal well-being of the souls of men depends? There can be only one answer to that question, we must have a deep and experimental know ledge of God as He has revealed Himself to men. As to this, I quote from another widely read author. He says, “The centre of gravity in religion has shifted in our day from authority to experience.” I wish that by authority he had only the decrees of a false church in mind, but the spirit of the age is to refuse the only true authority, the infallible word of the living God, for if that can be got rid of men may give the rein to their own imaginings and speculations. But apart from the infallible Word of the living God there can be no true experience. We must have experience, but if our experience is to be true and satisfying and not one to be repented of, it must be an experience of the truth. There must be first, the Revelation of God to us if we are to have an experience of God. Apart from the revelation there could be no experience, apart from the experience we might be strictly orthodox yet dead; we might even be fiery Fundamentalists, yet without a pulse of life in our souls towards God. More is needed than an intellectual assent to the revelation, there must be the experience of the revelation, and I would add one other thing in order to describe the complete Christian, we must have a practice that is consistent with the revelation and the experience. Indeed it would be right to say that our practice is the measure of our experience of the revelation. Put these three things together then, the revelation, the experience and the practice. The man who has these three things, will answer well to John's young men. “Ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” Yet to such this word of warning is needed. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” for we are not ignorant of Satan's devices.

 

Revelation

For the revelation I might quote such texts as John 3:16, but we are so familiar with these great sayings that sometimes they lose their force for us. Instead I ask you to consider three remarkable incidents. The Lord stood by the closed grave of Lazarus; it was a great occasion. He was about to manifest His glory as the Son of God by His mastery of death. But before He uttered the commanding word, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it , that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John 11).

In the following chapter the Lord had reached the great crisis in His life on earth, He who had shown that He was the Master of death stood face to face with that hour in which He was to submit to its power. It was an hour such as never had been nor would be again. No human words could express all that was involved in that hour for Him and His soul was troubled. Should He ask for deliverance from it? No, He had come from heaven for this very hour and His only prayer was, “Father, glorify Thy Name.” And that prayer received an immediate answer from heaven. The Father Himself spoke, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The multitudes that stood by heard the voice, and the majesty of it compelled them to say, “It thundered, or an angel spake to Him.” But “Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes ” (John 12).

In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth how they should behave when they came together in assembly. It was by the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit that he did it; and in verses 23-25 we learn that the same Holy Spirit was not indifferent to the “unlearned and unbeliever” that might come into their gathering, and Paul urges upon them that they should speak the word plainly and in the Spirit's power. The result of this would be that if “ there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned , he is convinced of all, he is judged of all; and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest: and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”

Here then it is recorded for us that the Son of God on earth spake to His Father in heaven for the sake of the people that stood by; and the Father in heaven spake to His Son on earth for the sake of the people that stood by; and the Holy Spirit would speak through His chosen vessels in the church, for the sake of the unbeliever and unlearned that stood by. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all speaking for the sake of the bystanders, that they might believe and worship. This surely reveals the heart of the Triune God and the interest that Father, Son and Holy Spirit have in men. And if we consider the occasions and the circumstances in which this revelation of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were given it becomes the more impressive. And how infinite appears the difference between God as thus revealed and the vague and ambiguous definitions of the scientists and philosophers that would rob us of God and His interest in us.

Consider further the people that stood by and for whose sake the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have spoken. The publicans and the sinners were there, for they always “drew near unto the Lord Jesus to hear Him.” Of what use would it have been to them to have talked to them of “the life force” or “the final principle”? But to tell them of God who knew “all things that ever they did,” and yet could “frankly forgive” their “sins which were many,” was to tell them good news and to open up the way to a life of righteousness, peace, and joy. And such God was, as revealed in Jesus, and for the sake of such as these, the Father spake to the Son and the Son to the Father. The children were there also, and does God care for the children? The disciples thought not, for when some brought young children to their Lord “they rebuked” them and would have driven them away. But—

“Jesus saw them e'er they fled.

And sweetly smiled and kindly said,

Suffer the children to come unto Me.”

He was “much displeased” with His disciples but “He took the children up in His arms, and put His hands upon them, and blessed them.” What can save the children from the blight and horror of godlessness? Not vague talk of “the universal mind” or “the completed harmony,” but the story of Jesus who welcomed the children to His arms; the divine record in the four Gospels of His life and death and resurrection, this will save them for it is the knowledge of God that children need, and in Christ God was manifested in flesh. And though the full glory of that manifestation cannot be compassed by even the highest created intelligence, the children understand it, for “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes.” Scribes and Pharisees were there standing by also, bold and presumptuous men, who hated the Lord and were determined to kill Him; yet the voice of the Father spake for their sakes also, for divine grace endured even these with much long-suffering and waited with patience even for them.

It was a motley multitude that gathered round the Lord, and we feel as we consider them, how suitable to their needs was the revelation of God in Christ, and the centuries that have passed since then have not changed the needs of men and we may thank God that the revelation abides, and that God is proclaimed in the gospel as “God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.”

 

Experience

If we are Christians we have experienced this revelation of God. Once we “stood by,” we were out side the blessing and had not the knowledge of God, but grace drew us near, and enlightened our eyes, and what God is and His feelings toward us are no longer matters of debate or theory with us, but of soul experience. God has not made us dry-as-dust theologians, but His happy children through faith in Christ Jesus.

This revelation of God's grace and our experience of it is described in the threefold parable in Luke 15. We were the sheep that was lost, we were the lost silver, we were the rebellious prodigal. But the Shepherd-Son sought us until He found us, and the Holy Spirit sought us diligently until he brought us out of the darkness into the light, and when we were yet a great way off the Father saw us, and had compassion, and ran and fell on our neck and kissed us. It was so with me, and with everyone who has believed the gospel. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit each had His part in the salvation of our souls. And let us note the joy in each case, it was not the joy of that which was lost and found, but the joy of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Father, Son and Holy Spirit rejoice, and no words in Holy Scripture convey with greater force the yearning of the heart of God for sinful men.

What an experience ours has been! If David described the blessedness of the man . . . whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered, we can describe the blessedness of the man who has been sought and found by the Shepherd, and placed in safety on His strong shoulder; and of the man whose soul has been illuminated by the Holy Spirit; and of the man who has been kissed by the Father's pardoning kiss, and welcomed to His heart and home. And this experience is not a memory of something that happened in the past only, but is a present and continuous experience, for “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that is given unto us,” and “the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

 

Practice

I need not say much as to the practice which is consistent with our experience of this revelation of God. It should be clear to all that, if the light of the knowledge of God has shone into our hearts it should shine out in the darkness for others. We are to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom we shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16). We are to be “imitators of God as dear children,” “kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 5:1; 4:32). From us should sound forth the word of the Lord and our faith to Godward should be spread abroad (1 Thess. 1). For since we have received the revelation we are “the salt of the earth” and “light of the world” and should “let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:13, 15).

 

Conclusion

I am persuaded that if we hold fast to the revelation that shows us that God is not far distant from men, indifferent to their struggles and sorrows and sins, but that He draws near to them in grace and mercy and is “long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; and if we can say, we know that this is so, not only because His word declares it, but because we have proved that word to be true in our own experience, and if we can show to men that this knowledge of God is a treasure which we prize as dearer to us than life itself, but which we desire to share with them, and if we are the exponents of the blessing before their eyes we shall serve our day and generation by the will of God, the rising tide of apostasy will only move us to great zeal, and we shall be hastening the coming of the day of God.

Righteousness and Fellowship

Notes of a Bible Reading at Sydney on Exodus 22:1-28

 

In this chapter there are found in type two things that go together; the one is the righteous basis upon which God sets us before Himself, the other our fellowship together in that place. The antitype of the first is in the Epistle to the Romans, and the second in Corinthians. It is the first time in the Bible that we read of the congregation. In the 3rd verse you get “the congregation of Israel ”; in the 6th verse, “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel .” Up to this time God's dealings in grace had been with individuals, and in Exodus with the elders of Israel , but now He sets Himself to gather a congregation about Himself, and that congregation was to be an assembly. The word “congregation” here carries the thought of unity, that which is corporate. Darby's New Translation has at this point a footnote showing that the Word translated “assembly” in the A.V. has the thought of “the actual subsisting congregation composed of all its members,” while the word “congregation” is “more the congregation looked at as a moral whole, a corporate person before God.”

The purpose God had in view in redeeming His people was that He might gather them to Himself, an assembly having one mind and purpose. In this chapter the basis is laid for that. God could not have an assembly in which He could have His pleasure, so long as His people were under a yoke of bondage in Egypt , a type of the world. They could not be for God or for one another until they were set free. We see that in the 5th chapter, verses 10-12. Instead of the people being gathered there, they were scattered, and they were scattered as toiling and labouring for a hard taskmaster, the Pharaoh of Egypt. The assembly of God now, if true to its character, is set free from the world by redemption, and is maintained in that liberty by the Spirit's power, but the sad thing is that the great majority of God's people do not see that they are not of the world, and are toiling to build up the world, just as Israel toiled in Egypt.

Question. In what way?

Israel made bricks to build up the great cities of Egypt ; in figure many Christians are doing that today, they are making bricks to build up the world system. Professedly Christian assemblies, conferences and synods come together, not to discuss how they may hasten the day of God by gathering souls out of the world for His Name or how they may build up in the truth the souls of those that are saved, but to take up social questions and discuss politics, and how to improve the world as it is; they are making bricks to build up the world system. The world has laid this heavy bondage upon them, that they should look after its morals, and help to straighten out its tangles, they are serving Pharaoh, and their labour is useless for the whole world lies in the wicked one, and is shortly to suffer the judgment of God. This world is in rebellion against God, and His way with it is to scatter it as at the tower of Babel , and His thought in regard to His assembly is gathering, that it may be one. The devil's intention is to build up and unite the world and scatter the assembly of God. Let us take care that we are working with God and not with the devil.

Remarked. You look upon what we have in the 14th chapter then, the deliverance, as part of God's thoughts for them, and we have here that which is the foundation of it.

Yes, it was God's thought to bring them out of Egypt and gather them in one congregation. One of the first intimations in the New Testament of God's thought for His people is given in the Spirit's interpretation of the prophecy that came from the lips of Caiaphas, that Jesus should die to “ gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad .” But for this they needed to be delivered from the world as His “out-called” ones. God sent Moses with a message to Pharaoh, saying, “Let my people go.” He wanted them to worship Him, and over and over again it was clearly brought out they could not in Egypt be an assembly worshipping God. Egypt is the place of bondage, it is the world, and we have to be delivered from the world if we are to know our place in God's assembly and be worshippers of Him.

Question. Where do you get the thought of fellowship in the 12th of Exodus?

In the fact that they are looked upon as one assembly, and that in the 16th verse the feast of the Passover was to be “an holy convocation.” A convocation was a gathering together of the people, and they were to eat in common the lamb roast with fire and the unleavened bread.

Remarked. It is essential that blood should be shed for God to lay the foundation of that.

The blood was the foundation, because of our sinfulness; it was necessary for our standing in righteousness before God, and it is upon that footing that we have fellowship one with another, as 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light at He is in the light we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” That statement is a very fine text to preach to the sinner, but it is given in that Scripture in connection with our being in the light and having fellowship one with another. It is the unfailing basis of our relationship with God and one another.

But before the blood was shed, the lamb had to be kept in the household, every household had that lamb before it for a certain period. The lamb that was going to bear the judgment, to die on their behalf, was to be before their eyes continually for this period.

Question. Does that refer to the Lord's life? His service here on earth?

Yes, it sets forth the Lord's life upon earth, and especially in John's Gospel. The first public witness that is borne to Him there is, “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” We trace His footsteps through the Gospel and learn the wonderful fact that the Lamb was without blemish, that He was the absolutely Holy One, perfect in His moral excellence. Every act and word of His would have an added significance to us if we consider them with the Cross in view. It is also interesting to see that the Gospel of John which begins with the Lamb of God, ends with fellowship. Take the last verse but one. The critics have tried all sorts of ways and means of getting round that verse. It has suffered in the hands of its friends too. Some who want to protect the Gospel have taught that the Elders at Ephesus, seeing that false doctrine as to Christ's Person was coming in, induced the aged John to write his Gospel, and when he had written it they put their imprimatur to it, and said, “We know what he is saying is true.” But that is a very human interpretation of it. The Spirit of God had something much deeper than that before Him. The Gospel closes with the “we know” of the Epistle. The characteristic word of the 1st Epistle of John is, “we know,” it is the certitude of Christian knowledge and fellowship. The subject of our fellowship is this Blessed Person, the Word of Life, who has shed His blood and revealed the Father, and so the Gospel links on with the Epistle. In the Gospel there is the testimony to the Holy Spotless Lamb of God, whose blood was shed; “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bear record and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true that ye might believe” (John 19:34-35). And his record has not been in vain, we have believed. So the Gospel ends with “we know.” We know in blessed fellowship the truth of this.

Question. Would it be correct to say the statement in John, “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” would take in the sin offering, but what of the second “Behold the Lamb of God”?

In the first instance witness is borne to Him in connection with the great work that He was to do, and in the second instance witness is borne to the Person as the One who can wholly fill the heart. At once two disciples follow Him when He is presented to them in that way. Don't you think it would greatly affect us as we read the Gospel, if the thought were in our minds continually that this One of whom we are reading, is to die as the Lamb, to die that we might be brought into righteous relationships with God and with one another?

Question. There is a verse in Peter which speaks of the Lamb foreordained before the foundation of the world. If we had that before us too, as we read the Old Testament, would not that help us?

Yes, it comes out in all the types of the Old Testament. It comes out here. The cross was the goal to which all the types pointed.

Question. Do you think that the keeping up of the lamb for four days here has reference to Christ being always before God as the One who was to accomplish His will and bring a people to Himself in righteousness?

Yes, it may be that not one of those Israelites entered at all into the meaning of the lamb being kept up until the fourteenth day, but certainly God's eye was upon the lamb, and in that type He was setting forth the preciousness and the perfection of Christ to Him. Not many discerned the perfection of the Lord Jesus when He was here. Some did, as we read, “We beheld His glory.” But the Father always beheld it, it was before His eye. So He said, “This is My beloved Son,” and He was seen of angels also, though men saw no beauty in Him.

Question. It says in 1 Corinthians 5, “Even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Is that what you mean to convey, that there must be the maintenance of what is due to God; absence of evil before there can be fellowship? You get fellowship in the 1st, 10th and 11th chapters. Were the Corinthians getting away from it by allowing evil?

They were losing the sense of the holiness of the place into which they had been brought. The judgment fell upon the Egyptians. The only way that the Israelites were sheltered from that judgment was by the blood of the lamb, which was the witness that God's judgment had fallen upon their substitute. God could not judge the evil of Egypt and allow His people to go on with that evil. He did not deliver them from the judgment that rested upon Egypt that they might indulge themselves in the evil that He had judged. There must be separation from the world and its evil if there is to be true fellowship in the things of God, because this fellowship is holy, even as God who has called us to it is holy.

Question. Is there not a difference between the two? You have the enemy outside, but what has been mentioned is moral evil—what is inside?

The leaven is the evil of Egypt . It is that in which the flesh indulges, it was characteristic of Egypt , i.e., the world, but it ought not to be permitted in the Christian Assembly. There is the old leaven. I suppose that refers to what we were formerly in our unregenerate state, and then there is the leaven of malice and wickedness, things that characterize the world. It was working inside the assembly at Corinth and marring the fellowship there; we have to watch against it, and the thought of Christ as our passover helps us in this.

Question. Why is the eating of unleavened bread associated with the slaying of the lamb?

Leaven in Scripture is figurative of evil. Two things characterize leaven: one is, it corrupts, and the other is, it puffs up. Now both those things were most marked in the Corinthians, in which Epistle the Passover is introduced. It says they were “puffed up” (5:2). Later on it says that knowledge puffed them up, they were very proud. There was the pride of the flesh showing itself. Then it corrupts. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (v. 6) and “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (chap. 15). That which spoke of evil had to be cast out from their houses. That sets forth the holiness of the fellowship to which we are called, and in order to maintain that holiness there must be self-judgment That comes out in the 11th chapter as well as in the 5th.

But let us have the truth clearly before our minds, we do not keep the feast of unleavened bread in order to become holy or to attain to the fellowship. “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). The measure of our sanctification is that Christ was slain for us. Consequent upon that we are brought into the fellowship, we have our place in “the assembly of God sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2). Nothing can make that more definite, more absolute. We keep the feast of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth because only by so doing can we be consistent with the place in which God has set us; not to attain to the position, but because grace has given it to us.

Question. I suppose the positive side of fellowship is feeding on the roast lamb, is it not? Leaven is that which would spoil it if allowed.

Yes, there was to be the feeding on the lamb roast with fire inside the house and the eating of the unleavened bread, and that was not a fast, as some people might imagine, it was a feast, and it was not merely a feast, it was a feast of Jehovah.

Question. There was to be the eating of it with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs. What would the bitter herbs signify?

Would it not be repentance and self-judgment? Repentance continued in the Christian life simply means self-judgment. There is a very remarkable thing which we must not overlook in connection with it, and that is the judgment was upon the firstborn. The firstborn was the one in the family who was to carry on the family traditions, and in whom the hopes of the family were centred. The firstborn being under the sentence of death, all that they could boast in as to the past or hope for in the future was under judgment. It was the obliteration of the family record. Their hope now was life through the death of the lamb. It means that nothing of the past that we may have built upon, nothing that we could set our hopes upon as natural men and women for the future, can give us any footing before God, in the first instance, nor can it be any help at all to Christian fellowship; it will not help the Assembly of God. That brings us to the end of 1 Corinthians 1, “No flesh should glory in His presence”; “He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord.”

Remarked. The assembly of God is built on Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. He has passed through death.

Yes, it is a new beginning. All that men could boast in naturally has been brought to an end by death.

Remarked. It is interesting in this chapter, too, that the Lord always says, “Thou shalt kill it in the evening.” In God's sight there was only one lamb, although it was necessary to have several lambs, one for each family.

The evening was the end of man's day. He had been fully tested. The last test was the life of Christ. His death closed man's day. God has now a new day. Christ is the beginning of it, and happy are we if we have seen the end of our sins and ourselves in His death and have begun God's new day in Christ raised from the dead. There was no house too big for the lamb; that is, the Lamb of God is equal to every demand.

Question. Do you mind saying a word on the manner in which they had to eat, roast with fire and not sodden?

Roast with fire signifies the inflicted judgment of God, and the lamb roast with fire brings before us the Lord Jesus as the One who came under the Judgment of God on our behalf. More and more is this being denied. Many talk of the sacrifice of Christ, but they use the term in the sense of giving up something or denying oneself for the benefit of others. They won't admit that the judgment of God was deserved by us, and that it was inflicted on Jesus when as our Substitute He suffered for us upon the cross. Now, naturally we would shrink from the thought of the judgment of God, and we should not find any food in that. Death is that which we shrink from, but here the lamb roast with fire, the death of Christ, in this special character under the judgment of God, becomes our food.

Question. How can that be?

Well, in the fact that He came under the judgment of God for us, all the love of God has been disclosed and also His own perfect personal love to us, and that becomes a feast to us, becomes the joy and delight of our hearts, and it is about that we can have fellowship, and our hearts together overflow with worship.

Question. In asking that, I was thinking of Christadelphians and such like, they could not have that at all, could they?

No, because they deny that the judgment of God was inflicted. They know neither His justice nor His love.

Question. Does the eating of the roast lamb in some way set forth what we have at the Lord's Table, the bread and the cup?

Yes. The Lord's Supper answers in Christianity to the Passover with Israel, and we are able to feed upon the death of Christ as that which has brought into evidence God's infinite, wonderful love, and upon Christ as the One who went into death for us. They ate the lamb roast with fire with the bitter herbs and the unleavened bread, behind the blood-sprinkled doors. It is often said, the blood was only for God's eye, and preachers often preach from the passage, “When I see the blood I will pass over you,” as though that was all that God had said, but the blood was not only for God's eye, for God said first, “the blood shall be unto you for a token,” and then “when I see the blood I will pass over you.” It has something to say to you.

Remarked. The sprinkling of the blood was done by faith.

Yes, it was sprinkled by faith, but it spoke to the Israelites. The blood speaks in two directions. It spoke to the Israelites. And it spoke to God. When the Roman soldier pierced the side of Jesus and forthwith came out blood and water, there was a disciple standing there to bear record, and it says, “He that saw it bare record, and his record is true, that ye might believe.”

Thus the blood of Jesus speaks to us, it bears witness as the great token of God's love. Yet God alone knows its value, for it is infinite. The Word of God speaks of it as “the precious blood.”

Question. What does the 10th verse mean? “Ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.”

That which was consumed with fire went up to God as a sweet savour, so that really the thought is this; though you cannot fully and wholly appreciate the lamb roast with fire and assimilate it all, eat of it what you can. God appreciates it all; our limited thoughts of the preciousness of the Lamb do not limit Him. What we fail to appropriate goes up as a sweet savour to Him. There was no refuse, nothing left over.

Question. What is the thought expressed in the fact that only the circumcised were to eat?

Circumcision was the mark of the covenant God had made with Abraham, and it sets forth in type the cutting off of the flesh. God had no blessing for man in the flesh, because as the 8th of Romans tells us, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Sin in the flesh, and, consequently, the flesh met its condemnation at the cross (Rom. 8:3). In Christ who was cut off in death for us we are circumcised; that is, the flesh was set aside and judged and condemned in His death, not only for God but for us, so that we have no longer any confidence in it (Phil. 3); in the teaching of baptism we get our answer to this. Christians are in the Spirit now, and God's assembly is not formed of men and women “in the flesh,” but is formed of those who are “in the Spirit.” We are all baptized into one body by the Holy Ghost. If we forget our circumcision (Col. 2:11) we shall make a mess of fellowship as the Corinthians did.

Question. Would you say the 11th verse had any connection with the Lord's Supper? Their loins were girded.

That would set forth that the people who ate the Passover were a people going out of Egypt , and not going to settle down in Egypt . Their redemption had Canaan in view. They were bound for another land, and so we partake of the Lord's Supper, and show His death until He comes . We do not partake of it as those who are settling down in the world to make it better, or get as much out of it as we can, but as those who have turned our backs upon it. By it we have our absent Lord in view until His return.

Question. Do you think the 46th verse, the partaking of the one lamb in the one place, in type looks forward to the assembly, the one body?

Yes, it may. The Lord's Supper is the one assembly feast, and the feast of the one assembly; it must not be separated from the fellowship of the assembly. Then “not a bone of it shall be broken” is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ; when the soldiers came to break the legs of the thieves, they found Him dead already. There is also His mystical body, and while outwardly the assembly seems to be broken up into innumerable fragments, yet “there is one body” remains true to this day, and will for ever. It cannot be broken, and all those who stand before God on the basis of the shed blood of the Lamb are part of it. The One Spirit dwells in all such and they form the one assembly of God.

Remarked. That would be what Paul meant when He said, “Feed the Church of God which He hath purchased with the blood of His own” (Acts 20:28, N.Tr.).

Yes, the Church of God is blood-purchased, purchased by the blood of His own Son. We can see the difference between Egypt and the congregation of Israel . Egypt was under condemnation, that is the world.

There was nothing in the Egyptians' houses but death, and in this world there is really nothing but death and judgment, but the congregation of Israel were blood-sheltered and redeemed. God was their protector, and inside there was life. They were feeding upon the lamb roast with fire with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and to feed upon the lamb means life.

Question. Is not the chief thought in the Supper His death, not His life?

Yes, it is the Lord in death that we remember, but we know Him as the One who is alive for evermore. He is the Head and Centre of His assembly in resurrection life.

Question. Has the 15th verse any voice for us today? Eating the unleavened bread seven days?

Seven days covers the whole week. We are to be an unleavened company not on Sunday only but all the week. That is what 1 Corinthians 5 says.

Remarked. When he said, “Purge out the old leaven that ye may be a new lump as ye are unleavened,” that would refer to their normal state before God, an unleavened company.

Yes, it means bringing your condition into correspondence with what you are before Him, and for that there had to be the purging out of the old leaven. They were to keep the feast of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Remarked. That is the whole week.

It is a feast and not a fast. We must not be all the time saying to ourselves, now it must not do this,” and “don't do that,” our fellowship is not one continual “don't,” that would be a fast, but this is a feast, the feast of unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Where do we find sincerity and truth? In Christ. Well, that means that seven days of the week we are to be feeding on Christ as the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, and as we feed upon Christ in that character, you may be sure of this, we shall not need the “don'ts” and “you mustn'ts.” And sincerity and truth will characterize us. When a man is feasting and satisfied with Christ, he is not tempted by anything the world or the flesh can offer, and he will help the volume of praise to the Lord when gathered to remember Him in death. It is when we are not feasting the seven days of the week on the bread of sincerity and truth that there is a lack of praise and worship in the assembly.

Question. Would that have anything to do with what we have in Deuteronomy 26 as to the basket filled with firstfruits?

Yes, the heart would be filled and there would be something to bring to the presence of the Lord. I think we must see in this chapter that there is set forth in type the position in which we stand as a result of the death of the Lamb. We need to have it impressed upon us that all that God has done in His grace towards us is to bring its to Himself as His assembly. It is not a question merely of individual blessing. We have that; but God had this great purpose in view. He would bring us to Himself as His assembly, and if we are brought to Himself in that way, then we are an holy assembly, sanctified in Christ Jesus, as the 1 Corinthians 1 tells us. Thence the necessity of our being in a condition corresponding to that in which God has set us, because we must feel that if we are not according to God's own thoughts, we cannot be for His pleasure, and if we are not for His pleasure, what are we for?

Question. Would the place that the Lord chose to put His name in Old Testament times apply to the two or three gathered to His name today in a day of ruin?

Yes, I think that is the way the verse comes in in the 18th of Matthew. His name had always been there at Jerusalem ; but in Matthew He was the King and rejected by Jerusalem , but He has a place on earth. Having come to earth He cannot abandon it, He must have a place on it, and that place is where two or three are gathered together unto His Name. That is the place He has appointed for His people to meet with Him. We are going through the wilderness, but we have our place in that which answers to the land in the assembly of God, but we are going through the wilderness all through the week where we contract defilement, and I think it is important to see that when they partook of the Passover in connection with the wilderness, separation from evil was a necessity.

Remarked. You refer to the 9th of Numbers. In the 6th verse there it says, “There were certain men who were defiled by the dead body of a man that they could not keep the Passover on that day,” but provision is made for them. Those that did not keep the Passover were not regarded as belonging to the congregation

Every one of the congregation and the stranger who was circumcised, all alike had to keep the passover. If they refused to do that they were cut off. Cutting off from the congregation of Israel would answer today to being outside this fellowship which is according to God. It was to be a holy convocation, that is, a coming together to this feast of the Lord. It was that which would draw them together, would draw them together in holy fellowship, for they had this in common they owed all their blessing to the lamb that had died.

Remarked. You mentioned that verse in John's Epistle, 1st chapter, “We have fellowship.” I heard it expressed once that it was fellowship with the Father about the Son, and fellowship with the Son about the Father.

This 12th of Exodus does not carry us beyond the death of Christ, it typifies the communion of the Lord's death (1 Cor. 10:11). But when we come to the 15th chapter, they sing the song of redemption, the thing they rejoiced most in there is that God had brought them to His holy habitation. What is there in God's holy habitation? It is the place where He dwells, the place where the Son dwells. The thing that fills God's holy habitation is divine life and love and we are brought to that, but the basis of it all is the precious blood, and the delivering power of God brings us there.

Remarked. So we have more to rejoice in than merely our deliverance?

Undoubtedly. That would be something to make us rejoice very greatly, deliverance from the power of Satan and the world, but then God wanted us for Himself, and that we might know Him and rejoice in Him as He is revealed to us by the Word of Life. We must be free from the world before we can enter into God's thoughts for us. They could not sing in Egypt , they sang on the other side of the Red Sea . The things that belong to heaven are the things that belong to the assembly.

Question. Ought there to be hymn singing at the Lord's Supper before the bread and wine are partaken of?

In looking back, Israel would partake of the Passover as a delivered people, and the assembly of God comes together to the Lord's Supper in the triumph of the Lord. If we enter into what the assembly really is we will come together in triumph. We are associated with a risen glorified Christ, and we shall come together in the joy of His victory, and it is thus we are able to look back and call to mind where He went for us and how He went, so that it seems to me that we should come into the presence of the Lord with a song on our lips and joy in our hearts, and then remember Him in His death for us.

Remarked. At the institution of the Supper they sang at the finish. They sang a hymn and went out.

That was a wonderful thing. I don't suppose the disciples entered into that singing. We sing on the victory side of the sea, the Lord sang on the other side. The Israelites did not sing with the sea rolling in front of them and the Egyptians behind them and the mountains on both sides of them; they sang when they saw their enemies dead on the sea shore, so we sing as a delivered people. The blessed Lord as He went into the deep waters for us raised a song of praise to God. That was His perfection. God was ever first in His thoughts.

“Rivers of Living Water”

 

“ In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, 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).

 

“ Rivers of living water! ” We cannot lightly pass this by, for it is one of the most arresting and magnificent proposals that God has made to men. He does not speak of a river, but of RIVERS, and “rivers of LIVING WATER!” not flowing in only, but flowing out—flowing out into a barren, polluted, wretched, sin-burdened, and devil-oppressed world, and healing, comforting, uplifting, fertilizing wherever they flow. Flowing abundantly and continuously wherever the one is in whom they are, whether in the mansions of Mayfair or the slums of Shoreditch, among the peaceful hills and dales of favoured Briton, or the battle-torn fields of Flanders and France, in the far-off and demon-ridden lands where faithful souls labour to bring the heathen to the feet of Christ, and amid the pollutions of the flesh and empty world-attractions of the towns and cities of civilization; in the home, the office, the factory, the field and at sea; amid peace or war; in the gospel service and Sunday-school class, in life and testimony, day by day, and hour by hour—RIVERS OF LIVING WATER.

And to whom is the invitation given and the proposal made? TO ANY MAN WHO THIRSTS. To the one who feels that the world is bad and sighs for that which is good; to the one who has discovered that the church has failed both God and man and longs for that that faileth not; to the one who keenly feels that he is the greatest wreck of all, whose folly and failure and feebleness for good weigh upon him like an unbearable load that makes his soul cry out in agony. To such the invitation is given, they all may come with their parched and fevered souls, and be transformed by coming into vessels overflowing with blessing to others.

The unconverted man who has tasted nothing as yet but the brackish waters of the world's foul streams may come. The believer who has merely sipped at the living water, but has not drawn near to enter the fullness of joy that Christ gives may come. The backslider —most miserable of all men—who has known the joyful sound and lost its music in his wanderings amid the world's wild babel, to whom the sweet waters of life eternal are but a memory, and who lashes himself in secret for his treachery to Christ, and sighs for the brightness of those former days, may come. The discouraged servant , toiling all night fruitlessly, with heart depressed, life barren, and countenance sad, may come. The only qualification is thirst, and “IF ANY MAN THIRST,” said the Son of God, “LET HIM COME UNTO ME AND DRINK.”

COME UNTO ME. Search no longer in the depths of your own heart for the goodness that satisfies. Come unto Me. Cease to look to men for help. Come unto Me. Abandon for ever your hopes in the power and amiability of democracy. Come unto Me . Turn not to churches or religious ceremonies. Come unto Me. Depend not on famous evangelists, pastors and teachers. Come unto Me . Rest not in hearty meetings, Bible conferences, sound scriptural literature, or a correct ecclesiastical position. Come unto Me —UNTO ME—ME.

Are we tired of self and self-efforts? Are we sick at heart as “change and decay in all around we see”? Are our eyes weary with seeking good beneath the sun? Have our hopes been blighted and our best aspirations withered? Do we groan and sigh at the failure of our pitiful efforts to bless others? Have we come to our wits' end, and do we cry, “ As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, FOR THE LIVING GOD: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, WHERE IS THY GOD? ”

Where is He? He is there, a lowly stranger in the midst of Israel's multitudes, on that last great day of the feast, crying, “ Come unto Me ” to every needy, thirsty soul—a stranger with gracious mien and outstretched hands and tear-filled eyes—a Nazarene, acquainted with grief, despised of the people, and yet—

“God manifest, God seen and heard,

The heaven's beloved One.”

Behold Him as He uplifts His voice! He reads their misery in the faces of the multitude, He measures the boundless needs of their thirsty souls; He counts their tears, hears their sighs, and knows their disappointments, their heart-aches, and their sins. Their sorrows had made Him the man of sorrows, for He knew the cause of them, their sins would nail Him as a bleeding sacrifice to Calvary 's tree. He sighs for them, weeps for them, and would die for them. They had forsaken God, the fountain of living water, and had hewn out for themselves cisterns—broken cisterns, that could hold no water—but He pities them, yearns for them, loves them and calls to them “COME UNTO ME AND DRINK.”

Do we see what is involved in these words, which are more than an invitation. They were a call to those who heard them, and a call to us also, to forsake every fleshly hope, to smash every cherished idol, to lay all the glory of man in the dust where it properly belongs, to turn from it as being utterly void of profit, and to acknowledge that He alone can satisfy the cravings of the soul, and that He only has the right to do it, for HE IS GOD, He is THE WORD, the Revealer of the infinite blessedness of the Triune God, and His words are the divine invitation to sin-burdened and thirst-stricken wanderers from God—an invitation throbbing with a boundless compassion. But they are more than an invitation, they are a challenge also, a challenge to the creature to put the Creator to the test at last, and to prove that He, revealed in the fullness and blessedness of His nature in the person of His Only-Begotten, is infinitely better than the best he had known, and to discover at His feet that he might exchange His evil and misery for God's overflowing goodness.

But these words were more than an invitation and a challenge to men, they were the bursting forth of God's desires for men. Before His all-seeing eye all men, and all generations of men, appeared. He saw them, created as they had been to be filled into God's fullness, yet restless, thirsting, blind, and lost; wanderers in an arid desert without God and without hope; deceived by the devil and rebellious against God's holy will; hating Him in spite of His love and pressing on to an everlasting doom. No temporal or material mercies, no matter how vast their multitude, could meet their need; they could only be saved from their present miseries and their future woe by the fullness of God reaching them in grace. And that this fullness might flow out to all men God sent His Son into the world, and He is the Fountain of the water of life ; but that those waters might still flow forth in rivers He requires vessels, vessels that should first be filled with that fullness and then overflow in rivers to others.

This could only be as God Himself dwelt in the vessels and filled them with a constant satisfaction, and nothing short of this is the proposal. Consider the words afresh—“ 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

It is well to lay emphasis upon the fact that the fulfilment of this great word was dependent upon Jesus being glorified. He was to be taken up, as the man alive from the dead , to His Father's throne, to be there the life-giving Head, and this could not be until the great work of redemption was accomplished on the cross. At that cross the old life that could yield nothing either for God or man met its condemnation, for God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). He has now taken up life in resurrection, and He imparts this life to all who come to Him. But not this alone; He gives to them the Holy Spirit. All who come to Him and drink are thereby put into contact with eternal power and eternal blessing, for they receive the Spirit of God who is the Eternal Spirit.

Oh, that the greatness of this might lay hold of us. In order that the life-giving rivers of grace might reach men God has put His own Spirit in those who believe in Jesus, and God dwells in them for the blessing of His unhappy and rebellious creatures. And this means that God's thoughts and compassions should find expression through them, that streams of “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” should flow from them; that they should go about doing good as Jesus did, for God, who was with Him, is with them; that they should be witnesses to men, not only that Christ, the risen Man, is glorified in heaven, but that those who have come to Him have come to the fountain of the water of life and are fully satisfied, and in consequence think no longer of themselves but live for the blessing of others.

“ But this spake He of the Spirit that they that believe on Him should receive .” Have we believed on Him? And if so are the rivers flowing forth from our satisfied souls—RIVERS OF LIVING WATER? Have we been transformed from thirsting, grasping, selfish, complaining sinners into sons of God, vessels overflowing with His goodness and blessing, meet for the Master's use in saving others?

God has need of such vessels as these, and that He might have them Jesus came and died and rose again and was glorified; and the world needs them, THE WORLD THAT GOD SO LOVED NEEDS THEM. Behold its sorrows and its sins, consider its wretchedness and bondage, think upon the darkness of its doom! Who can bless it but the God it knows not? From whence shall light and relief and deliverance and joy come to it but from God? It is the mission and responsibility and high and marvellous honour of the vessels in whom God dwells to carry God to it, and to be in the midst of it as RIVERS OF LIVING WATER. Are we this? And, if not, why? WHY?

It was on the last great day of the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus made this great proclamation. The first seven days of that feast foreshadowed worldwide peace and prosperity for men under His beneficent dominance as the Sun of Righteousness. Of this period of blessing many glowing and soul-stirring prophecies had been spoken, but He could not at that time fulfil these sure words, for though He was ready the people were not. They did not want the blessing in God's way, and they would not have God's Son, though He was the only One through whom it could come to them. They hated Him and were seeking to kill Him, so that He was going back again to His Father who sent Him (v. 33), and that day of blessing for the earth was in consequence to be postponed.

Now there were those who had followed Him expecting that He would immediately fulfil His ancient promises to Israel and the earth, and were they to be disappointed? Were the hopes that had been raised in their breasts to be shattered? No. He proposed to give them something better.

The last great day of the feast was the eighth day, and that eighth day was a Sabbath. It foreshadowed God's eternal rest, when heaven should come down to earth, and when the two should no longer be separated but united in the joy of the manifestation of the fullness of God. It was on that day that Jesus lifted up His voice, and that which He offered to any man that thirsted exceeded the highest expectations of those who had followed Him. Earthly blessings are great, if He gives them, but this is greater: it is not earthly but heavenly, not material but spiritual, not temporal but eternal. And so the rejection of Him by Israel which seemed to be an overwhelming calamity was turned into a triumph of divine goodness. And the eighth day of the feast which stood outside man's sin and its consequences became the platform from which He announced God's intention to put those who believed in Jesus into living contact with heavenly and eternal fullness and power, whilst earthly blessing was withheld because of Israel 's rejection of Christ.

The blessing announced was of an entirely new order, having its source and centre in a risen Christ, exalted in heaven above every principality and power. From Him in the heavenly and eternal throne, that can know neither change nor decay, there was to come into this changing and storm-tossed world the heavenly and eternal Spirit to dwell in every one who should believe in Jesus, and He would bring the power and blessing of eternity into their lives and make them vessels overflowing with the goodness of God in a world of thirsting men. And this has come to pass; THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS NOW IN ALL WHO HAVE BELIEVED UPON THE GLORIFIED CHRIST. How wonderful is this thought! How intimate is the contact into which it puts us with God! No earthly relationship can illustrate it, for none of us can impart his spirit to another no matter how dearly loved. But this is what God has done, and just as a man's spirit controls him and expresses itself in his looks and words and works, so God by His Spirit would control us and express His thoughts for man's blessing actively through us. The believer is in the world for this purpose, He is to be the channel of God's goodness and grace to men, the divinely, given description of this most blessed presence is, “Out of his belly shall flow RIVERS OF LIVING WATER.” He is to be satisfied himself first, to find every desire of his soul met in Christ and then to overflow for others.

We must not dismiss this proposal as a magnificent impossibility, as we would the unsubstantial product of an ecstatic brain, for the Speaker is THE WORD, the Omnipotent Creator, made flesh in order to bring the fullness of God to men, and every word of His lips is the pure gold of absolute truth. And He is able to fulfil His own word. We may not have realized this flowing out of blessing from hearts fully satisfied ourselves; we may not have seen these waters flowing out of any other whom we know—dwell not on that, past-failure in ourselves and failure in our fellows does not and cannot alter the truth of this great word. There it stands for us in its stupendous simplicity, describing for us the results of contact with Christ glorified in heaven, and challenging us to put it to the test. It lies within the reach of all, and we may take the words to the Speaker of them, and tell Him that we have not realized the truth of them yet, but that we believe He means us to do so, and then seek out the hindrances to their fulfilment in our lives.

We are turned back to the Scriptures, by these words of the Lord, for help as to their meaning, for He said, “AS THE SCRIPTURE HATH SAID.” But we shall not find what part of the Scripture says this by looking up the marginal references in our Bible or by consulting a concordance; indeed, the exact words are not to be found in the Old Testament at all, but many scriptures contain the thought, and if we put some of these together we shall surely discover the true and blessed meaning of the Lord's words.

We will take three scriptures which shall speak to us: (1) of the transforming our own lives; (2) of the outflow from those lives which have been made fit for the Spirit indwelling; (3) of how the waters may be kept flowing continuously in spite of all external conditions. These scriptures have in view first of all earthly and material refreshment and blessing, but they contain in them the deeper and spiritual thought, and with this we will occupy ourselves.

Isaiah 35 tells us that “ in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert and the parched ground shall become a pool and the thirsty land springs of water. ” We learn from this beautiful chapter that “ the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing .” But how shall this great result be brought about, and what is the cause of this blessing and fruitfulness? One sentence supplies the answer, “THEY SHALL SEE THE GLORY OF THE LORD, AND THE EXCELLENCY OF OUR GOD.” Now mark well that the outflowing waters of the Lord's promise in John 7 are connected with His glory; and do we see His glory? “WE SEE JESUS, WHO WAS MADE A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS FOR THE SUFFERING OF DEATH, CROWNED WITH GLORY AND HONOUR” (Heb. 2:9). “BUT WE ALL, LOOKING ON THE GLORY OF THE LORD WITH UNVEILED FACE, ARE TRANSFORMED ACCORDING TO THE SAME IMAGE FROM GLORY TO GLORY, EVEN AS BY THE LORD THE SPIRIT” (2 Cor. 3:18, N.Tr.). Here is the first great secret of these outflowing waters. As we are by the Spirit beholding the glory of the Lord: where He is we become like Him where He is not. Our barren lives change their character and become fresh and fruitful, according to the transforming power of the Holy Ghost who dwells in us. And we must be transformed ourselves first if we are to have any part in transforming others.

EZEKIEL 47 tells of a wonderful river, that, flowing in ever-increasing volume, carries healing and fertility into barren regions. But from whence does the river come and wherein lies its power for good? It comes from the sanctuary, from the temple of God , and that is the secret of its virtue. That we can understand, for if God is the blessed God that which flows from His temple must be blessing. Yes, that must be so. But, “KNOW YE NOT THAT YE ARE THE TEMPLE OF SOD , AND THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLETH IN YOU” (1 Cor. 3:16). The prayerful consideration of that statement will impress us as no comments on it can with the practical holiness that becomes all of whom it is true; of the great responsibility that rests upon them as being God's vessels in the world, His dwelling, and yet of the all-sufficiency of the Holy Spirit within to preserve them according to God's own thought.

ZECHARIAH 14:8-9, tells of living waters going out from Jerusalem , in summer and in winter. These waters are not dried by summer heat or bound by winter frosts, they are superior to all external conditions and flow out unrestrained and continuously. But what is it that gives them the character of independence of all creature circumstances, and from whence do they flow? Their source is the City where the kingship of the One Lord is owned, the city where His throne is, and here lies the secret of the continuous outflowing. JESUS IS LORD! And this must not be with us in profession only but in reality. There must be obedience to His will. This is the outcome of and is coupled with believing in Him. We cannot contribute to others except we believe in Him and are in obedience to His commandments.

We need only quote the Lord's own words in order to give point and emphasis to this.

“He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him . . . Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him” (John 14:21, 23). “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:10-12). “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us” (1 John 3:22-24).

It is by the Spirit's power that we behold the glory of the Lord.

It is by the Spirit's presence that we are the temple of God .

It is by the Spirit's promptings that we call Jesus Lord.

And because of the Spirit that dwells in us we are to be in the world as RIVERS OF LIVING WATER. This is the normal condition of believers in the world, and if it is not our condition, we have either never entered into the true power of Christianity or else we have fallen from it, and in either case deep exercise of soul before God and searchings of heart should be ours until we discover the cause.

Russia 's Place in the Near East

 

The success of the Russian arms in Asia Minor and Persia, and the failure of Great Britain's efforts in the same areas are deeply significant and should interest students of prophecy, for Russia has yet to play a prominent and most malevolent part in these very countries before Israel is established without menace or fear in the land promised to her of old by Jehovah.

The prophecies which definitely connect Russia with the scenes of her recent successes are found in Ezekiel 38-39. In the former chapter we read. “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: and I will turn thee back, and put hooks in thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya (Phut marg.) with them; all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer, and all his bands, the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee” (Ezek. 38:3-6). Of this passage J. N. Darby says: “‘The chief prince of Meshech and Tubal' is properly translated Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. (This translation, of the correctness of which I have no doubt, is that of the elder Lowth, some hundred and fifty years ago, before these prophetic views were mooted.)” (Coll. Writings, Vol. XI, p.507). And again: “The elder Lowth translated it ‘prince of Ross' (or rather ‘Rosh'); the most accurate modern translation does too. Gesenius gives it as the unquestionable meaning, and adds that without doubt it means the Russian. In the Middle Ages in the East they had the name of Ross” (Coll. Writings, Vol. VIII, p.453). And again: “If you consult Genesis 10, the generations of the sons of Japheth are named Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Mesec, and Tiras. Of these we get Gomer, Magog, Tubal, Mesec under the same names in Ezekiel 38 as followers of Gog; you will also find Persia, which was united to Media (Madai) . . . These mentioned above are the nations that comprise Russia, Asia Minor, Tartary, and Persia . . . They are described as under the dominion of Gog, prince of Rosh (Russia), Meshech (Moscow), and Tubal (Tobolsk)” (Coll. Writings, Vol. II, p.5I7).

We gather, then, from Ezekiel 38 that Russia will directly rule over, or influence the lands lying east and north of the Holy Land, and her phenomenal successes against the Turks, after surmounting the extraordinary difficulties which the Caucasus Mountains present to modern military operations, seem to be bringing things rapidly into line with the Holy Scriptures.

It is well known that the policy of Great Britain for more than half a century has been to frustrate Russian ambitions in regard to Asia Minor . The Crimean War was fought for this very reason, and in the year 1875 another war with Russia , when she threatened to march on Constantinople , was barely avoided. Now, strangely enough, these two former foes are allied for the overthrow of the power that Britain poured out so much blood and treasure to uphold. But what is so significant is that Russian arms are alone successful. In spite of the gallantry of the British troops in the Dardanelles the campaign there proved to be a complete failure, and the despatches of the generals commanding, describing the failure, leave the impression upon the mind that some unseen force was against them, for nothing seemed to transpire as was intended. But when the decision was made to withdraw the troops everything changed; General Monro's despatch makes remarkable reading in this regard. The Ægean which had been swept by storms became calm, and the moon which was at full was covered with a haze, with the result that the great army was embarked and got away without the loss of a man, a feat that no living man thought possible. It seemed as though God's hand was against the armies of Britain while they remained in territory that must come under another Power according to His Word, but was for them from the moment the decision was taken to withdraw. The advance upon Baghdad and the failure to relieve Kut-el-Mara discloses similar features. It was not the Turkish armies, but rain and flood that stood between the British and victory. Lord Kitchener, in the House of Lords, said:

“ Every effort was made to relieve the beleaguered force. To the adverse elements alone was due the denial of success, and constant rain and flood not only impeded the advance, but also prevented, in lieu of turning movements, direct attack on an almost impossibly narrow front.

“ No praise would seem extravagant for the troops under Sir Percy Lake and Sir George Gorringe, and that they did not reap the fruit of their courage and devotion was due to the circumstances which fought against them . ”

But while British plans and hopes fail in a sphere in which she will probably exercise no influence in the great struggle that is yet to come, for she belongs to another group of nations, Russia steadily advances into those lands which are to be her subordinates, or allies according to the sure word of prophecy; and all the land she occupies she will no doubt hold.

We put these remarkable events and the Scriptures that speak of Russia's destiny together, not in a dogmatic way, but as calling attention to them as being worthy of note; and feeling that they indicate that the time cannot be far off when Russia's millions, augmented by the armies that she will gather from these other nations, will be thrown by their rulers into Palestine in order to destroy the nation of the Jews, and overthrow Jerusalem, which is to be a “stone for all people” (Zech. 12:3).

The result of that great invasion is plainly foretold in Ezekiel 38-39. God Himself will deal with it in fierce judgment of fire, and so great will be the slaughter amongst the multitudes of Gog, that seven months will be occupied in the burial of the carcases (39:12); and so shall perish the most persistent and probably the last persecutor of the sons of Jacob—God's chosen people, who are yet to be the centre of blessing for nations on the earth. But for this final battle, e'er all weapons of war are beaten into implements of peace, Israel will be resurrected as a nation by the breath of the Lord according to Ezekiel 37.

Safety, Service, and Song

Jude 20-25

 

But ye, beloved, building yourselves on your most holy faith [WE CANNOT DO THAT IF WE NEGLECT THE WORD OF GOD]; praying in the Holy Ghost [WE CANNOT DO THAT IF WE ARE WALKING IN THE FLESH]; keep yourselves in the love of God [WE CANNOT DO THAT IF WE LOVE THE WORLD]; looking for the mercy our Lord Jesus unto eternal lift [WE CANNOT BE DOING THAT IF OUR HOPES AND AMBITIONS ARE CENTRED IN ANYTHING BELOW].

In every Christian heart that is not withered and cramped by carnal things there is the desire to save others, it is one of the chief instincts of the divine nature that is in them. They do not desire, as God does not desire, that any should perish, they want all, as God wants all, to come to the knowledge of the truth. “The damnation of hell” is not a question of words with them, it is a reality, terrible and everlasting, and they want to save men from it and to serve God in doing it; but they know, if they are intelligent, that if men are to be saved from this final doom, they must be saved from the snares and seductions of the devil that lure them on to it: to save them from these is to save them from that. So they will endeavour to save men from the blinding doctrinal errors of the day , the profane and vain babblings (2 Tim. 2:16) and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1), by which the faith of some is overthrown; they will endeavour to save men from the pollutions and enmity against God that are native to the flesh , and from the seductions of the world and from placing their hopes in the false dreams of man's ability to evolve himself and his world into all that he and it should be.

But how shall we save others from the soul-destroying teachings that characterize these last days—teachings that deny the God of Genesis 1 and John 3:16, and Revelation 20:12—the God who is Creator, Saviour, and Judge—that deny the incarnation of the Son, His holy humanity, His sacrificial death, His bodily resurrection—unless we are rooted and grounded and built up and made strong in the faith? How shall we save others from the corruptions of the flesh unless we are manifestly praying in and sowing to the Spirit? How shall we drag others out of the world that is to be destroyed by fire, as the angels dragged Lot out of Sodom , unless we are morally out of it ourselves, its seductions having no power over us because our hearts are kept in the love of God? How shall we turn men from its will-o-the-wisp promises unless we ourselves have been attracted by that sure and blessed hope of our Lord's return.

It is, surely, only as those things that are brighter and better than the brightest and best that can be found below are controlling our souls that we ourselves are safe and able to save others also.

We need less newspaper and more Bible, less minding of the flesh and more sowing to the Spirit, less seeking the threads and shoe latchets from the King of Sodom and more feeding on the bread and wine that Melchizedek brings from the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth (Genesis 14), of whom we can now say “ God is love ”; less building of homes and hopes in a world that has rejected God and His Son and more reaching outward and onward to that world of glory that the death of Jesus has opened for us.

We press these things upon others because it is pressed upon us that we are neither safe ourselves nor able to serve God in saving others if we are neglectful in these things.

“ And of some have compassion .” If we are to fulfil that exhortation compassion must first flow into our hearts, and from whence does it come? It does not spring up from false teaching, or from the flesh, or the world. This tender pity that expends its all to bless those in distress and danger is a divine quality. And if our hearts are to be full of it we must build ourselves up in the faith, pray in the Spirit, keep ourselves in the love of God and be conscious of the eternal and incorruptible riches that are ours in heaven above.

But we shall not maintain true compassion for souls, the compassion that will make us zealous for their salvation, unless we hate the flesh and the garments spotted by it. And since the flesh is in us, we shall not hate its works unless we judge it by the standard of the FAITH, which is God fully revealed to us in Christ; and from the standpoint of THE SPIRIT by whom we have access to God in prayer; are consciously in THE LOVE OF GOD, which the flesh cannot bear, and are looking for THE MERCY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST UNTO ETERNAL LIFE, in which the flesh has no part.

It may be that we have longed to obey these exhortations and earnestly sought to do so, but we have failed, and have bitterly to confess that we have fallen under the power of the very things from which we would deliver others. Where lies the fault? In that we have sought after these things by human effort, and in our own strength and have not understood that One alone is able to keep us from failing . It changes everything when we understand that, when we see that our safety, service, and song are all alike dependent on this one great fact. WE ARE NOT ABLE BUT GOD IS ABLE. He is able to keep us safe amid abounding evils and in the happy confidence that this gives we can serve Him in saving others and sing our happy songs of praise to Him the while.

Consider it, dear brethren. God gave His Son to save us, in this we perceive His love towards, and His grace and power that are equal to His love are put forth for the constant and complete deliverance of those whom He has saved. He is able to keep us from falling. May we not rely upon Him, rely upon Him wholly, constantly, and without misgiving, to keep us in these things wherein lie our present safety and without which we can neither serve nor sing?

Consider further this wonderful statement He is able to keep you from falling—more than equal to every snare and power of evil below—“ and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy .” Such is the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, such the perfection of the righteousness in which we stand in Him that the glory of God will discover no imperfections therein but will make manifest its exceeding blessedness, and so will God have exceeding joy in the results of His wisdom and grace. Well might we sing unto Him, the only wise God and our Saviour, glory and majesty, dominion and power both now and for ever. Amen.

Salt in a New Cruse

 

“ He tarried at Jericho . . . and the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but THE WATER IS NAUGHT, AND THE GROUND BARREN. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake ” (2 Kings 2:18-22).

 

It was a new year, and a happy one for Jericho , when Elisha went and abode there. Before then it had been THE CITY OF DISAPPOINTMENT, for the situation of it was pleasant, but—and it was the mayor of the city that made the confession—the water was naught and the ground barren. From the time that the city had been founded on the ruins of its predecessor, a curse had been on it, and its waters were tainted at the spring of them, and the land about it yielded only thorns for the labour of its people. It had not always been like that, for at one time it had been called “the city of the palm trees,” but that was a matter of ancient history; and yet, with that fact on record and the feeling that there was the possibility of better things in it, for its situation was pleasant, the inhabitants had hoped and laboured—but all in vain. It is more than likely that they had reached the point of despair when Elisha, the man of God, paid his memorable visit to them. And “he tarried there,” and I am sure I am not far from the truth when I say that he did so because he desired to bless the city, and he dwelt among them until they were humble enough and honest enough to tell him the predicament they were in.

Some of my readers have dwelt in the city of Jericho for a long time. Expectation and disappointment have alternated in their experience. How eagerly they have hoped for better things, how sincerely they have vowed and resolved, how earnestly they have reached out after a better and more fruitful life than they have known, but they have missed it. Yet they feel that this ought not to be. Is not man's chief end to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever, and to be supremely happy and, a blessing to others in doing it? Then why are the waters of their lives so bitter, and the land of it always barren? Let us see if we can discover the reason and find the remedy.

First—and please do not be afraid of a little doctrine, for we cannot understand the situation without it—when man was created in the image and likeness of God, he was unquestionably “the city of the palm trees”; fresh and beautiful and with unimpaired powers he was capable of bringing forth fruit for God, and of being a channel of blessing to all. But he fell from that high estate. Just as the city of Jericho set itself in defiance against God's will, so Adam deliberately and wilfully turned away from God's commandment, and in that day of folly he fell as surely as did Jericho.

It was only natural that the sons of Adam should have endeavoured to recover their lost position and powers, but they have endeavoured without God, and their labours have been in vain. The sentence of death lies upon the race, as it lay upon Hiel, the Bethelite, who rebuilt Jericho and lost his eldest son when he laid the foundation and his youngest when he finished the gates of it, his whole family under death—“for by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

In Paul's masterly Letter to the Christians in Rome , he stresses this great doctrine in chapter 5, but when he comes to chapter 7, he shows how it works out in the life of the individual who has been awakened to what is right and desires to be what he feels God would have him be. What a history it is! What struggles! How poignant is the experience! We can almost hear the gasps and sobs of the man's soul as he is learning the bitter lesson that “the water is naught, and the land barren,” until at last, realizing that his efforts are all defeated and his struggles are useless, he cries, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” And with such an experience as this in their souls and such a cry upon their lips, some of my readers have closed up the old year and begun the new.

Now a word as to Elisha, so rightly called the man of God. He was a great contrast to Elijah. Elijah represented the law and pressed its demands upon the people. He came to tell them that the Lord, He is God! and to urge His just claims, and to tell them what they ought to be and do, and because they did not yield to God His rights and were not what they ought to be, condemnation and judgment always accompanied his ministry among them. But Elisha came not demanding, but giving. He showed out the goodness of God to a wretched people. He was a dispenser of grace and mercy, and all sorts of people were blest by him; nor did he turn away any who came to him acknowledging their need. There is no greater figure in Old Testament history than Elisha, for he is pre-eminently the one who foreshadowed our Lord Jesus Christ, in His present glorious place as the Administrator of the grace of God. He is the great Deliverer, whose compassions reach down to men in their miseries and whose grace can free them, and, having freed them, is sufficient to make them more than conquerors through Him.

There was no hope for Israel in Elijah's ministry, and there is no hope in the law for us. It is “weak through the flesh,” declares Paul, who knew it by experience. It cannot make us what we ought to be. It cannot change the barren land or sweeten the bitter waters; it can only expose and show up the barrenness and the bitterness and condemn us. It has done so already: we lie under its sentence if we have invoked its aid. It is when we have reached that point in our soul history, that we are ready for the truth of Elisha and the salt in the new cruse.

I like the man who spoke for the delegation that waited on the prophet; there was a directness and brevity about his speech. He made no apology for their condition and did not hide it; he stated the case in a few blunt words and waited. He did not even say what they would like the prophet to do. He felt that it was enough to tell him the need. It was enough, and his confidence in Elisha was met by an instant answer of grace and blessing. And, mark it well, it was Jericho , the one cursed city in the land, that got the blessing. Elijah had been to that city and left it as he found it, and the inhabitants of it do not seem to have cared to appeal to him; but while Elisha tarried among them they must have been encouraged to approach him by his words and ways. He was the man, surely, to whom they could go, for he seemed so accessible, so sympathetic, so attractive. And thus did he foreshadow our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have been to Him in their distress can all bear witness to the fact that He is gracious.

There are no more blessed words in the Bible than those in John 1:14-17, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth . . . and of His fullness have all we received, and grace for (upon) grace. For the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by (subsist in) Jesus Christ.” How wonderful was the love that brought Him down to us and to tarry with us in the barren lives and world in which we lived, not to demand from us and force the claims of the law upon us, or to condemn us for our iniquities and sins, but to save us. “For God sent not His San into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be Saved.” He came in grace; He was full of it. He came to give; we have no need to listen to another talking of Him in order to learn this, for He has told us Himself, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water” (John 4:10). “Jesus stood and cried, saying, 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” (John 7:37-38). He came with the new cruse, which was grace. The truth in the old cruse, which was the law, could only condemn us, for the blessings of which it did speak could only be gained and held by absolute and continual obedience to its commands, and its curse rested upon all who continued not in all things that were written in it to do them; but the truth in the new cruse brought nothing but blessing, for it was the declaration that God is love, and that His love was bent upon blessing men.

No illustration, not even those that are divinely given, can nearly equal the truth, and these Old Testament stories were but the shadows of good things to come and not the very image of them. The good things have come now, the substance has appeared and that substance is Christ. He has done for us what Elisha never could have done for those men of Jericho , for “He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” How great was the love that moved Him thus! and as we meditate on such a statement of the truth as this, do not we feel constrained to say, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.” And again, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh,” and this happened that there might be no more “death or barren land,” but that “the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom. 8).

Yes, the truth (which is salt indeed) as to what we are and what God is, has been brought to us in surpassing grace. It is “the grace of God that brings salvation”; and as it comes into our souls we realize our own barrenness, and how utterly beyond all hope of improvement the flesh is, for in it good does not dwell, and we turn from it and cast ourselves completely upon Christ. Then the truth that we have often read in the Word, but never received into our souls, becomes at last living to us and in us. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes us free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8). And now deliverance from barrenness and death lies in cultivating the flesh no more, but in honestly confessing that there is no good thing in it, and in turning to Christ who bore its condemnation for us when He was made a sacrifice for sin. We know that He was raised again from the dead, for it is part of the truth of the gospel which we have believed, and for us this means justification from all our offences (Rom. 4:25). It is grace that has justified us from the guilty past, but upon this absolutely sure and righteous basis, so that the question of our guilt will never be raised again. And that same grace transfers us from the old Adam life, that lies under condemnation and death and could bring forth no fruit, to Christ, our risen Saviour, and it is thus that where sin abounded, grace does much more abound (Rom. 5:20), that now being made free from sin, and having become the servants of God, we might have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom. 6:22).

But that is not all, for we read, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34). He died that we might be justified; He lives and intercedes that we might live as justified people. But it is all Himself—the truth is in Jesus. It has come to us in wonderful grace and it is this that changes everything and enables us to close the chapter of earnest resolutions and bitter disappointments and open the new one of perfect rest in our Lord Jesus Christ and fruitfulness to God, His Father, and blessing to others.

And the city of Jericho became “the city of the palm trees” once more (2 Chr. 28:15), and there the naked were clothed and the hungry were fed, and the feeble were helped, and there long-separated brethren were united again and the people were obedient to the Word of God. So it shall be with every one of us who turn wholly to the Lord and cleave to Him with purpose of heart. The grace that began with our salvation will not fail us; it is sufficient for our whole lives in every phase of them. And while it teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world, it assures us of a new year (Ex. 12) of liberty, fruitfulness, and blessing, and such a year must be as happy as it is new.

 

Salvation and Service

An Address on “Doing Business for Christ”

 

The Lord Jesus was about to enter into the house of Zacchæus, and we read: “ And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is a son of Abraham. And the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost ” (Luke 19:9).

 

Zacchæus was a man with no great reputation. The people complained when the Lord went to his house that He had gone to be guest with a man that was a sinner. He was a sinner, and that was the reason the Lord went to his house. Where else should the Saviour have gone? The doctor goes to the houses of the sick, and the Saviour came to seek and save the lost. How strangely blind these people were who found fault with the Lord for going into the house of a sinner! That is the place most suited to Him, where He can show the exceeding riches of His grace. Are there any of you, my hearers, who have not opened your doors to Him yet? I proclaim to you the wonderful fact that, this day He would abide at your house. Don't say you would like to put some things right there first. They never will be put right until He gains an entrance, for He is the only one who can put you and your house right.

What will He bring into your house if you will let Him? He will bring salvation, for He is Salvation Himself, and in having Him you will have it. He will bring grace and peace and joy. For He will come Himself and abide with you, and never leave you nor forsake you. Sinners should not doubt His love—how wonderfully He has proved it—“He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him,” and by His stripes you may be healed.

It has often been said that the Lord Jesus saves us that we might serve Him. And that is right. This may not be the highest aspect of the Christian life, but it is a most blessed and important side of it; and whoever makes light of it can know but little of the constraining love of Christ. We are to become witnesses to the grace that has saved us, and to do business for Christ with the wealth that He has given to us. This is our responsibility, and it is set before us in this striking parable of the pounds.

“ A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom .” I want you first to note how the Lord describes Himself. “A certain nobleman.” The One who has saved us and whom we are to represent and serve is THE NOBLEMAN. All true nobility is in Him. Where else can you look for it? God found it in Him. How absolute was His fidelity to God—ever obedient, ever dependent, He did always the things that pleased Hint, so that God could say, “Behold My Servant, the One in whom My soul delighteth.” And how noble He was in His ways with men. No selfish motive ever moved Him, no hatred or ingratitude ever changed Him. He would not put forth His power for His own relief, but for others that power knew no limit or rest. He was the servant of all from early morn to close of day. It is recorded that “all the people came early in the morning to Him.” He was there waiting for them when they came; to teach them, to serve them, to heal them; and not until every man had gone to his own house did He retire, a homeless man, to the Mount of Olives . And everything that He did in His life of service was nobly done, beautifully done. See Him as He stands beside the widowed mother, weeping for her dead. His heart is moved with compassion for her sorrow, and His word rebukes the cause of it and makes her son live again. Then He moves on without waiting for reward or recognition. See Him stoop to gather the children to His heart whom His disciples would have driven away—they were of no account to others, but how dear they were to Him! No need escaped His notice, no sigh reached His ear in vain. Self-sacrificing love placed Him at the service of all, and He served because love must serve in a world of sin and need. Wonderful Saviour! The true Nobleman! Our Lord and Master, who has saved us that we might serve Him! O Christian, we are to represent Him where He is not known! But how can we do that unless we are near to Him, and learn of Him?

“ But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him saying, We will not have this man to reign over us .” The next thing that we must note is that we are to occupy for Him in a world that has refused His claims. He is the rightful King of all, but He is the rejected king. The world of men did not appreciate His nobility, so ignoble were they. His meekness, gentleness, and long-suffering moved them to nothing save hatred. The world has not changed to acknowledge His goodness, and Christ has not changed to meet its ignoble standards. He is not wanted in it now any more than He was, and we are to represent Him and trade for Him where He is not wanted. It should be plain to us that the world will not, cannot help us in this our Lord's business. We cannot call upon its resources and we ought not to follow its ways. We are to serve in the midst of it as our Master did—doing good unto all men—but we must look outside of it for our supplies and directions.

“ And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come .” It is not in this parable as in that of the Talents in Matthew's Gospel, where the number of talents were distributed according to the ability of the servants, but to each servant is given a pound. The pound is that great treasure which the Lord brought into the world. It is the knowledge of God in His grace . This is specially unfolded for us in this Gospel of Luke. Jesus came into the world full of grace; He revealed the blessed fact that God is not against men but for them, and that He finds His great joy in blessing them, and in no part of the Word is this taught more conclusively than in Luke 15. The Lord brought the true knowledge of God from heaven into the world, but He did not take it away when He returned. He left it here. He has committed it to us. It is a great treasure; and thus it is described for us in 2 Corinthians 4, “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels , that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” This is the silver pound, and we are responsible to put it into circulation on our Lord's behalf, to trade for Him with it until He comes.

I ask you, happy Christian, what can compare in value with the knowledge of God? It has meant much to you. Without it you were without hope, without light, without peace; a wanderer, an orphan, an unforgiven sinner. But the gospel of His grace has changed all that, and you can say, “God is for us.” You can wake in the morning with the thought that you know God, that He loves you and He cares for you. Your needs are many, but His supplies are infinite, and His mercies are renewed every morning to you. Just as the manna was always waiting, morning by morning, for Israel in the wilderness, and God was never late with His supplies of it, so now a full provision awaits you when the day's needs commence. What peace of mind, what quietness this knowledge should give you!

The quietness of mind and contentment that the knowledge of God gives is necessary if we are to trade successfully, for if we are marked by worry and irritability and discontent, men of the world might well say to us, “What have you got that we have not?” But if they see that we have something that sustains us in trial and keeps us quiet amid the stress and tear of life, they may be ready to listen to our words. So shall we have the joy of trading with our pound, of speaking to men and women of the God whom we know, and the words we speak will be words in season to them that are weary.

We may tell them that we know a God whose compassions are without limit, that never a cry to Him has been refused or will be as long as the day of grace lasts. We may tell them that God is moved because of their distress, and that His mercy is poured forth to meet them in their misery. We may tell them that He has searched them, that He knows them and their sins, and yet He will receive and save them; that He commends His love to them in that while they were yet sinners Christ died for them. What good news is this for weary, sinful men! Strange it is that they care about it so little! Strange that we who possess this treasure should show such faint zeal in trading with it.

If a man is to trade successfully he must consider carefully where and how to trade, and this is surely not less important in that which is the chief business of the servant of the Lord, and every Christian is a servant. Doctors, mechanics, teachers, nurses, typists, clerks, and many other callings we may follow, but all these are secondary. We desire to be efficient, in these secular duties, and that is right, but our chief concern is our business for the Lord, and we ought to know where and how He would have us to serve. We ought to know where we can put the pound out at the best rate of interest. With most of us the Lord intends that we should continue in the calling wherewith we are called and hold forth the Word of life and shine as lights just where we are. It may be that He would have some of us to carry the pound in diligent labour into the streets and lanes of the city, or far out into heathen lands. In these things He, the Master, must direct; it is ours to obey, to serve, to trade.

“ And it came to pass that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded those servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much each man had gained by trading

The absence of our Lord is not to be for ever. “ Occupy till I come ” links up the present with the future, and produces solemn thoughts as to what He will say to us when He returns. But there is encouragement for us in the parable, for sure we are that our Lord will not forget any bit of true service. Heaven's book-keeping is accurate. All that we have gained for our Lord is entered there, and it will give the Lord great joy to acknowledge the faithfulness of His servants.

But there was one servant who knew not his Lord, though he stood with the rest who did and appeared to be what they were. To him the pound was an encumbrance, so he hid it in a napkin. It was something, perhaps, of which he was ashamed—for the gospel of God is despised even by some who professed to be servants of Christ, men who would stand well in the eyes of the world—so he laid it aside, and if he did business at all he did it with his own base coin, upon which the image and superscription of the King did not appear. There are many such. The gospel of the blessed God is out of date in their view; man's wit and wisdom pleases them better, and is more popular in the world, and while they still profess to be servant of Christ, by their words they deny Him.

This servant did not know the Lord at all; out of his own mouth will we judge him. “I knew,” he said, “that thou wert an austere man.” Did he know? Did he not declare his ignorance when he opened his mouth? Who among you who know the Lord will go down on your knees before Him this night and say to Him, “I know that Thou art an austere man”? Nay, you have other things to say of Him. You have seen no frowns upon His brow; you have heard no hard words from His lips; the tenderest heart in the universe beats in His breast, and you have proved it so. Your service has been full of failure; blundered often you have, but those very blunders have become opportunities for the display of His grace to you. This man did not know the Lord, so we who do know Him must conclude he was a wicked servant, who loved himself and despised His Lord and His pound.

“How much?” and “Of what sort?” (1 Cor. 3); thus will all our work be tested. But let us have neither doubt nor question as to this matter, by the pound alone can we gain by trading. The knowledge of God as revealed by Christ Jesus, now told out in the gospel, and this alone can bring men to God and subdue them to Christ. All else will fail, no matter how plausible and popular; the gospel alone is God's power unto salvation to every one that believeth. Knowing this, may we earnestly desire to be kept diligently putting it into circulation “ till He comes

Scripture Notes (1)

 

“ We look . . . at the things which are . . . eternal ” (1 Corinthians 4:18).

“ Looking unto Jesus ” (Hebrews 12:2).

 

Lift up the eye to the things that are above the sun, to Him who sits enthroned above all circumstances in the glory of God; there is your goal, that is your destiny. And the power that dwells in the risen Christ is active to bring you there. It is the knowledge of the power and the glory refulgent in that blessed Person, whose love is changeless and eternal, that makes the Christian superior to the forces that beset his onward march, and independent of the attraction of temporal things.

Scripture Notes (2)

 

The Way of Peace

“ In nothing be anxious: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus ” (Philippians 4:6-7. R.V.).

Well known and often quoted words, but have we grasped their full meaning? Is it possible that in the midst of war and alarms by day and night we should have a peace that passes all understanding keeping our hearts and thoughts? Well, that is what the immutable word of God proposes, our part is to put it to the test. “The Lord is at hand” precedes His wonderful words. He is near. He is so near to us, so interested in us and so accessible that the instant circumstances arise that cause us anxiety we may refer them to Him, we may tell Him how we feel about them and what our requests are in regard to them. That is surely the meaning of the words. And not only these words but many others could be quoted to prove that God is delighted when His children confide in Him with child-like trust, it must grieve Him when they carry their anxieties and burdens on their own spirits and are dumb towards Him.

The sense of the nearness of God—He is round about them that fear Him—and His ever opened ear to our prayers, and His ceaseless and minute care of us fills our hearts with thanksgiving and opens our mouths with simplicity and confidence, and we realise that God is greater than the worst of circumstances and nearer to us than they are. The result is that His peace that passeth all understanding stands round us and keeps our hearts and thoughts, those gates of the soul at which the circumstances would batter to gain an entrance within us for fear and doubts and murmurings and repinings. God is glorified and we are kept in peace as we confide in Him. It does not follow that we shall get what we ask for, but this peace is better than our request, even as Paul found the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be better than the boon that he asked for thrice.

 

OUR STRONGHOLD AND HOPE

“ The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him ” (Nahum 1:7).

Nahum's prophecy is a short one that describes in graphic terms the terrors of war. The aggressor is there, the mighty men, the steel chariots that race in the streets and burn like torches, and flash as lightning, the horsemen, the glittering spears and the flashing sword are there; there are the multitude of the dead, they stumble over great heaps of corpses; and the Lord is there, slow to anger but great in power, taking vengeance on the oppressor. Yet in this same prophecy there are gleams of light that fill the soul with confidence and teach us where our refuge is even in the darkest of days. What words could bring a greater peace into a troubled yet trusting soul than these, “The Lord is good; a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.”

Then what encouragement there is to look beyond the gloom and tribulations to the time when woes and wars shall cease, for we read. “Behold upon the mountains the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace” (1:15). We know that the only one who can bring peace to the earth is the Lord Himself. Not the destruction of dictatorships by the vengeful sword of the democracies, but the personal appearance of the Son of Man will bring peace to distressed nations. It is the nail-pierced feet that will appear upon the mountains of Judea and judge the nations for the glory of God and for the peace of Israel .

We look for Him from heaven first to take to Himself His blood-bought Church and then to appear in glory with sword and sceptre, bringing in peace as a result of righteousness. This is our hope and it is both sure and certain. In view of all it means we cry. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” Meanwhile He is a stronghold in the day of trouble and He knoweth them that trust in Him.”

 

THEY WERE NOT CONFOUNDED

“ Our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted and Thou didst deliver them; they cried unto Thee and were delivered; they trusted in Thee and were not confounded ” (Psalm 22:4-5).

It cannot be questioned that this psalm was the language of the Lord Jesus in His great sorrow as the Sin-bearer, in those dark hours when He was forsaken of God for our sakes. He recalled and recounted the fact that never had anyone cried to God in vain, and never had one trusted in Him and been confounded; no not one. He alone, amazing fact, suffered thus; but we know the reason: it was that we might never be confounded, that we might be delivered when we cried, that we might trust and not be afraid.

And as never before the cross did any one cry to God in his distress and find God's ear closed against his cry, so has it been since the cross. How full of comfort are those words in Hebrews 13:5, “He hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee, ” “So that with good courage we say, the Lord is my helper: I will not fear what shall man do unto me” (R.V.). These words were uttered first to the lonely wanderer Jacob, and then to the warrior Joshua, and lastly to the worshipper Solomon, they are brought into the New Testament it would seem specially for us and at such a time as this.

But while we draw the comfort that lies in the Word of God for us let us never forget that our safety is the result of our Saviour's sacrifice, that we shall never be-forsaken because He suffered this for us.

 

FAITH AND FORGIVENESS

“ Have faith in God. . . and when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will you Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses ” (Mark 11:22-26).

Two things are necessary if our prayers are to be heard and answered: faith towards God and forgiveness towards all others. The Lord Himself has joined them together in these memorable words, and we must not put asunder what He has joined together. Other Scriptures teach us the same thing, 1 Timothy 2:8 for instance, though there a third necessity is brought in—“holy hands”, personal holiness, “without wrath”, no hard feelings towards others, and “without doubting” faith in God. Herein may be the secret of many unanswered prayers. Two brothers kneel in the same prayer meeting; their being there indicates that they have some faith in God, but they have hard and unforgiving thoughts towards each other; their prayers are vain and empty words.

We must search our hearts, for pray we must; there never was a time in our day when prayer was more needed, both in private and public; it is useless to pray in public if we do not pray in private, and we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together for prayer. We must pray in faith Godward, believing that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, but He will not hear us unless we forgive one another. He has met us with full forgiveness, cancelling all our debt to Him, and we must bear His character towards all, whether near at hand or afar off, whether brother or sister in the Lord or man of the world.

If we do not forgive we are not forgiven as children and communion with God our Father is suspended, His Spirit within us is grieved, and it is presumption to go on as though all was right, it is insincerity and displeasing to God. True prayer is communion with God, it is speaking to Him with the confidence of an uncondemning heart, “and whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

This is a time when hard feelings should be judged, offences forgiven, breaches healed and fellowship restored, that united and effectual prayer might rise up from earnest, sincere and agreeing hearts to God, who is “very pitiful and of tender mercy” for men in the miseries and His own well beloved saints in their perplexities and fears.

Searched, Saved, Satisfied

 

Weary , hungry and thirsty , He sat at the well side. He, whose power upholds the planets in their tireless processions, and whose opened hand satisfies the need of every living thing, sat thus at the well waiting and alone. Waiting , for at that hour came a solitary sinner to that place, weary, hungry and thirsty in another sense, and it was His Father's will that He should meet and bless her there. Alone , for He had sent His disciples away to buy meat, thus giving them the opportunity of serving Him, and preventing them from obtruding their unsympathetic presence upon the sacred interview that was to be. Such was His gracious and considerate way with them.

He was to reveal Himself as the Christ who had come into the world to that lonely sinner that day, and to many others also, but who amongst them conceived what it meant to Him to be here, and how feeble is our conception of it? He was the Lord of glory, infinite in His holiness; His eternal dwelling place was the Father's bosom, yet He came and dwelt among us to bring God near to us who were so far away from Him. The world into which He came reeked with moral putrefaction and offensive pride, and He saw it all, knew it all, felt it all according to the holy sensitivity that was inherent in His nature. He changed His circumstances when He came but not His nature. He was just as holy when He moved amid the noise and tumult of those filthy Eastern streets as He was when He sat upon His glorious throne and made the worlds; and because of that unchangeable holiness He was the Man of Sorrows in a world of sin. We hide the most offensive men and repulsive sights behind frowning walls and closed doors, but nothing was hidden from His eyes. We see only what is external, and cannot look into the hearts of others to discover the corruption that is there nor plumb the depths of evil in our own, but He knew all men and needed not that any should testify to Him of men, for He knew what was in every one of them.

I speak not of that more terrible experience through which He had to pass when He was made sin for us upon the cross, and when in the sinner's place He passed through all that it meant to be abandoned of God and to sink down beneath His righteous judgment as our substitute. No mind of man can grasp what that meant to Him, but all that was necessary if the grace of God that He brought into the world was to reach us. We often think of that, and not too often. Now I would press this other side, the side of His sorrow as the Perfect Man in a polluted world.

It is impossible that we should understand or illustrate what it meant to Him to come from unsullied light to a sinful world, but I recall an experience that may help. I was invited to a leper colony in the West Indies , to preach the Gospel to the pitiable wretches within it whose only door out of their prison was death. One hundred and forty of them gathered in the little meeting house of the colony. A moving sight—the faces of many of them were distorted out of all human semblance, and the atmosphere was foul with their corruption, producing in me violent nausea. I wondered greatly at the altruistic heroism and love and pity that could have moved the Christian doctor and matron to live and labour there and to give their lives for the sakes of those dying negroes. But from them my thoughts turned to the Lord who came to live amongst men, a race of moral lepers, and what is physical corruption in comparison with spiritual and moral corruption? It was Divine love that made Him do it, love that transcends all human speech and thought; it alone brought Him here not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. And this calls not for admiration as we might justly yield to fellow mortals who do great deeds, but for adoration, for worship such as only ransomed souls can give to the God of all grace.

He was full of grace as the world was full of sin, but the grace in Him was greater than the sin that was in the world, and so it showed itself to be when the Samaritan woman arrived at the well. He was there to give to her as only the giving God could give, if she would but ask of Him, but she did not know Him and so she did not ask. Then He took the place of the suppliant and begged a drink of her. That was within her power to give Him, and He needed it! It is a marvellous thing to contemplate. He who could change water into wine for the joy of others would put forth no power for His own necessities. She marvelled that He, a Jew, as she supposed Him to be, should condescend to ask a favour of her, and his disciples marvelled also when they came and found Him talking with her. They had only known the pride that was in the heart of the Jew that would not demean itself to talk with a despised Samaritan, they had yet to learn what that grace was that could go down to the deepest depths of the sinner's degradation to meet and remove it.

The result of the interview was as marvellous as the interview itself. The sinner was changed by it, completely changed, as every soul is changed to whom the Lord reveals Himself as He revealed Himself to her, and she ran to tell the news and bring back others to Him. What He had done for her He could do for all. So she cried, “Come and see.” This knowledge that she had acquired of Him was not for herself alone, it was for all, for was not He the Christ?

It is not difficult to imagine what she would say to those who were drawn together by her enthusiasm. “You men of the city shunned me, and no Jew on earth would have had dealings with me, but He talked to me, He sat by my side and unfolded wonderful things to me of which I had never heard.” And they would reply, “Ah, but He did not know you. If He had known you as we know you He would have shunned you as we have shunned you.” “Not know me!” she would answer. “Why He knew me through and through and yet He did not spurn me. He told me all things that ever I did , and yet did not make me afraid. He exposed my sin but He revealed Himself. Is not this the Christ? ”

It was all grace. Grace that looks for no merit in the objects of it; that only looks for needy, empty hearts to display what it is in itself; and no need is too vast, no sin too great, no sinner too far away for this grace of God that is in Christ, it is grace abounding. The grace of God that bringeth salvation. Yet let none think that grace makes light of sin, or that God is ignorant of the depths of evil in the soul that He blesses. No, grace shows sin to be exceeding sinful, but shows that God is greater than it. Grace shows that God knows the worst, but blesses in spite of all He knows. And this Samaritan sinner, a typical case, for there is no difference, for all have sinned, was made to realize in the presence of the Lord that He knew all, for He told her all that ever she did. She was SEARCHED before she was SAVED; but the One who searched her did so in order to save her. The disclosure of what she was prepared her to appreciate the revelation of Himself. And what a joy it must have been to Him to say to her, “I am He.”

When first He spoke to her, she only saw a Jew in Him, and marvelled that He should talk with her. She could have no hope from a Jew, or from any other man; all in whom she had trusted had failed her, and all who knew her shunned her; to whom could she turn, poor, harried, deceived, disappointed, degraded, unsatisfied woman? Now her conscience had been searched by the light, and with the conviction of sin, a new hope had sprung up in her soul; it is always so while grace reigns, and she cried, “When Messias cometh which is called Christ, He will tell us all things.” Her hope was in Him, her weary heart cried out for Him, He only could speak the words that her now repentant soul longed to hear; there was none other than He. When He appeared all darkness, doubt, and difficulty would disappear. Christ was all she needed, for Him she looked. Amazing fact, He was there, and waited no longer to make Himself known. “I that speak unto thee am He,” said He.

Then her eyes were opened, and she saw, she was saved and satisfied. And as she passed from darkness to light He was compensated for all the weariness and toil, and His joy was full in the midst of sorrow and grief.

The revelation of Himself was salvation to her as it is to all to whom He reveals Himself. But that was only the beginning. He was full of truth as well as full of grace , and all the truth came out in Him. God was to be known and worshipped as Father, and Christ revealed Him as such; and the Holy Ghost was to be given to be a spring of Divine joy and satisfaction within the hearts of those who believe—the power of a new life that should find its never-ending joy in God; and Christ it was who should give the Spirit. All depends upon Him. Yet before this could be He had to die and rise again and ascend to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God, for the new life and endless satisfaction into which He brings those whom He has searched and saved, is not of the flesh but the Spirit; it is not of the earth, it belongs to heaven. A wonderful story is this that is unfolded for us in John 4. It is grace and truth brought livingly before us in the Person of our Lord, and the effect of it in the sinner whom He SEARCHED, SAVED AND SATISFIED.

Sell Your Garment and Buy a Sword

 

AN ABSENT LORD AND A SUPPER OF REMEMBRANCE.

A LIFE OF WITNESS AND A PERFECT PATTERN.

A SUBTLE FOE AND A CEASELESS INTERCESSOR.

A LIFE OF CONFLICT AND A GREAT COMPENSATION.

 

Let our thoughts dwell upon the farewell supper and last talk that the Lord had with His disciples before He went into death for them. He had exercised His rights as the Messiah for the last time, and sent them to demand on His behalf an upper chamber in which He could eat the passover feast with them, and pour out His heart in a last farewell before He suffered; and at that supper He clearly showed them what their position in the world during His absence would be, and what resources they would have (Luke 22).

They loved Him, but He loved them more; and it was His desire, not theirs, that had brought them together for that sacred occasion. The passover feast commemorated the deliverance of Israel from Egypt ; the lamb roast with fire upon which they fed year by year turned the eye of faith forward to His coming. And now He had come, and there He sat to share with them that meal which spoke so eloquently of what He would do ere once more the sun sank down over the western sea.

It was at the passover feast that He instituted the supper, which we know and love as THE LORD'S SUPPER, (1 Cor. 11); and this He did entirely in view of His absence from them. One of the chief features of this period in which they and we are called to witness for Him is that He is absent from this world; they were to serve, and we are to serve, an absent Lord.

 

An Absent Lord and a Supper of Remembrance

He was to be no more with them, and they would miss His blessed company; and the measure in which they would miss Him would show the measure of their love to Him. And so it is now; the Lord is not here, He has no place in the world; its politics, social circles, pleasures, and schemes of reconstruction have no room for Him; are we conscious of His absence, and of this? If we love Him we shall miss Him and shall long for the time when He shall come to take us to His Father's house, that where He is we may be also.

Christ is not here. What other than this is the meaning of those words we prize so highly, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them”? If He were here, why gather in His Name? But why is He not here? There are two reasons: The world hated Him and slew Him; and He loved us and died for us . These are the two sides of the Lord's exit from this world by death.

The world is so seductive and can put on so fair an exterior that we soon forget that the Cross of Christ is the witness of its awful hatred of Him, and that whoso will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God; we little realize that when all things are normal and right with us the cross of Christ is our only glory, and that by it the world is crucified to us, and we to it.

The Lord's Supper brings before us the fact that He is not here—we show the death of our Lord until He returns—and one reason why He is not here is, the world cast Him out. This that was written had to be accomplished in Him, “And He was reckoned among the transgressors.” His name was blotted out from David's royal line and inscribed on the criminal roll of Jerusalem . Yes, if the criminal roll of that proud city for that eventful year could be discovered the name of Jesus of Nazareth would be found along with the names of thieves and murderers. We remember our Lord in death in the Lord's Supper, and from the world's side that is how He died.

But He died for us . He made us His own for ever by a love that gave Himself for us. How easily we forget this. If He stood in our midst and showed us His wounded hands and side, as He did to His disciples on the resurrection day, His love would without doubt be a great reality to us; but “out of sight” is so liable to be “out of mind,” so fickle are we; and knowing this He instituted His Supper, which should be a constant and perpetual reminder to us of a love that is stronger than death.

How necessary it is that we should have this eucharistic feast, this supper of love, which expresses so blessedly to us what our Lord is, and our fellowship together—the fellowship of the Lord's death—the one only true fellowship of the many members of one body! What a joy to recall Him whose love many waters could not quench! With the storm gathering thickly about Him His thoughts spanned the whole of the time of His absence and He then and there gave us a supper of remembrance until He comes again!

 

A Life of Witness and a Perfect Pattern

Those disciples were to witness for Him, and we are to witness for Him during His absence; we are to be His letter of commendation before the world; to shine as lights. But how unlike Him we are by nature, just like those disciples indeed who, even at that supper table, with these farewell words of the Lord sounding in their ears, were quarrelling as to who should be the greatest amongst them. They needed, and we need, to have set before us a perfect pattern if we are to understand what our witnessing must be.

He set Himself before them; they were not to be like the Gentiles but like Him; they were not to exercise lordship over one another, but to follow His example and serve one another in love. Let us incline our ears to hear His words. He said to them, “ I am among you as he that serveth .” Consider what these words meant. When they awoke in the morning He had been awake before them and prepared their breakfast; they never needed a servant if He was near; His love made Him watch for opportunities to labour on their behalf, and if there was one task more menial than another that was the task He undertook. He, the Lord of glory, was the servant of those rude, unlettered fishermen; His love bound Him with unbreakable fetters to a life of service. He is our pattern, and our witnessing for Him must be after that pattern. He who loves most serves most, and He who would be most like his Lord must take the lowest place amongst his brethren, that he might serve all.

 

There is a Tireless Foe, But an All-Prevailing Intercessor

Now if we are to witness for Christ, there will be opposed to us a sleepless and subtle foe; and the greater our determination to witness faithfully for Him, the more we shall be challenged and attacked. “Simon, Simon,” said the Lord, “behold, Satan hath desired to have YOU that he may sift you [all the disciples] as wheat.”

What could Simon do in the presence of Satan—poor, impetuous, self-confident Simon? And what can we do who are as foolish and weak as he? Satan's effort was and is to separate the souls of those whom Jesus loves from Him to destroy them; and what easy prey he would have if it were not for the blessed fact that we have an Intercessor, whose ceaseless and blessed activities on our behalf are all-prevailing. He has died to make us His own; He ever liveth to maintain our faith in witness for Himself during His absence.

How cheering are the words, “ I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not .” He had anticipated that fierce trial through which Simon was to pass; He had gauged the power of the foe and the weakness of His well-meaning disciples; and He had spoken to God, His Father, about it all, and secured for Simon all the grace that was needed. Simon failed; he was allowed to do so, for he had lessons to learn; but his faith did not fail, and he came out of the distress and the dishonour to strengthen his brethren, and to storm the devil's stronghold at Jerusalem and take captive for Christ thousands who hitherto had been Satan's lawful captives.

The intercession of our Lord is not less effectual for us; He is even at the right hand of God for this purpose. There, amid the glory of the throne, He pleads for us so that we may be more than conquerors through Him that loves us (Rom. 8:34, 39).

 

A Life of Labour with a Blessed Recompense

But these disciples of the Lord had to learn also of what sort their lives would be as witnesses of Christ in the midst of a world that hated Him. Hitherto it had been an easy matter to serve Him, for He had exercised His authority as Messiah on their behalf, and they had gone forth without purse or scrip, or shoes or staves, and they had lacked nothing. Their feet did not weary, and wherever they went their needs were most abundantly met; but now all was to be changed; He was to be rejected; to be cast out as a malefactor, and they were henceforward to be identified with that Name, which was dishonoured by man though honoured of God in heaven. Theirs was to be a life of toil and conflict.

They had to sell their garments and buy a sword. The garment spoke of ease and comfort and the sword of hardship and conflict. They had to exchange the one for the other.

It has been thought that the Lord spoke here of an actual sword; indeed so thought these disciples, for they said, “Lord, behold, here are two swords.” And He said unto them, “It is enough.” But if He had meant an actual sword, He would not have said, “It is enough.” He would have said, “It is not enough, you will want one each.” The fact is, they did not understand then the spiritual significance of His words. But Paul understood them afterwards when he described the Christian life, not in the language of the drawing-room or couch of ease, but in the language of the battlefield. Mark well how he speaks of “the good fight,” of “enduring hardness as a good soldier,” of “wrestling not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We are told by him “to watch and be sober,” to “put on the whole armour of God”; to withstand and to stand.

How we shrink from this hardship and the sacrifice that witnessing for Christ involves! We labour to save our own lives often, for we so little appreciate the love of Christ that made Him die for us; and it is only as that love of His constrains us, that we shall do any other; but when that love takes full possession we sell the garment and buy the sword, and go forth to witness for our Lord regardless of the consequences to ourselves. In this there is compensation; the compensation of the Lord's company in this present time, and in the future to reign with Him, for if we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him (2 Tim. 2). “I appoint unto you a kingdom,” said the Lord to these men, who afterwards sealed their testimony for Him with their blood, these true martyrs of our Lord. May we be like them through His grace.

Shorn Locks

 

It is possible that this year opens for some of our readers not with songs but sighs, because the happiness that once they had in the Lord is not theirs now. Is there one who is saying, “I am a backslider and my heart is very cold; people would not recognize me now as a Christian”? Here is a very pretty story: A little boy named Frank had golden curls that clustered round his head, and were his mother's pride. One day he got hold of the scissors and went off alone, and when he returned the curls were gone. In order to punish him the family decided not to recognize him, and when he sat at the meal and spoke to his father, his father said, “What strange little boy is that?”; and his brother asked, “Have I ever seen you before?”; and even his mother, with a lump in her throat, turned her head from him and said, “I wonder where my Frank is?” Little Frank at first thought it a very funny game, but as the meal went on and he was still unrecognized, his face became very serious and he burst into tears and said: “Well, anyway, God knows me even if you don't, and I wish some of you did.”

You may have become so changed in your life and ways that your brethren no longer know you. Your locks are gone, like little Frank's or like Samson's, and you may be grinding in the devil's mills, the sport of those who do not know your Lord, but He has not forgotten you. “He knoweth them that are His”; and you may gather it, as comfort to your unhappy heart, that it is easier for a mother to forget her only child than for the Lord to forget you.

Your back is turned to Him, but He shines upon your back, and He wants you to turn quickly, to turn at once, to Him, and to know that all is forgiven. And He will make your backslidings to be such a lesson to you that in the future you will keep nearer to Him than ever you did before. He will empty you of self-confidence and fill you with confidence in Himself, and once again others also will take knowledge of you that you are the Lord's.

Should our Faith be entirely Centred in Christ?

 

The following paragraph is taken from a statement made by the Bishop of Birmingham regarding the return of Mr. R.J.Campbell to the Anglican church.

“A friend of mine said to me in London the other day that I was taking away a man who had a unique congregation which could not well be held together by any other personality. I am sure that is a strong argument in favour of removing Mr. Campbell from the City Temple . There is something dangerous, both to preacher and to people, in such a situation. Even our Lord Himself felt that it was expedient for Him to go away, because the Spirit had to come and show that religion should not be too much centred upon an individual .”

We have underlined the last sentence, as it is to that that we wish to call attention. With the first part of the Bishop's argument we are in hearty agreement. Even when a preacher preaches the truth of God, which Mr. Campbell has not done, there is always the danger of the people becoming more engrossed with the man than with his message, and of attention being centred upon the servant instead of upon his Master. Against this result of his ministry every true servant of God will labour and pray. There lived a quaint old preacher in Yorkshire who used to hide himself in the box-like pulpits of his day and cry, “Not the man in the pulpit, but the Man upon the Cross!” Good! The spirit of that preacher was right in spite of his eccentricities. John the Baptist stands out as a great example in this respect. He saw the multitude forsaking him and going after the One to whom he had borne witness on the banks of Jordan , and his glad comment was, “This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). Yes, the servants of Christ must watch against the ever-present danger of the people to whom they minister leaning upon them instead of upon the Lord Himself.

But what can the Bishop mean by citing the Lord Himself as an instance of the avoidance of the danger of which he speaks? We are loath to think that he would so dishonour the Lord as to imply that it would have been wrong for the disciples to have become wholly engrossed with Him, and that to avoid this danger He felt it expedient that He should go away. But if that is what he does mean, and that is certainly what he says, it is a disgraceful thing that such an extraordinary statement should have been uttered by one professing to be a guide to other Christians. If he had read his text with its context he would have discovered that one of the chief reasons for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who could not come until the Lord Jesus had gone to the Father, was, not that they should be less engrossed with Christ, but that their faith and love and life might be altogether centred in Him, and that intelligently. Hear the Lord's own words with regard to the coming of the Holy Spirit, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, HE SHALL TESTIFY OF ME” (John 15:26). “HE SHALL GLORIFY ME: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (chap. 16:14-15). The Holy Ghost is here to make everything of Christ.

Satan endeavours by every means available to him to corrupt the minds of the saints of God from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3), and to turn them from Him as the one Lord, who only has the right to command their faith and dwell supremely in their hearts. For this purpose he transforms himself into an angel of light and his ministers also as ministers of righteousness. And it is not the open hostility of the unbeliever who denies Christ entirely that threatens the faith of the saints so much as the subtle suggestions on the part of those who profess to own Him, that He must not be everything to them; that something else is necessary to make their “religion” complete.

We call attention to this statement, not to occupy our readers with it, or to make the Bishop an offender for a word, and we would gladly believe that he meant other than he says; but in contrast to his statement we want to emphasize the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is everything in the true faith. He was meeker and more lowly of mind than any of His servants; He did not seek to be served by any but to serve all, and yet He ever set Himself before those who heard Him as the one test for all, and the only Blesser. He did not merely say, as, perhaps, in measure His servants can say, “I tell you the truth,” but “I AM THE TRUTH” (John 14). He did not say, “Follow My words,” but “FOLLOW ME.” He did not say to His disciples, “What do men think of My mission?” or, “What do you think about it?” But “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” and, “But whom say ye that I am?” His challenge to His adversaries was, “What think ye of Christ?” And to the toiling multitudes He cried, not “Follow the truth,” or even, “Believe My words and find rest,” but, “COME UNTO ME . . . AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.” Yes, He claimed a place in the faith and thoughts and lives of men which would have been most awfully blasphemous if it had been done by Peter, or James, or John, or by any other man of Adam's countless race.

But may not all this have changed since His departure to the Father and the coming of the Holy Spirit to earth, as the Bishop's statement seems to imply? The heart that is true to the Lord shrinks from the very suggestion, and all Scripture gives the lie to it. In THE ACTS He was the great theme of the apostles' testimony, and they declared, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (chap. 4:12).

ROMANS tells us that the gospel of God is “concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (chap. 1:1-3).

1 CORINTHIANS closes with the solemn words, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (chap. 16:22).

2 CORINTHIANS reveals the fact that Satan, the god of this world, endeavours to blind the minds of men, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them. And the apostles preached not themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, in whose face there shines the glory of the knowledge of God (chap. 4:4-6).

And so we might go throughout the Epistles and to the end of the Scriptures. From the Word the Spirit-taught reader learns that Christ is everything and in all. Every purpose of God and every true hope for man hangs upon Him. In Him the believer is blessed with every spiritual blessing, outside of Him there is nothing but darkness, and judgment, and loss. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

If ours is that religion that is “true and undefiled,” our faith is centred upon Christ, He is the object of our affections, our lives are under the influence of His love, we are controlled by Him as Lord, He is our pattern for service below; we “visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction and keep ourselves unspotted from the world” because in these things His life is reproduced in us below.

“Sing”

 

Are we sufficiently alive to the fact that the first business of the Christian is to sing, and that if praise be silent we do not glorify God, no matter how zealous we may be in other matters? Do we not need to be reminded that “whoso offereth praise glorifieth God;” and to be lifted, perhaps, out of the gloom and despondency of the earthly outlook—and no year within our memory has opened with prospect so cheerless as this—into the triumphant gladness of the ransomed company, that songs of praise may more constantly engage our hearts and lips. We believe we do; and so feel constrained to say at the opening of this year, “Brethren, let us sing.”

Do we belong to the ransomed company? Then let us not forget that there lie behind us foes, broken and defeated; death's power, confronted and annulled; the judgment of God, borne and exhausted; and that there shines before us the glory of our God, our heavenly destiny; and as we keep these things in mind, let us sing.

In the days of our spiritual youth we sang, when we went after our Lord in the wilderness—and He has not forgotten the sweetness of those first feeble notes—but now we dwell, we fear, so little in the glory above that we are easily overcome by the circumstances beneath, and so the chords of our souls become mute, or, if they speak at all, it is with the discordant sound of discontent. We are often like pilgrims, footsore and weary, with hearts disconsolate, and harps unstrung; who have lost the joy of redemption, and who have forgotten that their resources in God are inexhaustible, and who do not consider that their song is immortal because the cause of it can neither know dishonour nor decay: who do not consider the imperishable character of the glory of “JESUS CHRIST the same yesterday, and today and for ever.” If this is so, how much we need reviving, and may the Holy Ghost revive us by the ministry of Christ. Let us during the opening moments of this year stir up our minds to consider Him, our Lord and Saviour—His love, His grace, His glory, who is infinitely better than the best that can be said of Him, and as surely as we do it we shall sing, for as our hearts indite this good matter they will bubble up—they will be as the pen of the ready writer.

It is well known that the first mention of singing in the Bible is in Exodus 15. With an outstretched arm Jehovah had redeemed His people from a long and cruel slavery. He had overwhelmed their foes in the waters of death; He had set them free. Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, “I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.” Israel 's deliverance from the ruthless oppressor is a figure of our deliverance from a greater tyrant and a harder bondage, and it is the heart that is in the sense of deliverance that breaks into song. If we know the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and the deliverance that He has gained for us by His death and resurrection, we shall not be silent, and sweet to Him our song shall be.

“Sing” is the first word of Isaiah 54. Nor would any other word have been in place there. There is that appropriateness, that divine perfection about it that does not surprise the reverent reader of the Word. How could the heart and lip but sing that had read and understood Isaiah 53, that had believed that 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 . . . when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.”

Here in the story of His unspeakable love and signal triumph we find our food for song. Let others sing their anthems in praise of the country of their birth, and raise their pæans in honour of war; God has given to us a nobler theme:

“Of Christ and His love will we sing,

None other our lips shall employ.”

A famous bard has written mournfully of the harp that hangs voiceless upon the silent walls of an ancient fortress, or which, if it speaks, has but one chord that breaks the night to tell its tale of ruin. Why are those harp-strings still? Because the glory of the former days is vanished; the royal line is extinct, and the castle a broken heap. Good cause indeed for a silent harp!

But we have no such cause for silence, for the glory of God, which is our joy because we are His children, can never pass away. It was maintained to the full in the life of Jesus here below; it was established on an impregnable basis by His death upon the cross; and it shines today, like a glorious sun which shall never set or be eclipsed, in His blessed face, a Man upon the throne of God. The world does not see it yet, though it shall in the day of His appearing, but we see it; and as we behold the glory of the Lord our hearts vibrate with praise. He cannot fail; and He is the Firstborn of a new race, to every man of which He gives eternal life; and that which He builds shall never be overthrown.

Of old the exiles from Jerusalem sat down in sorrow beside the waters of Babylon , and hanged their harps upon the willow trees. The fame of their sweet melodies had reached that heathen city before them, and their captors demanded a song from them. But they could not sing, for God's centre for His people was a silent ruin, and they, driven far from it, were strangers in a strange land. But we have no such cause for silent sadness, for Christ is now God's Centre for His saints, and He can never fail, and from Him and His love no power can separate them. And as we think of Him as the glorious and never-failing Centre for His saints we learn what Christian singing is in its truest and highest character.

“The ransomed of the Lord [can] come . . . with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.” They can “break forth into joy and sing together,” “with the voice together [can] they sing;” and the stones of the street might well find tongue and cry their shame if they were silent in the presence of the unmingled grace of God, and the glory of Christ. But there is something more wonderful than the praise of saints, and this we are apt to overlook. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has said: “In the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee” (Ps. 22:22). “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee” (Heb. 2:12). This we must not pass by as though it were a matter of small importance, for in it lies the inner and the deeper joys. Here we reach, not the courtyard of the tabernacle where the brazen altar stands, but the Holiest of all, the very sanctuary of God, where He delights in the unveiled perfections of His beloved Son, and where the Son of God delights in the Father's love, well-known, and His eternal purposes secured.

To understand it, we must trace the road that led up to it, and discern the purpose that led the Lord to take that road. We may trace the road in Psalm 22. How dark, how terrible, it was! We are allowed to stand by and listen to the cries that broke the darkness from the lips of the One in whose heart every sorrow found its centre; and knowing Him to be the Lord of the universe, and the only-begotten and well-beloved of the Father we might well ask, Why did He tread that road? Was it to save us from the lake of fire? It was, but more. Was it to deliver us from Satan's power and make us happy and free? It was, but more. Was it that, justified from all things, we might he glorified in heaven with Him. It was, but more than this also.

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18); and He has declared Him as the One who seeks true worshippers, who shall worship Him, the Father, in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). But those whom the Father sought were dead in trespasses and sins, they lay under the judgment of God, and in the power of the devil, and from thence they had to be extricated and righteously set free; and Jesus died for this. He laid down His life that He might take it again, and that, as the corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, and so brings forth much fruit, He might bring those for whom He died into association with Himself in His resurrection life, and declare unto them, as His brethren, the Father's name, that name of ineffable love, that they might share with Him the joy of this, to them, new relationship, and know the love peculiar to it.

Let us consider this greatest of all the thoughts of God to us-ward, and may we by the Holy Spirit's power enter into it in a larger measure. When here on earth the Lord declared the Father's name to His disciples, but they were dull of hearing and slow of heart; they believed that He came from God, but they did not understand this revelation of the Father, and so there were none with whom the Lord could share His thoughts, or who could have fellowship with Him in the Father's love. But in resurrection all is changed. He can, now that is a fact, stand triumphant in the midst of His brethren—the assembly, and there declare to ears that can hearken and to hearts that can appreciate what He knows of the Father.

Those of us whose privilege it is to sometimes speak of Jesus and His love that surpasses all human thought have known what it is to have our souls glow and thrill with the blessedness of that of which we speak until every chord within us broke out in song.

We speak with reverence, for we tread here on holy ground, but it seems to us that thus it is in an infinitely blessed way with our risen Lord as He declares to His brethren the Father's name. He has found a company at last, redeemed from the kingdom of darkness, sanctified and made one with Him, indwelt by His Spirit, and His brethren for ever, in the midst of which He may tell out the secrets of the Father's love, and the joy of it makes Him sing. For surely this is the connection: “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee” (Heb. 2:12). He is the Singer there. He it is that makes sweet music in the Father's ear. He sings praise unto God. But do not we sing also? Yes, it is our high privilege so to do, for we are one with Him in that favoured spot, His brethren. His Father is our Father and His God is our God, and all that He has received of His Father He makes known to us. But whether we take up our privilege in this respect or not depends upon our spiritual state. If we are in His presence, absorbed with Him, with ears attuned to His words, then shall our voices be attuned to His and we shall render unto the Father sweeter praise than angel voice can sing.

How wonderful is this perfect love of Jesus. When the question of judgment arose He stood alone. “Let these go their way” expressed His tender thought for them, but now having drunk the dreadful cup, and passed through all the darkness, He calls His own to share His joy and sing with Him the triumph song.

Brethren, let us sing—“speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord,” for our song is immortal since the subject of it can know neither dishonour nor decay—“JESUS CHRIST THE SAME YESTERDAY, AND TODAY, AND FOR EVER.”

Sins Remembered No More

 

I had a Christian friend, a wholesale provision merchant; one Sunday night he had been to a stirring gospel meeting in which sinners had been saved. He woke up the next morning and went to his business with the joy of the gospel in his heart.

He had not been sitting in his office very long when a woman was shown in. She was one of his customers who owed him a considerable sum of money. He had allowed the bill to run on, and continued to supply her with goods because she had told him she was just about to realize on some property; and he had believed her, but she had deceived him all the time.

She had come that morning to tell the truth—she had nothing to pay. She was really a bankrupt, and she cast herself upon his mercy. He had a Christian cashier who had also been to the gospel meeting the night before, and the woman was asked to retire into the outer office while my friend and his cashier discussed the matter between them. Then she was called back, and the cashier put his hand into his pocket and took out his bunch of keys, unlocked the safe, took out the cash-box, and counted out from it the full amount of the bill, and pushed the money across the desk to the master. He counted the money, put it into his pocket, then he stamped the bill and wrote across it “Amount received in full,” and dated it and signed it and handed the receipted bill to the poor bankrupt storekeeper.

It was some minutes before she realized what it meant; she looked at the receipted bill, and then at her erstwhile creditor and then the tears burst from her eyes and rolled down her cheeks as she thanked him. She was free, she was at peace with him, and she went out of the office clear of that debt; the bill was never sent to her again; it was remembered against her no more. But the amount came out of his own cashbox. Exactly; but it was the amount due and he accepted it, and she was clear.

How every illustration fails in the presence of the fact that out of the glory of God came God's beloved Son, and for us He went into death to pay the mighty price which God has accepted, the price that only could clear us righteously before a righteous God. The amount has been received in full, God has accepted it and set His seal upon it, by raising His Son, even Jesus, from the dead, and we who believe are justified, we are free, and the bill never can be sent in to us again.

That is the meaning of that blessed statement of Scripture, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” There is then no condemnation when it is a question of our sins. Have you got as far as that? If you have you have peace with God. The One who paid the mighty price and did the great work is raised again from the dead, an evidence that God is satisfied with that which He did, and since He was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification, we have peace with God through Him.

“Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The song begins in the heart and bursts from the lips when that point is reached and our feet are set on the march to victory.

“Sir, We Would See Jesus”

 

“We would see Jesus, for the shadows lengthen

Across the little landscape of our life;

We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen

And keep us peaceful in a world of strife.”

Yes, if we are to tread our pilgrim way with confidence to the end, we must see Jesus. If we are to fight the good fight and lay down the weapons of our warfare in final triumph at His feet, we must see Jesus. No Christian life can be right in any department of it if clouds obscure His face from us, and the whole fabric of our “most holy faith” must collapse if we do not hold fast to the truth of His most holy person.

Yes, we need to see Him, who have found secure and eternal rest in His person and sacrifice, we need to know that He is crowned with glory and honour, we need Him as the perpetual and all-satisfying object of our hearts, and men need Him, and God needs Him. There can be no blessing for men, no peace for the world, and no glory to God apart from Him. Consider the condition of the world—of these lands, England, Scotland and Ireland, and think of the world as it is—and tell me, What hope is there for mankind apart from Christ, and what glory can there be for God in this creation apart from Him? Who can unravel the present tangle? But history is only repeating itself, and things are as they have been, except that the utter bankruptcy of man's resources is being more and more disclosed. Yet all was described in graphic terms long ago. Said Isaiah, as inspired by the Holy Ghost, nearly 3000 years ago, “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is 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” (chap. 1:6).

But was it for such a state of things as this that God created the world, and is man as He made him, and has He been thwarted in His intentions, and have His plans failed? Let us consider the question. The stars that make the night skies radiant proclaim His power and divinity, and this lower creation makes manifest His wisdom, but His supreme work in creation was man, and His delights were with the sons of men. The persons of the Godhead took counsel together, and said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth.” In the last act of creation something more than the almighty creative word was brought into operation. As the almighty fingers fashioned every member of the man who was to represent Him in the earth, a tenderness entered into the work of God that was not manifested in any previous work. How near God came to man when He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and brought the woman to him to be his mate and helpmeet. With the man at the head of it, creation was complete, and God pronounced it “very good,” and rested from His work.

But how soon was that Sabbath disturbed, for God's noble and beautiful creature fell before the first onslaught of His arch-foe, who is called the dragon, that old serpent, and Satan, and instead of standing for God, and withstanding the adversary, Adam turned his back upon his Maker and allied himself with his destroyer. It looked as though God had been defeated, as though Satan had succeeded in His everlasting discomfiture; for he had discovered and attacked the vulnerable spot in the man's constitution, and bribed him into becoming a traitor to his God. It looked as though all that expenditure of power and wisdom and tenderness in the creation of man had recoiled upon God, and that His chiefest and choicest work had proved to be His undoing.

The shadow of sin and death lay darkly over that fair garden, and hidden behind the trees of it, guilty and afraid, crouched the sinner and his wife, when God came forth to seek them. Not as an avenger came He, not as a Judge, but with tender love in His heart, crying after His lost creature, “Adam, where art thou?” But how could God, who had cast Satan down from his high estate for sin, spare the man? If He did spare him, what would become of His righteousness? And if He executed His just judgment upon him, what of His mercy, His loving-kindness, His purposes of blessing for men? Here was a crisis, and a great problem; was God able to meet it? Sullenly and afraid the man waited, exultantly and defiantly the devil waited to see what He would do; to see who would triumph, God or the devil. They had not long to wait, for God announced His resource. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” God was not defeated, His counsels would stand, and in this word was foretold the overthrow of the devil and the salvation of men.

“Soon as the reign of sin began,

The light of mercy dawned on man:

When God announced the blessed news,

‘The woman's Seed thy head shall bruise.'”

“God was the first gospel preacher, and He announced in that first gospel word the coming of a Person, the woman's Seed, who should undo the works of the devil. How much this promised Deliverer was needed was proved as the centuries rolled by, for “all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to His own way.” There was no difference in this, no exception, for “there is no man that sinneth not” said Solomon, and no man was able to deliver himself from the tempter's power, to break the yoke of sin, or wash out the stain of it.

But the fullness of time seemed long in coming, and the eyes of those who looked for salvation must have failed them through watching and disappointment if God had not constantly lighted up the gloom with words of hope and promise, and of these there is none greater than those given by that gospel-prophet, Isaiah. “Behold,” said he, “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). I boldly speak of this as the greatest of all the prophecies spoken by the prophets, for it is the first of them all that is recorded as being fulfilled in the New Testament. By it is declared what God would do. He shows that He Himself would intervene by the woman's Seed, taking the cause of fallen man's redemption completely out of his puny and sinful hands. How the critics of Isaiah's day must have mocked at these words. A virgin conceive! That is an utter impossibility! And the man who dreamed such a dream as that was a demented man! Yes, most truly he was, if he was not inspired by the Holy Ghost, and if he spoke his own word instead of God's. But such a thing would outrage the course of nature, it is impossible! Yes, it is impossible with men, that is the very lesson that God would teach men by the manner of His intervention, and this prophecy was not a dream of a disordered mind but the very word of God. This was the sign that He would give. It was the sign of man's complete impotency for his own redemption, but it was a sign that when men were hopeless, God would undertake their cause; but, also, that this should all proceed from Himself and not from man at all; in this matter man must stand aside and see the salvation of the Lord. “A virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son.” THE WOMAN'S SEED shall bruise the serpent's head.

In the first chapter of Matthew this astonishing word is fulfilled; the virgin-daughter of David's royal line brings forth the promised Son, and lays Him in a manger, and His name is Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, GOD WITH US. God had come to dwell among men. Does anyone say, “Sir, we would see Jesus”? In answer I bid you stand in thought with those shepherds who beheld with adoration the lowly Babe, wrapt in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, and draw near again with those wise men from the East, who brought their gifts to Him. Look upon that Babe, and be as wise as were those Gentile strangers, wonder and adore, as you see this miracle of grace. God come down to man, for this is Jesus, Jehovah the Saviour.

I am glad that here in the first chapter of our New Testament that lovely name—the sweetest name that our ears have ever heard—is given to us twice in capital letters, so that it may arrest us as we read. It stands there upon the title page of the New Testament as the title of the Book. But Jesus is Emmanuel, and Emmanuel is Jesus. If men were to be saved, God must come down to do it, and here we learn that having come He has come as Saviour.

In the person of Jesus, God was with us, and is with us still, for we Christians have the closing words of this Gospel of Matthew for our constant comfort, the last words of our Lord Jesus Christ in it, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end.” Hence we can with confidence follow the lowly, rejected Nazarene; and carry out His word, for He will be to the end what He was at the beginning, “God with us.”

There are those who deny that the Deity of Jesus is taught in any Gospel but that by John; to be rid of this great truth altogether they say that that Gospel cannot be relied upon; but here, in the opening of the New Testament, we find the blessed fact of the Deity of Jesus definitely, most definitely, asserted, and we could not read this Gospel with anointed eyes without seeing it on every page. It is woven into the very texture of it, as the gold was woven into the ephod of the High Priest, along with the blue and scarlet and purple and the fine twined linen. Take just one instance: He stood in the midst of men, with their sorrows and pains and burdens and sins; and extending His hands to them, He said, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest,” and His word stands good today. He says to the world, devil-ridden, sin-burdened, sorrow-blasted, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” Come as you are; come with your sins, your problems, your difficulties, your burdens; bring your sighs, your sorrows, your broken hearts, Come, and I will give you rest. Could the greatest of men stand up and speak thus? He knew all about men, every tear on every cheek had come under His notice, He had heard every groan, and knew the deep unsatisfied craving in every heart. He looked upon the world through eyes that saw all and comprehended all, and He offered to relieve all. Who could do that but God? And the Christians can bear witness to the fact that His deed is as good as His word. He has never promised what He cannot perform. If no other word had ever reached us from His blessed lips, that invitation alone proves that He is indeed the Everlasting God, who opens His hands in infinite kindness to satisfy the needs of the creatures He has made; it reveals the fact that in His bosom there throbs a heart of love that longs to relieve the sorrows that sin has caused, and He can do it, and will do it for all who come to Him.

But His life and His words alone could not have affected that which had to be accomplished, and so we read in the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew that He was nailed to the cross. They led Him to the place which is called Golgotha , and there they crucified Him. Jesus, whose name is Emmanuel, was taken by wicked hands and nailed to the cross, and over His sacred, thorn-crowned head, was this accusation written: “THIS IS JESUS . . .” And again the words are in capitals in our Bibles. Ah, Pilate wrote truer than he knew when he penned with his official hand that indictment. It seems as if the Spirit of God was determined to show to all men by this very accusation, that this is Jesus, that it was because He is Jesus that He died, for apart from that cross He would not have been Jesus, apart from that cross He could not have been the Saviour. He might have gone to the glory of God from the mount of transfiguration, for that glory was His, but He could not have gone as Jesus, nor could He have worn there that Name that is above every name. The only way in which He could establish His right to that Name, was by going to Golgotha , and there giving up His life in sacrifice for sinners.

It is popular in these gospel-rejecting days to reject the cross and despise the blood, and to preach Jesus as a great leader of men, a reformer, a socialist, or anything you like except a Saviour from sins. But such a Jesus is no Jesus at all. Do you say, “Sir, we would see Jesus”? Mr answer is, Look at the centre cross on the hill of Calvary. THIS IS JESUS—the thorn-crowned Nazarene, despised and rejected by men, crucified upon the cross of a malefactor and made sin for us there! This is Jesus, and beside Him there is none other; “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other Name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” What tongue of man shall tell out the blessedness of this salvation, or describe its glory?

“Brightly it beamed on men forlorn,

When Christ the holy Child was born;

But brighter still in splendour shone,

When Jesus dying cried, ‘Tis done.'”

The first prophecy which the New Testament records as fulfilled, tells us of the greatness of the Person whose name is Jesus. The second prophecy tells us of the place of His birth, and declares that He is to be the Ruler, the Governor of all whom He saves: “And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel” (Matt. 2:6). It should be clear to all that if the Creator comes into His creation He must eventually be supreme in it. We scarcely need the Scriptures to tell us that, though they do tell us it most emphatically. This prophecy had very special reference to His Messiahship, but we will look at it in its wider application—CHRIST IS LORD OF ALL. If it is true that you cannot know the Saviour apart from His cross, it is equally true that you cannot know Him apart from His Lordship. He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, if God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). Would you see Jesus? Look up to the right hand of the Majesty on high and see Him there both Lord and Christ. The Spirit of God has linked up these two things together. The One whose name is Jesus, who was despised and rejected by men, is the Lord, and if these two things greet us at the very threshold of the New Testament at the birth of the Lord, and are now proclaimed from the throne, they were also told out at the cross, for the accusation written thereon was, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING . . .” And faith read the writing then and embraced the truth, and cried, “Lord, remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” How blessed will that kingdom be when it comes, and there can be no peace for this world until it does come. Men will continue to strive, selfishly, covetously, sinfully, hateful and hating one another, until He comes to break oppression, and until the universal sceptre is put into the pierced hand. When the scythe of judgment has swept this godless world, then He will come down like rain upon the mown grass, and as the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings He will arise,

“And bid the whole creation smile

And hush its groan.”

And then under His beneficent rule men, subdued by His judgments and spared by His mercy, will make haste to beat their swords into ploughshares, and call everyone his neighbour under the vine and fig tree. The reason why riots and bloodshed and turmoil and strife and crime continue in the world to this day, in spite of all its boasted progress, is because the rightful King is rejected, the Prince of Peace is not owned, men will not have Jesus as Lord.

But all who own Him as Saviour and Lord may have peace, and how blessed is the sway that He exercises in that life that does own Him. We do not look for peace in the world that will not own Him, for “there is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked,” but we may have it, each of us every day, by yielding to His gracious claims, for He has said, “If I leave with you, 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.”

God grant that while we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we may know the peace of it before it comes, by yielding a glad obedience to Jesus who is both Lord and Christ.

Slipping Away

 

“ For this reason we should give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest in any way we should SLIP AWAY ” (Hebrews 2:1, N.Tr.).

“ Lest haply we DRIFT AWAY from them ” (R.V.).

 

There is a saying, it has appeared in writings for many years, and we have heard it often in public addresses; it is: “A hundred years ago the truth was recovered for us.” With the greatest respect to those who use it, I suggest that it is one of those sayings that need revisions for it may be extremely misleading. The oftener it is repeated the larger the US may appear in our eyes, until the truth becomes secondary to the US , and the US becomes the centre round which the truth revolves. The fact is the truth never needed to be recovered for anybody, it was never lost; it has always been there, in Christ, in the Spirit, in the Word of God. The truth stands for ever sure. But it has been the way from the beginning for men to slip away from the truth. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews knew this well, hence his warning to us to take heed lest we should slip away. The Old Testament is a history of truth revealed and of men of God rejoicing in it for awhile and then slipping away from it, and God in His mercy recalling them to it and again the drift. We of this favoured church period have been no better in this respect than those of other dispensations, and it is a wholesome thing to realise and confess this, for no sooner do we cease to give heed abundantly to the things that we have heard than we begin to slip away. There is the continual need of recall and recovery to the truth, it was never more needed than today—Remember, Repent, Return.

In this connection there is another evil of which we need to be aware; it is mistaking the effect of the truth in those who have gone before us for the truth itself, and of imitating or endeavouring to perpetuate the effect of the truth, instead of giving abundant heed to the truth itself. We should rejoice whenever we see the truth put into practice and be encouraged by it, as we rejoice and are encouraged by the triumphs of faith recorded in Hebrews 11; but in none of those worthies was faith seen in its completeness and perfection, for this we must look off steadfastly to Jesus, and even so in no man or body of men has the truth been fully manifested, even in the best of them the effect might have been greater, there is only one perfect standard, only One could say “I am. . . the Truth.” We must fix our attention on Him, there is failure everywhere else.

We might use the well-known illustration of the schoolboy's copy book. The head line is copper plate, it is perfect. The boy appreciates this and he does his best under its influence, and his copy is quite commendable. But if his copy of the headline becomes his standard his writing will deteriorate until at the foot of the page there will be little resemblance between the headline and his writing. If we set up someone else's copy of the truth as our standard there must of necessity be serious deterioration. And this is done when tradition, precedent, the judgment of some able teacher, living or dead, or any group of men becomes our standard and guide in our Christian life and communion, or in any difficulty or crisis. We cease to be held by the pure perfect Word of God, we slip away, and sects and parties, strife and discord are the sure result. Our safety lies in, “What saith the Lord?” and “It is written.”

When spiritual life declines and there is this slipping away, almost unconsciously the tradition of the elders becomes important, rules and regulations are pressed in order that an outward and uniform standard of conduct might be maintained, but while that may satisfy the ecclesiastical mind there is nothing in that for God and it tends to the bondage of the conscience and soul; the fear of man takes the place of the fear of God and what others may say to simple subjection to His Holy Word. The last chapter of the church's history on earth is being written, we have reached the foot of the page, and the contrast between that which we see and that which is set before us in the Word of God is saddening to every one who can discern it. Do we long for recovery? It can only come to us as we are delivered from the trammels of every false standard; as we look off from the effect of the truth in others and cease to make their words and ways our rule and return to the truth itself. Our Lord and Leader has not changed or failed. See how He presents Himself to the last three of the seven churches (Rev. 3), “These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.” “These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David.” “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”

Brethren, it would be a vain thing to set to work to imitate the effect of the truth in others, but we can humbly seek to be recovered to the truth that produced revivals in the past. The more we consider what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 2 and 3) the more we feel the need of the urgent call to remember and repent, repeated so often in those messages of the Lord to the Churches.

“Some Have Fallen Asleep”

 

“ Them also which sleep through Jesus ” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

 

There are many passages in the New Testament that describe the death of the Christian as sleep. It is an attractive word; there is not another like it in our English language for quietness and peace and rest, for the absence of weariness and worry. How welcome is sleep at the end of the day, and what a compensation it is for all its labour. And sleep is the word chosen by the Holy Spirit to describe the death of the Christian. How well may we say as the disciples did, “Lord if he sleep he shall do well.” Yes, indeed, the one who sleeps through Jesus does well, for at the other side of such a sleep there is eternal life, perennial vigour, the presence of the Lord, and the day of God's everlasting favour that shall never know a night. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” That is it, they rest, blessed rest!

But this sleep applies to the body, and the things of this restless world only; it is to this life in which men sigh and groan that the Christian sleeps. Nirvana, complete cessation of being, the highest state of felicity that Buddhism offers, belongs to that system of gross darkness and has no place in the light. Not so does God's Book speak of the state of those who have fallen asleep. “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” said God to Moses centuries after those patriarchs had passed into the life beyond this, and He is not the God of the dead, of those who do not exist, but of the living, for all live unto Him (Matt. 22; Luke 20). “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's” (Rom. 14:8). When one falls asleep they are just as truly in the Lord's hands as they ever were, “None,” says He, “shall pluck them out of My hand.” Death may separate them from us but not from Him; He holds them in everlasting security in the hand that smashed the power of death.

“Absent from the body to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8); “With Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23); “Lord Jesus,” cried the first martyr for the faith, “receive my spirit.” He knew that his Lord was a triumphant Lord; he knew that death had been conquered and that there was but a step between his living Saviour and him. Just one step out of a suffering body into the presence of the Lord; to sleep here but to be awake there; that is what the death of a Christian is. God giveth us the victory, thanks be unto Him! To sleep through Jesus is a triumph for Christ and a triumph for His saints.

Some Night Thoughts

 

It is a remarkable fact that not one of the four writers of the Gospels should have recorded all the words of our Lord as He hung upon the Cross. We should have thought that of all the words He uttered in the ears of men, these would have been the most eagerly recorded. It is more than possible that neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke were present, but they would often talk together of the scenes and be eager to record them. What is more remarkable is that John was present—so far as we know the only one of the disciples to be there—and he records but three, and these not the most important, we should think; which shows us plainly that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit had as much to say with what they left out as with what they recorded. Matthew and Mark record but one of the sayings which we might well call the central one of the seven; Luke and John record three each—but every one is in keeping with the character of the Gospel they were inspired to write.

Luke is especially the Gospel of Grace. The one thing above all others that the enemies of the Lord complained of, as recorded in it, was His interest in publicans and sinners. “Why do ye eat with publicans and sinners?” they ask in chapter 5. He is “the friend of publicans and sinners,” they jeer in chapter 7. “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them,” they complain in chapter 15, and “ He is gone to be guest with a man who is a sinner,” was His crowning crime in chapter 19.

We see from the beginning to the end that they hated Him for this, so when we come to the Cross we are not surprised to find that His utterances recorded there are in keeping with this. The first of the three is His great answer to men's hatred and cruelty—“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” There could have been no grace at all for men but for this prayer. If this prayer had been imprecatory instead of what it was, there would have been nothing but judgment for men; but as His first recorded words in this Gospel were, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?” so His first recorded words on the Cross must be in keeping with that declaration. His Father's business was the salvation of men.

The next words are His answer to the cry of the malefactor's heart, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” What an answer! “Verily, I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

If His first words were His prayer for blessing upon mankind as such, His second words indicate how individual and personal the blessing is. Not in the mass does He see and save men but as individual souls having sins and needs. The last of the sayings recorded is, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” It is not difficult to see how consistent this is with this Gospel.

What infinite grace flows in these words that he records—that a polluted and wretched sinner, washed from all his pollutions, should enter Paradise in company with the One who had filled the Father's heart with delight! This exceeds every conception of ours, but it was not the end—God had something beyond even that for us. It would have satisfied us, but not Him; so we have the group of words in the Gospel of John. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother. . . and the disciple. . . whom He loved. He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!” There were no two people on earth who loved Him more than His mother and John. It would not have been in place to speak of their love in presence of His; but nevertheless it was a fact that their love to Him had brought them there that day—their response to His love to them. “Woman,” said He, “behold thy son!” and to John, “Behold thy mother.” That most surely meant “You love Me—love one another.” From that day forward they dwelt together in love and unity. It was the Lord's great purpose that those whom He loved should love one another thus—it is the great triumph of Divine Grace. The Lord never said, “Love Me;” it were impossible to do otherwise if we know His love to us; but “we love because He first loved us”; and because we are so selfish and often think that words can take the place of deeds, He has commanded us to love one another. His death was the revelation of His love to Mary and to John, to you and to me. Those outstretched arms embrace the whole family of God, and He says, Behold My mother and My brethren! Behold thy son! Behold thy mother! Thus by that cross are the saints of God gathered together in one—one flock, one family.

Now the Lord speaks of His physical sufferings; His strength was dried up like a potsherd, and His tongue cave to His jaws. Then broke forth His cry, “I thirst.” Did not ten thousand times ten thousand angels break through the host of His foes and refresh Him with purer water than that of Bethlehem 's spring? No, there was no answer to that cry from heaven. And what of men? Will they relent? For surely His thirst then was more than the physical thirst—He thirsted for a love responsive to His own; but He had to cry, “They gave Me gall for My meat, and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” No, there was no succour from men for Him, their answer to the deepest need of His heart was vinegar—the sourest thing that earth can produce. The challenge comes to each one of us—What shall be our answer to His thirst? Shall we pour out to Him the sweet wine of undivided hearts, hearts that have been won by His great love? The world still gives Him vinegar. Let us hasten to His feet and give Him the rich pure vine of our love. “ If ye love Me, keep My commandments”—and we pour forth our love to Him as we love one another.

Now the last cry that John records is, “It is finished.” All His sufferings were over, but there was more than that in the words. He had accomplished the great work to secure for God what He desired—even worshippers. But these worshippers were to worship the Father; He was to be known in this family character so that He could say, “Thou shalt call Me My Father and shalt not turn away from Me” (Jer. 3:19). He had accomplished that work which enabled Him to say in resurrection, “Go unto My brethren and say unto them I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” Thus we group the sayings given by John together, and learn that they unfold for us a circle of Divine love in which we have our part.

To Matthew and Mark it was given to record the cry of a forsaken One. Deep and mysterious it was; no mortal mind can understand it or mortal words explain it. It is the central cry of the seven; rightly so, for on its deep mysterious meaning here depends not only our salvation but the glory of God and the purposes of His love. Jesus our Saviour who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Some Remarks on Justification

 

“ Being justified freely by His grace ” (Romans 3:24).

“ Being justified by faith ” (Romans 5:1).

“ Being . . . justified by His blood ” (Romans 5:9).

 

How can a man be just with God? is a living question. It was asked in the earliest years of man's career of sin, and it still abides in all its seriousness, though the devil is making gigantic efforts to drive it from the region of the thoughts of men by forcing “myself and my neighbour” of New Theology and socialism to the front. It is the supreme question, for God, the Judge of all, must have the final word about all things and every man.

It is certain that no man can be just with God on the basis of what he is naturally, for righteousness is not inherent in sinful men, and it is written, “ There is none righteous, no, not one ” (Rom. 3:10). Nor can any man gain righteousness by his own works, for it is also stated that “ by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin ” (v. 20); and again: “ No man is justified by the law in the sight of God ” (Gal. 3:11). It is enough to quote these passages from the Scripture of Truth, they are so plain that no comment upon them is called for, and the man who refuses to bow to them is guilty of the crime of making God a liar.

When a man owns that these words of God are true of him, when he ceases from self-justification, and shuts his guilty mouth before God (Rom. 3:19), and is ready to hear what God will say, then does he learn that God is “ just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus ” (v. 26), and that it is “ to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness ” (4:5).

Not only does this wonderful declaration break as the music of God upon his astonished ears, but his eyes are opened, and he sees that God displays His very righteousness in bringing this about. It is good news, and a blessed sight to the sin-burdened and conscience-stricken soul. It is the good news of God.

There are three means by which men are said to be justified— by grace , the source; by blood , the channel; by faith , the way of appropriation. It is as though one said, “We obtain our water from the great reservoir in the hills;” and another, “We obtain our water from the water main;” and another, “We obtain our water from the tap.” All three are right, for there must be the source, the channel, and the way by which it is appropriated.

 

By Grace—The Source

Justification is by the grace of God. It comes to men according to His desires for their blessing, and not according to their deserts, because of what He is and not because of what they are. God looks for no reason in them why He should bless them, He has found all the reasons in His own heart. He justifies freely by His grace.

 

By His Blood—The Channel

But a righteous basis must needs be found from which God can dispense His blessing; there must be a channel by which, in perfect justice, justification may come unto man—for God must be just. Mercy may not triumph over truth, nor peace be proclaimed apart from righteousness. Every attribute of God must be in harmony in all His ways.

The death of Christ has provided this righteous basis and channel. He was delivered for our offences, and every claim of divine and eternal righteousness has been met by His sacrifice, a sacrifice infinite in its value and eternal in its results. The Scripture speaks of the “precious blood,” and well may each one who has proved its value take up the word and sing:

“Precious, precious blood of Jesus,

Jesus, God's own Son;

Telling that the work is finished,

All is done.

“Precious, precious blood of Jesus

Shed on Calvary ;

Shed for rebels, shed for sinners,

Shed for me.”

By Faith—The Way of Appropriation

If we revert to our illustration, we may get help on this point. The reservoir amid the hills and the great main to the city were provided and laid apart from our assistance. It was the thought and skill of others that provided these things, and the water, so needful for life, is brought into our very houses without our lifting a finger in the matter. But all this would be in vain as far as we are concerned if we did not turn the tap and appropriate that which has been provided for us. If a man refused to avail himself of the provision made for his need he would die of thirst, and that in spite of the fact that all the water in the mighty reservoir was at his disposal behind the insignificant tap in his house.

It is even so in regard to this great blessing. The wonderful reservoir from whence it comes, and the equally wonderful channel along which it flows, have alike been provided apart from our interference. We had no hand in the matter. God's thought and wisdom and power have been in exercise, and He has brought the blessing unto all . It is within the reach of every man, but, alas there are thousands who, in spite of this, are going into hell-fire for ever. The reason is that they will not appropriate by faith that which God's grace has provided for them.

But if we believe God, believe that He is as good as His gospel proclaims Him to be, and that He has raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, proof to all that the work is done, sins atoned for, and righteousness satisfied, we shall discard for ever our works as a means of righteousness and rest confidently and in faith in what God is, and what Christ has done. And then shall we rejoice in the fact that through our Lord Jesus Christ “ALL THAT BELIEVE ARE JUSTIFIED FROM ALL THINGS, FROM WHICH YE COULD NOT BE JUSTIFlED BY THE LAW OF MOSES” (Acts 13:39). Yes, “justified from all things.” Cleared in the sight of God from every charge of guilt, as clear, indeed, of all charge of guilt as is our Lord Jesus, who, as our substitute, was delivered for our offences, but who has been raised again for our justification.

 

Faith made Perfect by Works

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone . . . But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (Jas. 2:17-20)

It appears on the face of it as though this passage were in direct contradiction to the doctrine of Romans 3 and 4, but it is not so, the teaching of both fill their own place perfectly in structure of the truth of God.

It will be observed that the writer of the Epistle is dealing with what “a man may say,” and he declares, and rightly so, that works and not words are the supreme necessity; they should be brought into evidence. To illustrate: Suppose that I possess a piece of land and decide to have it planted with apple trees. I instruct a nursery man to supply a kind suitable to the land in question. He brings a load of young bushes all labelled with celebrated names, and assures me that in a few years' time I shall be able to gather heavy crops of fruit. I wait, and wait, but no sign of life appears; the trees yield no apples in spite of the labels that they bear. The dealer said they were apple trees, and he may continue to say it, but of what use are his words, they are vain words, the trees are dead; they have not, nor can they, justify his assertion with regard to them.

But suppose again that I have that land planted with trees, and that as the spring breaks forth after the winter storms, and, amid the singing of the mating birds, the life-sap begins to flow from root to branch of my trees, forming and forcing out into the genial sunshine the beautiful apple blossom. Now I have hope, and I watch with eager interest the development of the fruit, until at last the autumn sun kisses the cheeks of my apples red and brings them into full maturity. Now I have apples, and I do not need any label on my trees, nor any grower to assure me that the trees are really apple trees, for the apples themselves settle the question.

But I could not have apples without an apple tree, for they do not grow upon thorn bushes, and if there are apples everybody knows that there must be apple trees somewhere. The tree is the faith, the apples are the works. Living faith brings forth living works. But the faith must be there before the works can appear. The works are the outward and visible evidence of the inward and unseen faith. Abraham was justified by works, we read, when he offered his son upon the altar. And when he did that “the scripture was fulfilled which saith Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”

But mark it well: the faith was there probably forty years before the fruit of it reached maturity. God knew that it was there and imputed righteousness to him at once. The offering of Isaac was, on Abraham's part, the fulfilling and the justification of what the Scripture had said so many years before.

Solemn and searching words are these from the Epistle of James, and every man of us should test himself lest he be a vain, empty, wordy, dead professor instead of a true believer showing his faith by his works.

 

“To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5)

Great pains have been taken by the Holy Spirit to impress upon us the important fact that the blessing of justification comes unto men as entirely of God. It does not come to them because they deserve it; it is by grace, which supposes absolute demerit in the objects of it. God has found no reason in men why He should approach them with this blessing, He has needed none, for the cause of it all is found in His own heart. He blesses men because of what He is Himself and not because of what they are. This is the meaning of the words, “ Being justified freely of His grace

But this is emphasized in chapter 4, in the cases of the two men, Abraham and David, who are there brought in to illustrate the truth. “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” He was probably the best man of the olden days, but his works did not put him into the blessing of justification; if they had done so he would have had cause for boasting, but this is a position from which all the boasting of men is excluded (3:27), for the works of the best man cannot put him into it .

On the other hand, nothing is said of David's works; instead, he spoke of his iniquities and his sins. No man in the Old Testament records fell lower than David in his sins against God and man, and yet we learn that his sins did not exclude him from the blessing. For he “describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” It is true that repentance for those sins and faith in a pardoning God were produced in his soul, but the introduction of his case in this chapter is to show that his sins, ten thousand times more heinous because of his knowledge of God's mercy, did not exclude him from the blessing of justification. IT IS A BLESSING INTO WHICH THE WORKS OF THE BEST MAN CANNOT BRING HIM, AND FROM WHICH THE SINS OF THE WORST MAN NEED NOT EXCLUDE HIM. It is altogether of and from God, and binds the heart of the sinner who receives it in the bonds of everlasting gratitude to the gracious Giver of it.

God takes to Himself two wonderful titles in this chapter: “ Him that justifieth the ungodly ” (v. 5), and “ Him that raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead ” (v. 24). It is thus that He is presented to our faith, so that we may not only have peace with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ, being justified by faith, but that we may also joy in Him through the same Person, in whose precious blood God has found a righteous way of bestowing His blessing upon us.

“Strike Only on the Box”

 

We are all acquainted with that very useful household article, the match that strikes only on the box. Nothing could be more admirable and safe provided the conditions are right, but there are times when it turns out to be most disappointing. It is probable that we have all discovered this. We have found ourselves in possession of these matches when we were needing light and heat and found that they had been put by mistake in a box of the ordinary kind; their special box was missing, and so they failed us utterly.

They remind us of some Christians we have met, if we may be permitted to use our homely illustration; as long as the conditions were such as suited them all was well. If meetings were good and Christian fellowship and friendships hearty they were bright and warm, but when removed from such surroundings they were like our safety matches—cold, useless, and disappointing. Christians, don't be like matches that strike only on the box, but be ready to give forth your light and heat at all times and in all circumstances, and the darker the times and the colder the surroundings, be the more anxious to strike and burn and shine for the Lord.

Don't say if your environment were different you could be better Christians; don't plead that it is impossible to witness for Christ in your present position; remember the sufficiency of the Lord, and count upon Him. Don't forget that He has said, “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5); but remember also that one of His servants could say, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). And remember also that there is no reason why we should not have the same wonderful experience as Paul had—except it be our own selfishness and cowardice and unbelief—for Christ is as much at our disposal as He was at his. He is the same for you and us.

To consider Paul as “a pattern to them which should hereafter believe” (1 Tim. 1:16) is a stimulating occupation. He was not elated in prosperity nor depressed in adversity; he lived in no ruts, and was not dependent upon outward conditions; indeed, the harder the conditions the brighter shone his light. He was troubled on every side, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:8-9). And what lay behind this indomitable energy, this more than human courage, this unconquerable enthusiasm and joy? He knew God, THE LIVING GOD, and he leaned upon the surpassing power of Christ. When in the direst of straits he could sing, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in GOD WHICH RAISETH THE DEAD; who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9-10). It is a poor ear, and poorer heart, that cannot catch, and is not moved by the glorious strain of that battle march. Again, when he stood a poor prisoner, without an earthly friend to plead for him, in the presence of the might of Imperial Rome, grown haughty in the magnificence of her power, he encompassed a whole diapason of triumphant praise when he said, “At my first answer no man stood with me . . . Notwithstanding the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:16-17). That was the grand finale of the life of the man who knew the excellency of the power of God. He cared not how terrorful the surroundings or appalling the earthly prospect to himself so long as he had the opportunity of making the preaching known to men, and through that preaching of bringing glory to the Lord who loved him so well.

Let us not excuse ourselves by saying Paul was an apostle, for he tells us that he was “less than the least of all saints” and that he was “nothing” and when we get down there we shall understand things better. Yet he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am . . . not I, but the grace of God, which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). And that grace fails not, the supplies of it are as full as ever: Yes, as full for us as they were for Paul.”

“Be instant in season and out of season” was one of this aged warrior's exhortations to the young and timid Timothy. We need it; it means don't be dependent on suitable conditions; indeed there are no unsuitable conditions where lost and dying men are, and while God's grace flows freely.

Don't get into ruts, don't become those who can only exercise themselves when surrounded by like-minded Christians where their activities are scarcely needed; don't be like matches that strike only on the box.

Here are some other words from that same closing exhortation: “Stir up”; “Be not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord”; “Hold fast”; “Be strong”; “Endure hardness”; “Study to show thyself approved unto God”; “Flee also youthful lusts”; “Preach the Word”; “Watch, thou”; “Endure afflictions.” We commend these stirring words, especially to our young brethren, and would ask them to remember that if we are to carry them out God must be greater to us, and nearer and more real, than any circumstance of life. But if the living God is our constant confidence and to witness for Christ our life's purpose we shall have no need to fear any change in this life, and we shall not be like matches that strike only on the box.

Studies in Preaching (The Apostolic Sermons)

 

A great number of preachers, who profess to give God's message to the people, are discarding His gospel and substituting for it their own vain babblings, and the multitudes love to have it so. This clearly indicates that the time has come which the Word of God declared would come, “when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lust shall heap unto them teachers having itching ears, . . . and shall be turned to fables” (2 Tim. 4:4). In view of this sad fact we feel that it will be helpful to those who are determined to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, to turn to the divinely-given records of the sermons preached by Holy Ghost-filled men when first the gospel of the glory of Christ shone in this world.

We believe there are many young men who have passed through a furnace of testing, and have proved in the trial the power and worth of the gospel which they have believed, and who long to tell it out to others in its integrity and blessedness; we want specially to encourage and help such to preach the Word courageously in dependence upon God; to be evangelistic in spirit in season and out of season, serving the Lord.

The preacher is a messenger sent forth with a report, not to seek popularity with those to whom he is sent, but to be faithful to the One who sends him; and “A FAITHFUL MESSENGER refresheth the soul of his Master ” (Prov. 25:13). He is an ambassador of peace from Christ to man, and he must know the divine terms if he is to present them and interpret them according to the mind of his Sovereign-Master, and “A FAITHFUL AMBASSADOR is health” (Prov. 13:17). He is a witness in himself to the delivering power of the message that he carries, and so can seek out those who need the deliverance that he has experienced with confidence; and “A TRUE WITNESS delivereth souls ” (Prov. 14:25).

Putting these three things together we learn that there are three great necessities for the preacher who would be efficient in his work.

1. HE MUST BE FAITHFUL TO THE ONE WHO HAS SENT HIM.

2. HE MUST DELIVER THE MESSAGE THAT HE CARRIES FAITHFULLY.

3. HE MUST KNOW THE POWER OF HIS MESSAGE HIMSELF.

Every bit of true service springs from the knowledge of the love and glory of the Lord; if we know Him we shall yield ourselves to His claims.

“Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands our souls, our lives, our all.”

And we shall say with Samuel, “Speak, for Thy servant heareth”; and with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me”; and with Saul of Tarsus, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do.”

“HOW SHALL THEY PREACH EXCEPT THEY BE SENT? AS IT IS WRITTEN, HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THEM THAT preach the gospel of peace, and bring GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS” (Rom. 10:15).

To understand Peter's Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2 we must approach it through Luke 24, for it was in this latter chapter that the disciples were commissioned by their Lord; and the commission given to them abides for us. These disciples not only needed to be commissioned, they needed to be rebuked because of their unbelief of the Scriptures, and instructed because of their ignorance of the theme and purpose of them. They could not preach God's message, if they were doubtful or ignorant of God's Word, and to put them right as to this was the Lord's first labour. Here we reach the prevailing need of the day, for there are preachers, alas, an increasing multitude of them, who do not believe the Scriptures;—these are not as the disciples of the Lord, whose slowness to believe all that the prophet had spoken arose from their ignorance of the object of their prophesying;—but these deliberately refuse the Word, and impudently and presumptuously imagine that their own thoughts are better than those expressed for us in the God-breathed Scripture. From such we must turn away; their words eat as a canker; there is neither life, nor hope, nor salvation in them; they point out a way that seems right to them, but it is the way of death—the devil's way. They preach a gospel without Christ, and without the blood; they deny man's need of atonement, and mock at the future, teaching that whatever is for the present material good of man is for the glory of God. Those who would be faithful to Christ will refuse all association and fellowship with such, for what communion can there be between light and darkness? what concord between Christ and Belial? or what fellowship can a believer have with an unbeliever?

But there is another class of preachers who do not deny that the Scriptures are the Word of God, but like the disciples of the Lord they do not understand them, nor their central theme; consequently. they have no certain, definite message, and they are in great danger of being carried away by the plausible theories, and the great claims to scholarship on the part of the critics of the Word of God.

To any who have doubts as to the Bible being God-inspired, and consequently the one authority for all questions of doctrine and conduct, we would say, “Stop your preaching until your doubts are removed.” And if we are asked how those doubts can be removed, we would answer, “Learn what the purpose of the Scriptures is, and who it is who is their One sole and absorbing theme. Only see Christ in the Scriptures and all doubt as to their origin will disappear.”

In verse 27 the Lord opened the Scriptures to the disciples. He disclosed the one treasure that lay in the casket of Moses and all the prophets. He showed that they had one theme—HIMSELF; and in verse 45 He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures. No word of theirs, when the time for preaching came, had to clash with what was written. The gospel they were to preach was to be according to the Scriptures, as Paul told the saints at Corinth . Their own opinions and notions were barred; the wisdom and philosophy of men had to have no place in their teaching; for their gospel was to be a gospel of deliverance, and God only can deliver men; this He does by His own Word, which has Christ for its subject.

Yes, Christ is the great theme of the Word. Beginning at MOSES AND ALL THE PROPHETS He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures THE THINGS CONCERNING HIMSELF (v. 27). (We may pay scant courtesy to the critic, since the Lord confirmed the Old Testament writers thus.) The Scriptures which spoke of Him, and their fulfilment in His death and resurrection and glory are inseparable; they are woven together in one glorious web, and if one is denied it is that the other might be damaged. The devil is behind this criticism of the Scriptures, by it he is blinding the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. His object is to enchain the souls of men in present darkness that they may share his doom in the lake of fire for ever. The preachers business is to enlighten these souls, and deliver them, and it is by the preaching of the Word of which Christ is the great centre and theme that this is done.

The Scripture spoke of the sufferings of Christ and of His resurrection; these are the two great facts of the gospel, and because of them, repentance and remission of sins were to be preached amongst all nations. Men of all nations are to hear the joyful tidings that a way has been opened for them to return to God from their wanderings, their miseries and sins, and that returning they will meet a pardoning God.

This divine message had to be carried world-wide in Christ's name. Those who carry it have to do it as His representatives, on His behalf; a solemn consideration, of which we shall have more to say. Being a divine message, doing a divine work, it must of necessity be done in divine power; so that we are not surprised to learn that these disciples of Christ had to wait for power from heaven. The Holy Ghost is absolutely indispensable to successful preaching of the Word.

Lastly, these Christ-chosen men beheld their Lord ascend to the highest place in the glory of God, yet not forgetting them, for He went up with hands lifted in priestly, benediction. And thus He serves all His servants who serve Him until their service is done.

Those then who are sent into the world to serve Christ in the gospel are to bear the following features:

(1) THEY MUST BELIEVE THE SCRIPTURES (MOSES AND ALL THE PROPHETS) TO BE GOD'S WORD TO US CONCERNING CHRIST THE SAVIOUR. APART FROM THIS THEY COULD HAVE NO MESSAGE, OF POWER AND AUTHORITY.

(2) THEY MUST UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES, IN THE SENSE THAT CHRIST IS THE GREAT THEME AND CENTRE OF THEM; OTHERWISE THEY WOULD ONLY CARRY LIFELESS AND LOVELESS DOCTRINES.

(3) THEY MUST PRESENT THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, AND HIS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD AS THE ONLY GROUND UPON WHICH REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS MUST BE PREACHED TO ALL NATIONS.

(4) THEY MUST KNOW THAT THE BLESSING IS OFFERED TO ALL; IT MUST NOT BE CONFINED TO ANY CLASS, DISTRICT, OR NATION.

(5) THEY GO FORTH IN HIS NAME, NOT TO SHOW THEMSELVES, OR TO PARADE THEIR OWN WARES, BUT TO REPRESENT HIM, THENCE THEY MUST SPEAK OF HIM, AND BEAR HIS CHARACTER.

(6) THEY MUST HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT WITHIN THEM, AND WITH THEM IN THEIR LABOURS, FOR HIS POWER ALONE IS EQUAL TO THE WORK TO BE DONE.

(7) THEY MUST BE SUSTAINED BY THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THEIR EXALTED LORD IS INTERCEDING FOR THEM; AND THAT HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEM IN EVERY INFIRMITY, AND THAT HIS STRENGTH FINDS ITS OPPORTUNITY IN THEIR WEAKNESS.

 

The Vindication of Christ

Coming now to the Pentecostal Sermon, reported in Acts 2, we find that after a brief explanation to the wondering multitudes of the outpouring of the Spirit, Peter reaches the great theme of his preaching in verse 22. The words that he here speaks are the words of God, and he demands that the people should hear them. He then proceeds to vindicate the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This was the first thing. It was the fulfilment of John 15:26-27, “ But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of Me: and ye also shall bear witness because ye have been with Me from the beginning .” In it there is no appeal to the people to repent, or to come to the Saviour—this took place in the inquiry meeting at the end of the preaching. There is not even the mention of blessing for those that heard and believed. This would come in its proper place. That which was first, and must ever be first in the heart and purpose of the faithful servants of Christ, is the vindication of His name, and the proclamation of the truth as to His person. Let this slip into the background and the Spirit's work will be correspondingly hindered. The gospel of God (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures) is concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 1); and the Spirit's power goes with this preaching.

The great facts that Peter declares are:

(1) The perfect human life of Jesus, approved of God, and fruitful with works that God did by Him.

(2) His crucifixion and death, which though wickedly compassed by the people, was according to the foreknowledge and counsel of God.

(3) God had raised Him up from the dead; for death could not hold Him who had glorified God in life and death.

(4) It was not possible that death should hold Him, or that He should see corruption; plainly demonstrating the sinlessness of His humanity; and the absolute contrast between Him and the whole of Adam's race that to dust returns.

(5) The Scriptures had spoken before of all this; what had taken place was only the fulfilment of them.

(6) The risen Christ was to sit upon the throne of David.

(7) His exaltation to God's right hand, and that there He had received from the Father the Holy Ghost, for the effectuation of His work on earth. And incidentally His place in the Godhead is introduced, for none but God could sit in the throne of God.

(8) His Deity is definitely declared, when Peter quotes the words of David that had already baffled the Pharisees: “The Lord said unto MY LORD, sit Thou on my right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool.

(9) His exaltation to the position of supreme authority that every creature must acknowledge; He is Lord and Christ.

It will be noticed that Peter brings into sharp contrast the way the people had treated Jesus and the way that God had treated Him. He begins and ends upon this solemn note. There could be no more powerful weapon than this in the preacher's hand, for it brings into question man's whole state before God. What mattered the Temple with its gorgeous ritual, its perpetual service, its surpliced priests and crowded courts; what mattered praying Pharisees, and scribes and lawyers versed in every detail of the ceremonial law; what mattered all the parade of religion on the part of the people, if the One whom God delighted to honour was insulted and crucified by the consent of all? And what matters it today how fair a show men may make in their religion and philanthropy if they refused to yield to Christ the place that God claims for Him? Christ is the crux, and if men are out of harmony with God as to Christ they are utterly and in all things astray.

How blessed was the result of this vindication of Jesus! What joy must have been in heaven as three thousand souls, convicted and repentant, asked, “What shall we do?” And how great must have been the surprise of these inquirers when they discovered that through the Name of Jesus, so despised by them, the remission of sins was freely offered them. What confidence it gives the preacher when he sees that when men have done their worst God brings out His best; and where sin abounded grace did much more abound.

 

The Power of the Name

Peter's second sermon was preached to a multitude mightily impressed by a notable miracle. One of the most familiar figures at the gate of the Temple was a helpless beggar; priests and Levites passed him continually and left him as they found him; worshippers thronged to the morning and evening sacrifices, but none could raise him up; he was a constant witness to the fact that there was no power in the Temple ordinances to relieve the miseries of men. His helpless wretchedness was figurative of the condition of Israel and mankind generally, who are without strength, as the Scriptures declare, to render to God what is His due, or to deliver themselves from the bondage in which sin has bound them.

But power had come into the world at last, wonder-working power, delivering power, and that power lay in the Name of Jesus of Nazareth . No better title could be given to the Book of The Acts of the Apostle than “The Power of the Name.” Peter and John knew its power, and boldly used it, saying to the crippled wretch, “IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH rise up and walk.” Quick from his helplessness leaped the man, his withered limbs thrilling with a new life at the sound of that name, and with feet made strong he entered the Temple with the apostles, “walking, and leaping, and praising God.”

It was not by silver and gold that this miracle had been performed. There was plenty of that in the temple and in Jerusalem , and it was doubtless held in high esteem then as it is now. The pity is that that which is highly esteemed by men of the world should be so highly esteemed by those who profess to honour the name of Christ. It was said sometime ago by a leader in the religious world that what the church needed was more money, that its work of converting the world was held up by the lack of it. There never was a greater delusion, but it is a widespread and popular one, as a glance at some of the religious publications of the day will prove. The need is not silver and gold, but a return to the beginning, a renewed realization of the power of the Name.

It was a prepared audience that ran together to learn the secret of this marvellous miracle, and the servants of the Lord had a Spirit-given readiness to meet the situation. Peter had no need to prepare a sermon; the stream of living truth, of which Christ was the force and theme, burst forth with a blessed spontaneity. His heart was bubbling up (Ps. 45. marg.). He was like Elihu who said, “I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me,” and, like this same Elihu, he was regardless of the estate or rank of those to whom he spoke as the greatness of his subject and the importance of the hour carried him on. He was no flatterer of his hearers, else he would have been an unworthy witness to the truth. This same spirit characterized Paul, who said of his preaching, “ Neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness ” (1 Thess. 2:5). No flatterer can be a faithful preacher of God's message, but the one who would be preserved from it must be in the fear of God all the day, or he will be betrayed by the fear of man, or by covetousness into that which is so hateful to God and so harmful to men.

But we will quote the words of Elihu in full, for the preachers of today need to ponder them well.

“ For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me. Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles. I will speak, that I may be refreshed. I will open my lips and answer. Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away ” (Job 32:18-22).

Swiftly Peter removes the idea that he and John were wonderful people, to be applauded and pampered; his business was to turn all the thoughts of his audience to the One whom his soul loved, and by whose power the lame man had been healed. He was like John the Baptist before him, whose joy and ambition was to decrease that his Lord and Master might increase; and like a quaint old Yorkshire preacher of the last century, who would hide himself out of sight in the high old-fashioned pulpit in which he preached, and cry, “Not the man in the pulpit, but the man who hung upon the cross.”

We suggest that no man is fit to preach Christ unless like the Apostles—

1. HE TRUSTS NOT IN SILVER AND GOLD, BUT IN THE POWER OF THE NAME OF JESUS.

2. HE IS FEARLESS IN THE PRESENCE OF THE MULTITUDE, VIEWING HIGH AND LOW ONLY AS THOSE WHO HAVE NEED OF HIS MESSAGE.

3. HE PREACHES THE TRUTH IN THE FEAR OF GOD, SEEKING NO FAVOUR FROM MEN AND REFUSING TO USE FLATTERING WORDS.

4. HE IS OF NO ACCOUNT IN HIS OWN ESTIMATION.

Out of the good treasure of his heart Peter brings forth that which is good. He proclaims the fact that GOD HAS GLORIFIED HIS SERVANT JESUS.

Thus had He put His seal upon His service, and the disapproval of that same service, by the Jews had not hindered Him from so doing. How triumphantly this Holy Ghost inspired preacher rang out this note, a note sadly missing in modern preaching, in which man and his needs are so prominent instead of Christ and His glory. In Peter's sermon we have the fulfilment of the Lord's words in John 15:26-27,

“ But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning

It is well for the preacher to dwell much upon the exaltation of Christ, the Holy Ghost will help him in this, and will also be with him in proclaiming the fact to others. Many a preacher is powerless because he does not stand up with the consciousness in his soul of the glory of his Master. He is defeated before he begins because the triumph of Christ is not real to him. What can be more arresting, more conscience-awakening than this, that God has glorified Jesus, whom men put to shame, that He has crowned with glory and honour the One whom they crucified as a malefactor.

There was divinely given wisdom in the way Peter announced this fact. It was no strange God who had done this, a God whom neither they nor their father's knew, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God to whom they owed their national existence, and in whom they professed to boast and trust. If He had done this one of two ways stood open to them, either they must own the worthiness of Jesus to be thus glorified, and so show themselves to be true children of the fathers, or still refuse Him and disown the God in whom their fathers trusted in so doing.

Moreover, another point of importance is here brought into prominence. It was the God of the Old Testament who has exalted Jesus, He is the God of the Old and the God of the New. Revealed as Almighty to Abraham, He is preached now as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This we need to affirm, for there have arisen those who deny that the God of the Gospel is the Jehovah of the ancient covenants; they would destroy the value of the prophetic word, and the unity of the Scriptures.

With what force Peter brings the lash of the truth upon their consciences. They delivered up and denied God's perfect Servant, and bitterly opposed Pilate when he proposed to release Him. They sought as a favour that a murderer might be granted them and clamoured for the death of the Holy One and the Just. They killed the Prince of life.

Here is a pattern for every preacher; the state and conduct of the hearers are searched out and exposed by the truth. Their opposition to God and their love of violence and evil rather than of holiness and justice are plainly set before them; and also that they chose the way of death rather than the Originator, or Prince of life.

Notice how the Apostle keeps in the foreground the truth of the Person of Christ, this is the marrow of all true preaching. Christ came as the Servant of God, as He said: “ Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it was written of Me) to do Thy will, O God ” (Heb. 10:7).

As to His nature He was the Holy One, as to all His works and ways He was the Just One. Thus He stood alone amongst men, the only one who was always and altogether pleasurable to God, and upon whom death had no claim. But there was more, He was the Prince, or Author of life, this carries us back to the beginning, to the declaration of His Godhead power and glory in John 1.

God had raised Him up, and the unparalleled wickedness of men in killing Him had not changed His wonderful character as the Author of life; He was raised up that He might be this effectually and eternally; not of physical life only, which men forfeited by their sin, but of eternal life which was the gift of God through Him, a life entirely of grace, founded and maintained upon what He is and not on what we are. And this life and blessing was now being preached to the most guilty men in the most guilty city on earth.

Again, as in his first sermon, Peter appeals to the Scriptures. What his hearers had done had not taken God by surprise, for He had before showed by the mouth of all His prophets that Christ should suffer. And He had fulfilled His word as to this, as He will fulfil every other word that He has spoken.

The points that are notable in this sermon, as far as we have considered it, are

1. GOD HAS GLORIFIED HIS SERVANT JESUS.

2. IT IS THE GOD WHO MADE PROMISES TO ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB WHO HAS DONE THIS, THE GOD OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IS THE GOD OF THE NEW.

3. THE HOLINESS OF THE NATURE OF JESUS; THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF ALL HIS WAYS, AND HIS DIVINE GLORY AS THE AUTHOR OF LIFE ARE MADE PROMINENT.

4. GOD HAS RAISED HIM UP TO BE THE FOUNTAIN OF BLESSING, AS WITNESS THE PERFECT SOUNDNESS OF THE ONCE LAME MAN.

5. HIS SUFFERING AND DEATH WERE ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD FOR BLESSING.

6. THE SCRIPTURES ARE THE WORD OF GOD, FOR IT WAS GOD WHO SPOKE BY THE MOUTH OF HIS PROPHETS.

 

The Preacher's Sphere

The last words that the disciples heard from the lips of their risen and ascending Lord were, “ Ye shall be witnesses unto Me . . . UNTO THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH .” What amazement must have filled their Jewish hearts when, after the cloud of glory had received Him out of their sight, they began to realize the vastness of the sphere in which they were to witness for Him. They were eager to tell of His glory to Israel, for hitherto their hopes and affections had been confined within that narrow bound; but now in their hearts were to be enlarged at the coming of the Holy Ghost to embrace the world; they were to speak of the most blessed Person, exalted to the most glorious place, to the greatest possible number of men; for not a needy sinner beneath the sun had to be denied the favour of hearing the Word, and upon all had to be pressed the rightful claims of Christ.

What a rebuke are these last words of our Lord to our narrow, selfish and anti-missionary hearts! What a challenge they are to us and our indifference to all but a very confined circle, and the way we have of miserably limiting the Gospel and its preachers! Let us consider them afresh in the light of His ascension to heaven to be the centre of blessing for all; being the Lord's last words they ought to profoundly impress us. In them we learn the extent of the Lord's claims; His power for blessing; the immensity of the grace that is in Him, as well as its suitability to the needs of men even to the uttermost part of the earth. Here also we learn the breadth of the love of God, who gave His Only-begotten Son for the world, and will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

“Yes, the love of God is broader

Than the measure of man's mind;

And the heart of the Eternal

Is most wonderfully kind.

But we make His love too narrow

By false limits of our own,

And we magnify His strictness

With a zeal He will not own.”

“ Unto the uttermost parts of the earth

With this agrees the declaration of Ephesians 4:8 that, “when He ascended up on high, He gave gifts unto men. ” Not to the assembly only, though they were not apart from that, certainly not any limited circle in the assembly, but to men .

 

The Preacher's Power

The power that was to carry these witnesses for their wonderful Saviour to the uttermost part of the earth was the Holy Ghost; without Him they were not to move a step or speak a word.

“ Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you .” They were to receive POWER; but this power was inseparable from the person of the HOLY GHOST, and His coming was specially to enable them to WITNESS FOR CHRIST. A great many men like to have power that would give them a place amongst their fellows. In this the devil will help them, but not the Holy Ghost; He has come solely and only in the name of Christ and for His glory.

Being God, the power of the Holy Ghost is the same today as then; the growing corruption of Christendom may make it impossible for Him to give the same manifestation of His presence as He did at Pentecost, nevertheless there is no other power for God on earth. All the vast organizations and the machinery that men have created, who depend upon the arm of flesh, and upon the wisdom of the schools, and upon money gathered from any quarter, tainted or otherwise, for the carrying on of so-called religious work, are a hindrance to God's work and no help. They make more show and noise as they build their wood, hay and stubble, and outstrip the world in self-advertisement and self-laudation; but the Holy Ghost is not in it, and when the trial by fire comes the work will not stand. Happy is the servant of Christ who has no confidence in the carnal weapons; who in faithfulness to his Master will stand apart from that which does not glorify Him; who pursues his true mission of witness for Christ, and places himself at the disposal of his Lord to be filled with the Holy Ghost to this end.

 

The Preacher's Mission

It is necessary in these days in which even true servants of Christ make the blessing of men and their uplifting the primary matter to insist that WITNESS TO CHRIST IS THE PREACHER'S MISSION . Blessing to men will follow this as effect follows cause, but “ Ye shall be witnesses to Me ” is the commission, and it is for this that the Holy Ghost gives power. A man may talk of the blessing of men with great eloquence and leave them still self-centred and consequently unblest, but if he bears witness to Christ all who are affected by it will change their centre; they will turn from self to Christ and “magnify God.” This is the work of the Holy Ghost.

What a glorious witness it was that they had to bear. They had seen their Lord nailed upon a cross as a common malefactor, thieves on either side; hatred and mockery around; and darkness above from whence they expected that succour would come to Him. It was a sight of most awful dreadfulness to them; it had filled them with unspeakable sorrow; it had broken their hearts, shaken their faith, and scattered them like sheep attacked by wolves. But His resurrection had gathered them, removed their sorrow and stabilized their faith; and now the Holy Ghost had come to fully instruct them in the meaning and necessity of that cross, and to tell them that it had been exchanged for the throne; that their Lord had been crowned with heavenly glory and honour; that God had “highly exalted Him and given Him a name above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The Holy Spirit came upon them directly from the enthronement and coronation of their Lord, from the scene of exultation in heaven at His triumph and the Father's delight in Him; and, filling them as He did, they bore witness as though their very eyes had beheld it all, for the Spirit's witness to them as to it, made it real to faith's vision. Thus they spake, and this was their theme, and this still is the true theme of the preacher. Sad that those who have so glorious a subject should be so caught by the spirit of the world that they find other themes more congenial, and spend their energies upon many schemes for the betterment of the world, instead of uplifting Christ as the great magnet who draws men out of it to Himself. But the Holy Ghost will not depart from His mission no matter how the servants of the Lord may fail, and none shall seek His help in vain whose purpose is to bear witness unto Christ.

 

The Result of the Witness

To those who believed the witness of the apostles the Holy Ghost was given. This was part of Peter's message in his first recorded sermon. “Repent,” he said unto them, “and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and YE SHALL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST.” Two things at least were involved in this. Firstly, when the Holy Ghost came upon any one it meant that the Lord was thereby taking possession of that which was His by right of purchase. The Lord's rights were involved in it. We must give a greater place to this in our preaching. So often we dwell upon what men will get; but what will the Lord get? He will get all who believe the gospel concerning Himself, and He takes possession of them as His own when the Spirit seals them. The Spirit comes to make good the Lord's claims in those who believe. Secondly, the gift of the Holy Ghost gives to those who receive it the power and capacity to enter into a sphere of blessing entirely outside the range of the natural man; for the natural man receiveth not the things of God, they are spiritually discerned. Our preaching is poor in this respect, we dwell largely upon what men will be delivered from—their sins will be forgiven, and they will be saved from the judgment those sins deserved; all very true, but all negative. But the gospel brings what is most blessedly positive; it opens the door to the things of God, gives these things to the saints as their inheritance, gives the Holy Ghost so that those who believe might have a present knowledge and enjoyment of these things, and a well of water within them fully satisfying the deepest yearnings of the soul; a power transforming every part of the life; a capacity for entering into communion with God. The gift of the Holy Ghost meant the translation from a world, disappointing, bankrupt and condemned, into the Kingdom of God , the head and centre of which is the victorious Lord and Saviour, and the power of which is the Holy Ghost thus received, and the joy of which is God Himself.

 

Questions and Answers

1. Tongues of Fire

We often hear of TONGUES OF FIRE, but Scripture says, “like as of fire,” which I understand to mean that the appearance was of forked or cleft flames. I should like a word of explanation.

THE TONGUE is the instrument by which the word is made known. “How shall they hear without a preacher”; and thus it was that the Holy Ghost appeared. He had come from heaven to bear witness to the world, to bring the testimony of God to men, and these men whom He filled, and upon whom He sat, were to be His vessels. This is the prominent thought at Pentecost, and not the baptism of believers into one body, though that of course took place, but was not the first thing in the mind of God at the moment. THESE TONGUES WERE NOT ONE BUT WERE AS FORKED FLAME. The testimony of the Holy Spirit was not to be confined to one nation as was the law; it was to be universal, toward the whole world. The will of God was that all men must hear the word in their own tongue, thence the statement, “The Word is nigh thee, even in thy heart and in thy mouth, that is the word of faith which we preach” (Rom. 10). The Romish system denies this when it insists upon its services being rendered in one tongue only, and that, one that the multitudes do not understand.

THE FORKED TONGUES WERE AS OF FLAME. It was in human words that the truth was to be spoken, but the truth was God's truth, and “our God is a consuming fire.” The message was a message of grace, a glad evangel suited to the needs of a world, sinful, miserable and lost, but it came only as a result of God's righteous judgment of sin having been borne by the Holy Sin-bearer. The words were pure words “the word of righteousness.” God proclaims the forgiveness of sins, but He does not tolerate sin; His gospel makes it exceeding sinful, so that those who heard that gospel and believed it did not think that sin was nothing, or at the worst something to be excused and winked at, but they were brought to deep repentance because of it. Like a flame of fire the word drove its way down into their consciences until in their horror of their own sin and with a sense of God's holiness they cried, “What shall we do?” This is the meaning of the tongues of flame.

It is this that is so sadly lacking in modern preaching, thence the shallowness of the results, and probably one reason, and perhaps the chief reason, is that those who preach the word are not themselves under its searching power.

 

2. The Pouring Out of the Spirit.

“This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (v. 16). Does this mean that a complete fulfilment of the prophecy occurred? If so, in what sense could it be said that the Spirit was poured out on all flesh?

“All flesh” in this passage stands in contrast, we judge, to Israel only. And Peter's heart at the moment must have been full of this. The last words he had heard from the Lord's lips as He ascended to heaven were “ to the uttermost parts of the earth .” He was filled with the Holy Ghost, who had come to bear witness to the world; and filled, gifted and inspired by the Holy Ghost the apostles spoke, not the language of the Jew only, but with many diverse tongues; the blessing was for all, for “WHOSOEVER shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The passage stands on the same plane as John 12:32, where “all men,” in contrast to Jews only, are to be drawn to the uplifted Son of Man. All flesh does not necessarily mean every individual, but that all nations are in view.

It is plain that the Spirit is only given to those who have turned in repentance to God, and have believed His testimony as to Christ; as in the type the oil (figurative of the Spirit) was only put upon the blood (redemption) (Lev. 9:14). Acts 2 gives the character of the outpouring and not the completion of it; this will take place as in the days which Joel describes and which will follow the judgments which he foretells in chapter 3, when nations will turn in repentance to God. The church will have been translated to heaven before this final fulfilment of the prophecy.

 

3. The Gift of Tongues

Why is the gift of tongues connected with the baptism of the Holy Ghost?

The gift of tongues, which was inseparable from the coming of the Holy Ghost (see also chaps. 10:46; 19:6) indicated the universality of the witness that He brought and the urgency of the message. It was exercised in the assemblies also, for they were composed of men of many languages, but the chief use of it seems to have been to spread the word intelligently and immediately amongst all nations. It was a sign gift, and passed away when the faith was established in the earth.

 

4. How Shall They Preach, Except They be Sent?

I should like to ask what constitutes being “sent”?

Our correspondent deplores the ineffectiveness of much of the preaching, and the consequent indifference of the multitudes to the gospel, and the lack of interest even in those who come to the regular services, many doing so merely because it is customary, and evidently not expecting to hear a living message.

This widespread condition of things should produce great exercise in the preachers. It is impossible to move men according to God unless the preacher comes from God. To be SENT is of first importance; to have to do with God about the message and those who are to hear it is surely the sine qua non of successful preaching. Those who have affected others have always been men who sought audiences with God. John the Baptist came from God before moving the multitudes of Israel . The apostles spent ten days in prayer before Pentecostal blessing broke on them and through them; and if there comes a revival of prayer, of spending more time with God about the message than in delivering it, we may yet hope to see the state of things which our correspondent deplores give place to earnest interest on the part of those who come together to hear the gospel. Not all are called to preach, or sent of the Lord to do it, though He has given to every servant his work; each should know, as a result of communion with his Master, what that work is, and carry it out with fervency of spirit in dependence upon Him. The preacher may be tempted to cast the blame of the dead state of things upon others, or upon the general indifference to the things of God which marks these difficult times; but let him remember that God's message is a living message—the POWER OF GOD unto salvation, and seek to so preach it that many may believe. Better not preach at all than give those who gather together the impression that “the wonderful works of God” are of small importance. No light, heat, or power can be obtained from the electric power station without contact therewith, and no preacher, no matter what his gifts, has power with men for God, unless he is in contact with God.

 

Acts 3

It will be noticed in Paul's first sermons that, having powerfully pressed upon his hearers the truth as to Christ's Person, and His resurrection and exaltation to God's right hand in heaven, he called upon them to repent; he did more, his call was a command in the name of Christ, on whose behalf he spoke, to yield themselves to God's righteousness in this way, and by so doing pass into blessing by the only possible door.

We believe that all who are truly exercised as to the work of God in the world must feel that this is a note that is sadly lacking in modern preaching. Hence the poverty of the results of the preaching, and the shallowness of that which is seen.

“ God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent ” (Acts 17). And no good and faithful servant of God will leave this solemn command out of his preaching. Peter pressed it in the beginning of Acts in addressing the Jews. Paul pressed upon both Jews and Greeks “repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (chap. 20:21). Wherever he went it was his clarion call to men, as he testified before Agrippa, “I showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout the coasts of Judah, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (chap. 26:20). There is no good and honest heart in which the word of God can take root apart from this; no foundation in the soul upon which the truth can be built.

But this involves more than the reiteration of the word Repent. It is necessary, if men are to be brought to repentance, to press upon them God's claims which they have ignored; to open their eyes to their guilt and to show them faithfully the consequences of their sins. These things the preacher must know, not as matters of doctrine but as great and solemn verities, and only those know them in this way to whom God is a reality.

The preacher must live before God rather than men; in his measure he must be sent “from God” if he is to do this real work, as John the Baptist was, and the Apostles. But the pressing of God's claims must be done in tenderness and compassion; for the God who commands all men everywhere to repent is the same God who commends His love to all; the same Lord whose terrors should be known to all who serve Him is the One who by these same servants beseeches men to be reconciled to Him. The goodness of God leads men to repentance. No preacher will be successful in bringing men to repentance who has not in his soul a deep sense of the grace and compassion of God.

“I was preaching to my hearers the terrors of the Lord last night,” said a preacher to a friend.

“I hope you did it with tears,” was the wise reply.

Peter's second sermon was addressed, not so much to the individual conscience, but to the nation, and the offer made to them on their repentance and conversion was of national and earthly blessing. In response to their repentance God would send Jesus Christ to bring in the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.

Advantage has been taken of the term “the times of restitution of all things” by the enemies of the truth to deny eternal punishment and to teach the final salvation of all men. It will be found, we believe invariably, that those who quote Scripture to support error, quote part texts. The devil did this when quoting the Word to the Lord—so in this case; but this term, which has been so much abused, is qualified by the full sentence—“the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world begun. ”

Here again the Old Testament Scriptures, rejected by the false “spirit of the age,” are definitely declared to be God's Word, and if we are to know what is involved in Peter's words we must study these Scriptures. The all things are limited by what God had spoken as recorded in these Scriptures.

What a suitable vessel for the flowing forth of the grace of God was Peter, having tasted it so sweetly and fully himself! How his heart must have glowed as he closed his sermon to these very people who had denied and crucified the Lord, with this glorious announcement: “ Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities .” Here was the proclamation of repentance and remission of sins which was to go out to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem . God is the source of all blessing. Jesus is the One by whom it reaches men, and the effect of it is to turn men from their iniquities.

 

Acts 4

Peter is confronted by a very different audience in chapter 4 to those that he had already addressed. His first was a cosmopolitan multitude gathered from far and near to the feast in Jerusalem; his second was more especially a city audience and perhaps more critical than the first, but both would be largely composed of the common people amongst whom Peter would naturally be at home. But now he stands with John before the leaders and rulers, the men of light and learning; a coldly critical audience, and withal bitterly hostile to the men and their message. This was a great test, and would prove conclusively whether Peter was serving by the power of the Holy Ghost, or in his own natural energy. His former audiences were such as might be easily moved by the natural eloquence and fervency such as he could evidently command, but not these before whom he now stood. They were well versed in the law; they were master logicians, and had all the confidence that their position and influence and authority in the city gave them. Moreover, they had taken the place of leading the people in God's way, and the people had followed them submissively, and they believed that they had but to threaten and command, and Peter and John would immediately obey. Before such an audience as this, the man who had trembled with fear and denied his Lord at the taunt of a servant girl, would have little to say if he stood there in his own natural ability and strength of purpose.

But Peter neither trembles nor hesitates; he is the master in that assembly. With trumpet clearness he makes known the truth; exposes their folly and guilt; clearly defines the terrible question that lay between God and them, and exalts the name of Jesus. There can be no mistake in the application of his direct and powerful words. These rulers of the people, with all their learning, had let the lame beggar lie at the gate of the temple; they had put forth no effort to help him; they were the impotent men in spite of all their pride and pretension. But Jesus of Nazareth was not impotent, for by His name the helpless cripple had been restored to perfect soundness. But these rulers had crucified Him, and if their purpose had been fulfilled, mankind would have been deprived for ever of the virtue that was in His name; for they were His enemies who said, “When shall He die, and His name perish?” (Ps. 41:5). But God had raised Him from the dead, plainly showing what He thought of their great sin; what He thought of Christ, and His way of blessing for men.

Peter would have been no match for these men apart from the Holy Ghost; he was the mouthpiece, the vessel for the communication of God's message to them; the words he spoke were divinely inspired; they were God's words; hence the power and importance of them. The poor blind builders of the great world-system did not discern the one indispensable stone in Jesus; or they saw, if any light penetrated their minds, that if they accepted Him, they must cease their own building, acknowledge their own ruin, and be born anew. This they would not do. They could find no place in their building for Him, and so they cried, “Away with Him.” There was room for Herod and Pilate, for Priests, Pharisees and people; room even for Barabbas, but none for Jesus in their building, their tower of Babel ; so He must go, for it must stand at all costs. So the Stone was rejected, but God had raised Him up This was the Lord's doing in contrast to theirs, and now He is preached as ruined man's only hope. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven even among men, whereby we must be saved.”

The chief thought in this is not individual salvation; it is salvation for mankind, for Israel , for all. Men must abandon the schemes for the reconstruction of the world and look to Christ; they must turn from their own building which is falling to pieces about them, and cry to Him. He is the only hope, but they need no other, for He is all-sufficient. It was this that Peter proclaimed to these rulers—there is no hope for you except in the Man you have rejected.

This needs to be pressed today, for the world-builders are building more feverishly than ever, and leaving Christ out. All will fail, whether peace treaties, League of Nations covenants, or whatever else is requisitioned in order to shore up this great world-system; all will come to naught; Christ is the only hope. It is plain that the world will not own Him until He comes in judgment; it is plain that no nation or groups of nations will own Him, for they still make their treaties without reference to Him; hence it follows that it comes down to the individual soul. This is the character of salvation today—it is individual. Hence the Gospel preacher can find no better text than this, yet we should proclaim also the great fact that the Stone rejected by the world-builders is the only hope of men.

What a lesson for us in preaching, is the way in which Peter sticks to his one theme—JESUS. Crucified but risen, rejected by men but exalted by God—the one, only, but all-sufficient Saviour. He was a Holy Ghost preacher, and we may test the preachers of today by this standard; if they turn away from this preaching, they have turned away from the truth; they are not guided by the Spirit of truth, and they have no Gospel for perishing men.

 

Acts 5

The lesson we learn from Acts 5:12-28 is that no hatred or force of men could stand in the way of the Gospel of God when His servants were walking in the truth and in the fear of God. It is not the enemy without, but failure within, that is the cause of the feebleness of the testimony to the grace of God and the glory of the risen Christ an these last times. This we do well to own, for only in the confession of the truth is there any measure of recovery.

The cultured rationalists of that day with the high priest at their head might treat the servants of the Lord as common felons, but their contempt of them received a rude shock when they discovered that the angel of the Lord had a key that could open the prison doors, and that these lowly fishermen were not afraid of their threatenings.

“GO, STAND AND SPEAK TO THE PEOPLE ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LIFE.” This was the command, and still is; the failure of the servants of the Lord down the centuries has not changed this. The people still need “the words of this life,” and they need all the words of it. It is only by the complete Gospel concerning the risen Saviour that men can be turned to repentance and to the knowledge of the truth. Who can tell “the words of this life” to them? Only those surely who know it, and they must be careful to speak it as they find it. “You make no concession to modern thought,” was said to me the other day. No, these servants of Christ did not in their day; they had their message to deliver, and it was a message of life; they had themselves proved its power and blessing, that was enough for them. God has sent no other message to men, no other is needed. We must not change it, for men have not changed since then; sin and death and Satan's power are just the same, and God is the same, and no other name than the name of Jesus has been found by which men can be saved. Modern thought in all ages has been against the truth of God; the wisdom of this world never yet led a man to God, and until a man is brought to God he is without light and hope, and it is God alone who can meet the deep questions that arise in the hearts and consciences of men, and He does this by “the words of this life,” the Gospel of the glory of Christ. If we would serve God and bless men we must stick to that.

The rulers felt that a crisis had been reached and this preaching must be stopped at all costs; what they did not understand was that their quarrel was not with these unlearned fishermen, but with God; and Christ was the test; and not Christ only but His blood also, which they had wickedly shed. Would that blood be upon them to their everlasting condemnation, or for the cleansing of their awful guilt?

Peter and the apostles gave their last united testimony to these leaders ere they finally and irrevocably sealed their doom by the stoning of Stephen. While they fearlessly pressed home their guilt as on former occasions, for only thus can the conscience and heart be prepared for the Gospel, yet what wonderful grace there was in their testimony. God had raised up Jesus to be a Leader and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel , and the forgiveness of sins. This Leader and Saviour is given for all men, and apart from Him all, like sheep will go astray and be for ever lost; but He leads in the paths of righteousness on to the house of the Lord.

Most men seek leaders who will lead them out of bondage into liberty, but it is the bondage of sin that they are in and only Jesus can deliver them from that, and they must be led to God before they can enjoy true freedom. This was the apostle's message and it is ours also.

Suffering Love

Report of Words spoken in Edinburgh

 

Invite you to a meditation upon the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the grace that was in Him as expressed in the words that He uttered when upon the Cross. An address might appeal to your minds and exercise them, and that would be perfectly right if they were exercised in the truth, but a meditation will appeal to the heart, for when we meditate it is the heart that is engaged.

 

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The first word I will read is in 23rd Luke, verse 34. This prayer did not break from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ when He began His ministry amongst men and when they first of all wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth and then, moved with anger when He applied the truth, led Him to the brow of the hill upon which the city was built to cast Him down headlong. It was not then that He prayed this prayer, but after He had ministered among them for three and a half years; after He had told out His most wonderful love to them in unsurpassable words; when He had blessed their children and fed them when they were hungry, and healed the sick and cleansed the leper, opened the eyes of the blind and raised the dead. When He had gone about amongst them doing good “for God was with Him”; and when, in answer to all that heavenly grace that had been poured out without reserve amongst them, they cried, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!” When they had spat on His scarred face and seamed His back with the scourge and crowned His head with thorns and nailed Him to a gibbet and, not satisfied with that, had sat down to watch His sufferings, to gloat over His anguish and to mock Him, it was then, when the tide of man's hatred rolled upon Him, wave upon wave, that His voice was heard above the storm praying, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” He might have prayed another prayer. When one of His disciples drew a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane to protect his Master, as he thought, the Lord said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” He did not pray that prayer, if He had it would have meant damnation, it would have meant the blackness of darkness for ever for them and for us. He did not pray that prayer, He waited until they had done their worst and then He prayed, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” It was the answer of invincible love to implacable hate, it was the answer of absolute goodness to incorrigible badness, and it was a prayer that was not only made but heard and answered, and the gospel as it goes forth in this world today is the answer to that prayer. In this He expressed His will. I would speak of some of these words at least as the last will and testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in this prayer He expresses His will to God—His will for mankind at large. For not only was the Jew there at that Cross, but the Gentile was there as well. Mankind was represented there. The thoughts of many hearts were revealed there and the heart of man in its enmity, against God, in its determination to be rid of God was fully declared, and when it had declared itself so absolutely, so conclusively the voice of Jesus answered in divine, heart moving love, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When the Lord prayed that prayer He not only looked upon that seething mass of godless men that surged about Him, He looked down through the ages upon mankind to the very uttermost bounds of the earth and He prayed for mercy, for the salvation of men, and the gospel is going forth today as the result of that prayer. And if we have believed it and if we know God as our Father and Jesus as our Saviour and the Spirit of God as our abiding Comforter we owe it to that prayer that Jesus prayed when men had done their worst to Him.

 

“Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

The next saying is in the same chapter, verse 43. You will notice that His first prayer had men in general as its burden but the second saying had one particular individual sinner as its object. From the multitude surging there the Lord turned to this poor wretch, agonising and dying at His side. The heart of the man had been awakened, his soul had been enlightened and he had turned his dying eyes upon this One Who hung by his side and he saw in Him not only glory but grace. He saw glory, for he spoke of His coming kingdom and owned Him as Lord. This Person who hung by his side, put to shame, execrated, mocked and crucified was the Lord, and the dying malefactor recognised that, and he looked beyond the clouds that had gathered so darkly upon Calvary's hill, beyond it all to the Sun-rising, to the time of His Kingdom. But if he had only seen the glory how hopeless he would have been. He not only saw the glory, he saw the grace and so he was emboldened to say, “Remember me.” What a “me” he was! Poor drudge of the devil, hanging over hell fire, saturated from top to toe with sin, with nothing to commend him but his need. Yet he presented himself in all his foulness and his guilt and his need to the Lord. Presumption, was it? Nay, it was faith, and it honoured the Lord. Listen to the answer, “Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” What an answer! An answer of grace to that cry of faith.

I don't know which to marvel at the most, the prayer that was uttered for the multitude or the concentration of grace upon this one poor wretch. What grace! And this is the grace with which the Lord meets every individual who cries to Him.

This world is but a speck in the midst of the mighty universe and there are two thousand millions of people upon it, yet if one sinner cries in faith to Jesus this is the sort of answer He will give. It seems to me that that poor sinner must have felt that he had the Saviour all to himself, and that is what the Saviour means every sinner to feel. But, such a man, so foul, so guilty, having served the devil so long, having to be cast out of the world for his crimes, that man in Paradise! Paradise is a spotless place, holy, stainless! That man in Paradise ! Well, of course, if the Lord said, “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise,” if He pledged His word to put that sinner there He would see to making him fit. That goes without saying. Yes, a sinner may feel deeply his guilt, he may be conscious of the foulness of his soul, but if Jesus offers him salvation that sinner may rest with absolute assurance that the Saviour who offers salvation will deal with his sins. So that when Jesus passed into Paradise with this trophy of His grace in His arms, so spotless was he, so fit for that place that not an angel in heaven could challenge his presence there. “The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin.”

 

“Woman behold thy son.” “Behold thy mother.”

The third saying is in 19th John, verses 25-27. It is not now the multitudes of godless men, nor the poor sinner needing grace, but here we have the two people who above all people on earth loved the Saviour, His mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved. And as the Lord had expressed His will in regard to men and had expressed His will in regard to one sinner who believed on Him, now He expresses His will in regard to those that love Him. I have no doubt if we look at the passage dispensationally we can see in Mary, the mother of Jesus, the representative of the old dispensation, of that remnant that had looked for the glorious Messiah; and in John we may see the representative of the new dispensation, the Church. That remnant of the old dispensation that had looked earnestly for a glorious Messiah, were they to lose by His death on the Cross? No, they were to be merged into a better dispensation, they were to have their place in the Church, and so John took Mary, the mother of Jesus, to his own home and there she rested and there she dwelt. The chosen remnant of Israel that had faith passed into the Church to share her great and glorious destiny.

But there is something more than that in it and something that should appeal to every one of our hearts. It is as though Jesus said, almost with His last words to those two that loved Him so well, “You love Me, love one another. My will for you is that ye shall love one another. Your love to Me has brought you into relationship with one another.” “Woman, behold thy son . . . Son, behold thy mother.” And responsive to that last will and desire John took her to his own home and there she dwelt. They dwelt together in love. Oh, my beloved Christian friends, my own heart is sad as I think of the feeble response those who profess to love the Saviour have made to this declaration of His will.

He has said to you and to me “If ye love Me, love one another. If ye are the disciples whom I love, don't forget to care for one another.” John received Mary to his heart and to his home. He cared for her. Are we caring for one another with a love begotten in our hearts by the Lord's own love to us? Are we, as those who profess to know Him, caring for one another? Let us stand by the Cross and consider this. We will not stand with the mocking multitude, we will stand with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, and we will look into the face of our Saviour and hear Him speaking words like these and we will remember that it was prophesied of Him that He should die to gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad. Oh, consider those sufferings! Consider that Cross! Ask yourself the meaning of that Cross and hear its answer. “To gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad.” Alas, alas! how lightly we think of division amongst the saints of God! We need the Cross in its appealing power in regard to this question that we may be found more in the spirit of John, who took Mary to his own home. But whatever we think or feel about it we have the Lord's last will and testament here, His expressed desire in regard to those that love Him.

 

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me.”

Now, let us turn to 27th Matthew, verses 45-46. This is the central saying of the seven and we can understand why it should be so. Every circle of mankind has been considered, the multitude of men, the individual sinner, those who are saved by the grace of God. Now we have the Lord in the midst of that darkness. He was forsaken. Forsaken by His disciples He had been, and poor, frail, fickle men that they were we cannot wonder; but now we learn He was abandoned by God. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Can we give an answer to that cry? The Lord Himself gives it in Psalm 22 “But Thou art holy.” But, was not Jesus holy? Yes. When announcing His birth the angel had said to Mary, “That holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” And even the devils confessed Him in the synagogue saying, “We know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God:” He was holy, harmless, undefiled; this was the testimony of the Holy Ghost to Him.

As He hung upon that Cross He was just as holy as He was when He sat on the Throne and created angels. Just as holy in His perfect manhood as He was in His Godhead glory. Then if Jesus is holy, and if God is holy, what is the meaning of this cry? Oh, my friends, we owe our salvation to it. It is because we were unholy, because we were sinful, because we were far from God and unfit for His presence. It was because of this that Jesus was forsaken for there in that darkness He was made sin for us. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed. He was taking up questions that had to be taken up if we were to be blest. If we were to be received into everlasting favour He must suffer in the darkness. Only by His stripes, by His bruising could we be healed—and when we read in the Scriptures of His bruising, don't connect that with the blows that He received from the fists of men or of the nails that pierced His hands and feet. He was bruised physically, but His soul was bruised also. His soul was made an offering for sin. He was there beneath the stroke of Divine justice that God's throne might stand in everlasting rectitude and that His grace might pour out in salvation to you and me. And no tongue of mortal can tell what those sufferings meant to Him, no heart can conceive them. But He suffered there under the weight of God's judgment. God hid His face from Him, He sank beneath those waves of judgment, down, down into depths beneath which there is nothing; down into the ocean of divine wrath against sin that we might be saved, that we might be “brought to God” that we might be made fit for the Father's presence. Thus He suffered! Oh, yes, our Christianity will have no foundation if we pass over this. Any change brought about in our lives that leaves this out will be but a temporary, a superficial change. But if we understand this it will go right down into the very roots of our being and change us there. Oh, my beloved friends, what a consideration, almost too sacred for human comment is that cry that broke from the soul of the suffering Jesus amid the darkness of the Cross. Throughout all Eternity we are going to bless Him for it. He is to be the theme of the ransomed saints throughout those countless ages. We shall never exhaust the theme, we shall never be able to tell out the greatness of it, but blessed be God for the grace that has anointed our eyes and given us to see in that Sufferer upon the Cross the very salvation of God. At that price He has won us; that was the cost. He gave all for us. Oh let us bow this night at the feet of this great Saviour saying, “Lord, I am Thine, I am Thine.”

 

“I thirst.”

The next cry is in 19th John, verses 28-29. I think sometimes we forget that the Lord suffered physically, probably as no other could suffer. I remember speaking to a suffering Christian and I referred to the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ and how patient, how submissive He was in the suffering, and the answer I got was this, “Oh, yes, but He was God.” But there is one thing absolutely certain, He never used His Godhead power to alleviate His human suffering, and when He cried, “I thirst,” we see the suffering Man. The suffering Man in His perfection expressing the fact that He suffered. Was there any relenting in His foes who heard that cry? That cry of distress. Did they relent? Was there any pity, any mercy in any of them? He tells us in the 69th Psalm, that they gave Him gall for His meat and in His thirst they gave Him vinegar to drink; and that that Scripture might be fulfilled, though they did not know they were fulfilling Scripture, with mockery, the sponge was pressed to His mouth. No pity, no mercy for a suffering Saviour. But, may we not see something else in that cry? For what did the Saviour thirst? He thirsted for the love of our hearts—for your love and mine. May we refresh Him this day. May we give an answer to that cry. Has He been thirsty for our love? Are there rivals to Him in our affections—the world—self? Oh, let this cry from the Cross search our hearts. He died because He thirsted—because He wanted us. He died because nothing would satisfy His love but having us for Himself for ever. What shall the answer to this cry be?

 

“It is finished.”

The next cry is in the 19th chapter also, verse 30. Now we enter into the triumph. Now, we reach the upward way, the shining way. Every word that had spoken of His sufferings finished, and, though He still had to bow His head and the blood had to flow from His spear-ripped side, as Lord He could speak of it all as done. So we have His triumphant cry, “It is finished.” We bow at His feet, who left nothing for us to do who could do nothing. He undertook Himself to accomplish the mighty work and has done it in absolute perfection so that Almighty God can find no flaw in it.

It is finished! Yes, indeed.

Finished every jot.

Sinner, this is all you need

Tell me, is it not?

“It is finished.” Triumphant cry! Glorious Saviour! Oh, wonderful Jesus! It is finished! The power of hell vanquished, the work of redemption accomplished, God glorified, salvation open for sinners, blessing for you and for me. It is finished!

 

“Father into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”

The last cry is in Luke 23, verse 46. It is very beautiful that that final cry should be recorded in Luke's Gospel. It is only there, and it is only in Luke's Gospel that we have those first words recorded as having come from the Lord's lips. In Luke's Gospel as a boy of twelve we read He said, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” And that Father's business is unfolded for us in Luke's Gospel. It was a business of grace, pardoning sinners and giving peace and rest to the weary and heavy laden. A wonderful Gospel unfolding the Father's business. And now the Father's business is finished and the One who had accomplished it so blessedly could say, “Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” Oh, what must have been the feelings of the Father then? What must have been the joy of heaven then! The suffering over now, the work accomplished and the blessed Workman passing into absolute rest and peace, into the Father's presence. We can rejoice that Calvary closed as far as His words are concerned like that. It is true the soldier had to pierce His side and the blood flow forth from that pierced side, but oh what joy! doesn't it move our souls, to consider Him with His last words commending Himself to the Father? Thank God, we know that He is raised from the dead. We know that the Father Who was so glorified by His suffering on the Cross, raised Him and has seated Him on His right hand in heaven and this we can realise and exult in now, that if He died that His last will and testament might come into effect, He has been raised up from the dead to administer it. His will would have been of no effect if He had not died. It is necessary that the testator should die. But He has been raised up again from the dead that it might be administered, not only in the letter of it but according to its spirit, and that is what He is doing now in the glory and that is what He is going to do when that day of glory dawns for this world and He is owned as universal King, and that is what He will do for ever and for ever. He is the blessed Administrator of the will of God.

The Lord grant that we may linger more often by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and learn more of the depths of that love which was made manifest there.

Table Talk

 

Can we read the Bible through?

Q.—We were advised in Mr.——'s address to read the Bible through; he said it could be done in sixty-hours. What do you think of this advice?

The advice is good, undoubtedly, for reading the Bible through is the surest way of becoming acquainted with its entire contents, and yet in another sense you can never get through it. Nor can you ever be fully acquainted with its contents; there will always be something fresh in it to become acquainted with.

Remarked—The ignorance of the contents of the Bible is astonishing. The majority of Christians have never read it through; they seem to have their favourite chapters or texts, and beyond these they are quite ignorant of what the Bible contains. I was sitting with a company of Christians once, and the words were quoted, “Be sure your sin will find you out”, and there was not one of them who knew to what part of the Bible to turn for them.

Yes, it is strange and sad that the Bible should be so little known by those who profess to know the One whose Word it is; and the more so since it was by the Word that the Lord overcame Satan in the wilderness, and only by the Word that we can overcome Satan; it means that if we do not know the Word we cannot overcome him. It is by the sincere milk of the Word that we grow up from spiritual babyhood to spiritual young manhood (1 Pet. 2), and it is by that Word that we are made strong to triumph over the wicked one (1 John 2). But we cannot know the Word if we do not read it, and the advice to read it through is good, whether you do it in sixty hours or not, for we need it all, and should read it all, or God would not have given it to us. A faithful old servant of God said in his last illness, “I needed the whole Bible for life, but now that I am dying one text is enough”—“The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.” By all means read the Bible through, but remember at the same time that you can never be through with the Bible.

Q.—What do you mean by that?

Well a wise man has said “You cannot read the Bible through because it has no ‘through': you may read every chapter, verse, sentence, word, and syllable in it, but when you have done that you are not through, you are being constantly turned back by it to something that has gone before, and you make progress in it by going back and back”. These words set me thinking and I said, Yes, that is true, the learned doctor who made the remark never uttered truer words, “ The Bible has no through ”. And yet in another sense it has a most blessed and wonderful ‘through'; but let us first consider it as having no ‘through'.

I have thought of the Bible as a great circle, the golden, glowing centre of which is Christ. Within it there are many roads all fragrant with His grace and love, and along these we are led constantly back, if we read the Bible rightly, to the golden Centre.

Suppose now, we began to read the New Testament through, we begin at the first verse of Matthew's Gospel and at once we find ourselves in the company of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. The book is about Him, but why is He introduced to us in this way? The question carries us back to the Old Testament. We are compelled to go back if we are to understand. We learn that Jesus Christ being the Son of these men of ancient days, is the Heir to all the promises that God made to them, and two promises in particular press themselves upon our notice the greatest of all promises made to ABRAHAM was “ In thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed ” (Gen. 22:18). And Paul tells us that this seed is Christ (Gal. 3:16). And to DAVID, “ Once have I sworn in My holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah ” (Ps. 89). It changes the character of our reading when we see the greatness of the glory of Him of whom we read. When we see this we shall not take up the reading as a task to be accomplished, or as some study to be mastered we shall feel that this Book is not as other books, but that in it we are in the company of a glorious Person; that we are to walk with Him, and if He is introduced to us as the One in whom all the nations of the earth are to be blessed, He has surely blessing for us, and if His Throne is to be established, universally and for ever, we must surely begin by acknowledging Him as our Lord now.

But it is not difficult to see that it will take us a long time to get through even the first verse of the New Testament: we feel as though we wanted to linger here and become better acquainted with the glories and the future of the One to whom we are here introduced, and we gain this knowledge by turning back to the promises made to these favoured men whose names appear first in this genealogy of our Lord. That is the way to read the Bible.

If we pass hurriedly through the names in the genealogies, which we have no need to do, for they form a chain full of instruction, and it will well pay us to turn back again and again to the Old Testament to see what is said about them—we come to the first definite fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy, “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet”. “Behold a virgin shall he with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us”. We are compelled to turn back here to Isaiah 7, for we feel that we cannot progress unless we understand what this means. Emmanuel is God's intervention on man's behalf and His own; when all hope of blessing seemed lost—man's extremity was God's opportunity. In Emmanuel's presence here and in His refusing the evil and choosing the good, as this prophecy declared He would, we have not the glories that He will inherit as the son of David and Abraham, but what He is personally and in character—He is God with us. God manifest in the flesh, a man amongst men. Unlike every name in the genealogy, His abides untarnished by any evil thing. He chose the good and refused the evil, He loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, as Hebrews 1 puts it, and consequently called forth the full and delighted approbation of God. And as we see what He is, and who He is about whom the Bible speaks, we read with greater attention, deeper adoration and fuller blessing; and if our progress through it is slower our knowledge of Him will be richer, and all true advancement in Divine knowledge lies in the knowledge of Him.

Now we may go through to the 6th verse of chapter 2, where another prophecy is fulfilled, “For thus it was written by the prophet, “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the Princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel”. We turn back to Micah 5. And there we learn the sort of treatment that He was to receive at the hands of men, so that our faith is not shaken when we find Him rejected and maltreated, but we also learn that “it have been from old from everlasting”. He is the eternal One, and all He does must abide for ever. What confidence this gives us as we read His words and trace His ways. They are all abidingly eternal. If we learn of Him, we shall not have to unlearn what we learnt!, no changing time or circumstance can change the truth that comes forth from the lips of the eternal One.

Thus far in our reading we have learnt that—

1. All earthly glory belongs to Him.

2. All nations are to be blessed through Him.

3. He brings God into the midst of men.

4. Treads a path of absolute rectitude.

5. His words and ways are eternal. In laying hold upon them we possess ourselves of treasure that neither time nor rust can corrupt.

This is what I mean when I say that in reading the Bible we are constantly turned back upon roads, beautiful with unexpected glories and graces, back to Him who is the theme of all Scripture.

Take one more example—you come at length to the last verse of the Bible—“ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen ”. Are you through the Bible now? No, for that beautiful expression, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”, has a very familiar sound, and we are carried back along a fragrant road to 2 Corinthians 8:9. “ 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. ” Here we are again at the golden centre, and the cross is there, where He—whose riches the opening chapters of the New Testament show to us—became unspeakably poor for us, and we know the grace that made Him do it. Know it, not as a matter of doctrine, but as a great reality, and this grace is to be with us until the glory dawns.

It is as we read the Bible in faith that we enjoy these things, for as we do so we are led through to Christ by the Holy Spirit, and all our joy and blessings are found in Him. A verse of a hymn puts it sweetly.

“Still the Spirit is revealing

Heights of glory Thou hast given,

And our eyes by faith are seeing

Christ at Thy right hand in heaven.

As on earth His path was trodden,

Ever subject to Thy will,

As the Man of all Thy counsels,

Who the universe will fill.”

Q.—Now what about the “wonderful and blessed through” that you said the Bible has?

I was thinking of the way it carries us onward. It is not only like a great circle with countless roads running from and to the centre, but it opens up to us many roads, which like the pathway of the just shine more and more unto perfect day. All these roads converge on the glorious future. Hence we read most beautiful words in Romans 15:4, “ For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope ”. That is, as the Spirit unfolds the Scriptures to us, we are carried through to the hour when the Saviour will—

“Bid the whole creation smile,

And hush its groan.”

If you begin to read the New Testament with this thought in your mind, you will see how the first verse of it will carry you onward. On through the road of suffering that the Lord had to tread until we reach the glories that are to follow, when as the root and offspring of David He will appear to fulfil all the words of blessing that have comforted the saints of God as they have travelled along the road of testing and sorrow, through to the consummation of their hopes. If we formed the habit of reading the Scriptures from this point of view, we should find great comfort from them in this valley of the shadow of death, and the result would certainly be to purify us from the world and its ways, for our hope would become continually brighter and more real. While we read the Bible through, let us be carried through by it in faith and hope to the fulfilment of every word of it, and yet always remember that it has no “through” in another sense, for Christ is its theme.

Take Heed

 

I knew a man years ago who was very active in preaching, and very intelligent in the Scriptures. He was looked upon in the district where he lived as a steady useful servant of the Lord. Suddenly his service ceased and he drifted into the world and finally came to an untimely and shocking end. One who had been intimate with him in what seemed his bright days told me that he believed he knew the secret of his absolute departure from the Lord. It was prayerlessness. He had said on one occasion to his friend, “I don't think God intends me to pray as you do. I can never spend more than five minutes on my knees at one time. I must be up and doing something.”

I knew another man, more gifted and intelligent than the other, who gave great promise of being a true help in the church of God . He, too, made shipwreck, and I think I know the secret of his fall. In his brightest days he said to me, “I never got any good, or blessing out of any trouble that ever I had.” He was not exercised by the chastening of the Lord.

These are two things that we shall do well to pay earnest heed to. We cannot prosper in our own individual spiritual lives if we are prayerless; we must drift away from the Lord if we are unexercised by the chastening of the Lord. And to continue in service if our own state is bad is to run the risk of great disaster. May the Lord give to us the spirit of grace and supplication, and make us keenly sensitive to the chastenings of divine love. The first puts us into contact with divine power and grace. The second shows us the weakness and the evil ways within us, and turns our feet in the way of holiness, and assures us that perfect love that seeks only our good.

Tell It To the Children

 

“ And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say, ‘What mean ye by this service?' That ye shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt , when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.' And the people bowed and worshipped ” (Exodus 12:26-27).

It should be an encouragement to us all, and especially to those who have families, to know that God thinks of the children and desires that they should hear of Him and His saving grace and power. Whether in the old dispensation of the passover or in this in which the Lord's Supper has superseded the passover, it is the same, the children of His people have an importance in His thoughts that is often overlooked.

So much would depend upon the way in which the Israelites looked forward to the passover; if they were eager for it, and celebrated it with reverence and fervour the children would most surely be interested and ask. Why? If it were treated with indifference, or as an irksome ordinance they would not. But when the interest was aroused, what an enthralling story the parents would have to tell of God's care for them, and how He delivered them from slavery and made them a free people. Their homes on those occasions would have a joyous, evangelical ring about them, and songs of praise to their Redeemer-God would break forth, in which the children's voices would join. The interest of the children would revive and stimulate the interest of the parents and re-awaken their gratitude to God.

And since Israel's deliverance from Egypt was but a shadow of the greater deliverance that God has wrought for us, and the Lord's Supper is the commemoration of the way that He has done it, ought not this “telling to the children” to be a matter of even greater importance to us? One thing is sure, that which vitally affects the parents will make an impression upon the children. If the children see that the Lord's Supper is highly prized and prepared for by the parents they will want to know the meaning of it, and what a story it is the parents have to tell them. “This is My body which is given for you. . . My blood which is shed for you.” “This do in remembrance of Me.” The whole story of the great love of our Lord and Saviour lies in those words, and the story must be told from generation to generation, and how it warms the hearts of parents to see the eager way in which the children listen to it. Thus the spirit of gratitude and worship which must go with the Supper is carried from the assembly to the home, and the children will realise in the gladness of it how good a thing it is to be redeemed by the Lord, and that the Lord who redeemed the parents does not overlook them.

If on the other hand this matter is treated as a formal thing, done because it is usual to do it, and other things are looked upon as of greater importance, the children will be adversely affected. The meeting will be an irksome occasion to them and they will come to dislike it thoroughly with sad results.

“That Blessed Hope”

 

That blessed hope! What is it? It is not the improvement of the world, for “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).

It is not the conversion of the world by the gospel, for the Lord Himself asked the question, “When the Son of Man cometh shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). And when He does come back to the earth He will not be welcomed by glad and enraptured multitudes but “all tribes of the earth shall mourn” (Matt. 24:30), “and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Rev. 1:7). He will come to judge, and terror will take hold of the dwellers on the earth because they are not ready.

It is not universal revival of divine life and energy in Christendom, for “the love of many shall wax cold,” and “the time shall come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3), when they shall have the form of godliness but deny the power (2 Tim. 3:5).

“That blessed hope” is not centred in either the world or the church, it does not draw its inspiration from anything on the earth; it turns the eye to heaven, and amid the encircling gloom below the light of it glows with increasing splendour before the soul. It is centred in Christ—“THE LORD JESUS CHRIST OUR HOPE” (1 Tim. 1:1). It is the hourly expectation of seeing Him and being with Him and like Him. But it is not through death and the grave that we look for this “blessed hope.” Multitudes have travelled that way and they shall as surely triumph in the glad realization of this hope as we that are alive and remain, but it is not through death and the grave that we are told to look for it. The way of its fulfilment is most definitely and clearly described in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 to end.

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For 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.”

And these words of the Lord are confirmed to us by a glorious passage in the resurrection chapter (1 Cor. 15:51-57), “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shalt 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 who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Unless we are prepared to argue that words do not mean what they stand for, we must believe that the moment is coming when the dead in Christ shall arise with them millions of people—the whole of the blood-bought church—will be caught from the earth, and without dying will meet the Lord in the air to be for ever with Him. They will disappear suddenly and completely from every place, position and pursuit in which the world has known them, to be seen no more until they return with Him to reign over the earth

That this appears an impossibility to the human comprehension of things, we admit, and we are quite prepared to hear the scoffer contend that the law of gravitation will prevent it. But by the word of the Lord it is revealed to us, and faith lays hold of that and says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” And what says the Word? “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout.” The shout of the Lord is mightier than the law of gravitation. Notice how this comes out in Philippians 3:20-21, “For our conversation is in heaven from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, . that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.”

The power that will bring this marvellous thing to pass is that power by which He will subdue all things unto Himself, until from His throne to the uttermost bounds of His infinite universe every force in every realm within it obeys His will. The power that was put forth when He rose from the dead, the power that his quickened us and delivered our soul from bondage of sin this is the power of His working.

We might remark that the law of gravitation is a natural law and controls natural bodies. But we are to be changed, our natural bodies will be transformed by our Lord's mighty power into bodies of glory, like unto His own glorious body, and what law will control them?—not any natural law, but the law of the glory, and that law is that Christ is supreme, and that He will draw up to Himself everything that is of, and like, Himself.

The law of gravitation did not prevent the translation of Enoch; it did not hold Elijah when the time had come for God to take him up; it did not prevent the ascension of our own blessed Lord. How could it? He is the Creator of every law, and the power by which He went up is the power that will catch us up when He descends from heaven with that wonderful shout of triumph and pent-up love for His church. We know not the hour when this shall be, but waiting and watching we should be, we must be, for His last word to us upon the sacred page is, “Surely, I come quickly.”

That Blessed Hope

 

The coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ is a familiar subject, but its importance cannot be overstressed. The danger is that it may become a mere item in our creed rather than a living blessed hope that stirs our souls to labour for Him, and to purify ourselves, even as He is pure (1 John 3:3). The scoffer asks, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet. 3:4); and the evil servant says in his heart, “My Lord delayeth His coming” (Matt. 24:28). Yet the Scripture says, “Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith” (Heb. 10:37). We must live in the faith of the Word or we shall surely drift into the spirit of the world. The “little while” may seem long, but we know the reason of the delay. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). We know that “when once the Master of the house is risen up and hath shut to the door,” multitudes who have rejected or neglected God's great salvation will stand outside that closed door and knock for admittance, but it will be in vain. Now the door is open and the Lord still waits in patience.

This is the time of “the patience of Jesus Christ,” but it will surely come to an end. We rely upon His faithful word. In ancient times all the prophets spoke of His coming. The first prophet that ever prophesied said, “The Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints” (Jude 14). Faith and hope waited more than two thousand years for the fulfilment of that word, but the due time came at last, and He came, but not to judge the ungodly but to save them. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He came to die and to be raised again from the dead and to return to heaven, but He said He would come again, and He will. It is our immediate hope.

It is remarkable that the first message that came from heaven when He entered there as the Victor over death was, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11): and His last word out of heaven to His Church on earth is, “Surely I come quickly.” We will not, we cannot, cast any doubt upon His word; we say in response to it, “Amen, even so, come Lord Jesus.”

That we might not be ignorant as to the portion of those who have fallen asleep, and that we might have clear understanding as to the manner of His coming, the Lord gave a special revelation to His Apostle Paul, and he wrote that revelation to the young church at Thessalonica in these words: “This we say unto you by the word of the Lord . . . the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and 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 cloud to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15, 17). That is the hope of the Church, it is a “blessed hope” for so the Scripture calls it; and it is sure and certain. The shout of the Lord will bring our earthly pilgrimage to a close; it will complete our salvation; for while we can say, as to our souls we are saved by grace, yet we wait for the salvation of our bodies. “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Here is a glorious passage: “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body (body of humiliation) that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

That shout of the Lord will be a wonderful event for us who believe; it will emancipate us from all that humbles us here; we shall be delivered from sorrow and sin, from sickness and pain, from mortality and decay. We shall see our great Redeemer face to face, and we shall be like Him. No words can tell what it will mean to us, but what will it mean to Him? His shout will be a shout of victory which will assemble all who are His to meet Him in the air, but there will be another note in it. For nearly two thousand years He has waited for His Church—His Bride, for this is indeed the time of His patience, but at that moment the waiting time will be over, and His shout will be a shout of joy as He receives His Bride to Himself. Then He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.

And notice, it is “in the air” that His ransomed myriads are to meet Him. Now the devil is “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). The air is the seat of his government from which he rules the darkness of this world. And it is there where Satan's power is that the Lord will meet His own, and nothing could demonstrate His power over Satan better than that. If King George sent a message to his troops in the Middle East saying he would meet them in Berlin , we should say the Nazi power would have to be beaten before that could be possible. So we conclude and know that our Lord is Master of the powers of darkness since we are to meet Him in the very seat of their power, and that all their malignity and hatred of Him and those that are His will be utterly powerless to prevent Him receiving His own to Himself, that where He is there they may be also.

Thus is described the first stage of His second coming; His coming FOR His saints; He must come for them if He is to come WITH them. When He comes with them every eye shall see Him. He will come in great power and glory and the unsaved kindreds of the earth “shall wail because of Him” (Rev. 1:7). He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords to tread the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God (Rev. 19). He shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). He will judge the world in righteousness, and in view of that “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30-31).

“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found in Him in peace, without spot and blameless. And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Pet. 3:14).

That Terrible Hour

 

“ Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from THIS HOUR: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name ” (John 12:27).

“ This is YOUR HOUR, and the power of darkness ” (Luke 22:53).

 

Consider these words, my soul, in the presence of Him who spoke them. Note well the fact that there was an hour in the years of the Saviour's life below that was full of horror for Him, an hour from which He shrunk with a perfect shrinking and from which He would have escaped had any way been found in heaven above or on earth beneath. It was the hour of the unrestrained hatred of men and of the power of darkness.

He had trodden a rough road, but in all His ways God had given His angels charge over Him, and in their hands they had borne Him up, lest at any time He should have dashed His foot against a stone. So that, though His adversaries hated Him with a virulent hatred, they could not hurt Him. They led Him to the edge of the rock upon which their city was built in order to hurl Him into the abyss beneath it, but He, passing through the midst of them, went His way unharmed. The very stones that they picked up to cast at Him clave to their murderous hands while He “passed by.” No malice of evil, whether of men or devils, had been able to break through the unseen angelic cordon, but for this terrible hour that protection was taken away. An angel brought Him heavenly succour in the garden and withdrew, and He turned to His foes and said to them, “This is your hour and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:43-53).

It was then that every element of evil beset Him roundabout. The floods rolled upon Him, and no voice was uplifted to cry unto them, “Hitherto shall ye come and no further.” The dread array that had sought means to crush Him during the days of His lowly service amongst men combined against Him. The reins that had restrained them were thrown free, there was no check upon them, and their utmost fury broke upon Him. He was reproached, despised, and railed upon. Strong bulls of Bashan encompassed Him, gaping upon Him as a ravening and roaring lion; dogs beset Him; the assembly of the wicked enclosed Him. The sword, the power of the dog, the lion's mouth, the horns of the unicorn (Ps. 22)—all these in that dread hour sought out His soul to destroy Him; for to destroy Him was to destroy all that was good, and to overthrow Him was to overthrow the very throne of God. Upon Him—that one solitary Man, the Nazarene—who in that darkness had no helper, depended every hope of all the saints, and the confidence of the host of great unfallen angelic principalities, and the stability of the universe, and the supremacy of God.

We dwell upon the hatred of men, but we have seen nothing and known nothing so terrible as their hatred of Him, for never before, nor since, had proud men been confronted with absolute meekness; never before, nor since, had sin been unrestrained in the presence of perfect goodness, unprotected. But what of the malignity of the devil, and of those awful and entirely evil spiritual powers in rebellion against God, the roll of which is called in Psalm 22? Of these how little we know. Thank God, we know so little; we should have known much more had our Lord Jesus not faced them for us; but He knew, with divine and all-embracing prescience, their full strength before He entered that hour. Do we wonder that He prayed, “Father, save Me from this hour.” But how worthy of everlasting adoration is He because of that supremely blessed and full consecration of soul which made Him say, “FATHER, GLORIFY THY NAME.” This was the grand purpose of His life below, and to secure this He entered and passed through that hour.

It was the supreme hour in which darkness wrestled against light for the mastery. How closely He was beset in the palace of the High Priest, before the Sanhedrin, in the house of Pilate, before the throne of Herod; in the place called Gabbatha, on the road to Golgotha, and finally on the malefactor's gibbet. We are permitted to hear His cry, I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death . . . Deliver My soul . . . Save Me.”

There was not a weapon in the vast armoury of evil, that Satan and his hosts had been preparing throughout the ages for this awful conflict, that was not brought against Him, the sent One of God, to force Him from the path of God's will and to make Him cry “I yield” to the authority of darkness. Yet He did not yield. He was wholly light, darkness could gain no foothold in Him. The prince of this world came, but he had nothing in Him. Blessed, holy, adorable Lord! Having exhausted every device of their almost boundless malice, and exhausted themselves in their fury against Him, they sat down to watch Him there (Matt. 27:36)—men and devils, amazed, baffled, defeated, crowding together about Him. Thrones and dominions had fallen before Satan as the great leader of all evil, so that he had become “the prince of this world,” and “the prince of the power of the air.” His conquests were far-reaching and his triumphs great; he had only to drive back the Son of God from doing the will of God and then would his victories be crowned with everlasting success; but in that one poor and lonely Man, despised by the people, abandoned by lover and friend, and forsaken of God, he met his conqueror.

Consider Him, my soul; He had neither reply nor reproach for the men who mocked Him; had He cursed them Satan would have triumphed, but only prayers for their blessing were forced from His suffering soul by their cruelty. He was laughed to scorn because God did not aid Him in His dire necessity; and to make Him cast off His faith was the enemy's fell purpose, but neither repining nor rebuke were heard in His cries as He poured out His sorrow before God, whose ear seemed deaf to the voice of His supplication. Nevertheless he still cried, “My God, My God . . . O My God . . . Thou art holy . . . Thou art He . . . I was cast upon Thee . . . Thou art My God . . . O My strength” (Ps. 22).

So He triumphed, and trod the foes of God beneath His feet by being trodden down. And because no power of evil could overcome Him He was able to take up the question of sin on behalf of sinful men and settle that question to the everlasting glory of God, by bearing His righteous judgment against it. He had suffered for righteousness, and in faithfulness to the will of God, but when the full tale of His suffering in regard to these was told He entered into deeper depths and into a darker hour, for He was made “to be sin for us who knew no sin.” It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He put Him to grief when He made His soul our offering for sin. He died, and through death He has annulled him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. He lives again and has the keys of death and hades. He is crowned with glory and honour. He must be exalted and extolled and made very high, and He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied when the greatness of God's triumph through Him is publicly manifested to the wide universe. How glorious is He. The forces of evil have been met and vanquished; the judgment of God against sin has been borne and His justice glorified; the power of death has been destroyed by His dying, and He lives to die no more. No wonder that His saints delight to sing—

“Bless, bless the Conqueror slain,

Slain in His victory,

Who lived, who died, who lives again,

For thee, His Church, for thee.”

“That They Should be With Him”

An Address to Christian Young Men on Mark 3:13-19; 4:35-36; 6:7-12

I feel sure that in the hearts of all who know the Lord Jesus Christ and His wonderful grace, there is the desire to serve Him. That is one of the first instincts of the new life. Divine love is not satisfied unless it is serving its objects. We see that in all its perfection in the Lord Jesus Christ He is serving every one of us today, though He sits upon the throne of God in highest glory, and He is going to serve us when He gets us there in the glory, according to His own words. Since the Lord has put into our hearts a love which is responsive to His, it follows that we desire to serve Him, and it is a great thing to see the way in which the Lord prepares us for service.

In Mark 3 the Lord calls His disciples. He did not send them forth till the 6th chapter. They spent the intervening hours with Himself. It is most important to notice that He called them to Him that they might be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach. First, that they might be with Him, and I am sure you will agree with me that everything depends upon our being with the Lord Jesus Christ. How otherwise could we possibly serve Him in a way that will be acceptable to Him? First of all, there is His sovereign call. We did not seek Him; He sought us. We did not first call for Him; He called us. We did not choose Him; He chose us, as he said to His disciples in John 15, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” Blessed be His name! He had a right to choose us He had a right to call us; is He not Lord of all? If Lord of all, it is perfectly right that every one of us should acknowledge that Lordship. But He has gained for Himself the right to call us by the love that told itself out in suffering on the cross. Love that bore the stripes and sorrow, love that suffered on the tree demands that we should be entirely at His disposal, and so He has called every one of us who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice in that fact and remember that the first thing is that we might be with Him.

Why is it necessary that we should be with Him? It is necessary that we should be with Him because there is no safety apart from Him.

“'Tis only in Thee hiding,

I feel myself secure

Only in Thee abiding,

The conflict can endure”

We must be with Him if we are to be maintained, if we are to be kept from the snares of the devil, if we are to live aright, if we are to please Him. We must be with Him for the safety of our Christian living. We must be with Him in order to be preserved by the grace that is in Him. You remember how that comes out in connection with David and those who gathered round him in the cave of Adullam . David said to Abiathar, the priest, “Abide thou with me . . . with me thou shalt be in safeguard.” As long as we abide with Him we are in safe keeping. If we wander from Him, we shall be the playthings of the devil.

Then He has chosen us that we might be with Him as the guardians of His Person. David had his bodyguard in those 400 men that went down to him in the cave, and the Lord has chosen us that we might be His bodyguard. He Himself personally is no longer in this world. He does not need our protection. He does not need that we should use the sword on His behalf. He did not need that His disciples should do that when He was here. But nevertheless there is a sense in which we are to protect the Person of the Lord. He is not here, but the truth as to His blessed Person has been committed to us, and that truth is the point of attack. We who have been chosen by Him, and called to be with Him, have this great privilege, that as His bodyguard we should stand up for the truth as to the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do not suppose the devil cares very much what else is maintained if the truth as to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ is allowed to slip. Oh, beloved Christian young men, everything depends upon it, that you maintain first and foremost, and consistently unto the end, the truth as to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, His eternal deity, His holy spotless manhood, His sacrificial death upon the cross, His bodily resurrection, His ascent to the right hand of the Majesty on high, His coming back again. Oh, how precious it is to us whose eyes have been opened to receive it! He

Came from Godhead's fullest glory,

Down to Calvary 's depths of woe.

He trod through a sinful world a straight path of light, a path uncheered by earthly smiles, leading only to the cross; but every beat of His blessed heart as He trod that path was altogether for God's glory. He was just as holy when He hung upon the cross of Calvary as He was when He sat upon the throne and made the angels, just as holy in His manhood as He was in His Godhead. And He is our Saviour! This we must maintain, and lay down our lives if necessary in order to maintain it. We must not give it up. We are the bodyguard of the Son of God. We are to maintain the truth as to His holy Person.

Then we have been called to be with Him that we might share His fortunes. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. We must not forget that He is the rejected Christ, still rejected by the world, and we are called to share in His rejection. The reigning day has not come, yet it is coming. The crowning day is coming by-and-by, when the great God will bring Him forth, His brow decked with every diadem that the hand of God can put upon it, when the wide universe from the highest angel in the glory down to the meanest demon in hell will confess Him as Lord. That day is coming, and in that day we shall share His glory. But then, in anticipation of that day of glory we are to be here sharing His rejection. Just as those 400 followers of David shared his fortunes when he was rejected, and so shared his glory when he was exalted, so we are called to share our Lord's rejection now, and His glory presently.

We are called to be with Him also that we might take character from Him, for in our service to the Lord the way in which it is done counts for very much. The Spirit of God may be able to use one who is very unlike the Lord, but such an one is scarcely a vessel meet for the Master's use; and so we need to be with Him that we might take character from Him. We are formed by the company we keep—every one knows that—and if we keep the Lord's company, if we are with Him, then we shall be formed in His likeness. His character will become impressed upon us. We shall become like Him in meekness and in every beauteous grace. We shall not assert ourselves. We shall not be pushful, aggressive men when it is a question of any interest that may be ours particularly. We will be prepared to go into the background that our Lord and Master may be put into the foreground; “He must increase, but I must decrease”—that is the lesson we learn as we keep the company of our Lord and Master. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”—and then we read of His glory, and we come down to His shame. He made Himself of no reputation, but became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Oh, what a wonderful education it must have been for those disciples to have been with the Lord! Hear Him say, “I am among you as He that serveth.” And were those merely words? Oh, no! They had seen Him going down and doing the most menial acts in order to serve them. It is written of Him, “Even Christ pleased not Himself.” If we are with Him we shall bear His character, and we shall be marked by the things that marked Him. It is necessary then that we should be with Him that we might be impressed with His character, and so be witnesses as well as servants, showing forth in life, as well as telling forth by lip, the blessed truth of God.

But then there was another reason, and this is the most touching of all. The Lord chose those disciples to be with Him because love cannot be satisfied without the company of the loved ones. Their company was more to the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ than all the service they could render to Him. He wanted them to enter into the most intimate fellowship with Himself. He wanted to have them as His friends. “Ye are my friends,” He said, and a friend is one to whom you can communicate your innermost thoughts. That is what He wanted. He wanted them near to Himself because He loved them. There is a very touching appeal in the Song of Solomon on the part of the Bridegroom to the Bride. The Bridegroom says to the Bride, “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” It is as though our Lord said to us, “You come together, and you talk to each other about Me. You are dwelling in the garden I have planted by My grace, and you have sweet things to say. Let Me hear you talk to Me.” The Lord chose the disciples that they might be near to Him, that He might have them in His company as His friends, that there might be the most intimate communications of love between them; and so it is today. Oh, that our hearts might respond to Him, delighting in the Lord's company, because we know the blessedness of His love!

Then, after He had named His disciples, using His sovereign right in that respect, it says, “they went into an house.” That is, He did not send them forth upon the public streets at once. He took them into the house, into the home, and I think if you carefully read through Mark's Gospel, and Luke's Gospel as well, you will find a great deal about the home. Jesus often went into houses, and sent other people into houses, and I believe it would be for us a most instructive study to mark out all these different passages, and to learn the meaning of them. From the fact that He took them first into the home, I gather that there was to be made manifest first in the domestic circle the power of the grace that He would communicate to them. If we are to be successful servants in the outer circle, if we are to go forth into the world and serve the Lord there, there must be first the manifestation in the inner circle of the home, the most difficult circle, where we are most and best known. It is there the Lord would have manifested first of all the grace with which He has blessed us.

But then He went with them. He did not send them in and stay outside. He went with them. They had Him there, and so, if they were in doubt as to any matter, there He was. They could refer to Him. Indeed, they had only to keep their eyes upon Him, and do just as He did. They had only to tell Him all the difficulties. He was there, the wisdom of God, in the midst of them. A greater than Solomon was there, and with Him there in the home, things would be very easy, very simple, as long as they were simple and dependent. Oh, how blessed to have the Lord in the home, and ourselves with Him, learning in the innermost circle first of all the power of that grace that He would have manifested through us in the wide outer circle of the world's need.

Well, now we come to the 4th chapter. Between this 3rd chapter and the 6th chapter, where they are sent forth, you will find two very important things The 4th chapter is very largely taken up with the parable of the sower, which brings out the absolute necessity of the Word of God. The Lord said to His disciples, “If you do not know this parable, how will you know all parables?” This lies at the very beginning. Are you going to serve the Lord? You are absolutely dependent upon the Word of God. That is the seed that produces the harvest. Apart from that you have nothing. I know that men who profess to be servants of the Lord are ashamed of the Gospel. Like the man in the parable, they put the pound in a napkin, and bury it in the earth; and then go forth doing business with their own base coin, upon which there is not the image and the superscription of the King. We must have the Word of God, for only the Word of God can do the work of God. So the beginning of chapter 4 emphasizes that fact—that if we are to serve the Lord aright it is by using the Word of God. In the 5th chapter we find they had to learn the mighty power of the Lord Himself. He met the power of the devil; He met the demons. These disciples were with Him when He manifested before their very eyes His personal power. We must know the absolute necessity of the Word of God, and we must become acquainted with the personal power of our Lord Jesus Christ. “All power is given unto Me,” He says. We do not serve one whose arm is weakened, and whose outstretched hand cannot save. The One who made the worlds, and broke the power of the devil in death, is enthroned above all principalities and powers, and from that place of exaltation He ministers His power to those who are serving Him. The more truly we are held by the thought of the might of the Lord, the more successfully we shall serve Him. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” There is no evil force in this world that can stand before the power of His might These two things they had to learn; the Word of God necessary for the work of God to be done, and the might of His power by which it is all accomplished.

I read that little verse in connection with the crossing of the lake, because there is one point there which is of great importance At least, I want to hang a very important point upon what comes out there. The Lord said, “Let us pass over unto the other side.” I wonder if we realize that there is this side, and there is that side, and the Lord would have us pass over from this side to the other side. What is this side? This side is the place where they spat upon His sacred cheek and crowned His head with thorns. This side is the place where they laid the cross upon His shoulders, and led Him with a rabble at His heels to Calvary's hill, and there crucified Him upon a malefactor's gibbet. This side is where they cried, “Away with Him! Away with Him!” and mocked His sufferings until His head was bowed in death. What is the other side? The other side is where they cried, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and let the King of Glory come in!” And up through the plaudits of the countless hosts of heaven He ascended to the throne. Oh, beloved Christian young men, do we know what it is to pass over to the other side, to transfer our hopes, our affections to that side, to sever our links, as far as we may, with the world that cast Him out, and lay hold of that scene where He has been exalted, and where He is glorified. To which world do we belong? That is the question—to which world? Oh, surely not to the world that crucified Him, but to the world that has enthroned Him. Then let us pass over to the other side, and in our service to the Lord let us be unworldly. Let us turn our backs upon this world and all its allurements, and every effort it may make to draw us away from this outside pathway. Let us pass over to the other side. Blessed be God! that is our destiny, and there we shall be, but oh, that we might be there in heart and spirit now!

Then it says they took Jesus with them even as He was. We must have Him even as He is. I was talking in the train the other day to a man of some prominence in the socialistic movement, and he was telling me that he was quite ready to accept the Sermon on the Mount. Well, I was pretty certain he was not, so I said to him, “If you read the Sermon on the Mount three times carefully, you will be no longer ready to accept it.” He said, “I believe in Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. I believe in the Carpenter of Nazareth. I believe in the Man that went about doing good.” But he would not have Christ on the cross. They are saying today, as they said when He was here, “Come down from the cross, and we will believe on you.” What would have been the use of any of us believing on Him if He had come down from the cross? The only way in which He could save us was by remaining there, and if we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, if we take Him at all, we must take Him as He is, Christ crucified, the power and the wisdom of God. But then you say, “If I stand up for a rejected Christ, I will meet with a great deal of opposition.” If you do, you will find the power of the Lord put forth on your behalf. What could have been apparently weaker than the Lord asleep on a pillow in the stern, which is the helmsman's seat? I can understand those disciples saying, “Why, the Helmsman is asleep. If we had only put sturdy Simon Peter there, or one of the sons of Zebedee, we might weather this tempest.” Ah, but He understood. Does it seem as though you were left to battle with the tempest alone? Do not lose your confidence in Him. They came to Him, and said, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” What was the result? They doubted His love, but His love was not changed by that. They doubted His care, but that did not alter Him. He rose majestically and spoke one word to that raging tempest, and it came down to His heel as a dog would come to the heel of his master. He was Master of the tempest, and He stilled it. Oh, if we have put our lives into His hands, all we need is quiet, simple confidence in Him; and, be assured of this, He will never, never fail us. Does service for the Lord make demands upon us? Suppose in obedience to the Lord's command you went forth to preach the Gospel in Russia, or in some other country in which the servants of the Lord are persecuted, that would mean great suffering for you. It would mean the tempest and the storm; but then, if you have been called of the Lord to that, and if you have been with Him, learning of Him, and conscious of the wonderful power that is in Him as the Master of every tempest, then, instead of being like those disciples, filled with great fear, you would be perfectly confident. If we are with the Lord, and conscious that He is with us, then we can go forth in rest and peace of heart, and that is how He would have us go forth. We will be free from all distraction, to wait upon His service. A distracted heart cannot serve, and if we are thinking of ourselves, and of our safety, we are distracted. When we have confidence in Himself, when the peace of God garrisons the heart and the mind, we can serve and follow Him.

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