Miscellaneous Writings

Part 6

J. T. Mawson

Miscellaneous Writings

The Jews and Canaan

 

“ Thy land, O Immanuel ” (Isaiah 8:8).

We fear that some of our friends who are endeavouring to interpret prophecy by current events, and in their enthusiasm for the Jews, are very likely to lose sight of the Lord's right in the earth, and this specially as regards Canaan and the Jews, and also His holy and just government of these people. The results of “the Balfour Declaration” may be remarkable in the way, that industrious Jews have taken full advantage of it and have taken up the land to cultivate it, with a success beyond their hopes, but if in this there is any fulfilment of prophecy. It can only be that of the early part of Isaiah 18 where we read: “For so the Lord said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in My dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest. For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches. They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.”

It is all to come to nothing and will involve those Jews who are in the land in sufferings far more terrible than their compatriots will endure elsewhere. The matter is being treated as though their having the land as their national home was only common justice to them, the fact is they have no more right to it than the Patagonians; they have forfeited every right that they seemed to have.

Their tenure of it depended entirely upon their obedience to Jehovah, their God; nothing could be clearer than that in all His words to them through Moses, His representative. They were put into it by His power to hold it for Him, as Adam was put into Eden to keep and to dress it. But they did not hold it for Him, they sold it away, as Adam sold Eden , which neither he nor they had any right to do. They sold it to God's enemies and theirs, until it became demon-ridden, and every false god exercised dominion in it; and they sold themselves also and became so corrupted that the land was more defiled than ever it had been in its long history.

That they would sell the land is clearly indicated in the remarkable Jubilee chapter, Leviticus 25, as well as in chapter 27 of that same Book, and having sold it and forfeited every claim to it, they were expelled from it according to the sure word of God.

To carry out His own intentions and in pity for them He intervened on their behalf and they were allowed to return from their exile, but never as a sovereign people, they went back under a foreign yoke, which yoke has never been lifted from them or the land, the times of Gentile supremacy had begun. When Emmanuel came into it, though it was His land, He had no place to lay His head in it. And who was to blame for that? The people who had sold the land and themselves into bondage, and did not recognise the Kinsman-Redeemer when He dwelt among them. “He came to His own (things) and His own (people) received Him not.” They crucified Him, and cried, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” and, consequently they are scattered to the ends of the earth. They are living in that period in which as a people “Lo-ruhamah” and “Lo-ammi” is written upon them, which being interpreted is, “I will have no mercy on the house of Israel,” and “Ye are not My people, and I will not be your God” (Hos. 1).

But God has said, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is Mine ” (Lev. 25). It is His and He has the right to redeem it and the year of Jubilee shall surely come; until then it will be trodden under foot of the Gentiles. When that time does come God will not require diplomatic declarations, whether made in response to services rendered, or from the exigencies of international politics. Mandates from Geneva will have no place when He acts; He will not allow men and nations to have anything to say in the disposal of the land that is His and not theirs. He will act sovereignly, supremely and swiftly, and all the inhabitants of the world and the dwellers on the earth shall see when He lifteth up an ensign on the mountains, and when He bloweth a trumpet they shall hear (Isa. 18). But that trumpet of Jubilee shall only sound in relation to atonement; the release of the land from its bondage and the liberty of the people shall be in relation to Calvary (Lev. 25), and not in relation to anything that men can do. God will fall back on His own electing grace and upon the precious atoning blood of Christ, and because of the value of that blood He will be able to carry out His grand designs righteously. Let no Jew say within himself, I have Abraham for my father and so I must come into favour, for God is able to raise up from the stones children unto Abraham (Matt. 3); never on that ground will any be blest, for on that ground all is forfeited. But He has the right to redeem what is His and He will do it.

When God sets His hand to this great work, He will bring about a change of heart in His elect ones, and they will recognise their Kinsman-Redeemer; and He will own them again when their national pride has given place to brokenness of spirit and humble repentance for their own sinfulness and the blindness of their fathers; and though they have sold themselves for naught they shall be redeemed without money, and the land which is Immanuel's shall be apportioned to them according to His own decree; and then they will lift up their heads and boast, not in the wisdom of their intellectual leaders, or the riches of their financiers, or the might of any power or powers that have been favourable to them, but they will glory in this, that they understand and know Me, that “ I am the Lord which exerciseth loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, saith the Lord

The Judgment Which The King Had Judged

 

“ And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment ” (1 Kings 3:28).

 

The story was a sordid one in its beginning, but it gave to King Solomon the opportunity of displaying the wisdom of God in a judgment that the Holy Ghost has preserved in the Holy Scriptures for our learning. It is the more striking and interesting because it is the only definite instance of Solomon's wisdom from the throne of judgment that has been preserved for us.

Two women claimed a living child; which of them had the right to it was the question to be decided. It was clear that it did not belong to both of them. One of them loved it with a mother's true love, the other had no love for it at all, but coveted it because she could not bear to see true love in possession of its object. “Bring a sword and divide the living child,” said the king, and for the moment that child was under the sentence of death; the sword ready to smite hung over it. How could it be saved from the execution of the sentence? True love found the way of salvation for it, but it was the way of sacrifice; that was the only way. “Then spoke the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.” She was prepared to sacrifice herself for the life and the good of her child. “Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it; she is the mother thereof.”

The king's judgment was this—SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE HAS THE UNALIENABLE RIGHT TO THE POSSESSION AND ENJOYMENT OF ITS LOVED OBJECT. And all the power of his throne lay behind his judgment to give effect to it. It was the law of God's universe that was declared in Solomon's judgment, and there is none greater than it.

Our minds at once revert to Calvary , and we think of the self-sacrificing love that there expressed itself. The sentence of death had been passed upon us and the enemy of God claimed us as his; not that he cared for us at all. “ Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it ,” said the woman whose the child was not—let it perish. Satan would have greatly exulted if we had been buried for ever in the depth of hell, for then God and Christ would have for ever lost us; but the Good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep. “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.” “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.”

The love of Christ could not be restrained when we, the objects of that love, were in danger; it went to the utmost limit; it would and did sacrifice itself that we might live. And what is the result of this? There can be only one. All the power of the throne of the Omnipotent God is exercised in order to secure for that self-sacrificing love the eternal possession of the loved object. So we read, “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 thunderings, 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” (Rev. 19:6-7). And “as a bride adorned for her husband” she shall be for ever. The great enemy who has so long withstood this greatest of all Divine laws, that love must possess the loved object, and who has sought continually to rob God and Christ of the right to the men that love gives them, will be cast into the lake of fire and the whole universe will acquiesce in the eternal justice that gives to Christ His Church, His bride, the object of His love, and to God His sons, whom He loves with a Father's love.

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36).

The whole universe is to be brought into harmony with this great law, and then shall God be all and in all; but it should be a question of great moment to us who know the love of Christ as to how far our lives have been brought into the recognition of it now. Do we admit the absolute rights of the love of Christ? A divided child is a dead child, a divided heart is a dead heart; and is so far obnoxious to the Lord. Is it not this that He refers to when He says, “I would thou wert cold or hot”? True love can brook no rival; it must possess its object; nothing can compensate at. We may give our time, money, talents, it shall all be utterly contemned. Love cries for response, for the wholehearted and undivided response of the heart of the loved one.

“Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

We all admit the justice of it; nothing could be clearer. May we be so continually under the constraining power of this self-sacrificing love of Jesus as to yield ourselves to Him and keep our hearts wholly for Him.

“Thine, Jesus, Thine,

For ever to recline,

On love eternal fixed and sure.

Yes, I am Thine for evermore.

Lord Jesus, Thine.”

The Kingdom of the Prince of Peace

Notes of an address

 

We may continue to pray “Thy kingdom come,” earnestly and with importunity, for it were never more needed than now, and we have the sure and certain hope that the answer cannot long be delayed. But that prayer will not be answered, nor will that longed-for kingdom come by the spread of the gospel and the conversion of the world as is popularly supposed, for if that were to precede His coming then all the nations of the earth would be ready to meet the King when at last He should appear, and would receive Him with songs of gladness. But as we “seek out the book of the Lord, and read,” we discover that the very opposite will be the case. “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: AND ALL KINDREDS OF THE EARTH SHALL WAIL BECAUSE OF HIM. Even so, Amen” (Rev. 1:7). Why should they wail instead of sing at the sight of Him? Because they will not be ready to meet Him, and will be filled with terror when they see Him. But why should this be? Because of the character of His coming. He will come to judge the nations. He will come as the Faithful and the True to judge and make war in righteousness (Rev. 19:11). 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). Solemn statements these, plainly indicating that the world, especially in those parts of it where the gospel is preached, will continue to refuse that gospel, and to ignore the claims of God until His fierce and righteous judgments burst upon it.

Then when those forces of evil that have been opposed to God and His Christ have been utterly broken in the “winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15), His kingdom shall come, and the restless fevers of the world shall be quieted, its deep groanings hushed, and its sore sickness healed by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and the golden era of peace for which the saints of God have sighed throughout the ages shall dawn at last for this troubled creation.

 

The Light of the Lord an Universal Disarmament

Exceedingly beautiful are those passages in the Word that describe this coming kingdom. The first that we will consider is found in Isaiah 2:1-5.

“ And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord

All the efforts of men to bring about such a state of things as this have utterly failed, and the greatest achievements of science and education in which they have boasted with a presumptuous pride, and which they imagined would lift them at last into a millennium of human glory, are being pushed to their utmost limits to devise fresh and more frightful ways of destroying life, and the whole energy of all industry is being subordinated to war. Senates, universities, laboratories, factories and foundries united in one purpose, brain and brawn combined at last, not to uplift but to cast down, not to dry tears but to shed blood; and the roar of the furnace in the homelands and the shrieking of the shells over the stricken fields, where the warm blood of the world's manhood is flowing, are but the echoes of the laughter of demons over the blindness of men, who thought they were wise when they chose their own way and refused to walk in the light of the Lord.

But the day is surely coming when those upon the earth, who through the mercy of God shall have been delivered from the judgment that shall come upon it, shall say, “Come, and let us go to the house of the Lord, and He will teach us of His law,” and if they learn of Him they will become like Him, and they will walk in His ways, and these are ways of pleasantness and peace. He is the Prince of Peace and He will stamp His character upon His kingdom and men shall learn war no more.

“Before Him on the mountains

Shall peace, the herald, go;

And righteousness in fountains

From hill to valley flow.”

That age of peace shall be AN AGRICULTURAL AGE; men will go back to the land, and God's primal purpose for man upon the earth shall come into effect (Gen. 2:15), and forge and anvil shall no longer groan and toll the death of millions, but shall ring out their gladness in unison with the songs of the field and vineyard.

The prophecy of Micah (chap. 4:4) tells us further that “ they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it

Every man will have his own holding, whether large or small we do not know; but this at least is evident from the Passage, each will be contented with that which is given to him. I do not say that his heart will be satisfied with his earthly possession, for nothing here below can satisfy the heart. Alexander the Great conquered and possessed the world, and then wept like a disappointed baby because there was no more world to conquer. But if earthly possessions cannot satisfy the heart, God can, and when Christ reigns supreme He will not only fill the earth with peace but fill the hearts of men with satisfaction, for He will fill their hearts with the love of God. So we read for this present time “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). No godless man is contented no matter how vast his possessions, but when God becomes our exceeding great reward we at once become contented with our lot. So in that age shall men find their joy in God, whose loving-kindness will be plainly told in the sway of Christ the King.

“ And none shall make them afraid ,” but “ ye shall call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree ” (Zech. 3:10). And the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

They will sleep in peace at night when the day's glad work is done, and locks and bolts and bars and watch-dogs will be needed no more, for where all are contented none will want to steal. And none will keep what he possesses for himself alone, for each will love his neighbour as himself. All rivalry will have disappeared from the lives of men, except the rivalry of love, and the skilful agriculturist and vine dresser will not boast that the fruit of his labours are finer than his neighbours, but he will place all his skill at his neighbour's disposal until the yield from his land is as rich as his own. Happy state, resulting from the righteous and beneficent sway of the One whom men crowned with thorns and put upon a cross.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord” and the Great Change in Men

“ And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shalt dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the falling together; and a little child shall lead them ” (Isa.11).

In Isaiah 2 all outward evidence of hostility between men is abandoned; here the passions that give rise to that hostility are subdued and quelled, for the wolf and the leopard and the young lion represent uncontrolled passions of men; these animals will no doubt cease to be beasts of prey, but a greater change, because moral instead of physical, will take place in men, and this we are taught by the figure used, a little child shall be the leader.

It is an interesting fact that in Matthew's Gospel, in which the Lord Jesus is presented as the King, there is more about the little child than in any of the others, and we are told there, that to become as a little child is the sine qua non for entrance into His Kingdom (Matt. 18). Those who compose that Kingdom will be meek, lowly, gentle, unobtrusive and dependent. So used are we to kingdoms set up and maintained by violence and force that such a kingdom as this is almost unthinkable, and yet this will be the character of the kingdom in which Christ is supreme.

It is a worldly maxim that “the weak go to the wall,” and unless a man has grit enough to stand up for his rights he must suffer, and the men who are great and applauded are they who unscrupulously force themselves into the front of the stage, men of ambition and will-power, who carry their designs into effect regardless of the consequences to others.

Who are they who occupy the greatest space in this world's histories? Not the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, they have no place in them; nor yet the men who have laboured for the good of their fellows, their names are mostly forgotten; but the mighty conquerors, the men who have marched through seas of blood to the goal of their ambitions, and have founded dynasties upon the tears of widows and orphans. To the Napoleons of the world have men paid their greatest tributes and raised their most costly monuments.

It is not the little child that leads now, b1ut this is to be completely changed, for the coming Kingdom will take its character from the King, and He is meek and lowly in heart; He never strove for His rights, but was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and was dumb before His enemies as a sheep is dumb before her shearers. There never was such an exhibition of apparent weakness as that which was seen in the lowly Nazarene when men rose up against Him; and they despised Him for it, for He was not only rejected but despised of men. If He had defended Himself, or even made an effort to do so, they might have respected Him, for is not self-preservation the first law of nature? But He did not use His power, and the bitter taunt that they cast upon Him, as He hung in His last agony upon a malefactor's gibbet, was “Himself He cannot save.” This was the jest of Jerusalem on that day.

Need I say to you, that that which they despised as weakness was the very might of God; that there and then omnipotent love, girded for the great conflict, grappled with the powers of darkness, overthrew the dominion of the devil, and gained a signal, overwhelming, and eternal victory.

“By weakness and defeat,

He won the meed and crown,

Trod all our foes beneath our feet

By being trodden down.”

 

The Glory of the Lord” and Abundant Fruitfulness

A third passage descriptive of this coming Kingdom is Isaiah 35.

“ The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. ”

The whole chapter is full of beauty, it tells us of the effect of the shining of the glory of the Lord upon the earth. The blind shall see, the deaf shall hear, the lame shall leap for gladness, and dumb lips shall sing the praise of the Lord, and sorrow and sighing, part of sin's sad brood, shall flee away, and the earth shall rejoice. No need then for vast irrigation schemes to make the earth a fruitful place, for fountains of water shall break forth in the most barren of places; the very desert shall become fragrant with roses, the howling wilderness shall rejoice, and everything that hath breath shall sing the triumph of the great Deliverer. All this blessing for the earth and for men rests upon the one foundation—the redemptive work of Christ; and it will all be brought into realization by Him as the great and righteous Administrator. He was once the Lamb upon the cross, He will soon appear as the King upon the throne, and when He rules with equity for the meek of the earth His work upon the throne will be as perfect as that which He accomplished upon the cross.

Now a practical word as to these three Scriptures. There are three expressions prominent in them; they are (1) The Light of the Lord (Isa. 2), (2) The Spirit of the Lord (Isa. 11), (3) The Glory of the Lord (Isa. 35). We have seen the mighty results that these things will bring about in that Coming kingdom, but we are now in the kingdom of God 's dear Son (Col. 1), and these things which are present in that kingdom now for us, should have their effect upon us now.

“The light of the Lord” for us is the gospel, it is the revelation of God in grace to us in Christ. That grace revealed to us in the risen Christ, who was delivered for our offences, has brought us into peace, for we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And we know God as the God of peace, thence should we seek peace and pursue it. As to the nations we cannot escape the sorrow and strife in which they are involved though we may be in spirit apart from it. But we have been set in God's husbandry (1 Cor. 3.), which is His assembly, not there to use the sword and spear of sectarian strife, but the ploughshare and the pruning-hook as labourers together with God in His garden, and thus be contributing to the prosperity of those who are precious to Him.

When we believed the gospel we received the Holy Ghost, who forms within us “the spirit of the Lord,” that we may manifest it to our fellow believers and before the world. It is only thus that we shall be known as His. Instead of the passions that once marked us—“hatred, malice, emulation, strife, envy,” we shall bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, and manifest the meekness and gentleness of Christ. It will be our pleasure also to behold “the glory of the Lord,” and as we do so we shall be transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3). Our hearts that were once a veritable Sahara for barrenness will become fruitful and fragrant to God, and out of our lives, once only evil, will break forth streams of refreshing, for did not the Lord Himself say of those who drink of Him, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7).

If we are living in the power of these things we shall be of use to weary hearts in this sad and cruel world, and for the Lord's glory during the time of His absence. And it is by these things that we hold the fort for Him until He comes.

Thank God we know Him well who is coming, and we can raise our joyful voices together and say of Him: “TO HIM WHO LOVES US, AND HAS WASHED US FROM OUR SINS IN HIS BLOOD, AND MADE US A KINGDOM, PRIESTS TO HIS GOD AND FATHER: TO HIM BE THE GLORY AND THE MIGHT TO THE AGES OF THE AGES. AMEN” (Rev. 1:5-6, N.Tr.).

The Kingdoms of this World, the Lord's Kingdom, and War

 

There seems to be considerable confusion of thought on the part of many as to the nations of this world and true Christianity. It is supposed that because the nations of Europe, for instance, profess Christianity they are Christian nations, and, being so, that it ought to be possible for them to exist on Christian principles, and to so adjust their relations one towards another as to eliminate for all time all recourse to the sword. Now the fact is that though Christianity is professed as the national religion of these countries, there is no such thing as a truly Christian nation, if we think of Christianity as it is presented to us in the Bible. That Book is our only instructor in these questions, and it nowhere recognizes nations as Christian. Matthew 28:19-20 may be quoted as against this statement, but the commission given to the disciples at the end of Matthew's Gospel has reference to “the gospel of the kingdom” “which shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matt. 24:14). This will be undertaken by Jewish heralds, after the rapture of the church to heaven, and the result of it is seen in the description of the judgment of the living nations in Matthew 25:31-46.

What is made very clear in the Word is that vital Christianity is individual and not national. The gospel goes forth to men everywhere to take those who are affected by it “ out of the nations ” to be a people for God (Acts 15:14, N.Tr.). They are translated into another kingdom—“the kingdom of God 's dear Son” (Col. 1:13). But theirs is not a profession, merely, they are livingly affected—born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God, they own allegiance to Christ and belong henceforward to His kingdom. It should not be difficult to see the difference between a national profession—one in name only—and this which is veritable and vital, and it is of the utmost importance that it should be understood, otherwise we shall not be able to see things with a clear vision, and much perplexity and doubt will result.

We do not wish to belittle the effects of a national profession of Christianity. Such a profession creates a conscience, and a certain standard of morals and equity; a restraining hand is laid by it, more or less, upon evil; and it gives ideals to rulers and law-makers that must be beneficial to all. Yet all this is very superficial, and it will be found, speaking generally, that political parties, governments, and rulers only go so far in the adoption of Christian precepts as appear to them to fit in with their self-interests; if they clash with these—well, then they are of less account than the now historical “scrap of paper.” The history of nations and the Word of God alike prove that in spite of their profession the nations remain the kingdoms of this world; they are not the Lord's kingdom at all; if they were war would certainly cease and His people would pray no more “Thy kingdom come.”

We were discussing these things with a friend before the outbreak of the war. He endeavoured to maintain that it was possible for a country like Great Britain to adopt a policy in regard to other nations that would be in entire accord with Christian principles and precepts. We said in reply, “You will admit that the Christian is exhorted to ‘resist not evil,' and, ‘if thine enemy smite thee on the one cheek turn the other also.' Suppose, then, by way of illustration, that Germany deliberately, and without warning, struck the blow at Britain that she has been preparing for years. If she invaded South Africa , for instance, would you say, ‘Take India also, we shall not resist'”? Or if she sunk a battleship would you say, “You may sink another, we shall only return good for evil, and love for hatred”? “Certainly not,” he answered, “I should be for striking back swiftly and hard.” And his own answer proved to him that his view of things had been entirely wrong. The United States is professedly Christian. Yet when the Maine was sunk by a Spanish mine off Havanah in 1898, “Remember the Maine ” became the cry that roused the whole country to war with Spain .

If a nation acted upon Christian principles it could not strike back when stricken; it would possess neither battleships nor sword to strike back with, and it does not require a very keen intellect to discern what the result of such a policy would be in the world as it is. It is possible for the individual Christian to willingly and joyfully carry out these precepts, but for a nation it is impossible, for, as we have said, Christianity is an individual and not a national matter. In the present state of the world force is necessary for the maintenance of authority and of the measure of righteousness which is maintained, whether internationally or nationally. The policeman, magistrate, army and navy are indispensable, and these are permitted of God, and so far have His sanction, for the punishment of evildoers, and for His people's sake. But these would not be necessary if the kingdoms of this world were the Lord's kingdoms.

When arraigned before Pilate the Lord said, “IF MY KINGDOM WERE OF THIS WORLD, THEN WOULD MY SERVANTS FIGHT” (John 18:36). And that statement from the lips of Eternal Truth should be sufficient to show how great is the gulf that lies between the kingdoms of this world and His kingdom who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and who forbade the valiant Peter to draw the sword on His behalf. To the kingdoms of this world war is an unhappy necessity. They have been founded mainly by blood; they maintain their place in the sun, and hold what they possess mainly by the power of the sword; and they will go down to an ignominious and terrible destruction together in one last, frenzied struggle for the mastery of the world, and thus shall it be that room shall be made for the kingdom of the Lord, which kingdom shall be established according to inflexible righteousness, and so shall universal peace prevail. Thus it is written in the sure word of prophecy, and for this the Christian waits.

The loveless doctrine of “the survival of the fittest” permeates the policy of every nation; it is modified somewhat, perhaps, in such countries as Britain and America, who, by the way, possess all the territory they desire; nevertheless it is there, and only awaits the translation of the church to heaven to show itself in all its naked horridness. The philosophy of Nietzsche will be the gospel of the Beast and Antichrist (Rev. 13); when they appear, the devil's supermen, in whom will be fully expressed all the evil intentions of the devil, might will then be right, and only that will be thought worthy of applause which is strong and ruthless. To this the nations of the world are moving both surely and swiftly.

But the devil is the prince of this world now (John 12:21), and the whole world lieth in him (1 John 5:19, N.Tr.), and though God restrains his machinations in measure, for the gospel's sake, yet it is not difficult to discern them in the policies of the nations of the world. The iron that God has put into the hills, to be won from them for the manufacture of ploughshares and pruning-hooks, is forged into guns and swords; and the latest discoveries of science and the cleverest brains, given for the benefit of man, are employed in the production of diabolical engines for the maiming and destruction of thousands; and money invested in armament firms yields the biggest dividends, a most important consideration. And all this not in far-off pagan lands, but in the great civilized and, so-called, “Christian nations.” Righteousness and peace are not to spring from such as these, they are the kingdoms of the world and not the kingdoms of the Lord.

Notice, further, who they are who occupy the greatest space in the histories of nations, not the martyrs of the Lord, nor they who were meek and lowly in heart—such have no record here—nor yet the philanthropists who have laboured for the good of men, but the great conquerors who have carried fire and sword into peaceful lands, and established kingdoms at the cost of much blood; and the more ruthless they were the more famous they are.

Now the bed-rock principle for the Lord's kingdom is SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE (Matt. 18). Note well the record of the Lord's arrest in the garden in Matthew's Gospel, the Gospel of the King. Peter believed that the hour had come in which to strike a blow for the Lord, but he was rebuked for having thoughts so contrary to the spirit of his Master. Jesus said, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword (chap. 26:52). That saying was not addressed to the world in general, nor did it refer to nations quarrelling one with another, it was addressed to the thought in the hearts of His disciples, that His kingdom was to be established by the sword. Others of the Lord's people have had the same thought since that memorable night, and have perished by the sword as the Lord said they would, Zwingle of Switzerland being an example.

The Lord might have called for His protection more than twelve legions of angels, for the whole power of heaven was at His command; but had He done so what had been written of Him would not have been accomplished. By the world He was a rejected and suffering King, but He did not assert His rights; He was willing to suffer and to give His life a ransom for all. It was by weakness that He was to be victorious. By yielding up His life in obedience to the will of God and in love to men He was to lay the foundation of a kingdom that should never be shaken for ever.

In Himself the principles and character of His kingdom found full and perfect expression. His kingdom is to be a transcript of Himself. It is established in the same world in which He suffered, and so it must suffer also. For it, this is the time of submission, tribulation, patience, and faith. It is hated by the world in which it is (John 15:18-27); and it is by suffering that it succeeds. This comes out strikingly in Romans 8:36-37, “As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long (not killing, mark you, but killed); we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

Those who are great in this suffering kingdom are not the arrogant and proud and independent and self-assertive, but those who are like the little child, gentle, meek, trustful, and dependent; but such a character as that can only be produced by conversion (Matt. 18). “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God ” (John 3).

The difference between the kingdoms of this world and the Lord's kingdom are so radical that reconciliation between them is an impossibility. The former are material and worldly, the latter spiritual and heavenly; the former are under the control of Satan, and their goal is the absolute refusal of any interference from God; the latter is the sphere of complete and willing submission to the will of God. In principles, spirit, and character they are in perfect opposition. The former in their final phase will adopt in toto Nietzsche's doctrine that “Christianity is an immortal blot upon humanity,” and that the passive virtues—meekness, patience, and gentleness, and those beautifully active ones—pity, forgiveness, and self-sacrificing love—impede the progress of mankind and so must be utterly suppressed. While in the Lord's kingdom, when it comes into full manifestation, every fierce passion of man will be quelled, and that which characterized the Lord when He was here will reign supreme, for “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM” (Isa. 11:6).

As the Lord's servants, disciples, and friends we need to weigh well these things, and to learn deeply and truly the character of that kingdom to which we belong, so that we may order our ways in accordance with it and in subjection to Him until He comes. So shall we be His witnesses here, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for all.

The Lack of Zeal on the Part of Christian Young Men

 

In our August issue the following question appeared:—“What is the cause of so much want of zeal on the part of many who have passed safely through the dangers of the past five years? I have in my mind a few whose lethargy, or ‘fed-upness' (the words one used in regard to meetings, etc., were, ‘I'm fed up') with reference to the Lord's things and service is today, most disappointing.”—E.W.

 

There are possibly two sides to the question raised by E.W., one finding its answer in the young men themselves, and the other in those who are older and remained at home. In times of trial and danger it is easy to cleave to the Lord, especially when it is felt that only this can keep one from being swept away on a tide of evil; this was the experience of many young men in army life, and they were kept in a measure of separation from evil things and of brightness in the Lord; but now that the tension is relaxed, and things are easier, the tendency is to settle down and drop into indifference to the claims of the Lord.

It may be with other young men that they have neglected to hold faith and a good conscience with the tenacity that the circumstances demanded, and so have not warred a good warfare and are now ill at ease. How blessed it is to know that the Lord whose grace restored Simon when he fell is just the same today for them.

But there is the other side. Have those who remained at home, and were able to live at home quietly and at peace, enjoying all the privileges of fellowship and ministry through the mercy of God and the going forth of these young men—have they fulfilled their responsibility towards them? They were doubtless prayed for while away; were they welcomed on their return with sufficient warmth? Did they find in the fellowship and the meetings that love, righteousness, peace and joy that they looked for and that should mark those who walk in the Spirit, who own the Lord, and are one in Him? If they found coldness, dissension, a sectarian spirit, an unscriptural narrowness, no wonder they have lost heart, and perhaps have begun to question whether these things are real after all.

Young men of the world were welcomed back with merriment and feasting, definite interest has been shown in their welfare; in a fuller, truer, and a godly way should the children of God have welcomed their younger brethren, and should still care for them and pray for them, so that they might feel that the fellowship of the saints is better than the fellowship of the world, and the bond that binds us together in the Lord is stronger and more blessed than any other bond can be. But our hope in every difficulty and in all our failure is in the Lord; we may turn to Him as to this, as in all ours.

The Last Miracle

Notes of an address

 

“ When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear ” (Luke 22:49-50).

 

The servant of the high priest would hold a commission from his master to go with Judas into the garden and lead that multitude that went forth to take the Lord Jesus captive. He would carry the warrant for His arrest. How astonished Peter must have been when Judas stepped out of the throng and put the traitorous kiss upon the Master's cheek. He did not know how to deal with Judas, but he had no hesitation as to how to treat Malchus when he, vaunting himself in his temporary authority, laid hands upon the Lord, and in the name of the high priest directed the band to make Him their prisoner. At such audacity the natural indignation of Peter flamed up hotly, and drawing his sword he aimed one mighty blow at the dastard, meaning to lay him dead at his feet, cleft through the skull.

It was new work for the fisherman, he had not been trained to wield a sword, and that misdirected energy only resulted in the loss of an ear to Malchus and the exposure of Peter's folly. No, that was not the only result, there was another. “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world,” the Lord had said, and those works were not yet finished, and that light was still to shine amid the deepening gloom. Hence, with a word of gentle rebuke to Peter, He stretched out His hand and touched the severed ear and healed it. The last act of those tender hands ere they were bound by His hardened captors was to heal the leader of them. The audacity of Malchus and the impetuosity of Peter only served as an opportunity for the continued manifestation of the absolute goodness which in Him was to triumph over all evil. “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” are the first words recorded as having come from His lips in this Gospel of Luke in which alone is recorded the healing of Malchus. That business was blessing and not judgment; it was healing and not a sword. And “the acceptable year of the Lord” in which such incomparable, invincible mercy was displayed has continued until this day.

That last miracle wrought in such circumstances, and so calculated to move any heart and open any eyes not utterly hardened and blinded by sin, had no affect upon the multitude; it does not seem to have impressed even Peter at the time, but it did afterwards. Could he ever forget it?—when instructed by the Holy Spirit he learned the glory of that submission to suffering which he had seen in his Master, and the blessedness of that grace that was in Him that returned only good for evil, and that could not be provoked by any insult to retaliate in kind. There can be little doubt but that this very incident was in his mind when he wrote his Epistles and dwelt upon the sufferings of Christ and exhorted the saints to “follow His steps,” the steps of the One who suffered patiently in the path of God's will, and so was infinitely acceptable to God. Ah! that was the secret that lay behind it all. He sought not His own ease or glory, He valued not His own reputation or contended for His own rights, the glory of God was His purpose; to finish His work and to be acceptable to Him was His very life. And so Peter, who recalls those sufferings and tells us of them so tenderly, also tells us that “He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Pet. 1:17). To be pleasing to His Father was enough for Him.

Brethren, as we consider how patiently the Lord suffered, are not our souls moved and drawn to Him? It is not because crowns of glory shine resplendent on His brow that we love Him and adore Him. No, we rejoice and are exceeding glad because of His exaltation, yet it is that lowly pathway of sorrow that ended in the cross that has bound our hearts to Him with unbreakable fetters. Suffering love has claimed us and made us His disciples TO FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS. And as we are partakers of His sufferings, happy are we, for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon us (1 Pet. 4:14). In such a path we are acceptable to God, for it is the path that the feet of Jesus trod.

We shall be tested continually. Yes, tested by our brethren as well as by the world, and the test may be more severe from within the Christian circle than from without it. Ah! how ready are we to draw the sword and slash away when we think that we have been wronged. To draw the sword, too, not in fancied defence of the Lord as Peter did, but in our own defence, and how many we have wounded and harmed, who only can be healed by the touch of the Lord, by the bitter spirit of resentment and retaliation which so often rises up within us. May, the Lord pardon us for all such un-Christlike conduct. This is the day in which we may suffer for Christ's sake, in which when we are reviled we may bless, and overcome evil with good, and so follow in His steps. The grace that transformed Peter from what we see him to be in Gethsemane to what he was when he wrote his Epistle can transform us also, and it will if we consider the ways of the Lord as he considered them, and learn of Him as taught by the Holy Ghost, for grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus are inseparable. Peter who had learned the lesson well linked them together in the last exhortation that he ever gave to the church, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

The Last Two Epistles

Holding the Fort and Helping the Truth

 

Holding the Fort (2 John)

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed ” (2 John 10).

An inspired epistle to A LADY AND HER CHILDREN! Here is something that ought to arrest our attention and make us ask the reason why—for this short letter (2 John) stands alone in this respect in the New Testament.

One of the last of the inspired writings, it emphasizes at the closing of the canon of Holy Scripture that which is so constantly taught therein, that in weakness God manifests His power, and out of the mouths of babes and sucklings He ordains strength (Ps. 8). When men in times past abandoned the truth and, because of their cowardice or selfishness, failed the Lord, women stood firm and maintained the ground for God. This we see at the time of the first coming of our Lord, when pious women kept constant watch and faithful, for the advent of Israel's Redeemer; and when Mary of Bethany, anticipating His rejection and death, poured her precious ointment upon Him, in holy self-abandonment, whilst His men-disciples quarrelled as to who should be the greatest in His kingdom; and also, when the Magdalene stood weeping and alone without His empty tomb, whilst the rest sought the shelter and comfort of their own homes. These are examples of devotion that shall never be forgotten, and with them shall be remembered the faithfulness of this nameless lady who held herself and her household for the Lord.

She probably lived in a great pagan city in which there may have been a Christian assembly such as that described in John's letter to Gaius, out of which godly men were being cast, and into which neither the apostle nor his inspired writings were received.

Very early in the church's history the citadel had been surrendered to the enemy, and the flag of truth had been hauled down and laid in the dust. Had it? As far as the majority were concerned, who had yielded to other authority than the Lord's, and who had compromised the truth, perhaps; but this lady and her children had not yielded to the adversary. They were keeping the flag flying. When the church failed, the Christian household stepped into the breach; its answer to the enemy was “No surrender!” and it held the fort for the Lord and the truth.

A day of small things, and weak; say you. Yes, and yet, though small, certainly not weak. Suppose news reached us that a great and numerous foe had invaded some British territory, and had swept all before it until checked by a handful of men—say, a dozen—who withstood the mighty army and kept the flag flying. Should we call that weak? No, that would be something to be talked about and admired, something at which all the world would wonder, an exhibition of courage and power that would win lasting fame and fill pages of British history. Neither is it an exhibition of weakness which is given us in this epistle, but of “power and love and a sound mind.”

It is no small or weak thing for an individual believer surrounded by declension from the truth to hold himself for Christ; it is a most blessed thing when a company of Christians hold on their way in the same path, the Lord their centre and His word their law. But in this particular case it was a household that walked in the truth, and this greatly gladdened the heart of the inspired apostle.

The instruction given must not be unheeded by any assembly of saints, whether great or small, that desires to abide faithful to the Lord, for, apart from the rigid exclusion of evil doctrine here spoken of, the ground cannot be held at all. Indeed, that assembly that opens its doors to a denier of the faith has already gone over to the foe, bag and baggage: it has become a partaker of his evil deeds. There is no ambiguity about that statement; and this is a matter that will admit of no parley or accommodation or compromise. In whatever else we are neutral we cannot be neutral here. But the letter was not written to an assembly of saints in which were Christian men, strong and learned, but to a lady—probably a widow—and her children. As we have said, when the assembly failed, the Christian household stepped into the breach and kept the flag of truth aloft. This should be a great encouragement to us, for it shows what the grace and power of God can do for those who are dependent upon Him.

The attempts of the devil to break down this lady's faithfulness to Christ had failed; he had not been able to capture her house—it had stood like an impregnable citadel in the presence of all his assaults, so he changed his tactics and determined to accomplish by subtlety that which he had failed to do by force. It was because the apostle knew of this that he wrote to her to warn her that if any came to her house in the guise of a Christian minister, and yet not bringing the doctrine of Christ, her doors were to be bolted and barred against him.

But there was another danger that threatened from within, and they needed to be reminded of the commandment of the Lord. John had often pressed it upon them when with them, but now, being absent, he writes the self-same thing to them: “THAT YE LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” Love is the divine nature; it is also the atmosphere in which the true children of God live and thrive; it is the power that inspires all true activity, and it cannot be indolent; where it is, it will always show itself in self-forgetful service. Apart from this a man is NOTHING, even though he stands most rigidly for purity of doctrine. What pleasure could the Lord find in a man who, while he refused all complicity with a heretic, did not love his brethren? None at all, we trow, for the man who does not love his brother does not keep the command of the Lord, and he who does not keep the Lord's command does not love Him (John 14:21-24). Such a man would be a mere Pharisee in spite of all his zeal for orthodoxy.

Where the Lord's command is kept, whether in the assembly or the household, there He is supreme; but here it is not only the Lord's commandment, but the FATHER'S. How wonderful that grace should have set the saints in the path of obedience to the Father's will: a path trodden perfectly by the Lord when here, and in which we are to be His followers! In His lowly obedience to His Father's command He was maintained by the Father's hand and abode in His Father's love. And we also, as our hearts are set for this path, shall find succour from that same most blessed source of all blessing, for mark how the salutation runs “ Grace be with you; mercy and peace, from GOD THE FATHER, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, THE SON OF THE FATHER, in truth and love .” The succour comes from the top—it is from heaven, it comes out of eternity, and it is according to the full revelation of the truth—God the Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. It is entirely adequate to keep us walking in THE TRUTH and filled with the power and joy of it, in spite of the hostility of the devil. This salutation is one of the most wonderful in the Scriptures, and volumes would fail to explain the blessedness of it. It speaks of great realities which the weakest of us may prove; it speaks of all the mighty resources of the Father revealed in Jesus—grace, mercy, and peace—and tells us that these are at the disposal of those whose hearts are set upon walking in the truth. Let us contemplate it in the presence of God our Father, and fear no more either the power or subtlety of the devil, for from it we learn that the assembly, household, or individual that is set upon walking in the truth is the object of the Father's special care.

“Walking in the truth” does not mean that we hold the doctrines of Christianity intact—it involves this, surely, but it is more—it is obedience to the Father and love to one another; and further, as the letter reveals, the resistance of all attempts to introduce subversive teaching contrary to that which we have learned from the beginning.

Obedience to the Father's command will result in love to one another and make us valiant for the truth. True love does not wink at evil. It is not that weak and falsely-called charity that preaches a universal brotherhood and runs with any man who is plausible and popular, no matter what his creed and doctrine may be. Such charity as that is the devil's spawn, produced in the shameful bed of modern latitudinarianism. What an amazing thing it is that in Christendom every God-dishonouring and Christ-denying doctrine that was ever propagated beneath the sun should find a home! And yet it is the fulfilment of the parable of the great mustard tree in which the foul birds of the air find a lodging (Matt. 13:31-32). So that we are not taken by surprise when we find it so.

True love is jealous for the truth; it will not bid the heretic “God speed”; it will withdraw from him and avoid those associations where he is tolerated; for he who denies the truth of Christ is a deceiver and an antichrist, and to hold intercourse with him is to play the traitor to the Lord. True love will close the door against the evil teacher, for it knows that if Christ is to be kept in, the deceiver and antichrist must be kept out; it also knows that if evil teaching is admitted, the very springs of life will be poisoned, and that all true godliness will wither and die, “for he who abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not GOD,” and if God be taken from us what life have we? Do we want to give up the Father and the Son? As a mother would refuse to allow polluted or poisoned food to come into the house and upon the table where her children feed, true love will keep far distant all that is not the truth. And if this cannot be done in the church at large, then it must be done in the Christian home; it is the privilege and responsibility of the head, as well as of each member of it, to be valiant and diligent in this regard. May the grace and mercy of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, maintain many in the truth until we see the Saviour face to face, when our joy will be full.

 

Helping the Truth (3 John)

“W e therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth ” (3 John 8).

Important as it is to hold the fort and maintain the truth free from all contamination, so that we may have it to walk in for our own joy and the glory of God, it is not everything. It is the first thing, undoubtedly, and without it everything else, no matter how popular with men, must come, more or less, under the Lord's disapprobation. But there is something further, and in its place of equal importance, and this is the subject of John's Third Letter. The gospel must be aggressive, the truth must be active. It is active , thank God, and as long as the Holy Ghost—the untiring Servant of the glory of Christ—abides here, the gospel will continue to run and be glorified; and every saint of God who loves the truth, and is intelligent as to it, will desire to be heartily and actively in sympathy with it.

The way that God has chosen in His infinite wisdom for the sending out of the truth to win its victories in the world, is by the preaching. “God has been pleased by the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21, N.Tr.). “How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And 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. 10:14-15).

John addressed his third epistle to Gaius to commend him for associating himself with the truth in its aggressive character, and with those who went forth with it. Now Gaius walked in the truth and his soul prospered in it. This was evinced by his loving and hearty identification with the outgoings of it. He could not rest satisfied in knowing it for himself. It had brought him into fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, and in that wonderful fellowship he had become intelligent in the thoughts of God. So he welcomed to his home the brethren and strangers who for Christ's Name's sake had gone forth with the truth. He interested himself in their work and welfare, and he sent them on their way in a manner worthy of God, and in so doing he was A FELLOW-HELPER TO THE TRUTH.

In the church in which he was, Diotrephes ruled. It was a fallen church and neither instructed nor encouraged Gaius in what he was doing. There was no sympathy in it with the truth in its activities, the preachers of it were not received, nor the apostles, nor their inspired letters. Tradition and prejudice and the will of man held sway in it, and those who acted according to the truth and in the vigour of divine life were cast out of it. A sad condition of things, and the more so as this is the only mention of the church in John's writings outside the Revelation. But again we find that if the church failed it was in the Christian home that God's thought was carried out, and the consequence was that in the home there was soul-prosperity, while in the church the will of man held sway, and, consequently, evil abounded, and spiritual stagnation.

Not all Christians are in the circumstances of Gaius, and his opportunities, perhaps, come within the reach of the few only. Yet all may show an active interest in the testimony of the Lord, all may whole-heartedly identify themselves with the truth in its activities, and so be “fellow-helpers to the truth”: a priceless privilege!

We must not allow anything to hinder us from acting in the fervour and power of divine life and love, and these short epistles are given to us to encourage us to walk in the truth and to warn us against the things that might hinder us. They are the shortest books of the New Testament and so are apt to be passed by as of minor importance, but the instruction they contain is of the greatest possible moment to us, and is needed today more than ever before, and if we ignore it we shall cease to walk in the truth.

We are called to reject the evil and receive the good; to rigidly exclude from our communion all who do not bring the doctrine of Christ, and to faithfully include the brethren and strangers who go forth in His name bearing His testimony, dependent upon God and independent of the world; to have no intercourse, even of the most formal kind, with any who would undermine our holy faith, but to show the heartiest sympathy and in a way “worthy of God” with those who are labouring to carry forth the word and to build up the saints in it. In short, since the truth has been given to us we have now, in the vigour and the joy of it, to make its protection and propagation our one great business in life. Not in the wisdom of men shall we be able to do this, but we have “received an unction from the Holy One.” The Spirit of God dwells in us to lead us in the truth, and to develop divine affections in our souls, and to direct us as to the right channels in which these affections should run, and He does this latter by giving us understanding in the things that are written. BELOVED, FOLLOW NOT THAT WHICH IS EVIL, BUT THAT WHICH IS GOOD. HE THAT DOETH GOOD IS OF GOD: BUT HE THAT DOETH EVIL HATH NOT SEEN GOD.

The Last Will and Testament of the Lord

(The Seven Sayings upon the Cross)

 

The last Will and Testament of our Lord! May we thus speak of the words of Jesus, uttered amid the woes of His cross of sacrifice, and recorded for us by the infallible pen of the Holy Ghost? We certainly believe that we may so speak of them. The first three of these seven sayings declare His will as to mankind; and the second three, bringing out as they do with absolute clearness what God is, and what man is, and what the Lord Himself is, could not have been omitted, while the last saying, giving completion to the whole, demonstrates the absolute confidence that the holy Sufferer reposed in His Father to the end. But we do not speak of these sayings as His last Will and Testament, as though they annulled anything He had said before, but as gathering up in the intensity of these solemn hours all His desires into sentences which we cannot forget, either now or in eternity.

All His words abide, for He spoke no useless words, and nothing that needed to be withdrawn, modified or qualified. His words were as gold purified seven times; no dross of human failure ever entered into them, for His manhood was as perfect as His Godhead, and the words that He spoke in the language of a man were the words of God—words of light and life and salvation, imperishable and eternal words, and consequently words that we must treasure as we treasure Him who spoke them, for they are the unfolding of the Father's heart, and His own. Yet none can more profoundly affect us, if we love Him, than these we are now to consider. The circumstances in which they were spoken, and the fullness of their meaning claims for them an unique place in our thoughts.

 

1. “Father, Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do” (Luke 23:34).

It was not at the beginning of His work amongst men that the Lord prayed this prayer but at the end of it; not when they wondered at His gracious words in the synagogue of Nazareth, and proceeded to cast Him over the precipice upon which that favoured city was built, but when, after having fully seen all His works and heard all His words, they mocked His unspeakable agonies on Calvary.

From the first they intended to murder Him, but they proceeded to their end with a malignant hatred into which no benign influence entered. There was no ingredient of shame and suffering that they could add to the bitter cup that He had to drink that they did not pour into it. He was blindfolded and beaten, stripped and scourged, mocked and spit upon, crowned with thorns and crucified. Uplifted upon the cross He saw them, after they had done their worst, gather round to further gratify their insatiable hatred in watching Him there, and He opened His suffering lips to give His heart's answer to that hatred in this never-to-be-forgotten prayer.

But He saw more than that excited crowd led by Priests and Pharisees. He saw the whole world of men that hated both Him and His Father represented there. He looked outward and onward even to this day, and embraced in His prayer sinful mankind. Had He not prayed this prayer to His Father no message of mercy could ever have reached a rebellious world from a Saviour God. In it He declared His will for men; He did not desire that the judgment that this crowning act of the world's sin against God called for, should fall upon it. He was “not willing that any should perish”, but would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth and this is the will of God.

If infinite love and pity had not filled the Saviour's heart, He might have prayed a different prayer, for did He not tell His disciples, reduced to less than twelve weak men by the defection of the traitor when they attempted to rescue Him from His foes, that He could then and there have prayed to His Father and He would give Him “ more than twelve legions of angels ”, but that would have been a prayer for judgment and not mercy, destruction and not salvation. He might thus have prayed and done so justly, “but how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be”?

And the purposes and promises of God made known in the Scriptures must be fulfilled, hence the prayer for mercy. The love of God rose up triumphantly above all men's hatred, and expressed itself in Him who came to make God known. Hatred and sin had done their worst, and now God's love must do its best, and this it did when the voice of Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. These were His last words about the world of sinful men, and they declared His will in regard to them, and they secured the long-suffering of God which is salvation even to this day.

That prayer committed Him irrevocably to all the suffering that followed, for how could it be answered if He did not give His life a ransom for all? They began to say to Him, “save Thyself”, and “come down from the cross, if Thou be Christ”. But their taunts were too late. He had spoken His last words as to sinners, and these were not different to His first words; HIS WILL REGARDING MEN HAD BEEN DECLARED, it had been registered in heaven, it could neither be withdrawn nor changed; He could not come down from that cross in answer to their challenge. He must suffer all that was to follow “THAT REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS MIGHT BE PREACHED, IN HIS NAME, AMONG ALL NATIONS BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM”.

 

2. “Verily, I Say Unto Thee, Today Shalt Thou Be With Me in Paradise ” (Luke 23:43).

Having declared His Will in regard to the wide circle of the world, He now turns to the individual sinner and declares His will in regard to every one that flies to Him for succour. The dying malefactor saw in Him what the whole multitude of Jews failed to see. He saw not only the glory of His person, and acknowledged Him as the Lord who must sway a universal kingdom, but he realized that His heart was as tender as His Name would be glorious; and grasping these two facts with a blessed faith, he cried, “Lord, remember me”. What a ‘me' it was that he set before the Lord! His was a disgraceful past, and a hopeless future; he was a dying wretch, brought to the very brink of hell by his crimes; but he places himself just as he is before the Lord who knows him through and through, and says, “ Lord, remember ME ”. Will the Lord take notice of such as he was? Yes, He takes him as he is, answering his faith by a grace that must have made the dying man gasp with surprise. For His words simply meant, “I want your company, for you are Mine”.

We know not which to admire most, the grace that could embrace a world of enemies in one great desire, or the grace that could concentrate itself upon one poor sinner to lift him from the dunghill and make him His happy companion for ever! But the way He treated the thief, is the way He treats all who cry to Him. His dealings are individual, personal. The sinner in his misery can say, “He thinketh on me”. It was so with us all. He gave attention to the particular case of each of us, and it seemed to us as we found our refuge and rest upon His breast that we had Him entirely to ourselves. He calls His own sheep by name, it is a way He has always taken, His own blessed way in which is revealed His tenderness and love. BUT IN THESE WORDS TO THE DYING THIEF HE DECLARED HIS WILL FOR ALL WHO SEEK HIM: THEY MUST BE HIS COMPANIONS FOR EVER.

 

3. “When Jesus Saw His Mother, and the Disciple Standing By, Whom He Loved, He Saith Unto His Mother, Woman, Behold Thy Son! Then Saith He to the Disciple, Behold Thy Mother! And From That Hour That Disciple Took Her Unto His Own Home” (John 19:26-27).

No more needed to be said in regard to the destiny of those who put their trust in Him, in one sentence He declared His will for them, and that one sentence was enough for the thief; it is enough for us.

Now He turns to another circle. Not to the world that hated Him, nor to the sinner whose desperate need cried for His attention, but to a little group that loved Him. Who can tell with what tenderness He looked upon them? Who can tell what their answering looks of love meant to Him? Singling out His mother and the disciple whom He loved, He declares His will as to them. “Woman, behold thy son.” “Behold thy mother.” And the two dwelt together in one home henceforward. We have no doubt that there is a dispensational aspect to the Lord's will thus expressed. Mary represented the saints of the dispensation that was fading away, who had looked for their Messiah to bring redemption to Israel . John, who first learned Him to be the Lamb of God, represented the saints of the new and heavenly order whose hopes and joys were to be outside the world in the knowledge of the Father and the Son. Would the Lord abandon those saints who had looked with eager eyes for His coming to hopeless despair, now that their faith was being so terribly tried by a turn of events that they never expected? No, they were to find their refuge and compensation in the new company with its brighter and better hopes, their home henceforward was to be the assembly of God. Hence, though we read of Mary in the first chapter of Acts, before the coming of the Holy Ghost, it is the last time we read of her, for the godly remnant of Israel that she represented becomes merged in the assembly in the second chapter, henceforth to abide in this new and blessed relationship according to the will of the Lord. This, we believe is, undoubtedly, set forth in the fact that John took Mary to his own home.

But there is more in this touching incident than that. No two persons loved the Lord more than Mary and John. Note how they are here described, “His mother” and “the disciple whom He loved.” None would miss Him more than these, no two hearts would be more sorely bereaved; and they were to be bereaved, even though they were to see Him in resurrection, it was only to be for a few days, for He was going out of the world to the Father, and these were to be left behind in it. They would miss Him, and in that they represented all who love Him throughout the period of His absence. One of the great features of this present period is that He is not here, for while “we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord” (2 Cor. 5). Has He thought of this? Yes. He thought of it as He hung upon the cross of Calvary , and there and then He declared His will in regard to it, and indicated what He desired all whom He loved to do during His absence. They were to cleave to one another. He indicated in these words to those two whom He loved so well a new relationship, a bond of love into which all His loved ones were to stand; they were to dwell together, and love one another as those who belonged to one family. THIS WAS THE LAST DECLARATION OF HIS WILL CONCERNING THOSE WHOM HE CALLS HIS OWN.

We do not ask how far we have been subject to His Will in this respect in these days; much has been written and could still be written as to the small place that the Lord's will for us has had in our hearts and lives, and how little of this oneness and union in love has been seen. We do not dwell upon this here, but desire to be affected both deeply and effectually towards Himself and one another, as we consider this saying in His last will and testament.

Three circles, then, He had thus far thought of.

a. The world of ungodly men.

b. Each individual sinner who out of it should call upon Him.

c. The circle of those whom He loves, who were first in the world, and then were drawn out of it to Himself to find their needs all met in Him, and were finally brought into relationship to each other, because loved by Him.

There was no other circle of men to think of, and having declared His will as to these He turns now from them to seal this testament by His blood.

 

4. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46).

What tongue of men or angels, or pen of ready writer can truly tell the deep mystery that here confronts us. God only fully understands it. The thick darkness that covered the land veiled that centre cross from the eyes of the curious and irreverent, and there the lowly Sufferer was alone, alone with our sins, as the sinner's Substitute, and the judgment they justly called for. But while no creature in heaven or earth can fathom what this meant to the Lord, yet His cry from out of the darkness is recorded for us, and every word He spoke is necessary for the full revelation of God to us. So we consider these words. My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Who can answer that question? The Lord Himself; and this He does in Psalm 22 where He says, “ But Thou art holy ”. The holiness of God demanded that Jesus should be forsaken in those solemn hours. But was not Jesus holy? Yes, He was. To Mary, His mother, Gabriel announced, “ The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also THAT HOLY THING which shall be born of thee shall be called THE SON OF GOD ” (Luke 1:35) The very devils confessed His holiness, saying, “ I know Thee who Thou art, THE HOLY ONE OF GOD ” (Mark 1:24). And as He hung upon the cross He was as holy personally as when He came forth from the Father. “HOLY, HARMLESS, AND UNDEFILED,” He had lived His life amongst men; in Him was no sin, He knew no sin, He did no sin. Then, if God is holy, and Jesus is holy, even as God is, why did God forsake Him when men and devils were all against Him? “ He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him ” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is the answer.

God is revealed in this cry of the Lord, first in His great LOVE, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son”; then His HOLINESS that must put far from Him even His Beloved in that solemn hour when He was made to be sin for us; then in His eternal justice that meted out in full measure the judgment of our sins, so that they might be righteously removed for ever. Every attribute of God was harmonized in that solemn hour, and His nature was fully revealed. And this was necessary, not only for His glory, but also that His will might be carried out in blessing to men. A testament has no force until after the death of the testator, and Jesus must die if His last Will and testament was to be effective, and this was the death that He died. It is because He gave His life a ransom for all, that none can challenge His right to carry out His holy will; upon the righteous basis of His sufferings for sin is every word of it established.

 

5. “After This Jesus, Knowing That All Things Were Now Accomplished, That The Scripture Might Be Fulfilled Saith, I Thirst” (John 19:28).

For the first time the Lord speaks of His physical sufferings, and His words, ‘I thirst', seem like a challenge to those who stood around. Had the sight of His sorrow melted their hearts? Had the tears that flowed down the cheeks of the daughters of Zion begun to flow down other cheeks? Was there any relenting on the part of His murderers? Listen to the Lord's own answer to these questions. “ Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and IN MY THIRST THEY GAVE ME VINEGAR TO DRINK ” (Ps. 69:20-21). Here was brought to light what men are; utterly, altogether sinful. No sentiment of pity moved their evil hearts when they stood in the presence of absolute goodness in the extremity of suffering. It was as they would have it, goodness transfixed to a cross, and evil enthroned. Jesus execrated, and Barabbas acclaimed.

“And 'twas for such as these

That Jesus died.”

 

6. When Jesus Therefore Had Received the Vinegar He Said, It is Finished; and Bowed His Head, and Gave Up The Ghost” (John 19:30).

The end had come. He could speak of all accomplished, completed. “Lo, I come!” He had said “(in the volume of the Book it is written of Me) to do thy will, O God”. That will of God was done. He had not drawn back from one step that in God's counsels it was decreed to be necessary for God's glory in man's blessing; and not one word of Holy Scripture as to His sufferings remained unfulfilled. He had revealed the thoughts of all hearts. God was made known in His holiness and love; man was revealed in his hardness of heart and sin, Christ Himself came into full manifestation as the One wholly devoted to the will of God, the absolutely perfect One. Then from lips triumphant He declares His work completed, a work that shall stretch forth unto all generations of the age of the ages, and shall affect every sphere in the wide creation, and every creature in every sphere, from that that abides nearest to the throne of God to the uttermost depths of outer darkness. And when He had so cried, “Behold the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake and the rocks rent.”

 

7. “And When Jesus Had Cried With A Loud Voice, He Said, Father, Into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit; And Having Thus Said He Gave Up the Ghost” (Luke 23:46).

This alone remained, that He should declare His unbroken confidence in His Father. He leaves all in His hands. It is in Luke's Gospel only that this last word is recorded for us, the same Gospel that records the first words of His that are recorded. “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business”. The Father had committed all His work into the holy, dependent, obedient hands of the Man, Christ Jesus, for so Luke's Gospel presents Him to us. And now when all is done He commits His spirit into His Father's hands, commits to Him the work He has done and all the results of it, and so He gave up the Ghost.

“ Then one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe ” (John 19:34-35).

The death of the Testator had taken place, and the testament had been committed into the Father's hands, and He has answered the perfect trust of His beloved Son by raising Him from the dead and making Him to be the Trustee and Administrator of the Will of God. A most blessed and marvellous thing is this to contemplate, for it means that the Will will be carried out not merely according to the latter of it, but according to the spirit of it also, and that not one jot or tittle of it shall fall.

“TO HIM BE GLORY AND DOMINION FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN.”

The Law and Grace

 

Correspondence has been proceeding in “ The Christian ” on the intensely important subject of the Law given by Moses, its meaning and use and its value in this day of Grace. We venture to pass on to our readers some thoughts gathered up from the study of the subject. In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord said, “Think not that I am come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18). It had not been kept until He came, but now it was to be more than kept, it was to be fulfilled, and that meant much more than the mere keeping of it in the letter. It meant to fill it out, to show its full and proper character. The law was like a beautiful portrait, the portrait of a perfect man, and there were those who could appreciate its beauties, like the Psalmist who said, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” When Jesus came every feature of it found living expression in Him. He was the original . He filled out every jot and tittle of it, brought out all its beauty and made it instinct with life. Now the anointed eye can look upon His life on earth and see in Him the blessed Man whose delight was in the law of God, and in whose law He meditated day and night. He loved the Lord His God, with all His heart, and His neighbour as Himself, and in His life He showed that “the law is holy, just and good, ” done that He could bring in the grace that saves those whom the law could only condemn, but to do that He had to suffer its full penalty, which He did when He suffered for sinners upon the cross.

It has been urged by some that the Lord's words in verses 21, 27, 33, 43, “Ye have heard it said of them of old time. . . but l say unto you, ” give a warrant for discarding the Scriptures and substituting for them something up to date. It is a scandalous and immoral procedure. He was shifting the searchlight from the outward actions to the unseen inner nature. One reason for which the law was given was to check and curb the lusts and passions of man, to hold within bounds the evil acts of his fallen nature. This is shown in Paul's first letter to Timothy. “But we know that the law is good if a man use it lawfully: knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for man-slayers” etc. (chap. 1:9, 19). Thus had it been rightly interpreted, but the Lord went deeper and dealt with the hidden desires of the heart, with the nature that lies at the root of every transgression and from which all evil deeds spring, and declared that God required truth in the inward parts. David learned in his great repentance, that more terrible than his deeds was the nature that produced them, and the law taught Saul of Tarsus the same necessary lesson (Romans 7). This did not make void the law, it established its use as a searching, convicting power.

In the law God declared that He required righteousness from men, and the law was the measure of that demand, but the early chapters of Romans show that God's demands received no answer or satisfaction from men. “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.” God knew that that would be so, but it was necessary that it should be demonstrated. The law brought condemnation upon all who came under it, as Romans 3:19 states, “Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth might be stopped and all the world become guilty before God.” Instead of bringing a blessing, it inflicted a curse, for “it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10).

Instead of justifying men it condemned them, for while it is good and justly demands goodness, men were utterly bad, they would not nor could bring forth any good. So we read, “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). It exposes and convicts the sinner and leaves him entirely hopeless as to being right with God on the ground of his own works. That is its work and it does it truly and well.

It is at this point that God intervenes, “Man's extremity is God's opportunity, ” and His righteousness without the law is manifested. He has found a way by which men can be justified without the law, and to this the law and the prophets bore witness. The way that God has found is that men should be justified by His grace freely, through FAITH, instead of by the works of the law.

Is then the law set aside as though it were of no consequence? Are its claims ignored or treated with indifference by God when He justifies men through faith? Certainly not, or God Himself would be unjust. The Apostle anticipates such questions when he says, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, WE ESTABLISH THE LAW” (Rom. 3:31). But how can this be? The awakened soul feels the absolute necessity of a righteousness before God: if he goes to the law to obtain it, he finds that it only condemns him, for he has broken it. He does not ignore it, he owns its just demands and that he lies under its condemnation and curse. Then he learns in the gospel that its dread penalty has been met to the full by the blood of Jesus, and that God can now account all those righteous who without works believe in that Saviour. This is the way that God, according to His own righteousness, has taken to justify men, to place them in righteousness before Himself. They are “justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

God would not be righteous if He treated the claims of His own law as of little importance, and yet it is He that justifieth the ungodly; He does so because every claim of His holiness, which goes far beyond the law, has found its satisfaction in the death of Jesus; it is because of this that His grace flows freely forth; and the law as a way of righteousness is closed for ever. Men could not tread that way, and now righteousness, divine and unchanging, is found in Christ instead of in the law. He is “ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).

The believer's position as justified—i.e. as righteous before God—does not depend upon his doings, either before his conversion or after, but upon the grace of God, and he is “ not under law but under grace ” (Rom. 6:14). Can then a man live as be pleases? May he be indifferent to righteousness? This question also was anticipated by the Apostle when he said: “What then, Shall we sin, because we are not under law but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey: whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you” (Rom. 6:16-17).

Obedience is to characterize the justified man, but it is not now obedience to a law which is irksome to him, but to the gospel of God's grace; this has reached his heart, and won his affection, so that he delights with every fibre of his renewed nature to yield himself to the will of God, who sent His own Son to be his Saviour. In the Holy Spirit which has been given him he has a power which the law never gave, by which he can as God's servant, have his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. So that when we come to the eighth chapter of Romans we find that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled IN us , who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shalt not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

The law itself could not produce this, for “it was weak through the flesh, ” the material that it had to work on was utterly bad, but grace produces it, for the evil, sinful flesh has met its judgment in the cross of Christ, and now the believer has a new position, for he is in Christ; he has a new condition, for he is in the Spirit, since the Spirit dwells in him; and he has a new life which is divine. The nature of this life is love, and “love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” ( Rom. 13:8-10).

Here we see the triumph of grace, and all boasting is taken from men. It is of God from first to last, and He must have all praise; and in this matter, as in every other, we can take up the language of Romans 11:33-36, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

The Life that Overcomes

 

QUESTION—“If a believer has a new life and nature and also the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, why is it that he is so often overcome by sin and more or less in the struggle described in Romans 7”?

The following report of Addresses on Romans 8:1-4, given in Sydney , N.S.W., about a year ago, may help some whose difficulties may be expressed in the above question which was handed to us a few weeks ago.

 

It is God's intention that His children should live lives free and fruitful, to this end He has given them a new life, and this life is the life that overcomes. Christianity is not always looked upon in that way. It is often viewed as a legal system the object of which is the repression of the evil that is in men. Many think that all it can do for them is to check their evil tendencies and to prevent them from doing the things they would like to do, consequently they find no joy in it at all, and more often than not a joyless Christian is a defeated Christian. Now the law was just what they think Christianity is. It said “Thou shalt not”; it was one big DON'T. Even when it said “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” it was saying “don't.” If a man knocked one of your eyes out your natural desire and impulse would be to strike back, swift and sure, and blind him utterly. No, the law said, you must not do that, one eye for one eye and no more, and so it curbed the evil passions of men, or rather it was given for that purpose, but it failed. It was like a strong cord that bound men hand and foot and said, “Thou shalt not,” but like the demoniac in the Gospels, men broke their fetters and went their own way and did their own wills. Grace is different. It gives A NEW LIFE, not a new code of morals—and the life it gives is an overcoming life; it overcomes evil with good. It is eternal life, the gift of God, and to every believer on the Lord Jesus Christ it has been given. Whenever it manifests itself it must triumph, for it is Divine, Christ Himself is it.

Now it is evident that a great many believers are not enjoying this life. The life is theirs but its free and happy expression is thwarted; they are not living in Romans 8, but are bound fast in Romans 7, sighing and struggling, but apparently sighing and struggling in vain. I am reminded of a pathetic sight that I saw when last in Scotland . It was a great eagle in a massive cage. The sun was shining brilliantly in the heavens and seemed to be calling to it to rise from the earth and soar away into its natural element, and the royal bird in answer to the call of the sun spread its mighty wings and stooped for flight, and then, as though conscious to its very heart of the iron bars that held it captive, it lowered its wings and dropped its head in apparent disappointment and shame. I watched that fettered bird on that lovely summer's day with an intense interest. Again and again the light flashed in its eyes as it faced the sun and lifted its wings, full of determination to have done with its bondage, but just as often its great pinions sank down and it bowed its neck, the most striking figure of depression and defeat that I have ever looked upon. I turned away from it with a tightening about my heart and moisture in my eyes, for I had well known an experience of that sort, and well I knew that thousands of Christians are just there. They have the DESIRE for heavenly things, to be free in the love of God; and they have the life and power too, or they are no Christians at all, and yet they are held fast who should be free; they are caged who should be conquerors; the law of sin and death holds them still in its bondage, though it has no claim upon them, and no power to hold them if they only understood.

The Epistle to the Romans shows us how we may enter into the liberty and triumph of the new life that is ours in Christ, and that is chiefly my subject on this occasion. Our chapter begins with the statement, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” There the verse should stop; it is an absolute statement, and it is one we may well dwell upon.

At one time we were in our sins, we did not believe in Christ, then we were under condemnation. But now there is no condemnation for us. What does it mean? It means first that the question of our guilt has been settled, not for our satisfaction but for God's. It has been settled, not in any way that we could devise, but in a way that God has devised; so that He, who is the Judge, no longer condemns; instead, He justifies. It is God that justifieth. Now how can that be? We must be clear about this. God met us at the Mercy-seat. Chapter 3 tells us that God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in His blood. Christ is the propitiation—the Mercy-seat—the meeting-place. There we have met God, and instead of our sins being bound upon us and our souls cast into eternal hell God justified us there, for He is just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. The blood of His beloved Son, whom He gave for our salvation, proclaims His justice, and through that blood He can justly justify all those who believe in Jesus. What a meeting place; there God's glory is maintained, His justice satisfied, and we are saved, and all this in and through our great Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ.

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. My friend 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. But 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; it was remembered against her no more. But, you say, the amount came out of his own cash-box. 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, 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.

Then comes the question of our old sinful state, and this is the great trouble with many. If God had left us where we were, on the ground of our own responsibility for blessing: “in the flesh” as the 8th chapter puts it, we could not have been clear of condemnation, for we should still have remained in a position and condition before Him that only condemnation could have come upon. So God had to deal with that question as well, and He has dealt with it. And we must learn the truth as to this as well as the truth as to our sins if we are to be really free. If you read Romans 5 you will find a great many beautiful things in it. You will find that seven times over it is said that we receive certain things through or by our Lord Jesus Christ. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through Him we have access into this grace in which we stand; we shall be saved from wrath through Him; we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the reconciliation; we reign in life through Him, and have eternal life through Him. But these joys and blessings belong to another sphere of life to that in which we lived before we knew God, and we want to be practically and experimentally in the new sphere of life. If I had a blackboard here, I would inscribe upon it two circles; over one I would write “Adam” and over the other “Christ.” We have all lived in the first circle, we were born into it; Adam was our head, our progenitor, and as he was, so were we. Adam was disobedient, so were we, for his nature has come down to us. Adam's disobedience brought in death, and death passed upon us all, for we have all sinned. Condemnation came upon him and it rested upon us, for we were like him and stood where he stood. So within the Adam circle I would write:

 

 


These great blessings of which I have spoken don't belong to that circle, nor can they be enjoyed there. How could peace, joy, liberty, life, victory, spring up and flourish in the circle of sin, condemnation and death? But God's grace has abounded exceedingly and a new circle has been formed. The “Christ” circle, and it is to that circle that the blessings belong and there only are they enjoyed. Christ was the obedient One, and His obedience was accomplished on the cross. Verse 19 should read “by one obedience.” It is the work of Christ that has brought in life and blessing in contrast to the “one disobedience” of Adam that brought in condemnation and death. There is a very sweet thought in connection with that which will appeal to every Christian heart here. Christ was the obedient one, He went into death as the whole burnt offering. In Leviticus 1-4 we have both the burnt offering and the sin offering, setting forth in figure Christ's death on the cross. The sin offering sets forth what He was as made sin for us, bearing all the judgment that was our due; the burnt offering sets forth all the fragrance of His complete obedience to the will of God. So that while Jesus, from the manger to the cross, was always and altogether delightful to the heart of God, there was never a moment when the Father found more pleasure in Him than when He yielded up His life in perfect obedience to God's will. Think of the death of Christ from that standpoint. That death yielded great glory to God, great satisfaction to the heart of God, because of the absolute obedience of it. Adam put SELF first and disobeyed, Christ put GOD first and obeyed, and He who did that has become the Head of a race, the beginning of a new creation, and He imparts to every member of the race of which He is Head and Leader His own life, and that life is a life of justification, it is a sinless and a victorious life. So that in the Christ circle there are


And God in His abundant grace has taken you out of the “Adam” circle and put you in the “Christ” circle.

God has given every one who has believed the Gospel of His Son that place. It is all grace—the much more abundant grace that is greater than all our sin; but there it is, and faith accepts it and delights in it. We are now no longer in Adam but “in Christ” before God. Am I using phrases hard to be understood? I am using Scriptural phrases, and endeavouring to show you the way of life and victory. Romans 8 tells us that there is now “no condemnation to them that are IN CHRIST JESUS.” Be determined to understand what “in Christ Jesus” means, so much depends upon it, and God would not have written those words if He had not meant us to understand them.

But it is not enough for us to know that God has given us this position of favour and blessing, we want to be in it experimentally, don't we? We want to live the overcoming life. If the desire is there it is all to the good, and we shall be of one mind with Paul when he asks in chapter 6, “What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.” We have no wish to live in that old circle of sin and condemnation and death, we desire to live in the new circle of obedience, and justification, and life, to be experimentally and practically in Christ, and so living the life that overcomes.

Now that which holds us in the old circle in our practice and experience is SELF, and we could never part company with self but for the greater attraction that is in Christ. The more attached to Christ we are the more detached from self we shall be. As Christ draws us after Him we are drawn out of the old circle, but there is only one way out of it, and that is by death. We shall be done with self and sin completely when we die, or the Lord comes. We pass through death now in figure in baptism. So the apostle continues his argument “How shall we who are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” I am not thinking of the mere rite of baptism, or the who and when and how of it, but of its deep significance. Too many are occupied solely with the form, and show a lot of ill blood in contending for it, who miss entirely its deep meaning. Let the Ethiopian Eunuch illustrate this for us. He was returning from Jerusalem an unsatisfied man, reading Isaiah 53, when the Holy Spirit sent Philip to him; and Philip, from that most affecting chapter, preached unto him JESUS. The meekness, gentleness and love of that blessed Person won the Ethiopian. Philip's heart was full, and he had a good text, and with the unction of the Spirit he spoke of the suffering Saviour whose love carried Him into DEATH. As the Eunuch listened he fell in love with Jesus, and though not a word, as far as we know, had been said about baptism, he said, “Here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized?” It meant, “He died and I will die with Him. I want to reach Him, I will part company with self, and the world and all its honours, for His sake. I must have His company.” He could not actually die, but He would do so in figure. That is what baptism means. It means: Good-bye, world—Christ for me! Good-bye, old life—Christ for me! Good-bye, self and sin—Christ for me! But who is up to that but the one who has fallen in love with Christ? On that line is Christian liberty and the life that wins, and on that line alone.

Now we have ascertained three great facts:—

1. God has settled the question of our sins in His own way for His glory and our justification.

2. God has transferred us from Adam to Christ; in His reckoning we are no longer in the circle of sin and death, but in the circle of obedience and life. Faith accepts that.

3. By our baptism we have assented to what God has done, and in figure passed out of the old circle into the new. Our responsibility now is to be true to our baptism.

Now here the great problem confronts us. The pull of the old circle is strong. All the tendencies of the flesh combine to hold us there in our experience and practice, and how can we be free experimentally? The answer is that there is a new power, a power that pervades the new circle—it is “ the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus .” In the Adam circle—or shall I call it henceforward the SELF circle?—there was the law of sin and death, a terrible principle that held us by its mighty power, from which we could not release ourselves. But, says Romans 8:2, “ The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death .” I will try and illustrate. Suppose I had a piece of steel upon this table: there it lies, held by the law of gravitation, with no power in itself to rise or release itself from the law that holds it. But suppose I hold a powerful magnet over it; another force comes into play—the law of magnetic attraction—and at once the steel responds to the pull of it and springs to the magnet. Thus acts the law of the spirit of life. Christ is the magnet, the great lode-stone of our souls. We have an object outside of ourselves now, and Christ is that Object, and just as the steel has a nature that responds to the magnet, so have we a nature that responds to Christ.

I read recently a paper by a celebrated aviator. In it he said that the law of gravitation had no longer any terrors for them, for engineering had been so perfected that they now had motors so powerful and reliable that they could defy the law of gravitation. It is a feeble figure of a great reality; as being “in Christ Jesus“ we have a new object outside us and a new power within us, and the power and the object work together. The new Power is the indwelling Holy Spirit and the new Object is Christ.

Up to the 8th chapter of Romans we only read of the Spirit of God once—in the 5th chapter, where it says that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that is given unto us. But when we come to the 8th chapter, over and over again we read of the Spirit. Nineteen times in the first part of the chapter we read of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has become a new power which is in us, to put us into intelligent and living contact with the great Object outside of us. We turn away from ourselves to Christ, and we find in Him that which satisfies our hearts. Beloved Christians, is it not so? Just the glimpses we have had of Christ have filled our hearts with love to Him. We have sat under His shadow with great delight and have found His fruit sweet to our taste, and we have to say of Him that He is better than all the blessings He gives. He is altogether lovely. Has He become the Object of your heart? Do you want to live with Him? Do you seek His companionship? Do you want to reach Him? You say. “Can I reach Him?” Not in the body yet; we are going to reach Him in the body soon: but we can reach Him now in spirit, for the Holy Ghost dwells within us to enable us to do it; so that that living, blessed Christ of God becomes a reality to us—the object bright and fair to fill and satisfy the heart; more present to faith's vision keen, than e'en the dearest object seen. Yes, Christ becomes exceedingly precious to the heart. We are brought into communion with God about Him. And we know Him in all the beauty of that grace which was manifested so perfectly when He was here upon the earth, and it is that which has won our hearts. We have followed Him in thought as He bore the cross to Calvary, and there we have learnt the sweetness of that love that shed its fragrance upon death's dark vale, and the infinite love that led Him into those sorrows and sufferings has won our hearts. We love Him and delight to say—He is altogether lovely. And if He is the Object outside of us, we prefer Him to self, and we let self go because of the treasure we have found in His love. And the Spirit of God dwells in us to keep up that affection for Christ and to maintain us on that road.

Then we learn that 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. Thank God, no question needs to be raised in our hearts now as to how God feels about all that we were. What we were as “in the flesh,” and all the sins we had committed as connected with that condition, have passed under God's judgment at the cross, and have been removed out of the way that we might be entirely free, and that, as we walk in the Spirit, the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled IN US. To be fulfilled in us is more than being fulfilled by us; it implies that we have a life and nature that delights in what the law asks. What are those righteous requirements? Well, that we should love one another. If we love and are occupied with Christ, we shall be interested in the things which interest Him. If you are entirely indifferent to the interests of any person I am certain you have no love for that person. If you love a person, you are interested in that person's interests. And so, if you love Christ, you are interested in His interests, you love those who are precious to Him, and you will be ready to suffer for them, and won't be back-biting, quarrelling and criticizing; you won't be seeking to injure others if love is active; you will return good for evil and you will be ready to forgive. It is in this way that the new and victorious life finds expression. Not in great exploits, as some imagine and desire, but in self-forgetful service, remembering that it is written in this same epistle, “EVEN CHRIST PLEASED NOT HIMSELF.” That is the victorious life, for it is the life of Christ, and in that life we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us—chapter 8:36-37; not by killing, but by being killed; not in doing deeds that would call attention to ourselves, but in denying self, setting self aside, and being ready to suffer for His sake.

Now for a moment turn back to chapter 6. Verse 14 says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law but under grace.” Law made great demands which we could not satisfy, being “in the flesh.” It made its demands without supplying any life, virtue or power by which they could be met, and so it only exposed our bankruptcy, or helplessness, and sin. It showed what we were. Grace shows what God is—God in the fullness of His goodness and love in Christ; and it tells us that all He is, is for us. Grace is the never-failing, always available supply by which the life which we have in Christ is kept in vigour, and by it every demand from every quarter can be faced. It is what God is, and God is for us.

A word may be necessary as to what the flesh is which is contrasted so strongly with the Spirit in the early part of this chapter.

“The flesh” is not the body; it cannot be that, for the body becomes the temple of the Holy Ghost. It is that evil principle that governs man, that makes him his own centre instead of God. It is the very nature of man until he is born again—all his motives spring from self-love: see it in the ambitious politician, the man who is making haste to get rich, the man who lives for pleasure; let us look at our own lives apart from Christ and the Spirit—that is the flesh, and the end of that is death. If we live in the flesh we shall die—corruption and death are the end of that road. But if we are walking in the Spirit and minding the things of the Spirit, we shall not be self-centred, we shall be Christ-centred, and there will be life and peace. Which road shall we take—the road that ends in death, or the road of life and peace: shall we walk after the flesh and be self-centred, or walk according to the Spirit and be Christ-centred?

There is only one overcoming life, and that is the one life that has been imparted to all who believe. It is the life of the risen, victorious Christ who has conquered death, shaken the dominion of the devil to its very base, and who has gone up on high to be a life-giving centre and head, and to maintain in triumph by His ceaseless intercession all those whose faith and hopes and love are centred in Himself.

The Light and the Truth

 

“ O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy yea upon the harp will I praise Thee, O God my God ” (Psalm 43:3-4).

 

Thus cried the Psalmist as his soul panted after God, and God has answered his cry. He had purposed to do so before time began, so that every one who sought Him right find their full joy in Him, and that in a way that never could have entered into any human mind. The way He has done it is told out in the Gospel of John the Apostle; where we see the height from which “the light” and “the truth” have come, the greatness of the One who was sent forth to be both; the depths of shame into which He went to save us; and the triumphant way in which He leads us, not to God's altars merely, but to His very home and heart. For the light and truth have not been sent forth in vain, and Jesus, who is “the light” and “the truth,” has revealed the Father so blessedly that He has become infinitely attractive to us, He has become our exceeding joy.

In chapter 1 we learn THE GLORY OF HIS PERSON, who said, “ I am the light ,” and “ I am the . . . truth

“ In the beginning was the Word ”—HIS ETERNAL EXISTENCE.

“ And the Word was with God ”—HIS DISTINCT PERSONALITY.

“ And the Word was God ”—HIS PERSONAL DEITY.

“ The same was in the beginning with God ”—HIS ETERNAL COMPANIONSHIP WITH, BUT DISTINCTION FROM, THE FATHER.

The Word brings Him before us as the One in whom the wisdom of God's infinite mind has found personal expression in whatever way God has expressed Himself; hence we read of Him;

“ All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made ”—

HIS CREATIVE WISDOM AND POWER.

Thus is the eternal glory of His Person told, and thus John introduces Him to our faith and adoration.

From the glory of His Person He proceeds to THE GREATNESS OF HIS CONDESCENSION.

“ The Word was made flesh ” (v. 14)—HIS REAL AND PERSONAL INCARNATION.

“ And dwelt among us ”—HIS ENTRANCE INTO ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MANHOOD.

“ Full of grace and truth ”—HIS SUITABILITY TO ALL THAT MEN ARE WITHOUT COMPROMISING WHAT GOD IS.

And in connection with His coming to tabernacle among us, a fresh glory bursts upon our vision; one that creatorial power could not reveal; one that never would have been revealed at all had it not been for the great purpose that was in the heart of the Father in sending Him forth.

“ And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father ”—HIS UNCHANGING RELATIONSHIP IN LOVE AND ONENESS IN NATURE WITH THE FATHER.

An able and reverent writer has said, “His was the glory of the Only-Begotten, come fresh from the splendour of uncreated light. Every idea but that of pure sovereign Deity in this part of the argument is trifling and profane.”

The same writer, speaking of this wonderful epithet, “Only Begotten Son,” says, “When the evangelist would affirm the perfect and eternal intimacy and union between the glorious Persons in the Godhead, and the unspeakable and infinite endearment of our Lord to the Father; when he would convey the loftiest possible idea of the majesty of evangelical truth; when he would impress the minds of his readers with a deep sense at once of the inscrutableness of the Divine nature, and the certainty of the manifestations of God in Christ, he declares—‘No man ' (nemo), no being of created mould, ‘ hath seen God at any time; THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON, who exists in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him ' (v. 18). When, again, he would illustrate the benevolence of God with the highest splendour, he says, ‘ In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that GOD SENT HIS ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON into the world, that we might live through Him .' And, finally, when our Lord would represent unbelief as the last extreme of human guilt, He finds no stronger argument than that conveyed in this appellation, ‘ He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in THE NAME OF THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD '.”

We pass from the glory of His Person, and the greatness of His condescension, to the PERFECTION OF HIS LIFE.

“ I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do ” (chap. 17:4)—HIS ABSOLUTE DEVOTION TO THE WILL OF GOD.

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (chap. 8:12)—HIS PERFECT MANIFESTATION OF GOD, THE ONLY SOURCE OF LIFE AND LIGHT FOR MEN.

“Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (chap. 13:1)—HIS UNCHANGING LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS TO THOSE WHOM HE HAD CHOSEN OUT OF THE WORLD.

How great the blessing that comes from the consideration of the fullness of light and truth in the lowly life of this glorious Person; of His suitability to meet the condition and need of every sinner whom He sought; of His patience toward their ignorance; His sympathy toward their sorrows; His mercy toward their sicknesses, and His grace toward their sins. What witness to His fullness is borne by Nicodemus, the Sychar sinner, the Bethesda cripple, the storm-tossed disciples, the hungry multitude, the guilty adulteress, the blind beggar, the stricken Bethany sisters, and all who were not too utterly blinded by their love for their own evil deeds to behold His glory. It was thus amid weariness and hunger and thirst, despised and rejected by men, that He laboured amongst them, that the Father's heart might be made known, His words declared, and His works performed; and He that hath seen Him “hath seen the Father.” He is the light and He is the truth.

We pass on from His perfect life to HIS SUFFERING AND THE SHAME THAT MEN PUT UPON HIM.

“ And one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand ” (chap. 18:22).

“ Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber ” (v, 40).

“ Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him ” (chap. 19:1).

“ And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands ” (v. 2).

“ They cried out, Away with Him, crucify Him ” (v. 6).

“ Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away ” (vv. 15-16).

Thus He, whose glory the Gospel unfolds before us, was smitten, scourged, mocked, buffeted, execrated, and crucified.

Along this path of sorrow and shame the Man of sorrows trod His steadfast way to accomplish the will of God. Rising up above all the contumely and the hatred wherewith the men—whose very breath was His—hated Him, He took up the question of God's glory in regard to sin, and became the bearer of it.

“ And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha ” (chap. 19:17).

He upholds “all things by the word of His power,” we learn from Hebrews 1:3; but heavier than the universe was the burden that He carried that day, for then and there He was “THE LAMB OF GOD WHICH BEARETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.”

“ They crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst ” (v. 18).

“ When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, IT IS FINISHED: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost. ”

How incomparable the dignity of the holy Sufferer amid the shame of that cross! How triumphant that word, ere He gave up His life! The will of God accomplished; the prince of this world utterly confounded; the great sacrifice made that would fill the universe with the glory of the light and the truth that He went even into death to fully manifest.

One more passage from this most solemn chapter we must quote:—

“ One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water ” (v. 34).

The last act of man's hatred brought out the love of God in all its fullness.

“The very spear that pierced His side

Drew forth the blood to save.”

And now through the infinite, eternal, and ever-abiding efficacy of that blood we are in the light, i.e., we are brought to full revelation of what God is, that our joy may be full. “If we walk in the light as He is IN THE LIGHT we have fellowship one with another” [IN THE TRUTH] and the never failing basis of both is—“the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

As we consider the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ we are not surprised at anything that may flow from it. We are assured that God must have had some great purpose in sending Him forth, and in this we find that we are not deceived, for when risen from the dead the Lord sends this message to His disciples. “Go unto MY BRETHREN and say unto them, I ascend to MY FATHER AND YOUR FATHER, TO MY GOD AND YOUR GOD.” He has brethren now to whom He can declare His father's name, and lead them, not to a Jewish altar upon which smokes an impotent sacrifice, but having Himself sanctified us for ever by His one offering, He leads them to the Father that they may worship Him in spirit and in truth. We accept in deep humility this place and relationship which eternal love first planned and then made possible, and while we find our joy. In fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, we own Him who leads us into it as our Lord and our God.

The Lord and His Disciples

 

Power and Grace

Our attention is often arrested by the very remarkable contrasts brought together in the Scriptures, things that according to the reckoning of men could have no affinity, are found to run together and enhance the greatness and beauty of each.

An instance of this is seen in connection with the Lord and His disciples on the glorious resurrection day. His death had scattered them, for it had been told in the prophetic word, that at the smiting of the Shepherd the sheep would be scattered. But the power of God had brought again from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep, and the news of this stupendous fact had spread amongst the sorely perplexed and broken-hearted flock.

How busy were those Galilean women that day, “the King's business required haste,” and in the Gospel of the King it is recorded that “they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, and did run to bring His disciples word” (Matt. 28:8).

On the evening of that day they were gathered together, the last of them drawn to that blessed tryst from distant Emmaus by the Lord's personal service to them; and being thus gathered, two things commanded their thoughts and filled them with wonder: (1) The Lord is risen indeed, and (2) hath appeared to Simon. Nothing could be of greater moment to them than the first, for it was the manifestation of their Lord's victorious power, and was the confirmation of all things which He had spoken to them. And though they did not understand at the time, what the results of this glorious resurrection were, yet it must have opened a new world to their souls, and shown them that what, in their eyes, had been weakness and defeat had become the veritable triumph of God.

But how could they meet the risen Lord? had they not forsaken Him in the midst of His exceeding sorrow, and might He not in consequence discard them for others more faithful and worthy? They might have thought so, and gone to hide themselves from Him for very shame, but—He had “appeared to Simon.”

They do not say He hath appeared unto Mary Magdalene; they knew that her eyes had been the first to look upon Him, but there was nothing remarkable about His appearing to her, for she—devoted heart—had stood bereaved without the empty tomb, weeping out her sorrow, because she knew not where her beloved Lord lay. The world was a wilderness night where no comfort shone because the Lord was gone. It was no surprise to them, or to us, that since He was risen, He should appear to Mary.

But to Simon, who had abandoned his Master, and had proved the veriest coward in the presence of the scorning of a servant maid; who had denied his Lord with oaths and curses—that He should appear to Simon filled them with wonder.

So the two marvels are linked together by them, and in the Holy Spirit's record for us.

His MIGHTY POWER had brought Him from the grave.

His TENDER GRACIOUS LOVE had carried Him even to Simon.

It was this Lord who stood in the midst of them; the powers of darkness had been smitten before Him, and the failure of His followers had not changed Him. He was all-sufficient for every foe without, and for every failure within. No wonder then that it is recorded that the joy of seeing Him was so overwhelming, that they could scarcely believe. But their doubts were speedily removed, they saw the Lord, and it is also our privilege to see Him—their Lord and ours—who had risen indeed, and appeared unto Simon.

We need Him as much as they did, for the malignity of the devil is not one whit less now than then, and we have to mourn failure and sin as terrible as Simon's, for the Church has not kept His Word, and has often denied His Name. But Christ remains unchanged, and every purpose of God, with every hope of His people, hangs alone upon Him.

How blessed then to know that this same Lord is in the midst of His saints today!

Days of stress and trial they are, in the which the devil is seeking to stamp out all testimony for God, both as to the true word of the Gospel, and in the lives and unity of His own.

But He abides. If His pilgrim people are treading a wilderness journey in the which they are conscious of fierce opposition, of their individual needs, and much failure, He says to them, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” so that they may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Or if His servants go forth to spread His gospel according to His own command, He says, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end” (Matt. 28:20), so that while they feel their weakness, they have no cause for discouragement.

Or if His saints gather together because they love His name, desiring only to please Him, He says, “Where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst” (Matt. 28:20).

Having Him, we have an infinite and eternal sufficiency, what need for ought beside? Having Him, we can well dispense with wealth, power, eloquence, wisdom of men, and all the things that attract and charm the unregenerate mind and heart; for in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the power and wisdom of God. He is full of grace. He is our Shepherd and Bishop, our Master and Lord. We must cleave to Him alone. He is our rallying point and our support.

To rely upon our fellow Christians, or to turn to men, whom we deem to be spiritual, for help and support, as some would have us do, would be as futile as it would have been for John to have leaned upon Simon in the hour of trial, but we may all (as John did) lean upon the Lord (John 13:23), and He faileth not.

If we fail, there is restoring grace with Him, and He knows how to apply the balm to hearts broken by a sense of sin, even as when He appeared to Simon. Well may we then lift up our heads, and take courage, having hearts made glad by the sense of what He is.

The Lord and the Home

Words spoken at a marriage service

 

In considering this great occasion four words have been much in my mind—“Only in the Lord.” They were written in reference to marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, and we should ask, What do they mean? They mean, of course, that the Christian man must choose a Christian woman as wife, and the Christian woman must choose a Christian man as husband. To do otherwise would be to transgress the word of the Lord, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”

But more is involved in them than that. “In the Lord” means that you belong to the One whom you have believed, and you own His claims over you. You are His by right of purchase, He paid redemption's great price for you that He might possess you. You belong to each other now for as long as life shall last; you are to know the joy of possession and of being possessed, but before you knew each other you belonged to the Lord Jesus your Saviour, and you will not deny Him the joy of possession, His claim must ever stand first. As to this natural life, you stand before all others in each other's affections and thoughts; but His claim is greater, it is divine and spiritual and eternal. He has given you to each other, but He has not and cannot surrender His rights in you; they are the rights of your God and your Redeemer. In putting the Lord's claim first, you will not be sacrificing your own happiness, but you will sanctify and prolong it, and guard it against that selfishness to which we are all prone and which can only spoil it.

In setting up a new home you are really adding a bit of territory to the Lord's Kingdom, for, as you own His rights over you, the Kingdom of God will be a practical thing in your home. You have often prayed and will continue to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It would be an inconsistent thing to pray that prayer if you did not set up His Kingdom within the four walls of your own home. Your home must be “in the Lord.” As those two of old constrained the Lord to enter their house and abide there, so I know you will. Let Him be Lord there, His will be done and not yours. There was no room for Him except in the manger when He entered this world, but you will say,

“O come to our home, Lord Jesus,

There is room in our home for Thee.”

Having settled the matter of His Lordship over yourselves and your home, what of the internal economy of your home? What have you to carry on with? You have your God-given love for each other—a great gift, life would be intolerable together without that—but that is not enough for a truly successful marriage; you will need to mix wisdom with your love; and not worldly wisdom, which is more often than not rank folly. You will need the wisdom which is from above, of which James speaks, which “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits.” But how can you secure that wisdom, the price of which is above rubies? Listen to this, E—, and let the words be engraved on your memory and soul, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. ” “It shall be given him”; what an encouragement there is in that for prayer in the Name of the Lord to whom you have surrendered yourself and your home! What a standby that word of the Lord will be to you when in perplexity and doubt.

And you, M—, what have you to contribute to the well-being of your home? You have received many presents from those who wish you well, and they will beautify your home, yet in time they will become commonplace and lose their lustre. Time will leave its mark upon your person and all you possess, but you may have a beauty in your home that is fadeless, you may fill your home with a fragrance that will not pass away, you may adorn yourself with a garment that will never grow old, and that will become you even better than your bridal dress. What is it? It is “a meek and quiet spirit which, in the sight of God, is of great price .” It may be an old-fashioned adornment, for “after this manner in old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:4-5). It may not be fashionable in the world, but how pleased God will be with it. Think of God looking down into your home and seeing there that which is of great price in His sight, the most costly gem the world possesses cannot rival that.

Well, it all flows out of the words, “In the Lord”. And you know that He is not an austere Master; He exercises His authority in perfect love, and in divine wisdom. We all wish you well; those who love you unite this day in prayer for the best of blessing for you, but your Lord's interest in you is infinitely greater than ours. He loves you with a perfect and changeless love. His will is on your side and for your constant blessing. May you ever prove that the will of your Lord is good, and perfect and acceptable.

“The Lord . . . Hath Appeared to Simon”

 

Our attention is often arrested by the very remarkable contrasts brought together in the Scriptures, things that according to the reckoning of men could have no affinity, are found to run together, and enhance the greatness and beauty of each.

An instance of this is seen in connection with the Lord and His disciples on the glorious resurrection day. His death had scattered them, for it had been told in the prophetic word, that at the smiting of the Shepherd the sheep would be scattered. But the power of God had brought again from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep, and the news of this stupendous fact had spread amongst the sorely distressed and broken-hearted flock.

How busy were those Galilean women that day, “the King's business required haste,” and in the Gospel of the King, it is recorded that “they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy and did run to bring His disciples word” (Matt. 28:8).

On the evening of that day they were gathered together, the last of them drawn to that blessed tryst from distant Emmaus by the Lord's personal service to them; and being thus gathered, two things commanded their thoughts and filled them with wonder: (1) The Lord is risen indeed, and (2) He hath appeared to Simon. Nothing could be of greater moment to them than the first, for it was the manifestation of their Lord's victorious power, and was the confirmation of all things which He had spoken to them. And though they did not understand at the time, what the results of this glorious resurrection were, yet it must have opened a new world to their souls, and shown them that what, in their eyes, had been weakness and defeat had become the veritable triumph of God.

But how could they meet the risen Lord? Had they not forsaken Him in the midst of His exceeding sorrow, and might He not in consequence discard them for others more faithful and worthy? They might have thought so, and gone to hide themselves from Him for very shame, but He had, “appeared to Simon.”

They do not say, He hath appeared to the Magdalene; they knew that her eyes had been the first to look upon Him, but there was nothing remarkable about His appearing to her, for she—devoted heart—had stood bereaved without the empty tomb, weeping out her sorrow, because she knew not where her beloved Lord lay. The world was a wilderness night where no comfort shone because the Lord was gone. It was no surprise to them, or to us, that since He was risen, He should appear to Mary.

But to Simon!—who had abandoned his Master, and had proved the veriest coward in the presence of the scorning of a servant maid; who had denied his Lord with oaths and curses—that He should appear to Simon filled them with wonder.

So the two marvels are linked together by them, and in the Holy Spirit's record to us.

His mighty power had brought Him from the grave,

His tender, gracious love had carried Him even to Simon.

It was this Lord who stood in the midst of them: the powers of darkness had been smitten before Him, and the failures of His followers had not changed Him. He was all-sufficient for every foe without, and for every failure within. No wonder then that it is recorded that the joy of seeing Him was so overwhelming, that they could scarcely believe. But their doubts were speedily removed, they saw the Lord, and it is also our privilege to see Him—their Lord and ours—who had risen indeed, and appeared unto Simon.

We need Him as much as they did, for the malignity of the devil is not one whit less now than then, and we have to mourn failure and sin as terrible as Simon's, for the Church has not kept His word, and has often denied His name. But Christ remains unchanged, and every purpose of God, with every hope of His people, hangs alone upon Him.

How blessed then to know that this same Lord is in the midst of His saints today!

Days of stress and trial they are, in which the devil is seeking to stamp out all testimony for God, both as to the true word of the Gospel, and in the lives and unity of His own.

But He abides. If His pilgrim people are treading a wilderness journey in the which they are conscious of fierce opposition, of their individual needs, and much failure. He says to them, “ I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” so that they may boldly say, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Or, if His servants go forth to spread His Gospel according to His own command, He says, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20); so that while they feel their weakness, they have no cause for discouragement.

Or, if His saints gather together because they love His name, desiring only to please Him, He says, “Where two or three are gathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).

Having Him, we have an infinite and eternal sufficiency; what need for aught beside? Having Him, we can well dispense with wealth, power, eloquence, wisdom of men, and all the things that attract and charm the unregenerate mind and heart; for in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the power and wisdom of God. He is full of grace. He is our Shepherd and Bishop, our Master and Lord. We must cleave to Him alone. He is our rallying point and our support.

To rely upon our fellow Christians, or to turn to men, whom we deem to be spiritual, for help and support, as some would have us do, would be as futile as it would have been for John to have leaned upon Simon in the hour of trial, but we may all—as John did—lean “on Jesus' bosom” (John 13:23), and He faileth not.

If we fail, there is restoring grace with Him, and He knows how to apply the balm to hearts broken by a sense of sin, even as when He appeared to Simon. Well may we then lift up our hearts, and take courage, having hearts made glad by the sense of what He is.

The Lord in the Home

 

“ And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell Him of her. And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them ” (Mark 1:29-31).

 

There are some who would confine the Lord to the Sunday services, and when they are over, they would lock the door of their place of worship, as they call it, and would shut Him inside and live the rest of the week without any reference to Him. But I venture to say that if all they know about the Lord is confined to one day a week they don't know Him at all, and further, those who really know Him would say that if they could only know Him in the Sunday services He would be of little more value to them than are the gods of the heathen to their devotees. They need Him every day. Moreover, the Lord will not be confined to one day a week, or to what we might term the religious side in our lives. He loves us too well for that, and He delights to be with us in our homes and to mingle with us in the joys and sorrows of our everyday life. I proclaim an every-day Saviour, a domestic Saviour, who understands domestic difficulties and knows how to meet them by His own power and grace.

“ Forthwith He went into the house of Simon ”—straight from the synagogue into the house. I am sure that Simon asked Him to go with him, but I am equally sure that He made Simon feel that it was the one thing He desired to do. And there was trouble in Simon's house, his wife's mother lay sick of a fever and the whole house was disordered. What was it that had brought that fever on her? Let us reverently read something into the story that may not be out of place, and may the lesson help us all. Not long before this, Simon had given up a lucrative calling. He had abandoned boat and nets and fishes to follow the Lord, and Simon's wife's mother saw very plainly that the Lord had nothing, not even a home; He was a poor man without a place to lay His head, and if Simon followed Him, would he not be homeless too? It seemed a foolish thing that Simon had done, and his mother-in-law, practical body that she was, began to wonder and to worry about her daughter. And Simon was so headstrong a man, it was no use talking to him. The mother-in-law would have to shoulder the whole burden, so she supposed, and see that her daughter and the children did not want. And so she set to planning through sleepless nights, and the more she planned the more anxious she became, and anxiety deepened into continual worry until she lay fevered, sick and helpless. It was her love for those she dearly loved that brought it all about, and she did not understand that the more she worried about them, the less she was able to help them. May that not have been the cause of the fever? Anyhow, whether that was the cause of it or not, there it was to the grief of them all.

We are going to travel from Simon's house to yours and see if the story does not touch you somewhere. Somehow things are askew with you and you have worried and planned about them but your worry has not straightened them out, and the more you have considered your difficulties the more they have seemed to be in a hopeless tangle, until you are indeed sick of a fever, and you are adding by your fevered spirit to the difficulties that you have wanted to solve, and to the burdens that you have longed to lift from the shoulders of others. It will be well for you to face the question, not of these difficulties first, but of your own condition, and the worried and perplexed state of your heart. But let us return to Simon's house. The Lord made Himself at home there, and they, the household, became so conscious of His sympathetic interest in them, that they tell Him of the sick woman.

How wonderful is this to us, especially when we remember who He was, the High and Holy One, that inhabiteth eternity, and before whom the hosts in heaven bow down in worship, yet Simon's family was not afraid of Him, to them He was so gracious, so accessible, that they could bring their trouble to Him, talk to Him about it. He is the same today, He invites our confidences and wants us to let Him into our homes and lives. I heard of someone the other day who had burdens, personal and otherwise, and who longed for someone to whom he could tell them, but knew no one whom he could trust. Simon's family did not feel like that about Jesus, nor need we feel like that about Him.

Mark's laconic style makes it all very vivid. “Anon they tell Him of her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.” He passed at once into that inner chamber and the moanings of the sick woman ceased as He took her hand, her pulse steadied, her temperature slid down to normal, she was instantly calmed. One touch of that sympathetic but almighty hand changed everything. Contact with Jesus assuaged the fever, and He lifted her up . He did not leave her lying in a state of helplessness, there was no period of convalescence. She did not need to know Him a long time before she could trust Him wholly about her daughter and the family and every other trouble. His touch, His look, were enough, she had nothing to fear if He was near, and she stands up— the fever gone, and she ministers to them . What a change! What a Saviour is our Lord!

I know the sort of woman she was, nothing gave her greater pleasure than to be serving those whom she loved; but the fever had stricken her down, she could do nothing to help them and had become a burden to those she would have served. But now she is free again, her heart can express itself in her activities, she can resume her normal life and serve the household that she loved, and she must have done it as she had never done it before. Her experience of her own weakness in the fever, and the strength that Jesus had imparted to her by His touch had made her wholly new in the way she served. His touch had transmuted the poor metal of her love into calm unselfish, unostentatious service.

Again let us travel from Simon's house to yours, and instead of thinking of his mother-in-law, think of you. It is the contact with Jesus you need. His touch—“I will give you rest,” He says, “Ye shall find rest to your souls.” How wonderful it will be for you when you do find this rest! What a priceless treasure it is! Then will it be said of you, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Then will you be a help and not a hindrance in your home, a glad servant of others' need, and the service you render will be the service of love, love first to the Lord, and then to others.

Now let us bring to the Lord our burdens and cares. Our homes may be His kingdom. The world's door is a closed door, bolted and barred against Him, but we may open the doors of our homes to Him and constrain Him to come in, and when in answer to our request He becomes our Guest, we may tell Him all, and let Him take charge of things, our Guest, but also our Lord. There is no detail too small for His grace and no trouble too great for His power. It makes a difference when the father and mother bend their knees in secret before Him, and it increases the blessing when the family is drawn into the daily habit of prayer. If He is asked and allowed to handle things, peace and order and contentment will be the result, and the humblest home will be transformed into a royal dwelling if the Lord is there.

The Lord in the Midst (1)

 

We hold that there could not be anything greater or more blessed for us to realize this side of heaven than the presence of the Lord in the midst of His own church, or assembly. And in case what we mean is not clear to our readers, we quote are text of Scripture. “ For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one for which cause He as not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I WILL DECLARE THY NAME UNTO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCH WILL I SING PRAISE UNTO THEE ” (Heb. 2:11-12). This triumphant declaration is a quotation from Psalm 22, than which there is no more solemn passage in the whole Bible. It describes for us in the early part of it the sufferings of our Lord and Saviour when He was forsaken of God for our sakes and sins. It shows us in His own words the intense agony of His soul when He hung upon the cross, beset by the whole force of evil, and when more terrible than all, He was made sin for us. The Spirit of Christ in the psalmist portrayed all this a thousand years before it actually happened, showing what a place these sufferings had in the thoughts of God from the beginning. What an unspeakable blessing it would be to us if we mused upon those sufferings more! What enlargement of heart we should experience as we considered God's hatred of sin as expressed there, and His love for us who were the sinners; and the great price that was paid for our redemption and the love that filled the heart of the Redeemer that made Him willing to pay that price! O brethren, how cold and slow our hearts are! How little moved we are by the wonder of the ages—the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Why do we not glory in it more, and say more often in wondering worship—the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me?

But in verse 21 of this psalm the sorrow and unfathomed woe give place to triumph, and there breaks from the lips of the One who had suffered these words that are quoted in Hebrews 2. Briefly we desire to consider what is involved in them.

 

The Risen Lord in the Midst

The fulfilment of this great thing began in John 20, where the Lord, raised up from the dead, sent that message to His disciples “ GO TO MY BRETHREN, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God .” That message gathered them together, and when so gathered Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, saying, “Peace be unto you,” and that they might have no doubt as to who He was, He showed them His hands and Has side. The effect was deep and definite and instantaneous, “THEN WERE THE DISCIPLES GLAD, WHEN THEY SAW THE LORD.”

Many things crowd themselves into this revelation of Himself to them. They must have been assured of His power and victory by His presence with them. Death had been defeated or He could not have been there, hence peace could indeed be their portion instead of distress and fear and an overwhelming sense of loss.

Then He had come back again to them; they were His first thought on that never-to-be-forgotten day. What a sense of His grace they must have gained by that fact? He had always been tender, patient and gracious with them, but they had failed Him so completely in the hour of His deep need.; their faith had broken down and they had showed themselves to be so faithless, and yet He had come to them as full of grace as ever, unchanged by all their failure. His grace was as great as His power; this must have moved their hearts. Then those wounds manifested His love, a love that had suffered for them and gone before them, and met all their foes, that they might follow after Him in the way everlasting without fear or hurt.

There was only one thing they could do as they realized these things, and that one thing was to own Him unreservedly as their Lord, and this they did gladly. His supremacy in their midst was unchallenged. He had in them the nucleus of His church or assembly; a circle in which He could do as He pleased, where His will would be dominant and His rights maintained. And that company of disciples was most satisfied to have it so. They needed no other Lord, Head, Centre or Leader; Christ was enough. They were glad when they saw THE LORD. He had the right to be Lord in their midst because of who He was, He had gained the right to be supreme there because of what He had done. He had redeemed them—they were all His because of the great price that He had paid for them; they could not justly deny His claim. Thank God, they gladly owned it.

Now this manifestation of the Lord to His disciples was not for them only, the words we have quoted from Hebrews 2 show us very clearly that it was to be perpetuated and to continue until God's many sons are brought to glory. Let us notice the way in which those who are attached to Christ by faith are spoken of here for it is important. They are sons of God, and Christ is not ashamed to call them His brethren . We wish that we understood better the dignity with which we are here invested. Could anything be more wonderful? We are no longer bankrupt suppliants at God's gateway, but brought to Him as His sons; we are no longer saved sinners merely, though we are that, and should not forget it, but the One who has saved us and sanctified us has done it so blessedly that we are one with Him, and He is not ashamed to call us brethren, and this not because He has in grace stooped to save us, but because having done this, blessed be His Name, He has raised us up and brought us into the same relationship in which He stands to God, according to the message that He sent to His disciples—“My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God .” He is the firstborn—the Chief and Leader among many brethren. And these brethren of His are His church in the midst of which He is today, as much as He ever was. How much have we realized this? Let us challenge ourselves as to it. We cannot read Psalm 22 without feeling that it means much to the Lord who suffered for our salvation. It is evidently a great by to Him to surround Himself with His brethren and to tell them of the Father, but what does at mean to us? In the days of His great sorrow the people passed Him by. It was nothing to them. Are His brethren guilty of this same indifference to His joy, is there any joy so great as His as He comes with the light and knowledge of the Father's love that had filled His own heart throughout eternity to declare it to His brethren? And is this nothing to His brethren?

To many of them it is nothing at all; they have been seduced from their loyalty to Christ, or corrupted by false teaching and false aims, and instead of having the glory before them as their longed-for destiny, the world and worldly ways fill their hearts, and “ if any man love the world, the love of the Father as not an him .” And consequently they have neither heart nor ears for the voice of the Son of the Father. Many are ignorant of the glory of Christ, and are so involved in worldly organizations and evil associations that at is impossible for them to realize the sufficiency of the Lord as the Leader and Head of His church. It as unspeakably sad that it should be so, and it must be a grief to the heart of the Lord. But has this defection on the part of the church, this indifference to His claims, changed Him? No, that were impossible, having loved His own that are in the world He will love them to the end. And these words abide for us “ I will declare Thy Name unto my brethren: in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee

We repeat that nothing could be greater or more blessed than the realization of this. It were well worth while to count everything else loss for the knowledge of it; and to abandon every association that would hide the Lord from the soul when He appears in the midst in this character. We may see Him and hear Him just as truly today in a spiritual way as His disciples did on the resurrection day. And the One who has known this will be satisfied with nothing less “Let everyone that nameth the Name of the Lord depart from iniquity. Flee also youthful lusts, and follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart,” and they shall know the power and blessedness of the presence of the Lord if this is their desire, for He will ever be faithful to His own word, He will ever be in the midst of His brethren, His church.

But here we must sound a note of warning, for it is easy to press with great vigour the need of separation from evil, and know very little of the blessedness of the presence of the Lord, and be very little formed and fashioned by it. We may lose sight of this positive side of the truth in urging the negative; we may endeavour to exclude disease and not know how to promote health, we may become censorious and pharisaical and do much harm and little good. We need to cultivate the eye that can see the Lord and the ear that can hear His voice and the heart that can own His positive supremacy in the midst, more than the nostrils that are keen to discover evil. His presence must form those who know it after His own likeness, so that with all lowliness and meekness, and with long-suffering, they will forbear one another in love. And these things will characterize those who know His presence, and by them we can test ourselves whether that presence is a reality to us or a mere profession.

 

Declaring the Father's Name To His Brethren

What fills the heart of the Lord is the blessedness of the Father's Name, and this He must declare to His brethren, that they may share with Him the great joy of this for them new relationship. The Father's Name is not a name only, it is the revelation of Himself—it tells us not only who He is, but what He is of old. He revealed Himself by a succession of names to those who were privileged to draw near to Him. But all those names by which He was known to Adam and Abraham, and Moses and David were names that had to do with some circumstance or need that had arisen in time, they were all relative to the conditions in which He found those whom He would bless. But the Name of Father belongs to eternity—it is the name and relationship that the well-beloved Son knew before the foundation of the world. It lifts us out of and above all circumstances and needs and dispensations into what is eternal—for this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” And this gives character to the assembly in the midst of which Christ is. It is not of the world, it is heavenly in its character, and before it reaches the Father's house, it should know the Father and find fullness of joy in this blessed relationship.

One of the sweetest names by which God was known in Old Testament days was “the mighty God of Jacob.” It was by this Name that David knew Him when He set to work to prepare a habitation for Him (Ps. 132). It speaks of invincible, sovereign mercy. And David knew that nothing else would do for him and his people; he knew that if God in this character was amongst them they would be blest indeed; he knew that only the God who had borne with scheming, failing Jacob would do for his equally faulty children. But we do not go back to those old days to learn the relationship in which we stand to God. We are in New Testament days, and belong not to Israel but to the assembly, the church; Christ is not ashamed to call us brethren, and we know God as THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Here it is not mercy or even grace, but love, and not the love of compassion but the love of complacency, for there was everything in our Lord Jesus Christ to draw out the Father's love—He is the eternally worthy object of it. We can understand that; we do not wonder at His words “Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” But let us realize the exceeding riches of God's grace.

“We stand accepted in the place

That none but Christ could claim.”

Our sins for ever put away, our needs all provided for until the time of need ceases for ever, and we are brought into this place of nearness to God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to listen to the voice of His Son, while He tells us of what He knows so well—the Father's love. Is it still possible to enjoy this blessedness. It surely is, and what joy it must give the heart of the Lord to find some who earnestly desire it. We press it upon our readers. We pray while we do so that true exercise of heart may be given to us all in regard to it, that while we lay hold of and enjoy lesser blessings we may not miss this that is higher and brighter than all. It is not something that only those who have advanced far into the knowledge of the truth may enjoy. It is for all—even the babes know the Father. It is heart that is needed, heart for Christ and His things.

The Lord in the Midst (2)

 

“ Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany , where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment ” (John 12:1-3).

Every heart that loves the Lord delights in this happy scene. The Lord is here, supreme in the affections of Martha and Mary and Lazarus, and they, united in one, not only by their family love but more than all in their love for Him, make Him a Supper. Each of them had a part in it, but it was a united effort. Doubtless they had talked about it and made preparation for it. It was a great day for them for they were to entertain their Lord, the Son of God; the Supper was in His honour. Now the hour has come, and they fall into their proper places at the feast in self-forgetting and harmonious devotion to Him. It is a beautiful expression of what the Christian assembly should be, the Lord in the midst, the supreme object of its service and adoration.

But this bit of heaven on earth was reached through chapter 11. It was the outcome of a wonderful experience. These three had learnt what the Lord could be to them in the most testing of circumstances, when death had invaded and broken up their family circle. He had come to them in their sorrow and wept with them there. They learnt the greatness of His power, but first He showed them the love of His heart. Power never yet won a heart, it is only love that can do that, and He was after their hearts, as He is after yours and mine, nothing will satisfy Him but the full possession of our hearts. Consider Him; He wept with those sisters as they wept for their brother. How great must have been His sympathy that made Him weep, and how wonderful His tears and most of all the love behind those tears. Even the Jews were compelled to exclaim, “Behold how He loved him.”

The difference between chapter 11 and chapter 12 is clear. In chapter 11 the Lord is there for the sakes of those whom He loved, to succour and serve them, they are the objects of His sympathy and solicitude; it is their circle and their need of Him in it. But in chapter 12 He is the object of their affection and adoration; it is their response of love to His great love for them. They yield to Him that that only is His due, yet what a joy it is to Him in a world of treachery and hatred, and at a time when the leaders of the Jews were plotting to kill Him.

He had been much to Martha and Mary and Lazarus 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 the Christ, the Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life, the Sun and Centre of the souls.

There is no anger in Martha's heart at the part her sister takes; in the realised presence of the Lord jealousy has no place. She is serving the Lord. This is her part in the harmony of the Supper. With what reverence, with what holy awe, and yet with singing in her heart Martha moves about her house, hands and feet and every movement in unison with the song within her heart. As an indispensable member of a devoted circle she ministers to the Lord of their substance.

And Lazarus who sat with Him at meat, had seen all earthly things fade from his vision as his eyes were closed in death, had felt the breaking of all earthly ties as he passed out of time into eternity, but 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 the 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 he might be 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. No words can describe the blessed communion between the silent Lazarus and his Lord.

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 awhile from corruption; she had KEPT it, mark that word, “Against the day of My burying hath she kept this, ” saith 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 pour 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 is more than the King of Israel; and as the truth as to who He is grows in its glory on her soul, she bows in adoration at His feet and pours 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.

There was no place for Christ in the ritual and formality of the Temple services, but He was given the chief place in the home at Bethany , and as long as that supper lasted all was for Him. He was supreme there, and in that holy scene, until spoilt by the intrusion of the traitor, we have a pattern of the assembling together of the saints of God to meet the Lord (Matt. 18:20). If the true meaning of this dawns upon the soul how great is the effect of it; nothing can compare with it in honour and privilege and solemnity. What preparation of heart there will be for that meeting, and then a Spirit-controlled ministry of praise to Him (Acts 13:2), which was Martha's part; which will deepen into communion with Him as His companions (Heb. 1:9), which was the part of Lazarus, and move on to that full and blessed adoration and worship, which Mary's part illustrates. Mary anointed Him for His burying. She anticipated His death; the blood-bought assembly of God looks back to it, and knowing the Lord as “Him that liveth and was dead, ” but is now alive for evermore, there rings through its praise and worship a triumph and a joy that was impossible in Mary's case.

Of course the devil would spoil it; there is nothing he hates more than that Christ should be honoured, so the traitor brought in the discord when the whole house was filled with the fragrance of Mary's ointment. To this day the same devil is active to rob the Lord of what is most for His honour, and how easily he can deceive even the most intelligent Christians; they have their theories and favourite doctrines, their prejudices and principles, and these assume such proportions in their minds that the Lord in the midst is lost sight of with the certain result—controversy and strife, and spiritual dearth and death. There is a sore need for recovery to this great truth of the Lord in the midst of two or three gathered to His Name—not gathered on this ground or that, to these principles or those, or even on “Scriptural lines” as is sometimes said, for that may be dull formality, but “Unto His Name”—Himself; the heart and mind engaged with Him. It may be that the consideration of the way that these blessedly united three at Bethany made a supper for the Lord may help towards this recovery. The Lord grant it for His Name's sake.

The Lord's Chief Treasure

 

“ Upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH ” (Matthew 16:18).

“ If so ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious ” (1 Peter 2:3).

 

There is that in these words of the Lord that must make a powerful appeal to every heart that loves Him, and only such are in my mind as I write. Let us consider the position as Matthew shows it to us. In chapter 1 the Lord comes into the world as the Heir to David's throne, the rightful King of Israel, and His name is called JESUS—Jehovah Saviour—for He had come to save His people from their sins. But none owned Him or did Him homage but strangers from the East. When Jerusalem , the metropolis of His Kingdom, heard of His advent it did not rejoice, but was troubled along with Herod, the Idumean minion of Roman Emperors, who closed his long life by the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem , in the hope of destroying the Lord. Jerusalem did not want its Saviour, it greatly preferred its oppressor. “ He came to His own, and His own received Him not

But He had another title, greater, more glorious and far-reaching than that of Son of David, King of Israel; He was the Son of Man, this is His title as having the right to the universal throne, and not less than eighty times does He speak of Himself by it; but it is significant that the first time that He uses it, He says, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay Has head” (chap. 8:20). “ He was in the world and the world was made by Him [and every part of it was part of His dominion], but the world knew Him not. ”

Who was it that was refused His rights when He came into the world? Who was it who was in the world a rejected King and a homeless Stranger? It was your Saviour, Christian, the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you. Is your heart not moved as you think of the treatment that was meted out to Him? And is it not a joy to you to know that He has got something that He can call His own, in spite of it all? For it is at this time, mark you, when utterly rejected, when the leaders of the people had decided to kill Him and not crown Him, that He says, “I will build MY CHURCH.” Here is something that cannot be taken from Him. It is more to Him than crowns and kingdoms; they shall cease, but this shall abide for ever for the deep joy and unceasing satisfaction of His heart. The words throb with His love for it. He speaks of it as “My church,” and we know that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” Is it not a joy to you to know that your Saviour has got this compensation for all His suffering on earth? And does it not add to your joy to know that you are part of it? Yes, you are part of that which Jesus calls “My church.”

But we should not be able to appreciate the blessedness of what the assembly is to Christ and our part in it if we had not tasted that the Lord is gracious. There is great sweetness in the words. They are gospel words, and describe Him who said. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy, laden, and I will give you rest.” They mean that when we came to Him in our sin and need we found Him to be most accessible. He did not spurn us, but made us feel that He was glad to see us, and we tasted that He is gracious, He became then and there indispensable to us. We cannot do without Him. It is all beautifully illustrated for us in Matthew 16; we see the perfection of Scripture in the fact that the gracious incidents in that chapter are recorded for us immediately before this great declaration of the Lord as to His assembly.

A Sidonian woman cried after the Lord, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David, my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” She did not understand that being a Gentile she had no claim upon Him as Son of David, and He made as though He heard her not. He did hear and He meant to bless her, but she had to learn, as we have had to learn, that His blessing is free and sovereign grace, and this she learnt quickly. She would not be said, Nay. She would not let Him go except He blessed her. Then He spoke and said, “It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs.” Her answer was magnificent, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the Master's table.” It was as though she said, “I know that you have spread the table for the house of Israel according to all the promises of the past, but your provision is so abundant that that table will not contain it, it must overflow, and I shall be satisfied with the overflow.” She got her desire, she tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Then great multitudes came to Him, bringing their lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet. Every human ill was there in that multitude and His compassion flowed out without reserve and He healed them all; they tasted that the Lord was gracious. That multitude who had followed Him needed bread. He had come from heaven to be the Bread of Life for them, if they would receive Him, but did He care for their physical needs also? Yes, He will “not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” They were His creatures and He would show His compassion, His tender consideration for them no matter how careless of His claims they might be. So they did eat of the loaves and fishes and were filled. They tasted that He was gracious.

These instances of blessing serve to show us what He is, how gracious, compassionate, and ready and able to meet the need of all who seek Him, and we have sought Him; weary and burdened we came to Him, and we have tasted that He is gracious. It is not head knowledge with us, not mere theory, I trust. We have taken into our own experience this blessed fact—He is gracious. We cannot do without Him, nor ever shall as long as we are in this world. It is good for us to have learned this great truth and having learned it to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart, for it prepares us for what follows.

We cannot do without Him, that is a gospel fact; but He cannot do without us , that is an assembly fact. He is indispensable to us, but we are indispensable to Him . He is gracious to us, we are precious to Him. Thrones and kingdoms He must have, for He must reign until He hath put down every enemy, they are a necessity for the glory of His name and the eternal supremacy of God, but His assembly meets the need of His heart, in it He shall be satisfied. He cannot do without us. Let this side of the truth fill us with wonder, for only as we wonder shall we grow in the knowledge of its meaning, and worship.

We shall not cease to appreciate and show grace as we take in the truth. For the nearer we get to the heart of the Lord, the more gracious we shall become, for we shall be more like Him and He does not cease to be gracious to us when His glory as Builder and Head of His assembly is revealed to us. The truth of Christ and His assembly is truth for the heart, rather than for the head, it can only be truly learnt by the heart, it is only seen by the eyes of the heart. It is not the wish of the devil that we should understand it, he will be well pleased if we are indifferent about it, and it is a sad thing to have to say, but it is nevertheless true, that there are many who owe their eternal blessing to the Lord Jesus who are utterly indifferent to this that means so much to Him. Where this is the case, the devil has gained a temporary triumph; it is only temporary, for that day is surely coming of which the Scripture speaks, when the assembly shall be presented to Christ, all glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blame (Eph. 5). It shall appear “as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21). There will be no indifference then, no sleeping or divided affections. For the wife of the Lamb, which the assembly is yet to be, shall then receive into its heart His love without measure and respond to it without reserve.

But it is the Lord's desire that we should know His love as a present reality and respond to it now. This desire finds expression in Paul's inspired words, “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 2:2). These remarkable words are for us. Think, O Christian, if you are inclined to be careless as to this, what it means to Christ. Only FIRST LOVE can satisfy Him, but what joy it must give to Him if your determination is to keep yourself for Him and not be turned from Him by any selfish thoughts or worldly ambitions. Against this the devil is continually plotting. But are you going to please Christ or the devil? Because of the danger the apostle poured out his fears to the Corinthians, “But I fear,” says he, “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.” Let us fear also, it will cast us more wholly on the grace of the Lord and by His grace only can we be kept.

The truth of the assembly depends entirely upon who Christ is. Hence the Lord asks His disciples, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” The people did not know. They looked upon Him as one of the old prophets returned to the earth, their minds could not rise above what had been, though they might looking be looking for some advance in it. But they were wrong, as the Father's revelation to Peter proved. “But whom say ye that I am?” comes the challenge from the Lord. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” was their answer and the right one. He is the anointed Man, for “the Christ” means this; He is the Man in resurrection, for this was anticipated in “the Son of the living God,” as Romans 1 clearly shows. As “the Christ” He is the beginning of a new creation, the Leader and Head of a new race of men. This great truth can only be learnt as the Father teaches it, faith only takes it in. As “the Christ” He stands in contrast to Adam, against whom the gates of hell prevailed, for he by his disobedience involved his whole race in condemnation and death, but “the Christ” having accomplished one great obedience has been raised up, the Conqueror of death, and He is the Head of a new race, all who belong to it are in Him, He builds them together into one assembly and it is one and shall be one for ever, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. What joy and triumph and courage the knowledge of this gives us. Christ's assembly is invincible. It will survive every attack of the enemy. It alone is stable and we who believe are part of it.

“Blessed art thou Simon Barjona,” said the Lord, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but My Father, which is in heaven,” and we all have come unto this same blessedness if ye know our Lord, as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” for it is the Father's work thus to reveal Him to us. How wonderful it is! We have not only tasted that the Lord is gracious, equal to all our deep need, but the Father in His grace has opened our hearts to a new position, a new calling, a new place of favour, in revealing to us who His Son is. The revelation is from heaven, and God has made it not as the Almighty or as Jehovah, but as Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon what He is as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the church is built. And Peter is the name that He gives to all who come to Him, for they are built up on Him, living stones in living and everlasting union with Himself, the living Stone.

The Lord's Death and the World

 

The Lord of Glory was crucified by THE PRINCES OF THIS WORLD. They who did this deed were the best the world ever produced, and they were the willing and proud builders of the great world system, an edifice which is still in course of construction according to the plans of Satan, who is the architect of it as well as its god and prince. They could find no room in their system for the Son of God. He was the Stone that would not fit into their pretentious schemes, and He could not be tolerated. They could not ignore Him, so they heaped ignominy upon Him to the uttermost, and judged Him worthy of the most shameful exit from the world that their malice could devise. The crucifixion of the Son of God was the consummation of their wisdom and the exhibition of their inveterate hatred of God. This being the case it should be evident to all that there cannot be oneness of thought and action between those who owe everything to Christ, and are in the fellowship of the Lord's death, and the world that crucified Him. They stand on one side of the line and the world on the other, and every principle that governs the one must necessarily be opposed to and destructive of the other. “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel” (1 Cor. 6:14-15).

The cross of Christ is the world's condemnation, it was tested by His coming into it, and by rejecting Him it has demonstrated beyond question the fact that it has not a single thought in common with God, and that it is in irreconcilable rebellion against Him. God's plan is to gather His saints out of it and bring them “into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Every attempt at compromise with the world on the part of the Christian profession is spiritual adultery—unfaithfulness to the Lord. To be true to that fellowship into which God has called us means heart-separation from the principles upon which the world is founded and the wisdom and movements in which it boasts. Thence the call to all who belong to it: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18).

The Lord's Last Words

 

We invite you to consider the last words of our Lord to His disciples before He went forth to His agony in the garden and His death upon the cross. We take those that Luke was inspired by the Holy Ghost to give us, and we suggest that at least one hour should be given at the opening of this year to the consideration of them. They set before us our position in the world as the Lord's witnesses in it during His absence from it, and His tender solicitude for us; upon this we would lay the emphasis. They show us His intimate knowledge of our fickleness and frailty, and of the dangers and vicissitudes that beset us, but also of His unwearied and unwearying love for us, and His ability to make us more than conquerors until He comes again.

We will read the chapter (Luke 22). For nothing could be more moving, surely, than it; nothing more calculated to fill us with wonder than what is there recorded; and it will give us the setting, the surroundings, without which, as always in the case of the words of Jesus, the infinite and divine beauty of the words and acts will be partly lost.

The chief priest and the scribes sought to kill Him, so verse 2 tells us. That was because they hated Him with a bitter and incorrigible hatred, and that in spite of the fact that it was the Feast of unleavened bread, which spoke symbolically of all malice and hatred and evil being put out of the heart; but what cared they for that? To rid the world of Him whose very presence in it was a continual rebuke to their sin and hypocrisy and pride was their purpose, but how to do it was their problem. They were cowards, every one of them, base cowards, and they feared the people whom they despised. They had no need to have feared them, for those people could be swayed either this way or that like saplings in a gale; they were as foolish as they were sinful, and had no love for the Lord. All they cared about were the loaves and fishes with which He had fed them. They would defend Him if he fed them well, if not—“Let Him be crucified.” But the perplexity of these rulers disappeared when there slunk into their council one of the Lord's own disciples. Here was the solution of their difficulty, here was the devil-possessed implement of their plot.

Judas had slipped away from the Lord's company under some pretence or other that must have deceived his fellow disciples but not the Lord. Do you not see him hastening furtively through the streets, hastening as only a guilty man bent upon a foul crime could hasten, to the place where he knew those enemies of the Lord were? There was no time to waste in haggling or bargaining, the deed must be done and done speedily; thirty pieces of silver was “the goodly price” that they offered him, and for that price he sold his Lord and agreed to bring about His capture while the people slept. Then this devil's dupe—oh, the horror of it!—returned to resume his place among the disciples, as though none were more devoted to the Lord than he, and the chief priests proceeded to plan the execution of their murderous design, and then went to their prayers and to their preparations to eat the Passover. Such is the world, such was the world on the night of the Lord's betrayal, and He knew it, He knew it thoroughly and completely.

It was not the rabble, untaught and knowing not the law, that planned this greatest crime that night or day has ever seen. It was the chief priests and the respected leaders of the people, religious men, men of education, who boasted in their culture and elevation above the common herd. They brought it about, but they could not have done it alone; one of the Lord's own disciples, His own familiar friend, was necessary, and he was ready when the devil entered into him. You could not find men in better circumstances than these were in. The chief priests had the law and Judas had the gospel, and all the grace of it in the Master whom he had followed for more than three years, but neither law nor gospel changed them, though both increased their responsibility and added to their guilt. But such is the heart of man, and such is the world, and seeing it we do not marvel as Nicodemus did when the Lord said to him, “Ye must be born again.”

Now the Lord knew all this. If Elisha the prophet was enlightened by the Lord as to the journey that Gehazi took in order to gratify his covetous heart, the Lord of Elisha—for Jesus was that—knew all that had passed between the traitor and His foes. He knew, too, all that would follow this plotting; He knew that man's hour and the power of darkness had come, and knowing all, what does He do? Let us see.

Exercising His authority as Messiah for the last time, He sent Peter and John to demand a guest chamber, in which He could eat the Passover Feast with His disciples, 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 the resources they would have. The storm was gathering outside, preparations for His arrest and condemnation and crucifixion were being rapidly completed, and Judas, who knew all about it, sat there at the table with Him with the price of his treachery in his bag. And Jesus knew all this. Never before had the powers of darkness been so stirred; this was the supreme hour, men were but the puppets on the stage, guilty puppets, playing their part with willing hearts; but behind them were the forces of evil determined to crush that one lowly Man, and to finish for ever at one blow their long fight with God, and Jesus knew this. But His disciples, and we, were His one thought. Behold Him look round upon them and say, “ With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer

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. It is this that we must specially consider because it is definitely for us, which the Passover was not. One of the chief features of this period in which we are called to witness for Him is, that He is absent from this world; His disciples 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. Nor shall we long with less desire for the day when He shall be glorified in this world that despised and rejected Him.

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, as they are given to us in this Gospel by Luke.

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 whose will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God. It is well that we should learn 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. And we show the Lord's death until He comes again. As we eat His Supper, we announce the fact that we are identified with Him whom the world slew, we are identified with Him because we love Him.

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.

And so, as we sit at His Supper, we follow Him in thought through the gates of David's city, that city that He loved so well and for which He wept, to Calvary . We see Him there for us, no light shining on Him from above, no friend ministering comfort below. We hear His broken cries, but men only mock them and heaven is dumb, and at last He dies. The Prince of Life hangs dead upon a cross for us ; His body was there given for us and His blood shed for us . It is this that the broken bread and the poured-out wine speak of—Christ dead for us. And we need this Supper to keep Him in this great love ever fresh before our soul. If He were here we should not need it, because He is absent we do.

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. “And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new Testament in My blood, which is shed for you.”

 

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 among 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. It is in the world that men endeavour to be great, and jostle one another in their scramble for the chiefest places; but those disciples, and we like them, are not of the world, then the spirit of the world had not to show itself in them, nor must it in us. They belonged to Christ and so do we, and consequently it is His spirit that we have to bear and show.

Let us incline our ears to hear His words. He said to them, “ I am among you as he that serveth .” Are there any more affecting words in Scripture than these? Consider what they mean! 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 them 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 and to destroy them; and if he cannot destroy them, he will endeavour to destroy their testimony. 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; Satan is always too late for the Lord's vigilance, the prayer arose before the temptation came and so it always does. He was ahead of Satan; Satan might catch Simon sleeping, and take you and me unawares, but he could not forestall the Lord. He had gauged the power of the foe and the weakness of His well-meaning disciple; 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 swords. 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 approval in this present time, and in the future there is glory 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.

Let us in our meditation put ourselves in thought among that company of men in that upper room, and listen to these wonderful sayings of our Lord, spoken with such quietness, such tenderness, until their full meaning fills our souls. Then let us follow Him as the Holy Spirit here shows Him to us, going forth to the Garden, then to the Cross, and down into the grave, then rising in the triumph of His victory over death, and ascending at last to His Father's throne; then like those disciples who saw Him go up, we shall worship Him, and be filled with great joy, and be continually praising and blessing God. Amen.

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It may be well to explain what the word translated “church” in our Authorized Version means. The word is “ecclesia” and means to “call out.” The ecclesia is composed of all who have come to Christ, the Son of the living God, they are called “living stones” in 1 Peter 2. They form one assembly, having been called out from the bulk of men and from the world by the gospel with this great end in view. Assembly is the right word to use, wherever church occurs, hence we use it in this paper, except when quoting Scriptures from the Authorized Version.

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The Lord's Return

(“Glue together till I come back”)

 

“Glue together till I come back”

A family came tumbling pell-mell into our compartment, returning from a seaside holiday. They were a healthy crowd of boys and girls with a merry looking father and a somewhat anxious looking mother; she probably had good cause for her anxiety for her young brood looked quite capable of daring deeds. We were en route for Edinburgh and a connection had to be made there by this family for the west; the time between the trains was little enough, and numerous trunks were packed in the luggage van. It was the father's business to attend to these, and as he dashed off to do so he said to his family, in a tone which was a command, “Glue together till I come back.” It was a sensible command, for anyone could see what trouble the father would have had and what time would have been lost if on returning he had found his family scattered; and it was a needed command, for those youngsters had wills of their own, and looked as though they liked to exercise them independently of each other, but the father's authority controlled them. I watched to see if they would obey, and they did; I was delighted, and hope they got their train.

The father's words to his family glued themselves to me. They sounded so much like other words, words that should be for ever sacred and precious to Christian hearts because they fell from the lips of the Lord whom we love. The burden of His parting words to His disciples was, “Love one another till I return.” “Glue together!” Several reasons are given for this. Said He:—

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another

“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hates you , ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.”

“That they all may be one that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.”

Cogent reasons these why the followers of the Lord should “glue together” during His absence.

Consider them:—

1. He commands it.

2. Because He loves them.

3. That all may know that they are His disciples.

4. Because the world hates them because they belong to Him.

That the world may believe that the Father sent the Son.

Other reasons could be cited why those who are the objects of the Lord's love should “glue together,” and not the least is that He is waiting to hear the cry, “Come, Lord Jesus,” from hearts united by love to Him. Some ignore these great reasons for loving cohesion on the part of the saints of God and would substitute rules and regulations, would build again little folds for keeping the sheep together, but these things only militate against true cohesion; they divide the saints instead of binding them together. He is coming back, the time of His absence is drawing to its close. Do we not feel that it is an unspeakable shame that His disciples have forgotten His word and not kept it, that they have not “glued together” during His absence, but have quarrelled and divided, and scattered, to their loss and dishonour and to His grief?

So much so that if He were not the Lord who knoweth them that are His and where to find them, He would have much difficulty at His coming to gather them together again in one. This sort of thing began very early in the history of the church, as the first epistle to the Corinthians proves and if it was easy for the flesh and Satan to work their evil way then we need not marvel at it now; yet the blame is entirely ours. We certainly have no cause for self-congratulation on this line, but plenty of cause for deep heart-searching and self-condemnation as we dwell upon the fact that in spite of His love and His command we have not “glued together.”

 

The Practical effect of the Truth

It has been urged that over-much occupation with the truth of the Second Coming of the Lord tends to make Christians unpractical, and indifferent to the welfare of others. A great preacher of the last century, in speaking of this, said he felt inclined to say to certain people who made much of this truth, “Ye men of——, why stand ye gazing into heaven?” But the very opposite effect to this is the truth, where it is HIMSELF that is looked for, and not a mere doctrine held. This is clearly taught, by the Lord's own words in Luke 12. There, in view of His coming, He urges His disciples to be waiting and watching for Him, but while they wait and watch they are to work. His interests are to occupy them and the reality of the hope of His return would be seen by their care for His interests during His absence.

A simple illustration will make this plain. It is necessary for a mother to leave her children for a while, and as she puts the good-bye kiss upon their lips she says, “I will come back soon,” and if she has the opportunity of sending a message to them during her absence, the burden of it is, “I will come back soon.” She knows well that nothing will star the hearts of her children and please them more than that word. Yes, but in the message her own desire breaks out! It is because she longs for them and yearns to see and embrace them again that she sends such a message to them. And what can cheer her more during her separation from them than to know that they are longing to see her, and echoing her own message, “Come back soon.” Even so it is with the Lord and every true-hearted saint in Revelation 22.

But in that little household there is Mary, the eldest of those young children. Not only is there expectation in her heart, but a sense of responsibility too. It is love that has put both there. She loves her mother, and so she longs to see her, again; she loves her mother, and so she will not be idle, for she wants everything in the home to be ready for her return. And the love for her mother and the time she has spent in her company has made her very sensible as to what will please her, so the home is kept clean and the children are dressed and ready. Mother may come any time now, she will find them WAITING.

But how often they go to the door and peer out of the window; they cannot sit still—mother will soon be here, and they are eager for a sight of her, and as the day wears on they become more eager and expectant. They are a WATCHING as well as a waiting family, and it is their love for their mother that makes them so.

But what is Mary doing? While she waits for her mother, she slips first into this room and then into that to make sure that nothing is out of place, and most of all she keeps her eye on the younger children; not a speck must be on them when the mother returns. She must feed them, for this is of greater importance than a spotless house, and keep them out of mischief, and as their minds wander to other things—for an infant's pleasure is continually changing—she continually reminds them that mother is coming, and so she keeps alive their interest in this greatest of all events to her. She waits and she watches like the rest, but she WORKS also. She is faithful to her trust. Blessed is Mary when her mother comes. She has a two-fold happiness. Not only is her mother back again, but she has said, “Well done!” to her faithful daughter. She has the joy of her mother's presence and the satisfaction of her mother's approbation.

This surely is what we get in the Lord's words in this closing chapter of the Bible: “Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to every man according as his work shall be.” And again: “Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this Book.” Has the Lord's love to me affected me as the mother's love affected her daughter? Let each reader ask himself that question. If so, I shall not be an unpractical and lazy Christian; I shall be watching, waiting and working, and my heart will go out to all whom He loves, and I shall not be satisfied with being ready to greet Him myself when He comes, but I shall be anxious that all His own may be ready too, because I know that thus He would have it. There is no truth in the whole of Scripture that could have a greater effect upon us or make us labour more diligently than this.

The Lord's Return in the Acts of the Apostles

 

The Lord's last words to His disciples as to His kingdom ought to have been enough to preserve men from the folly, and we might say the presumption, of fixing dates as to when it will come. “ And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power ” (Acts 1:7). Yet we should be looking for that kingdom to come, and be hastening it by our prayers and labours for it. It will come when the King comes, and not till then. Knowing this, how interesting it is to see that the first message from the glory after the Lord entered it was that He was coming back again. On swift pinion, as our Lord entered the glory, came His messengers, saying, “ 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 ” (v. 11). Clearly His coming back again should have the first place in the thoughts of His own. It was from the Mount of Olives that He went, and His feet will return to that same spot. If we connect this angelic declaration with the Lord's words in Matthew 24:16, and the prophet's words in Zechariah 4:1-5, a flood of light is cast upon these Scriptures, and what otherwise might be obscure is made very clear to us.

Acts 3:19-21 has direct reference to the coming of the Lord for the blessing of His people Israel , of which the prophets spoke. “The restitution of all things” is limited by the words “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” And this meets the error of the universalists who use this passage to support their doctrine of universal Salvation. Yet how near to God's heart must the coming of the Lord in glory and the blessing of His people be, since all His prophets have spoken of it! Let the fact that all God's holy prophets have spoken of the coming of the Lord in glory prove to us the great importance of it.

In the first sermon preached to the Gentiles (Acts 10) it is remarkable that judgment is given the prominent place “ He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead ” (v. 42). The judgment of the quick will be when He appears in glory for the establishment of His kingdom on earth (Matt. 25:31-46), the judgment of the dead will be when that kingdom is finished and the great white throne is set up (see Rev. 20:11-15). There is remission of sins now, through His name, but if this is rejected there remains nothing but judgment at His coming. Paul also pressed the coming judgment upon the Gentiles in Acts 17. “ God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead .” This judgment will be continued throughout the reign of Christ. It will be introduced and maintained in righteousness.

These are the only two sermons recorded for us as being preached to Gentiles in the Acts by the Holy Ghost-inspired apostles, and the fact of judgment to come being made so prominent ought to arrest the gospel preacher of this day and make him inquire as to how far his preaching squares with it. We have the Lord's command to preach and to testify that He is coming to judge, and when the Lord gives a command His servants have no option but to obey. Again in speaking to Felix, the Gentile governor, Paul reasoned of “righteousness, temperance and judgment to come” (chap. 24-25).

 

How His Servants will be affected

These statements as to the coming of the Lord in the Acts are all about His appearing in glory to the world, to judge what is evil and to establish what is right: and this is the testimony that the servants of the Lord have to bear to the world, as it was Enoch's in his day—the man who was translated to heaven before the judgment came, as we are to be. Our heavenly portion with Christ and His coming to introduce us into it comes out later in the epistles, and is ministered for the comfort and joy of the servants of the Lord, rather than to be the subject of their testimony to the world. There is joy in serving the Lord, yet there is something greater: “Rejoice,” said the Lord to His servants, “that your names are written in heaven.” Our citizenship is there, “whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our bodies of humiliation, that they 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).

This great event draws nigh, for the Lord's work on earth must be nearing its completion, and when it is completed He will instantly come. The first stage of His coming will be His descent to the air to summon His servants from their labours to meet Him there, and to introduce them into His Father's house, to enjoy with Him their heavenly portion, and to review with Him their lives and labours at His judgment seat. What an unspeakable joy will His servants know when He calls them home from their service! Some are toiling in lonely and difficult fields, with very little human encouragement and no applause. What a rapture it will be for these to be caught up in the twinkling of an eye to the joy of the Master's presence, there to receive His approval, His “Well done!”

They are searching the highways and hedges for souls that His house may be full, and are going forth to every kindred and tongue and people and nation, that the sum of those who are to be redeemed unto God by the blood of the Lamb may be made up. The work is surely almost done, and the moment is fast coming when the voice of the Lord shall pronounce the work finished and they shall be instantly with Him, bringing their hard-won trophies with them, that shall be their joy and crown of rejoicing in that day! If our words reach any of these we would say to them, “The Lord has chosen you for most honourable service—He has fitted you and sent you forth to gather these souls out of the world for Him, and your labour is not in vain in Him. Hold fast! Cleave to the Lord! Let His coming be a bright and blessed hope to you, while you carry the gospel message to thirsty men saying, “Let him that is athirst come.”

Others, faithful and wise servants are they, are giving to the Lord's household their meat in due season. They are feeding and nourishing the affections of His saints by ministering Christ to them, and in this way they are preparing them for His coming. Blessed, said the Lord, shall all such be when He comes.

No truth that we know of is more likely to stir up a holy energy within the servants of the Lord, than that of His speedy return, and they could have no greater joy than the fulfilment of this blessed hope.

 

May we expect a Revival before the Lord comes?

“Do you think we may look for a revival before the coming of the Lord Jesus?” Often I have heard this question lately, and my answer has been, “We ought not to allow any expectation to stand between our souls and His coming, for His coming is our immediate hope.” Yet while we wait for Him we may rightly and earnestly desire a true revival of spiritual energy in the service of the Lord and most of all an increase of joy in Him. How can this be secured? What could more surely revive us than manifestations of Himself to our souls? Nothing, surely. And these He has promised to those that love Him. But the love that secures these manifestations must not be in word only; to approach Him with the lips is not enough—it must show itself in obedience to His commandments, and the first of these is “that ye love one another.”

I believe that if we loved our brethren more, if we were kinder to the children of God, fellow-members with us of His family, if we were more ready to discern and appreciate the work of God's Holy Spirit, which is one work in all the saints, we should be greatly revived. For what could revive our souls more than an increased experimental knowledge of the Father's love to us, and manifestations of the Lord Himself in His all-varied grace to our souls? And the way to secure these unspeakable favour is to keep His commandments, and this is His commandment, that ye love one another.

I have no doubt that we have all realized the joy that follows a practical expression of love to one of God's children; we have been greatly blest when we have visited an isolated or suffering saint; a few words to a Christian whom perhaps we have never met before has brought great cheer into our souls. These experiences all meant that the Lord saw and appreciated these manifestations of love and He drew near to us, and we walked with Him. Suppose we gave ourselves more definitely and with greater purpose of heart to these things, should we not be greatly revived, and revive others also?

We know also, from sad experience, how that hard feelings toward our brethren have brought deadness and dearth into our souls, for the Spirit of God has been grieved thereat and the Lord has withdrawn Himself. Questions, debates, sects, party feelings and zeal, all put the Lord at a distance from us and stop the flow of His grace to us and through us. We know it—let us own it, and put these things far from us, and instead of them love His commandments and do them. Then we shall have no need to ask, May we expect another revival. It will be with us, a great reality, binding hearts as one and joining voices together in the cry, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

The Lord's Supper (1)

 

It is the first day of the week, THE LORD'S DAY, and my heart and mind have been concentrated on THE LORD'S SUPPER. The Day and the Supper are bound together in the New Testament, by one word that is used to describe them both. Kuriakos , the “Lord's” means belonging to the Lord”: the day belongs to the Lord (Rev. 1:10), and the Supper belongs to the Lord (1 Cor. 11:20), but those who have the Lord as their Saviour are called by the grace of God to have their part in both and specially to understand the meaning and importance of the Supper. We greet the Lord's Day with gladness, but it is specially dear to us because on it we can have part in the Lord's Supper. Let us consider it.

It is in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 that the most definite instructions as to it are given, and the opening words are arresting.

“ I HAVE RECEIVED OF THE LORD ,” wrote the Apostle.

The word has come from the Lord, and from the Lord in glory. It is more than a wish expressed, more than an entreaty, though both are surely in it; it is a command, the command of our royal Lord, who is also our supreme Lover. It were almost treason to ignore it, and to treat it with any sort of indifference would evince an insensitive and backslidden state of soul. Let us realize the importance of this declaration. Paul was not there when the Supper was instituted, but he had not been dependent on Peter or John for his knowledge of it. The Lord Himself had communicated to him what he knew about it, that he might deliver it to the churches among the Gentiles. If the Gospel accounts of it were all that had been preserved to us, we might have said, “It was instituted for the disciples who companied with the Lord, and not for us,” but this 1 Corinthians 11 shows what the Lord's thoughts are towards us. He would not be forgotten; He remembers those hours of darkness and the great sacrifice, and His desire is that those whom He loved enough to give Himself for them should remember Him as He passed through them, and in this way have fellowship with Him in His death.

The Lord's Supper is the one feast of the Assembly of God, and it stamps upon that Assembly a wonderful character. By the Assembly I mean that great company of men and women that has been called out of the world by the gospel for Christ—His ekklesia —His called out ones—The Supper marks it out as being in complete contrast to the world.

It is truly an inexhaustible theme and that chiefly because it presents our Lord to us in the fidelity and invincibility of His love. The occasion of its institution emphasizes this. It was on . . .

THE SAME NIGHT IN WHICH HE WAS BETRAYED

This is surely arresting, and we must pause and consider why the Supper is identified with this blackest of all black nights. Had Paul been left to his own wisdom to give an account of the institution of the Supper he would most probably have connected it, as we should have done, with the crucifixion. He would have said, “It was on the night before the crucifixion that the Lord took bread.” For the natural thing is to associate events with what is greatest in our thoughts. But that was not the way in which he received it from the Lord, nor was he so inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it. It was on the night of the betrayal. The betrayal is the background that throws into bright relief the love that moved the Lord to give to us the Supper that we might have it until He comes as a memorial of His death. The betrayal was very definitely in the Lord's thoughts; how keenly He felt it we must surely feel, as reverently we consider Him in that solemn hour. “One of you shall betray Me,” He said to them (Matt. 26:21). “One of that eateth with Me shall betray Me” (Mark 14:18). Then in Luke 22:21, after they had partaken of the Supper, His words are recorded, “The hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me at the table.” And here in 1 Corinthians 11, though now in the glory of God, the Lord does not forget this; it was on “the same night in which He was betrayed” that He took bread and gave thanks. There was base treachery in the inner circle, and this caused Him the deepest pain. Jerusalem He loved, but it had never professed to love Him. It had always despised Him, proudly asking, “Who is this?” When His love took Him to it to spend laborious days in the midst of it, it offered Him no welcome, no rest, no home. It left Him friendless on its streets, with no place to lay His head unless He sought it on the Mount of Olives . He felt this, and only His touching lament over it and His tears can tell us how keenly He felt it. But in this inner circle He surely could find consolation and rest! These disciples of His, the “you” whom He loved with a special love, they surely would be faithful to Him; for one and all of them had protested oft and again their love to Him! No, He cannot rest even here, for having gathered them together He says, “ONE OF YOU shall betray Me.” Treachery within was a hundred fold worse than hatred without, and this treachery was well calculated to discourage and destroy a less than perfect love. But He rose up above it all and in connection with it He instituted the Supper which was to be to all His own as long as ever they needed it, a memorial of His love that no failure on their part could change or destroy.

I am sure that none who are truly and vitally the Lord's could do what Judas did; he was a child of the devil, and the devil was in him; nevertheless he was in that circle, he was one of the “you,” and he had received the same tender consideration at the Lord's hands that had been shown to them all. He had been in that best of all company, and had had the best of training and circumstances, but this only brought out the worst that was in him, and proved that the flesh is incorrigibly bad. And the flesh in Judas was no worse than the flesh in Peter and John, and in you and me, and the lesson that his treachery should teach us is that we can have no confidence in the flesh. Then in what and whom may we place our confidence? In instituting the Supper the Lord replies, “You may trust in Me.” For the Supper tells us of love that nothing could daunt, an invincible love that was stronger than death.

“What love with His can vie?” “One of you shall betray Me,” said the Lord, and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” seemed to enter into the full meaning of it all, for he put down his head upon Jesus' bosom. It was as though he said, “Lord, I cannot trust my heart, nor depend upon my love to You, but I can trust Your heart and I can find perfect rest in the love that beats in your bosom for me.” And it was that disciple that stood by the cross ; not Peter who boasted in his love to the Lord, who said in effect, “Lord, you may trust me, I'll stand true to You. You may put your head on my breast, I will not fail you,” not Peter, but John, who distrusted himself, but leaned wholly upon his Lord; he it was, and he only of all the disciples, that stood by the cross. The Supper invites us, and encourages us to act as be acted, so that we also may call ourselves “the disciples whom Jesus loves.” What a resting place is His bosom! What solace and joy His love yields! and that it might be ever fresh before us the Supper has been given to us; and that we might clearly see that; it is not a love dependent upon our faithfulness it was instituted on the night of the betrayal— the same night.

That then is the setting; see now how He acts in it.

HE GAVE THANKS UNTO GOD

Behold Him in the midst of those disciples, with the bread in His hands which was to be to them the symbol of His body given in death for them, lifting heart and voice in thanksgiving to God, His Father. He gave thanks as their Leader and Head; they were those whom He would call “My brethren” when He had overthrown the power of death; they were to be the beginning, the nucleus, of that Assembly in which He would raise a perpetual song unto His Father, and theirs. So now in the midst of them He gives thanks, and the thanks must have been for His death and the great results of it. He looked beyond the cross and beyond the tomb, and measured the favour, immeasurable to all but Himself, in which His Assembly would stand with Him before the Father as a result of His one offering; and with this in full view He gave thanks. That act stamped upon the Assembly its first distinctive feature, it is a thanksgiving company and the Lord's Supper is an eucharistic feast—a feast of thanksgiving. In this the Assembly of God—that which God has called out of the world—stands in complete contrast to the world. The world does not and will not give thanks; “neither were thankful,” is one of the charges that God brings against the heathen world in Romans 1:21, and it is not the least item in the heavy indictment drawn up against a pleasure-loving, God-forgetting Christendom in 2 Timothy 3:2. But the saints of God can and do give thanks; from their hearts they can cry with exultation. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It should cause us much exercise that we give thanks so feebly, and that often murmurings and repinings take the place of praise. We are not living up to our character and privileges when this is the case, and the reason of it is that we have lost the sense of the favour in which we stand, or have never known it. Nothing is more calculated to restore to us a sense of this favour, or teach us what it is, than the Lord's Supper, the feast of thanksgiving. For in the death of our Lord the heart of God was fully declared. His love flowed out there towards us without any reserve, and that when we were both dead and guilty, as we read in 1 John 4:9-10, “ In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son, to be the propitiation for our sins. ” Since our sins are removed, and our souls quickened into life, what can we do but adore and thank Him Who is the source of it?

Our thanksgiving is commensurate with the sense of God's favour in our souls; the more fully we enter into this the fuller our thanksgiving will be. It is feeble at the best, yet it is to me a most cheering and comforting thought that a perfect thanksgiving has entered the Father's ear; for when the Lord gave thanks He did so as fully knowing the favour in which His own would stand with Him. That perfect thanksgiving abides, and I delight to think that when the saints of God come together they do so in all the fragrance of it.

HE BRAKE THE BREAD

Having given thanks, thus giving God the first place, He brake the bread and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is My body given for you; this do in remembrance of Me.” Mark the words, My BODY for YOU. This was that His own personal love to them might be kept continually before them and before us all; and in partaking of this broken bread the Assembly responds to that love and shows its devotion to Him. I speak of it when it is done, not as a matter of form but with hearts moved by His love to grateful adoration. In this again the Assembly stands out in contrast to the world; it is a company devoted to Christ whom the world despised and slew. His body was given for us. The cup also He gave to them, for the two elements complete the symbol of the Lord's death—His body given, and His blood shed. His love led Him to sacrifice Himself on our behalf; it is upon this that we dwell, and dwelling upon it our souls are bound the closer to Him. “This do,” He says, “in remembrance of Me.” “When on the cross I thought of you, now gathered in My Assembly, think of Me.” And when we do this , when we eat of that bread and drink of that cup, we say—“ Lord, we do not forget. ” Here then is His love, and here is our response to it.

YE DO SHOW THE LORD'S DEATH

There are two sides to this breaking the bread and drinking the cup, to this memorial feast. First it is for the Lord's joy; we remember Him; it is love responding to love; but in doing this we show to all who can take notice where we stand; we show that we are identified in the world with His death.

I know of no better illustration of it than that of Joseph of Arimathæa The Lord hung dead upon the cross; all the world had followed its princes in crucifying Him; He was utterly rejected and as far as men could tell hopelessly defeated; then stepped forth Joseph and identified himself with that dead and dishonoured body. It was as though he said, “The world hates Him, but I love Him; the world has slain Him, but I claim His body even though the world meets out the same treatment to me.” So we, when we partake of that broken bread, identify ourselves with the dead body of Christ. As far as the world knows and cares He is still dead; the world's last act against Him was to rend His side, and it has not seen Him since. We know that He lives in resurrection life and power; the Word of God tells us this and the Holy Spirit who dwells in us is a witness to it, but we recall Him as He was and identify ourselves with His death. We announce to angels and men that we hold to the One who was crucified by the world.

I have read somewhere that after James II was driven from the British throne, his secret adherents, when at state banquets the king's health was drunk, used to draw their glasses across the finger bowls, meaning by that act, “We drink to the king across the water.” What they did by stealth we do openly. We drink to the King across the water—to Christ, our earth-rejected Lord. We show His death and by our action say, “God forbid that we should glory save in the cross of our Lord crucified to us, and we to the world,” and though men are indifferent to this, angels look on, and learn that Christ has not died in vain.

TILL HE COME

We link His death with His coming again, and that coming is our hope and joy. We look backward and forward; the glory must follow the suffering, the crown must follow the cross, and between the two we hold the fort for Him. And here again the Assembly stands out in contrast to the world; to us His coming again is “that blessed hope,” the Assembly is a community awaiting the return of the absent Lord, the heavenly Bridegroom; the world will wail because of Him, when He appears. His coming will be the climax and consummation of all our joys; it will bring to naught all the schemes and pretension of the world that will not have Him.

Here then are some of the distinctive features of the Assembly of God that plainly prove that it is not of the world but of God. It gives thanks to the Father. It is devoted to Christ. Its great hope is the coming again of the Lord Jesus.

 

We have considered what the effect of the Lord's Supper upon us should be in regard to the Father, to the Lord personally, and to the world; it has a special bearing also for each one of us in regard to the whole body of Christ, and this we must not overlook. It means the joy and blessedness of holy Christian fellowship, but it also involves us in solemn responsibilities.

“THE CUP . . . WHICH WE BLESS . . . THE BREAD WHICH WE BREAK” (1 Cor. 10:16-17)

It is a matter of COMMUNION together, and in this we see the difference between baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is an individual matter and done once and for all. This comes out clearly in the request of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 10:36: “See here is water; what doth hinder ME to be baptised?” It was his individual identification with the death of Christ. But in the Lord's Supper it is the cup which WE bless and the bread which WE break. It is not the bread which he breaks, as though a man could do it on his own responsibility, and no one else be involved or affected by it. Not did Paul write, “The bread which YOU at Corinth break,” as though each Assembly did it independently of every other Assembly. Paul included himself in it, though he was far away from Corinth , and he included in it all the saints of God on earth. “For WE being many are one bread, one body, for WE ARE ALL partakers of that one bread.” The Lord's Supper is the communion of the one body of Christ.

In Pentecostal days the believers broke bread from house to house; probably whenever and wherever they met together they had the Supper, and the simplicity and blessedness of it must have been very real, but we are sure that it would be done in the unity and fellowship into which the gospel that the Apostles preached had brought them. But when the truth of the one Assembly had come out fully through the ministry of Paul, the Lord's Supper is seen in its special place in regard to it. It became a great expression of the unity of the body of Christ, into which all believers had been baptised by the Holy Ghost. We can see the fullness of the saints coming together in one place to partake of it, and if this was impossible from the exigencies of distance, they would still gather where they were and partake of it as being of the one body of Christ on earth. For though ten thousand companies are gathered together in different parts of the land, it remains true, that “we being many are one bread, one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

This carries with it a great responsibility but a blessed one; not a slavish subjection to hard “ecclesiastical” prohibitions and restrictions, to rules and regulations, but a tender care for every member of that one body; “that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (chap. 12:25). This, I believe, is involved in the Apostle's words, “Wherefore brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another” (chap. 11:33), which most surely means more than wait until all are assembled; it denotes the spirit of patience, consideration and compassion, that those who are bound together by such a bond should display to each other as they gather together in the fellowship of the Lord's death. His death has obliterated all fleshly distinctions; it has abolished the enmity that existed between Jew and Gentile, and is a sufficient solution for every other enmity; it is the basis of all fellowship which is according to God, and without it the body of Christ would have had no existence. Well ought we to bless the cup and break the bread.

I know that it is in the 12th chapter of Corinthians and not in the 10th that the vital unity of the body by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, is spoken of, and that in the 10th it is, we “are one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread,” but it is the same body from another point of view. Here we are one body, for we have all eaten of that one bread, we have eaten of the body of Christ, we have partaken of the Lord's table and we have drunk the cup of the Lord. By eating of His body we stand identified with the Lord, who has supreme rights over us by His death, and by drinking His cup we pledge ourselves to Him. It is His death that binds us together here. We may have divergent views as to other things, as Philippians 3:15 suggests, for all have not attained to the same knowledge, but there can be no divergent views as to the death of the Lord; every Christian gratefully owns that to it he owes his very existence as a Christian; here he meets his brethren on one common ground, where to maintain distinctions would appear to be something very much akin to treachery to the One who died to gather together in one the children of God, and who by His death is Lord of all that He gathers. A responsibility flows out of this side of the truth also; we cannot hold faithfully to Him and at the same time throw in our lot with Judaism, idolatry, or anything else outside of which His death has placed us, or that is a challenge to His Lordship. To do that would be to flout His claims over us and to provoke Him to jealousy (chap. 10:22).

“GUILTY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD.”

The question often arises as to what it is to “eat and drink unworthily,” and to be “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” and what “discerning the Lord's body” means. For answer we must consider again the bread and the cup of the Supper. The bread and the cup have been compared to a portrait of a man's mother, and a good comparison it is. I might point to a portrait and say, “That is my mother.” To someone else it may be only an indifferent painting, or mere canvas and paint. But to me as I look at it, my mother fills my thoughts. I remember her gentleness, her patience, her self-denying love. So it is with the bread and the cup. The Lord said, “This is My body given for you. This is My blood which is shed for you.” And if our hearts are right He fills our thoughts as we partake of them; we look beyond the emblems and remember Him in the greatness of His love that led Him into death for us. The bread and the wine are only bread and wine, but they are to us, to use our illustration, His portrait, telling us powerfully as we partake of them of the price that He paid to make us His own. Many artists have attempted to portray Him; they had done so according to their own imaginations. We do not need these portraits, they are not Him, but this is Himself, the bread and the cup tell us of Him in death for us, and His death has revealed all His love to our wondering hearts.

Suppose someone threw dirt at my mother's picture, or treated it with disdain, he would be guilty in my eyes, not of disrespect to a mere painting, but to my mother, and I should greatly resent it. Now some in the church at Corinth were doing what was analogous to that; they were treating the Lord's Supper as a common meal, or worse. They did not recognise its sacred character, sacred for two reasons, because of what it represented, and because the Lord Himself instituted it for a remembrance of Himself in death. They were each gratifying his own appetite and behaving in a way that would have disgraced their own houses, as this chapter shows, and by their conduct they were guilty of gross disrespect in regard to the body and blood of the Lord, in which He is set before us in the most moving way in which we can think of Him, even as dead for us.

We cannot imagine such conduct as theirs taking place now, for the Lord's Supper is eaten now in an orderly way and with more or less reverence. God grant that it may be with more reverence and greater reality. But has the passage no application to us? We believe it has. If a man who partook of the Supper were going on in an unjudged sinful course, indifferent to the fact that the Lord died for the very sins he is committing with such lightness, it would show that he was insensible to the reason of that death, that he cared little for its deep meaning, that the bread and wine were to him like the canvas and paint of the portrait. It would show that he did not discern the Lord's body, that he did not see in the death of the Lord the judgment of the evil that he was committing, or the love that led the Lord to bear that judgment; though by eating the Supper he professed to see both. Such a one would be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, and would have no need to be surprised if he were judged of the Lord for his indifference to what is due to the Lord.

But mark verse 28 of our chapter. He is not told to cease to eat the Supper, which would mean that he chose to go on with the sin and abandon that which speaks of the judgment of it, but that he should judge himself, that he should discern the evil of his ways and turn from them with repentance and go on with the Supper, and so cleave to the One who died to put away his sin.

The Lord's Supper (2)

 

Every incident recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures by the Spirit of God, has for its chief purpose the exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ; and as He rises in His surpassing glory before the soul, all divine truth takes its right place in the heart, and the Christian is edified and established according to the will of God. To acquire knowledge of doctrine without this is disastrous, for the flesh is puffed up thereby, and the possessor, falling into the fault of the Devil, becomes enwrapped in the worst of error.

The re-telling of the institution of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-25) seems to have this character in a special way. In the first place, we notice that the Apostle had received direct revelation from the Lord as to it for the Gentiles. In no other passage have we these words used—“I have received of the Lord,” though in connection with the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 4), we have something similar, marking these two things out for special notice: the Lord's Supper—the reminder of His great love to us in the past; and His coming again for us—proof that that precious love does not and will not wane.

But not only did the Apostle receive a revelation from the Lord as to this, but he was also inspired by the Holy Ghost to record that revelation in the epistle addressed to all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours, so that the subject has received double emphasis, and should command the earnest attention of all who love the Lord.

If a human mind had been left to its own wisdom in the recording of this incident of incidents, we should probably have been told that the Supper was instituted on the night before the crucifixion, for that which is the greatest thing in the mind would have been uppermost. But a divine hand has drawn the picture, and the object seems to be that the constancy of the love of Jesus should be thrown into the brightest relief by the dark background of the betrayal.

We recall that scene: from the world's cold rejection and bitter hatred Jesus had withdrawn with His own into the upper chamber. Oh, how He loved them! He knew that without, the Pharisees had plotted His death, that even then the moment was at hand when the rabble would lay violent hands on Him, but nothing better than this could be expected from a world of which Satan was the prince. Yet surely His sorrow-charged heart could find rest and solace in the midst of His chosen twelve? Nay, it was then and there that He had to say, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me ” (John 13:21). What anguish must have pierced His heart as He gave utterance to these words “ one of you .” He had watched over them with an infinite tenderness. He had shielded them from the rude blasts of a devil-deceived world, and had been their Comforter and Guide in every trial. He had prayed for them while their weary bodies slept, and had taught them when they woke; no tongue can tell how precious they were to Him, but at the end He has to testify, “ One of you shall betray Me ”!

It was reserved for the flesh to display itself in that little circle in a way that was impossible elsewhere, so that its hatefulness might be demonstrated and its incorrigibility undeniably proved. It is vain to talk of the elevating effect of environment, and to plead that if the conditions in which men live were altered they would be different. No man could have had greater privileges or better opportunity than Judas yet at the end of three years “familiar” friendship with the Son of God, he betrayed Him with a kiss, and that for the price of a slave. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and the flesh in which Judas lived and acted is within every one of us. We do well to keep this in mind.

But this did not change the heart of Jesus: indeed it was with this terrible disclosure of the flesh in full view that He instituted the Supper—that which was to be throughout all time a reminder to “His own of a love that was quenchless and eternal, a love which would buffet the fierce billows of death on their behalf, that would give Himself for them.

We are taught important lessons by the contrasts in Scripture and here we light on one of a most striking character. Peter heard the words of Jesus, “one of you,” but he did not believe that he was capable of so vile a deed; he was forward in protesting his devotion to his Lord, he was prepared to stand by Him even unto death. All others might fly before the foe, but Jesus might rest secure in his support. Peter was a self-confident man , and he did not see why the Lord should not put the same confidence in him as he put in himself.

It was there that the flesh had him at an advantage, and the consequence of this self-confidence was, that he slept while his Master watched and wept, he fought in the excitement of nature when his Master was calmly submissive. He stooped to console himself at the fire of his Master's foes. He denied Him with oaths and profanity, and is seen at last in the pitiless night a conscience-stricken and heart-broken backslider.

John also heard his Master's words; he made no profession above the rest, but he was near to his Lord, and it was as though he said, “Master, I hear what you say, and believe your words, and I can neither trust my own heart nor the heart of any of my fellows, but I can trust yours,” and so he put his head down upon Jesus' breast (John 13:23).

This was confidence in the Lord instead of self, and mark the result. John went in with Jesus to the palace of the high priest, and he stood so near the Cross during the last great sorrow that Jesus could turn to him and say, “Behold thy mother” (John 19:27). What a comfort it must have been to the tender heart of the Son of God to have had one near to Him at that moment, whom He could trust, and to whom He could commit that precious legacy. But this could not have been if John had reposed in his love to Jesus instead of Jesus' love to him.

So the night of the betrayal, and the Lord's Supper, are linked together for us in the holy record, that we might not rely upon that which is utterly untrustworthy as did Peter, but upon Him who can never fail us. And it is as though His own lips exhorted us to the partaking of His Supper that these things might be kept green in the memory. In it He Himself is brought before the soul, for it is, “This do in remembrance of Me ,” and we do well to lay the emphasis on the “ Me. ” All that He is and ever will be in the depth of His love for us and the strength of His unlimited devotion to God shone out in His death. As He hung with head bowed upon a cross of shame, and blood flowing from spear-rent side, having tasted death as the judgment of God against sin, the full tale was told. “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (S. of Sol. 8:7). To the uttermost extremity that love would go, that God might be glorified, and we might be saved.

“Oh! what a load was Thine to bear

Alone in that dark hour,

Our sins in all their terror there,

God's wrath and Satan's power.”

It is Himself : what He endured, and the perfection which shone in the midst of that darkness, that we are given to recall in His Supper, until our souls are filled with adoration and worship. And from the remembrance of Him, if rightly affected thereby, we shall go forth having no confidence in the flesh, but rejoicing in Him: not to rest in our love to Him, but His to us, and so shall we be His friends to whom He can commit some precious charge to keep for Him in this world.

If the flesh displayed itself in the betrayal, it met its full condemnation in the death of Jesus; for He who was ever the holy, spotless Son of God, came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and submitted Himself to its full judgment.

This is a deeply solemn side of the subject, and it is here that the exhortation comes in, “Let a man examine himself (or ‘let him be self-judged'), and so let him eat” (1 Cor. 11:28). The flesh in us which brought the Son of God into the judgment of death, must be judged by those who partake of that Supper. But to judge the flesh is not to hold it in check by some legal resolve or method, but to be wholly taken up with and dependent upon the One whose love shone forth in death, and who lives evermore to be the satisfying object of the heart that knows Him.

The Lord's Supper and the Traitor

 

The question has often been asked as to whether Judas was at the table on the institution of the Supper—this is open to discussion and we do not pronounce upon it here—but what is of greater importance to us is the fact that the traitor is still here. It is notable that both in Luke 22 and 1 Corinthians 11, in which passages alone the perpetuation of the supper is enjoined, the traitor is mentioned. “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table” (Luke 22:21), and “The Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread” (1 Cor. 11:23). This linking up of the Supper with the betrayal is of the utmost importance. It brings into striking contrast the untrustworthiness and absolute evil of the flesh and the changeless, unconquerable love of the Lord, which was tested and proved by His death, of which the Supper is a constant reminder. So long as the Lord's Supper is eaten for a remembrance of Him by His saints upon earth, so long will the traitor be here, for it is the presence of the traitor—the evil flesh which is still within every one of us—that in one sense makes the perpetuation of the Supper a necessity.

It was the man of the flesh-nature that spat in the face of the Lord; it was the man of the same genus, though one who walked in ostensible communion with the Lord, who sold Him for the price of a slave, even before Satan entered him in order to energize him for the last terrible traitor-kiss. Let us not suppose that the flesh in Judas was worse than the flesh in others. That which is born of the flesh is flesh—and in him we do but see it fully developed in evil, and become the ready tool of the devil. We once had our part with that man of treachery and shame; we belonged to the same order, for we were “in the flesh,” and were “the servants of sin,” but by the death of Jesus we have been set free, so that we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, we are in Christ, for if any man be in Christ there is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). But the flesh remains in us, the traitor is still there capable of producing the same works as were seen in Judas if allowed to work without restraint; and we, seeing its evil character, must refuse to yield to it. We are to place no confidence in the flesh, but to rejoice in Christ Jesus whose love led Him into death for us, and will never decay. The Supper brings freshly and constantly to our minds that love of Christ, so strong and true and worthy of trust.

“The Man that is My Fellow”

 

“ Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered ” (Zechariah 13:7).

 

There can be no doubt that this prophetic word was spoken concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, for He quoted it and applied it to Himself, as He walked with His disciples to the Mount of Olives on the night of His betrayal. They are wonderful words, and bring out the divine glory of the Lord, for the Lord of Hosts, speaks of Him as “the Man that is My fellow” which surely carries the meaning of equality. But I suggest that it means more than that; that it means absolute accord with God's thoughts and will. There has been a Man upon earth, between Whom and God in heaven, there was a perfect community of thought, and complete fellowship. He was God's Fellow, answering to every desire in the heart of God, as a well-tuned harp answers to the touch of a master's fingers—“He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the instructed,” was the language of this wholly subject Man. And He continues, “I was not rebellious, neither turned away back,” even when with an ardent, but merely human love, Peter urged Him to pity Himself. The will of His God was supreme for Him and not to be challenged or questioned, so He says, “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. I hid not My face from shame and spitting” (Isa. 50). But the will of God carried Him into deeper suffering than that which men inflicted upon His exquisitely sensitive frame. Hearken to His words to His disciples at the Supper table: “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath given Me commandment, even so I do, Arise, let us go hence.” Steadfast as the throne of God, the devil neither by wile or menace could make Him waver, or destroy that most perfect fellowship which from eternity bound the Father and the Son in one. As Abraham and Isaac “went both of them together” to the place of sacrifice, so did this blessed Man tread the Father's way with the Father to fulfil His will to the last letter of it. “Arise, let us go hence”—that hence was Golgotha, where Jehovah's rod smote Him, when He was lifted up, the Son of Man, for our transgressions and sins; and when as the Shepherd He suffered for the flock. The disciples could not travel with Him to the end of that road, for the sheep were to be scattered at His smiting. “Behold,” He said to them, “the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” The man that was Jehovah's Fellow had company to the very end of the way. “And He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” But there was no weakening even then of that perfect acquiescence in God's will or break in that holy oneness between Him and His God. Hear His words, “ My God, My God . . . O My God—Thou art holy . . . Thou art He . . . Thou didst make Me hope. Thou art My God . . . Thou hast heard Me” (Ps. 22).

We cannot know, nor may we presume to attempt to discover what were the feelings of the Lord of hosts as He raised His rod to smite the Shepherd—the Man that was His Fellow, but we are permitted to hear these words—“THEREFORE DOTH MY FATHER LOVE ME, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father. ” And again, “I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” And we may see the great result of that one obedience; the scattered sheep were to be gathered again into an indissoluble unity through that very smiting and death. “It is expedient” said Caiaphas, “that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” But he did not speak this of himself, impious hypocrite that he was, but he prophesied—he was made the mouthpiece of the Holy Ghost for the time being—that Jesus should die for that nation, and not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad (John 11:49-52). It is the risen Christ who becomes the object of His people's faith and the Centre to whom they gather. God is gathering to Christ, but He could not have gathered apart from the cross. “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me,” are words that we should ponder often and well. And God will be glorified in the multitude of His sons, conformed to the image of His Son, the Firstborn among many brethren.

It was the Man that is Jehovah's Fellow that suffered the smiting, and He it is that will fill the universe with a glad surprise when He brings all things in heaven and on earth into reconciliation to the will of God, in which He ever delighted and to which He was entirely subject.

The Marriage of the Lamb

Report of an Address

 

“ The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints ” (Revelation 19:7-8).

 

A woman, arrayed in purple and scarlet, called in the plain language of Scripture “the great whore”; and the Lamb's wife clothed in fine linen, clean and white—these two we see in these latter chapters of the Revelation; and they stand out in startling contrast the one to the other, both as to their character and destiny. Chapters 17 and 18 describe for us the magnificence, the power, the far-stretching influence, the horrible corruption and terrible doom of the former. Chapter 19 shows us the purity and blessedness of the latter, her destiny is the glory of the Lamb. The former, whose names are given to us in capital letters in our Bible, is “ Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth .” IT IS ROME . She professes to be the true church, the faithful spouse of the Lamb, but she is false, and denies in principle and practice His Name, character and word; she will become, as shown in these chapters, utterly apostate, and shall fall under the overwhelming and righteous judgments of God.

This mystery, described in its twofold character of the great whore and Babylon , is not Popery stripped of its temporal power as we know it yet working insidiously but ceaselessly to undermine and destroy what is known as the Protestant faith, but popery triumphant. In the time described in these chapters it will have gathered into its magnificent but corrupt unity the whole profession of Christianity, and will have brought into complete subjugation the Western nations. It will not only have enslaved the consciences of men religiously, but will also have control over their politics. The woman rides the beast . The kings that she will dominate will hate her for her arrogance, and will eventually destroy her and so fulfil the will of God, but for a while she will hold an undisputed sway over them all. This is all plainly taught in chapter 17.

Rome is working for this universal supremacy now, but she cannot achieve it while the true church is here; the presence of the Holy Ghost in the church, and the restraining hand of God prevent it. But at the coming of the Lord, as given in 1 Thessalonians 4, the true church, which is the one body of Christ, and which is to be the wife of the Lamb, will be caught up to heaven, then the hindrance will be removed out of the way and apostate Rome will speedily reach the goal of her ambition. The true church, that which the Lord spoke of in Matthew 16 as “My church,” is not a great organization, held together by human power and wisdom, but is made up of all who have in sincerity owned Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, all such have a vital link with Him as the Son of God, and are not Christians by profession only. They are united in one body to Christ, who is their Head in heaven. This is a unity that is of God, and it will abide for ever; the other is a unity that is of the devil and it will perish in the depths of perdition. But Rome is making rapid progress towards its desired end, showing that we are in “the last days.” The growing love of ritual and popish practices in the English and other state churches are an evidence of this, and of the power and influence that it already wields. O Christians, let us be fully awake to the situation. There are two great unities in Christendom, and they are growing to their completion. The Spirit of God is the power in one, and the spirit of evil works in the other. We must be wholeheartedly in that which is of God and separate from that which is corrupt and of the devil. “ Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing ” (2 Cor. 6:1). “ Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues ” (Rev. 18:4).

Chapter 19 opens with the adoration of the host in heaven; they rejoice and praise God that He has judged the false and corrupt church which instead of being a witness for Christ in the earth, and so the channel of blessing to it, has corrupted it with its own terrible corruption. “True and righteous are His judgments,” they say, as they turn from beholding the destruction of the evil thing, to rejoice in that which is eternally good. They celebrate the supremacy of the Lord God omnipotent, and if He reigneth none can thwart His eternal purposes. These have as their centre Christ and His church—the Lamb and His wife. Yes, before the worlds were made it was in the heart of God that His beloved Son should have a bride; and in this chapter the hour has arrived, and all heaven rejoices with a great joy. “ I heard,” says John, “as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings .” “ Let us be glad ,” say they, “ and rejoice . . . for the marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife hath made herself ready .” It is the joy of God that fills every heart and rolls in its wonderful melody to the utmost bounds of heaven. The Father rejoices, for the hour has come for the consummation of His purpose for the joy of His Son; the Son rejoices, for the hour has come in which He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; the Holy Ghost rejoices that His work is completed, and that the Bridegroom is satisfied with the bride that He has brought to Him. And cannot we who love the Saviour rejoice also in anticipation of His joy, which we shall surely share, for we are part of that which is to be His wife.

If we are to understand God's purposes we cannot neglect any part of God's Word. The Holy Scriptures are not fragmentary, but one complete whole, so we read, “No Scripture is of private interpretation.” That means no Scripture stands alone, each part of it has its connection with every other part. So we find that the beginning of Genesis connects with the end of Revelation. This purpose that was in the heart of God for the joy of His beloved Son was first expressed at the creation of man. He was made in the image and after the likeness of God and set in dominion over this lower creation, and the acuteness of his mind was proved in that when God brought the animals to him he was able to give each a name that described its character. But he had a heart as well as a mind, for God Himself has a heart as well as a mind, and none of the animals nor all the power that was given to Adam could satisfy his heart. Hence God said, “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helpmeet for him.” With that in view God cast him into a deep sleep, and took a rib from him, and with it He built a woman, and when Adam awoke, he said, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” She was part of himself, and she satisfied his heart.

The New Testament tells us that Adam was a figure of Him that was to come, of Christ. He is to have universal dominion, and in that place of glory and power He is to have a helpmeet who shall be more to Him than it all, for she shall satisfy His heart. But He had first to go into the deep sleep of death. It was this that was foreshadowed in Adam's sleep, and as a result of His death He has secured for Himself His church, so we read, “ Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish ” (Eph. 5:25-27).

Let no one think that it is mere fancy that connects the beginning of the Bible in this way with the end of it; the Bible itself does it, for Eve's marriage to Adam is introduced as an illustration of Christ and the church in Ephesians 5, where it is said, “ This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church

Take special notice of the fact that it is the Marriage of the Lamb . In this Book of the Revelation the Lord bears many great titles. In chapter 5 He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah; in chapter 12 He is the Man-child that shall rule the nations with a rod of iron; in chapter 16 He is the King of kings; in chapter 22 He is Alpha and Omega; great and varied are His glories, upon His head are many crowns, but when the Marriage comes it is not by any of these titles that He is known, but as the Lamb. The joy of the marriage day is linked up with the sorrows of Calvary . It is the One who bowed His head beneath the judgment of God in death who is to see of the travail of His soul, and receive to Himself His church, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The Lamb was the sacrifice. He became sacrificially what we were actually, for He was made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, and the sorrow through which He passed then is to have a full answer of joy in the day that is to come.

This great event will take place in heaven, for it the church must be there complete, and perfect, and so it shall be, for “ The Lord Himself shalt 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 clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord .” Not one blood-bought saint will be missing from that glorified company, and all will be there not because of their faithfulness, but because of the value of the blood of Christ; they will be there accepted in Him, the Beloved.

“AND HIS WIFE HATH MADE HERSELF READY.” She does not make herself fit or ready for heaven; her fitness for that spotless home of eternal love is Christ Himself, for He “ is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption .” But she makes herself ready for the marriage; and that by being clothed in fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousnesses of the saints. The word should be in the plural, it is righteousnesses, not righteousness. Christ alone is our righteousness, but being made righteous in Him, the saints of God are able to produce good works on earth, and these are the fine linen, clean and white, that shall be the marriage robe of the wife of the Lamb on that great day. In Eastern lands, I suppose, the bride is presented to the bridegroom in the garments her own fingers have wrought. It shall be so with the wife of the Lamb, for to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. But how and where can this material be produced? Suppose a prince wishes to appear at some great state occasion in a garment designed and made by himself, but when he looks round for the material that will suit his design, he finds nothing that satisfies him, nor any loom upon which it can be woven. What must he do? He must invent a loom that can produce the material, and then when his cloth is ready he can fashion it as he will for his own satisfaction and the praise of his genius. So it is, God determined, when He purposed that the Lamb should have a bride, the very sort of garment she should wear; it was to be of fine linen, clean and white, but where on earth, among men, could it be found? In Old Testament days God gave men the opportunity of bringing it forth; and He gave them the law, a perfect loom upon which to do it. But they miserably failed in their efforts, and after centuries of patience with them, God had to say, “ALL YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES ARE AS FILTHY RAGS.” “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Then was God's intention to fail? No. If I may use my illustration—He has brought into being a new loom capable of producing that which he desires. The Lord Jesus came into the world to do the will of God. He lived a life of complete obedience to God, and near the end of it He took three of His disciples into the holy mount and there He was transfigured before them, “ and His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow: so as no fuller on earth could white them ” (Mark 9:3). This was an unearthly, heavenly whiteness, emblematic of the life of righteousness He had lived on earth. And God said, I am going to reproduce that life in My saints; and so we read, “FOR WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS UNTO GOOD WORKS, WHICH GOD HATH BEFORE ORDAINED THAT WE SHOULD WALK IN THEM” (Eph. 2:10). I want that statement to be understood by us all, for upon it I am hanging the whole of this part of my address. God has a loom now that can do it, and you Christians, young or old, are part of it. Upon that loom He is producing fine linen, clean and white, He is reproducing in His people now the graces that shone in all their perfection in Jesus. The life of Jesus is being manifested in their mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:10).

We all know how textiles are produced. There is the loom, the weaver, and the raw material. As a matter of fact the raw material goes through a series of processes before it reaches the loom, but there it is at last, and as the weaver works the warp and weft into the loom, the loom works out the finished article. And that is what we get in Philippians 2:12-13. “WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING; FOR IT IS GOD THAT WORKETH IN YOU, BOTH THE WILLING AND THE DOING OF HIS GOOD PLEASURE.” God is the great weaver, we are the loom, and as He works in us we must work out the fine linen, clean and white. He is, He must be, deeply interested in our lives and ways with the marriage of the Lamb in view.

But what is this fine linen? Says one, “I should like to serve the Lord Jesus, but I cannot stand upon the platform and preach to multitudes, or do any great work for Him; I am ignorant and poor, and my life is lived in obscurity.” Do not think that this fine linen is preaching or doing some spectacular service; many a man preaches to large congregations and produces nothing but filthy rags, for self is the end and aim of his efforts. But there is a poor woman who loves the Saviour, and she is producing fine linen in abundance. Happy in His love she starts her arduous day with a song of praise and thanksgiving to God—that is a bit of fine linen. When spoken to harshly she answers with meekness, and overcomes evil with good—that is another bit of fine linen. You need not be great and famous for this, if you can be patient and forbearing when you are not treated well, and if you can FORGIVE—Ah, that is difficult, is it not? He spoke ill of you. She was so spiteful. And you have already been kind and forgiving. Your patience is exhausted, and you can't forgive again! Can't you? You who have been forgiven so much! Yes, grace can enable you to do it, and if you do, it will be fine linen, clean and white, for that is what Jesus did: when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not and when His foes did their worst, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance—all these are fine linen, clean and white, and not one thread of it will ever be lost. God Himself will preserve it, it is imperishable. You may not have thought when you did that kind act for Jesus' sake that it would live for ever, but it will; and that word of cheer and comfort spoken to a tried and sorrowing saint will never be forgotten, nor will that effort to win a soul for the Saviour. All these things will go to make up the marriage garment. Every Christian has the privilege of contributing to it, then how important it is that we should be walking in lowness of mind and obedience to God that His gracious work may go on in us and through us. He has left us in the world for this, may we not forget it. Do not say that this is beyond you. Think again of my text. You are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus with this end in view. Is that true? Thank God, it is, if you are saved by His grace. Then you have been fitted by Him to produce this fine linen. Do not doubt that, but place yourself without reserve in His hands, and it shall be done.

This garment of fine linen, clean and white, will be a wonderful triumph for God. He will be able to show in that day the reality of His work in His saints. He will be able to show that in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil, that beset His saints on earth and conspire to make them false to their Lord, they have brought forth these righteousnesses. So will the devil be defeated and the accusations that are brought against the saints be silenced. How wonderful it is, that in this filthy place, a world reeking with moral putrefaction, this work is going on, and that we may have our part in it. We have but to keep near to our Lord and His love will constrain us to be very diligent in this matter.

After the marriage the Lord will come forth as King of kings and Lord of lords, but when He does His saints will come with Him in this same raiment (v. 14). They will share His triumph and glory and live and reign with Him a thousand years (chap. 20).

We have one last view of the church in chapter 21. The first eight verses of that chapter describe the eternal state of things in which nothing will change, and there we see the Holy City coming down from God out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband . When kingdoms and governments have served their purpose and ceased to be, and God shall dwell with men and rest in His love, the church will still abide as Christ's own possession. It is described “as a bride adorned for her husband,” and that means she will be for Him for ever, and only for Him. Are we not thrilled at the thought that the day is coming when we shall be altogether and exclusively for Him, without a rival.

Now we sing sadly—

“O Lord, alas, what weakness

Within myself I find,

No infant's changing pleasure

Is like my wandering mind.”

But it will not be so then. All fickleness will be over, and Christ will be for ever the sole and supreme object of our hearts. The bride of the Lamb will receive into her heart His love in its infinite fullness, and she will respond to it without any reserve. Wonderful prospect!

The Marriage of the Lamb and the Bride's Preparation

 

“ 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 thunderings, 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. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God ” (Revelation 1:6-9).

 

God has given to His church a living hope, a hope which must come to a most glorious realization, for it is linked up inseparably with the everlasting supremacy of God. This hope is that of being the Lamb's wife—the one supreme object of His love in the creation of God, and the sharer of His glory as having universal dominion. To no more exalted destiny than this could God call us, and the thought of it deeply stirs the heart. And yet, if the truth as to it is rightly learned, we shall not exult in this hope because of the high and glorious place that it assigns to us, but because this great event will be the manifestation of the triumph of the Godhead over every hostile force, and the consummation of their highest counsels. This will yield a truer, deeper and more lasting joy to us than could any thought of what we shall gain.

Heaven is to be filled with divine gladness because “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” and the supremacy of the Godhead—known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—will be declared in the marriage of the Lamb. Yes, out of the darkness and degradation into which sin had plunged the human race, and from the depths of that moral death in which all men lay in the power of the devil, there shall come the wife of the Lamb, sanctified and cleansed, without spot or wrinkle, all glorious and without blame, fit companion for God's beloved Son, and clothed in fine linen, clean and white: the righteousnesses of saints—a garment produced upon earth in a defiling environment, yet suited for heaven and for the wife of the Lamb.

This will be the triumph of God. It will be the triumph of the FATHER, who had determined in eternal counsels to give to His well-beloved Son a bride, made meet to be His eternal companion. It will be the triumph of the SON OF GOD, our Lord Jesus Christ, for He will see of “the travail of His soul” as He receives to Himself His church—holy and without blame—His church which He loved and for which He gave Himself. It will be a triumph for the HOLY GHOST, for as Abraham's servant brought Rebecca safely through the desert to Isaac, so shall the Holy Ghost bring the church safely out of this world to Christ, and the fine linen, clean and white, will be the result of the response to the love of Christ which has been wrought in the hearts and lives of the saints by His power.

The whole might and subtlety of the devil has been put forth from the very beginning, and is still being put forth, to frustrate the fulfilment of this central thought in the counsels of God, but all is in vain. And the moment is drawing near when “As the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings,” there shall roll to the utmost bounds of the glory of God the great and exultant shout: “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.”

This is the hope that lies before us, and until it is realized God's purposes of blessing for the earth cannot be fulfilled, for they all depend upon the taking up of His inheritance by the Lord, and upon His reigning as universal King, and He will not do this without the church, who, as His wife, is to share it all with Him. It seems certain that this hope cannot be long deferred, and those words of the Lord should be sweeter to His saints now than ever: “I will come again and receive you unto Myself” (John 14:3); and “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 clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). It is thus that the church shall be raptured from the earth, and then within the doors of the Father's house on high the long looked for marriage shall take place. The thought of it gladdens the heart, and makes us say “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” in response to His words “Surely, I come quickly.”

 

How the Fine Linen is Produced

It is part of the purpose of God that the wife of the Lamb shall be clothed in a glorious garment of fine linen, clean and white, on that marriage day; she is to appear adorned in the righteousnesses of saints. But how shall such a garment be produced? It were useless to look for it from men in their natural condition; nor by the legal requirements of the law could this clean and white linen be secured, for men by nature are at enmity against God, and the testing of the ages has proved conclusively that all their righteousnesses are but filthy rags. Then how shall the threads of these righteousnesses be spun? Upon what loom shall they be woven, and what fingers shall form them into the marriage dress?

Everything depended upon the wisdom and grace and power of God. If the wife of the Lamb was to be adorned according to His thoughts He Himself must create the instrument for the bringing forth of the clothing, or it would never be brought forth at all. Permit me to illustrate. A man desires to build up a garment for a great occasion, that shall be unique in design and priceless in value. It is there in his mind in every detail, but he knows of no cloth upon earth that will meet his requirements, nor of any loom that can produce it. Then if he is to carry out his design he must first invent a loom capable of making the material that he wants. He brings his inventive genius into play, and after much labour and cost his loom is perfected, and under his careful control it brings forth the desired material, and his garment is finished for his own pleasure and the honour of his skill. So God must work according to His own infinite wisdom if His purpose respecting the wife of the Lamb is to be fulfilled.

But first we have the perfect pattern of this garment of God's own design in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ upon earth. As a Man here every thought and word and deed of His was as the fine linen, clean and white, for in everything He did, and in His every motive He answered fully to the mind of God. So that when the Father's approval encircled Him upon the holy mount His garments were white as the light, emblematic of the perfectly holy—and in every detail of it righteous—life that He had lived before God in a sinful world.

God's thought was to reproduce the graces of that altogether lovely life in men down here: to bring out in the practical everyday life of His saints those moral excellencies that shone in all their perfection in Jesus. But for this Christ must die, for unless a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. So Christ died for us, and in His death sin in the flesh was condemned, and judgment passed there upon the flesh that could produce nothing but filthy rags. But that death has also brought forth a new race of men, for Christ is raised again, and God has quickened us, who were dead in trespasses and sins, together with Him, and as thus quickened, a new life and nature is ours; we are created in Christ Jesus; we are God's workmanship in order to bring forth these fore-ordained good works.

God has wrought Himself according to His own wisdom and wealth of grace, “WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS UNTO GOOD WORKS WHICH GOD HATH BEFORE ORDAINED THAT WE SHOULD WALK IN THEM” (Eph. 2:10).

How supremely blessed is this thought of God, that we who are saved by grace, without works, should now be the work of His own hands, formed and fashioned by Him—created in Christ Jesus, to bring forth, in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil, fine linen clean and white—the righteousnesses of saints. But this can only be by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the heart. No loom ever produced cloth by its own effort. The weaver stands over it working in the warp and the woof, and as he does this the loom works out the cloth. Here we may apply that well-known passage from Philippians 2, for it fits our subject at this point: “ Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both, to will and to do of His good pleasure.” It is by the Holy Ghost that this is done, He, as the great and perfect weaver, works in all that is necessary that we might work out, in obedience and lowliness of mind, that which shall ever be for the pleasure of God—the fine linen, clean and white.

Let none say I am not up to this, for if we are God's workmanship we are fully equipped for this purpose for which He has created us in Christ Jesus. It is true that there is the flesh within us, and sin ever seeking to have dominion over us, but there is a way of deliverance from these, the details of which are quickly learnt if our love is set upon Christ, and if the purposes of God have their right place in our thoughts; then in Christian liberty, walking in the Spirit, God's purpose in and through us will not be hindered.

The fine linen, clean and white, is not always that which appears great and attractive to the eyes of men. A man, prominent and popular, may preach to thousands and produce nothing but filthy rags, while a poor woman, unnoticed and alone, toiling for her family, or to earn her own living, too timid almost to speak to a neighbour of Christ, may be bringing forth the fine linen abundantly. It is the life lived under God's eye, and the deed judged according to its motive. It is the reproduction by the Holy Ghost of the life of Jesus in the saints. To serve the froward master with meekness and, godly fear, to give the soft answer to the wrathful word; to be kind to the unthankful, forbearing and forgiving; to love the saints of God, and to serve them for Christ's sake, and to be compassionate towards the ungodly because Christ died for such; to be ready to take the low place, nay, to take it gladly, and to suffer if needs be for righteousness and the name of the Lord, patiently and without complaint—all this is the fine linen, clean and white, and no thread of it ever spun in the life of a saint shall ever be lost; it is precious and imperishable, and preserved in heaven for that great marriage day.

The church has been tested during the period of waiting, and how has she answered to the test? Sadly, indeed, if we dwell upon her public history, but there is another and a brighter side. The Holy Ghost came down to identify Himself with the church in her earthly pilgrimage, and He has not failed; and silently and surely He has carried on His work all through the centuries, producing in the saints of God likeness to Christ, and working out these righteousnesses in out-of-the-way places, amongst the poor and afflicted, who have left no record upon earthly tablets, but whose lives have been fragrant to God, and whose works were morally great. The marriage day, when all the gracious work of the Spirit In this regard will be seen in its completion, will be, as we have said, a great triumph for Him.

 

The Great Centre of the Marriage day

In speaking of the wife of the Lamb and her preparation for the marriage day it is necessary to bear in mind that the Lamb is the great and central object of that blessed festival. It is THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB. And while the wife's preparation for that day, and the garment she will wear are specially noticed in this scripture, and are more particularly our subject in this paper, it must not be supposed that these are her title to be in heaven as the wife of the Lamb. Revelation is the book of responsibility, and in it everything, whether good or evil, of God or the devil, is seen in its final issue. That which is good and of God comes into manifestation as of Him, and takes its fore-ordained place in consequence, and that which is evil and of the devil goes into the lake of fire. The garment has a prominent place in the Book; it sets forth the character of the one who wears it, it is the revelation of that which lies at the seat of the life, the declaration of the nature within.

It is the Lamb Himself who has won the title to have the church as His wife in the glory of God. He won that title by going down into the judgment of death. It was there that His love to her was tested, but the many waters did not quench it, nor could the floods drown it. On the cross He closed up the guilty history of those who compose the church by bearing their judgment; His precious blood has atoned for ever for all their sins; His life, as raised from the dead, is theirs, a life to which neither sin nor condemnation can be attached, they are accepted in Him the Beloved, and shall appear in God's glory in His own beauty. All this He has done and secured for her, and this must ever be first, and yet that of which we have spoken is of infinite importance, and the work of the Spirit within the saints is equally part of God's great purpose for the glory of that coming glorious day.

The Meat that Endureth

 

To feed five thousand men, having appetites sharpened by long fasting and the keen mountain air, was a problem beyond the powers of the disciples; for even if in that desert place they could have commanded the silver wherewith to buy the bread, where could the bakery be found that could produce enough for each to have a little? But it was a simple matter to Jesus, for He was the Creator, and He had fed the multitudes of men that had lived since time began, and He feeds the multitudes still, for in Him we live, move, and have our being, so that five loaves and two small fishes sufficed, and when all were filled twelve baskets of fragments remained. That satisfying meal appealed to the people, and they sought the Lord the next day also, because they “ did eat of the loaves and were filled .” Beyond that they had no thought. They laboured for the meat that perishes, regardless of that which endures unto eternal life. How terribly, how pathetically sad it is that this should be characteristic of the whole human race; that they should be governed alone by what is seen and felt and tasted; that food and clothing should be appreciated, but the God who gives these things ignored. That the body and its needs and appetites should be supreme, and the spirit, endowed with an endless existence, should receive neither thought nor care. How blind, how utterly insensible, how dead, men have become under the power of sin to what is good and true and eternal. So blind, so insensible, so dead, that when EMMANUEL came amongst them they followed Him, but only for the bread that perishes.

This is the universal snare, and the vast majority of Christians—yes, even Christians—have fallen into it. What we shall eat and drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed is the absorbing pursuit, the overwhelming and soul-destroying question; and the BREAD OF GOD, the meat that endureth, is neglected and ignored. It is the infirmity of our flesh, but it often becomes the sin of our souls, for it drags us down in our living to the level of the nations of the world that know not God, making us distrustful of His loving-kindness towards us. To meet our infirmity and encourage our faith the Lord has said, “Seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind . . . your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things” (Luke 4:29-30). These words of His were spoken to relieve us of all anxious care as to temporal things, so that we might turn our thoughts to Himself who came from heaven as the bread of life that men might come to Him and never hunger, and believe on Him and never thirst.

But what a world it was into which He came! It had neither use nor room for Jesus. At His birth it awarded Him a place amongst the beasts in a stable, and at His death it numbered Him with transgressors upon a Roman gibbet. It gave Him no home while He lived, and it would have cast His scarred yet sacred body into a dishonoured grave when He died but for the intervention of God. He visited the world, moved by the infinite compassion of His heart towards it, but it did not know Him. It did not, it would not appreciate Him. His labours of love in the midst of it neither softened towards Him, nor won its heart for God. It hated Him with an inveterate and unconquerable hatred, and the night stars witnessed His sorrow thereat upon the hills of Judea .

Men saw no beauty in Him; they had neither desire nor taste for the Bread of God. He was despised and rejected by them, and when at last the reins were thrown upon their necks, and they were permitted to do their will without restraint, they rose up as one man to be rid of Him. They accused Him falsely, spat in His face, scourged Him, and made His apparent weakness their jest. They said, “This is the heir, come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be OURS.” So they crucified Him, the Lord of glory, and so they advertised to the universe their determined rebellion against God and His Christ.

What a world! and what men! How incurably bad, how utterly blind, how alienated from God they have proved themselves, to be when tested by the supreme test of EMMANUEL.

But what a background was this gross darkness for the manifestation of the living grace of God come down to men in Christ! How brightly shone the light of life in Him, as He went about doing good, undeterred by the world's ingratitude, and unruffled by the hatred of men! No earthly smile cheered His lonely pathway, but no frown gathered upon His gracious brow because of this, though His eyes often poured out their sorrow for men—the sorrow of unrequited love. Yet unresentful and unresisting, and with unwearied patience He revealed the Father's heart and name. He spake words such as no prophet in ancient times had spoken, for “never man spake like this Man. ” His words were spirit and life, they were words of living grace, going in at the ears and down in quickening power into the depths of the soul of every man who would listen, for He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). And those who heard and believed said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69).

His words abide for us, those wonderful words of life, the revelation of God. But if they were to be rightly appropriated by our souls, if we were to feed upon them, and upon Him Who spoke them, as the Meat that endureth unto eternal life , He must die. Yes, Jesus must die! This He knew, and declared, when He said, “The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). So He passed on to death that we might eat His flesh and drink His blood, for “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you” (v. 53).

At His death sinful man, unfettered and unafraid, consummated his rebellion against his Creator; evil rose up, as though omnipotent, to triumph over the goodness of God; and Satan appeared in all his power to crush into everlasting and disgraceful oblivion the Heir of all things. It was needful that God should triumph over these marshalled forces of evil, and He did triumph in the person of that lonely Sufferer about whom the fierce conflict raged—triumphed so completely that His majesty is maintained, His eternal justice declared, and His love, and grace, and mercy brought into full manifestation. How absolute must that justice be that could not spare the beloved Son when He stood in the sinners' stead; how inconceivable is that love which gave Him even to the shedding of His blood for sinners; how great is that might that annulled for ever the power of Satan; how precious that grace, the grace of the tender-hearted Jesus, declarer of the heart of God, which moved Him to cry out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There are wonders in the death of Jesus that eternity will not exhaust; in it every force that could have been a challenge to God in His nature, or in any one of His attributes, has been met and silenced, and the full glory of what He is has shone out in a glorious shining. How great is Jesus who has accomplished these things by His dying! How great the grace that has made Him so precious to us that our chief delight is to consider Him! Incomparably lovely and matchless Saviour! Glorious Son of the living God, we worship Thee.

The death of Jesus is life-giving and life-sustaining. As in faith we turn to it as our one and only hope we find that by it we are delivered from the death and everlasting chaos that Satan intended should overwhelm the whole race of men; we find that by it we are saved from the condemnation of God which our sins had made us deserve; as we identify ourselves with it, and appropriate it to ourselves, we find that it has separated us from the world that knew not the Son of God, and from that sinful and shameful race of man that reviled and despised Him, a race to which we were bound in origin, life, nature, and practice. What a relief it is to know that the death of Christ has made an everlasting breach between the believer and that world and that race of man. We are dead by the death of Christ, yet we live because He lives. He is our life, and we feed upon Him, upon the soul-satisfying and enduring Bread of life. It is thus that God is known by us and we live and are nourished as we feed upon what He is, revealed in Christ His sent One. Our hearts are charmed and won, and Christ becomes the Object of our living, and we worship Him, and witness for Him in the power of this new life—in spirit and in truth.

The Miracles of the Lord

 

A miracle is an act of super-human power. The miracles of the Lord Jesus were such, and were the attestation of His person and mission. They were His Father's works, as His arresting and challenging words to the Jews declared, “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works; that ye may know and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38). The Holy Ghost speaking through Simon Peter on the day of Pentecost, described these works as “miracles, wonders and signs which God did by Him.” They were works of power that amazed the people and were signs to them that God had come down to them in mercy; Modernism refuses to accept the miraculous. It holds that there are “laws of nature” that are unvarying and irrevocable, that they cannot be overruled or suspended, and that what appeared to be miracles in former days were simply the operations of certain of these laws which were unknown at the time. They would instance the fact that the King was able to speak to the whole Empire on Christmas Day and was heard 12,000 miles away as clearly as in the room in which he spoke. One hundred years ago such an idea would have been laughed at as the conception of a madman. Yes, but the works of the Lord were not on such a plane as that; they were wrought in another realm; they were addressed to the needs and miseries of men, which were the result of sin. He raised the dead to life: He fed hungry multitudes: He healed the severed ear of an enemy, and by word and touch delivered those who were oppressed by long-standing and incurable maladies. He who did these things was the One who had created all things, and amongst the all things were the laws of nature that bind the universe together for its good. They are His laws and most surely subservient to Him. In them is declared the wisdom of the Creator, and when they have been discovered and made use of, they ought to have had the effect of turning men into worshippers of the One who created them, and making them ashamed of themselves that they had not discovered them before. Instead of which, men are puffed up with pride as though they had made them themselves.

Whatever laws there may be in the physical universe, one thing is certain, the law of man's relation to his Creator and God was disturbed by his disobedience in Eden . Then there entered into his being and his relations with God what had not been there before. “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). “The law of sin and death” (Rom. 8), began then to exercise its inexorable power in the lives of men; they were affected by it spiritually, morally and physically. Tears, death, sorrow, crying and pain (Rev. 21:4) were the result of this invasion of man's life by sin. These things affect him in this life, and after it the judgment. It was to this state of things that the Lord addressed Himself when He came into the world. What had the laws of nature to do with this? The object of His coming was to deliver men from all oppression, to restore the broken relationship with God and to bring them back into full suitability to God, as the Scriptures declare, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19).

It is against this intervention of God for the blessing of men that modernism concentrates its subtle forces. It must explain away the miracles. I give an instance of this. In a paper entitled “The Spirit of God and the Healing of Disease” appearing, regretably enough, in an evangelical magazine, we are treated to the following. “It is recorded by St. Luke in chapter 13. A woman came to the synagogue suffering from infirmity or weakness. The complaint was of long standing—eighteen years. Jesus described her as a daughter of Abraham whom Satan had bound. With our present knowledge we should say, ‘In the grip of a false idea, making weakness instead of health God's will for her.' The cure was not easy even for Jesus. When He saw her He called her and said, ‘Woman thou art loosed from thine infirmity.' But she was not cured. Then Jesus evidently came down from the platform into the body of the synagogue where the woman was, and laid His hand upon her. In this way His vision of perfect health inspired her. His mighty faith overcame her timidity and she was healed.”

Passing over the obvious distortion of the Divinely-given record, which says nothing about the cure not being easy, or the woman not being cured at the word of the Lord, or His having to step down from the platform to accomplish it—to that which is worse, we must conclude, if we accept this author's view, that we, with our present knowledge , know more than the Lord did, and that what He accomplished in the healing of the woman, He did as a clever psychologist or Christian Scientist, and not as the Sovereign Lord, “the Son of God manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). It is all of one piece with the general attack upon the glory of the person of our Lord, His infallibility and omniscience, and upon the character of His mission to men. It is more and worse, for if the Lord wrought His miracles by suggestion and by using powers that are available to any who care to exercise them, He must have known this, and consequently He was a deceiver when He said “the works that I do witness of Me” (John 10:25). “The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works . . . believe Me for the very works' sake” (John 14:10-11).

All the Lord's miracles were works of mercy, with the one exception of the cursing of the fig tree, and some great significance lay behind that act. It was with fig leaves that Adam and Eve endeavoured to clothe their nakedness after their disobedience and fall in Eden . and the Jews' religion had degenerated into the effort to secure by ritual and works of the law a covering for their moral and spiritual nakedness, while remaining alienated from God and disobedient to Him. The whole system was condemned by God, as are all the efforts of men to cover their sin and obtain righteousness by works. We, who believe the Scriptures, know that the only covering for sin and the souls of sinners is atonement by blood. The word translated atonement in the Scriptures means, a covering. The fig tree that was cursed had yielded no fruit for the Lord and its leaves could not cover the sinners' nakedness. I suggest that the cursing of the fig tree was a symbolical act, teaching us these great and fundamental facts. The time and circumstances in which it was done seem to confirm this.

The beginning of His miracles was in Cana of Galilee, and by it He manifested His glory and His disciples believed on Him. It was a remarkable miracle, this turning the water into wine at the marriage feast. He had ordained the marriage tie in the beginning, and though it had become sadly marred by sin He hallowed it by His presence. They were not great or rich, this couple who 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, as He is to this day, and He manifested His glory by caring for them in their need and raising the joy of their marriage day to a level they could not have known if He had not been there. “He provided a fit accompaniment, provided it of the best, and in such large measure as has alarmed and amazed the timid moralist. The quality and the greatness of the gift were worthy of God; and we see the generosity all the more clearly when we remember that this bountiful Creator had a little while before refused to create bread to relieve Himself of hunger” (Nicholl).

The glory that began to shine at Cana shed a greater brightness at the close of those eventful years, when His foes pressed about Him to arrest Him.

Malchus, the servant of the high priest would hold a commission from his master to go with Judas into the garden and lead the multitude that went out to capture the Lord. How astonished Peter must have been when he saw Judas step out of the crowd and put the traitor kiss upon his Lord. He did not know how to deal with Judas, but he had no hesitation as to how to treat Malchus, when he, vaunting his temporary authority, laid hands upon the Lord, and in the name of the high priest directed the band to make Him prisoner. At such audacity Peter's indignation flamed hotly, and drawing his sword he aimed one mighty blow at the dastard, meaning to lay him dead at his feet, cleft through the skull.

It was new work for the fisherman, he had not been trained to wield a sword, and his misdirected energy only resulted in the loss of an ear to Malchus, and the exposure of his own impetuous folly, and shall we add, his true love for his Master. But there was yet another result. The Lord had said “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world” The gloom of night was gathering thickly upon the world, but He was still its light, and there was one more work of mercy that He must do before the devil and men had their way, a work not to be wrought upon a friend but upon a foe, who had come against Him with murder in his heart. Hence, with a word of gentle rebuke to Peter He stretched forth His hand and touched the severed ear and healed it.

“Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business” are the first words that are recorded as having come from His mouth in the Gospel of Luke, in which Gospel alone is the healing of the ear recorded. That business was blessing and not judgment; it was healing and not a sword. The audacity of Malchus and the impetuosity of Peter only served as an opportunity for the continued goodness that was in Him, and having done that work He submitted Himself to His foes and they bound with cords His hands that had only been stretched forth to bless.

The works of the Lord were such as no other man did (John 15:24). How wonderful they were! Consider the feelings of the leper, when the Lord, moved with compassion, stretched forth His hand, laid it upon him, saying, “I will, be thou clean.” Consider the feelings of Jairus and his wife when the Lord took their dead daughter by the hand and said, “Maid, arise,” and showed not His power only, but His consideration for the child when He commanded them to give her meat. Think of His care for the people who were faint by the way, when He provided them with such a meal as they had never had before and that out of five loaves and two small fishes. Stand by and behold Him when He said to the widowed woman, bereaved of her only son, “Weep not,” and then turning to the dead son said “Young man, I say unto thee, arise.” He might have claimed the life and service of that young man and added, “Follow Me,” but He did not, He delivered him to his mother. What heart could have remained unmoved that saw His cheeks wet with tears as Mary of Bethany bowed down in her sorrow at His feet, or remained unthrilled with a hitherto unfelt triumph when He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth”? It is not easy to say whether the compassion of His heart or the power of His word would command the greatest admiration on that great occasion.

These miracles all declared what the feelings of God were towards His creatures in their misery, and though they were wrought in vain as far as the nation in which they were done was concerned, they abide for us in the record of them in the Holy Scriptures. We may read of them and meditate upon them and bow down with Thomas before the face of Jesus and confess Him as our Lord and our God. We may rejoice in that great salvation, which first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both by signs and wonders and diverse miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will” (Heb. 2).

“The Morning” and “Eventide”

 

“ And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and ISAAC . . . ” (Genesis 22:3).

“ And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide, and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and behold, the camels were coming, and REBEKAH . . . ” (Genesis 24:63-64).

 

It would be wrong to obscure the faith of Abraham that shines with such lustre in this twenty-second chapter of Genesis by any typical interpretation of it, for these are days in which God is not greatly trusted and we need the example that this man has set us to encourage us to believe and prove for ourselves that GOD IS, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Abraham gained by his faith in God the title of “faithful Abraham,” and God was not ashamed to be called his God, and he was called “the friend of God.” God spoke and he believed and obeyed, and God did not fail him when the great test came. He is dead, but his witness to the faithfulness of God lives, and we learn as we read the story the blessedness of the man who follows God without a question and who leaves the consequences in His wise and almighty hand. No figure in those Old Testament days bore himself with such dignity as Abraham. No man rivalled him in his superiority to circumstances, none acted with such vigour and purpose and without hesitation or panic, but it was because he had the word of God and believed it. God was his God, his shield and exceeding great reward, therefore he staggered not in the great crises of his life, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. All this lies on the surface of the story, and it is not God's intention that we should miss it, for not less than four times in the New Testament is Abraham's faith pressed upon us. Having guarded that let us proceed to consider the typical meaning of it, for it is an Old Testament picture of great New Testament truths.

The first time that LOVE is mentioned in the Bible is here: “ Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest .” It is the love of the father to the son, and it typifies for us the first and the greatest of all loves, and the source from which all true love has flowed, the love of God the Father for His Son. This is a most wonderful theme, and great blessing must come to us as we consider it. I believe that we may justly say that all the grace that has come to us and all the glory that we hope for finds its spring in this, for “the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand” (John 3:35). This love is shown to us very clearly in John's Gospel where Jesus is called “the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father,” and where, when speaking to His Father, He said, “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (chap. 1). He was worthy to be loved by the Father, and this was surely what the Father meant when twice He declared from the excellent glory, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Out of this love of the Father to the Son has sprung up a great purpose for the joy and glory of the loved One, and for the fulfilment of this purpose God had to awaken into activity, if we may be permitted with the greatest reverence to use such an expression in regard to Him. This is set before us in figure when Abraham rose up early in the morning to lead his only son, Isaac, whom he loved, to the place of sacrifice.

The early morning is the beginning of the day's work and the eventide sees its completion or failure. The day of God's work for the fulfilment of His great purpose began when His beloved Son, the Word, “became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” and how bright was the dawning of that day! The true light then shone in its gracious fullness for every man. How the hearts of men ought to have thrilled to it! What expectations ought to have awakened within them! Alas, the darkness did not comprehend the light, and the world did not know its Maker, but that did not turn the Father from His purpose. The day of His great work had begun, and He could do no other than work while it was day. It was the early morning of that day when the Father and the Son rose up and started forth on the journey that led to the place of sacrifice— Golgotha , for judgment and death and Satan's power lay between the morning and the eventide. We learn as we read John's Gospel how the Father and the Son “went both of them together,” in an absolute and indivisible oneness of purpose. This oneness is seen in the Lord's words, “My Father worketh hitherto and I work . . . What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise, for the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that He Himself doeth” (John 5).

The time came in the journey of Abraham and Isaac to the land of Moriah when the young men were left behind and the wood for the burnt offering was laid upon Isaac; and as we read the story we are reminded of the words of Jesus to His disciples, “ Behold the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the FATHER IS WITH ME ” (John 16:32); and then, “ He bearing His cross went forth unto a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha ” (chap. 19:1). We who are parents may have some conception of what Abraham's feelings must have been as he walked with Isaac to the place of sacrifice, and as they communed together on the way, but what heart of man can conceive what it cost the Father, when in obedience to His will, His well-beloved went forth unflinchingly to death; and when in their communings together on the way the Son said to the Father, “ 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 .” There was an instant answer to that cry, not that the Lord Himself needed it, for His confidence in His Father's love was absolute, but for the people's sake, that they might know that that lonely Man whom they hated was heard and beloved by the Father in heaven.

Isaac was delivered from the uplifted knife and there suffered in his stead the ram caught by its horns in the thicket, but no substitute was found for God's beloved Son; it was impossible that He could be delivered from the stroke of death. God's purpose must be realized and there was only one way by which it could be, the Lamb of God must die, and the Son of God was the Lamb of God.

We believe that we are right in saying that it was not far from the place to which Abraham led Isaac that Jesus suffered, and Abraham called that place Jehovah-Jireh—the mount of the Lord who sees and provides. The place was well and truly named, for we see at Golgotha how God, who saw the end from the beginning, provided a Lamb for Himself and by the death of His Lamb laid an immovable foundation for eternal peace and joy and glory, and the fulfilment of all His will.

Now wonderfully the purpose of God unfolds in this story. Abraham had said to the young men, “ I and the lad will go yonder . . . and come again to you .” He knew that He would not come back alone; his faith laid hold upon God and he knew that He was able to raise up his son even from the dead, “from whence also he received him in a figure.” How blessed it is for us to know that the fact infinitely exceeds the figure, and the fact is, that “ Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father ” (Rom. 6:4), and as the risen Son of God He could send His disciples that triumphant message, “ I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God .” Beyond the suffering of death and the darkness of the grave we see the Father and the Son moving on together to the great end that the Father has in view.

This brings us to Genesis 24, where Abraham declares what was in his heart for Isaac's joy; it was that he should have a bride worthy of his love to share all his wealth. She had to be brought from a far country, and a servant who could be trusted had to be sent to fetch her. In Abraham's own household there was a servant, who, without any thought of himself, would carry out all Abraham's desire. I am not saying anything that has not been said before, nor am I stretching the Scripture unduly when I say, that this devoted, unselfish servant is a figure of the Holy Ghost. The story teaches us the Father's purpose for the joy and glory of His beloved Son, the Risen Man, Christ Jesus, which will be brought to full realization by the work and power of the Holy Ghost. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost all have their part in this great matter.

It is an enthralling story. How well Abraham's servant carried out his mission, how well and wisely he spoke of his master's son, how charming was the grace of Rebekah, and how ready was her response to the servant's appeal. All these features in the figure are found in the great antitype of it. The Holy Ghost has come from the Father to bear witness to the blessedness and unsearchable riches of Christ, to take of His things, and show them to us and to glorify Him, as John 14:15-16 shows us. He works within us to produce a response in our hearts to the attractiveness of God's beloved Son, that just as Rebekah was willing to leave her father's house and her own land and to go to Isaac whom she had not seen, so we may be made willing to turn from the world and choose Christ instead of it, and say in response to the demand, “Wilt thou go with this man?” “I will go.” And thus it comes to pass that, to use Paul's figure, we are espoused to one husband that we might be presented as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). Happy indeed it is for us if this is true, and if it can be said of us in regard to the Lord, “ whom having not seen, ye love, in whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory ” (1 Pet. 1:8).

The Holy Ghost is gathering souls out of the world for Christ. This is His great work. He uses the gospel to this end, and becomes the Comforter to all who believe it. The Scriptures tell us that believing the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the Earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit who seals us, indwells us, and our bodies become His temple (1 Cor. 6:19). We all who are indwelt by Him are formed by that very indwelling into one body, the church, and the church is to be the bride of the Lamb. The Lord Himself was the first to speak of it in the Bible, and then He called it “MY CHURCH,” and of it we read, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it . . . that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Rebekah in our story is a type of the church, and just as Abraham's faithful servant sought her and conducted her from her own land to Isaac, so the Holy Spirit is conducting the church to the great day of presentation—the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19). The day of these divine activities is drawing to its close, we are surely very near the eventide when the Lamb will meet His bride. And that hour fills His thoughts. The place that it has in the closing words of Scripture is significant. Three times over in the last chapter our Lord says, “ I come quickly .” It is true that two of these times have to do with the rewards that He will give to His faithful servants, and He will find a peculiar joy in this, but when that side of things has been dealt with in every phase of it, and He is free to allow the feelings of His heart to break out without any question of gain or judgment, He says—“I JESUS . . . AM THE BRIGHT, AND MORNING STAR.” This is the last presentation of Himself before He comes. It does not show Him in His majesty and power, with eyes as a flame of fire and feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, and a sharp two-edged sword going out of His mouth. It is Himself, the Saviour, who in His measureless love went down into death for His bride; it is Himself so meek and gentle, so full of grace and truth; it is Himself the altogether lovely One, and the great Lover of His church. By this Name we have come to know and admire and love Him. He presents Himself in this personal way to stir the affections of His bride and to make her cry in unison with the Spirit, “Come” (Rev. 22:16-17). Then He gives one final word. The very last that He has addressed to His church, it is His final love-word to His espoused and longed-for bride. “He which testifieth these things saith, “SURELY, I COME QUICKLY.” There can be but one right response to that word, and may it break forth from everyone of our hearts, “Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

“ And Isaac went out . . . at eventide . . . and behold the camels were . . . coming, and Rebekah .” What joy awaits us when the fact that our story prefigures actually comes to pass, but what will the joy of our Lord be? Let us see how the Scripture puts it. “ The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout

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It will be a shout of triumph and of joy, for then the time of waiting will be past, the day's work will be finished, the church completed, and Father, Son and Holy Ghost will rejoice together as the Lamb sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied.

Thus shall this acceptable time, his great day of grace reach its climax. And all heaven shall share in the joy and the glory of it, for then shall be fulfilled the prophetic word, “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:6-7). Then shall we enter into that new day, in which they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light, and there shall be no night there.

Has grace chosen us for this great destiny? Is it for this that we have been bought with a price and sealed by the Holy Ghost? Yes, for nothing less than this. Then knowing this, may we keep ourselves for Christ, and if the world would detain us and occupy us with its trifles instead of Him, may we hear the Spirit say to us, as Abraham's servant said when her old friends would have retained Rebekah amongst them—“HINDER ME NOT.”

I t is not the righteousness of saints in this passage, but the righteousnesses (see N.Tr.). The Lord is our righteousness, “He is made unto us righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30). The righteousnesses of saints are the saints' works.

Note:—At the coming of the Lord not the church only will be caught up, but “all that are Christ's,” and that will surely include all who have died in faith from Abel onward.

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The New Relationship and its Resources

 

It is of the utmost importance that we should understand the relationship in which we stand to God and to our Lord Jesus Christ. Our conduct cannot be right unless we are instructed in this, for all right conduct is the outcome of a right apprehension of relationship. This is the case in every walk of life, and equally so in Christianity.

Men of faith in all ages have been governed by the relationship in which God set them with Himself, and, of course, as flowing out of that, the great destiny that that relationship involved: the two things go together, the relationship determines the destiny. Moreover, it has always been God's way to place resources at the disposal of His people equal to the relationship in which He has placed them.

Now if we turn to the New Testament we find that the great truth as to God's people in this present dispensation is that they are the church of God —God's assembly.

This truth is the completion, the crowning truth of the Word of God; all the doctrine given through Paul, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles, leads up to it, and every exhortation that he gives to the saints by the Holy Spirit flows from the truth of it.

It will not be necessary to state that every true believer on the Lord Jesus forms an integral part of the church, but it is necessary to insist upon the fact that those who are of the church of God are no longer of the world The fact of this difference is brought before us in the mention of three distinct classes in 1 Corinthians 10:32—“Jews, Gentiles, and church of God.” The line of demarcation between the Jew and the Gentile was perfectly evident: the distinction between the church and these two divisions had to stand out with even greater clearness; for out of both has God baptized into one body all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The body of Christ, which is the church, has a life altogether foreign to the life of the world, for it is the life of the Head of it, who is in heaven. The Spirit in the church is not of the world, for the world cannot receive Him, for it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him (John 14). The joys, hopes, and destiny of the church are all outside the world; it is heavenly in its character, and is in the world as a pilgrim and a stranger.

It may be likened to a vessel which has put out to sea with a definite mission and port in view; it is not to be a derelict driven before the storm, and at the mercy of every gale, without rudder, compass, chart or captain, but to hold on its way, though buffeted by the tempest; to rise superior to the fierce waves that clash and foam about its prow, and to enter triumphantly at last the harbour of its desire. And this it will do, thank God! for the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.

Those who live by sight will not realize this, but to those who walk by faith it is a joy and stay which is unspeakable.

 

A Triumphant Christ

“Jesus . . . stood in the midst” (v. 19).

On the day of the Lord's resurrection the disciples, gathered together in an upper room, were to become, then and there, a pattern of and for the assembly of God for all time; and to them, and for us, was then and there revealed the relationship in which all stand with God who belong to the assembly, and the resources at their disposal. They were weak and fearful as they gathered; like a flock of trembling sheep they huddled away from the sight of their foes, but to them “came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19). Who can tell the change that His presence made to them? He was the triumphant Christ; the might of the devil had been overthrown by His strong arm; the domain of death had been invaded and its power utterly shattered by the force of His assault upon it; He whom they had seen crucified and dead, but three days before, now stood before their wondering eyes, a Victor—Christ triumphant.

The death of the Lord Jesus had been a strange event to them, for though He had often told them that it lay in His pathway, they do not seem to have understood Him, and when at last it did become a fact, they were filled with bewilderment and unbelief.

In appearance Calvary was the Lord's utter defeat; His enemies evidently anticipated some display of power on His part, for, with a great multitude of officers and men, with swords and staves, they went to take Him. But He did not resist, instead, as a lamb He went to the slaughter, and as a sheep He was dumb before His shearers; and for this they despised Him, for He was despised as well as rejected of men. If He had fought as did Simon, they would have held Him in respect, but His weakness was their jest, “Himself He cannot save” was their triumphant taunt as they witnessed His last sorrow upon the gibbet. And these poor faithless disciples had also judged by their carnal senses and knew not where to turn.

But now they beheld Him, their risen Lord, and upon their dull souls there dawned the great fact that He was triumphant, that, mightier than Samson of old, He had bowed Himself upon the strong pillars of death and overthrown the great citadel wherein he trusted who had “the power of death” (Heb. 11:14); that whether they were men: or demons or Satan who opposed Him, He had proved Himself greater than all, and now in the might of the eternal and living God He stood in their midst.

“Then were the disciples glad,” nor feared they any foe henceforward—people, priests, rulers, Herod, Felix, Festus, Agrippa, Caesar—how puny and small they all appeared in the presence of these men whose faith had grasped the fact that in the midst of the church there was the triumphant Christ.

Have these nineteen centuries affected the power that dwells in Him? Is the hand that overthrew the devil's dominion weakened by the passing years? Are there any marks of decrepitude upon Him that liveth and was dead, who is alive for evermore and hath the keys of death and hell?

Impossible! He whose might has vanquished death and the grave can ne'er grow weak and old. Omnipotence is eternal.

Then why should the saints of God be discouraged and fearful today? Why should they grow slack in the service of their Lord, or their lips tremble to confess His name in a hostile world? The triumphant Christ is in the midst of His assembly, their great captain in the conflict, and the Leader of then triumph-songs.

 

Unalterable Love

“He showed unto them His hands and His side.”

The question may naturally arise in the mind as to whether the unfaithfulness of the church has not affected the Lord's feelings towards His assembly, even as the disciples might have questioned whether their unbelief and cowardice would not lead Him to cast them off for ever. But how gentle was His way with them, and how significant His action. “He showed unto them His hands and His side.” Those wounds were the visible evidence of a love that had carried Him into death for them, and that love is as unalterable as those wounds are indelible. It is upon that love that all depends, and if it is unchanging in its character we have nothing to fear.

In Christ omnipotence combines with love eternal; they can never fail, and their boundless resources are at the disposal of all and each who are of His assembly.

 

The Relation in which they stand

“Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God” (v. 17).

But who were these disciples, and what are they today, into the midst of whom so august a Person as the Son of God, triumphant over death, is pleased to come? They are His brethren, His Father is their Father, and His God is their God. Let the greatness of the position be grasped: “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11), and this because He has lifted them up to His platform and they are one with Him, “for He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.”

Here is the fulfilment of His own words, which shall ever fill our souls with wondering praise: “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if at die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). The grains of the harvest-time are exactly of the same kind that fell into the ground in the season of sowing, and it is this great truth, beyond all the comprehension of the natural mind, that the Lord announced to His disciples in His resurrection. This was the great and blessed secret that filled His heart, and which they could not grasp, save by the Spirit; it had become a fact now, and it is the first declaration that breaks from His triumphant lips on the resurrection day. How full of it His blessed heart must have been, and if it is so much to Him, how ought it to affect us.

Let it be clearly understood that this gives no warrant to any of us to speak of the Lord as our “elder Brother:” to do so is contrary to the truth and dishonouring to Him. There are at least two reasons why we should not thus address Him.

(I) The Lord is never so designated in Scripture, and Scripture contains all the revealed truth as to Him.

(2) It falsifies the truth, for lying behind it is the thought that He has come down to the level of men according to nature, to associate Himself with them and to improve them where they are. John 12:24 disproves this altogether: our association with Him is not according to nature or after the will of the flesh, but it is by the Spirit of God and with Christ in resurrection life . We are one with Him as the fruit of His death . He has lifted us up to His level as man, and that is our standing for ever.

Many things are involved in this, amongst them, we have His life and nature; this is eternal life and a holy nature that will find delight in God for ever. The affections of the position are also ours, and nothing is kept back, for His Father is our Father. This carries our thoughts to John 17, where, in pouring out His heart to His Father, the Lord declares, “Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.”

 

The Holy Ghost

“Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (v. 22).

These are great things. The eye of man has not seen them, his ear has not heard them, they have never entered into his thoughts; but they are revealed to saints by the Spirit of God, and faith rejoices in them.

That they may be realities to us, and that we may live in the power and joy of this wonderful relationship, the Holy Ghost has been given to us. If the Holy Spirit is grieved within us, we are to these things, what a bird with a broken wing is to its own element; but if we walk in the Spirit, it will be His delight to lead us into all that this new life and relationship means by making Christ, who is the pattern of it all, increasingly precious to us.

This, then, is the relationship, and these are the resources of the assembly of God; they are to be realized and enjoyed by faith, though unknown by the world, they are the family secrets to be treasured and kept, while we await the glorious destiny that such a relationship involves.

“Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.”

“The Next Day After”

An Address on Worship, Work, and Witness (John 1:35-42)

 

Every Bible reader should know that John's Gospel shows the Lord Jesus in the fullness of His glory. It opens, as Augustine said, as with a peal of thunder. We are carried back to the beginning when the voice of God, the Almighty, broke the silence of Eternity in creatorial power, and that voice was the voice of Him whom we know as JESUS. “All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.” But more, He was the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father: not only did omnipotence dwell in Him, but He dwelt in infinite and eternal love—the Father's love to the Son. And all this was before the pendulum of Time began to swing, when nothing was but God. Then He was there, the eternal Son in the Godhead, THE WORD. He created the world and it rebelled against Him. Then He came into it. He came not to condemn it but to save it. HE CREATED, HE CAME. The first means power, the second was grace. But mark the reception that was given Him when He came. “ 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 .” In such terse statements as these was the world's indictment written. Ignorance and hatred scowled upon Him from His advent, surrounded Him, pursued Him, and at last crucified Him as a malefactor. But He was the light in the darkness of the world's ignorance, He was the full manifestation of the love of God when the world hated Him most, for His death was a sacrificial death. Men led Him to the place of it, but when their ignorance and hatred had reached their utmost limit God triumphed, for “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He Loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins

Let us notice that the Spirit of God divides things into days in this chapter. The next day introduces the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God. Then the day before the next was the day of His coming into the world, the day when “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” What a great day was that! The angels of God celebrated it with rapturous praise, and may well have wondered at the indifference of the world. But what shall we say of the next day? “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him and saith, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (v. 29). It was for this day that He came, and as the Lamb of God He must fill the eye of faith as we look backward. He came into the world but He went out of it, He went out of it by suffering and death. These two days were wonderful days in God's work for the blessing of men—the coming of the Saviour and His death as a sacrifice for sin; but if they were to be effectual there was need of the next day after , and the great question was, Could the Lord Jesus reach unto this day? We see Him pass through the first and second days, filling them up as He passed through them with grace and truth and love; but shall there be a third day, a resurrection day—a next day after? If not, then His coming was useless, for “If Christ be not raised your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). We may be sure that the devil hoped that the next day would be the last day, that it would sink down into everlasting night unbroken by any further light from heaven, that the love of God would be for ever quenched in the utter defeat of the Lamb of God, and that death and judgment would sweep with unrestrained victory over the human race, and that God would lose for ever the sons of men in whom He delighted. But thank God for “the next day after.” “ Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus ” (vv. 35-37). The next day after shows us a living person who can detach the hearts of men from the world and everything else that holds them captive and attach them to Himself, and lead them into His own dwelling-place. And He dwells in the bosom of the Father in the blessedness of the Father's love, and to that home of eternal rest He brings all who follow Him. It is this living Person that men need, that we all need. Yes, we needed a sacrifice of infinite value for the salvation of our souls , but we need a living Person for the satisfaction of hearts . Without the sacrifice we could never have had peace with God, our sins could never have been blotted out. Without the living Person of our Lord we shall be at the mercy of every passing attraction that the world and the devil may flash before us.

Christ is risen from the dead, He has attained unto the third day. His work is a finished work, and here we rest eternally secure, His blood has made a full atonement for our sins, and consequently our consciences are purged and we are free to think of Him who has done it all, and to follow Him who was dead, but who now lives for evermore. And that brings me to my object in this evening's address. I want to show you what the Lord can do with those who follow Him. It is shown us in pattern in the first three men who ever did it. There can be no doubt that JOHN was one of the two disciples that followed Jesus. They followed on this occasion without being told to do so, they followed Him because He was so attractive to them as they looked upon Him that they could not help it. In John we see the worshipper. And it is well that we should begin here, for this will give its own tone to all that may follow. If we turn to John's Epistle we shall see how he worshipped, and the cause and basis of it. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us,” he says, “ because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him . HEREIN IS LOVE, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins ” (1 John 4:9-10). Do we not feel as we read these words the wonder that was in John's heart as he wrote them? The measure and the character of God's love seem to overwhelm him as he cries, “Herein is love.” It is as we wonder that we worship. Let us never cease to wonder, for if we cease to wonder we cease to grow and we cease to worship. But we shall not cease to wonder if we continue to contemplate this great love; and the precious blood of the holy Victim gives us boldness in the very presence of God who gave Him. We can come into His presence, not as trembling sinners dreading the just judgment of our sins, or even now as hoping for mercy as once we did; but we can come as worshippers filled with wonder at the measure and the way of His love.

But John speaks further and says, “ Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God ” (1 John 3:1). Again we feel that John was a wondering worshipper as this exclamation broke out from him. And we bow down and worship with him as we read what he has written. This is not the manner of men, it is the manner of the Father's love. We, like the prodigal of the parable, would have been glad to have been sheltered in the kitchen where with hard toil we could have earned the bread that would have preserved us from starvation. That was our highest expectation, but not so was the Father's thought for us. He ran to meet us and covered us with kisses as we fell into His embrace. He clothed us in the best robe and brought us into His own home and called us His children. Oh, the wonder of it! We had no claim upon this. He has not treated us thus because of what we were; in this His own love has found its expression, and we wonder and worship before Him as we think of it. But this could never have been known by us if Christ had not come, and we can only enter into the experimental enjoyment of it as we follow Him as John did. It is the Son of God, risen from the dead, who declares the Father's Name to us, and as we listen to His voice He makes us worshippers—and such the Father seeks.

This contact with the Lord on ANDREW'S part had a wonderful effect upon him. He became a WORKER, for we read: “ One of the two which heard John speak, and followed [Jesus], was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon . . . and he brought him to Jesus .” He was more successful than Philip was when he went forth, or at least his work was done with greater ease. And these two men stand out in contrast to each other in this Gospel of John. Andrew had found such an object for his trust and affection in Jesus that he cannot be idle, he must find someone else to share his joy and satisfaction, and who more likely than his own brother? He had been so affected by that one day spent in the Lord's company that he effectually affected his brother. He had no difficulty in bringing him to Jesus. Philip had not been drawn in the same way after the Lord. He had to be commanded to follow, and when he set out to work as Andrew had done he met with questions and doubt. There was not the same clear, convincing ring in his witnessing, and not until he urged Nathanael to come and see for himself did he succeed.

In chapter 6 a multitude surrounded the Lord, and they needed bread, and to test Philip the Lord said unto him, “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” Philip did not know. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would only have given them a very little each. But Andrew, standing by, saith unto Him, “There is a lad here with five loaves and two small fishes.” It is true that he added, “but what are these among so many?” But that may have been because the other disciples looked upon him with impatience and astonishment for calling attention to that which was only enough for a lad's hunger. We pass that by and rejoice in the faith and expectation that moved Andrew to bring the lad and his meal to Jesus. How he must have rejoiced when he saw the Lord bless that meal and distribute it to that great company, until they were all filled with such a feast as they had never tasted before.

In chapter 12 the Greeks come to Philip and say, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” But what could Philip do? Were not these Greeks outside the pale? Would the Lord receive them if he brought them to Him? A perplexed, because an unintelligent servant was Philip that day; but he cometh and telleth Andrew, and in that he was wise. He felt that Andrew would find a way out of the dilemma, and he did, for he brings him straight to the Lord with the difficulty: “ Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.”

In the 14th chapter the Lord had to say to Philip: “Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip?” It was different with Andrew. He knew the Lord so well, that on every occasion on which we read of him in this Gospel he is bringing someone or something to Jesus, and this because he had found his heart's satisfaction as well as the centre of his life and activity in Him. He was a successful worker, and so shall we be if we come in the same way under the attractiveness and gracious working of our living Lord Jesus Christ.

PETER was brought to Jesus that he might become an outstanding WITNESS to the grace that was in Him. We have only to study the history of his soul with the Lord as it is given to us in the Word to learn this. And what an instructive history it is. Peter had to learn, as we all have, that in him no good dwelt. That all his aspirations and vows could only fail; fervent they might be, but unavailing. He had to learn, as we all have, that it is what God is as revealed in Christ that alone avails. Grace it must be that greets us and saves when we come first to the Saviour, and grace it must be until we reach the glory for which we have been saved. This wonderful grace never failed Peter in all the ups and downs of his experience, and at last he became the great witness to others of it. It is the theme of the letter that he was inspired by the Holy Ghost to write to us. In the letter he declares that THE LORD IS GRACIOUS (1 Pet. 2:3), and he tells us of THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD WHEREIN WE STAND (chap. 5:12). What a witness he was to the grace that is in the Lord when he preached on Pentecost, and for many a day afterwards. He proclaimed the remission of sins to others because he knew that his own sins had he remitted; he had himself been the subject of the grace that he proclaimed to others.

Thus the Lord is working in “ the next day after ” which is this present day, drawing men to Himself, making Himself the supreme object of their hearts and changing them into worshippers, workers, and witnesses; and that we each may be what these three men were is my prayer for His Name's sake.

The Old and the New

 

There is not a greater figure than Moses in Old Testament history, he was Jehovah's SERVANT, faithful in all his house, but he was only a servant, hence when he drew near to the bush that burned with fire, he heard the voice of God saying: “Take thy shoes from off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” The servant must stand unshod in the presence of his Master. But come to the New Testament, and see there that wretch of a prodigal returning to his father. What a story! “Put shoes on his feet,” cries his father, “for this MY SON was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found.” This is New Testament grace. Not now as servants, with no liberty before the Father and with feet unshod do we stand, but with access and title to His very presence, for the Son has made us free and we are free indeed. The Father's heart and home are ours, and all the freedom of them. Oh! learn the surpassing glory of New Testament grace, beloved children of God. In the Old the greatest and truest man had to remove his shoes in the presence of God for he was only a servant; in the New, the worst of men, the vilest sinner, is shod with the shoes of sonship. This is the glory that excelleth, in which God has shown out the exceeding riches of His grace.

The Old Men Weeping and the People Shouting for Joy

Notes of an address on Ezra 3

 

“ And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever toward Israel . And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off” (Ezra 3:11-13).

 

Neither encouragement nor strength can be derived from the backward look on the failure of the church in responsibility on earth to maintain the truth and testimony of the Lord. The failure cannot be ignored, and every one of us must give an account to God for his part in it—truly a solemn consideration—but too much occupation with it will not help us to be overcomers in the future, it can only weaken and discourage us. Now to discourage and weaken His saints and servants is not God's way, that is the devil's own particular job, but the pity is that he finds so many who otherwise are most estimable, to help him in it; let us beware that he does not make use of us in this godless work.

There are both encouragement and strength for us, so that we may be more than conquerors, but these are drawn from God's faithfulness and ever-enduring mercy, and from the fact that there abides that which all the machinations and powers of hell cannot prevail against.

 

An Impregnable Structure

It is my intention to notice, before speaking on the passage in Ezra, that which cannot be overthrown. You will find the first mention of it in Matthew 16:18—a most familiar passage. There we read the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to Simon, “I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church [assembly]; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it .” This of which the Lord speaks was something entirely new; there had been an assembly in the wilderness when Israel sojourned there for forty years (Acts 7:31), but it was not this that the Lord calls “My assembly,” for the building of this was still future when He announced His intentions with regard to it. But that of which He speaks in this first revelation of it is now a fact. And Christ has upon this earth His assembly which He is building. It is His special and prized possession, He calls it “MY ASSEMBLY,” and the longer you dwell upon those words the more your heart will be moved by them, especially if you realize that you are part of that of which He so speaks. You may ask: but has not that assembly been smashed and marred? Is it not now a battered ruin, witnessing only to the devil's strategy and power, and the feebleness and failure of the saints of God? No, the very opposite is the truth, for Christ is building it by the unconquerable power and all-prevailing wisdom of God, and, fitly framed together, it groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord. It is a special object of the devil's malice, but it will withstand all his assaults. Neither by frontal attack nor by subtle flank movement can he take it; he cannot undermine its foundations, and his big guns will thunder against it in vain: “ the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ” It may seem otherwise to you, but if so you are walking by sight and not by faith, and you need to meditate upon this wonderful triumphant declaration, “ I will build My assembly, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ”

Every stone placed in this impregnable structure by the Lord's own hand is a living stone, living because brought into vital relationship with Himself, the living One, and the whole building is unified and bound together by His life, which animates every stone in it, and by the presence of the Holy Ghost who dwells in all. It may increase your interest in this great subject if you realize that you are a part of this living building—a living stone in it, if you have confessed that Jesus is ''the Christ the Son of the living God,” as Peter did; but what should move your heart most profoundly is the fact that your Saviour calls it “My assembly.”

 

The Foundation of It

The foundation of it is Himself, as the One who has gotten the victory over death, for this is what Peter's confession of Him implied. He did not say when challenged by the Lord, “Thou art Jesus of Nazareth,” or “Thou art the Messiah,” but “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. ” The mightiest foe in the universe—DEATH—has fallen before the victorious advance of the Son of Man. He has been “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” ( Rom. 1:4). Consider for a moment that lonely Sufferer, weak and despicable in the eyes of men, hanging on a cross between two malefactors. Every element of defeat judged by human standards was there. He would not, or could not save Himself. No voice was raised on his behalf; by universal consent, as far as could be seen, He was condemned to that death of shame. Yet going down into death He overthrew the power of death, and having come up from the tomb He will die no more. And from that point of victory He has begun to build His assembly. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is a heartening theme. Do we realize what it means? He is on the other side, beyond all the misery of this world, having gone out of it by death, but He has come up out of the desolation of death, having conquered it. He has taken up new ground—resurrection ground, where man never stood before. He is there as the Last Adam— a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). He is there as the Builder of His assembly, and all to whom He imparts this new life are put by Him into the assembly as living stones; He is there as the Chief Corner-Stone upon which the whole building is immutably founded. The life which He gives is not of the world, it is resurrection life—Christ's own life, in fact. The Spirit that dwells in those whom He makes to live is not of this world, nor can the world receive Him (John 14:17); He belongs to heaven, and is only imparted to those who own the supremacy of Christ. So that Christ's assembly though still in the world is not of it. It had no existence until Christ was glorified in heaven; from thence the Holy Ghost came down at Pentecost and by His coming formed it. So that its origin, as well as its character and destiny, is heavenly. What glorious liberty of soul the realization of this gives. It is true that those of whom it is composed, you and I, were of the world; we had no portion but its evil and no hope beyond its misery, but in the very gutter of it the Lord sought us. We heard His voice saying, “Come unto Me.” We came and tasted that He was gracious, for He pardoned our sins and lifted our burden and gave our tired hearts rest. His precious atoning blood wiped out all the guilty past, and we found peace in Him. But there is more. Having come to Him we learn that He is the living Stone, rejected of men, having no place in the pretentious edifice that they are building, but nevertheless a chief corner-stone, elect and precious. And the more we consider Him in this character the more we shall praise Him, and the fuller will be our appreciation of that grace that has put us into His assembly.

Thus the building goes on, and when it is completed the assembly, in another aspect of it, shall share the glory of its Builder as the Son of Man. It shall be His help-meet in that glorious day when everything that hath breath shall own His supremacy. Faith will then have given place to sight, for then no veil shall hide His glory from the admiring eyes of countless hosts. But now it is a question of faith, and I would challenge all our hearts as to whether our faith has laid hold on Him in the way we have considered Him, and owned His supremacy. Have we come to Him as the Living Stone, and owned Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, the builder of His impregnable assembly? If so, God be praised; let us hold to that whatever the appearances may be.

He is Himself the foundation of this structure, a foundation that cannot be moved. The Popish church claims that Peter is the foundation, and I sometimes wonder whether the devil in his lack of perception did not so interpret the Lord's words, for from that moment he made Peter a special object of attack. Notice in this very chapter that he put it into Peter's heart and mouth to endeavour to turn the Lord from suffering and death, the only way by which He could obtain the right to build His assembly. Failing to accomplish his end at the first attempt he next forced the impetuous and self-confident disciple to deny that he ever knew the One whom He had confessed as the Son of the living God. And finding at length that the building of the assembly which he would have frustrated had begun, he used Peter again in making his first great attack upon the structure itself in an endeavour to destroy the unity of it (see Gal. 2:11-13). And every division and sect maker or maintainer from that day to this has followed the lead given by Peter when he did not walk uprightly according to the truth of the gospel. It may be said that there was some excuse for Peter's failure before the death of Christ, for he had not then received the Holy Ghost, but there was no excuse for his sectarian act at Antioch , and the lesson we should learn from it is that man cannot be trusted; we must look wholly to the Lord. Let us thank God that Christ, not Peter, is the foundation, and resting securely upon this unshakable rock let us use diligence to understand the truth of Christ's assembly and how we should be affected by it who form part of it.

 

We Must Walk Worthy of It

We are called to walk worthy of this vocation wherewith we are called, and this can only be done with “ all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love .” Nor is that all. We might do that as fellow members of a society who had no link with each other save a common cause, but we belong to a living unity; every one of us is an integral part of one whole, and we have to use diligence to keep this unity—which is the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3). It is here, in the practical carrying out of the truth that the failure we have to deplore has come in. Instead of using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, men have arisen who have looked upon it as a sacred duty to make and maintain sects and parties for the upholding of their own special views on doctrine or church order. The result is that instead of the assembly presenting its proper and unchanging indivisibility before the world, the world only sees it broken up into warring factions. But this does not affect the truth that we have been considering; that abides, and it is a perpetual rebuke to our failure to carry it out.

Many are mourning this failure. They look back to Pentecost and cry, “Alas, that things now should be so unlike what they were then.” They recall revivals that have taken place since then, when the saints of God were brought under the power of the truth, and are cast down at the contrast between the bright “then” and the dead “now.” Pamphlets are written and widely circulated calling attention to this sad contrast; we read one of these the other day which to us was full of pathos. The writer of it was an aged Christian, and he recalls in his pamphlet the bright days he knew seventy years ago—the zeal and freshness of soul; the endeavour that the whole truth might be known and lived; the response to the love of Christ; and the oneness of heart and mind and purpose amongst the saints. I would not quarrel with such a reminder that these days are not as those were, but I would warn you against being depressed by the contrast. I would not say do not look at the failure at all, for looking at it and seeing how that better men, more zealous and enlightened as to the truth than any of us are, have failed, will lead you to be less self-confident and more dependent upon the Lord for yourselves; but I would say do not look too long at it, for there is something better upon which your eyes may rest. The failure will make you weep, that which is better will make you shout for joy.

The pamphlet of which I speak turned my thoughts to Ezra, the chapter that we have read together, and I should like it to speak to you now as it spoke to me then.

 

The Shouting and the Weeping

Israel had terribly failed, and that that lay at the root of all the failure and brought in all the disaster that had overtaken them was disobedience to the Word of God. Solomon's Temple , reared in the midst of the beloved city, had been the visible answer in the midst of them for the time then being of God's gracious thoughts and purposes towards them. It was His dwelling-place and there He had set His Name; but it had become a heap of ruins in consequence of their sin, and the city itself had been laid waste. Now they had come to a time of reviving. They discovered that God was faithful though they had failed, and in a mighty pæan they celebrated the fact that, “THE LORD IS GOOD AND HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER.” What a consolation was this to them, what a comfort and joy it is to us. Let the thought of it sing through our souls until it brings us into tune with the triumph of God which shall be celebrated by His church in ever-lasting praise.

The laying again of the foundations of the temple made the people realise that though Israel had failed God had not: His purposes and promises remained unchanged, and though they were a feeble band and their work as feeble as themselves yet they associated themselves now with GOD, HIS PURPOSES, and HIS HOUSE. It is this that we must do. And though they were a feeble band, a mere remnant, they were able to take up sanctuary service to the Lord and to praise Him “after the ordinance of King David”—and David's day was the brightest hour of Israel 's history. This was not imitation on their part, but the joy of the Lord's house, and their devotion to it because it was His house, produced in them the same results that were produced in David. And we only need to come afresh under the influence of Christ, and have our hearts devoted to Himself and His assembly because it is His, and there will be effected in us the joy and liberty of the best days.

But many of the chief of the fathers and the ancient men wept as they thought of the splendour of the former days, so that the noise of the joy could not be discerned from the noise of the weeping. It is the failure that causes the tears, and we must not be indifferent to it. The truth will not make us indifferent to it, the more we know it the more deeply we shall feel the failure; but it will not depress us, for we shall turn from it to the Lord, “ because He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever. ”

 

The Brightest Days Are Before Us

Now let us hear the word that the Lord sent to these weepers through His prophet Haggai in the second chapter of His prophecy: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, AND WORK: FOR I AM WITH YOU, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not

Note that the Lord goes back to their deliverance from Egypt , and spans the whole period and story of their failure, and says, “My Spirit remaineth with you.” He had remained true to His own word and purpose, and if that was true for Israel it is more intensely and blessedly true for His assembly.

“Christ with His church hath ever stood.”

And His Spirit is still here.

Then He goes on to tell them that He would shake everything—the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the dry land. So that everything that was mutable and without foundations would be removed out of the way; but He would fill that house with His glory, and the glory of it should be greater than any that had gone before.

The shaking has begun, beloved hearers, and nothing that is not founded upon God's immovable foundation will stand; but His assembly will stand, for it is founded upon THE ROCK, and the glory that is coming is greater than any that has gone before. THE BEST DAYS ARE BEFORE US, and hope lifts up her head and rejoices. You may tell me of those Pentecostal days, when all were together of one mind and one heart and the unhindered power of the Holy Spirit went forth in widespread blessing. We can rejoice in it, but there are brighter days before us. You may recall later days when God graciously gave revival, and the word was with power and the Lord's name greatly prized. Again we rejoice, but there are brighter days before us. We are hastening on to the time which cannot be far distant now when the assembly completed, as the holy Jerusalem, shall descend “out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone clear as crystal” (Rev. 21:10-11). In view of that bright day let us labour, for what privilege could be greater or honour higher than to be permitted to hold on to the truth and work on for the truth, and to be found doing this when the Lord comes to catch up His assembly for that glory? Can you imagine anything more blessed than for the Lord to come and find us maintaining His truth and testimony, holding steadfastly the fact of His supremacy and walking in the truth of His assembly? But we must know the truth if we are to hold it, and if we know it and hold it we shall be like the people who shouted for joy in Ezra's day, and we shall not dwell upon the past with its failure, but we shall look onward to the future with its glory, and we shall sing as we press on to that future. “ The Lord is good and His mercy ENDURETH FOR EVER.”

The Opening of the New Testament

 

Crowns of glory for the brow of the Lord Jesus Christ shine in the opening chapters of the New Testament. He came into the world as Heir to all the promises made to Abraham and David, for He was the Son of David, a true and proper man, with full title to all David's dominion. But He is also David's Lord, his root as well as his offspring, and as such His throne is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of His kingdom. Yes, though in the weakness of human babehood, the names and titles given to Him as quoted from the Old Testament Scriptures declare His divine majesty and reveal His Godhead glory.

We start the history of His earthly life with the announcement made to Joseph by the Angel of the Lord: “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” At once there springs to our minds the declaration in Psalm 40 which we give as it is quoted in Hebrews 10, “Wherefore when He cometh into the world He saith, sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not but A BODY HAST THOU PREPARED ME. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God.” But who was He for whom this body was prepared, and who before He came into the world, before there was a world to come into, bound Himself by a solemn oath to do the will of God? Who in the wide universe could take up that will and complete it? Surely only the uncreated Son whose eternal dwelling-place is the Father's bosom.

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS for He shall save His people from their sins.” His name appears in capital letters on the first page of the New Testament and rightly so, for He is the subject of the Book—His life, death, resurrection, ascension to His Father's throne and His coming again—there would have been no New Testament but for this story, it is God's story—the gospel of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. What a wonderful name is His; it is fragrant with meekness and gentleness, grace and truth, holy love and great compassion; it is His human and personal name; the name given to Him in the manger at His birth, and nailed to His cross as His accusation at His death; a name of reproach among men, but carrying with it Divine glory for its full meaning is “Jehovah the Saviour.” We cannot doubt this when we see the reason for which the Name was given Him. “Thou shalt call His name JESUS for He shall save His people from their sins.” Israel are His people; He came to save them, and He will yet do it. It was written by the prophet that He was the Lord of His people, “and the Lord their God shall save them in that day as the flock of His people” (Zech. 9:16). He had said to these people. “Thou art Mine. . . I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour . . . I, even I, am the Lord and beside Me there is no Saviour” (Isa. 43); and again, “I will have mercy on the house of Judah and will save them by the Lord their God” (Hos. 1:7). And they shall see Him again and shall say, “Lo, this is our God . . . He will save us; this is the Lord . . . we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isa. 25:9).

“Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son and they shall call His Name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” That He should come in flesh was the only way if men were to know the heart of God and be saved. The movement must be from His side. It was thus that God intervened in mercy not for the Jew only, but for mankind. “Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not of the Gentiles also? Yea, of the Gentiles also.” “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” The manner of God's intervention demonstrates beyond all question the utter inability of man to save himself. This is the Lord's doing and it is both marvellous and miraculous in our eyes. Men have had no hand in the matter at all, except to believe and to receive the blessing resulting from it. Emmanuel is a great name. Only the Son could bear it and He did bear it most blessedly and well. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.” “God was manifest in the flesh.” If men were to be saved God must come Himself to do it, and His very nature demanded this for “God is love.”

The arrival of the wise men from the east in search of Him who was born King of the Jews made an unhappy sensation in Jerusalem; it was not welcome news that they brought to that city that killed the prophets, and had grown hoary in its sin and pride. King Herod, the Edomite usurper, was troubled at the tidings and all Jerusalem with him. He would know the certainty of the matter, and gathering together the chief priests and scribes, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. They knew the Scriptures and gave answer without hesitation. Seven hundred years before the prophet Micah had written, “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 shepherd My people Israel ” (N.Tr.). They did not give the complete prophecy. It is strange that they omitted that part of it which in striking terms spoke of His divine glory. “Whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.” We do not know what those eternal goings forth were, but we do know that the heavens declare the wonders of His goings forth in creative wisdom and power. But now we have a more wonderful thing; He had come forth from the Father in the greatness of His grace. How beautiful upon the mountains were His feet bringing good tidings and publishing peace, and how accessible to the worst of sinners was He. Yet the good news that He brought from heaven called forth no response in the hearts of His own. He came to His own, and His own received Him not. The same Scripture which tells us that His goings forth were from everlasting, foretold the solemn fact of His suffering and humiliation—“they shall smite the Judge of Israel with the rod upon the cheek.” The Shepherd and Judge of Israel submitted to that; “His visage was so marred, more than any man's.” Jesus is the Shepherd of Israel, the good Shepherd, and the Shepherd of Israel is the Lord; He is God. So the prophet cried, “O Jerusalem, Behold your God . . . He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, and shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom” (Isa. 40). But yet again, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, even against the man that is My fellow, saith Jehovah of Hosts; smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered” (Zech. 13). The good Shepherd gave His life for His flock.

The great red dragon stood up to destroy the Man-child as soon as He was born (Rev. 12), and to escape his murderous intention through Herod, Joseph, at God's bidding, took the young Child and His mother by night and departed into Egypt, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son.”

But there was bitter sorrow for the mothers of Bethlehem , “for Herod was exceeding wroth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof from two years old and under, according to the time that he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because they are not.” But what comfort there would have been for them if they had turned to the Scripture which spoke of their sorrow. There we read, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto Me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an ever-lasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee. . . Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall he rewarded saith the Lord, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy; and there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border” (Jer. 31).

There is one more passage that we must quote. On entering upon His public ministry the Lord Jesus went and dwelt in Capernaum “that it might be fulfilled that was spoken by Esaias the prophet saying, The land of Zebulun and the land of Nepthalim, by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matt. 4). What was this great light that the people Saw? The chapter from which these words are quoted tells us. “For unto us a Child is born, a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father (Father of eternity), the Prince of peace: of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end. Upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9).

It is to this glorious person that we are introduced at the opening of the New Testament. He is the door by which have enter into the infinite and eternal blessings that are laid open to our souls in it, and there is no entrance to them at all except through Him, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4). And those who would enter the blessings of the New Testament and claim the name of Christian apart from this Divine Saviour are thieves and robbers of the glory of God, and their portion is the outer darkness.

The Order of the Pauline Epistles

 

It would appear as though there had been divine supervision in regard to the order in which the books of the Bible are placed in our Authorised Version. Take the nine general epistles of Paul as an example.

 

(A) ROMANS unfolds the subject of righteousness and declares the way by which God justifies the ungodly according to His own inviolable and eternal justice. Having been put into right relations with God in this divine way, and having received the Holy Spirit, which is the seal of it, the next important matter is to understand in what relationship we stand with those who have been brought into the same place of blessing.

(B) 1 CORINTHIANS deals with this question. It brings out the truth of Christian fellowship, lays down great principles for its maintenance, shows how all believers have been brought into a divine unity, being baptized into one body by the Holy Ghost. Things having been adjusted in the Christian circle, the next question of importance is our testimony before, and our relationship to, the world.

(C) 2 CORINTHIANS takes up this. It really unfolds for us what is the true Christian character. The light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus has shone into our hearts, that it might shine out again in the darkness around. The Christian is here said to be an epistle of Christ, known and read of all men , and even a superficial study of this epistle will reveal many special traits of God's character coming to light either in the Apostle Paul or in the saints.

 

These three epistles might be briefly summed up as (1) Right with God; (2) Right with the brethren; (3) Right before the world; or, (1) The Christian's righteousness; (2) The Christian's fellowship; (3) The Christian's character. The epistles that follows, fall each into its place with these first three, and may be spoken of in a general way as confirming or more fully unfolding and extending the truths of the first three.

 

(A) GALATIANS, though evidently written before Romans, is a treatise in defence of the truth, laid down so blessedly in the larger epistle.

(B) EPHESIANS unfolds the eternal purposes of God in regard to that assembly which is the body of Christ and the habitation of God, the great principles for the conduct of which here below are laid down in 1 Corinthians.

(C) PHILIPPIANS brings out very clearly the true experience and character of the saints and servants of God on earth. We see in chapter 1 the object of the Christian life—Christ's glory; in chapter 2 the pattern for the Christian life—Christ in humiliation; in chapter 3 the energy and goal of the Christian life—Christ in glory; in chapter 4 the superiority of the Christian life to all circumstances through Christ our strength.

 

(A) COLOSSIANS declares how God will reconcile all things to Himself by Christ, and how we who were once alienated and enemies are now reconciled, and here it links on with Romans, and brings afresh before the soul the hope laid up for us in heaven, which was first revealed to us in the gospel in Romans. Paul is also here a minister of the mystery, but there would have been no hearts to receive this ministry but for the former ministry which made souls subject to the will of God, so Paul links up his labours in this epistle with the kingdom of God (chap. 4:11) which Romans unfolds.

(B) 1 THESSALONIANS gives to us the translation of the assembly to heaven at the coming of the Lord.

(C) 2 THESSALONIANS describes God's vengeance upon the world that has refused the gospel preached by the lips and lives of His saints and servants in it.

The Palestine Settlement

 

In regard to the settlement of the Palestine question, Dr. Weissmann, Head of the Zionist organization, has said: “Two decisions have been reached which are of the utmost importance; the first is the embodiment of the Balfour declaration regarding Palestine in the Treaty, thus giving it International sanction. We have always considered Mr. Balfour's declaration as the charter of our liberty, and the International sanction is a turning point in Jewish history. The two decisions are: That the British Government, as the mandatory power in Palestine , has agreed that the civil administration shall be set up in Palestine immediately, to carry the Balfour declaration into effect. We are most anxious to begin reconstruction, for the last two years in Palestine have brought about general demoralization. This painful period is over, and the beginning of reconstruction work will be held both by Jews and by Arabs as delivery from the nightmare.”

The news of this San Remo decision has caused great rejoicings in Zionist circles. There was a great gathering of Jews in London , the Union Jack and the Zionist banner were hung out at the window, and it was noteworthy that the Hatikvah, the so-called Jewish national anthem, was not sung. Hatikvah means the “Hope,” and it was agreed that the day of hope had now passed into the day of reality. At another meeting in London , Dr. Maxnordau said: “Now a glorious ray of light had been shed upon their sorrow, the dream of their lives had become true. Israel is again a nation amongst nations. For two thousand years we have been severed from our own land, now we are going to return to it.”

These Jewish rejoicings at the decision of the Allies to affirm and carry out the Balfour declaration, bring very forcibly to our minds the 18th chapter of Isaiah. In that chapter a nation is addressed as the land shadowing with wings. The “Woe,” which is the first verse of the chapter, should be “Ho,” and the land which is addressed is one that has given protection to the Jewish people. For this surely is the meaning of “shadowing with wings.” It is a land that lies beyond the rivers of Cush , that is, beyond the Nile and the Euphrates . These rivers form the boundaries of two great nations that had been troublers of Israel, and nations upon which Israel had leaned on different occasions, seeking the aid of one against the other, and vice versa. The land in this chapter lies beyond these rivers, it is a distant land which espouses the cause of Israel . There seems little doubt that Britain is the land in question, for what land sendeth more ambassadors across the sea than Britain ? and what land has been more earnest in its desire to help the Jews—“a nation scattered and peeled, terrible from their beginning, hitherto. A nation meted out and trodden down whose land the rivers (that is, great armies passing through) have spoiled?” But the question is: Are the hopes of the Jewish nations to be realized? and the glowing prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures which speak of their peace and blessing to be fulfilled? “No!” The 18th chapter of Isaiah is very emphatic as to this, and the reason why these prophecies are not to be fulfilled at present is because these Jews about whom the prophecies are are returning to their land without any reference to their Messiah or their God.

They are placing great confidence in the power of the nation that has befriended them, and in their own wealth and energy, which they say will begin to flow towards Palestine to be devoted to the development of the country. But God and Christ are left out of their thoughts, and there can be no prosperity either to the individual or the nation that does that; least of all to the Jews, who can have no blessing in the land given to their fathers apart from their Messiah. So we read in Isaiah 18, that though all the world is to take notice of the return of the Jews to Palestine , yet it will not prosper. This enterprise, while fulfilling the Word of God, which foresaw and foretold that the people would thus go back to Palestine, will not have the blessing of God, for the Jews and all nations have to learn that there is no salvation in any name but the name of JESUS. It all promises well, yet all will result in bitter disappointment. How graphically described is this in the 18th chapter of Isaiah.

“Before the harvest,” we read, “when the bud is perfect and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, He shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks and take away and cut down the branches. They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth, and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.” There are rumblings of this in the enmity shown by some of the Arabs against the Jews, but that of which that verse speaks is the attacks made upon them by great and powerful foes. It describes the great tribulation through which they have yet to pass. All that they have passed through hitherto, will be forgotten in the horror of that tribulation, called Jacob's Trouble. But God has blessing in store for them and He will bring it about in His own way. That way is described by the Prophet Zechariah, for they are to see their Messiah whom once they pierced, and to Him they shall say: “What are these wounds in Thy hands?” Then He shall answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends.” God will pour the spirit of grace and supplication upon them, and as they look upon Him Whom they pierced, they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him as one for his first-born. It is when their eyes are opened to see their own sin in their long rejection of their one and only Saviour, that they shall see that His wounds have opened a fountain for sin and uncleanness, and they shall exclaim, “This is our God for Whom we have waited; He shall save us.” Then the last verse of Isaiah 18 shall be fulfilled. “In that time shall a present be brought unto the Lord of hosts, of a people scattered and peeled, whose land the rivers have spoiled to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion .”

The Patience of Job

 

“ Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy ” (James 5:11).

 

Yes, we have heard of the patience of Job, and how he held on to his God through a series of unparalleled calamities. Satan, the adversary, had observed him for a long time and had been most evidently annoyed at his God-fearing and upright life. If he could have destroyed him he would have done it, but he had to confess that God had put a hedge about him which he could not break down or surmount.

It did not please the devil, the great accuser, that in the world that he desired to dominate there should be a man who wholly served God; and being only evil he could not understand a pure and disinterested motive; consequently he put down Job's fidelity to God to the good thing he was making out of it. “Doth Job fear God for nought?” he asks. “Hast not Thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face

It was a two-handed attack. It was a blow aimed at God, for it meant, “You have created man for your pleasure and you can only gain his service by paying him well:” and it was a blow aimed at Job, for as “the accuser of the brethren,” Satan moved God against him. But was the accusation false or true? That had to be proved for the sakes of all concerned and for ours also. The question was, should God or Satan triumph in the experience of Job?

The hedge that surrounded this man of God was removed and Satan was allowed to do with him as he pleased within the limits of God's will. How thoroughly he did his malignant work! There was no pity, no mercy in his heart; catastrophe followed catastrophe; the Sabeans, the fire from heaven, the Chaldeans and the great wind from the wilderness conspired together against the object of his malice, until not a vestige of his great possessions remained; almost all his servants were slain, and last and worst of all, he was robbed of his ten children. Job was beggared and bereaved of all that he valued, in one day. He was surely a man to be wondered at as with garments rent and head shaved he fell down upon the ground. How eagerly Satan must have watched him and listened to hear the words that would come out of his mouth, and how baffled and beaten he must have been when Job exclaimed, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord. ” In the first round of that great contest the honours were certainly with God.

It was clear that God was more to Job than the blessings He had given him. He was not like the man of the world who thinks that whatever he possesses he has gained by his own skill or industry. His was true piety; he received all from God and gave thanks even when all he possessed was taken from him. He gave to God His rightful place in regard to all He had given him, and when he lost all he looked at no second cause. God was above all, behind all and in everything to Job.

But Satan though astonished was unabashed; he would try again. Job had still a healthy body and his life, and incidentally, his wife. “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; and he will curse Thee to Thy face .” So said the great adversary to God, repeating his accusation against Job and casting his taunt at God. “You have made this man, and though You are more to him than his possessions, You are not more to him than himself; he loves himself better than he loves You.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold he is in thine hand, but save his life.” So Satan smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. No part of him was spared, and “he took a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.”

What must have been his perplexity, his bewilderment as he sat in his misery? His was a living death! And he knew not the cause of it, and was silent, until his wife came to him, and through her Satan made his last and most subtle attack upon him. Said she, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God and die.” It was a foul blow, and just like the devil, but it opened Job's month and made him give a triumphant answer, even if he did not understand its full meaning. “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Curse God! That would have meant giving up his God. Could he do that? Never. He could lose everything, but not his God. Many things may have seemed indispensable to him in former days, but he had come to this point in his experience now; he could do without everything but God. God alone was indispensable to Job, so that he cried out later in his agony yet earnestness of soul, “Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.”

Thus did Job endure, in this was his patience seen and Satan is heard of no more in the story, he had nothing more to say, he was silenced by Job's faith in God, and he left him to God in whom he trusted, and He “is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” He will surely give a full compensation for all suffering that has been suffered according to His will and in the learning of His ways for our final good. Job was compensated here for “the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning,” and his former wealth was doubled, and his children were restored to him, and his daughters were fairer than any women in the land and their names meant peace and fragrance and beauty. And moreover he prayed for his friends, and his brethren and sisters who had forsaken him in his calamity returned to him, and he went down at last to an honoured grave, being old and full of years.

“ The end of the Lord ” is not reached for us in this life. The New Testament has revealed to us a life beyond this, and as we realize this we shall be patient and endure. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

The People Standing

 

In many ways and words in the Holy Scriptures God has made known His great compassion for the ignorant, unenlightened multitudes. They seem to be ever before His mind. But in no way, so it seems to me is this more in evidence than in three arresting passages.

Think of that great occasion at the grave of Lazarus, when the Lord was about to demonstrate His power over death. Lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me, and I know 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 a great crisis in His life. He stood face to face with that hour, the like of which there had never been before or since. His soul was troubled and He turned to His Father, and by His words indicated that one purpose alone controlled Him. The Father answered Him immediately. It was a great moment when the Son on earth spoke to His Father in heaven, and His Father heard and answered Him in the presence of the multitude. The voice that spoke was heard by them and they said, It thundered; others said, An angel spoke to Him, but He answered, “This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes

The third passage is 1 Corinthians 14:23-25. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle is instructing the Christians how to behave and what to do when they come together. And in these instructions He has His eye upon the “ unlearned and unbelievers ” that may come in, and He urges that they should seek to speak the Word of God plainly and in the Spirit's power. The result 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.” It is the most arresting statement in this chapter.

Here then the Son speaks to the Father, and the Father speaks to the Son, and the Holy Spirit to the saints, and through them with the enlightenment and blessing of those that stand by in view. Father, Son and Holy Ghost, all interested in the bystander. This should surely set such in a new light before us, and help us to view them from a different angle. If the Triune God cares for them, we surely cannot be indifferent to their welfare. It is a necessity of our Christian lives that we should look up, but we are not well developed in our spiritual lives if we do not look out, and become interested in those that stand by.

But above all how wonderfully these three passages of Scripture, which I earnestly commend to your consideration, reveal the loving-kindness of God, and His care for men. Surely as we consider this our souls will be moved and the desire for the enlightenment and blessing of men will spring up with great vigour within us.

The Perfections of Jesus: Prophet, Priest and King

“Whatsoever things are lovely . . . think on these things.”

 

We waste no time when thinking of Jesus, for every thought of Him yields present delight and is of eternal value. All the wisdom that the minds of men can evolve will pass like smoke, but every Holy Ghost given thought of Him will abide as a priceless possession for ever. It is the understanding of Him which “is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold of her, and happy is everyone that retaineth her” (Prov. 3:14-18).

To the anointed eye, and opened ear, and devoted heart, the Bible is full of Jesus and His beauty. He shines forth in the Old Testament through type and shadow, and no types are of greater interest and instruction than those in connection with the tabernacle in Israel .

The tabernacle in its largest interpretation is figurative of the wide universe of God, when everything in it will be subject to His will. It sets forth that vast realm in which His glory will be displayed in and by Christ; this is the meaning of the expression translated in the authorised version “a worldly sanctuary” (Heb. 9:1).

There were three parts to it: the courtyard, the holy place, and the holy of holies; in this latter God dwelt in the midst of His people, and as nothing unsuitable to God could be allowed to abide in His dwelling-place, the things which He commanded should be there must typify that which is delightful to Himself. These things are enumerated for us in Hebrews 9:4:—

“The golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with pure gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.”

The Ark of the Covenant was a type of Christ, it was made of an imperishable wood and overlaid with gold, the former speaking of His spotless and incorruptible humanity, the latter of the Divinity of His Person. He was here on earth “God manifest in the flesh,” very God yet perfect Man. This incarnation is a great mystery which the mind of man cannot fathom, but faith accepts it as the revelation of God, and, like the wise men from the east, bows down in adoration before the glory of the Person thus presented to us. In this ark were the three things referred to in our verse, and to them we will direct our attention.

 

The golden pot that had manna

The manna was that with which God fed His people in the wilderness. It conspicuated their complete dependence upon Him; but He was a God who never failed them, and this “corn of Heaven” fell for their needs throughout those forty years. They wearied of it and cried in rebellion against the Giver: “Our souls loathe this light bread” (Num. 21:5). But God said of that which they despised “Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations. As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony to be kept” (Ex. 16:33-34). It was as though God said “That manna is precious to Me, the people may despise it, but it shall be preserved in My dwelling place for ever.”

But its preciousness lay in the fact that it typified Christ: that which was the food of men entirely dependent upon God, prefigured Him who came down from Heaven to live a life of complete dependence, and to tread the road of perfect obedience to God's will. This was man's true place Godward, and Jesus came to stand where all beside had fallen before the tempter's power.

Though He was the Lord of Glory He was born in Bethlehem of Judea and laid in a manger; and the external lowliness of His birth was but the sign of that inward lowliness of heart which was perfect in Him. From that lowly advent to His glorious departure He was always dependent upon God, for He could say “I was cast upon Thee from the womb!” The devil brought all his wiles to bear upon Him, but Jesus stood firm in that dependence, and refused to look in any other direction than upward to God for all His need.

That life of dependence was also one of obedience. His ear was wakened morning by morning by His Father's voice; He listened as the learner to His Father's instructions, and went forth to fulfil His words, and do His works, no more and no less; this was His very life, His meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work.

The people saw His works and had to say “He hath done all things well.” His enemies heard His words, and were compelled to confess “Never man spake like this Man. ” But did He take the praise of it to Himself? Nay, He said “The words are my Father's words, and I do the works of Him that sent me.” He was the Man without pride, the Bread of God come down from heaven to give life unto the world.

But while all this was manifested before the eyes of men, there was that which they could not see. They beheld a Man Who refused the path of ease and chose the path of sorrows, Who refused to receive the preferments of the rich, or popularity with the poor; they could not understand Him, and hated Him in consequence. Even His disciples rebuked Him for it, but they did not know the motive and spring of that blessed life. He lived on account of His Father. His only motive in life was to please His Father, every throb of His heart was true to the One who sent Him. He was controlled and governed by His Father's joy, His Fathers will. He was always one in mind and heart and purpose with His Father who sent Him. Thus He filled the infinite heart of God with satisfaction, while there shone forth from Him the glory of that grace which can fill with joy the heart of every creature beneath the sun.

But just as Israel loathed the manna, so men loathed the ‘Sent One of God.' “He was despised and rejected of men, and when they saw Him there was no beauty that they should desire Him.” And He had to say “Mine enemies speak evil of Me, when shall He die and His name perish” (Ps. 41). They wished to see and hear of Him no more, and a shameful cross was the end of that life, as far as men were concerned.

Our God hath highly exalted Him. The precious manna has been placed in the golden pot, and put in the very dwelling of God. Not one thought, or word, or deed, or motion of the soul of that blessed humbled Man will ever be forgotten. The glory of that life shall fill eternity with its fragrance. Its imperishable beauty is now enthroned at the right hand of God, for He is there, and what He was, He is, and ever shall be.

But His exaltation has not increased His worth, for that were impossible. The Father's throne is the only suited place for Him; and as He was here, so He ever will be there, the joy of God's heart, and the wonder and joy of all the redeemed.

It was while here on earth in this lowly pathway, which led only to the cross, that He was the great prophet of God. He always delighted to speak of Himself as “sent,” and as the Sent One He fully declared the One whom mortal eye has never seen. He did this in all His words and works, and the revelation of God could not be more complete. It will abide for ever; but as imperishable and eternal as the nature of God thus revealed, will be the perfections of Jesus as the Revealer of that nature.

 

Aaron's Rod that budded

There had been rebellion in Israel , and God instructed Moses to take the rods of the princes, one rod for each tribe, saying to him

“Thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you. And it shall come to pass that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom; and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel , whereby they murmur against you” (Num. 17:4-5).

Twelve dry staves were placed there as the sun went down; but when the morning dawned “the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth blossoms, and yielded almonds.”

The almond is figurative of resurrection, and in the blossoming of the high priest's rod we have a striking type of the priestly office of the Lord Jesus, exercised in the power of resurrection. He could not be a priest on earth (Heb. 8:4), but having been raised from the dead, He has entered into the presence of God there to appear for His saints. This is His present position and service, the doctrine of which is unfolded for us in the Hebrew Epistle.

The chief result of the budding of Aaron's rod was the removal of the murmurings of the people (v. 10). There is unmeasured comfort for us in this, for we are compassed with infirmity; all kinds of opposition confronts us in the path of faith; and there is also the chastening hand of God upon us, that we may be partakers of His holiness. In the midst of these things we should certainly become discouraged and murmur and repine, had we not an High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and Who can have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way. In the power of infinite and quenchless love He ever liveth to make intercession for us; and His mighty intercession cannot fail. And though we see Him not with mortal eye, yet we know His sympathetic heart, for He made it known on earth; His tears were mingled with those of the weeping sisters by the grave of Lazarus, and He is just the same today, and we may prove as they did that His love is greater than the greatest sorrow that we can feel.

It is written “whoso offereth praise glorifieth God,” and He has redeemed us, that we might praise Him in the new song. The devil knows this, and uses every effort to make murmuring take the place of singing, so that God may be dishonoured instead of glorified. But Jesus is our great High Priest that we might not fail in this way, and the resources of His grace are inexhaustible. He lives that we might draw largely upon these resources, so that the path of complete dependence upon God may be to us the path of great joy; and thus the very circumstances that the devil would use to make us murmur, become the cause for sweetest praise, for they turn us to Christ, and are the means of enabling us to experience His grace and sympathy, as we could not otherwise do. We have a most instructive example of this in the case of Paul, who was greatly tested by the thorn in the flesh; but to him the Lord could say “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness; and Paul's response to this was “most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities” (2 Cor. 12:9). He was more than a conqueror through Him that loved him.

But the Lord Jesus also fulfils His priestly services towards us because we are sons of God. God is “bringing many sons to glory”; they are so precious to Him, and such is their dignity, that He could not commit them to the care of an arch-angel; there is only one Person great enough and competent for this charge, even the One who is so constantly spoken of in the Hebrew epistle as Jesus. In obedience to the will of God, and to carry out His plan with regard to His people, He has become the Captain of our salvation; and “such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, and undefiled, separate from sinners; made higher than the heavens;” and Who is able to save to the uttermost all “that come unto God by Him” (Heb. 7:25-26). He cannot break down or fail in this service to God's blood-bought sons; His mercy, faithfulness, and power are all engaged to bring them safely home, because they belong to God; and it is His delight, as the Servant of God's pleasure, to do God's will with regard to them.

A little child wanders from its home, and is in danger of being hurt in the crowded thoroughfare, but a dear friend of that child's mother sees it standing all bewildered amid the whirling traffic. He takes it in charge and because it is hungry he feeds it, because it is tired he carries it, and at length bears it through all the dangers of the street to the mother's arms. That means much to that child, but who can tell how the mother will appreciate such a service!

So it is; the heart of our great High Priest is full of compassion; He feeds, and carries, and cares for us,

“His watchful eye shall keep

Each pilgrim soul amongst

The thousands of God's sheep,”

until at last we reach the home of our God. We shall praise Him for ever for this service of infinite love to us, but if it has meant so much to us, what will it have meant to God? How will He appreciate it? Every beloved child brought safely home, in spite of all the wiles of the foe; brought home too, with songs of gladness, instead of voice of murmuring. We may be sure that God will never forget this. The rod that budded shall be associated with the pot of manna, and laid up before Him for ever. The faithfulness of Jesus, in accomplishing God's will as the High Priest of His people, will never be out of God's memory, and it shall shine in imperishable glory to the utmost bounds of the universe of God.

 

The Tables of Stone

God brought Israel out of Egypt to be a kingdom for Himself; in the which His will should be maintained and His righteous character manifested; and this will and character was embodied in the ten commandments. The first tables were broken e'er ever they reached the camp of Israel , for the people had already violated the laws they contained. But God, in mercy, said to Moses:

“Hew thee two tables like unto the first, and come up unto Me in the mount and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou breakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark” (Deut. 10:1-9).

The tables of stone foreshadow the time when the once-rejected Nazarene shall have dominion to the ends of the earth. This is evidenced by the fact that they alone were placed in the ark when the temple of Solomon was built (1 Ki. 8:9). The temple glory is the glory of the millennial kingdom, while that of the tabernacle sets forth what is eternal.

Those commandments were broken by Israel , but when the true King comes they will be kept throughout His far-stretching domain; He will administrate according to them for the glory of God. The first request of the kingdom prayer is that God's will shall be done on earth, and this prayer shall receive an abundant answer, for God will have everything that He has introduced perfectly fulfilled.

Jesus was “born King of the Jews,” but He did not at once take up the sceptre of government, for “His own received Him not;” and since those laws had been broken by those to whom God gave them, He, as the true Israelite, must keep them.

The law was maintained inviolate in His heart, it was His meditation day and night, He saw the glorious things in it, He fulfilled and magnified it, for He was the One Who loved the Lord His God with all His heart, and His neighbour as Himself. He showed the way of righteousness for all His subjects, by being completely subject Himself, and by that subjection has proved His right, as well as His competency, to rule. But righteousness is not the only quality that the Lord as King possesses. He presented Himself to His people as meek and compassionate: to Him the blind and the lame came in the temple, and as their King He healed them; all evil fled before His blessed touch, and so glad were the children made by His presence that they could not refrain from singing, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” It was this King that was despised and crucified.

But He is coming again; His enemies shall lick the dust; all kings shall fall down before Him, and all nations shall serve Him. He will arise with healing in His wings, and deliver the needy when they cry; He shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds. For one glorious millennium this poor sin-riven earth shall be at rest, righteousness shall flourish, all shall know the Lord, and peace shall cover men as a garment. But all this will be because of the greatness of the King, in whose heart the law of God is enshrined.

The kingdom will be right because the King is righteous. He will administrate on God's behalf, and govern His people as a Shepherd, and maintain them in the ways and will of God by the power of His priestly grace—for He will be a Priest upon His throne (Zech. 6:13)—so that not only will that law have been carried out by one perfect Man, but it will also be maintained and administered by that Man in a wide-stretching kingdom for the eternal glory of God. No one but Jesus in whom infinite perfections dwell, could carry this out; and when He has done this, then shall He give up that kingdom to God.

But though that reign of 1,000 years shall come to an end, the glory of the King will not be forgotten. The tables of stone are placed with the rod that budded, and the pot of manna, in the dwelling-place of God; and when this creation has served its purpose, and been folded up as a garment and set aside, the perfections of Jesus, as Prophet, Priest, and King—the full, making-known of God in all His ways with men—shall be the eternal glory of the new heavens and the new earth.

Meantime while these perfections are hidden from the eyes of the world, believers have boldness to go right in to the presence of God where they for ever shine; for the precious all-atoning blood is there upon the Mercy Seat, and that blood is their title to be there (Heb. 10:19-22). There in the very presence of God they may feed upon Christ as the manna; be maintained by Him as the rod that budded; and have Him for a Pattern as the tables of stone; and as their souls enter into the glories of Christ which yield such delight to God, they are able to use the golden censer—which is symbolical of worship—and pour forth their hearts in adoration before the God whom Christ has fully declared.

The Position and Condition From Which Everything Can be Rightly Viewed

 

The attitude of the faithful servants of the Lord Jesus towards any movement or community must always be determined by His own. They will delight in that which He approves, and separate themselves from that which He condemns.

 

The Lord has been pleased “to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1), and to one of these servants He gave commandment to write the things which he had “seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (v. 19). With regard to these things the Lord has taken up a very definite position, and there is no excuse for ignorance as to His thoughts about them.

 

The Lord as Judge

It was in a strange and new character that John beheld his Lord in this chapter; not here, as He had known Him, weeping for the sorrows of the afflicted, tenderly pleading with the wilful, and speaking words of comfort to the broken-hearted penitent, but of terrible aspect and unbending mien. It is here to look out upon an apostate world, and to scrutinize and judge the great systems that compose it; and as undertaking this, as God's faithful Witness and Servant, John sees Him.

He comes forth in all the dignity of the Ancient of Days, the unbroken calm of eternity encircling His brow as a halo.

“ His eyes as a flame of fire, ” to search out the motive of every act in the world's strange drama, and to trace from its origin to climax every system that rears its head beneath the sun.

“ His feet like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace, ” to tread down in righteous indignation all rebellion against God.

“ His voice as the sound of many waters ,” the compelling voice of judgment, which, sounding above the frenzied clamour of Satan's poor dupes will rivet the attention of the quick, and call into animation those that are dead.

“ Out of His mouth goeth a sharp two-edged sword ,” to fight against all evil and to smite the wicked with death.

 

The World to be Judged

Unregenerate man has continued to build his tower of Babel in defiance of God; and to perfect himself without his Creator is the design that lies at the back of his every activity—whether these activities are political, social, industrial, or religious; and the completion and crown of all the progress in which the world boasts, will be the deification of man, in the “man of sin,” “the son of perdition,” who will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God will sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

Everything is, most evidently, with great rapidity, preparing for this; the presence of the Holy Ghost in the true church of God, still on earth, is the only hindrance to its final development; but when the church is caught up out of the world (1 Thess. 4:13, 17), which event must be very near fulfilment, then shall this climax of all man's efforts, since the day when Satan declared “Ye shall be as gods,” be speedily reached.

In the Revelation we have a panoramic view of the clash of the various forces at work in the world; of the rising up out of the chaos resulting of this marvellous production of fallen humanity, after whom all that dwell upon the earth will wonder; and of the immediate and unsparing judgment of God upon the world for this culmination of all blasphemy.

This judgment will be executed by the Lord as the Ancient of Days, and then to Him shall be given, as the Son of Man, “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him” (Dan. 7:14).

As we read this book of judgments—and there is a special blessing for the reader, verse 3—we hear ringing clearly throughout its pages the call to the people of God to be in separation from all these things that will call forth His judgment; things which have taken such definite shape of late years that the student of Scripture cannot fail to identify them:—

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (18:4)

 

The Lord and the Churches

We are not surprised that the Lord is compelled to adopt this stern attitude towards the world of which Satan is the god and prince, for all Scripture bears witness to the fact that evil must come under judgment. In great long-suffering, God may endure for a while the vessels fitted for wrath giving them space for repentance, but His Spirit will not always strive with men, the limit of evil is set, there must be an end to rebellion against Almighty God.

What does astonish us, however, is to find Him standing thus in the midst of the churches, the circle in which, professedly, the name of Jesus is loved and revered, and that they are the first to come beneath the all-searching eyes of flame. And yet this must be so, for how could He deal out righteous judgment to the vast outer circle, if evil were permitted to proceed and develop without detection or rebuke in that which may be termed His own household?

The church was espoused to Christ as a chaste virgin (2 Cor. 11:2) and should have maintained a place of rigid separation from the world which cast out and crucified her Lord, but instead she has been beguiled and corrupted; first invaded by the same principles, motives, and aspirations that flourish in the world, she has gone down, by a quick descent, as a great system, until as completely assimilated with the world, she will be spued out of the Lord's mouth as a most offensive thing (Rev. 3:16). This is the sad history of the church in responsibility on earth, given to us prophetically in the letters to the seven churches.

 

The Cause of the Great Declension

The churches would never have been called upon to hear the rebuke of the Lord for unfaithfulness if they had continued in the freshness of first love. “Thou hast left thy first love” discloses for us the opening of the door to the traitor and every evil, for at this point Christ ceased to be paramount. They lost the sense of His great love to them, and He ceased to be the Spring of their lives; as a consequence their love to Him began to wane; they owned Him still as Lord and Master, doing His work with diligence, but Himself as the unchanging Lover they had lost, and this was the devil's opportunity.

The Lord cannot brook a rival in the affections of His church, and we can only be acceptable to Him as He sways our hearts and lives as our great and only Lover. An Old Testament scripture (S. of Sol. 5:9-16) presents Him to us in this character, and the contrast between this description of Him and the way He appears in Revelation 1 is arresting.

“ His locks are bushy, and black as a raven. ” Here is all the vigour and strength of an undecaying affection; no trace of grey hairs or mark of decline on Him.

“ His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the waters of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set .” Here is described the infinite gentleness of that love which is so strong and changeless.

“ His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. ” His words woo and win the heart by their gracious and heavenly melody; they are the words of eternal life, sweeter to the heart that knows Him than the honey or the honeycomb, for “ His mouth is most sweet: yea, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend. ”

It was not the Lord's purpose to disclose Himself in any other character than this to the church, but their infidelity made it a necessity. We see how gladly He reverts to the lover-character when He finds devotion to Himself in the Philadelphian church (Rev. 3:9): the one sentence that stands out in His words to them is “I HAVE LOVED THEE.” Others are to know that soon: they knew it when thus addressed, it was their choice treasure, and He exhorts them to “hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”

The crown is the highest possession, that which perfects and completes every other, and throughout eternity the love of Christ will be the crown of the church . The church in responsibility on earth has lost its crown, but, thank God, this may be recovered now: not by the whole profession, but by all who desire to keep His word, and not deny His name. The way of recovery is clearly stated— Remember , Repent , Return (Rev. 2:5).

 

“The Disciple whom Jesus Loved”

It is true that even John had to see the Lord as the One who with stern justice would destroy the wicked, but He was to see Him thus as being one with Him in His thoughts, and in communion with all His ways. He stands in this chapter as Abraham stood in days gone by, before the judgment of God was poured out upon the cities of the plain, when God said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” Abraham was the friend of God, and John was the friend of Jesus, and every one of us may stand in this relation to Him, for He has said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:14-15).

It is very evident that this was to be John's position here, and that he was not to stand in dread of the Lord, as would the workers of iniquity, for as he lay prone on the earth, the right hand was laid upon him, and the tender voice that had so often thrilled his soul said unto him, “Fear not,” and John was able to arise and view with his Master the “things that are” and the things still to come, and as being in full accord with His thoughts he was able to write that which his eyes had been opened to see for our instruction.

No book in the divinely inspired Canon can be of greater use to us now than the Revelation; if we are to be intelligent as to the times we must understand its teaching; but if we are to do this, and to shape our ways accordingly, we must be in the position and condition in which John found himself when be received it from the Lord.

Let us remember that it was the disciple who always designated himself as the one “whom Jesus loved,” who was chosen by infinite wisdom to write the Revelation; he had the qualifications for it. Attachment to his Lord had led to detachment from the world: this is the true Christian position.

John's story as recorded for us in the Gospel that bears his name is deeply instructive and will help us in this connection. He needed no command to follow the Lord at first, and he is introduced to us as doing this (chap. 1:37); and in the last glimpse given us of him in the book he is still following without any word of command (chap. 21:20).

He first speaks of himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” when treachery and unfaithfulness were breaking forth amongst the twelve, and when we should have supposed that the chief thing would have been to have had a disciple who loved Jesus, and he continues to speak of himself in this way until the end.

Twice only in the Gospel does he record his own words: first, on the night of the betrayal, he, lying upon Jesus' bosom, said, “Lord, who is it?” and his question revealed the traitor (chap. 13); and then on that fair morning by the sea of Galilee, as he beheld One standing on the shore, he said, “It is the Lord.”

“That disciple whom Jesus loved” discerned the traitor, and he knew his Lord, and these two things are the great necessities for us today.

He leaned on Jesus' bosom at the supper table, resting in the Lord as the Lover of His own, and as a consequence he was able to stand beside the cross in the hour of the Lord's untold sorrow; he was also able to stand by the Lord as His friend and servant when as the Victor over death He unfolds the counsels of God in judgment.

Saints of God, we must get into John's place, relying only upon the love of Jesus, in the midst of unfaithfulness and basest treachery, having all the glamour of the world obscured by the brighter light of His glory, who is altogether lovely, and being undeterred from following Him in spite of any course that others may take. Then shall our eyes be anointed with eve-salve, and we shall discern the way of the traitor, and see the hand of the Lord; we shall be enriched with fine gold tried in the fire, and so be proof against all the silver pieces that the world may offer; we shall be clothed in white raiment, keeping our garments unspotted by the world, and so be acceptable unto His eye whom our souls love (chap. 3:18).

Near to the Lord whose love we know, we shall not be in ignorance as to the trend of the times, but we shall be able in quietness and confidence to await His coming again, meanwhile approving all that He approves, as His friends maintaining His interests and labouring in His name for His glory, and walking in separation from all that must eventually come under His condemnation.

The Preacher of the Word

 

A preacher is a messenger; he is sent forth with a report, and it is the Lord who sends him. This he must not forget, for “how shall they preach, except they be sent?” ( Rom. 10). The man who keeps this in mind will be kept from self-importance and swagger. A great honour is put upon him certainly, but it is not he that is important but the message he carries. Being sent, his first thought must be the One who sends him. To “please Him who hath chosen him” (2 Tim. 2:4); to show himself “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” (v. 15), and a “vessel meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work” (v. 21): this should be his one all-controlling ambition. His first thought must be his Master, and his last thought too, for he must return from his mission to Him to give account as to the way he has carried it out and the success of it. “He commanded those servants to be called unto Him, that He might know how much every man had gained by trading” (Luke 19:15). But he must also keep his Master in mind during his mission, for it will be a complete failure if he loses contact with Him, and, moreover the Lord never withdraws His eye from His servants, and here is a marvellous thing, “ A faithful . . . messenger refresheth the soul of his Master ” (Prov. 25:13). We may be sure that Solomon knew what he was talking about when he said that, and he said it by inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The thought of the faithful messenger brings the Lord Himself to the mind, He is called “the faithful Witness, ” and how perfectly refreshed was the heart of His Father as He looked upon Him.

Twice, we know, He publicly declared His delight in Him, but there was not a moment by night or day that the Lord had not the secret assurance that He always pleased the One who sent Him. “As My Father hath sent Me into the world even so send I you, ” He said, so that He is the pattern as well as the Master of the preacher.

The true preacher comes from the Lord with a message to men. He comes to men, and he will always be ready to serve them, but they are not his master. “He is bought with a price and must not be the servant of men” (1 Cor. 7:23), in the sense of taking orders from them and being under their control. He is an ambassador of peace from God to the world and must know the divine conditions and terms of peace if he is to present them, and interpret them to men according to the mind of his Sovereign Lord. He is a bringer of good news to men from the Lord in heaven, and again we turn to Solomon who describes this very thing “ As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country ” (Prov. 25:25). And if he is “ a faithful ambassador he is health ” (Prov. 13:17). He is in himself a witness to the delivering, healing power of the message he carries, for health and holiness are words derived from the same root, and a faithful messenger is a man who is in spiritual health, there is a wholeness about him: his Master, his Master's message, and his Master's interests absorb him; but there is a solemn contrast to this given in Solomon's terse words, “ A wicked messenger falleth into mischief .” “Wicked” is “wrong.” This wicked messenger has wrong views of his Master, like the man who said to Him, “I knew that thou wert an austere man, ” he has wrong views as to his message, and will substitute his own honeyed words for his Master's faithful message, and he not only falls into mischief himself, but causes others to fall into mischief also, for “ a man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet ” (Prov. 29:5). But “ a faithful witness delivereth souls ” (Prov. 14:25). His words, which are his Lord's words, are words of salvation, setting souls free from the snare of the great and subtle adversary, for his words are truth, and the truth makes free all those who believe it.

But again “ He that watereth others, he shall be watered also himself ” (Prov. 11:25). “It is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God care for the oxen?” Surely He does, but He would have us learn the deeper lesson, that in labouring for other's good there is a peculiar joy, and the one who carries the message of grace from God to men is refreshed and blest and enlarged in doing it. “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth: and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty” (Prov. 11:24). Whichever way the faithful messenger looks he will find joy and blessing for his own soul. What a joy for instance it is to be the messenger of such a Master. “My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things I have made touching the King.” And what a wonderful message is the one to be carried; the three greatest words in human language are “God is love, ” and that is the message. And how great is the joy when the message is effective, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” And the faithful messenger has his own share in that joy.

It is a good thing to dwell upon the joy and the blessing, for these are great, “ The faithful man shall abound with blessings ” (Prov. 28:20), but warnings are also needed, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall, ” “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” Paul preached with power, and the Holy Ghost, and with much assurance, but he never could have done it, if he could not have added, “Ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sakes.” So we read in his letter to the Thessalonians. He followed the Lord in his living; he was like his Master. The man who carries the Master's message and yet falsifies it by his life is a false witness, and “ a false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish ” (Prov. 19:9). “No man, ” said a wise old puritan, “preaches his sermon well to others if he doth not first preach it to himself.” And certainly no man affects others by the truth he speaks except as he has been affected by it himself. “Who is sufficient for these things?” “Our sufficiency is of God, ” and if any man thinks himself able for this service of preaching the word apart from dependence upon God, he is surely heading for a fall as great and terrible as that of Simon Peter's.

The Provision of Christ for His People During His Absence

Notes of an address given in Edinburgh in April, 1921

 

“ If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more, but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you. 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. Judas saith unto Him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 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. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings: and the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father's which sent Me. These things have I spoken unto you, being present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace 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. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father, for My Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe ” (John 14:15-29).

 

It has often been remarked, and that with the utmost truth, that there are two great facts that give character to this present dispensation. They are, first, that Christ—the Man Christ Jesus—sits on the throne of God in heaven. I need not say that He could not sit on that throne at all were He not God, but He is there as the Man Christ Jesus. Second, the Holy Spirit of God, very God, is on the earth—Man in heaven, and God upon earth—and we find that these two great facts have their very special bearing upon the gathering out of this world a people for the name of Christ; and apart from these two great facts, this special work of God in this present day could not be accomplished.

In this passage of Scripture that I have read to you, the Lord Jesus Christ was instructing His disciples in the fact that He was going away, and telling them of the provision that He was to make for them during His absence—of His going to His Father in heaven, and of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, from the Father to earth.

We can understand in a measure what it must have meant to those disciples to hear that their Lord and Master was to leave them. He had been everything to them; He had taken possession of their hearts; He had filled them with a sense of His love; He had brought them to His feet in adoration; He was all the world to them, and now He tells them, “I am going away,” and their hearts were filled with sadness—we can understand that—but He gives to them this most blessed promise, “I will come again.” He tells them that in His Father's house, His own blessed abode, He would find room for them, so that where He was, they should also be; His eternal companions. It must have given them comfort in the midst of their sorrow; it gives us comfort today, does it not? The great and blessed truth of the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ to rapture His blood-bought saints to the glory is surely a most comforting hope, truly called in Scripture “that blessed hope.” To be for ever with Him, loved with the same love wherewith He is loved there in the Father's house, His abode and our abode for ever and ever—this is our prospect! And His coming must be very near; we are surely not far off from that longed-for event—

“Our hearts beat high, the dawn is nigh

That ends our pilgrim story

In His eternal glory.”

But in the meantime, what provision has He made for us? He begins to tell us in these wonderful chapters. He says, “If ye love Me keep My commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He will send you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” That was the provision.

 

The Character of Those to Whom the Comforter Was Sent

I want you to notice what was the character of this company of disciples to whom the Father would send the Comforter. They loved Him, and were to prove their love to Him by keeping His commandments. They stand out in this special characteristic in contrast to the Israelites at Mount Sinai . Moses went away from the Israelites into the mountain, and they were left behind to keep God's commandments, and to prove that they loved Him by so doing, and they declared their willingness to be obedient. But when Moses was lost to sight in that mountain, they at once forgot their vow, and they set about to break the very first commandment that God had given to them, and proved thereby that they did not love Him at all. And naturally these disciples were no different to those Israelites, nor are we; for the whole natural bent of the unregenerated heart is to hate God and His will, and do its own pleasure. Then if these disciples were such as loved the Lord, and proved their love by keeping His commandments as they did, a great work must have taken place in their souls. Yes, a great work had taken place in their souls. They were distinguished right from the beginning of this Gospel from the world. In the first chapter we read of the Lord's coming into the world: He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world didn't know Him. The foxes had their holes, and the birds of the air had their nests whither they could repair when the night storms uplifted their voices; but He, the Maker of the world, had no place to lay His head. He came to His own, whom He loved with a great love, but His own received Him not. But there in the midst of them were a few who received Him, and to them was given the title to become the children of God. But then we learn this fact about them, they were not born of nature, nor of the will of man; but of God. Later in the Gospel when the false disciples turned their backs upon Him, these men who were born of God would not leave Ham; they said, “To whom shall we go, Thou hast the words of eternal life.” They found Him to be the source of their life; the words that He spoke were spirit and life to them, and they had no true life apart from Him.

In the 10th chapter of the same Gospel we find that they were His sheep who heard His voice—His voice was sweet to them; it had found a place in their hearts, and they followed Him. He had been graciously at work amongst them, so that He could say to them, “Now are ye clean through the words that I have spoken unto you.” There had been a moral cleansing within them, and they had been separated from the world to which they once belonged, but to which they belonged no more, and they had been attached to Him to whom they belonged now for ever.

Their Lord says to them, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments,” and they obeyed His voice. He had given them two commands, “Love one another” and “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem , until ye be endued with power from on high.” Fallen nature cannot wait, it is impatient, for it distrusts God. The Israelites could not wait for the coming down of Moses from the mount; King Saul couldn't wait for the coming of Samuel. These disciples were tested at this very point; the Lord said “Wait,” and they gathered together in Jerusalem in subjection to Him, bound together in the bonds of Divine love, and waited according to His word. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:14). They proved their love to Him by their patience, love, unity and dependent expectancy. And He, in His place in the glory, could point them out to the Father as a band of men and women who loved Him, and proved their love to Him by keeping His commandments, the fruit of His own work; and He prayed the Father to send them the Comforter. The Spirit of God came down, sent by the Father, in answer to the prayer of the Lord on the day of Pentecost, to indwell and empower those men and women who loved the Lord and kept His commandments, and to be with them for ever.

 

The Comforter Sent Because of the Sacrifice of Christ

Now I want to carefully guard what I am saying at this point. The Holy Spirit could not have been sent by the Father to indwell the disciples of the Lord apart from the absolutely perfect and all-availing sacrifice of Christ We have that plainly and clearly taught to us in that beautiful type, the cleansing of the leper—the blood, type of the blood of Christ, was first of all to be put upon the ear and the thumb and the toe of the leper who was cleansed, and then upon the blood the oil was to be put, the oil speaking of the Spirit of God. This is emphasized in that it was in response to the prayer of the great Redeemer that the Father sent the Comforter; and if we receive the Spirit of God, and everyone who has believed the Gospel has received the Spirit of God, it is because we are redeemed by the Lord; we have been purchased by a great price, that price is the precious blood of Jesus, and the Spirit of God has come and taken possession of that which God has purchased. But there is our side also, a work in us corresponding to the work that has been done for us, so that what is characteristic of the redeemed of the Lord is this—they love the Lord, and they keep His commandments. Indeed you cannot separate faith in the Lord from obedience to Him, as many a Scripture proves—to believe is to obey.

These disciples were pattern men, and the Spirit of God was sent to them from the Father, in response to the prayer of their Saviour. Think of the wonderful tender consideration, the love that is in this. The Lord Jesus in the glory looked down upon His beloved disciples upon earth, and speaks to His Father specially about them. He would not leave them to their own resources; they must have another Comforter, a Comforter as great and wise and able and tender and true as Himself. Those men and women were representative of all throughout this dispensation who believe, and the Lord's feelings for them were not any different to His feelings for us, and what He prayed for them abides for us. The Spirit of God sent by the Father on the day of Pentecost is here still, and what the Spirit of God brought those disciples into He has brought us into; our portion is exactly the same portion as their's was. The Holy Spirit was given to them to be in and with them; He was their Comforter, their Advocate, their Intercessor on earth, as Christ was their Advocate and Intercessor in. heaven. He is also the Spirit of Truth, to bear witness to them of the truth, to bear witness to them of Christ and His glory.

The popular doctrine is that the Spirit of God dwells in every man—plainly that is not the truth, for the Lord definitely tells us that the world cannot receive Him. It is the believer that receives Him, and those that have salvation have no need to pray for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God has been given to such, for Jesus prayed that it should be so. There are Christians who do not know this; there are Christians who have forgotten the fact, as the apostle had to say to the Corinthians, “What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, which is God's.”

Then the Lord Jesus adds, “I will come to you.” He comes by the Spirit, the Spirit makes His presence a reality, fulfilling His own precious words spoken in the 18th chapter of Matthew, “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst.” But He goes further than this, and tells them that any man who has His commandments and keeps them, will be loved by His Father, and that the Lord Himself would show His love to such an one by manifesting Himself to him. The company of other Christians is not necessary for this. John in Patmos, and you in your chamber may have these manifestations., The one condition is obedience to His commands; it is the owning of His Lordship, which every Christian professes to do, but it must be more than profession, not those who say, “Lord, Lord,” but those who have His commands and do them, such have these manifestations; to them the Lord will reveal Himself as all-sufficient for their every need, as their true Lover, their adorable Lord.

 

The Pattern of the Lord's Manifestations

We have patterns of the way in which He would manifest Himself to us in John's writings. He showed Himself to the woman of Sychar as the One who had come into the world to save. He showed Himself to Mary of Bethany as the One who was going into death. He showed Himself to Mary Magdalene as the One who had overthrown the power of the grave, having accomplished all the will of God, and was now going back to the Father. There are other manifestations, which shine with the brightness of His love, but consider these three great steps from the glory into death and from death to the glory again, and may He manifest Himself to our souls in them.

The woman of Sychar was a friendless, degraded outcast, but the Lord knew all about her, and He was going to bless her by manifesting Himself to her; but He was in Judea and she was in Samaria, and He was not a rich man—no camel or ass bore Him over those sun-parched miles; He had to take the journey—every step of it—on foot; and at last, hungry, thirsty and tired, He sank for rest upon the well stone. The One that upholds all things by the word of His power waited there for a poor world-sick sinner that He might speak to her words from the Father, words in season to a weary heart. He manifested Himself to her as greater than all her degradation and sin, so that she forgot the great necessity of life, she left her waterpot and the water that filled it; and went her way to the men of the city and said, “Come,” “Come and see,” “Come and see a Man which told me all things that ever I did, is not this the Christ?” In manifesting Himself, He had manifested herself to herself, but the grace in which He manifested Himself had made her without fear in His presence, and she could go and bear witness of Him.

The testimony of this woman was, He has come whose grace is greater than all my sin. What a manifestation of Himself is this! Have we taken it in? Do we realize that He came from Godhead's fullest glory in such lowly grace as we see Him here, to lift burdens from hearts that are sorely oppressed, and to satisfy with living waters such as this Sychar sinner, and you and me?

Mary of Bethany loved her Lord and kept His word, but the storms had beaten vehemently against her soul, and dumb and broken she brings her sorrow to His feet. To whom could she go but to Him. Then He laid bare His heart to her, for, lo, He weeps. Looking up into His face through her tears she sees His sacred cheeks washed with tears also; and Mary's heart found solace in that blessed sympathy, which is ever greater than the greatest sorrow that a human heart can know. It seemed as though He said to her, “I know your sorrow; these Jews who are come to weep with you are but spectators of it; even Martha cannot enter into the inner chamber of your unspeakable grief; but I can; I know it, Mary, the pangs that rend your heart I feel. And I am going into death, I will meet it in all its horror and strength; it shall expend its utmost power on Me, and I will take the sting out of it, and dispel the gloom from the grave, and make Mine own henceforward triumphant over it.” No wonder that Mary brought her alabaster box of ointment, and poured its precious contents on His feet! No wonder that she poured out her heart's full adoration before Him. He had manifested Himself in a wonderful way, His love had taken on a new aspect to her, HE WAS GOING TO DIE, and she anointed Him to His burial. Do we understand this? This revelation of Himself to Mary shone forth in all its glory at the cross, and if we love the Lord and keep His commands the Holy Spirit will not be slow to make the deep meaning of it a living, bright reality to our souls.

“If sinners ever were to know

The depth of love divine,

All Calvary 's suffering and its woe

Blest Saviour must be Thine!”

Mary Magdalene got a wonderful manifestation of Him. She had lost Him, even His dead body was gone, and all was gone for her, and no light pierced the gloom as she wept and sorrowed, until He called her by name; then her sorrow turned to joy, and she learned that He was to ascend to His Father, to receive from Him His full approbation for all He had done on earth, and she and His disciples, and we who love Him here tonight have all our place in that same relationship in which He lives, and shall have our place in the glory where He has gone with Him. These are the manifestations that He makes of Himself, and at every crisis in our lives, if we love Him and are obedient to Him, He will reveal Himself to us in such ways. He will lift our poor hearts this weary world above, and give us rest in Himself. It will not be a question of recalling something we have read or heard, or experienced in the past, but He will make Himself to us “A living bright reality.”

 

The Abiding Presence of the Father and of the Lord

The Lord speaks in this chapter again of those who love Him and keep His word. The “word,” as it should be, I take to be the whole revelation that He has made. It isn't His commandments now, it is not simply subjection to His Lordship, but it is the revelation that He came into the world to make. His word, which He says “is not My word but the Father's word”; it is the revelation of the Father and of the Son; and, said the Lord, “He that keeps My word, My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.” When the Lord Jesus spoke those wonderful words revealing the Father's Name, they were not mere words such as we might speak; and the truth of the Father and the Son are not mere doctrines to be learned mentally, and to be talked about, as we might talk about some science, these words revealed living Persons, and when you have got the words, you have got the Persons, and the Persons are the Father and the Son. Isn't this what the apostle says in the first chapter of the first epistle of John, when he said, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ”? If you have the revelation you have the Persons revealed.

Behold, my friends, the wonderful thing that is held out to us—If we love the Lord; if we keep His word—and if we love Him shall we not keep His word? If we love Him shall we not want to know why it was He came into the world, and what it was He did when He was here? If we learn that He came to reveal the Father, shall we not want to know who the Father is, and what He is? Shall we not read the Gospels that we may see Him and know Him? And as we see Him in the perfect grace of the life of Jesus that was lived in absolute subjection to the will of God, for the blessing of men, and are attracted to the Father revealed to us thus in perfect grace, shall we not treasure in our hearts this revelation of the Father and the Son? Will not the words that Jesus spoke, His Father's words, be spirit and life to us as we muse on them and are taught their meaning by the Holy Ghost? If so, then the Father and the Son will come and make their abode with us. This is the same word as that translated ‘mansions' in the second verse of the chapter, as Christ has gone to prepare an abode for you in the Father's house, so do you prepare an abode in your house for the Father and the Son, as you love the Lord and treasure His word. In your garret up the stairs, with perhaps but a few sticks for your furnishings, with not many comforts in this world—but there your Father and your Saviour will abide with you.

Then He says, “My peace I leave with you”—peace made by the blood of His Cross; peace won on the battlefield of Golgotha; peace, the result of His own glorious victory; “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you,” MY PEACE, the peace of Christ, the peace that kept Him in the midst of the contradiction of sinners, and all the malice of Satan; the peace that enabled Him to sleep in the storm—the peace that was the result of His Father's presence with Him—He says, “MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU” you have to be here in My name, and I give you My peace, MY PEACE; “Not as the world gives, give I unto you.” The world is oftentimes very benevolent, very generous; the rich man stands at the door of his mansion and gives freely to the poor who gather about him; but that is not the way the Lord gives—He throws open His doors, and says, “Come in and share all that I have got; there is nothing I have got I will not share with you; I want you inside My home; I want you to share with Me everything that the Father has given Me.”

“He gives not as the world, but shares

All He possesses with His loved co-heirs.”

Oh! wonderful Giver, and that He might be this wonderful Giver, He had to give His life first of all. Yes,

“All Calvary 's sufferings, all its woe,

Blessed Saviour must be Thine”

if we were to share with Thee this great and wondrous portion!

Then He speaks of His going to the Father, and He says, Your hearts ought to be glad because of this. And our hearts are glad, are they not? We rejoice at His exaltation, His glory; to know the Father has put Him there in the highest place in that glory; that the Father has manifested His full approval of His beloved Son has made our hearts glad. We rejoice in His glory there and in the provision that He has made for us here while we wait to join Him there, to share His home and see His glory for ever.

The Rent Veil

 

It has often been said that when the veil of the Temple was rent in the midst from the top to the bottom, at the death of the Lord Jesus, that it indicated that the way was opened for God to come out to men and for men to go in to God through that rent veil. We see no such meaning in that event. God was not within that veil. How could He be when there was no Ark of the Covenant there, and no golden mercy-seat sprinkled with blood? And why should we wish to go into an empty chamber, which even when filled was only the shadow of good things to some? Then what was the meaning of it? That that whole system of material religion that had found its centre in the Holiest in the Tabernacle and Temple was done with. As one would rend a worn-out and useless garment, so God rent that veil. If we would see God coming out we must turn from the Temple with its great stones and costly, for it had already been left desolate to an unbelieving people, and we must look upon Calvary , and upon the Son of God there, delivered to utmost shame and death. It was when the flesh of Jesus was rent in death, for the true veil was His flesh, that God came out in the fullness of His love, then He was fully manifest. No longer did He dwell in the thick darkness, hidden from the eyes of men by a material veil. We can now say, God is light, and in the full shining of that light we can add with rapture, God is love. But it was in Christ, and Christ in death, that this was seen. There and there alone we see the full manifestation of what God is. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

And we can enter now into His most holy presence without fear, we have a title to do so, which the blood of Jesus has given us, but the way we enter is the same way in which God has come out in blessing to us. It is through the veil—not the rent veil of the Temple—as the Holy Spirit has carefully and definitely explained to us—but through the veil, that is to say, His flesh . The death of our Substitute has become the way of life and blessing to us, the way to God. It has removed our sins, it has met the question of our sinful nature; it excludes the rebellious and self-sufficient flesh, but it has become most attractive to those whose life is hid with Christ in God. Our Forerunner is Jesus; He has entered within the veil for us, into the true Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man, and seeing that we have such a High Priest who is made higher than the heavens, we can draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith, by a new and living way, which He has dedicated for us—and what a word is that! Shall we be indifferent to and despise a way that He has dedicated for us at such a cost, through the veil, that is to say His flesh?

David tells of the delight that he found in the house of the Lord in more than one of his psalms. It seems to have been more attractive to him than his own house, and the privilege of visiting it more to be prized that his kingdom and crown, and yet he could not pass within the veil, nor was God revealed then as now in the fullness of His love, nor did David know, what we now know, that God's delight in having us near to Him is greater than ours could ever be to be there, nor had he, as we have, a Forerunner, who has entered in for us, and whose reception there assures us of ours. We have better cause to enter than he, we have a better title than he ever had. Then let us not be behind him in our affection for the presence of the Lord and in appreciation of our great privilege, but let us draw near, and if we have not yet learnt the meaning of Hebrews 10:19-22, let us pray earnestly that the Lord will teach us by His Holy Spirit what it means.

The Right Position and Condition

 

The Lord has been pleased “to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1), and to one of these servants He gave commandment to write the things which he had “seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (v. 19). With regard to these things the Lord has taken up a very definite position, and there is no excuse ignorance as to His thoughts about them.

 

The Lord as Judge

It was in a strange and new character that John beheld his Lord in this chapter; not here, as He had known Him, weeping for the sorrows of the afflicted, tenderly pleading with the wilful, and speaking words of comfort to the broken-hearted penitent, but of terrible aspect and unbending attitude as He looks out upon an apostate world, to scrutinize and judge the great systems that compose it. As undertaking this, as God's faithful Witness and Servant, John sees Him.

He comes forth in all the dignity of the Ancient of Days, the unbroken calm of eternity encircling His brow as a halo.

“His eyes as a flame of fire,” to search out the motive of every act in the world's strange drama, and to trace from its origin to climax every system that rears its head beneath the sun.

“His feet like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace,” to tread down in righteous indignation all rebellion against God.

“His voice as the sound of many waters,” the compelling voice of judgments which, sounding above the frenzied clamour of Satan's poor dupes, will rivet the attention of the living, and call into animation those that are dead.

“Out of His mouth goeth a sharp two-edged sword,” to fight against all evil and to smite the wicked with death.

 

The World to be Judged

Unregenerate man has continued to build his tower of Babel in defiance of God: and to perfect himself without his Creator is the design that lies at the back of his every activity—whether these activities are political, social, industrial, or religious; and the completion and crown of all the progress in which the world boasts, will be the deification of man, in the “man of sin,” “the son of perdition,” who will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God will sit in the temple of God showing himself that he is God (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

Everything is, most evidently with great rapidity, preparing for this; the presence of the Holy Ghost in the true church of God, still on earth, is the only hindrance to its final development; but when the church is caught up out of the world (1 Thess. 4:13, 17), which event must be very near fulfilment, then shall this climax of all man's efforts, since the day when Satan declared “Ye shall be as gods,” be speedily reached.

In the Revelation we have a panoramic view of the clash of the various forces at work in the world of the rising up out of the chaos resulting of this marvellous production of fallen humanity, after whom all that dwell upon the earth will wonder; and of the immediate and unsparing judgment of God upon the world for this culmination of all blasphemy.

This judgment will be executed by the Lord as the Ancient of Days, and then to Him shall be given, as the Son of Man, “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him” (Dan. 7:14).

As we read this book of judgments—and there is a special blessing for the reader, verse 3—we hear ringing clearly throughout its pages the call to the people of God to be in separation from all these things that will call forth His judgment; things which have taken such definite shape of late years that the student of Scripture cannot fail to identify them:—

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (18:4).

 

The Lord and the churches

We an not surprised that the Lord is compelled to adopt this stern attitude towards the world of which Satan is the god and prince, for all Scripture bears witness to the fact that evil must come under judgment. In great long-suffering, God may endure for a while the vessels fitted for wrath, giving them space for repentance, but His Spirit will not always strive with men, the limit of evil is set, there must be an end to rebellion against Almighty God.

What does astonish us, however, is to find Him standing thus in the midst of the churches, the circle in which, professedly, the name of Jesus is loved and revered, and that they are the first to come beneath the all-searching eyes of flame. And yet this must be so, for how could He deal out righteous judgment to the vast outer circle, if evil were permitted to proceed and develop without detection or rebuke in that which may be termed His own household?

The church was espoused to Christ as a chaste virgin (2 Cor. 11:2) and should have maintained a place of rigid separation from the world which cast out and crucified her Lord, but instead she has been beguiled and corrupted; first invaded by the same principles, motives, and aspirations that flourish in the world, she has gone down, by a quick descent, as a great system, until as completely assimilated with the world, she will be spued out of the Lord's mouth as a most offensive thing (Rev. 3:16). This is the sad history of the church in responsibility on earth, given to us prophetically in the letters to the seven churches.

 

The Cause of the Great Declension

The churches would never have been called upon to hear the rebuke of the Lord for unfaithfulness if they had continued in the freshness of first love. “Thou has left thy first love” discloses for us the opening of the door to the traitor and every evil, for at this point Christ ceased to be paramount. They lost the sense of His great love to them, and He ceased to be the spring of their lives; as a consequence their love to Him began to wane; they owned Him still as Lord and Master, doing His work with diligence, but Himself as the unchanging Lover they had lost, and this was the devil's opportunity.

The Lord cannot brook a rival in the affections of His church, and we can only be acceptable to Him as He sways our hearts and lives as our great and only Lover. An Old Testament scripture (S. of Sol. 5:9-16) presents Him to us in this character, and the contrast between this description of Him and the way He appears in Revelation 1 is arresting.

“His locks are bushy, and black as a raven.” Here is all the vigour and strength of an undecaying affection; no trace of grey hairs or mark of decline on Him.

“His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.” Here is described the infinite gentleness of that love which is so strong and changeless.

“His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.” His words woo and win the heart by their gracious and heavenly melody; they are the words of eternal life, sweeter to the heart that knows Him than the honey or the honeycomb, for “His month is most sweet: yea, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend.”

It was not the Lord's purpose to disclose Himself in any other character than this to the church, but their infidelity made it a necessity. We see how gladly He reverts to the lover-character when He finds devotion to Himself in the Philadelphian church (Rev. 3:9): the one sentence that stands out in His words to them is “ I have loved thee Others are to know that soon: they knew it when thus addressed, it was their choice treasure, and He exhorts them to “hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”

The crown is the highest possession, that which perfects and completes every other, and throughout eternity the love of Christ will be the crown of the church. The earth has lost its crown, but, thank God, this may be recovered now: not by the whole profession, but by all who desire to keep His word, and not deny His name. The way of recovery is clearly stated— Remember , Repent , Return (Rev. 2:5).

 

“The Disciple whom Jesus Loved”

It is true that even John had to see the Lord as the One who with stern justice would destroy the wicked, but He was to see Him thus as being one with Him in His thoughts, and in communion with all His ways. He stands in this chapter as Abraham stood in days gone by, before the judgment of God was poured out upon the cities of the plain, when God said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” Abraham was the friend of God, and John was the friend of Jesus, and every one of us may stand in this relation to Him, for He has said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the several knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:14-15).

It is very evident that this was to be John's position here, and that he was not to stand in dread of the Lord, as would the workers of iniquity, for as he lay prone on the earth, the right hand was laid upon him, and the tender voice that had so often thrilled his soul said unto him, “Fear not,” and John was able to arise and view with his Master the “things that are” and the things still to come, and as being in full accord with His thoughts he was able to write that which his eyes had been opened to see for our instruction.

No book in the divinely inspired Canon can be of greater use to us now than the Revelation; if we are to be intelligent as to the times we must understand its teaching; but if we are to do this, and to shape our ways accordingly, we must be in the position and condition in which John found himself when he received it from the Lord.

Let us remember that it was the disciple who always designated himself as the one “whom Jesus loved,” who was chosen by infinite wisdom to write the Revelation; he had the qualifications for it. Attachment to his Lord had led to detachment from the world: this is the true Christian position.

John's story as recorded for us in the Gospel that bears his name is deeply instructive and will help us in this connection. He needed no command to follow the Lord at first, and he is introduced to us as doing this (chap. 1:37); and in the last glimpse given us of him in the book he is still following without any word of command (chap. 21:20).

He first speaks of himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” when treachery and unfaithfulness were breaking forth amongst the twelve, and when we should have supposed that the chief thing would have been to have had a disciple who loved Jesus, and he continues to speak of himself in this way until the end.

Twice only in the Gospel does he record his own words: first, on the night of the betrayal, he, lying upon Jesus' bosom, said, “Lord, who is it?” and his question revealed the traitor (chap. 13); and then on that fair morning by the sea of Galilee, as he beheld One standing on the shore, he said, “It is the Lord.”

“That disciple whom Jesus loved” discerned the traitor, and he knew his Lord, and these two things are the great necessities for us today.

He leaned on Jesus' bosom at the supper table, resting in the Lord as the Lover of His own, and as a consequence he was able to stand beside the cross in the hour of the Lord's untold sorrow; he was also able to stand by the Lord as His friend and servant when as the Victor over death He unfolds the counsels of God in judgment.

As saints of God, we must get into John's place, relying only upon the love of Jesus, in the midst of unfaithfulness and basest treachery, having all the glamour of the world obscured by the brighter light of His glory, who is altogether lovely, and being undeterred from following Him in spite of any course that others may take. Then shall our eyes be anointed with eye-salve, and we shall discern the way of the traitor, and see the hand of the Lord; we shall be enriched with fine gold tried in the fire, and so be proof against all the silver pieces that the world may offer; we shall be clothed in white raiment, keeping our garments unspotted by the world, and so be acceptable unto His eye whom our souls love (chap. 3:18).

Near to the Lord whose love we know, we shall not be in ignorance as to the trend of the times, but we shall be able in quietness and confidence to await His coming again, meanwhile approving all that He approves, as His friends maintaining His interests and labouring in His name for His glory, and walking in separation from all that must eventually come under His condemnation.

The Righteousness of the Law Fulfilled in Us

 

“ That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. ” (Romans 8:4)

 

Our text does not say fulfilled BY us, but IN us, and there is a great difference between the two. An illustration will make this difference clear. We are at a boarding school for boys, and at half-past six on a dreary December morning the school bell clangs insistently. It says, “Get up, get up,” and one hundred sleepy boys slip reluctantly from their beds. They hate the sound of that bell at that hour, and obey its command with great reluctance and only because they must. The law of the school is fulfilled by them, not because they love it, but from fear of the consequences of disobedience.

But at half-past twelve on that same day that same bell rings again, and its ringing is just as much a command as it was in the early morning, but how different is the sound of it to those same boys. It is now as pleasant to them as before it was hateful; they have been longing to hear it for more than an hour, and everything is dropped with which they are engaged and a rush is made to the Dining Room. The command of the dinner bell is fulfilled IN them, for there is that in them that gives an instant response to it.

If the righteousness of the law is to be fulfilled in us, there must be in us a nature that responds to it. When we were “in the flesh” i.e., in our natural unregenerated state, we had no such nature and we did not and could not please God, our very nature was enmity against Him, as our chapter tells us. But now, having believed the gospel, we are “in Christ Jesus.” What a change! And the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus can make us free from the law of sin and death, so that we may delight now in the law of God after the inward man, and find a power in the Spirit to fulfil it. The law said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” and we do love Him, for He has first loved us. He has “commended His love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” and we belong to those who in this chapter are called “them that love God.” The command to love Him is not grievous; we delight in it, and as we live in the love of God, just as the lark lives in the sunshine, we enjoy the liberty of the Christian life; we know what it is to be on the wing, set free, and our lives will be full of the praise of God.

The Royal Banquet

 

How inconceivable is the honour put upon us when we are gathered together in the Name of the Lord. God is the Host and we are His guests, and He sets before us a royal banquet. “He brought me into His banqueting house and His banner over me was love.” As the certain great King of the parable, made a marriage feast for his son, so has God made a feast, a joyful feast, for the honour of His Son. He would celebrate His delight in His Son and in all that He achieved in His lowly life and death in this world, and we are called to share in His delight and to feast with Him.

And the Holy Ghost has come to be the Servant at the feast. I speak with the greatest reverence of so august a Person—“He shall glorify Me,” said the Lord, “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” (John 16). And if, because we delight in God's beloved Son, we hasten to the time and the place where His own are gathered to feast upon His things, the Father, the Host at the feast, delights in us, “For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me,” “His banner over me is love.”

It is necessary if we are to enter into the fullness of the Faith and its fellowship, to understand that the Father and the Holy Spirit are blessedly engaged in this matter. They have reached out even to us to draw us into the joy of this feast. Think of the Lord's words, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee but My Father which is in heaven.” The Father had been at work preparing Simon for the feast, and He has been at work in every one into whose hearts this heavenly light has shone. And again “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me!” Thus spake the Lord of the Father and the Holy Spirit. If the Father draws us to the feast—and no man can come to the Son except the Father draw him—the Holy Ghost is there to unfold love's treasures and to spread before our souls the preciousness of Christ.

We feed, of course, for nourishment and strength; but feasting in Scripture also carries the meaning of joy and rejoicing and communion together. “I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” I feel that we may with utmost reverence, consider these words as describing God's joy in His beloved Son, and His invitation to us to share without restriction in His joy. I know that our vessels are small, the limit is on our side, nevertheless our cups may run over.

We are conscious of course that preparation of heart is necessary if we are to partake of this feast. We are careful to appear clean and decent as to our dress out of respect for our brethren when we gather together, much more should we be concerned as to our spiritual condition before God. It would be a slight upon God who invites us if we were not. He looks not on the outward appearance but on the heart. So we “draw near, with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” May God Himself teach us the meaning of that, and also those words of the Lord. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me” (John 13).

The Father is the Host; His delight in His beloved Son is the feast, and the Holy Ghost gives the capacity and the power to every guest to share in the feast. Truly we may ask, What manner of persons ought we to be upon whom such an honour is bestowed? And what attraction can the world have for those who have supped at God's table in communion with Him? May the Lord give grace to everyone, that we may each cleanse himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God.

 

The Rubbish-heap and the Palace Treasures

 

Everybody who has read Bunyan's immortal story must have felt sorry for the man with the “muck-rake,” the man who, though there stood one over his head, with a celestial crown in his hand, and proffered to give him the crown for his muck-rake, did neither look up nor regard, but raked to himself the straws, the small sticks, and dust of the floor. Foolish man, and apt picture of those who choose the world instead of Christ.

But let us illustrate another kind of folly. Yonder is a magnificent palace: the rooms of it are filled with priceless treasures, and there is one in attendance who knows every treasure perfectly, and finds a great joy in showing them to all who care to know them; indeed, it is his business to do so. A banquet is prepared also, and the tables groan beneath the weight of the choicest viands, and the doors of the banqueting hall are open to all. But in the stable-yard there labours a man with a pitch-fork; he labours at a self-imposed task, and his labour is in vain; for if you watch him closely you will see that he does nothing but turn over and over a heap of rubbish as though he expected to find some jewel there. He finds nothing, and groans in his disappointment, and yet he continues his searching—hungry and tired, too. He is a joyless and dejected man.

Is the man a menial, stable-boy, working for a mere pittance? No, his, as we have said, it is a self-imposed task; but that is not all the truth: he is son of the palace; his place is in its glorious rooms; he is an heir to its splendid wealth, and the banquet is spread for him, and the guide, counsellor, and friend who knows the place so well is there to show it all to him.

That man has been born again. He will tell you, if you ask him, that Jesus is the only Saviour and he has put his trust in Him for heaven at last. But he is held in the bondage of self-occupation. He has often read the words: “I know that in me, that is in my flesh dwells no good thing” but he does not believe it. He searches his heart and tests his power and feelings; he concentrates all thoughts on the rubbish-heap of his own evil nature, hoping that he may find some good there, or change that which is bad into good; and he is miserable because he is disappointed—a truly “ wretched man

And Christ, the mighty treasure-house of every good thing, is open for him, and the Holy Spirit of God waits upon him to take of the things of Christ and show them to him, and to feed him with the fatness of God's house. But he continues to search the rubbish-heap; and he will continue to do so until he acknowledges that there is no good in him, and that all good is in Christ.

“But you don't mean that I am nothing but a rubbish-heap?” said a young lady who was miserable with self-occupation, after listening to my parable; and the tone in which she said it proved that her pride had been touched. She did not believe that she was quite as bad as that.

The learning of the inherent and unmendable badness of the flesh is a bitter lesson; it were quickly learnt if the truth of God as to it were fully believed, but until it is learnt we are not wholly free to be led by the Holy Ghost into the knowledge of the glories of Christ, yet only on this line is the full liberty and joy of the Christian life known.

Christians, God's richest treasures lie open for you, the fullness of His grace is revealed in Christ; waste not the time in a vain search for good in the rubbish heap in which no good dwells, but lift your eyes to Him who rightly, sits in heaven's highest throne—your Saviour and mine. He is the preciousness, and He waits to be everything to you that the Word of God says He can be.

The Sabbath of the Lord in Your Dwellings

Notes of an Address

 

“ And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings ” (Leviticus 23:1-3).

 

The Feasts of the Lord, as they were given to Israel in this chapter, begin with the Sabbath and end with the Feast of Tabernacles, the eighth day of which was a Sabbath. In the Sabbath with which these feasts begin, we have set before us in type the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom and through whom God will carry out all His purposes of blessing for men. In the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles with which they end, we have foreshadowed God's eternal rest, Eternity. So that this chapter spans that whole period of time from the moment when God's purposes were set in course until that moment when they shall be fulfilled without any fear of being overthrown in the eternal rest of God. I think it helps and encourages us to see that before any of these purposes began to be effected by the coming of Christ, God had them all sketched out in the Sacred Scriptures.

But my purpose is to speak of Christ, who is God's Sabbath, the One in whom He rests, and the One in whom we may also rest.

The Lord Jesus Christ is God's rest and His resource. When sin came into the world, when Adam and Eve turned their backs upon God and listened to the enemy's lie, the first prophetic words spoken in the hearing of fallen humanity were addressed to the devil, the old Serpent. To him God said, “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”—the Seed of the woman shall bruise the Serpent's head.

Thus early in the history of sinful man God made known the fact that He had a Person upon whom He could rely, through whom He would accomplish all His will, One who would undo the works of the devil; a Person who would not fail Him as Adam had done. The eternal God was not disturbed by man's rebellion and sin—it grieved His heart, but He was not disturbed by it. Sin brought disquiet and apprehension in the lives of men, but God was not restless and apprehensive, for He had One who was to meet the disaster and settle every question in connection with it, and in doing so glorify God and be an everlasting blessing to men. In due time Christ appeared, a Man upon the earth—a Man whose whole life was centred in God Himself, a Man who did not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God, a Man whose first recorded words were, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?”—a Man in whom God the Father rested with perfect delight.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized of John, after thirty years of hidden life—hidden as far as we are concerned, but not hidden from God's eye—the Father opened the heavens and said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then towards the close of His ministry upon earth He went up into a high mountain, and there was transfigured before His disciples. In that mountain the glory claimed Him, enfolded Him, distinguished Him as altogether suited to it, and again the Father spoke, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But He went from that mountain down into the very depths and darkness of death for the glory of God and our blessing, for God's sake and for ours. His obedience unto death proved that God made no mistake when He rested in Him, and in those depths the Father's glory greeted Him and raised Him up and set Him in the highest place in heaven. There we see how complete and everlasting is the Father's rest in Jesus His beloved Son—He is the One who will carry out all God's will and work.

Think of those words, John 3:35, “The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hands,” and again in John 13:3, And Jesus, knowing that the Father had committed all things into His hands.” The “all things” cannot be computed by a creature mind. They embrace the whole range of God's counsel and will—the subjugation of all evil, the blessing of men, the establishment of Divine justice, the revelation of God's nature, and the introduction of eternal rest. All this the Father had given into the hands of His beloved Son, the lowly Man whom men despised and slew. And He did so without misgiving or fear. The Father had perfect confidence in Him; He would not fail the Father; the Father trusted Him with an absolute trust. Think of the Lord Jesus Christ in this character, and you will understand that He is indeed the Sabbath of God.

If the Father rests in Him, we may rest in Him too. We may rest in Him first as to the salvation of our souls. I have not a doubt in my mind that I shall be there in the eternal glory of God, before the Father's face for ever, and for that confidence I have many reasons, but the chiefest, the greatest of them all is the reliability of the One who came to be the Saviour.

The greatness of the Saviour forbids all question of doubt. He came into the world to save. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His People from their sins” was the command from heaven at His birth. Jehovah's name had been linked up with many things in Old Testament days, and all of them blessed things. He was JEHOVAH-JIREH to Abraham, the great Provider for his greatest need; He was JEHOVAH-NISI to Moses, his banner and leader against an implacable foe; He was JEHOVAH-SHALOM to Gideon, the One to whom he looked for peace. But the New Testament opens with a greater glory. He is there JEHOVAH-SAVIOUR, for that is the meaning of His precious name. It is right that that name JESUS should appear in capital letters for the first time upon the first page of the New Testament. It is the title of the Book upon its title-page. JEHOVAH SAVIOUR—“Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” If He has undertaken the work, it will be carried through according to the will of God; we may depend upon that, and rest quietly in Him. Thus does He become our Sabbath as well as God's.

Having come as the Saviour, He spake as the Saviour; stretching out His hands to men He cried, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” He offered Himself to men as the greatest Giver, but what an offer! Who but Jehovah could have made it? He beheld men as they were, restless, burdened, sinful; He knew their sorrows, saw their tears, heard their sighs; He knew how labours wearied them and fears beset them; nothing of all their boundless need was hidden from Him, and knowing all He cried to all, “Come unto Me.” And His word stands for us to this day, and millions can bear witness to the fact that His deed is as good as His word.

Notice how it is put in the third verse of our chapter: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation, ye shall do no work therein, it is the Sabbath of the Lord IN YOUR DWELLINGS .” The days of labour for blessing and rest were those Old Testament days; if men could have kept the law that God gave them they would have entered into rest, but they could not, they would not keep it. They toiled, but they toiled in vain; they were like the troubled sea that cannot rest; their surge cast up nothing but mire and dirt, and of their best God had to say, “All your righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” But when Jesus lay in the manger, the great change had come, a new day had dawned; men had now to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. God brought His Sabbath near to men, for His heart yearned for them in their miseries; in His infinite pity He said, I want you to have rest in all your dwellings. I want you to share My rest in Christ.

There could be no rest for us until the great questions of our sins and sinfulness were taken up and settled righteously, and Christ took up these questions on the cross when He “suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). He gives to us rest of conscience when we come to Him as the One who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; and doubts and fears depart when we know that He is raised again for our justification. And we could have no rest until our hearts were satisfied. He, the living Christ, is able to satisfy the heart, and we get rest of heart when we discover that He can do for us what the world cannot do; that He can fill every void and satisfy every longing. The greater a man's sincerity is, the more laden will his conscience be with his guilt; the greater the eagerness with which a man searches for good in the world, the greater will his labour and disappointment be; but in Christ every question is settled, every need met, every desire satisfied, and conscience and heart are set at rest.

It is rest that men need today: it is the one thing above all others that all need. We live in a restless world; unrest is everywhere, and in every circle—political unrest, industrial unrest, social unrest, domestic unrest; unrest at home, unrest abroad, unrest in religious circles, unrest, alas, in the hearts and lives of Christians. Yes, the majority of Christians are uneasy, unsatisfied, restless. What is the cause? Sin and selfishness. God is forgotten, Christ is rejected or neglected. What is the remedy? Christ—simply and only Christ, the Son of the living God. Every man who puts his all into the hands of Christ, as the Father has committed all to Him, finds rest, even as the Father rests in Him.

And it is into our dwellings that God would have this rest to come; it is into our homes that the Lord would bring the rest of His presence. He did not bless Zacchaeus in the tree or leave him in the street. He said, “Make haste . . . today I must abide at thy house.” Are we prepared for that? Don't say, “I shall have to put a lot of things right before I can admit Him to my house.” Make haste , let Him in; let Him put them right, for they never will be put right until they are put into His hands. Was it not so in the house of Simon Peter? Restlessly, in a great fever, there tossed upon her bed his wife's mother, and anon they tell Him of her. That was all, and it was enough; and she who had been a burden, a cause of disquiet and sorrow, arose and ministered unto them. Ah, it is the presence of the Lord that delivers, tranquillizes, and transfigures; that turns evil to good; that brings in quietness and rest.

Yes, “like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord”—He knows the trials and sufferings of His saints and He delights to give them rest, but there, is more than this—note the words: “ A Sabbath of the Lord in your dwellings”; it is His own Sabbath, His own rest in Christ that He would share with us. Not merely burdens lifted and weary hearts rested—but fellowship with Him about His beloved Son. When we are free for this the Father is delighted, and in this the peace and joy of heaven begin on earth. Let us link this up with John 14:23, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.” If those words had come from any lips but the lips of Jesus we would not have believed them; but blessed be His Name, He spoke them, and He waits for us to know the blessedness of them, not only to believe them but prove them true.

 

“ And the eighth day shall be a Sabbath ” (v. 29). The eighth day carries us on to Eternity, when there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, in which God shall be all and in all, and where He shall dwell in everlasting complacency in the midst of men, “and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” One word characterizes that blessed scene, it is REST—the Sabbath of the Lord—and lest we should have any doubt as to the effectuation of it, “He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for THESE WORDS ARE THE TRUE SAYINGS OF GOD” (Rev. 1:5). Then it will not be the Lord bringing His rest into our dwellings in a tempestuous world, but our being brought into His rest, where nothing can disturb for ever. This is the great end for which Christ became a Man; then shall the whole question of good and evil be settled; then shall sin and Satan and death be for ever banished into the lake of fire, and God shall be all as the object of His people's love and worship and in all as life and power and joy. Then will it be true:

“Joyful now the new creation,

Rests in undisturbed repose,

Blest in Jesus' full salvation,

Sorrow now nor thraldom knows.”

The eighth day shall be a Sabbath.

The Salvation of the Canteen Sergeant

 

Canteen Sergeant B—of a famous Yorkshire regiment had come through several fights in the Boer War without a scratch, but he did not feel like congratulating himself on this; he sometimes wished that the fate of many of his gallant comrades whose blood had been drunk by the rough country in the Tugela district had been his, for he had lost all joy in life. Drink and worse things had diseased and shattered his strong frame; he was notoriously wicked and as wretched as a man could be.

One day in camp, as the war came near its close, he seemed to reach the very depth of misery; but instead of blaming himself and his sins he cursed God with a flood of curses as though He were the cause of it all. And almost instantly God, who is not far from any one of us, gave an answer to his curses.

The day will never be forgotten by him, for each incident of it left an indelible stamp upon his memory. With the oaths hot upon his lips, and red rage against God flaming up in his heart, he went into a tent. Lying upon a table in it was a small leaflet; he did not know what it was or who had put it there, but he took it up and read it. A blow between his eyes, delivered by an unseen hand, could not have startled him more than what he read in that leaflet did; it was God's answer to his rage, an answer so strange and unexpected that the sergeant's glib tongue could find no words with which to express his astonishment. These were the words: “You may be a great sinner, but God loves you, for God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). B—had never thought of God in that way before, and as the meaning of the words entered his very soul he broke down and wept where he stood.

Outside the tent was a group of his comrades; they would have laughed at his tears had they seen him, and he did not feel like meeting them then; he wanted to be alone in order to think this matter over, and so he crept under the canvas at the back side of the tent, and away into the gathering night.

What an astounding thing this was; God loved him, a drunken, immoral, dishonest, blaspheming canteen sergeant! It seemed impossible, and yet it was true, and the truth of it folded him in its warm embrace; like the light of the morning it shone in his heart, and as he thought about it he sobbed like a child. Then he came face to face with the one man in his company that he had disliked, a Christian soldier, who also that evening wished to escape the company of his comrades. It was a dramatic meeting. “What's the matter?” asked the Christian. Through his sobs B—told him what had happened, and how he had read that God loved him. And they wept together, those two men, and knelt beneath the open sky, and there the great sinner realized the pardoning grace of God and the peace that follows the realization of it. Those comrades in arms, brothers in Christ now, for they were saved by the same Saviour, talked and prayed and praised God together for a while. They talked of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us in order to prove that God loves the sinner, who shed His precious blood that the worst of sins might be washed from our souls for ever, and who died and rose again that we might have eternal redemption in Him.

They praised God for the grace that had pardoned their sins, and prayed that He would help them to confess the name of the Saviour boldly and at once.

To confess Christ before godless companions does not seem an easy thing to do. Many a man who would have no fear were a hundred Germans charging down upon him with bayonets fixed has become the worst of cowards when he has thought of the jeers of his comrades in the camp. But the converted sergeant had believed in a great Saviour, who had died for him and risen again, who had delivered him from the power of the devil and sin, and of that Saviour he would not be ashamed. Straight to the canteen tent he went; there were many men there, some of the worst, and they all knew the sergeant. It mattered not to him what they knew or thought; he was now a forgiven man, and he was full of the fact that God loved him, and plainly and bluntly he told them the truth, and owned before them that Christ was now his Saviour.

It was no passing emotion that swept over him that night out in distant South Africa . The Saviour he found then has proved well worth knowing, and one year ago when I met him, twelve years after his conversion, Sergeant-Major B—was a happy, healthy Christian, zealously serving the Lord amongst the men of his company.

The Secret of Abiding in Christ and of a Fruitful Life

 

The following series of questions were handed to us during special meetings held for the help of young Christians. We publish the questions and our answers in the hope of helping many others who nave similar exercises

 

In John 15:4 the Lord Jesus says “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.” The following questions arise from exercise of soul upon this verse:—

 

1. Does not “EXCEPT” imply that we are not always abiding in Christ?

No! that is not the meaning of these words. What they plainly teach is that the only possible way of fruit-bearing is by abiding in Christ as a branch abides in the vine; and that the one evidence of abiding in Christ is fruit-bearing.

And perhaps it will help you in the understanding of the passage if you see that it is not a question of a branch abiding in Christ today and not tomorrow, but of two sorts of branches, the fruit-bearing branches and the non-fruit-bearing branches. It is a question of what professes to be for the Lord on earth, and in that sense every professor is a branch; but if there is not vital union with Him there will be no fruit, and such a branch will eventually be cast forth, as Judas was. Notice that the Lord changes the word when speaking of this. He does not say, “if one of you ”—the true disciples—“abide not in Me ,” but “if a man abide not in Me” (v. 6).

 

2. It is clear from the verse that if we were always abiding in Him, everything else would be right in our lives and we should be fruitful and well-pleasing to God. This is what we want, to bear fruit. What is it then to abide in Christ?

Having settled the question as to your vital oneness with Christ, and that it is no mere matter of profession with you, though the subject of the Lord's words is really our responsibility as having professed identification with Him, you must next inquire as to what it is you are thinking about first and most. Is it your fruit-bearing or Christ? If it is your fruit-bearing it is self-occupation, and as a consequence the fruit will be both poor in quantity and quality. But if you have learnt what He means when He says, “ Without ME ye can do nothing ,” and so have turned wholly to Him—the Source of your life, strength and energy—fruit will not be lacking. You abide in Him when you realize that you can't do without Him, and when you know that all you need is in Him. Two words cover it. He is INDISPENSABLE to you, and He is ALL-SUFFICIENT. To abide in Him is to cleave to Him with purpose of heart, as Acts 11:23 says, but it is more than that, for there it is a question of grace from Him, here it is life in Him and the grace which is the strength of that life. In abiding in Him you stay where grace has put you. When you came to Him at first in all your need as a sinner, you turned away from every other hope and helper and from all your own efforts to secure blessing. Then salvation and life for you were in Christ alone; now , “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (Col. 2:6-7). Go on as you began; as you found all you needed in Him for salvation, now find all you need in Him for fruit-bearing. Derive from Him, draw upon Him, cleave to Him, so that His life may find expression in you in fruit-bearing.

 

3. What is the secret of constant abiding in Christ?

There is first the sense of your need of Him; when you have this you will cleave to Him INSTINCTIVELY as a babe cleaves to its mother's breast, but you will also cleave to Him INTELLIGENTLY as you grow in the knowledge of His resources. But there is more than what He can be for you, there is what He is to you. You will abide in Him HABITUALLY when you know His love as greater than all other loves, Himself better than the brightest and best below. So the 9th verse would answer your question. The secret of constant abiding in Him is simply the knowledge of His love. “As the Father hath loved Me” that is the measure of it—“so have I loved you: continue ye in My love.”

But there is another side to the question of fruit-bearing, namely, the purging and the chastening of the Father's hand (vv. 1-2). If you are a fruit-bearing branch, and the desire to be constantly abiding in Christ would be a bit of evidence that you are, the Father's eye is never withdrawn from you. He sees all the tendencies in you that would lead to self-confidence or dependence on men or things instead of upon Christ, and these can only spoil the fruit, so in faithful love He cuts and prunes at these. Are you ready to be wholly in the Father's hands as to this matter? It may mean painful experiences and disappointments, but with great compensations; for what is cut away will make more room for Christ and His life; and though you may not be quite so showy, like a vine closely pruned, yet “Herein,” says the Lord, “is My Father glorified,” and that is your desire.

Then you must not overlook verse 7, “If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you , ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. As you abide in Him, His words will be infinitely blessed to you. You will long for them, listen to them, meditate upon them, cherish them and obey them.

What letter is that for which you eagerly looked and read over and over until you knew it by heart, and yet continued to read it until you got another in the same handwriting? That was a letter from the one you cared most for in all the world. Let the words of Jesus be like that to you, so that they fill your thoughts and form your desires and abide in your heart. Then you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done for you, for then His will will be yours, and your praying will be in response to His words. Your prayers, as in this chapter will have fruit-bearing specially in view, and they will be answered by an energy of the Holy Ghost which in you will manifest the life of Jesus. Not notable deeds or spectacular service that will make much of you is the fruit here spoken of, but meekness, gentleness, forbearance, forgiveness, sell-forgetting service, love, joy, peace, long-suffering—these are the fruit of the Spirit, for these are the graces of Christ, the much fruit by which the Father is glorified.

 

4. We are often told that all we have to do is to be “beholding the Lord's glory,” “be occupied with Christ,” “feed upon Christ.” We believe this, but will you please explain how this attitude of soul is to be maintained?

You may have heard of the young lady who, when asked at the close of a Gospel address if she would give her heart to the Lord, replied, “He stole it away in the meeting.” Well, if He really had done that, she would not be contented with hearing about Him once a week, she would desire to be occupied with Him continually, and she would wish to feed upon Him, and to know where He is that she might see Him if that was possible. It is the desire for Him that will make you seek Him and His company, and you shall learn that He is not here. He has gone from the world. He is apart from all its empty attractions, its schemes and glory, and if He is more to you than all it has to offer, you shall find the way you seek, for He does not withhold Himself from those who seek Him; He delights to manifest Himself to those who appreciate His love.

It is the knowledge of His love to you that will set things in motion on this line; as you know that love that passeth knowledge you will be constrained to respond to it, and in that you will have the help of the Holy Ghost. The way the mother bird teaches her fledglings to fly will illustrate this point. She hovers over the nest, calling her young with a peculiar call, and they in response look up and desire to reach her in the air, and lo! they discover that they have the power to do it. They do not think of their wings or the use and power of them; they see the mother bird who has been indispensable to their life and existence hitherto; they hear her voice and desire to join her where she is, and at once a power they knew nothing of before comes into play, their wings become the servants of their desires. So with you, let Christ fill your eyes and heart, and you will spread your wings. You will find that you have the power of the Holy Ghost on your side—the very same power that raised up Christ from the dead and set Him above all principalities and powers and every name that is named is the power that now works in you. It is thus that your question will have a most blessed answer in your experience.

 

5. What is the meaning of “Ye are filled full in Him”? Are we to seek to get the fullness out of Him into us or just to rest in His fatness, realizing that we are part of Him?

Your question refers, we suppose, to Colossians 2:9-10. “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him , who is the Head of all principality and power.” It is the truth of Christ as Head of His body that is developed in the passage, and the blessed fact is brought clearly out that the members of His body have all they need in Him who is their Head and their life. They need neither human wisdom nor human religion—both rationalism and ritualism are snares to be avoided, for both displace and obscure Christ. You as a member of the body of Christ are in Him, and you are complete in Him; nothing can be added to Christ, nor can He be improved in any way, and you are filled up in Him. You need nothing apart from Him. Not alone as a unit, as a branch in a vine might be, but as part of His body. The earlier questions have to do with individual life, for you could abide in Him and bear fruit if nobody else did, but here you are part of a body with many members. In the Head of the body, Christ, the glorified Man, all the fullness of the Godhead dwells for His body, and there is no life, or wisdom, or power outside of Him for it or for you as a member of it; but there is an absolutely and ever-available sufficiency of all these things in Him. As you learn the great truth of your oneness with Him, and of His all-sufficiency for His body, both on the side of its nourishment and protection and edification, and also on the side of the manifestation of His life, grace, wisdom and power through it, you will turn from all worldly support and wisdom and hold to Him, the Head of the body; then there will be no hindrance to the manifestation of the fact that He is in you, and the energy of His life in you will find its expression in the Christian company in which you have your part. The way in which this will be seen is described for us in chapter 3:12-17; there we see Christ in the saints; and if every member of Christ on earth knew the truth and walked in it, that would be the life that they would live.

 

6. How do we enjoy our possessions as Christians? Is it simply by believing God's Word that they are ours?

No, simply believing is not enough for the enjoyment of our blessings. God's Word tells us what we possess in Christ, and we believe God, and faith gives us the boldness to enter into what is ours and to enjoy it. But we could not enjoy the things of God apart from the Spirit of God; this is made pain in 1 Corinthians 2:9-14. Every blessing is God's gift to us. Faith gives us the boldness to appropriate what God gives but it is by the Holy Spirit that we possess in conscious enjoyment what is ours.

 

7. When we grieve the Holy Spirit of God through sin, do we lose His witness that we are sons of God?

We lose the joy of the relationship of sons when we grieve the Holy Spirit, though not the knowledge of the relationship, and often the Spirit uses the knowledge that we have of the relationship to produce in us the deepest repentance and fullest confession for our having sinned in spite of it. Not only what we may call sin grieves the Holy Spirit; earthly-mindedness, worldliness, and everything that would cause us to be indifferent to Christ, or to think little of our heavenly place and inheritance—these are the things and ways that grieve Him, just as Israel grieved Him in the wilderness when they despised the pleasant land and turned in heart back again to Egypt. And the impoverished, lethargic, lack-lustre Christian lives, and immature fruit in them, are the result of the Spirit being grieved. But if Christ is the heart's object, if He is paramount in our lives, all is well. We may often fail on that road and sometimes stumble and fall, but there is grace for all that, and in spite of our failure the Spirit will find His delight in leading us into a fuller knowledge of Christ and of those blessed relationships into which grace has put us. The listening ear and responsive heart, the single eye and the subject will, these are the Holy Spirit's delight, whilst self-sufficiency, pride, indifference to His holy mission and the glory of Christ, these are a perpetual grief to Him.

The Secret of Helpfulness

 

“ Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord ” (Psalm 27:14).

 

Those who know God best and live most in His presence will be the greatest helpers of their fellow-men in these times of trouble. For those who know Him best will trust Him the most, and it is written, “Thou wilt keep him in PERFECT PEACE, whose mind is stayed on Thee: BECAUSE HE TRUSTED IN THEE” (Isa. 26:3). This is true. It has been proved experimentally by the servants of God in the storms of the past; it is being surely proved by many of them in the present distress, and it will be proved still until days of strife end in universal peace under the sceptre of Him whose right it is to rule.

We have no word to say against natural fortitude, but the great need is men who are not stayed upon any human quality, however admirable, but upon Almighty God. These will be kept calm in the midst of panic. Yonder tree preserves its green leaf in time of drought because it is planted by the river, and its roots, striking deeply through the soil, are in touch with the waters, while other trees, less fortunately placed, wither and die.

The one who knows God and lives in communion with Him is like that tree. He is not distracted by circumstances, but is superior to them because God is his refuge and resource. For himself he can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” And to his brethren in Christ he can say, “Wait upon the Lord, wait, I say, on the Lord.” Such a one has a place of absolute serenity and repose, for he can boast, “In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me.”

This is the portion of the man who makes the Lord his choice and who seeks only after Him.

How God-honouring are the words, “Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His holy temple .” His own safety and concerns are put by this man into God's hands, and he confidently leaves them there, seeking only to know the will of God and to dwell more deeply in communion with Him.

This confidence in God will not make a man unpractical, or indifferent to the distress and anguish of others. It will not make him think or act selfishly, like those who would store their houses with provisions against a time of famine regardless whether their poorer brethren have food or not. No, being with God and having God with him, he will be entirely free from self concern, his heart will be compassionate for those in distress and he will go “about doing good,” as did his Master and perfect Example. He will greatly strengthen his more fearful brethren by his own quiet but exultant faith as he says confidently, powerfully, effectively, “Wait on the Lord,” for in so saying he will direct them to the One in whom is infinite strength, the ALMIGHTY GOD, the LORD OF HOSTS, whom every blood-bought child of God can address as Father, the One whose power and loving-kindness he himself is proving. May God give us men of this stamp today for His people's good, and for the blessing of the distressed multitudes.

The Sin Offering

 

The question has been asked, “How was God glorified by the death of Christ?” This brief study of the sin offerings as typical of the death of Christ in one of its aspects may partly answer the question.

A sin offering was required in Israel in the case of the sin of the priest, of the whole congregation, of a ruler, and of one of the common people (Lev. 4). Four is the number in Scripture which symbolizes completeness, or universality as regards the earth, and in these four cases given we have portrayed for us, first, God's complete thought for man as created by Him and set in the earth for the carrying out of His will, and the universal failure to answer to this; and then the way in which God has vindicated Himself and recovered more than was lost by the fall. In not one respect did man fulfil God's purpose. The failure was complete. This will be readily grasped as here given.

 

The Purpose of God

 

The Failure of Man

(1) The Priest

Man was created to have immediate access to God; to find his whole delight in Him, and to render to Him priestly service. He was to be a well-tuned instrument to give forth sweet praise to God, and so glorify Him, for “whoso offereth praise glorifieth God.” This was the highest privilege put within the reach of man.

 

When God came down to walk in Eden Adam hid himself. Sin had separated him from God, and there was no response in his heart to the call of God, and instead of drawing near to God with gladness and worship he shrank away from Him, guilty and afraid. God had lost His creature, and the worship that was due to Him from him.

(2) The Whole Congregation

The purpose of God in bringing man as a race into being was that He might find in him His good pleasure; and in anticipation of this, before ever man was created, the wisdom of God declared, “My delights were with the sons of men” (Prov. 8:31). But this could only have been fulfilled as man found his delight in God.

 

But the whole world had become full of violence in Noah's day, and instead of God looking down upon men with pleasure, it is written, “And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth, and God said to Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me ” (Gen. 6:12-13).

(3) The Ruler

Man was set up in the goodness of God in His own image and after His own likeness (Gen. 2:26), as head of this lower creation. World-wide dominion was placed in his hands that he might represent God in government to all over which he was set. But this could only have been fulfilled as he maintained his fidelity to God.

 

To Noah, after the flood, was given the place of rule, as dominion had been given to Adam in innocence, but he could not even rule himself, for he planted a vineyard and became shamelessly drunk with the fruit of it. And power ever since in the hands of man has been prostituted to his own glory or gratification in defiance of God's will.

(4) One of the Common People

Each man, as a distinct entity, was to have God as his sole object, and to be entirely subject to His will and altogether dependent upon Him in the fulfilment of the common duties of life, Every gift had to be held and every relationship fulfilled and duty performed in relation to God.

 

But the history of men from the beginning is summed up in the sweeping statement: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). Independence of God, and disobedience and unthankfulness are inherent in the fallen nature of man. And in all he holds and does self is his centre.

It should be easily understood that the complete failure of man to fulfil the purpose of God in his creation was a serious matter to the Creator, and that if no remedy could be found it would remain an everlasting blot upon His name. Indeed, since the fall was accomplished by the subtlety of “that old serpent,” God's arch enemy, the very supremacy of God was challenged in His universe. The man that God had made for His own pleasure had become the willing slave of the adversary, Satan; he had given ear to the lie, and grasped at the devil's promise instead of being satisfied with the truth and goodness of God. He was not merely as a splendid instrument of music put out of tune and destroyed, or as a priceless piece of ware, spoiled and broken; he was this, but worse also, for his will had risen up in rebellion against God; he would not be subject to Him; he had become lawless, for sin is lawlessness. By yielding to Satan he had played the traitor to his Maker, by whom he had been entrusted with this lower creation; by treating Satan as his friend he had cast a slur upon God's character and insulted His majesty. God had lost him, the choicest creature of His hand, made in His own image and likeness.

Eternal justice demanded that God should rise up and execute the full penalty upon guilty man, and the integrity of God's throne had to be maintained in the sight of the innumerable and mighty principalities that own His rule. He who had cast down angels because of rebellion against His authority could not wink at the sin of man, and Satan knew this, and doubtless his intention was to force God into the place of the Judge, so that He should be known only in that character to men. Now if the full penalty did fall upon the culprit and mankind was swept away in righteous wrath, God's purposes would be frustrated, His love's deep desires would be for ever unsatisfied, and what a triumph that would be for Satan. From every point of view disaster seemed to have overtaken God's activity in regard to men.

But God is the “Only wise,” and in that hour of solemn crisis when all heaven waited to know how He would meet and answer that tremendous challenge to His glory, and Satan's guilty dupes feared and shrank from His presence in the garden, He announced His resource, and declared what He held in reserve—the woman's Seed should bruise the serpent's head. But not only had the ascendancy that Satan had gained over man to be broken, and his temporary triumph be turned to his everlasting defeat, but man's sin had to be dealt with in righteous judgment, and yet the sinner himself be recovered for God; and God's way of doing this was first indicated in the clothing of the guilty pair in coats of skins, and the sin offerings illustrate and typify this in greater detail.

 

An Offering without Blemish

Our space will limit us to the consideration of the principal features of the sin offerings which were types of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not speculation to say that they were types of Him, for the New Testament shows them to be this. In John 1 we are told to “Behold the Lamb of God.” And He is no less a person than “the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father.” The fact is that He alone was great enough to take up the question of sin and find a solution of it. He has done this by becoming the sin offering Himself, and in the doing of it He has brought into full revelation the boundless love of the heart of God. He has exposed the slanderous lies of the devil with regard to God which had found such deep root in the nature of mankind, for He has shown that no sacrifice was too great for God to make in order to recover man for Himself, and He has vindicated for ever the absolute justice of God by Himself bearing the penalty of sin.

Now the first feature of the sin offerings was that the victim had had no part in the sin for which it was offered—and it was without blemish. Herein is set forth the sinlessness of Jesus. He became a man that He might stand in the place of men, but He was different from all other men in that He had no part in the universal sin of man that had brought death upon all. As to His nature, as born of the Virgin, He was holy; “that Holy Thing” that was born of her was called the Son of God. This was absolutely essential, apart from it God's plan must have wholly failed, for only One not chargeable with the offence could bear the judgment due to it. Thank God we know that Jesus “knew no sin,” but was made sin for us.

He came to restore to God all that had been lost through man's failure, but He had first to show that where all else had broken down He stood fast; to show that in Him not only was sin absent, but that there was present every feature of good that God looked for in man. And this was seen in the fourfold way of which the type speaks.

 

(1) As “A Priest”

He drew near to God, finding in Him alone His full delight and offering to Him at all times the praise that glorifies Him, and bringing to Him that worship that He looked for from man (Luke 4:8). The Psalms in many places present the Lord to us in this way. Though He did not occupy the place of priest officially on earth.

 

(2) As “The Whole Congregation”

All that God had looked for in the way of pleasure in the whole family of men He has found in His beloved Son as man, for twice over from the heavens He declared His full delight in Him.

 

(3) As “A Ruler”

He sat upon no throne when He was here on earth, for all His rights were refused by men, but He showed that He was the one fitted for universal dominion by being absolutely subject to the will of God—by loving righteousness and hating iniquity in a life of obedience He showed that He was rightful Lord of all.

And yet in another sense He did rule; there were those who perceived who He was, and they called Him “Master and Lord,” and He said, “Ye say well, for so I am.” They were held under His control by the love He bore them and the attractive power of His person to all who were born of God. And He could say of them when speaking to His Father, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name; those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, save the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). He instructed, controlled, and kept that company of men for the Father.

 

(4) As “One of the Common People”

He set the Lord always before Him in every relationship of life. As a boy of twelve His relation to His reputed parents was regulated by His Father's business.

He overcame each temptation of Satan in the wilderness by maintaining the position that man ought to occupy in regard to God as He found it written in the Scriptures. And as the perfect Man, throughout His life below we find Him ever dependent upon God. In Luke's Gospel, which presents Him in this character, it is recorded that He prayed seven times. The number seven symbolizing perfection in Scripture.

 

It is not our intention to enlarge upon the life of our Lord here on earth, we merely indicate these things to show how entirely free He was from the terrible taint that had brought every other man under death as the judgment of God—He was without blemish. He in whom all these holy excellencies dwelt offered Himself to be a sacrifice for sin. The inward devotion of His life to God that made Him altogether pleasurable to God in life carried Him into death for the accomplishment of the will of God. He offered Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot to God.

 

Burnt outside the Camp

The sin offering was burnt outside the camp, typical of the fact that Jesus “suffered without the gate” and was forsaken of God when He was made “to be sin for us.” Here we reach that which passes all human comprehension. The thick darkness that veiled the Holy Sufferer from the eyes of men brought into conspicuity the fact that none but God could understand the full meaning of that great transaction—the only man in whom the All-seeing eye of God beheld nothing but absolute perfection; the One whose every inward motion, as well as outward word and work, evidenced His full delight in God's will, not only bore sins but was made sin that in His own person He might bear sin's full penalty, vindicate God's holy judgment, and clear the way for God to recover man for Himself in perfect righteousness, and bring him into everlasting favour.

 

The Blood of the Offerings

The blood of the offerings for the priests and the whole congregation was carried into the holiest and sprinkled there seven times before the Lord and put upon the golden altar that stood before Him. The victim consumed without the camp spoke of God's unsparing judgment upon the sin, the blood brought into the tabernacle to the Lord spoke of the value of that offering as meeting the claims of His holiness there, and as re-establishing those for whom the offering was made in His presence according to His thought.

We have pointed out that the great feature in THE PRIEST was that He should draw near to God with the sacrifice of praise, which is the outcome of delight in Him; and that the great feature of THE WHOLE CONGREGATION was that God should draw near to men and find His delight in them. This twofold place of privilege represents the highest thought of God for man, and in the failure of man in regard to it the fall is seen from its most deplorable side, for we here see what God lost when man turned his back upon Him; and terrible as the consequences of the fall have been to man, God's side must ever be the greater. But the blood—the precious blood of Jesus—has met God's glory in this matter, and because of it man can now draw near to God as a worshipper and God can delight in him.

 

Man Recovered for God

But now we must go beyond the type. The sin offering was consumed without the camp until nothing remained of it but the ashes, it could not rise up from the spot where the judgment put it. In contrast to it Christ has come out of death, out of the place of judgment, having “by Himself purged our sins,” and has “sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). Those ancient sacrifices could never take away sin. “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). And “by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (v. 14). The question of their sins is eternally settled for God, so that He says, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (v. 17). And all these have a title now to be in God's presence, in perfect peace, and for His delight. As the truth unfolds for us we learn that His presence has become their home, that man has been established in the very presence of God, but we must add “in Christ.” But this is not according to the old earthly order, in which everything depended upon man's faithfulness to his obligations, but it is in a new and living way, and according to the good pleasure of God's will. We who believe are there in all the value of the blood of Christ, all the judgment that lay upon us having been borne by Him, but we are there also in all His acceptability who died and lives again.

In the case of the sin of A RULER, or of ONE OF THE COMMON PEOPLE, the blood was not carried into the presence of the Lord, instead an atonement was made for them by it at the brazen altar. Their sins, as we have seen, set forth man's failure as set in the world as God's representative and as dependent upon Him—failure that every intelligent creature could take account of. The brazen altar speaks of God's righteous claims against the sinner who had departed from God's way for him, and the blood poured at the bottom of that altar that fronted the four points of the compass announced the fact that GOD IS JUST. It was the witness to all that His judgment had been executed and that as a consequence He could forgive the sinner. It brings us to Romans 3, where we read of being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth, a propitiation through faith in His blood to DECLARE HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS . . . that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (vv. 24-26).

The challenge can now go forth to the universe, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is ever at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33-34).

But here again we pass out of the range of the type. God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as a sacrifice for sin, and so condemned sin in the flesh; but He has also raised Him from the dead, and all who are in Him are beyond the reach of condemnation; and not only so, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus now operates in them, releasing them from the law of sin and death, so that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in them, who walk not after the flesh but the Spirit. So that in the very place where man's breakdown was complete, God has those who are no longer children of disobedience, but who, walking in the Spirit, show forth His praises.

So that now God has secured man for Himself in Christ, and though we still wait for the consummation of His thoughts and purposes, we can in the power of the Holy Spirit be agreeable to Him, as the following well-known scriptures prove.

 

A Priest

The Whole Congregation

A Ruler

One of the Common People

Our approach to God

God's delight in us

As God's representatives on earth

In the common duties of life

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1)

“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15)

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will: to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:3-7)

The time for the believer to reign has not yet come, nevertheless he is called to be an administrator of God's grace and goodness to others.

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9)

“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.” (Phil. 2:15-16)

“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:4)

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Col. 3:17)

 

During the Millennial reign of Christ over the earth Israel will answer to God's thought and show forth His praise in this fourfold way to the nations, as the Old Testament prophecies abundantly prove. Then, when at last all rule and authority shall have become subject to Christ, and when He shall have given up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; and former things shall have passed away; and the new heaven and the new earth in which God shall be all in all shall have come into being, two things shall abide: men shall be brought near to God and shall render to Him priestly service for ever, and He shall dwell with men and find His eternal pleasure in them. This Revelation 21:3 declares: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and He shall be their God.” But whether in the assembly now, or in Israel in the millennium, or with men in the eternal state, everything for God is founded upon, and springs out of, the one offering of the Lamb of God upon the cross. But not until that eternal state of blessing which shall never be invaded by sin is introduced, will it be fully known how great is the glory that has been brought to God by the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

The Society of the Son of God

Address given in the Society of Arts Hall, Edinburgh, on January 3, 1929

 

“ Where two or three are GATHERED TOGETHER unto My Name, there am I in the midst of them ” (Matthew 18:20).

“ In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are GATHERED TOGETHER ” (1 Corinthians 5:4).

“ When ye come together in one place . . . Wherefore, my brethren, WHEN YE COME TOGETHER to eat, tarry one for another ” (1 Corinthians 11:20, 33).

“ If therefore the whole church come together in one place . . . How is it then, brethren? When ye COME TOGETHER ” (1 Corinthians 14:23, 26).

 

There are all kinds of societies in the world founded and carried on by people who have common tastes and interests, and they have their gatherings together to further those interests and to enjoy the things that they have in common. The Burns Societies would be a good illustration of what I mean. These gather together to keep fresh the memory of the poet, and to share their delight in his genius and work. They are the Burns fellowship. We who are Christians belong to a Society, it is the Society of the Son of God. To this Society, or fellowship, God has called us by the gospel, and through the grace of God we have responded to the call, and now we have our part in this most exalted and wonderful society on earth or in heaven, “the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We have not been drawn into this Society by mere admiration for Christ, whose name we bear, nor do we gather only to look back to One who is dead and gone and recall His words and works, for our Leader is a living Person, and we have been drawn to Him because we have found that He was able to meet our great need. He is our Saviour, who died for us, but lives again, and this fact imparts a special character to His Society. It brings out also the very great difference that lies between it and every other. There are great religious Societies in the world; there are followers of Confucius, of Buddha, of Mohammed. They have their legends, their traditions, their codes of ethics, and systems of philosophies, but the men whose names they bear are dead. BUT CHRIST LIVES; He has been raised again from the dead so that we not only have the words that He has spoken given to us by divine inspiration in the Scriptures, BUT WE HAVE HIMSELF. Only we must keep in mind the fact that though He lives He is absent from the world, and we, His Society, represent Him during His absence.

It seems tome that these two great facts lie behind these words that we so often quote from the 18th of Matthew's Gospel, “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst of them.” Our Lord is absent from the world and we are His representatives in it, a very high honour, a great privilege, but a very serious responsibility. Nevertheless, no responsibility is put upon us according to God's will that He is not able to enable us to carry out. We may consider ourselves in this world as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, and rejoice that there is power to maintain us in this responsibility for His glory.

Societies must gather together if they are to continue to exist. Suppose the members of a Society lost all interest in each other and in the object for which the Society came into being and ceased to gather together, it would at once die out, and we who belong to Christ's own Society must not cease to gather together—“Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10). We may feel that enthusiasm for the name and interests of Christ is on the wane, but that must not affect us except to brace us up to persevere and hold fast. We must be like those of whom Malachi speaks, who feared the Lord and spoke often together of Him. Of such gatherings God took notice, and a book of remembrance was kept in heaven, and I believe that God keeps the Register of the Society of which I am speaking, and He marks the attendances of the members of that Society when they gather together to speak of the Lord, as those who are His representatives in the world. We know that the assembly of Christ cannot die out or be destroyed, for the gates of hell cannot prevail against it (Matt. 16). Yet if those who form that assembly ceased to gather together it would be a misnomer to call it a fellowship.

Now as we gather together as His representatives we are in the greatest favour, for the Lord tells us here that the Father in heaven listens to our prayers, and He not only listens but He answers. That is a wonderful thing. What wonderful power is in this way put within our reach! It seems to me, beloved Christian hearers, that we ought more deeply to consider this statement of the Lord. There is surely contained in it that of which we as yet have very little conception, “If two of you”—two of this Society—two of those who love the Lord and are loyal to Him here upon earth—“if two of you shall agree touching anything ye shall ask in My Name, it shall be done to you of My Father which is in heaven.” I pray that God will stir all our hearts to consider that, and to realize the great privilege it gives us and the power that it puts within our reach. We have but to agree to ask and at once we are admitted to an intimate audience with the Father and He will answer our united prayer.

But not only are we in the most wonderful favour when we gather together as representing our Lord Jesus Christ, but He Himself is in the midst. He loves us and He cannot keep away from us, “Having loved His own which are in the world He loves them to the end,” and His love constrains Him to be in the midst of those who gather to His Name, and being there He must have control of the gathering, and in it His authority and rights must be maintained. Anyone can see that nothing else could be right. Moreover the gatherings must bear His character, and that brings me to the main part of my subject. Take my illustration of the Burns societies again; the poet's character and genius give character to them; we could scarcely imagine people who hated poetry and wine being members of a Burns society, so that the gatherings of the societies are literary in character and, shall I say, convivial.

Do we in our gatherings together bear the character of the One whose Name we profess? That is a question that ought to cause us searchings of heart, for, if we deny His Name by our conduct, and do not keep His word in doctrine and practice, we forfeit all right to be owned as His Society or fellowship. And it is to urge this that I have read from the first epistle to the Corinthians. In these three chapters we have three definite gatherings together of the Society of God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. The first shows us—

THE HOLINESS OF HIS NAME; the second—

THE LOVE OF HIS HEART; the third—

THE WISDOM OF HIS MIND,

which wisdom He demonstrates by His Administration in His Assembly.

We must begin with THE HOLINESS OF HIS NAME, and the necessary gathering together spoken of in the fifth chapter is used of the Spirit of God to teach us that the Name of the Lord must be kept clear of all complicity with evil; there is not a shade of congruity between the two. There is no fellowship apart from this, for God who has called us to this fellowship is holy, and His Son, whose fellowship it is, as “the Holy and the True”; the Spirit of God who has formed the fellowship is the Holy Spirit, and the faith that we hold in common is “our most holy faith,” and we who are in this Society “are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints” (chap. 1:2). It was not always true of us, for our sins were no less grievous than the sins of others, but “ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (chap. 6:11). We owe all to the grace of God.

What, then, is it to be holy? To be holy doesn't mean to be hypocritical as were the Pharisees, or legal-minded and austere like some of the old puritans, or unnatural like the monk who separates himself from all his relatives and shuts himself up in a monastery to live an unnatural life. To be holy means to be spiritually healthy, for our word health comes from the same root. It is to be healed, made whole.

It means to be whole, wholehearted if you will, wholehearted towards the One whose name we bear, Himself and His interests controlling us, the reason of our gatherings together. And if we are to be in spiritual health, to be practically holy in character and in ways, there are certain things that we must exclude from our lives. They are the old leaven and the leaven of malice and wickedness. If our tastes run after these things we are not in spiritual health, we are not holy, and we cannot be happy in the presence of the Lord Jesus, for an unholy man is an unhappy man. The tastes of the holy man are gratified by the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The plea for holiness is based upon the fact of Christ our Passover being crucified for us. It seems to me that is the lever that is used in this 5th chapter of 1st Corinthians, and it sets before us the measure of the holiness that belongs to Christ's Society. The basis of the Society is that He has been sacrificed for us.

Let us think of Calvary for a moment. Behold the Lamb of God there slain for us, and let us ask ourselves the question, Why? It was because we were sinful, because of our sins, our guilt, because of what we were. Then do you think it right that we should continue to be as once we were if what we were caused Him that death, those sufferings? Is it right that we should trifle with that that cost our Lord so much to save us from? Christ reached us through that cross. It was the only way by which He could save us. When we were at our very worst, grace abounded towards us, but shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? That surely is our instant and hearty conclusion. If we are feasting upon the Lamb roast with fire, and we know that we are under the shelter of the blood, then that which came under God's condemnation when Jesus died for us will be what we shall condemn. The evil that is in the world, the evil that the flesh and the devil proposes to us will be things from which we will keep separate that we may keep the feast of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Let us not think that this feast is a fast, if we refuse the evil, and purge it out, we do but refuse that which can only mar us and make us miserable. If we would be happy and free in our souls we must keep the feast of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. What is this bread? We can understand what the feasting upon the Lamb roast with fire means—it means that we enter into what death, the death of Jesus, meant, when He came into contact with the judgment of God on our behalf. That means something for us. It means that He loved us, and we feast upon His love. We feast upon those things that His death sets forth. A wonderful lesson-book for us is the cross of Christ, and wonderful food for our souls there is there. But what is the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth? It is Christ also. Sincerity and truth were perfectly expressed in Him. The greatest light could search His blessed ways and the motives behind them and only reveal the perfection of everything that He was and did. Sincerity is that which will bear the searching light of the sun, and there He was in the presence of the Father's glory, and the Father's voice was heard, saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Absolute singleness of aim and purpose; absolute singleness of heart; the Father's will His very being—nothing else but the Father's will. In regard to God in Him there was absolute sincerity. And He was the truth. There was nothing false, out of place, or exaggerated in Him. Everything was set by Him in its right proportion, in its right relationship; in Him we see what God is; we see what man is; we understand what we are, and the wonderful relationship into which we are brought.

Sincerity and truth were made manifest in all their perfection in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is as we feed upon that life of His, that entrancing life, the life of the altogether lovely One, that we keep the feast, day by day, the whole week round. We begin with the fact that Christ our Passover was slain for us, and then we feed upon His life, and as we do so we shall surely be practically what God has made us, a new lump, sanctified in Christ Jesus. Assimilating what He is, we shall take character from Him; there will be a spiritual formation in progress, and we shall maintain the holiness of His name—absolutely necessary if we are to be truly His Society. May God exercise us everyone as to the holiness of His name.

But the gathering together that is spoken of in chapter 5 is abnormal, and the fewer of such a gathering the better. Nevertheless, the Spirit of God uses the fact of the evil there in Corinth to press upon us the character of our fellowship, and make it plain to us that the holiness of the name of Christ must be maintained. But now we come to ordinary normal gathering together of the people of God; the coming together for the Lord's Supper, and what can there be in connection with this gathering but joy, for there is brought before us in a very special way THE LOVE OF HIS HEART? How wonderful it is to hear His words, “This is My body which is for you; this is My blood which is for you.” How near that brings us to Him; how near it brings Him to us! It is as though He would press upon us this very great and blessed fact that there upon the cross we were in His thoughts. He was there for us, and as a response to that, He desires that we should be together for Him, for He says “Do this in remembrance of Me.” On the cross it was as though He said, YOU, I am here for you, My body and My blood are for you , and when we gather together, He says, You are for Me. “You” on the cross, “Me” when we gather together to remember Him in His death. If we are true members of His Society; if we really understand what the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, means, we shall not neglect this.

At the gathering together for the Lord's Supper it seems to me that the Lord says to us, as Joseph said to his brethren, “Come near unto me.” Do you remember that touching story in Genesis 4? And when they came near he took them one by one and kissed them, putting the kiss of his affection upon every cheek. So when we gather together to remember the Lord in His death He puts the kiss of His love afresh upon every one of us. The great feature of this gathering therefore is the love of His heart.

But there is another side. We show the Lord's death till He comes . As being gathered to His name, to use again my word, being His Society, we not only give joy and gladness to His heart, but we bear witness to the fact that we are His Society; we show His death till He comes. The world saw Christ last dead upon the cross—that has often been pointed out—they didn't see Him in resurrection, and as a matter of fact He is still dead to the world, and it has never repented of His murder, but we bear witness to the fact that we have joined ourselves to the One whom the world slew. We take our stand by His cross, just as Joseph of Arimathea did when he begged the body of Jesus and bore it to the sepulchre to lay it there. We make manifest to every intelligent creature that we take our stand by the One whom the world crucified. We say, with Paul, “God forbid that we should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world is crucified unto us and we to the world.”

“And then we have to consider each other too in this connection. We read, “Therefore, beloved brethren, when ye come together, tarry for one another.” That does not only mean to wait until all can be present—surely there is much more in it than that. It means that we have to be marked by consideration, forbearance, love, grace—that, in fact, the way the Lord has treated us is the way we ate to treat each other. That comes out in the 18th chapter of Matthew most definitely, for immediately the Lord had spoken of coming unto His own, when they are gathered together, Peter asks, “If my brother sin against me seven times shall I forgive Him?” and the Lord said, “I say unto you not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Tarry for one another when ye come together, and by mutual forbearance and sympathy and love and grace be to each other what the Lord has been to you. If the love that caused our Lord to give Himself for us, fills our hearts, we shall surely love one another. There will be neither forbearance nor consideration if there is not love. But if there is love there will be both.

In chapter 14 there is set before us THE WISDOM OF HIS MIND. In the closing words of it we read: “ The things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord .” The title Lord means that He is in authority and the Administrator, and He shows the wisdom of His mind by His administration in His assembly. Now commandments are not optional, we either obey them or are rebellious, and to “obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 22:23). I know that some are indifferent and ignorant; they have not enough spiritual interest to inquire as to the will of the Lord, and the apostle says, “If any man be ignorant let him be ignorant.” But we must not be indifferent or ignorant, much less must we be disobedient, for if we are we shall hinder the working out of the wisdom of the Lord in the assemblies in which He is the Administrator, and shall suffer incalculable loss thereby, and God's intention will be in part obscured, for that intention is, that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).

I want us to realize that our Lord has a Society, a circle, in which He administers according to His own rights and wisdom. The fact will give us great satisfaction if we love Him. When He came into the world He was refused His rightful place. He came to His own and His own received Him not; He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, but the world knew Him not, and He was cut off and had nothing. No place was given Him in this world in which the wisdom of His administration might be shown out, but on the evening of the resurrection day He stood in the midst of His disciples, and they were glad when they saw THE LORD. He had His own circle now in which His supremacy was acknowledged, and where all would be subject to Him. We can visualize the scene in that upper room.

Peter, John, James, would not seek any pre-eminence there, nor force their own views upon their brethren; every ear would be attend to His voice, and all subject unto Him. Now the Spirit of God has come from the exalted Lord in heaven to maintain His rights in that sacred circle, and we have been drawn into it, we belong to it, and I ask you, my dear friends, do we not desire to realize and to experience the wisdom of His mind in His administration in His assembly? Then we also must be subject to Him, we must be glad to see THE LORD.

The difference between the gathering together in chapter 11 and this in chapter 14:15, that in the former we minister to the Lord, in the latter He ministers to us. So you find one great word in it is “edification.” The Lord gives the word, and knowing the need He gives the right word and His Society is edified thereby. The prophesying spoken of in verse 3 is not the foretelling of coming events, but the telling out of the Word of God, to build up the saints in the truth, and to stir them up to a fuller devotion and to bind up their hearts if they sorrow at all. And if a man cannot edify his brethren he ought to keep his mouth shut, for the Lord has got somebody there who can. In the edification of His own we see the wisdom of the Lord's administration. If the mind of the Lord is in evidence the minds of those present have to be active, but subject to the Lord. Understanding has its place. “I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also; I will pray with the spirit and with the understanding also.” There cannot be edification apart from understanding.

There must not only be a spiritual impulse, but that spiritual impulse must find expression according to the understanding under the direction of the Lord, and the spirits of the prophets must be subject to the prophets. A man ought to be able to control himself as being under the Lord's control in the assembly of the Lord. If he would be in an ecstasy, let it be in his own room and let him be beside himself to God alone, but in the assembly of God he must be sober, for in that assembly the Lord is the Administrator, and God is not the author of confusion but of peace. And in this connection the question arose as to speaking with tongues, and the apostle distinctly by the commandments of the Lord shows of what small value relatively this which these carnal Corinthians thought so much of was; he shows also into what contempt it might bring them, for he says, Suppose an unbeliever comes in, or an unlearned man, and you are all speaking with tongues, he will say you are mad; it will move his contempt. Display yourselves, and the only result will be the amusement of the onlooker. But, he says, if you prophesy, if you speak the word of God, and that can only be under the Lord's direction, his conscience will be searched, and he will fall down before you and confess that God is with you of a truth. I wonder, beloved Christians, how much of that there is in the gatherings with which we are acquainted. It seems to me that it brings out most wonderfully the character of the Lord's administration. Not only has He got edification for His own people in view, but He has got grace for the unbeliever coming in, He thinks of the outsider and His grace overflows to him, such is the blessedness of His administration.

The question is, Is it possible? It is here in the Word of God, and if we are prepared to walk according to the holiness of His Name and to feast upon the love of His heart, and to be enthusiastic and full of admiration for the wisdom of His mind, it seems to me that the Lord would manifest Himself in a gracious revival that would mean not only the gathering together and binding together and building up of the saints, but in blessing to the unbeliever who comes in by the way. And they would come, for grace would attract them, and they would not come in vain.

The day is coming when God's kingdom will come on earth and the Lord will sit upon His throne, and He will be the great public Administrator then, and harmonize everything in this world to the will of God. Then the desert will blossom a the rose, and springs of water break forth in desert places, and the hills will dance, and the trees will clap their hands with gladness, and peace and prosperity will spread their wings over the face of the world. The wisdom of the Administrator will secure this, but we, before that day comes, should know His wisdom, grace, and power now, and realize these great blessings in a spiritual way. We may well rejoice and praise the Lord for the grace that has saved us, and enlightened our darkness with the knowledge of the Lord, and joined us to the Lord, and so to one another. And this can never change, these gifts of God are for ever. But we all should be deeply moved by them, for it is the will of God that we should be practically what He has made us in Christ; it is His will that we, His own, should be gathered together, assemblies in which the Lord may be known and where light may shine from Him for the blessing of others, where the holiness of His Name may be maintained, the love of His heart enjoyed, and the wisdom of His mind displayed. And to Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The Son of God is Come

 

It is our earnest desire that our readers, the young as well as the old, for we write for both, should be stimulated in their affections towards the Lord, and react to His great love in decided and intelligent devotion to Him and in the recognition of His desires and His rights. Too many who owe their hope of eternal glory to Him are sadly indifferent to His thoughts and to the PRESENT results of His coming into the world. This should not be so. Our prayer is that there may be a definite and widespread recovery to the truth that we endeavour to present in this paper.

 

“We know that the Son of God is come.” And no event in the history of mankind can move us like this; it commands our deepest interest, for He came for us and gave Himself for us, so great was His love. Our present peace of heart and our hope of eternal glory are the result to us of His coming. He would be a strange and self-centred Christian who could be indifferent as to how He came and the reception He received at His coming, and what He has gained for Himself by His coming. We have often turned with great delight to the opening chapter of John's Gospel, where in relation to His coming His many glories are declared. His glory had no beginning, for in Being He is eternal, and in the beginning He was there, the Word, by Whom all things were made. But He, the Supreme, the Creator, came into this world that He had made. Let the fact of who He is who came impress itself afresh on our souls. He came to dwell among men and reveal to them what God's feelings and desires for them were, and apart from Him God cannot be known, and let us consider well this great fact also. And so the first chapter of John reveals His many glories; it is an epitome of the whole Gospel and closes with the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

We have exulted in that side of the chapter and will exult in it more and more as we see greater things in it than we have hitherto seen, but there is another side to it and solemn statements occur in it, which when they strike us in their full force grieve and shock us. We are told in verse 10 that “ the world knew Him not ,” though He had made it; in verse 26, “ the Jews knew Him not ,” though He stood in their midst, the Messiah and King of that long-favoured people. And even John the Baptist had to confess, “ And I knew Him not ” (v. 31), and again, “ I knew Him not ” (v. 33), When the Son of God came, He was not welcomed by the world. He was unknown and a stranger in it. The world that owed its existence to Him did not know Him; the religionists who boasted in their knowledge of God did not know Him, and even John could not by any natural power that he possessed perceive who He was, He needed a revelation from heaven to enlighten him. These are solemn and searching facts.

This is an exposure indeed, and it explains verse 5 of our chapter. “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” But if the light shone long enough and bright enough, would not the darkness yield to it and men recognise their God come down to them full of grace and truth? Well, let us see; we pass on to chapter 3:19 and read, “ And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil .” It is not said yet, they hated the light, though that was to come, but, they loved the darkness; they wanted God to remain far from them, for the knowledge of Him and their evil ways could not exist together; they felt this and they would not have God for they were determined to pursue their evil ways. But the light continued to shine in the uncomprehending darkness in all the words and works of Jesus. Take as an instance the case of the man at the Pool of Bethesda, who for 38 years had looked and longed for a man to help him, but had looked and longed in vain, for there was not one among all the multitude of priests and Pharisees that paid any heed to his need—him the Lord raised up from his impotence on the Sabbath day to show them in the city of their sanctuary and solemnities that there could be no sabbath, no day of rest, for His Father or for Him in the world where sin and suffering were; and again, in distant Galilee, when He fed the multitude with bread and fish, He desired them to understand that the compassions of God reached out to the utmost limits of the land, and that the poor and the hungry were His care.

What activities of grace were these in which God Himself was revealed! Did they move the world and its leaders? Yes; they moved them, but it was to anger and the determination to quench the light and to kill Him in whom it shone. They said, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil” (chap. 8:48). They took up stones to stone Him and said, “Thou blasphemest” (chap. 10), and they “took counsel together for to put Him to death” (chap. 11:53). They hated the light. But as long as He was in the world He was the light of the world, and He continued to work the works of Him that sent Him while it was day, but the night was surely coming. So in chapter 12 He spoke His last words to the world and urged them to believe in the light while they had the light, that they might be the children of light, but it was all in vain, for though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him, and He had to say—with what sorrow of heart who shall tell—“ Now is the judgement of this world .” It had been fully tested and it had shown its disposition and temper under the test; it did not know the light; it could not appreciate it; it hated it, and was determined to be rid of it. There was no further hope for the world as the world; it loved the darkness, and its doom was sealed.

From chapter 13 to 17 He was alone with “His own” for a few brief hours, and when Judas, the traitor, had gone out into the night to join the forces of darkness that were combining to crush Him, He was able to disclose to them the deepest feelings of His heart, but that little while soon passed, and in chapter 18 His seclusion in the garden beyond the brook Cedron was broken upon by a band led by Judas and officers from the chief priest, who bound Him and led Him away to trial and suffering and death. Jew and Gentile, priests and rabble, Herod and Pilate, the whole world, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, were united at last; one purpose controlled them, and that purpose was to cast the Son of God out of the world. And God withdrew His restraint and let them have their way, and “They took Jesus, and led Him away. And He bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull; which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha: where they crucified Him . . . And He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost . . . And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true.”

What did he see? The Son of God dead upon a malefactor's cross! The Light of the world cast out! The One who had a right to everything cut off with nothing! It was a triumph for the darkness that pervaded the world; and the prince of it tightened his shackles upon it; he was its god, and the whole world lay in his power. I am not forgetting the divine side of the cross, or the way that God gains His great victories, but that is not my subject now. Said Peter to the Jews, “Him . . . ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Stephen said, “Ye have been the betrayers and murderers of the just One,” and Paul said, “The princes of this world . . . have crucified the Lord of glory.” And these three men spake by the Holy Ghost. These are facts that none who would be faithful in Christ Jesus can ignore.

Consider the position. The Son of God lay in a tomb, and His few scattered followers wept and lamented, while the world that hated the light rejoiced. He, before whom every knee ought to have bowed, had been refused all His rights, His Name had been struck from the Royal pedigree and written upon the criminal roll of Jerusalem—and “who shall declare His generation”—“He was numbered with the transgressors.” The world did not know that by that act, it had signed its own judgment warrant, and that as the world there could be nothing for it but judgment to come; but that was the fact, a fact that abides today in all its force, even though the long-suffering of God holds back the judgment, while He gathers out of the world a people for His Name.

But what of Him whom the world had rejected? Was He to have nothing as a result of His coming into it? Let us see. Of course death could not hold Him; “It was not possible that He should be holden of it.” His disciples ought to have known that; it was strange that they did not, for the Scriptures foretold it. God would not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. He raised Him up, having loosed the pains of death. And then a marvellous work began. The Lord did not manifest Himself to the wicked and jubilant leaders of the people, and vindicate His Name and glory by their destruction; He revealed Himself to Mary, out of whom He had cast seven devils; He sought out Simon Peter, who had denied Him with oaths and curses; He went after two people of no account, who had lost all their faith and hope in Him, and decided that the best thing they could do was to return to the life they had lived before they met Him. And these labours of His on that resurrection day brought together ten men—there may have been more—and as they talked of Him, He stood in the midst of them, and showed them His hands and His side. “THEN WERE THE DISCIPLES GLAD WHEN THEY SAW THE LORD.”

Consider that group of men in that upper room; they were not great, or influential, or courageous, but the LORD stood in the midst of them, and they were glad to see Him and to have Him there. He was LORD. Indeed to them, they owned His rights and with joy yielded to Him the place of authority. There He had a circle which was “His own,” in which His will was supreme; it was His assembly, in which His love could flow out upon His loved ones and find a response of gratitude and love in them. This then He had gained by His coming into the world; a company drawn out of it, and bound to Himself, not by any legal bonds as might obtain between a master and his servants, but by cords of love: “for having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end,” and the wounds in His hands and side, which He showed them, were the ineffaceable evidence of that love which had suffered and survived even the death of the cross for them.

How great was the contrast between that company of men and the world outside that had utterly rejected their Lord! And here comes a question that should test us all. If we had been in Jerusalem that day, what company would we have chosen? Would we have been with the Christ-hating priests in the Temple, or with the careless multitude that would not have the light in the popular haunts, or with those disciples who were glad when they saw the Lord in that upper room? Surely every Christian heart will answer, with the disciples in the upper room, where Christ was welcomed, loved, adored. It should be a joy to all who would answer thus to know that they do belong to that very company, and may even now be made glad by the presence of their Lord, for He has said, “Where two or three are gathered together unto My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” But greater than their own joy should be the thought of His joy and the fact that in the world where He is still the rejected Christ, and when His rights are still refused, He may still find “His own” gathered together, gladly acknowledging His supremacy and yielding to Him His place as Lord.

Let us consider further the contrast between that company of disciples, who were the beginning of the Christian company, and the world as John's Gospel reveals it. We fear that it is very little understood and in consequence the Lord is robbed of His place and rights, and His own miss the joy and peace that a full and faithful yielding to Him gives. The Lord said to them concerning the world, “They have both seen and hated both Me and My Father” (15:24); but of them He said, “The Father Himself loveth you because ye have loved Me” (chap. 16:27). He told them that the world could not receive the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, but that He should be with them and dwell in them (chap. 14:17). He told them that if they had been of the world, the world would love them, but that they were not of the world, for He had chosen them OUT OF THE WORLD, therefore the world would hate them (chap. 15:19). They heard Him in prayer to His Father speak of them as “the men which Thou gavest Me OUT OF THE WORLD” (chap. 17:6), and “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (v. 16). It is this “out of the world” character of the Christian company that is so little appreciated and the result is a very feeble testimony to the world. Would to God that we understood the meaning of it better, and realized that we are in the world but not of it, to be kept from the evil that is in it, while we bear witness of Christ to it, and endeavour by the gospel to gather out of it souls for Him. It is a condemned world; the presence of the Holy Spirit demonstrates the fact that sin dominates it, for Christ has been cast out of it, and that the judgment of it is certain, that it must share the judgment of its prince, which is the devil (chap. 16:8-11).

The Christian “you” stands out in contrast to “the world” in its preciousness to Christ. He calls them “My sheep” (chap. 10:27), “My friends” (chap. 15:14), “My brethren” (chap. 20:17). And the wonderful epithets are for all who love Him; they may gather together in the joy of what they mean. They may lay the emphasis upon the possessive pronoun, that the Lord uses with such affection. They may go further and take up His words to His Father about them. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me, for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (17:9-10). If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him, but these are loved by the Father and the Son, and they are indwelt by the Holy Ghost. The Christian assembly gathered together in the truth is where Father, Son and Holy Ghost delight to be, for it is where Christ, the beloved Son, is magnified and loved; it is the place of His joy. There are words full of typical meaning in Genesis 24, “And Isaac took Rebekah and she became his wife; and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death .” The Lord has found His comfort in His assembly. Unknown by the world, rejected by Israel , cast out and crucified, He, as the risen Isaac, has found a full compensation in His assembly. The prize is worth the price. But how much do we minister to His joy?

One further consideration. The company that welcomed the Lord on that resurrection day was a new company, indeed they were a new creation, for as God breathed into the nostrils of Adam in the beginning and he became a living soul, so did the Lord in His sovereign right breathe upon that company and impart it to His own life. And this new life, and His presence, and His undisputed will, and His everlasting, knowledge-surpassing love gave a character to that group of men, and invested them with a dignity that none had possessed since the beginning. This abides for us. It is maintained by Christ Himself, and by the Holy Ghost, and this is the truth to which the saints of God need to be recovered, and as they are recovered to it they will with one heart and one mouth glorify God, and take up the words of Thomas as they bow in the presence of the Lord, owning Him to be THEIR LORD AND THEIR GOD.

The Source of Peace and Energy

 

“ Princes also did sit and speak against me; but Thy servant did meditate on Thy statutes ” (Psalm 119:23).

“ I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart ” (Psalm 119:32).

The Psalmist desired that his way might be directed by God's statutes (v. 5): he desired that it might be cleansed from every sin and inconsistency by His word (v. 9) and that he might not at any time wander from the commandments of God (v. 10), and he was sure that only God by His Word could preserve him from this, so he sought Him with His whole heart. Yet for all that he was a misunderstood man, not by those who were poor and humble, but by the princes of his people. Notice how he puts it: “ princes did SIT .” While he walked and laboured they sat and watched him. They did not sit in the learner's seat, but on the judge's bench, and from thence they spake against him. Well, that is easy, even if it be presumptuous work. It requires no spiritual power to sit and speak against others, no God-given purpose, no earnest prayer, no diligent study of the Word, though all these are needed if a man is to walk in the way of God's commandments.

Now while these princes sat in the judgment seat they were neglecting their God-appointed work. He had called them to bring their offerings to Him, as we read in Numbers 7; and to dig the wells for the refreshment of the people, as we read in Numbers 21:18. God had given to them this two-fold ministry—offering to God, and refreshing the people; but these princes had forgotten their high and holy calling and were spending their time speaking against a man whose heart was set upon the ways of God.

But the Psalmist was a wise man, made wise by the Word that he loved, and though he felt the hard words that were spoken against him, and felt them keenly, he did not retaliate, he does not seem to have thought it worth his while to defend himself. He turned to God and His word. He says “ But THY SERVANT did meditate in THY STATUTES. ” Wise man, he knew the source of hope and comfort and peace. It was the word that had caused him to hope (v. 49), and that same word was his comfort in his affliction (v. 50). We are reminded of a beautiful New Testament word, “That we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” ( Rom. 15:4).

It is a great stay to the soul of a man when he can look up into the face of God and say, “I am Thy servant;” he will be ready then to serve all, even the weakest of saints, and the weaker and more ignorant they are the more keen will he be to serve them; he will be ready to serve all men, yet be the servant of none. God's thoughts and will for His servants are revealed in His word and there alone, hence the Psalmist says, “Thy servant did meditate in Thy statutes.” What peace that meditation would give him, what poise to his soul! How it would lift him above the irritation that this criticism would otherwise have caused him! How it would help him to adjust his ways not to the opinions of his self-appointed judges, but to the will of God whose servant he was!

His meditation in the word of God revived his soul and made him eager not to walk in God's way only but to run in it. “I will RUN in the way of Thy commandments,” he says. Now God's commandments are not grievous, yet not many seem eager to run in the way of them, and many who do desire stumble and fail, and seem to lack the spiritual power and energy necessary. The Psalmist had discovered the secret of this zeal and energy. “ I will run ,” he says, “ when Thou shalt have enlarged my heart .” No man can run in the way of God's commandments if his heart is narrowed and his spiritual affections cramped. The Christians at Corinth made a sad mess of their testimony and made no progress in the heavenly race because they were straightened by their worldliness and party strife, they had but a feeble apprehension of the fullness of the love wherewith God loved them, and the breadth and greatness of His interests on earth.

“ Be ye enlarged ” urged the Apostle. “I will run in the way of Thy commandments,” said the Psalmist, “when Thou shalt have enlarged my heart.” Fetters that bind the feet drop off when the heart is enlarged. Think of the words, “Strengthened with all might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19).

The traditions of men and their rules and regulations and standards of conduct chill and narrow the heart; it is this love that passeth knowledge, love that never faileth, that enlarges the heart, and the man with the enlarged heart will run, he cannot help it, and he will run in the way of the commandments of the Lord. “ And this is His commandment that ye should believe on the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and LOVE ONE ANOTHER, as He gave us commandment ” (1 John 3).

The Sower and the Harvest

 

“ He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him ” (Psalm 126:6).

 

The Sowing

The key to all Old Testament Scripture was indicated by the Lord Jesus when He ministered to His disciples “things concerning Himself,” out of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets. He is the fulfiller of all Scripture, and so of the passage before us. That this is the case here is evident, for He said, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man” (Matt. 13:37), and “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).

He came into the world to cast into the soil the incorruptible seed, the word of God which endureth for ever, for in these last days God hath spoken to us in Him. He came to make God known to men, to declare the Father in whose bosom He dwelt as the only begotten Son; and in doing this He was the great Sower of the seed.

There was nothing in His blessed life inconsistent with His mission, for He was Himself everything that He said; but in the world in which He sowed everything was contrary both to His mission and Himself, and as a consequence His life was one of sorrow and stress and tears. In olden days the prophets of God wept because the people would not hearken unto their words, but in Jesus every sorrow found its centre; there was no grief like unto His.

It should be an affecting contemplation to us that He who was the Framer of the universe, the Owner of the cattle upon a thousand hills, should find His resting place, as a babe, in a manger; and that the first action of the great ones of the earth towards Him should compel Him to become a fugitive from the land that He loved. The chill winds of poverty assailed Him on His advent into this world, and the storms of hatred beat about Him until His work was finished here.

But, undeterred by the contradiction of sinners: against Himself, and unmoved by the subtle wiles and unceasing malignity of Satan, He did the will of God. To Him was given the tongue of the instructed (Isa. 1:4, N.Tr.); morning by morning He was awakened by Jehovah to be taught in the words which day by day He spoke—words in season were they all—the precious seed, not one grain of which shall perish, for the word of God liveth and abideth for ever.

In all His words and works He sowed the seed, but it was at the cross of Calvary that God's nature and character were disclosed in all the fullness of their glory, it was there as nowhere else that He appeared as the Sower sowing the seed, and it was there that He sounded the very depths of sorrow.

When the farmer goes forth into the fields with the seed basket, he goes forth with a purpose; he is not out for pleasure or recreation, but he sows in hope of the harvest time—for this he labours and toils when the skies are dull and the cold winds blow. So when the Son of God came into this world He had a great and high purpose in coming, He sowed the seed in view of the harvest, for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame. He was in the world to undo the works of the devil, to dispel the darkness that the Edenic lie had cast as a pall over Adam's race. He was here to manifest and prove beyond question the love of God to men, to commend that love to them, and to beseech them to be reconciled to the God whose heart yearned with an infinite yearning for the lost. He was here to cast this truth as to God, as the good seed, into the barren soil of the heart of man, that a full and glorious harvest should result for the joy of the heart of God.

He came into the world to do this, no matter what the cost to Himself, and He knew well ere ever He came what that cost would be. He knew that tears would be His meat by day and by night, that He would be despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He knew that to sow the seed involved a path of suffering uncheered by earthly smiles, a path of gall and reproach which should end in a malefactor's cross.

He also knew that it involved that mysterious cry that burst from His broken heart, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

What soul in the universe shall discover the intensity of His suffering as He passed into the darkness of the depths from whence that cry came? But in those unsounded depths, while waves of sorrow rolled upon Him, in His own person, the holy, yet forsaken Sin-bearer, there was displayed the unalloyed holiness of God's nature, the inflexible character of His righteousness and the infinite greatness of His love.

And shall this sowing be in vain? Nay, for every sorrow He shall have an answering joy, out of that suffering and death shall spring such a harvest as will satisfy His soul forever. He shall come again rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him.

 

The Harvest

In the thrice-told parable of the Sower it is plainly stated that there are to be, in the day of harvest, three distinct results from the seed sown: one-hundred-fold, sixty-fold, and thirty-fold; and whilst this may be seen even today in the varying-degrees of fruitfulness found amongst those who receive the good seed, yet we may also trace in it a very distinct analogy to the three different circles in which the Lord will see of the travail of His soul.

 

The HUNDRED-FOLD will be realized in the Church

In this connection it is interesting to see that in Luke's Gospel the full one-hundred-fold yield alone is contemplated (8:14-15). The Gospel of Luke was written to a Gentile, and by the man who was chosen of the Holy Ghost to write the Acts; it presents the grace of God, not to the Jew only, but toward all mankind; and the truth as delivered to Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles and minister of the church follows in beautiful moral order upon this gospel. These facts confirm the thought that the hundred-fold of the parable in Luke will be brought forth in the church, gathered out to God during this present period from Pentecost to the rapture of the church at the coming of the Lord.

The Holy Ghost dwells within believers to give full effect to the revelation of God made on earth by His beloved Son, and that which is produced and maintained by the Persons of the Godhead cannot fail, and fruit will be brought forth to perfection one-hundred-fold.

In the church God will have glory by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end; in it will be known the manifold wisdom of God, and through it He will display the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.

What a glorious day that will be when the church is completed! Then will the Lord “present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but . . . holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). It will be a glorious day for all who have trusted Him, for then they will leave their sorrows behind and have nothing but fullness of joy before them for ever; they will see Him, whom having not seen they love; they will rest from their labours in the joy of His presence, and find their hearts' full delight without a hindrance in His eternal and changeless love.

But what will it be to Him to receive His church—His bride? For her He gave up the earthly kingdom for the time, and accepted the rejection and despisings of men. For her He sorrowed and bled and gave Himself up to judgment and death. For her He laboured and has had long patience. It is the day of His patience now, He still waits for the glorious consummation of all His work. Oh! what will it be to Him when the day of waiting is over, and He is able to say to His church, “Arise, My love, My fair one, and come away” (S. of Sol. 1:13)? His own love will find its own satisfaction, then, in having the object of it perfectly suitable to and with Himself, in unchanging reciprocal affection forever. Fellow Christian, this is the grand result for Himself and us, of His time of sorrow and sowing on earth.

There will be another side also to that glory of equal blessedness. The seed which has been sown will bring forth after its own kind; and the Son of God was the “Corn of wheat,” He was the Word of God, in Him every spoken word found its living exemplification, He was all that He spoke, and He fell into the ground and died. In the glorious harvest the “much fruit” will appear all like unto that precious Corn of wheat, for “we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him , for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

But what will it be to the Son of God “to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24)? What deep satisfaction to Him to lead us into the Father's house, and to know that His Father's desire to have that house filled with sons, for ever conformed to His image who is the Son, shall he eternally satisfied; and this will be the fruit of His mighty victory over every evil power, the glad hundred-fold harvest of His sowing in tears.

 

The SIXTY-FOLD will be realized in the blessing of Israel

How great and undying is the Lord's love to Israel ! To this all the prophets bear witness. It was to Israel that He said “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). Of them, with grief of heart He had to complain, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away” (Hos. 6:4). “When Israel was a child, then I loved him . . . I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love . . . How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ?” (11:1-8).

But what tongue shall tell the sorrows of Emmanuel, in the midst of that people, when they mocked at His tender words, and refused all His gracious entreaties? What words can describe the feelings that filled His soul when He had to cry to the rebellious city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth her brood under her wings, and ye would not ” (Luke 13:34); and can we think without stirrings of heart of that moment when He came near unto that city, and when His cheeks were tear-washed in His sorrow for it, as He exclaimed, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are bid from thine eyes!” (Luke 19:42).

He was cut off in the midst of His days; lover and friend were put far from Him; and He, the King, was led, amid universal execration, by the people whom He loved, to the place of public execution. The people did not know that He was wounded for their transgression, and bruised for their iniquities, and that by His stripes they would be healed; nor did Caiaphas, their high priest, understand the meaning of his words: “Ye know nothing at all. Nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not,” for in so saying he spake “not of himself: but . . . prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation” (John 11:49-51).

For this sowing of sorrow the Lord shall have a great harvest, for “All Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26).

He whom they rejected will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more' (Jer. 31:34). He ‘will ransom them from the power of the grave, and redeem them from death.' He will heal their backslidings and love them freely. “Then shall Israel grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon . His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his renown as Lebanon . . . And Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?”

Then shall the waste places of Jerusalem break forth into joy and sing together, for the people shall be comforted of the Lord. They shall sit under His shadow with great delight and find His fruit sweet to their taste, they shall be led into His banqueting house and His banner over them shall be love.

How great will be His joy in this day of harvest when He shall see of His soul's deep travail on behalf of Israel, and will rejoice over them with joy, and rest in His love, when He will joy over them with singing; yes, even as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall He, Jehovah-Jesus, rejoice over them.

 

The THIRTY-FOLD will be realized in the blessing of the nations

When the Lord sits upon the throne of David, His dominion shall extend throughout the whole earth for the heathen shall be given Him for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Ps. 2). All the ends of the earth shall look to Him and be saved, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Then peace and contentment shall take the place of strife and clamour. He will

“Bid the whole creation smile,

And hush its groan.”

“His name shall endure for ever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed,” and the whole earth shall be “filled with His glory” (Ps. 72).

His life on earth was but a short one, and thirty years of it are hidden, for the greater part, from us. Three years and a half seems to have been the limit of the time in which He laboured as the Sent-One of God, sowing the seed, and that brief period ended in a shameful cross, so that it seemed as though He had spent His strength for naught and in vain. But, oh, the glory that those years will yet bring forth; how rich the sheaves that He will gather in the glad harvest home.

(1) His church near to His trusted side, all beauteous in His own glory.

(2) Israel , His earthly brethren, brought close to Him; and the chosen and promised land, in which they dwell, the joy of the whole earth.

(3) All the nations of the earth owning His supremacy and rejoicing in a God, the full revelation of whom means only blessing for them.

Such will be the glorious harvest of His sowing in tears. Such the result of the travail of His soul. Yet such will be only as it were the vestibule to the eternal day, when, in the new heavens and the new earth, God will dwell with men, and He shall be “all in all.” Those endless ages that stretch beyond the millennial reign shall also be founded in unchangeable blessedness upon that wondrous visit of the great Sower to this rebellious planet; and that harvest, the first sheaves of which shall be reaped at His coming for His church, will continue for ever and for ever.

The Sower, The Seed, and Harvest

 

“ He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with him ” (Psalm 126:6).

 

In view of the increasing indifference to the Ward of God in Christendom, I want to speak tonight on the absolute necessity of it, not only for the blessing of men, but for that which is of greater importance, the fulfilment of the purposes of God. The parable of the sower ought to teach its lesson to us without any explanation, and it is evident from the Lord's own words that if we do not understand the meaning of it we do not understand any divine truth at all, for He said to His disciples, “Know ye not this parable, then how shall ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13). That which is taught in the parable of the sower is elementary, it is introductory, it lies at the threshold of all divine knowledge

What, then, is it that the parable would teach us? Plainly that there can be no harvest for God apart from the Word of God. It means that apart from the intervention of God by His own life-giving gospel there can be nothing for God in the lives of any people, nor blessing for them.

It is of intense interest that the Lord propounded the parable of the sower in the Gospels when it was plain that the people would not receive Him as their Messiah. He must begin anew if He was to have any harvest at all. All appeals to men on the ground of what they ought to be are in vain. They neither can nor will yield to God His due. The soil of the heart can bring forth no fruit for God unless there is cast into it the Word of God. It is just as well to be clear as to that, and as there are some here who preach to the people, let me press this home: that which alone can bring forth fruit for God is the Word of God, the truth of the gospel, and apart from that there can be no fruit. In the popular preaching in Christendom it is increasingly left out; the Word of God is set aside. The Higher Critics and Modernists have other plans, other schemes. They do not love the gospel and have little use for it. They imagine that all that man needs is a system of ethics, a little cultivation. Raise the standard of living, educate him, give him a right environment, then he will be all that he can desire to be and all that God can reasonably expect him to be. That is their idea. The ritualist brings in his forms and ceremonies, and hopes by an outward cloak of religion to improve and uplift man.

What a delusion is this! It is not the environment or the circumstances that make men what they are, nor can dead externals change them; the man himself is wrong, and that is the question that we have to face. In preaching the gospel the more truly we understand that, the more successfully shall we preach it. Let me illustrate. Here is a farmer—he is one of the up-to-date sort. As to sowing wheat in the field, well, of course, his father did that before him and his grandfather, and right away back to Adam—that is how they got their harvests, and some of them were very good harvests; but he is not so old-fashioned as to tread in their steps. He has got an up-to-date plan. His plan is to see that the ground is properly nourished and beautified, he will plant rose bushes round his field, and if it does not rain he will irrigate the land. He won't sow the wheat, oh, no! he is too scientific, that is the old-fashioned way! When that farmer's neighbours rejoice in a plenteous harvest, will he have a harvest? Yes, he will; but it will be a harvest of weeds and thorns, for the earth yields crops of that sort without sowing, but he will have no golden grain with which to fill his barns. There never was such a fool, you say, but I tell you that those men who hope to reap a right harvest from men without the good seed of the Word are just such fools, only a hundredfold more so. This leaving out the Word of God and going in for the culture of man apart from it will yield its own harvest, but it will be a harvest of thorns and thistles; misery for man now and damnation hereafter. We who preach must have greater confidence than ever in the Word of God.

Let us understand what is meant really by the Word of God. The seed is the Word of God, and the Sower the one who sows the seed. It is interesting to see that in the three Gospels in which we have this parable given, there is emphasized in each of them, each of the three things necessary for a harvest. In LUKE it is the Word of God. He says, The seed is the Word of God. In MARK it is the sower. He says, The sower soweth the seed. In MATTHEW it is the soil. He says, When one heareth the Word. You have the seed, the sower and the soil. I want specially to speak of the Sower and the seed. Indeed, I cannot separate the two. The Lord Himself is the One who has sown the seed, and that beautiful passage in Psalm 126 has reference to Him. It says, “ He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with him .” whom could that possibly refer but the Lord Himself? Was He not the One who came forth weeping, bearing precious seed, and is He not the One who will come again with rejoicing bringing His sheaves with Him! The seed that He sowed is the Word of God. He brought into this world the full revelation of God. He came to make known what God is. In the midst of the darkness He came with the light. He brought into a dead world the living Seed. He came bringing with Him the full knowledge of God's love—so the seed that He sowed was the full knowledge of God. My friends, it is most edifying, most blessed for us who are saved, and who preach the Word, to consider that blessed Sower. Consider Him coming into this world from Godhead's fullest glory. His life was one of suffering. He was the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His sacred cheeks were often wet with tears. He could not have sown the seed apart from sorrow, for He sowed it in the midst of men who did not want God. He sowed the seed in the midst of a devil-oppressed and sin-blighted world. We see sin, stark and naked and loathsome, and we shrink from it, but what must it have been to our Lord Jesus Christ? He was absolutely holy. He knew what sin was in all its hideousness in the sight of God, and all its dire consequences to men. One sin would be more terrible in His sight than ten thousand in ours. What must it have been to Him to have been in the midst of this world that reeks with moral putrefaction and heaves perpetually beneath its weight of sorrow? His eye saw every sin, and every sigh that rose from every broken heart entered His ear. No wonder that He was the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Yet He fulfilled His mission, undeterred and undismayed, and by His words and ways amongst men He declared what God is, the only remedy for all the woe.

The people took notice of His works and words. They said, “He hath done all things well,” and, “No man spake like this Man. ” There was something wonderfully attractive about His words and works. But in them all He was sowing the seed, heavenly, divine seed, making known to men what God is, for His words were the Father's words and the works were the Father's works. See Him gather children into His arms, and by the way He did it make known the deep tenderness of the heart of God. Hear Him when, with heart moved with compassion, He says “weep not” to the broken-hearted mother, and in those words learn how compassionate God is. Stand by and behold Him make the five thousand sit down upon the green grass, and then take the bread and fishes and make them sufficient to satisfy the hunger of that multitude, and learn how God cares for His creatures here below. Hear Him, as the world's misery rolls in wave upon wave before Him, saying, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” and learn in those wonderful words God's desire to bring every creature into blessing. So through all His works and in all His words see Him bringing into manifestation what God is, He that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. But if He had only lived His life and returned to heaven we should not have benefited. We might have been filled with amazement, but we should not have been saved. It was necessary for this same blessed Person to go into death. He who wept must also bleed, and in nothing was the heart of God so fully declared as in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, Christian, consider Him! See Him in John 19. It is recorded: “ They led Him forth .” In that their sin came to its climax. That is one side of the story. We also read, “ Jesus bearing His cross went forth .” In that His love rose higher than their sin. They led Him forth . That is their side. That was the revelation of their sin; but He went forth in all the holy dignity of absolute subjection to the will of God. That was God's side; and in that we see coming into full revelation the love of God. The sin of men and the love of God met at the cross. His sacred brow was crowned with thorns, and from His spear-rent side there poured forth the precious blood. There He hung—the great evidence to the world of God's wondrous love. “For God commendeth His love to us, it that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” There we see the whole revelation of what God is, and this is the seed in all its blessedness—the full revelation of what God is—and the gospel preacher just passes it on—he tells again the story of God's great love to men. It is the truth of what God is that transforms the life, that takes root in the heart and brings forth a harvest for the glory of God, and by no other means can any harvest be secured. The seed of good in every man, only needing cultivation, is a figment of human pride; the gospel of the grace of God is an absolute necessity.

There may be some in my audience still unconverted; I would address myself to such. How is it that you are not converted? You have heard the gospel before, it may be many times you have sat under the sound of it, and you are not saved yet. Why is that? The Lord Jesus Christ said, “When one heareth the word, then comes the devil and taketh the word out of the heart lest they should believe and be saved.” If you have been under the sound of the gospel and are not saved, it means that the devil has taken the word out of your heart, and the extraordinary thing is you were glad to have it so. You are in fellowship with the devil in this matter and not with God. You are a wayside hearer. You have given the devil the right of way in your heart and he has hardened it against the Word, and you have kept God and His Word out of your heart, and that is the reason why you sit here tonight unsaved.

“He that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him.” The first half of our text may be covered by the words of the Apostle Peter, “The sufferings of Christ.” But he also spoke of “the glory that should follow.” The great Sower shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him, in the great harvest home.

In the three Gospels a different result of the sowing in each of them is given. In Luke's Gospel we read the word of God brings forth one hundred fold. In Matthew some one hundred, some sixty, and some thirty. In Mark we are told it bringeth forth thirty, sixty and one hundred fold. We may be sure that it is the wisdom of the Spirit of God that brings out these different results and that there is no discrepancy here, and it is for us to understand what is meant by these different measures. In Luke's Gospel we have presented the grace of God going out to the Gentiles. The Gospel was written by a Gentile and written to a Gentile. Luke is the one who records the ministry of Paul the Apostle, for he also wrote the Acts. The truth of the church was Paul's ministry. The moral foundations of it are in Luke's Gospel. The church is reared upon the grace of God. So that I believe that the hundred fold in Luke's Gospel is the church. The great result from the sowing of the word in this present dispensation is the church, the body of Christ, soon to be the bride, the Lamb's wife. In the assembly God will find His hundred fold. It is in the assembly that Christ sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. It is through the assembly that God will get glory through Christ Jesus throughout all the ages (Eph. 3), throughout all eternity. We ought to be deeply thankful to God that we have been born in this period of time. Every saved person has a more wonderful position than that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We form part of God's assembly, that in which He is to find a full answer to the sowing of the seed by His beloved Son on earth. Think of that moment when out of heaven Christ shall come to meet the church and to present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Then in eternity she is to be as a bride adorned for her husband—that means the church will fully satisfy the heart of Christ. He will find in the church a full answer to all His sufferings. She will be for Him alone. She will receive His love into her heart without measure and will respond to it without reserve. There will be no rival to Him in her affections. She will never leave her first love, and for ever the Lord will have the hundred fold of His sowing in His church. Thank God we are to have our part in that. Souls saved by the gospel in this present period of time form that which will yield throughout eternity one hundred fold of joy to Christ and glory to God.

Matthew's Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom. There the Lord is presented to Israel as her King. You remember that the wise men from the East came asking, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” And upon His cross, this accusation was written, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” When He takes up His great power and sits on the throne of His father David, His church will come with Him, for she is to share His glory. The vast inheritance that is His He shares with her. All His glory He is going to share with His church. So the church will be with Him when He comes. But He will have Israel also. He loves Israel . It is of Israel He said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love and with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” He said, “Thou art graven on the palms of My hands,” and over her He wept in the days of His flesh, and for her He bled. And all Israel shall be saved. Then shall be fulfilled the word, “The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17). In Israel the Lord will find the sixty fold. But in that day of His glory He shall sway a universal sceptre. All nations shall adore Him, all peoples sing His praise. The nations that are saved and blessed as we find in Matthew 25, will rejoice in Him as their Lord and King. They will get great blessing under the beneficent sway of our Lord, but they will not be as near as Israel , nor will the Lord get the same glory through them; they will be the thirty fold. Imagine three concentric circles—first, Christ and His assembly, then Israel , and then the nations of the earth. Christ, the centre of all the glory and the church with Him, nearer to Him than all beside, the hundred fold; Israel in the second circle, the sixty fold; and the nations in the great outer circle, the thirty fold. What a wonderful day that will be when the One who was rejected by man, crucified as the malefactor, the One in whose face men spat in their contempt of Him, sits upon His universal throne, and when to the utmost bounds of His Kingdom joy and blessing will radiate from Himself, the centre. What a day that will be when every tongue confesses Him, when every knee bends before Him, then will He see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Then will He reap the harvest of His sowing, the hundred fold, the sixty fold, and the thirty fold.

In Mark's Gospel we have an entirely different line of truth, and we must view the truth from Mark's standpoint. Here Christ is the servant. Not the King coming to command, but the servant coming to obey. In Mark's Gospel the seed yields some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred fold. Do we remember those poignant words of the Lord Jesus in the prophetic Scripture, “I have spent My strength for nought and in vain”? So it seemed. He wended His way to Calvary 's hill with a cross on His shoulders and without a single follower who loved Him. All His work apparently in vain. Crucified and cast out. Israel was not redeemed, His followers forsook Him and fled. That was the end of the Servant's path. It was the end as far as men could see. But was that the end really? Oh, no! The resurrection morning was the beginning of a new day, the tomb was empty, and our Lord had risen from the dead. Then He ascended into heaven, and when the day of Pentecost was fully come a hundred and twenty of His disciples gathered in the upper room, a very few out of a million and a half of Jews then in Jerusalem . Upon that hundred and twenty there came down the Holy Ghost, and those Spirit-filled men went out to preach the Word, and three thousand were converted; but that was not very many in comparison with the multitude that remained indifferent to the Word. And to this day the saved are but a little flock. The small minority are on the Lord's side. And they are weak and insignificant, for not many wise men, not many mighty, not many noble are called. This is the period of the thirty fold. The work of the true Servant does not seem to be affecting men much. The seed does not appear to be yielding a big harvest. Why, men say, the gospel is a failure. They do not understand what the gospel has come into the world for. They ask, Hasn't the gospel come into the world to convert the world? No word in the sacred pages of Scripture would lead you to such a conclusion. The gospel has come into the world to take out of it a people unto His name (Acts 15), and the world goes on as if the gospel had never come at all. This is the day of the thirty fold viewed from this side of the truth. When we come to the millennial reign of Christ, then we shall see the sixty fold, for the millennium will not be a perfect state. There will be sinners in that reign and they will die immediately they sin. It will be a time of great blessing undoubtedly, but it will not be a perfect condition of things, because the Lord will go on subduing evil until every enemy is subdued, and then He will give up His Kingdom to His Father in heaven. Righteousness will reign and not rest in that Kingdom, and though sin will be punished the instant it shows itself, yet it will be there. At the end of that reign Satan is to be released from his prison and he will go out amongst the people and lead a host beyond count against God (Rev. 20), showing very clearly that the state will not be a perfect one. More widespread will the glory of Christ be than in this present time; it will be the sixty fold.

In Revelation 21 we read, “There shall be a new heaven and a new earth, and God shall dwell amongst men and be their God, and they shall be His people.” The time is coming when the prayer we have prayed to often, the prayer that the saints of God have prayed throughout the centuries, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” will be fulfilled. When God will find joy in dwelling on the earth in the midst of men. “And He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

That glorious and eternal state will be founded in all its blessedness upon the sacrifice which Jesus made upon the cross of Calvary . There shall be a redeemed earth, and in that redeemed earth God shall find His everlasting pleasure and He shall be all in all, and that will be the result of the coming of Jesus here and of the sowing of the seed that He sowed. That which will fill that vast universe of bliss will be that which was revealed when He was here. Every word and act of His will be seen then in its imperishable beauty. All shall come out in its full blessedness—the joy of every heart in that vast universe. That will be the hundred fold. We look back and see Him in that short space of thirty-three and a half years, He a poor man in the eyes of men, with not a place to lay His head. But what He was and did then will fill eternity. What praise will be His in that day! God the Father will owe all the glory and rest to Him, and every thrill of joy in our renewed beings we shall owe to Him. We shall have communion full and blessed with the Father, for the Son will be the subject of it. We shall have oneness of thought with one another, for every knee will gladly bow to Jesus.

Let us get into the inside of the parable of the sower, let our ears be open to hear its teaching, and to know that everything for God and all the blessing for men depend upon the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything depends upon that, and while we dwell upon it and make it our theme we shall be yielding more fruit now for the glory of God. We shall be bringing forth the fruit now that He will gather in the glad harvest-home. We have to spread the story. We have to make it known, the only story that can meet the world's deep need. Think of the misery and sin of this world surging darkly around us. How are weary and broken hearts to be blest! How can sinners be set free from Satan's thraldom? Only through this story that we can tell, the old, old story of Jesus and His love; and we have been privileged greatly, for we have been entrusted with this story, to go and make it known while we wait for His coming again.

Gospel preachers, we have our work to do and do not let us shirk it; we must cry, though the message may not be palatable, All flesh is as the grass, transient and withering, and all the glory of man is as the flower of the grass; the best is no better than the worst, for at the great test of the cross we plainly see that there is no difference, for the princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory. This we must proclaim, but hopeless would be our work and words if they ended there; thank God we have something else to tell. The word of God liveth, it throbs with life, and abideth for ever, it is imperishable. And that word is about Christ, for the gospel of God is concerning Jesus Christ, our Lord; and, thank God, our labour is not in vain in the Lord.

May we all be divinely instructed in our service for the Lord in the gospel.

The Spirit of Christianity

 

There are three spheres of Life in which the children of God are called to move, and in which is to be manifested the greatness of the spirit of Christianity. They are: the individual life; life in relation to the church of God ; and the life of testimony before the world. “Power, love, and wise discretion” (N.Tr.) are needed in all these spheres, but they have each a special bearing upon one or other of them. In the individual life wise discretion is of paramount importance; in the believer's relations with other members of Christ love is absolutely essential; and in testimony before the world nothing but the spirit of power will avail.

Power stands first in our scripture because the subject in hand is “the testimony of the Lord” in the world; but this will be greatly enfeebled if love and wise discretion are not in evidence; the three go together, they are the outstanding features of the spirit of Christianity.

 

The Individual Life = Wise Discretion

It is remarkable how little the spirit of wise discretion, or the sound mind, is developed amongst Christians; the mass do not seem to have had their senses exercised to discern both good and evil; they are unskilful in the word of righteousness, and when they ought to have been teachers, they need that one teach them again the first principles of the oracles of God (Heb. 5:12-14). Instead of being rooted in the faith they are blown about by every wind of doctrine; teachings that are “new” and that offer an easier path for nature have a great charm for them, and they are soon moved away from the hope of the gospel. The consequence is that the soul does not prosper; how can it when it is fed upon the fruit of poisonous vines, upon words that eat as a canker, upon profane and vain babblings? Thus withered, dwarfed, and stunted, without inward joy or manifest fruit, they remain in the condition of spiritual babe-hood. It is this condition in the church which has made the advance of corrupting heresies and new religions so easy during the last ten years.

A man of sound sense knows what is good for him; he will not throw himself into an illness by partaking of injurious dishes; and if this wise discernment is demanded by the physical constitution, of how much greater importance it must be in the spiritual, for as the body is more than the raiment that clothes it, so is the spirit more than the body.

But how shall we learn to discriminate between good and evil, and embrace the truth and reject the lie, so that we may rejoice in full and vigorous spiritual life? The answer is: Only by the Holy Ghost . Of Him the Lord Jesus said: “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself . . . He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:13-14). And there is evidently no excuse for the Christian who is ensnared by false teaching, for we read: “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:20-21).

We are also taught that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). It is evident, then, that the discerning faculty is developed by the Holy Ghost within us; but since this is so, and since it is also evident that all who have believed the gospel have received, and are sealed by the Holy Ghost, why is it that spiritual discernment in the things which are vital to us is so feeble?

The Holy Spirit has wonderful things to unfold—the things of Christ; but the children of God are often dull of hearing, their thoughts are engrossed with the earth and the world, and He, grieved because they will not listen, is compelled to retire from His blessed ministration to their souls to let them prove the barrenness of everything else. Behind all soul-poverty and absence of growth lies the sad fact that the Holy Spirit of God is a grieved Spirit .

 

The Life of Fellowship in the Church of God = Love

We have to sorrow over the fact that the church of God has been rent and torn by faction and division, and that the endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is very feeble. It seems easier to build up a party than to edify the body of Christ; and more congenial to make proselytes to some special persuasion than work for the perfecting of the saints. This proves our lack of the spirit of love, and behind this lack there lies our failure in soul-growth. When children suffer from malnutrition or injudicious feeding they become petulant and cross; and this was exactly the condition which the Apostle had to deplore at Corinth . The saints there were in the state of sour and quarrelsome childhood, evidenced by the envying, strife, and divisions among them (1 Cor. 3).

But love produces an opposite condition to this, and is one of the great features of Christianity; without the spirit of it fellowship is impossible. It is the first of the rich cluster of graces, called the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:20). It is the divine nature, and most wonderfully broad and strong. It embraces in its breadth “all the saints” (Eph. 1:15); and it is invulnerable in its strength, for it “beareth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). It builds up and binds together, and the unity of the Spirit can only be maintained as Christians, with lowliness and meekness, forbear one another in love . But this love is not natural affection which is self-centred and absorbing, but divine love which is self-sacrificing and radiating. This love can only be developed and exercised in the power of the Holy Ghost, and the reason so little of it is seen in its breadth and strength is because the Holy Spirit is a grieved Spirit.

 

The Testimony of the Lord = Power

The testimony of the Lord was never popular in the world; certain kinds of preaching may be, for we often hear of popular preachers; but the testimony of the Lord, the preaching of Christ, who was rejected by the world, but is risen from the dead and accepted in heaven, always carries reproach with it— the reproach of Christ. Paul was a great preacher, the greatest that ever bore the flaming gospel-torch through a benighted world, but he was not popular; he was despised, buffeted, and reviled; he was defamed, made as the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things (1 Cor. 4:10-13). Yet he was not ashamed. He boldly proclaimed that He whom the princes of the world crucified was the Lord of glory. He made his boast in the cross, in which was concentrated all shame and dishonour. He maintained before the world that every thought and purpose of God and every blessing for men were centred in the despised and rejected Christ. He identified himself so completely with the Lord and His testimony that it was the only reason why he lived, he had no other thought, though it made him an object of hatred and scorn. In this he rejoiced, and wrapped the shame of Christ about him as a royal garment, it was his chiefest boast.

That the testimony of the Lord should provoke the hostility of the world is not surprising, for it humbles the pride of men; it is independent of their wealth, learning, and influence; it leaves no room for their vaunting ambitions, and exposes their world in its true character—a system false, foundationless, godless and condemned. Moreover, it crowns the sacred brow of Jesus with immortal glory—God's blessed answer to the contumely and derision heaped upon Him by the world.

Timothy was liable to be ashamed of this testimony of the Lord, and it needs a sterner courage than lies in nature to take it up. The disciples were not one whit less courageous than their fellow-countrymen, and they vowed to act valiantly for their Lord when the test came; but they all fled in that hour of darkness when He was led as a lamb to the slaughter (Luke 23). They were sample men, and in them it was demonstrated that a new spirit was needed on the part of those who were to witness for Him, a spirit, not of cowardice, but of power. Hence we can understand the Lord's command to them: “Tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.”

This power lies in the Holy Ghost given at Pentecost, in the Holy Ghost who dwells in and with the saints of God. Then why, since this is so, is there so little power in testimony? Why is there the spirit of fear instead of power, and compromise with the world and evil instead of unflinching devotion to the Lord? The reason is not far to seek: the Spirit of God is a grieved Spirit.

 

If we are conscious that the spirit of power and love and wise discretion is feeble within us, and that we have miserably failed in these three spheres of Christian activity, what and where is the remedy? Some would turn us back to Pentecost and put us in the position of the disciples waiting and praying for the power of the Holy Ghost. But this will not do. We must not, we cannot, ignore the solemn fact that He came from Christ, bringing “power, love, and a sound mind” to the church, so that it might stand as a devoted witness to Christ. We cannot ignore the fact that the Holy Ghost has been slighted, that His divine presence has been largely forgotten, that fleshly wisdom, worldly schemes and much human organization have usurped the place of the one untiring and all-wise Servant of Christ's glory on earth.

Nor can we be indifferent to the fact that the church has loved ease and popularity in the world rather than the reproach of Christ; it has forgotten that its portion is on the behalf of Christ to suffer for His sake; it has left its first love; it has been corrupted and defiled; and instead of bearing the shame of Christ upon its brow as the brightest crown the world could give, it bears the shame of a faithless and dishonoured lover.

The Spirit of God is grieved because of this slight cast upon Christ, and the way of blessing and power is to put ourselves right with regard to that which has grieved Him. To be right with the Lord above and with the Holy Ghost within there must be confession and repentance. “Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent” was the Lord's word to the church; it is the voice of the Spirit in the Scriptures still; and if the church will not hear, “ he that hath an ear” may. This is the way of recovery, a way that every saint of God may tread, for it is open to all, and is the only way that becomes us.

But to lie on our faces deploring defeat, as did Joshua, is useless (Josh. 7:10-13). There must be activity on our part, activity in the judgment of ourselves, as to how far we have had our part in that which has grieved the Spirit; there must also be holy separation from it. “ Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity

Space fails us to speak of the path of devotion to Christ, a path that can only be trodden by those who have received the spirit of power and love and of a sound mind, that entails certain persecution on those who tread it (3:12), but leads to glory at last (2:12). It is helpful, however, to trace it through Paul's second letter to Timothy, and to mark therein the stability of the things of God and the triumph of the good soldier of Jesus Christ. We earnestly commend it to the prayerful study of our readers.

The Spirit of Prophecy

 

“ The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy ” (Revelation 19:10).

 

In the thoughts of God Christ is supreme , and in the mission of the Holy Ghost to earth Christ is supreme , as John 15:26 and 16:14 declare, and in the hearts and minds of all the children of God who walk in the Spirit Christ is supreme. But God has decreed that the supremacy of Christ shall be universally acknowledged, and His overruling providence in this world, His present work of grace amongst men, and His swiftly coming judgments that shall overwhelm the ungodly, as well as the unceasing labours of the Holy Spirit in the assembly have the supremacy of Christ as their goal.

The testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophecy is, that, the once despised and rejected Man, who was mocked, buffeted and crucified by men, has been raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, and He shall “reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).

The natural eye cannot and will not see this, the natural heart cannot and will not understand it, and so the ways of God remain a mystery to the multitude, and the Bible a book of riddles. The natural heart hates the very thought of it, and often bitterly resents the word which brings it to it as testimony, and this is why at the beginning of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which shows us how God will effectuate His purposes as to Christ in judgment where His grace has been refused, the servants of the Lord are suffering persecution; and the one who was chosen to receive the Revelation was an exile in Patmos for “ the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus ” (chap. 1:9, N.Tr.). But vain is the frenzied rage of feeble man against the will of the eternal God, for God must triumph in the end, and His triumph will be when every creature owns the supremacy of Christ.

Every Christian heart must rejoice that Christ who is Heir of all things shall yet come into His own. His rights were refused when He appeared first, a Man amongst men, for the world did not want Him. Its doors were closed against Him when He came into it, so that His mother had to seek a stable for His birth. Its doors were closed against Him when He went about in it doing good, so that when the night storms raged He wandered a homeless stranger without a place to lay His head. And they said, “This is the Heir, come let us kill Him”; and though no cause of death was found in Him His name was written upon the criminal roll of Jerusalem, and the princes of the world with the rabble held high festival when He was cast out of it as a common felon. But God hath raised Him up and highly exalted Him. He is great David's greater Son, and Israel 's royal diadem shall rest upon His worthy brow, and the very trees of the holy land that witnessed His deep humiliations shall clap their hands with gladness as He rules with equity for the meek of the earth. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and He shall judge and make war in righteousness, until every throne between the poles is made subject to Him and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord. He is the Heir of all things, and to the uttermost reaches of the infinite universe of God His fame shall be told and His glory shall shine, until every creature, from the most exalted spiritual potentate in the heavens above to the meanest devil in the depths beneath, shall acknowledge that He is Lord of all, for to Him has been given “a name that 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).

This is “the testimony of Jesus” which is the spirit of prophecy, i.e. that just as the spirit of a man gives life and force and direction to his body, so this is the life of the whole body of prophecy; and as a body is one, so is all prophecy one, whether the earliest predictions of the distant days of the Old Testament or the latest prophecies of New Testament writers. All are one, and the ultimate supremacy of Christ is the end and theme of all, binding all together into one body, and giving to the whole life and force as a testimony to men and for the blessing of the servants of God who look for this glorious consummation of all things. It is entirely useless to study the word of prophecy as a whole, or any part of it, if this is not understood, or is not the earnest desire and hope of the heart and mind that studies it. We speak of the “prophetic word” and are sometimes tempted to place certain parts of Scripture only in this category; but the truth is that the whole force and push of the sacred writings and of the Holy Spirit by whom they are given to us is toward this great objective. There are things of unspeakable blessedness presented to us in the word that we may enjoy now, but these are not given to us to make us satisfied with the present, but to fill our souls with a sense of the exceeding greatness of God's purposes, and to strengthen us by the way, that we may press on to what is coming; or, in the words of Scripture, “Go forth to meet the Bridegroom.” If we are not moving in this direction we are not walking in the Spirit or following the drive of the Word of God.

The call to us is clear and insistent. “BEHOLD THE BRIDEGROOM, GO YE FORTH TO MEET HIM.” And the wise will forget every other consideration; they will allow no question or device to detain them, but with eyes enraptured and hearts united by the glory and love of the Bridegroom they will respond together to that divine trumpet call.

The Spring of all Devotion to Christ

 

It is surely one most sorrowful indication of the low and backslidden condition of the majority of the children of God that devotion to Christ should be spoken of as something to marvel at and to praise. It is undoubtedly beautiful, and must yield sweet fragrance to the Father whose beloved Son Christ is, but that it should call for special comment on our part when it shows itself only proves that it is sadly exceptional, and clearly demonstrates the need of recovery.

We speak of the wonderful character of the devotion of Paul the Apostle when he laid all his glory in the dust as dross, and counted all that in which he might have boasted as a burden of which he was well rid that he might have Christ for his gain, but was it really wonderful when in the same breath with which he tells us of his own renunciation he also tells of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord? Notice how he speaks of Him, not as “the” Lord, nor “our” Lord, but as “MY LORD.” Let the heart who knows the Saviour linger there for a while, and then answer. “Would it not have been wonderful if he had acted otherwise? Would it be wonderful if a woman abandoned a torn and filthy garment for a costly robe adorned with gold and gems? Then how can it have been wonderful on the Apostle's part to discard his own righteousness and be found IN HIM, having that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith?”

We marvel at Paul rejoicing that Paul had gone from his thoughts, crucified with Christ, so that he no longer lived for Paul, for Christ had displaced him, in every sphere of life in which he moved, but why should we marvel when he tells us at once that the One who now enthralled him and controlled him wholly was “THE SON OF GOD WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME” (Gal. 2:20)?

Let us draw near and stand by this servant of Christ and put ourselves into his words, each for himself, and we marvel no more at his selfless life.

Why should we wonder that Paul laboured that whether living or dead he might be acceptable to his Lord (2 Cor. 5:9, N.Tr.). He would not have us to wonder at it at all, and hastens to tell us that “THE LOVE OF CHRIST CONSTRAINETH US.” It would seem as though the marvel crept into his mind, that it could be a marvel to any that he should so labour when he adds, “We thus judge that if One died for all then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but UNTO HIM WHO DIED FOR THEM, AND ROSE AGAIN.”

In all these passages in which Paul speaks of his own devotion to Christ it is as though he stretched out his hands to the saints to whom he wrote, and to us also, and cried—Do not marvel that I wholly love my Lord; if you had seen Him as I have seen Him you would love Him wholly too! If He had come to you as He came to me, when I lay broken and dumb at His feet in my sinfulness, and folded me—worthless as I was, and chief of sinners in my hatred of Him—warmly to His heart, you could not forget Him. If you knew His mighty embrace as I do, and if your life bathed itself in that love that is “too vast to comprehend,” you would cease to marvel at me; instead you would. marvel that any heart on earth could hold back from Him, and any lip remain silent before Him. And you would weep in your astonishment, that any having tasted of His preciousness should have another thought of self or turn again from Him to the base and beggarly world!

Strange that we should think it a matter for praise that Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His word, the wonder is that Martha could keep away from that sacred spot. We do not wonder that men delight to listen to exquisite music, or that the heart of the maiden thrills at the voice of her true lover, and that when he is near she has neither eyes nor ears for any but he. Then why should we wonder that the voice of Jesus was sweet to Mary. In His voice there is heaven's own music, and when He speaks it is from the heart of eternal love. If we look at Jesus as Mary saw Him, and know Him as she knew Him, we shall cease to wonder that she broke her alabaster box and poured its costly treasure on His feet. We shall take our place with her and do likewise, for He will fill our vision and possess our hearts. And the frowns of sisters and the condemnation of disciples who think themselves more practical and wiser than we will not disturb us as we wonder and worship in the presence of unspeakable preciousness.

“My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His countenance is as Lebanon , excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem ” (S. of Sol. 5:16).

If the purpose of heart that made Paul what he was and the devotion of heart that made Mary so acceptable to the Lord are in any measure to mark us, we must transfer our thoughts from them to Him, and from self to Him. In this only is true recovery, and it is worth our while to do so. As with the Bride in Solomon's Song. So now. What Christ is in His own exceeding grace and loveliness must command the heart; if this is refused Him all else, whether service, doctrine, or maintenance of true principles, is valueless to Him.

“The Stone cut out without Hands”

Daniel 2:34

 

We have received a copy of The Banner of Israel , a magazine devoted to the futile effort of proving that the Anglo-Saxons are the descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel . The leading article deals with Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the great image (Daniel 2) and asserts that the stone cut out without hands which smashes this image to powder is none other than the British Empire, which becomes in consequence the fifth and last great world-empire, filling the whole earth and enduring for ever. We are asked to give some help as to this.

We wonder that the writer does not see the falseness and folly of his own assertions. He says, “ We therefore learn that the fifth kingdom [the stone] would be cut out of the Roman Empire without human effort. ” As a matter of fact, we learn no such thing. The legs of iron and feet of iron and clay in the image represent the Roman Empire , and the stone is not cut out of them at all. It never had any place in them. An image is something upon which the hand of man had wrought, the stone is untouched by the hand of man. It is a kingdom altogether diverse from all that had gone before it.

He continues, “ Whether we take this language [i.e. a stone cut out without hands] in a political or geographical sense this is true of Britain . . . For, geographically, it was separated from the continent of Europe by natural means, as geologists well know, and compared with Empire or Continent it was but a stone to a mountain .” It will be noticed that in order to establish his theory on the geographical side the writer substitutes Europe for the Roman Empire , as though they were one and the same, which everyone knows they were not. Britain was separated from Europe geographically long before there was any Roman Empire for it to be cut out from. If Britain is the stone, and the vision is to be interpreted geographically, then it must smash the Continent of Europe to powder, not politically but geographically, and then it must grow until it becomes a great mountain, i.e. to use the writer's comparisons, it must cease to be an island and become a continent so vast as to fill the whole earth. To such an absurdity does this false interpretation of prophecy lead us.

Dealing with the matter politically, he says, “Our kingdom [ England ] was set up ‘in the days of these kings' (v. 44); and nearly all its wars have been directed against the extremities of the image, i.e. the nations comprising its feet. That we ‘broke' them and have grown into a great Empire which fills the earth is also true. We need not elaborate this, as the Germans are never tired of telling the world for its edification that it was England which destroyed the might of Spain , France , and Holland , extended the Empire at their expense, and now aspires to universal rule. The career of the Empire is not yet finished, nor is the fate of the image, but as far as events have matured they prove an absolute identity between the Fifth Monarchy and the Anglo-Saxon dynasty.”

But “nearly all its wars” have not been directed against the nations mentioned. “That we broke them” is not true, they still exist as nations and powers to be reckoned with. Nor is it true that the British Empire fills the earth, for it covers not more than one-fourth of the earth. Great it undoubtedly is, but it does not fill the earth, as the prophecy says the stone will after having broken the image to pieces, nor has it any desire to do so.

The vision and its interpretation are plain enough to those who have not some strange theory to uphold. The stone is a kingdom which is not built up or formed by the wisdom of statesmen, or founded upon victories gained by military leaders; no mortal hand carves out its destiny or builds up its power, but it is set up by the God of heaven . It is the introduction of Christ, according to Psalm 2, where God says, “Behold I have set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.”

“I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel” (Ps. 2:7-9).

It is not by a series of wars and conquests extending over the course of centuries, that the image is destroyed by this all-powerful “stone,” but by one swift and decisive blow. This could only be by divine power, and this is the power that will operate when the moment comes. The image has not yet been destroyed, all the glory of its past will be gathered up in the last phase of it which has yet to appear, and all its power will be used to “ make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shalt overcome them: for He is Lord of lords and King of kings ” (Rev. 17:14).

“ And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS ” (Rev. 19:15-16).

Christians pray with more or less intelligence and fervour, “Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come.” When the stone moves against the image it will be the answer to this prayer. Christ is the stone, He was rejected at His first coming by the great builders of this world's social, political and religious structure, for the princes of the world crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8). But the rejected stone has been raised up. And “ON WHOMSOEVER IT SHALL FALL, IT WILL GRIND HIM TO POWDER” (Matt. 21:44). No other word than that is needed to show us who and what the stone is.

“Anglo-Israelism” is a pernicious system of teaching. In the first place, it diverts those who are caught by it from the heavenly hopes and out-of-the-world character of God's ecclesia —called out assembly. The calling out of this assembly from all nations is the special work of the Holy Spirit in this period, and to turn Christians after something else is the work of the devil, and means serious loss to those who are influenced by it, for such are not working with God, are not building according to the plans.

Then it denies the fact that a special intervention of God in judgment is necessary before righteousness and lasting peace can fill the earth, to which all Scripture bears witness. Then it connects with a Gentile nation—Gentile in spite of all efforts to prove the contrary—the glory and power which are Christ's alone, and which He will exercise in connection with His people Israel, who are yet to be redeemed by His power from amongst all nations where they are scattered. It turns the eye of hope and faith from Christ, who is the only hope of the church, or of Israel, or of the nations, and centres it on an Empire, which, though, in the mercy of God, may be somewhat more righteous and liberty-loving than others, will yet be weighed in the balances of God and found wanting, and will have to give place along with all others to that kingdom, “which shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:44). “FOR HE MUST REIGN, TILL HE HATH PUT ALL ENEMIES UNDER His FEET.”

The Supper of our Lord

Report of Address given in Edinburgh , on 1 Corinthians 11

 

I would speak of the great Saviour and that love that led Him down into the depths of death for us; and, in the fear of God, the effect that those sufferings and the thought of them should have upon us. That is why I have turned to this Scripture. I want you first of all to notice how over and over again in these few verses the Lord is spoken of as “THE LORD”. This is a very lax day in Christendom and the Lord Jesus is very often spoken of irreverently. You will find people speaking of our Lord simply as “Jesus” and not very reverently either. There is a way in which we may breathe forth that precious Name which will show the deep reverence of our hearts as we do it, but very specially in these days when the Lord is robbed of His glory we do well to maintain it in word and deed. If He is the Lord let us speak of Him as Lord and let all who thus own Him be in subjection to Him, and heed His word and obey Him.

It was from the Lord that the apostle Paul received this communication, from the Lord in His glory; so it comes to us with all authority of His lordship, and we should, everyone of us, be subject to what He says. But there is something more than His authority in it. We learn from it that while He is glorious in His exaltation and power, while He is in the place of authority to command, He has not forgotten us, His heart is full of tenderness, His love is unabated, He still cares wonderfully for what His people upon earth think about Him. He desires to be remembered, He would not be forgotten; and so from the glory He has given this communication of His will for us.

 

The Night of the Betrayal

See how the Lord communicated this matter to the apostle, and the relation in which He set it to other events. Paul says, “I have received of the Lord that which also I communicated to you, that on the same night in which He was betrayed He took bread .” We must see the setting in which the Lord Himself put His Supper. I have no doubt if the apostle Paul had been left to write it according to his own wisdom, be would have connected the institution of the Supper with the crucifixion, for that which would be greatest in his mind would be that with which he would connect every event. But, the Lord did not connect it with the day of the crucifixion but with the night of His betrayal, and we may be sure that there is the most important teaching for us in that. Let us consider the circumstance—the night of the betrayal! Was there ever in the history of man upon earth a darker night than that? We talk about the treachery of Judas; his name stands out as the most execrated amongst all mankind, but consider for a moment the chief priests and the Pharisees; they were the leaders of light and learning in the land. They were the men who gave the people a pattern by which they should live; they took the place of teachers and of men who stood for God; but see their baseness! They were ready to bargain with that poor covetous wretch for the possession of the body of the Lord. I have no doubt they bargained and beat him down until he was prepared to take a slave's price for his Master, and the money changed hands. And if you ask me whose was the greater crime I would say that the leaders of the nation of Israel sinned the more deeply when that foul business took place. Why did they not drive the traitor out from them with contempt? Because they were as bad or worse than he.

Think of our Lord Jesus in that hour, on that very night. He knew what was going on. He knew that the leaders of that nation, so beloved by Him, had the price for His betrayal ready. He knew that one of His disciples had bargained to sell Him for that price, a goodly price, the price of a slave, and there He sat in the midst of His disciples, knowing all this, and His soul was sorely troubled as He said to them, “ One of you shall betray Me .” Not a poor, blind pagan; not a besotted cut-throat from the slums of the city, nor even those leaders of that apostate nation, Israel, but ONE OF YOU whom I have chosen and gathered round Me, to whom I have been communicating heavenly things, and revealing the Father's Name. “ One of you shall betray Me .” No tongue can tell how the Lord felt that! keenly felt it; but, feeling it, He took the bread and then and there instituted the Supper. What was the meaning of that? It seems to me it meant this. You may not be able to trust anyone else, but you may trust Me. If treachery springs up in this inner circle, to whom can you look? My love will not fail you. Throughout all the days of the pilgrimage of the church upon earth you may rest in My unchanging love. Amid days of darkness and nights of treachery and betrayal you will find Me always the same. My death for you is the pledge of it, and the Supper will ever keep this fact before you. Surely that was the meaning of the fact that the Supper was instituted on the night of the betrayal. The betrayal is the dark background, the love of the Saviour, an unchanging love, a love that would go even unto death, a love that could not bear to be forgotten, is the picture that shines out upon the background.

 

Thanksgiving to the Father

He took the bread and before He handed that bread to His disciples He lifted up His voice in thanksgiving to His Father. His Father came first. We might well enquire as to what there was in such circumstances as those to give thanks for, but there we see Him perfect in all circumstances and ever delightful to His Father's heart, we see Him with that bread in His hand which was to speak of His body given to judgment for us, giving thanks to His Father. He was there for the Father's pleasure. He was there to show that He loved the Father—as you remember, His own words expressed it, “That the world may know that I love the Father and as He hath given Me commandment even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” And so He gave thanks to the Father. What could He give thanks about? Well, it seems to me that He looked beyond the darkness of Calvary and the bitterness of the cup He had to drink, on to the time when He would be able to surround Himself with His ransomed people in cloudless favour that should never be withdrawn. Beyond the storm, beyond the darkness, beyond the judgment He looked and anticipated the day when He would be able to gather such as we are in His own presence, and give thanks to the Father afresh, as He has said, “In the midst of the church will I sing praises to Thee.”

When the saints of God gather in assembly this should be the chief thing with them. In the midst of a world of treachery and apostasy the saints should gather together giving thanks unto the Father. We may be sure of this, every blessing that has reached us has come from His blessed heart; and whatever has been revealed of love and grace in our Lord Jesus Christ, He has revealed as being the Father's sent One, and so it is right that thanksgiving should ascend to the Father: that we should tread in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we should take character from Him, that we should be a thanksgiving people, and we surely shall be if we realise the favour in which we stand in Christ. I will press this for a moment, if you will allow me. Do we give thanks sufficiently? God's ear hears many discordant sounds from this world. He hears the bitterness of men cursing His holy Name; He hears their blasphemies; He hears some of His children murmuring and repining. Oh strange sounds for the ears of God! His children murmuring and repining instead of giving thanks and singing songs of praise!

Let us consider the Lord Jesus in these circumstances: surrounded by hatred and treachery He lifted His heart and voice to the Father in thanksgiving; and let us say, as we consider Him, “Lord Jesus make us more like Thee.” You may be sure of this, one of our greatest privileges, as being left in this world today, in the midst of a state of things of which I have spoken, is to be able to give thanks to the Father, that He should hear from His children thanksgiving and songs of praise, that sweet harmonious notes should rise to Him, sweeter notes than angels can raise. That thanksgiving of our Lord has stamped upon the Christian assembly its true character—it should be a thanksgiving assembly and everyone of us individually should be of those who give thanks. What cause indeed we have for thanksgiving.

 

The Bread and the Cup

So He gave thanks unto the Father and having given thanks He gave the bread to His disciples saying, “Take, eat, this is My body which is given for you.” And likewise the cup after supper. The bread and the cup speak to us of Him in death. We know Him as a living, glorified Lord, but He would have our thoughts carried back to the time when He was dead for us. He handed the bread and the cup to His disciples with these words upon His lips, “ Remember Me. ” Think of Me! It is as though He said, Amid the sorrows of Calvary I thought of you. When it is well and blessed with you, think of Me. And when we take the bread and the cup we are really saying to the Lord Jesus, “Lord, we do not forget Thee. We are keeping in mind the fact that Thou wert dead for us.” Consider this, ponder over it, the Lord of glory, the Prince of life was dead for us! There came a time in His history upon earth when He hung dead upon the cross of Calvary . Oh, this is indeed wonderful! but this we have to learn: that nothing less than that would avail. By nothing less than that could He deliver us. We do well to dwell on His sufferings, on all that is recorded in the Word for us, but the bread and the cup impress upon us the fact of His actual death. I know we know these things, but I feel it is well we should be reminded of them—Yes, the Lord of glory hung dead upon a cross for us. Why? Well, there are two great reasons. One great reason was that the judgment of death lay upon us. We had no life toward God. If we were to live He must die, so He poured out His soul unto death. God is holy. Eternal justice demanded that judgment should be executed and He died to establish God's throne in everlasting rectitude, to clear God's Name, to show forth His holiness, and to deliver us from the judgment that rested upon us. And along with that, that God's love might be known in all its fullness, for when the blood flowed forth from the side of our dead Saviour we see in that blood the extent, the length to which God would go for our salvation and blessing.

But while we keep all that before us, for the Spirit teaches us these things, the great thing when we come to the taking of the bread and the cup is this, that Jesus gave Himself for us and He does not desire to be forgotten. He would have His love to be real to us in our souls, and so it is brought before us continually in the Supper, that we might have Him as the One who died for us before our souls, that there might be towards Him responsive love on our part.

It is in His death that we know Him. His death has shown us what He is. The Lord's Supper has been likened to the portrait of a man's mother. I point to a portrait hanging upon the wall and I say, “That is my mother.” Somebody says, “It is only canvas and paint.” I say, “That is my mother.” When I look at that portrait I recall what she was, her tenderness, her kindness, her care, her continual unchanging love, and I say, “That is my mother.” Oh, yes, it is only canvas and paint to you but it speaks powerfully to me, and it brings back to my memory what once was but is now no more. So in the Lord's Supper, the bread and the cup bring back to our memories that which was once but is now no more, Christ in death, for now He lives to die no more. But His love remains in all its strength; He has come back from the dead and death has not changed His love. But, once He was dead upon a malefactor's cross. He suffered for us that we might be brought out of the darkness and from under the power of death, that the yoke of sin might be broken and that we might be brought into all the realisation of God's favour; that we might live for ever and ever beneath the sunshine of the Father's love, and be bound to Jesus, our great Lover, with bonds that can never be dissolved. We shall need no Supper of remembrance when we reach the glory, it is here where our fickle hearts so easily turn to other things, that He says to us, “Forget Me not,” and here it is our privilege, the privilege of love to answer, “Lord, we do not forget, and the remembrance causes our hearts to overflow with praise.”

 

Showing the Lord's Death

But now the Holy Spirit's comment reveals another side of the Supper. “As oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord's death till He come.” We might, I think, say that in eating the bread and drinking the cup in the presence of the Lord we have a privilege, great privilege, set before us, one of our greatest privileges as Christians; but in showing forth His death we come to our responsibility. There is our privilege and our responsibility. There is what it means to the Lord Jesus Himself, and there is the place in which it sets us in regard to the world. We show forth His death until He comes. We declare our allegiance to Him; we stand by His cross; and declare by our act that we stand there in the presence of men and angels. It seems to me that the most beautiful illustration of this is seen in Joseph of Arimathæa. Our Lord hung dead upon the cross. The leaders of the people had done their worst and were satisfied with their deed. The only voice raised on behalf of the Lord at that time was the dying malefactor's. The world was against Him. In Hebrew, Greek and Latin the accusation had been written and set over His cross. And now, having cried with a loud voice and said, “Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit”, He bowed His head in death, and hung there with pierced side, rejected, cast out by the world. But, see, there is a movement in the multitude and Joseph the Counsellor steps forward and He takes his stand by that cross and by his action he says, “I am on His side, Christ for me, I take my stand here; there is but His dead body but that dead body I claim,” He identified himself with the dead body of Jesus, and he did not stand there alone many minutes, for Nicodemus joined him and two or three women; and in those two men and two or three women we see the very essence of Christian fellowship.

All our ecclesiastical rules and regulations are of no account to God, but let two or three be gathered together to Christ to consider His dying, to think of Him as dead, to have their hearts moved by that wonderful love that led Him into death, let them identify themselves with His cross, truly that will delight the heart of God. Such show forth His death; they hold the fort until He comes; they say to the world, “You despise Him and forget Him, He has no place in your counsels, but to us He is everything, He is supreme.” That is Christian fellowship as it faces up to the world. Nothing can bind hearts together like that stupendous love that led Christ into death for us, and bound together by it, together we show forth His death until He come. The apostle Paul was in the spirit of this when he said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I to the world.” That is the spirit in which to truly partake of the Lord's Supper. The Supper has been given to us that He might be kept in our memories while He is away, and we hold the fort for Him until He comes back again. How great, how wonderful is our privilege, and how great is our responsibility. The two things go together. But do we not welcome the responsibility and rejoice in it and seek that God, by His Holy Spirit, will so fill our souls with the sense of the love of Christ that nothing less than that will be our hearts' purpose and determination.

 

The Secret of Faithful Witness

Let us return to the upper room in which the Lord instituted the Supper, and learn the secret of faithful witness to Christ and what it is that will ensure our standing by His cross and following Him. He says to His disciples, “One of you shall betray Me.” Peter rises up; and he meant every word that he said, and says, “Lord I will go to prison and death for You. You may trust me, Lord. I won't fail You. Your head is weary, we can see that You are full of sorrow. Rest Your weary head upon my breast. I am Your man, Lord.” That was Peter. But John draws near to the Lord and his action says, “Lord, I hear what you say, I cannot trust my love to You, but I can trust Your love to me.” So he puts his head down on the Lord's bosom. The secret of faithful witness is self-distrust, and full reliance on Christ and His unchanging, unwearied love.

It seems plain to me that when we partake of the Lord's Supper it is as though the Lord invited us afresh to put our heads upon His bosom. He says, Here is love that is stronger than death, it will not fail you. We respond and say, “Lord, we cannot trust our love to Thee but we can trust Thy love to us, that love that went through the waves and the billows of death for us, and down into those unfathomed depths beneath which there was nothing. We can trust that love.” And who was the man who stood by the cross? He was the man who put his head down on Jesus' bosom. And who was the man who followed, in the last chapter of John's Gospel, without being told? He was the man who leaned his head on Jesus' bosom and who stood by the cross. If we are to follow the Lord in the world that rejected Him, we must have our heads upon His bosom, for we cannot follow Him unless we stand by His cross and we cannot stand by the cross in any power that nature possesses. If you are to say, God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world, you must have your head upon His bosom. And you do that afresh every time you truly partake of the Lord's Supper, You must know that love which is greater, brighter, better than anything the world can present to you. Greater, brighter, better than even self, for when it comes to be a question of self you remember the apostle said, “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

The Talk about Difficulties

 

We are warned in the Word that in the last days “difficult times” shall come, and we have surely reached them. But along with the forewarning there is given to us that which can thoroughly forearm us, so that we may meet the difficulties courageously. Then how is it that we hear so much discouraging talk about the difficulties as though nothing else could be seen? Is it not a sure but unwitting confession of our own failure and weakness, and does it not prove that we have not understood the meaning of the word “God hath not given to us the spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion”? (2 Tim. 1:7).

There stands a five-barred gate, and beyond it a hedge, and behind that a ditch. These would be great difficulties to that old, broken-winded farm horse; he could not face them, urge him as you might. But bring up that well-trained blood hunter, they only serve to show his mettle. He takes them with flashing eye and easy grace, because of the life and spirit within him. Sad that any Christian should be broken-winded and done spiritually, when he might be like the blood hunter in the presence of difficulties. David said: “By my God I have run through a troop, by my God I have leapt over a wall.” And we in “difficult times” may be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and so fight the good fight, and keep the faith. Let us wake up to the greatness of our resources.

The Testimony of John the Baptist to the Lord Jesus

 

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light. He was a burning and shining light, but he was not the Light. The moon which shines in the night bears its witness to its lord, the sun. It has no light in itself, but as it catches the light of the sun it sheds it upon the earth. So it was with John, his soul was enlightened by the glory of the One who was coming after him, and of Him he spoke. His was a great mission. He came from God: that was the source of his mission. He spoke of Christ that was the object of his mission. His disciples who heard him speak followed Jesus: that was the result of his mission. Thus it is recorded of him in this first chapter of John's Gospel, and right happy might any servant of God be to have such a record.

Matthew and Luke tell us what he said about the people. He was filled with the Holy Ghost and had a keen and sure discernment of those that came to him. Some of these were real men, a repentant remnant, the excellent of the earth who felt the burden of their sins and confessed them. But there were others, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, proud religionists, who had no sense of anything but their own importance, and these came under his scathing denunciations. He feared God and had no fear of any man, and cried against them. “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” But in John's Gospel nothing is recorded of this sort. His whole testimony there is about the Light of men, and this is beautiful and fitting, for John's Gospel is the Gospel of the Only-begotten with the Father, who dwelt amongst men full of grace and truth. It is John's testimony as to Jesus in this Gospel that we are to consider.

From the beginning of his mission he had spoken of Him, but when the time arrived and the Lord was about to enter on His public ministry in the world we read “John bare witness of Him and cried, saying, This is He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.” There would have been neither sense nor reason in John's testimony if Jesus had not been more than man, for John entered the world before He did. But John began his existence at his birth, the goings forth of the One of whom he spoke were from Eternity, and John being full of the Holy Ghost knew that the lowly Nazarene was his Lord. He was before John, before Abraham, before the beginning, the great I AM.

It is interesting to see that this witness to the glory of the Lord did not begin with John, it dwelt in his parents. His mother was the first of the family to give voice to it. When Mary visited her in the hill country before the birth of John, “it came to pass when she heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb: and being filled with the Holy Ghost, she spake out with a loud voice and said, Blessed art thou among women! and blessed be the fruit of thy womb . . . and whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?” And Zacharias, the father of John, spake also at the circumcision of his son, and said, “And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest, for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways” (Luke 2). And yet he did not derive his mission from his parents: he was sent from God, and equipped for all he had to do by the filling of the Holy Ghost.

The preaching of John caused a great stir in the land, insomuch that the priests and Levites came from Jerusalem to enquire as to who he was. But he was a faithful witness and would not be diverted from his mission by the patronage and curiosity 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 be, and again, “I am not.” Blessed and faithful servant was he 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. We want you to talk about yourself. 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 that! 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. In it the tenderness of the Lord is disclosed He is the good Shepherd of His sheep, and He declares that He would “gather the lambs with 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 is stretched forth in power in creation, but His lambs are the objects of His love, and His bosom was to be their safe resting place. It is Jehovah who is speaking in this chapter. But John announces that he was the forerunner of the Lord, the Voice that foretold His coming, as said the prophet.

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. 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! His astonishment 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. How wonderful it is to read of 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. The next day opens with another testimony.

John had borne witness to the pre-existence of the Lord (v. 15); and to the fact that He was Jehovah, ready to fulfil all His words to Israel 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 , it is worldwide.

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. The first public witness that John gives to the Lord as he sees Him coming to him is that He is the Lamb of God. 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 be 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 cannot 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.

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 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 bare 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! The 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, and 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 bare record that THIS IS THE SON OF GOD

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!

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. 41). They have Christ as their end. 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.

Once more John speaks in this Gospel. He calls those that heard him to bear witness that he had said I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him. And to Christ belonged the bride, for He is the Bridegroom. Whatever sufferings might intervene, John's faith for the moment glimpsed the glory that would follow, when his Lord would see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. And when that day came he would be the friend of the Bridegroom and his joy would be full. He beheld the rising of the Sun of righteousness and rejoiced to pass out of sight that Christ might be all and in all. His mission closes with the words, “He must increase, I must decrease” words that shall be bound upon his brow as a crown of glory in the day of glory.

The Testimony of the Lord (1)

 

1. Christ has been here.

2. He is no longer here.

3. He is coming hack again.

These three great facts with what is involved in them make up “the testimony of the Lord,” and it is incumbent upon us who own His Name to understand the full force of them, and to maintain them without shame or fear.

 

They formed THE TESTIMONY OF PETER in Acts 2.

1. Christ has been here. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (v. 22).

2. He is no longer here. “ Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (vv. 23-24).

3. He is coming back again. “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand until I make Thy foes Thy footstool” (vv. 34-35). “And He shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you” (chap. 3:20).

 

JOHN BEARS WITNESS to these facts in Revelation 1.

1. Christ has been here . “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful Witness.”

2. He is not here. “ The First-begotten of the dead.”

3. He is coming back again. The Prince of the kings of the earth” (v. 5).

He has been here , for God sent Him.

He is not here , for men rejected Him.

He is coming back again , to establish His rights in power in the place of His rejection.

He has been here ; in this the love of God was declared.

He is not here ; in this the sinfulness of the world was manifested.

He is coming back again , to execute the judgment of the God whose love He declared upon the world that gave God only hatred for love.

 

TO PAUL as to none other it is given to bear witness to these facts and to teach the results of them. He determined to know nothing among the Corinthians but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He proclaimed that He had been here, but was no longer here, for the princes of the world had crucified the Lord of glory, and he declared that He was coming back again, and that in view of this fact God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.

Christ has been here . His presence in the world was the last and the supreme test for man. God, “having yet therefore one Son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also last unto them, saying they will reverence My Son . . .” And in Him there came into the world every beautiful human trait according to God's standard, and God was revealed to men in Him. He loved the Lord His God with all His heart and His neighbour as Himself, nay, He went beyond the law in this latter respect and stooped down to be the Servant of all; but His life was taken from the earth, He was cut off and had nothing. He is not here , “they took Him, and killed Him and cast Him out.” The cross of Christ has clearly proved that there was not a chord in the heart of the flesh that would respond to God's most tender touch; that cross of shame was man's defiant answer to the most blessed advance that God could make to him; the best that God could do only disclosed the full hatred and incorrigible rebellion of man's nature. When the princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory they acted for Adam's race of men; they were the heads of that race for the moment, and they fully showed that the race was so blinded by Satan, the deceiver and adversary, that it could not discern infinite goodness, when it saw it; that it loved darkness rather than light because its deeds are evil; its very nature was to prefer Satan to God, even though God is love.

Nothing could be gained by putting man to any further test. The coming of Christ had brought everything to the light, and the cross was the end of the history of God's testing of man, and the result of the testing is clearly stated in the Scripture; “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

What a scene of desolation this world was when Jesus hung dead upon the cross and lay dead in the grave! Could there come out of that desolation any glory for God or blessing for men? Yes. For Christ, whom men slew, God has raised up again. “This is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.” It is God's intervention for His own glory and our blessing. Christ is not here, He is risen. This is the dominant note in Paul's gospel. Christ is the first-begotten from the dead. God has not only given His answer to man's foul act, and justified His Son whom men condemned, but He has in the risen Christ His new beginning, the beginning of the creation of God.

The hopes of the faithful were ever centred in Christ. Of Him the Old Testament Scriptures spoke continually, and those who loved and had these ancient words looked forward with a great longing to His coming, being assured that He only could bring in full deliverance from every oppression. And when He came great joy filled the hearts of the watchers. They said, “We have found the Messias,” “We have found Him.” “Come . . . is not this the Christ?” “Thou art the Christ”. Then in a moment all their expectations seemed to perish, their hopes lay broken and dead by the sealed tomb of Him whom they loved. Panic seized them, and like sheep without a shepherd they were rudely scattered. But the news of His resurrection gathered them again, and He revealed Himself to them as alive from the dead, and they were glad when they saw the Lord.

Still He did not stay with them. As He stood in the midst of them upon the brow of Olivet He was parted from them and a cloud received Him out of their sight, and yet, though He had gone from them, they had not lost Him, they were united to Him by the Holy Ghost who came down from Him, and their hopes were centred in Him now, not as the lowly Nazarene treading the rough road to the cross, but as death's Conqueror, exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high. Their hopes and affections, their very life, were transferred from earth to heaven, for He is not here, but He is there. He was here, but He is no longer here, He has gone over to the other side, and those who love Him will pass over with Him; actually and bodily they cannot do this yet, but in heart and spirit they will do it, like the Ethiopian eunuch, to whom Philip preached Jesus, who when he learned that His life had been taken from the earth, immediately responded, saying, “See here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Jesus, who had been here, had won his heart, and he desired to part company with the place in which Jesus died and the race that crucified Him, that he might have part with Him in the place where He lives.

This is the blessed privilege of all who know Christ. In the purpose of God they are to be conformed to His image that He may be the Firstborn among many brethren. That is their sure destiny, but even now He is not ashamed to call them brethren, for He is their great Leader and they belong to a resurrection race of which He is the head. In the thought of God the death of Christ has cut them off from Adam's race that lay under condemnation and death, and in their baptism they are committed to the death of Christ, that they might live in His life; not the old life of sin and shame in which God could find no pleasure, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

These bear witness to the fact that He is coming again . This was the witness of the first prophet who ever spoke the word of God. “The Lord cometh,” cried Enoch, the seventh from Adam. This was the first message that came out of the glory after Christ had entered into it. “This same Jesus . . . shall so come as ye have seen Him go,” said the angels. It is the last word of the Lord to His church on earth. “Surely, I come quickly,” He says. He is coming back again. No testimony to the world is complete that leaves this out, for in it are involved the rights of Christ, who is Heir of all things. The rights that were refused Him when He came in grace, will be secured for Him by the power of God when He comes in glory, for God has said, “Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” God grant that these great facts may live in power in our souls, and be our effective testimony to others.

The Testimony of the Lord (2)

2 Timothy

 

A few weeks ago his Majesty the King presented new colours to the Guards regiments. In entrusting those colours to them he told them that they spoke of the glorious history of the Guards and were an emblem for the present and the future of the soldier's honour and the honour of the regiments. I want to speak of the testimony of the Lord as the colours entrusted to us, but they are not regimental colours, as though only a section of the army of the Lord could claim them; there is nothing divisional or sectarian about the testimony of the Lord. The colours are the Royal Standard, and every loyal soldier rallies to them, rejecting all others.

It is the testimony of the Lord . I must stress that first of all. What does the title mean? It means His authority, His absolute rights over us; He is sovereign Lord. And we are not faithful to the colours if we are not owning that and carrying it out in practical living. “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.” That means open and definite subjection to His will, and rallying to the colours. It was what Saul of Tarsus did when he cried: “Lord, what will Thou have me to do?” But who would not be subject to Him whose love for us surpasses all our knowledge and whose will and way for us is our greatest blessing?

The testimony of the Lord implies ignorance of Him in the place where it is raised, and more, it implies hostility and opposition. I do not think it will be necessary to talk of the testimony of the Lord in the Millennium, for then His glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, and no man will need to say to his neighbours, know the Lord; but now we are in a world that hated Him and that said “We will not have this Man to reign over us.” It is in such a world that the testimony is raised, and unless we understand that we shall miss the honour of playing our full part in the great conflict.

These colours, the Royal Standard, were unfurled by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, for He was sent from the Father to testify of Jesus the Lord, and His work in this respect began on that great day. And if I may pursue my figure there are quartered upon the Standard, a cross, an empty grave, a crown of glory and a universal throne. It is all Christ.

When King Edward presented the colours to his Guards, he spoke of the glories of the past that were inscribed upon them, glories won by the regiments themselves upon many a far-flung battlefield. But upon these colours it is not the glories of the soldiers of the Lord that appear. His glories only are inscribed there, the testimony of the Lord is all concerning Himself, it is what He is and has achieved, and might all be summed up in three sentences.

He has been here.

He is not here.

He is coming back again.

He has been here . What brought Him here? We know that it was love. Love for sinful men. It was this that brought the Saviour from above to die at Calvary . That is most certainly part of the testimony; but there is more. He came into the world as having supreme rights over it and over all men. When God brought the First-begotten into the world, He said, Let all the angels of God worship Him, and if angels, then men surely. But what happened? 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. Yet He did not turn back; He set His face as a flint and He fulfilled His mission. The world saw a full and blessed manifestation of the Father; before its very eyes the Father's Name and character were declared, and it saw and hated both Jesus and His Father. The world has no cloak, no excuse for its sin.

He is not here. Because the world rejected Him, He is not here. The builders of this world's greatness are building without Him. They could find no room for Him when He was here—there was room for Caesar and Herod and Pilate, room for priests and Pharisees, room for publicans and sinners, but no room for Jesus—“Away with Him,” “Not this Man but Barabbas.” So they cast Him out. The cross was the extent and the evidence of their guilt, but it also became the measure and the manifestation of the love of God. The cross of Jesus testifies to the triumph of God's love over all man's hatred, of righteousness established, of holiness vindicated, of salvation for sinners and of eternal glory for God. Yes, to all this we bear witness. He is not here because the world rejected Him.

He is coming back again . His grave is empty. God has raised Him up from the lowest depths of death and crowned Him with glory and honour in the highest place in heaven. The crown is the answer to the cross. God hath made this same Jesus whom men crucified both Lord and Christ, He has exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour, NOW to give repentance and remission of sins to men, soon to come as the Judge of quick and dead. He is coming back again. Once He came in meekness and lowliness of heart, He was in the midst of men and ever at their disposal, night and day. He was accessible to the weakest and the worst, but He is coming back again in power and glory, for His throne is to be a universal throne. His foes are to be made His footstool. The first man with his pride and sin and struggle for a glory that he cannot attain to, must give place to the second Man who will fill the earth with the glory of God. This is also part of the testimony of the Lord, and it is not more pleasing to men than any other part of it. Where is the promise of His coming? they ask. Our answer is, “He command us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.”

This is the testimony of the Lord, the Royal Standard; the cross upon it speaks of love, infinite love. The empty grave tells of a great victory, the power of death itself is broken. The crown of glory proclaims the Father's full approval of that holy and sacrificial death, the universal throne yet to be declares the rights of Jesus to the supreme place, above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.

To Paul, our great Apostle, the colours were entrusted, and with what valour and zeal he bore them in continual conflict with the foe from city to city and land to land; but now in our Epistle his day was done. He had fought the good fight, he had finished his course, he had kept the faith and he hands on the colours to his son Timothy with instructions to hand them on in turn to “faithful men.”

Are we faithful men? Faithful men rally to the colours, they uphold them, they stand for Christ, they do not speak of themselves but of Him; their doings and their cause are not their theme, but His glory; what He has achieved, and His rights. A faithful man will stand for Christ even if he stands alone. And, remember, service is individual; the Lord whom we serve has supreme rights over us. “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” The effort to balance your conscience and service between the Lord's will and the notions of some of your brethren will make a coward of you. He only has the right to command us, ours not to reason why, ours but to do, and if necessary, die. It has been tritely and rightly said, “You are to serve your brethren but they are not your masters.” But there is most desirable and blessed fellowship in service. Mr. Brown has pointed out that Paul delighted to speak of His yoke-fellows, his fellow-labourers, his fellow-soldiers; if we are faithful men we shall rejoice when we find our brethren faithful to the colours, we shall rejoice if Christ is preached, and grieve even to tears over those who are the enemies of the cross of Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to unite the soldiers of Jesus Christ in holy zeal for His glory, and it is He that imparts the power that enables any to be faithful to the testimony.

Now a spirit in keeping with the testimony of the Lord has been given to us, and apart from this spirit we shall fail in the conflict and be deserters from the colours, “Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of the Lord” wrote Paul. The testimony is in reproach in the world, men dislike it, some hate it, the devil is set against it. It is not the fashion to be zealous for the Lord and His truth, and we being what we are, are very liable to be ashamed of the testimony, we shall be unless the spirit of power and love and of a sound mind prevails in our lives. This spirit is not the spirit of fear or cowardice, it is the spirit of courage. But what is it that makes us so cowardly so often? It seems to me that that is a profitable question to ask. Is not the first and foremost thing self-interest, the thought of self and how I shall be affected if I stand boldly for the truth as to Christ?

The great warning in the New Testament is Simon Peter. He went down from Jerusalem to Antioch and for a while was faithful to the colours. The cross of Christ had obliterated all distinction between Jew and Gentile, having brought both down into the place of judgment, but it had secured salvation for both, and from both all who had believed had been raised to a new life by Christ's resurrection, and the Holy Spirit who had come down from the crowned Christ in heaven had united them in one body. Simon Peter acknowledged all that, and though born a Jew, he lived, as was right, in fellowship with the Gentiles who were in Christ. But when certain brethren came down from Jerusalem from James, he ceased to think of Christ and what He had wrought and thought of Simon. What will they say of me in Jerusalem ? What will brother James think of me ? And that thought of self made him a traitor to the colours, and it seemed as though they were to be dragged in the mire or fall into the hands of the foe. But there was one man who was not a traitor, and he held aloft the Standard, withstanding the coward Simon to the face, as he cried, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” What did he mean? He meant my reputation, what others think of me. What has that to do with it? I am crucified with Christ. All the reputation that ever I had, and all in which I prided myself, only made me an enemy of Christ, but it is all gone, and I am gone in the cross of Christ, henceforward it is not Paul but Christ. What did it matter to such a man as that what they thought of him in Jerusalem , or anywhere else? He was set for maintaining the colours, for standing true to the testimony; Christ and not Paul was everything to him. He was “a faithful man,” a true Standard bearer.

Yes, SELF is a subtle power. It makes cowards of us. Crucifixion with Christ is the only way of deliverance from it. I remember when a very young Christian staying in the home of Mr. Westcott's parents.

Upon the wall of the bedroom I occupied there was a card upon which were lines that made a great impression on me. I spent half the night learning them and they have often spoken to me since. I have them here:

“Oh, send me forth, my Saviour,

Oh, send me for Thy glory.

Regarding not the praise of man,

And trampling on the fear of man

And fighting for Thy glory.

There is a man that often stands

Between me and Thy glory.

His name is self,

My carnal self.

Self-seeking self,

Stands twixt me and Thy glory.

O mortify him, mortify him,

Put him down, my Saviour.

Exalt Thyself, lift high

The banner of Thy cross,

And in its folds

Conceal Thy standard bearer.”

May that spirit and desire be ever ours, for we may depend upon it. It is always self that makes us cowards in the fight.

But God hath not given to us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind. That is not the Holy Spirit exactly, but it could not be apart from His indwelling. The indwelling Spirit imparts to us this three-fold character, apart from which we cannot stand in the evil day. It is the life and spirit of Jesus Christ in us. I have no doubt that we need power and love and the sound mind in every sphere of Christian life. Power without love might be ruthless, and love without the sound mind might be weakness. But I would emphasize each of them in its own special sphere. We need the sound mind in our individual lives. What is the meaning of it? It is a wise mind, a discreet mind. A brother was telling me today, as we discussed it, that it was a healthy mind, and I quite agree with that. The natural mind, always dominated by a sinful self-interest in one form or another, is not a sound or healthy mind; it cannot wisely discriminate between good and evil. The Gadarenes came out of their city to see what had happened to the demoniac whose name was Legion.

They found him, “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” You could not have a better illustration of a sound mind than that. He sat at the feet of Jesus as a disciple, and went at His bidding to bear witness in the City to the delivering power of the Lord. It is the touch of the great Physician and His word that heals the mind. The sound mind thinks soberly; the man who has it is not puffed up by his knowledge; he puts Christ first, and considers for His glory and not for his own interest.

The spirit of love brings in others, the hermit cannot exercise that blessed Christian grace, it is as we move about among men that it is called for, and very specially as we move among our brethren. And in this we have the Lord as our pattern “I am among you as he that serveth” He said to His disciples. In the spirit of love we shall be very considerate of one another and shall serve and not strive in a selfish way for pre-eminence, for the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing, even the opposers.

Yet gentleness and meekness are not weakness, as some might suppose, they are allied to true power, and we shall need this spirit of power if we are to stand fast and hold aloft the colours. We must not forget that the devil is against us and we must not underrate his power and subtlety. We are no match for him if we face him in our own wisdom or strength, but neither is he any match for the Lord and the power of His might, and we are strong, and only strong in the Lord. You remember the words of the poet Cowper:

“Satan trembles when he sees

The weakest saint upon his knees.”

This power can only operate in dependence upon God. In this greatly favoured land we have not now to face such murderous mobs as often surrounded such a man as George Whitfield. He never flinched because the spirit of power was in him, and when on one such occasion, his wife stood behind him and cried in his ear, “Play the man of God, George,” the spirit of power was in the woman. And the Christian women are needed, they can be of the greatest possible help in maintaining the colours and witnessing for Christ. “Help those women which laboured with me in the gospel” wrote Paul. We are not menaced by violence now, it I might help us if we were, but even so, and perhaps more so, the spirit of power, is needed. In the presence of increasing indifference to the claims of the Lord in the world, and the growing contempt of the truth in the professing church, we need the spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind, apart from this spirit we shall be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord and of Paul, His prisoner, and make a cowardly surrender.

Not without a reason does Paul bind up his name with the testimony of the Lord. We must take notice of him in relation to it; we need to study his manner of life as well as his doctrine, and learn what the Lord can do in and with and through a man wholly devoted to Him. But Paul would not have us astonished at his labours and sufferings for Christ's sake. If he could speak to us tonight he would say, Why should you be amazed at my devotion to Christ If you had seen Him as I have seen Him you would be as I am: if you had heard Him as I have heard Him you would follow Him as I do; if you knew Him and His love that surpasseth all knowledge as I do you would hold nothing back from Him, you would lay yourself and your all for time and eternity at His feet, and be wholly and for ever at His disposal. Do not be amazed at my love for my Saviour, but be amazed at His love for me, and for you. Say with me “the Son of God, loved me and gave Himself for me,” and you will be amazed that ever you hesitated to be wholly for Him, you will be amazed that ever an idol rivalled His place in your heart, that ever you permitted self to make you ashamed of His testimony before men.

May the Spirit of God keep us continually wondering at the love and glory of Jesus, our Saviour, for if we cease to wonder we cease to make progress in the knowledge of Himself and the blessedness of His testimony, and we cease to worship.

The Testing Time Is a Sifting Time

There is more comfort in the Scriptures than ever we have drawn from them, or ever shall. They are like the boundless ocean, while our need is like the bucket that is dropped into it. Take such a passage as this, “ For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, YET SHALL NOT THE LEAST GRAIN FALL UPON THE EARTH ” (Amos 9:9).

The words have special reference to the sons of Jacob, but they declare a great principle in the ways of God with His saints, and His never-failing care of His work in them in all dispensations, and they are written for our learning and comfort.

The true saints of God are the wheat, fair and priceless in His estimation , and it is necessary that they should be put into the sieve, that they might be ridded of the chaff, set free from all refuse forever. Yet in the sifting not a grain shall be lost. God Himself will take care of even “ the least .” What comfort there is in that!

The New Testament word is tribulation = tribulare—to rub out corn. The tribulum was a wooden instrument fitted with iron spikes for rubbing out corn. And though tribulation cannot be anything but grievous to nature, yet we shall glory in it if God's purpose in it lays hold upon us.

The sifting may come in various ways. In Simon's case Satan was permitted to use the sieve, and in it the adversary hoped to destroy him, but the result of the sifting was that he was freed from the chaff of self-confidence and boasting. A blessed result! The wheat remained uninjured. His faith did not fail (Luke 22:32). But whether the sifting comes directly from Satan, or through our circumstances—circumstances of sickness, pain, anxiety, bereavement, hunger, nakedness, peril or sword—“ God is Faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it ” (1 Cor. 10:13), and think well of the Lord's words to Simon, “I have prayed for thee.” He ever liveth to make intercession for us.

The Threefold Cry of the Spirit

 

“ I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you theses things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star. And the Spirit and bride say, Come. And let him that hearth say, Come and let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely ” (Revelation 22:16).

 

Here we have the last mention of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, and it is a wonderful revelation to us of His unwearied activities. It shows us, too, what “the unity of the Spirit” is in practical expression, manifested in a threefold cry through the hearts and mouths of those whom He indwells, and whom He brings into unison with Himself.

The first cry is directed to Jesus our Lord. He shines in the heavens as the bright and morning Star. And to Him, when His glory breaks upon the soul, “ The Spirit and the bride say, Come .” The second is to those whom Jesus loves, His own, for whose love He yearns, but whose hearts are sleeping; to them the cry is, “ Let him that heareth say, Come .” The third is to the great outer circle of a needy world. To it the heart of God is full of compassion, and this is expressed in this last evangelical appeal in the Bible: “ Let him that is athirst come: and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely

 

To Jesus Our Lord

The Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, is come to show the things of Christ to us, and to glorify Him, and He is successful in His work and Christ is glorified when the hearts of His redeemed people are so enraptured with Him that other things lose their attraction and they want only Himself, and are bound together in one great desire for His coming. When the hearts of the saints of God say, Come, there is no discord and no clash between the Spirit's desire and the desire of those whom He indwells. This is the Spirit's unity.

The Spirit has always desired that Christ should come, and He has laboured for this unceasingly since Pentecost, yet the centuries have rolled by and Christ has not yet come, and men deride the blessed hope; but the Spirit is not discouraged because the time is long, but continues to labour, and will until His labours are crowned with final and eternal success. And this last mention of His activities in the Word brings this day of glory clearly into view.

The reason why Christ has not yet come is because the first and chief reason of His coming will be to claim His bride. He will in due course have the kingdoms, and the glory and universal adoration, but He must first have His bride, a complete and glorious church. Hitherto this has not been possible for the church is not yet completed, but the Spirit will not falter in His labours until it is complete and ready to be presented to Christ, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Then there will be no more delay, the Lord will answer the cry of the Spirit and the bride with a shout of joy and triumph that will raise the dead saints and change the living and assemble them, the whole undivided church, to meet Him in the air. That that day must be drawing near is evinced, we believe, by the fact that the desire for the coming of the Lord is growing, and more hearts than ever are saying, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The Spirit is gathering up the affections of the church and making them flow together in this one blessed unity of which He is the Originator and Sustainer. And He will continue His work until,

By the Spirit all pervading

Hosts unnumbered round the Lamb—

Crowned with joy and light unfading-

Hail Him as the great I AM.”

 

To Those Whom He Loves

It is impossible that the Spirit should rest from His labours while so many of those for whom Christ died, and whom He loves with a love that can never die, are indifferent to Him and His coming; He must work to stir up the hearts of the indifferent to join in this cry to the Lord. And those who are in tune with the Spirit will say, “Come.” The Spirit worketh hitherto and we must work also; we cannot rest until all that have ears to hear have been brought into this same unity of heart and voice and are saying, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

How strange is that state of mind which we sometimes meet with, that is indifferent as to how one's fellow Christians are affected towards Christ, and how completely outside the practical unity of the Spirit must those be who would discourage the servants of the Lord from going forth, north, south, east and west, everywhere, in fact, with the cry, “Behold the Bridegroom, go ye out to meet Him.” Such indifference to that which must be of supreme importance indicates a heart out of tune with the Spirit, and with a very small conception of the desire of the Lord for all saints. May the writer and reader alike be preserved from it in the great mercy of God.

Let us hear and rejoice in the truth, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in ONE HOPE OF YOUR CALLING.' The church of God is one church, one Spirit dwells in it, and the Lamb who died to redeem it is its one glorious Hope. May these great facts seize upon our hearts, and have their true place in our lives; then shall we labour for the revival of the Spirit's cry in the hearts of all the saints.

 

To a Needy World

The heart that is in unison with the Spirit will not only be true to Christ and desire His coming, and be solicitous for one's brethren, that they may not sleep as do others, but it will be evangelistic also, it will have an earnest invitation to give to a needy world. It has been said that, “the greatest churchman was the greatest evangelist,” and this is true. Nobody ever entered into the unity of the Spirit more than Paul the apostle, nobody ever lived who laboured with greater zeal to have the saints of the Lord in trim for His coming than he. From what a warm, full and yet anxious heart this appeal must have come: “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, 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.”

And yet this was the man who pressed from city to city and from country to country, enduring almost incredible hardships, that he might proclaim the glad tidings to every creature under heaven. His Saviour and Lord had yearned for souls when He was here, and Paul yearned for them also, for the life of Jesus was manifested in his mortal flesh, and the compassions of God filled his soul. He was a wholly-surrendered vessel to his Lord, through whom the Spirit could speak and work; he was a Holy Ghost-filled man.

Nearly two thousand years have passed since the Spirit poured the message of grace into the ears of a needy world through that one vessel, and He is still looking for vessels in tune with Himself through whom He can cry, “Let him that is athirst come, and let whosoever will take of the water of life freely.” The heart of God is not satisfied with blessing, the fountain of the water of life springs up as fresh and free as ever it did. Until the Lord answers the cry of Spirit and bride, this great sphere of labour lies open to all those who are endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit. Indeed, there are these two spheres, the church and the world, and blessed will that servant be whom his Lord when He cometh shall find caring for His interests in these spheres.

The Time Has Come

 

“ Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord ” (2 Timothy 1:8).

 

My appeal is specially and definitely to the young disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am not in this minimizing the importance of those who are older in the faith; a great responsibility rests upon them and theirs is a great privilege. As they increase in the knowledge of God, they give stability to practical Christian fellowship and testimony, but they must be watchful lest they lose their spiritual vigour and zeal for Christ. If they fail in this they will not help but hinder those who are coming after them, and nothing could be more serious than that in these perilous times in which the whole truth of God is being challenged. But my appeal is to the young Christians; to them I say, Rally to the banner of our Lord and be not ashamed of His testimony.

Consider the position, the time has “ come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they shall turn away their ears from the truth AND SHALL BE TURNED TO FABLES ” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

God only could have given to Paul that prophetic vision that enabled him to describe so graphically and without mistake what these last days would be like. In this farewell letter to young Timothy, his son in the faith, he tells us all about it. It is a God-inspired letter, as all Scripture is God-inspired; read it and it will keep you from being dismayed and discouraged, for if God foresaw the condition into which Christendom would fall, He has not been taken by surprise by it, nor need you be surprised. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and God, who foresaw it all, has instructed you how to act in the midst of it. He has given to you the Spirit, not of cowardice, but of love, and power, and of a sound mind; and all the grace that you require is in Christ Jesus for you, so that you need not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christian, be enthusiastic for Christ, and the faith that is His.

Your choice lies between the testimony of our Lord and fables. The testimony of our Lord is not popular and the fables are. They are labelled is “discoveries,” they are propounded by university professors and preached by bishops, and they please the people who love pleasure more than they love God, but they are fables nevertheless—God-dishonouring, soul-damning fables. While they puff up the fleshly mind they save no souls, but your souls have been saved and blessed and made free and glad by the testimony of the Lord; by that testimony you must stand, and in standing by it suffer ridicule if needs be, and be looked down upon as being ignorant and behind the times. You will be told that on the other side are the wise and the mighty and the noble, and that on the side of the testimony are the nobodies. Be it so, that is just what we should expect as we read such a passage as 1 Corinthians 1:26-35. But one thing is certain, one man with God is better than ten thousand without Him, and God will ever be with the testimony of the Lord. Be the one man if necessary.

The perilous times have arrived, and the faith once delivered to the saints is being assaulted and opposed by many evils. There is “organized religion,” the mere form of godliness in which the power that convicts men of sin and brings them with repentance to the feet of the great Redeemer, and changes their lives, is denied; leaders of religious thought are turning away from the testimony of the Lord and offering the sacraments instead of the living Lord and Christ as the means of life and blessing, and are drifting back into popish superstitions; and others, drunk with the wine of modernism, have made an unholy alliance with “science falsely so called,” and are casting aside the Word of God as an obsolete thing and overthrowing the faith of some. Formalism, Ritualism, Rationalism—these be the gods of an apostatizing Christendom, but they are as false as Baal and Ashtaroth and Chemosh, the gods of the Canaanites! “ O Timothy ,” wrote Paul the aged, in view of these days, “ keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babbling; and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred from the faith ” (1 Tim. 6:20).

But God, who “in the beginning created the heavens and the earth” as Genesis tells us, still reserves to Himself thousands who have not bowed the knee to these modern gods and whose lips have not kissed them, you through the infinite grace of God are among these, and the obligation that is laid upon you is not to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. The time has come when you must be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and turn away from those who have turned away from the truth, for the command is clear, “ Let every one that names the name of the Lord withdraw from iniquity ” (N.Tr.). It is at once your responsibility and privilege to stand for and to preach the word, to be instant in season and out of season.

What is the testimony of our Lord? It is the word of the Lord to men at any given time. The first of which we have any record was given through Enoch, the seventh from Adam, who prophesied saying “ Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment ,” and in that first testimony we have proof enough that evolution is a fable. If man had struggled up through the ages, overcoming the most extraordinary difficulties and rising superior to a baffling environment, until at the last he emerged from an ape ancestry into a noble manhood, why should he be judged? Surely instead of judgment the Almighty might well and righteously congratulate him upon his achievement, and encourage him to still greater efforts. But if, on the other hand, he was created in the image and after the likeness of God, and if he has fallen from his high estate; if he is a degenerate Adam instead of a glorified ape; if he was made a moral being with responsibilities towards his Creator, and if he has broken down in those responsibilities and set at naught the will of God and pleased himself, how just it is that he should be called to account and that judgment should await him. “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:11). But how great is the mercy of God that warns men of the certainty of judgment before it comes, and calls upon them to repent in view of it. I repeat that the fact of coming judgment exposes the biological doctrine of evolution to be not the truth but a profane and vain imagination of man's mind. It is not the testimony of the Lord.

It may be objected, You are quoting from Genesis, and Genesis is now held by “all scholars” to be unauthentic, and these stories of Enoch and others are legendary, or at the best allegorical. I am not quoting from Genesis at all, but from Jude, a short Epistle written at least 3,000 years after the translation of Enoch to heaven; but Jude corroborates Genesis. If Enoch did not live and walk with God as Genesis tells us, then he did not prophesy as Jude tells us; not did he please God before he was translated, as the author of Hebrews tells us; nor did he begat Methuselah, as Luke tells us. If these three New Testament writers are untrustworthy on one point, we cannot accept them as reliable upon any point; their writings and Genesis stand or fall together, and those who try to hold on to the New Testament and yet discard Genesis in their haste to compromise with these so-called scientific discoveries, and to appear progressive in the eyes of their fellows and congregations, are, to say the least, very inconsistent men.

The testimony that Enoch gave from the Lord has not been cancelled, the judgment of which he spoke will surely come, but it has been postponed, for God is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance; and in the meanwhile the testimony of the Lord is going out to men. It comes from the God who cannot lie, and it tells us what He is; it is a testimony of grace, yet it does not hide the fact of judgment to come. When we come to this testimony we are not dealing with theories, speculations, hypotheses, but with facts, and these facts are three:

1. Christ has been here.

2. He is no longer here.

3. He is coming back again.

John says, “ We know that the Son of God has come . . . this is the true God and eternal life ” (1 John 5. 20); and again, “ Every spirit which confesseth Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God ” (chap. 4:2, N.Tr.); and again, “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins ” (v. 10). The Son of God has come, and His coming was the manifestation of God's love to men. He did not come as a Judge, but God was in Christ, “reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their transgressions unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). He was announced at His birth as a Saviour by heavenly heralds. How did men treat Him when He came? They ought to have hastened to the manger where He was cradled, as the shepherds did, they ought to have brought their worship and their gifts to Him as the wise men from the East did, but they did not. All Jerusalem was troubled at the news of His birth, yet He did not turn back. He had come as the pledge of God's love to men. He was the Father's sent One and the light of the world. He came to show and to tell that “God is love.”

But how did He come? Matthew tells us, “ She (Mary) shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us .” In many divinity schools it is taught that this is unscientific, and a physical impossibility. It is one of three great things in our Christian faith that are challenged. It is said that—

CREATION according to Genesis 1 is impossible.

INCARNATION according to Matthew 1 is impossible.

RESURRECTION according to 1 Corinthians 1 is impossible.

Impossible with men, yes, but not with God! and GOD is the answer to this three-fold challenge.

“IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED” (Genesis 1:1) is enough for faith when CREATION is in question .

“A BODY HAST THOU PREPARED ME” (Heb. 10:5) is enough for faith when INCARNATION is in question .

“GOD GIVETH IT A BODY AS IT PLEASETH HIM” (1 Cor. 15:38) is enough for faith when RESURRECTION is in question .

Men want to get rid of God, it is that that lies behind the denial of these great miracles. In their eyes there is nothing greater than man, and so they oppose themselves to everything outside his range and powers. But in these things God shows Himself to be supreme, He acts as God, and when evil forces arise and combine to thwart His purposes He deals with them in infinite wisdom and power; no enemy—neither sin, nor death, nor the devil—can frustrate His will, He is victorious in Christ Jesus over them all.

But when Christ came He was not wanted. There was no room for Him in man's scheme of things. There was room for Caesar in his Imperial purple, tyrant though he was; there was room for Herod and Pilate, for priests and publicans, for scribes and sinners; there was room for Barabbas, but no roam for Jesus . He was despised and rejected of men. Not rejected only—a man may be rejected because of his proposals and yet respected for his personal qualities—but Jesus was despised, and rejected because He was despised. Men despise that which they think beneath them, something contemptible, despicable—such was Jesus in their eyes. They could not endure perfect goodness, they would not have the Son of God, and with wicked hands they crucified and slew Him.

If the cross of Christ revealed that “God is love”—and it did, for “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”—it also exposed the heart of man. The cross of Christ was the proof that there is not a chord in man's heart that will respond even to God's tenderest touch. The cross was man's defiant answer to the most blessed advance that God could make to him. The best that God could do only laid bare the incorrigibility of man's nature, and put beyond all controversy for ever the fact that he MUST BE BORN AGAIN. The princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory and they acted for the race, they showed that men loved darkness rather than light and preferred Satan to God, even though God is love.

How wonderful it is that that same cross shows us how God can be a just God and yet a Saviour, who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. If you hold fast to this you may be charged with holding “dry-as-dust” and “out-of-date” theology. But is it dry-as-dust theology? It is the most glorious testimony that ever sounded on mortal ears—“ There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the Man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time .” Is this testimony out of date? Nay, this is the due time in which it must be made known. A multitude of dying saints have been filled with triumph in the very face of death because they believed it, and were persuaded that nothing could separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But they could have known nothing about it if the Son of God had not come.

CHRIST IS NO LONGER HERE. He is the Stone that the builders rejected, nevertheless He has become the Head of the corner; this is the Lord's doings and it is marvellous in our eyes. God has intervened for His own glory and raised Him from the dead. This was the dominant note in Peter's gospel in Pentecostal times; it rings triumphantly in Paul's gospel. God has given His answer to man's foul act. He has justified His Son whom men condemned, and Christ risen and exalted is God's new beginning, the beginning of the creation of God. We must stand either with the world that crucified Him or with God who has glorified Him. God has bound us up with Christ in glory by the Holy Spirit whom He has given to us, and by so doing has separated us from the world. God's purpose of blessing for men far exceeds anything that they can imagine for themselves, but this purpose is in Christ Jesus our Lord; not in the first man but the Second, for the first man was made of dust and to dust he goes, but the second man is out of heaven (1 Cor. 15:47, N.Tr.) and in Him God gives to all who believe life and incorruptibility and an inheritance, “incorruptible, and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4, N.Tr.). “ Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved ” (Acts 4:12).

HE IS COMING BACK AGAIN. “ The Lord saith unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool ” (Ps. 110:1; Acts 2:34-35; Heb. 1:13). The rights that were refused Him when He came in grace, will be secured for Him by the power of God when He comes in glory, “and at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). The testimony of our Lord is incomplete if we leave out this. The hopes of the saints of God were always centred in Christ and His coming to establish righteousness in the earth. Of this Enoch spoke; the vision of this rejoiced the heart of Abraham; it was part of the testimony that God established in Jacob; that they might set their hope in God and not forget His works (Ps. 78); it has been revealed to us in the testimony of the Lord in its greatness and detail. Man after the flesh who is not subject to the law of God must give way before Christ, who was ever obedient, and He shall be glorified as Redeemer, Judge, and King. HE IS THE FAITHFUL WITNESS (He has been here); THE FIRST BEGOTTEN FROM THE DEAD (He is not here), AND THE PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH (He is coming back again) (Revelation 1).

“ We have not followed cunningly devised fables, (that exalt man in his pride, and dishonour Christ, and deny the revelation of God) when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount ” (2 Pet. 1:16-18).

The fables to which so many have turned make men comfortable without God, they give to them a false hope, and encourage them to trust in themselves and their own efforts. The testimony of the Lord exalts Christ who is the theme of it, in it GOD COMMANDS ALL MEN EVERYWHERE TO REPENT: “ because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that HE HATH RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD ” (Acts 17:30-31). This testimony cannot fail, and the foundation of God standeth sure, but on our part we must keep it pure and not mix it with the fables of men. We must “hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (chap. 1:13). Only thus can we be “faithful men.” “ Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember Jesus Christ of the seed of David raised from the dead according to my gospel: wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound ” (2 Tim. 2:7-9). “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of the Lord nor of me His prisoner, but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel ACCORDING TO THE POWER OF GOD.”

There is another thing of supreme importance, and that is, that while there can be no compromise with evil on the part of those who would be faithful to the Lord, you must watch against all harshness of spirit: “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (chap. 2:24-26). And further, the one who has a true care for the interests of Christ will have a deep concern for His beloved flock, so many of which are involved in all the confusion that is showing itself in the church. Many of these are sorely bewildered and distressed; those who care enough for them to be intercessors on their behalf will be blessed of the Lord.

The “Together-ness” of God's Family

 

“ Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves TOGETHER, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching ” (Hebrews 10:25).

“ For where two or three are gathered TOGETHER in My name, there am I in the midst of them ” (Matthew 18:20).

“ Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell TOGETHER in unity ” (Psalm 133:1). “ With one mind striving TOGETHER for the faith of the gospel ” (Philippians 1:27).

 

We may, perhaps, not have realized that, just as a register of the children's attendance is kept at a public school, so God keeps a register in heaven in which He records the gatherings together of His children on earth, and who they are who so gather to speak of Him and to think on His name. That remarkable passage, Malachi 3:16, certainly teaches us this: “ Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name .” And it is evidently a cause of delight to Him also to see His own gather together, else why should He add, “ And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. ” How profoundly it should affect us to know that every time His children meet together to speak of Him, it delights His heart; that He counts it as a service to Himself that only a son can render to a father, and that a register of attendance is kept in a book that is written before Him. We ought, surely, to be very ambitious to please Him in this respect and to have full attendance marks in His book of remembrance.

But that which pleases Him is a joy also to His children, for they are above all things gregarious in their desires and habits, that is, if they are in vigorous spiritual health and are not backsliders. They do not love a solitary path, they must have the companionship of others who are also of God's family. It is one of the chief characteristics of their nature, and in this way God's will for His people and their desires are in perfect accord.

This love of the companionship of the brethren is shown strikingly in the life of Paul, in whom every thought of God for a saint and servant on earth was delineated. In all his missionary journeys in the Acts he was accompanied by one or more fellow-helpers, and when the brethren sent him to Athens to escape the persecutions of the Jews he sent a command to Silas and Timotheus to come to him with all speed ; he did not wish to be alone (Acts 17). On another occasion he wrote, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark and bring him with thee” (2 Tim. 4). And when he was forsaken by all for one brief hour, as he stood in the very jaws of the lion, he records the fact as though it cost him poignant grief, though he was able also to bear witness to the Lord's sustaining presence and delivering power.

It is when the divine life begins to decline and the love of the world displaces love to the brethren that saints lose their taste for each other's company. A shepherd knows that something is wrong with the sheep that isolate themselves from the flock. It was because this decline was showing itself amongst the Hebrew saints that the Holy Ghost exhorted them not to forsake the assembling of themselves together, but to exhort one another, and so much the more as they saw the day approaching (Heb. 10:25).

It is not the will of God that His children should walk alone; He has set them in His family, and His will for them is that they should know the blessedness of family life. If we hold fast to our assembling together, because we know that it pleases Him to have us do so, we shall soon discover what joy and help it yields, and we shall count it a positive deprivation when we are hindered from so doing.

There are those, invalids, aged people, and mothers of large families, and others who cannot, or who are able only rarely to, gather together with those that fear the Lord, and He can and will make up to such what they lose, for He “despiseth not His prisoners” (Ps. 69), but for the rest Hebrews 10:25 is imperative; and may we so assemble that Psalm 133 may be true of us: “ Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. ”

The Travail of His Soul

 

In the ancient Jewish Scriptures the Book of Ruth formed part of the Book of Judges. The events therein recorded took place during the period in which the Judges lived, and Ruth's life and devotion form a pleasing contract to the sad apostasy and corruption that marked the end of these sad times.

Ruth is a true pattern of undivided devotion to a well-beloved object, it is this that makes her story so delightful to us all.

The love she bore to Naomi, which could only have been the result of Naomi's love to her, delivered her from every entanglement in her native Moab-idols; people, friends were all superseded by this new affection, she wanted nothing else. To lodge and die with Naomi was better in her eyes than to dwell and live with any other, indeed, she would not consider that there might be an alternative. Choice in the matter had ceased, beside Naomi there was nothing. No other attitude of heart can be right in any one of us toward our Lord Jesus Christ, He is our great Deliverer. Sin's domination, Satan's malignant designs, the wrath to come, from all these He has set us free, and devotion to the Deliverer should follow, and this He desires. He would bind us to Himself by the strong yet tender fetters of His love and dwell in our affections.

But we must consider this story briefly, and probe this mystery of Ruth's love to Naomi, for the elder woman does not seem to have had anything with which to recompense her, as she herself declares in verses 11-13 of chapter 1. She was a poor and sorrowing widow, and certainly Ruth did not follow her for gain. If we were giving a strict interpretation of the story we should say that Naomi set forth in picture the Jewish nation, wandering through exile, sorrow and travail to final victory and joy; but in our application of it we want to take up certain traits and steps in Naomi's life to illustrate the sorrow of our Lord Jesus and its resultant joy. She went into a far-away land and there tasted the bitterness of death, insomuch that she had to cry: “Call me not Naomi (which means ‘pleasant'), but Mara (which means ‘bitterness')”. But in the midst of the sorrow through which she passed, she must have displayed something of the sweetness of which her name spoke, for only in this way can we account for Ruth's devotion to her.

Sweetness and bitterness met in Naomi, but if we would see these things in all their perfection and intensity we must turn to Jesus. His name is sweet (the sweetest our ears have ever heard), and He is altogether pleasant to those whose eyes have been opened by the grace of God.

He was so when here on earth; He is just the same upon the throne today; but we could never have known the sweetness that abides in Him if He had not trodden the path of bitterness and sorrow. He was the Man of Tears, the Man of the broken heart (Ps. 69); but the grief of that wonderful life of sweetest devotion to God, and love to men, was but the preliminary to the awful sorrow that He endured on the cross, when He took the bitter cup of sin's judgment from the hand of God. It was then that the water-floods rolled over Him, and every sorrow found its centre in His blessed heart. Calvary spelt “Mara,” for Jesus; but the intensity of that bitterness only disclosed the sweetness of that marvellous love which no power could check or sorrow overwhelm. Yes, His is an unmeasured love; stronger than death—more lasting than the ages—unutterably sweet.

It was to Naomi in her sorrow that Ruth clung, and for the love of her who had passed through “Mara” she said: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).

When she made this memorable decision she knew nothing of Boaz (type of Christ in His present position of power), nor of the place of favour and exaltation that awaited her. The love of Naomi controlled her and she was satisfied (be it noted) not to dwell and to live, but to “lodge” and to “die” with Naomi. She embraced the path of strangership for the compensation she found in the pleasantness of Naomi's company.

How true are the words:

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

Which has made us now pilgrims below.”

Nothing else will: the thought of coming glories will not, in itself, separate us from the world. The attractions of the “world to come” (and its attractions are indeed great) will not of themselves draw our hearts out of “this present evil world.” His love alone—the love displayed at Calvary —can do this: and so the path of discipleship is invariably connected with the cross. It was this that controlled Paul the Apostle, for he said, “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.”

God grant that just as the portion that Ruth found in Naomi delivered her from Moab forever, and bound her up with the interests of the one whose love controlled her, so may the preciousness of Jesus, who endured the cross and despised the shame, constrain us to wholehearted devotion to Himself.

Ruth lost nothing by cleaving to Naomi, for as a result of it, “Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3); and he was a man of tender heart, for he spake kindly to Ruth and comforted her (v. 13). But not only so: he was a mighty man of wealth, and the field over which he had power was altogether sufficient to satisfy her need.

If we consider Naomi's sorrow as illustrating the deep and sore travail through which the Lord Himself passed, the wealth of Boaz will speak to us of His present greatness and power. He has been highly exalted, all things have been put into His hand, and now He finds great delight in dispensing the blessings of God to those who are poor and needy.

Boaz would not have said, “Go not to glean in another field,” unless he had known that his field was sufficient for Ruth; nor would the Lord have said, “My grace is sufficient for thee” if its fullness could not meet our every, need. Are there steep places in the path of discipleship, and do trials beset the feet of the pilgrim? The grace of the Lord is far greater than all, and those who tread that path prove the blessedness of it, for He has said that they “shall receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18:30).

So Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz as long as gleaning was needful, and she found that he cared for her in every way, so that she was not only satisfied herself but had something to spare.

The whole story is of the deepest interest and full of instruction; but we must now pass on to the end of the book.

It is remarkable that at the end of the story Naomi is again the prominent person; not now in bitterness and sorrow, but reaping the pleasant fruits of her travail.

She had lost Elimelech and her sons in the land of Moab , but she had gained Ruth who was better to her than seven sons (Ruth 4:15), and in this we have a figure of what the Lord has lost and gained by His death.

He came to His own people Israel , but they rejected Him, and for the time being He lost the kingdom and nation; He was cut off out of the land of the living. But if He lost Israel for awhile, He gained the Church; and no tongue can tell what the preciousness of the Church is to Him.

It is the “pearl of great price” for which He sold all that He had, and for which He went down into the deep sea of death, when the midnight darkness of God's judgment rested upon the face of it.

“Down beneath those sunless waters

He from heaven has passed:

There He found His heart's desire,

Found His pearl at last.

All He had His heart has given

For this gem unpriced—

This the tale of love unfathomed,

This the love of Christ.”

The Church as the Lamb's wife will be His eternal companion, for the time is not far distant when there shall sound “as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of many thunderings, 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” (Rev. 19:6-7).

Then in that glorious consummation the Lord shall see of His soul's deep travail and be satisfied: but even now, whilst He is rejected from the earth, the church is His consolation and joy.

Is it not strange that some who belong to His Church (every blood-bought believer is a member of it) should seek the smiles of the world that rejected Him, instead of seeking to fill the high privilege of giving joy to His heart? No higher privilege will be ours for ever: No greater loss could befall us, as Christians, than the loss of it.

It is this which the devil seeks to mar and spoil, and for this he plies his wiles, and spreads his snares, and the true overcomer is the one, who, cleaving to the Lord alone, is glad to lose all for Himself.

The women of Bethlehem gathered round Naomi to felicitate her upon the joy that was hers, and they say: “There is a son born unto Naomi” (Ruth 4:17).

They do not say born to Boaz or to Ruth; but to Naomi, for the child would never have been but for the sore “Mara” in the distant land.

And the women gave this child, which they counted as Naomi's son, a name and “they called his name Obed,” the meaning of which is “worshipping God.” “And Naomi took the child and laid it in her bosom and became nurse unto it” (Ruth 4:16). The child was greatly beloved by her, for it was the fruit of Ruth, who loved her (Ruth 4:15).

Here is set forth another result for the Lord Jesus, He came forth from the Father because the Father sought worshippers (John 4:23). And for this He suffered and died. And in this respect His death has not been in vain for by that death He has brought a countless host to God, all ransomed by His precious blood. These can worship God in spirit and in truth, for they know His love as it has been declared in the death of Christ.

Who can tell the joy that fills the heart of the Lord as He presents the worship of those who love Him to God the Father? Such worship, rendered from hearts filled by the love of God, is very precious to Jesus, for it is the fruit of the hearts and lips of those who love Him and whom He loves.

Ruth and Obed were followed by Jesse and David: and David as the King typified the coming glory of Christ.

The Lord is still rejected by this world, but the time of His return is at hand; the crown of universal dominion shall encircle His once thorn-pierced brow, and as great David's greater Son He shall sway the sceptre from the river unto the ends of the earth. Then shall Israel own Him as the Son of God and their King, and the groanings of a sin-blighted earth will be hushed, and everything that hath breath will break forth into singing, and every note of every song will be in praised the King.

How deep will be the joy of His hearts when He looks abroad upon a creation which has been made to smile by the light of His countenance, and when men delivered from the thraldom of Satan's power, shall rejoice in the knowledge of God. But the foundation of all the gladness which will mantle the earth in the day of His kingly glory is His sorrow and death.

All who love Him earnestly desire this day of glory, and will rejoice in the blessed fact that He shall be exalted and adored in the very world in which He was despised and put to shame. But it is the same love which disclosed its sweetness amid the shame and grief of Calvary 's “Mara” that will constrain them to serve Him untiringly, follow Him devotedly, and love Him now with fervent and undivided heart. This is the pathway of the overcomer.

Is it our desire to tread this path? Then let us hold it fast, for He hath said: “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 3:11-13).

The Trespass Offering

 

“ Then I restored that which I took not away ” (Psalm 69:4).

The Trespass Offering (Lev. 5-6) is usually looked upon as a sort of secondary sin offering and passed over with little notice, but there are features about it, so it seems to me, that give it a character entirely its own and show that it is not a whit behind the four great offerings in its importance.

In the sin offering we learn the guilt of sin, but the trespass offering teaches the injury that sin has done; the sinner not only suffers himself but his sin causes others to suffer. Every sin is a trespass against others.

Three directions are indicated in which sin operates:—

In the holy things of the Lord (5:15).

Against the commandments of the Lord (5:17).

Against the Lord in an offence against one's neighbours (6:2).

To get a right view of these different aspects of sin we must go back to the start of man's history. When Adam sinned God was the first to suffer; he committed a trespass and sin in the holy things of the Lord. We learn how dear man was to God by the counsel He took as to him before He created him, and the care He exercised as He formed him in His own image and after His likeness, drawing so near to him that He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Adam must have been impressed with God's affectionate interest in him; most certainly the devil was, and he planned to spoil it all and to make Adam sin in the holy things of God, to injure God in His holy love for him. He succeeded, perhaps more easily than he had hoped; distrust and disobedience thrust out of the hearts of Adam and his wife the happy confidence that God's goodness had created in them, and God lost them, —He lost the choicest and best of His creation, the crown of all His work. Have we sufficiently considered His cry in the Garden when He came down to commune with Adam in the cool of the day, “Adam, where art thou”? Wounded love throbbed in those words. I say it with the greatest reverence, Adam's sin was a stab at the very heart of God. God was the first to suffer. The story of the prodigal (Luke 15) is the New Testament answer to Genesis 3 and the Father's joy in the return of His son in that chapter teaches us how keen His sorrow must have been at his departure.

Adam's sin was also against the commandments of the Lord . His act of disobedience was rebellion; it meant, “I'll be a god to myself; who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” it was a challenge to God's supremacy. Let us have no doubt about this, sin would dethrone Almighty God if it could. If there had been any weakness in God and He had condoned the sin because He loved the sinner, and sacrificed His justice for His love, it would have meant the abdication of His throne; He would have ceased to be God. It is necessary that we should realise that sin is not only a stab at God's heart but an attempt on His throne. God is love: that is His nature, and He is a just God; that is His character, both His nature and His character were challenged and attacked by Adam's sin and are still challenged by all the sin of his race.

With what hurried steps sin advanced to trespass against man's neighbour , which is counted as a trespass against the Lord. As soon as there was a man to sin against, the trespass was done, and the startled earth drank the blood of the first man slain, not by a demon from a nether hell, nor by a wild beast from the forest, but by his own mother's son. In the murder of Abel, Cain had trespassed in that “which was delivered him to keep, ” and he had “taken away by violence” his brother's life. His sullen retort to God's enquiry as to his brother, “Am I my brother's keeper?” showed clearly that he knew that he was.

The next thing to notice is that the trespasser was not left to estimate the extent of the injury his trespass had done. Moses, who represented God, had to measure it after the shekel of the sanctuary (chap. 5:13). We may be sure that the deplorable laxity of the day and the shallow conviction as to sin, even in those who profess God's Name, is because God's estimate of sin is neither known nor desired. We set up our own standard, or compare ourselves with others and excuse ourselves, because in our judgment we are better than they; and worse, we

“Compound to sins we are inclined to

By damning those we have no mind to.”

It is only in God's presence that we begin to learn the exceeding sinfulness of sin in its challenge to God and the injury it does to our fellows, and then, and not till then do we realise and acknowledge the need of a great atoning sacrifice.

It will be noticed that while the offerings for atonement for sin, according to the law of the sin offering, were graded, ranging from a young bullock to a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour, there was only one offering that could adequately meet the trespass and make atonement for the trespasser, no matter what the trespass was, the offering could not be less than a ram without blemish. The first time a ram comes into the divine picture is in Genesis 22, where one caught by its horns in a thicket died instead of Isaac. That gives the thought of substitution, but who could be a true and adequate substitute for sinful men whose trespasses have not only filled the earth with violence and corruption but risen up to heaven in defiance of God?

There is only one answer to that, it is the Son of Man . And He, in the greatness of His love has taken this place. He said “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14). “Even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The ram also signifies strength and determination. It typifies the Lord as coming forth from heaven saying, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” Nothing could divert Him from that will, “He set His face as a flint, ” “He was not rebellious, neither turned away back” (Isa. 50:5). But further the ram would indicate full growth and maturity. There was no immaturity or lack of knowledge in the Lord. In the full knowledge of God's estimate of sin, and the demands that eternal justice must make upon the One who stood as substitute for the transgressor, He came, and when the suggestion was made that He should seek an easier path His answer was, “Get thee behind Me, Satan, thou art an offence unto Me, for thou savourest not the things that be of God.” And again. “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it.” Finally, as with all the sacrifices, the ram was to be without blemish. The Lord was the sinless substitute; no trespass did He commit either against God or His neighbour. “He loved the Lord His God with all His heart and His neighbour as Himself.”

What a great day and to be remembered is that on which for the first time it dawned upon the sin- convicted sinner, that Christ died for his sins, according to the Scriptures and that through the perfect and complete atonement that He made by His blood, his trespasses are forgiven. “The priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord: and it shall be forgiven him for anything of all that he hath done in trespassing therein” (chap. 6). “The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin.”

We come now to that part of the type which must fill every one of God's children with joy, as it will fill heaven with everlasting praise. Restitution will fill heaven with everlasting praise. Restitution had to be made for every trespass and a fifth part added thereto . The injured party had to be recompensed by far more than he had lost. Certainly no sinner could do this, and yet it is in and through ransomed sinners that this added part is gained; but the One who brings it to pass is the One who made atonement for the sin. It is the voice of Jesus that says in the Psalm, “Then I restored that which I took not away.” Consider the injury done to God in His love for men, so terrible was it that the Lord had to say, “They have both seen and hated both Me and My Father, ” and “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” Could such deep rooted enmity be removed and the enemies reconciled? The answer is, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, ” and we read now of “ them that love God ” (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 2:9). And mark well the character of the love, it is not now the love that Adam might have had for a beneficent Creator, but the love of children to the Father. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” Thus has God Himself been enriched and will be glorified for ever as He could not have been if Satan had not succeeded in making man a trespasser, for the very trespass gave the Son of God the opportunity of bearing the judgment, and in adding infinite wealth and glory to God against Whom the trespass was committed. And God has even now, as He will have for ever, a response to His great love from the hearts of His redeemed children.

Then the trespass against the commandments of the Lord has been met, and the fifth part added thereto, in that we who once yielded our “members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin” and were “not subject to the law of God” now find that “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). We can thank God that through His grace, we have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine that was delivered unto us (Rom. 6:17), and that God gives the Holy Ghost to them that obey Him, and that we “delight in the law of God after the inward man.” We are spoken of as “obedient children, ” and it is wonderful how often willing obedience to God is spoken of in the Epistles. It were well for us to be in continual exercise of heart that we may not fail in this, lest we be found holding back from God that which Jesus died to secure in us for Him.

Finally, as to the trespass against our neighbour. “When we were in the flesh” we affected and influenced others by our words and ways, and lived in the spirit of Cain, saying, “Am I my brother's keeper”? We lived to please ourselves often to the hurt of others. In the type a man might trespass against his neighbour by lying unto him and deceiving him, and must not we plead guilty to that? But what must be the answer to that in us now? “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25). A man might trespass in taking away a thing violently as Cain took away Abel's life. Now hatred of another is incipient murder, and to speak evil of another is really a blow at a man's life, and these things were easy for us in those former days, but now the answer to all that in us is “Hereby perceive we the love, because He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16); a man might trespass against his neighbour in denying that a thing was delivered him to keep, as Cain denied his responsibility for Abel, the answer to that in us is, “the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Cor. 12:25). Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works (Heb. 10:24) “Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification” ( Rom. 15:2). “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:3).

In this way has God triumphed and does triumph as we, to whom the very life of Christ has been imparted, manifest that life in practical living. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all things put on love, which is the perfect bond. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” What glory to God there must be in such a life!

The Two Books

 

The Book of Grace

That the Revelation is largely a book of symbols will be understood by all our readers. Some of these symbols are difficult to interpret, others are exceedingly plain. Christ is the great centre of Revelation 5, and the chapter is easy to understand.

THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDA, THE ROOT OF DAVID takes the Book. It is plain that whatever the results of the opening of this seven-sealed scroll may be they have Israel specially in view, for the titles of the Lord here given are distinctly Jewish titles. His labours of Love for His Assembly are completed (Eph. 5:25-32). He has presented her to Himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, and He turns His attention now to earth and to those judgments that shall prepare the way for His kingdom in it, but He does so as the One who is to bear David's sceptre, and the one who made a sure covenant with David.

We gain little from our study of the Word if we do not gain some fuller knowledge of Himself, consequently we will consider Him. In other days and in other circumstances He opened a book.

We read the story in the fourth chapter of Luke's Gospel: He stood up, the meek and lowly Jesus, in the synagogue of Nazareth in which He had often sat as a boy, and the book of the Prophet Esaias was given to Him. He turned to the 61st chapter of Isaiah and read those beautiful words concerning Himself, “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, to open the eyes of the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” He ceased to read in the middle of a sentence and put a full stop where in our Old Testament we have only a comma, and He closed the book. Why did He do that? The completion of the sentence is this “And the day of vengeance of our God.” He was then and there to open the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of grace, the year of blessing, and to postpone the day of vengeance until that year had run its course. That year has extended until now. In order to open and tell the tale of grace He had to be the man of sorrows in His life and the sacrifice for sin in His death. He was both, blessed by His name, and the grace of God is now in full revelation. But the Jews did not want the grace of God nor Him who brought it to them. It is true they marvelled at His words. They sounded in their ears like sweetest music, but when He showed them how that grace worked, that it reached out to the poor hopeless Gentile, and passed the smug, self-satisfied, self-righteous religionist by, they were filled with rage and took Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built to cast Him down headlong. They rejected Him and the grace of God, and that is why they wander strangers upon the earth today, and they will never know peace and rest until they receive it on the ground of the grace that He whom they rejected brought into the world. When He takes the book of the Revelation the year of grace will have run to its close and the first hour of the day of vengeance will have struck.

Notice the character of our God. If it is a question of grace it is the year ; if it is a question of judgment it is the day ; if it is a question of grace our God is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9); if it is a question of judgment He says “A short work will the Lord make in the earth” (Rom. 9:28).

The day of vengeance has the final blessing of Israel in view. This is plain from Isaiah 61:2, for following the words “the day of vengeance of our God we read “ to comfort those that mourn .” Who will the mourners be when that day of vengeance comes? They will be the godly remnant of the Jews in Jerusalem and the land of Canaan , as the following verses show:

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations” (Is. 61:3)

 

The Book of judgment

Think of the majesty of the One who takes the book from the hand of God. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah . Judah is the royal tribe, the lion symbolizes strength and royalty. All royalty belongs to Christ, as the Son of David according to the flesh. He will be invested with all that royalty means in God's thoughts, and men will see in Him what a true King is. He presented Himself once for their acceptance when He entered Jerusalem “meek and riding on an ass.” And the world rejected Him—Jew and Gentile alike—but when He appears as the Lion of the tribe of Judah He will break the nations in pieces like a potter's vessel.

But He is also the Root of David, the One from whom every promise made to David proceeded and the One in whom is the life and force to fulfil the promises He has made. He is the One who made “an everlasting covenant with David, ordered in all things and sure” (2 Sam. 23:5). He is the One of whom David said “Thou are great, O Lord God, for there is none like Thee . . . and now, O Lord God, the word thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant and concerning His house establish it for ever, and do as Thou hast said, and let Thy name be magnified for ever” (2 Sam. 7).

John looked to see the Lion of whom the elder spoke, but instead it was the Lamb that was slain that appeared in the midst of the throne. John knew Him well. It was he who heard the Baptist say, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and followed Him; he had leaned on His breast at the last Supper, and had stood beside His cross when He was slain for our sins. He sees Him now exalted from the degradation of the cross and the darkness of the grave to the Throne; sees Him, no longer in the place of sacrifice, where He was bruised for our iniquities, but enthroned amidst the splendours of the glory of God. He sees Him there as the centre of heaven's admiration and the object of its worship, for when He takes the book all heaven breaks forth into the rapture of the new song, “Thou art worthy to take the book.” The One who bore the judgment of God in order to redeem men by His blood, is the only One who can judge the world in righteousness, and all judgment has been put into His hands, that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father (John 5).

The Lamb that was slain is the Lion that shall reign. And John tells us more about Him; He has seven horns and seven eyes. Horns in Scripture symbolize power and eyes discrimination and wisdom. Seven is the number that stands for perfection. The Lamb will be perfect in His power and wisdom. He is this in the day of grace for the salvation of men, for “Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). But He will also be the power and wisdom of God in the day of vengeance. He will slay the rebellious with the rod of His mouth with such power that no weapon lifted against Him shall prosper, but He will do it with such absolute righteousness and discrimination that not one stroke will fall where it ought riot, and not one voice in the universe will be able to charge Him with folly or injustice.

The Universality and Power of the Gospel

 

The Gospel of Mark closes with these words: “So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, [His disciples] He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God; and they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following.” The record of this mighty working of the grace of God is given in the Acts of the Apostles. It was carried out under the administration of the ascended Lord and in the fullness of the power of the Holy Ghost come down from Him. It is a record that grows in interest as it is studied. The Lord had commanded His disciples to preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24). We may well marvel at this for Jerusalem was the most desperately wicked city on earth; its history was one of blood-guiltiness; it had not only slain the prophets but crowned its crimes by crucifying Him who was its Messiah and God. But where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.

The Lord had answered their bitter and murderous hatred by His never-to-be-forgotten prayer upon the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” That prayer was heard and answered, and instead of judgment, the remission of sins was freely offered to the house of Israel through Peter on the day of Pentecost. It was national forgiveness that was preached to them, national salvation; and had they embraced this great grace in repentance and faith, “times of refreshing” would have come from the presence of the Lord—“the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Some of them, a small remnant, did believe the message and saved themselves from that untoward generation. But the nation, as such, continued in unbelief and unrepentant; and Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, launched his overwhelming indictment against them: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have now been the betrayers and murderers.” The truth of Stephen's charge cut them to the heart and they gnashed on him with their teeth, and cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears, “and ran upon him with one accord and cast him out of the city and stoned him to death” (chap. 7). Then they fulfilled the Lord's prophetic parable, “His citizens hated Him and sent a message after Him, saying, We will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19). The rejected Man of the parable was the Lord Jesus, their Messiah: the message they sent after Him was the murdered Stephen.

From that time the gospel went out, not to the Jew only, but to all men, and the Spirit of God in moving Luke to write the Acts chose three cases of this work of God's grace: the Ethiopian Eunuch (chap. 8); Saul of Tarsus (chap. 9); Cornelius, the centurion (chap. 10). The Ethiopian was a son of Ham; Saul, the Jew, a son of Shem; Cornelius, the Roman, a son of Japheth; one of each of the three families into which mankind was formed after the flood, clearly showing the universal reach of the gospel of the grace of God and its power. We should have put the centurion first and the man of colour last; but God's ways are not as our ways; He knows how to rebuke our pride, and with Him the last shall be first.

These men were prominent and important in their own spheres; the Eunuch was of great authority under the Queen of the Ethiopians; he was the chancellor of her exchequer; Saul had advanced far in the Jew's religion, and was a recognised leader in his nation; and Cornelius belonged to a noble family of Rome, he was a distinguished soldier, a centurion of the Italian band. It seems as though the Spirit of God would show us, by recording the salvation of these great men, that no worldly honour of greatness can satisfy the hearts of men. But what they had failed to find in the world by honour or wealth they found in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they proved that He is brighter and better than the very best and brightest that the world has to offer.

That which shed light upon the dark souls of these men is of supreme interest. The Eunuch was reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah when Philip the evangelist joined himself to him. The place of the Scripture he had reached was, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth; in His humiliation His judgment was taken away, and who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth.” Then Philip began at that same Scripture and preached unto him, JESUS. It was the meekness and gentleness of the Lord, His humiliation and suffering and death that won the heart of the Eunuch, and bound him with everlasting bonds to our great Saviour. He did not delay, he must become His disciple at once and be identified with Him in His death; so he said, “Here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptised?”

The Ethiopian was a seeker after light; his journey to Jerusalem and his earnest reading of the Scriptures were a proof of this. But Paul the Jew was not seeking light—he was resisting it, like an unbroken and restive ox he was kicking against the goads. He was not at the crucifixion of the Lord, but he took a willing and prominent part in the murder of Stephen and in the persecution of the saints. He confessed before King Agrippa, “I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the Name of Jesus of Nazareth. . . and many of the saints did I shut up in prison. . . and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them . . . I persecuted them even unto strange cities.” He was the chief of sinners, the spearhead of the devil's war against Christ. His zeal against the Name burned like an oven, and “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” he was journeying to Damascus to hale them to prison in Jerusalem . Then it was that the Lord arrested him; suddenly there shined about him a light from heaven, and he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying unto him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” The proud Jew was shaken out of his pride and cried out “Who art Thou Lord?” Then came the answer, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” What a revelation that was to Saul; the One whose name he loathed, and against whom he was so bitterly though ignorantly fighting, was enthroned in highest glory at God's right hand! The discovery revolutionized his whole being, and trembling and astonished he made an immediate, complete and unconditional surrender, saying “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

Cornelius was a man with a remarkable record; he was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people and prayed to God alway.” The messengers that he sent to Simon Peter said that he was, “a just man and one that feareth God and of good report among all the nation of the Jews.” Evidently God had begun a good work in him; there was life in his soul, for not otherwise could his works have been acceptable to God. He had some light and he lived up to the light that he had, and God sent him more. Simon Peter was instructed of the Lord to carry the full light of the gospel to him. It is the entrance of God's word that gives light, and Cornelius had to hear words whereby he and all his house should be saved (chap. 11). The hearing of words is stressed in his case (vv. 32-33) and faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Cornelius knew already the word which God had sent to the children of Israel , “preaching peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).” He knew that He had been slain and hanged on a tree; he may have heard of His resurrection, but he needed to know the force and meaning of these great facts. What he could not have known was what Peter seemed to have declared for the first time, that the Lord had commanded His disciples “to preach unto the people and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” Not only was the Lord enthroned in glory, as Saul saw Him, but He was coming again to judge the world in righteousness, all men being accountable to Him. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father” (John 5:22-23).

In view of that coming judgment Peter made a most blessed proclamation, which was in fact the summing up of the witness of all the prophets: “to Him give all the prophets witness that through His Name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.” Peter's “whosoever” is universal: it goes out to men without distinction of class or colour, and those whose sins are remitted by Him, who is ordained as the universal Judge, are clear of condemnation for ever; for if the Judge justifies, who is he that condemneth? He must have the last word about every man. Cornelius and his household heard the words of Peter with the hearing of faith, and the Holy Ghost fell on them while Peter was yet speaking, sealing their faith and taking possession of them for the Lord, whom they now confessed, being baptised in His Name.

It is deeply interesting to see and to put together the great facts of the gospel that impressed and blessed these three outstanding men. In the case of the Eunuch it was the humiliation, the suffering and death of the Lord; with Saul it was the fact that He was enthroned at the right hand of God; with Cornelius that He was ordained to come in glory as the Judge. These three lines of truth complete for us the gospel of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. It is all Christ: Christ as He was, Christ as He is, and Christ as He will be. In the past, the present and the future, perfect in all His ways and works, and God is glorified in Him.

The Eunuch went on his way rejoicing, and Cornelius and his household magnified God, and that is the last we hear of them. Saul of Tarsus, afterwards Paul the Apostle, is the only one of the three whose post-conversion life is recorded, and this is given in greater detail than that of any other apostle. The Holy Ghost had a purpose in this, for he tells us it was “that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1). In him we see the power of the gospel and what it can make of a man who is wholly surrendered to the Lord: the greatest sinner became the pattern saint.

We marvel as we see Paul laying all his glory in the dust as dross and dung, and counting all that in which he might have boasted as a burden of which he was well rid that he might have Christ for his gain; but why should we wonder? With the same breath in which he tells us of his own renunciation he tells us of the surpassing excellence of Christ Jesus his Lord (Phil. 3). We sometimes marvel that Paul rejoiced that he had gone from his own thoughts, that he was crucified with Christ, so that he no longer lived for Paul, but for Christ; but why should we marvel at this?—when he tells us that the One who enthralled him and controlled him was the Son of God “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2). Paul laboured more than any other servant of the Lord; his great ambition was to be agreeable to Him; but he tells us the secret of this—it is the love of Christ that constraineth us—the love that surpasses all knowledge. It would seem as though it appeared to him a marvel that it could be a marvel to any that he should labour so, for he adds, we thus judge that if one died for all then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5).

In these passages in which Paul speaks of his devotion to Christ it is as though he stretched out his hands to the saints to whom he wrote, and to us also, and cried, Do not marvel that I wholly love my Lord; if you had heard and seen Him as I have heard and seen Him you would love Him wholly too; if He had come to you as He came to me as I lay stricken at His feet, the chief of sinners in my hatred of Him, and forgave me, and blessed me, and gave me His Spirit, and folded me to His heart, you could not forget Him. If you knew His mighty embrace as I do, and if your life bathed itself in His love that is too vast to comprehend, you would cease to marvel at me. Instead you would marvel that any heart on earth could hold back from Him and any lip remain silent before Him; and you would marvel the more that any having known Him and His unsearchable riches, should have another thought of self or turn again from Him to the base and beggarly world.

The Uttermost Part of the Earth

 

The last words that fell from the lips of the Lord before He ascended to heaven were “unto the uttermost part of the earth.” They come down even to us with all His authority, and with that peculiar force that His last words must have for us if we love Him. They describe for us the far-flung sphere in which His Name had to be preached for man's blessing, the sphere in which the energy of His servants had to find expression. To be indifferent to the work of the Lord then in distant lands most clearly indicates indifference to His word and His work everywhere, for His work is one. But genuine, enlightened interest in the Lord's work will not be confined only to the conversion of sinners, whether in heathen lands or at home, but it will also show itself in the desire to see those who are converted standing “perfect and complete in all the will of God.”

The great majority of our readers are restricted in their activities to the districts where they live; it would not be God's will for them to move out, though it may be that the Lord is waiting for others to say to Him, “Lord, here am I, send me,” but all, whether they stay at home or go abroad, should be interested in, and have the privilege of sharing in the work by supplication, prayer, and intercession with thanksgiving; we desire to interest our readers in one spot which is truly the uttermost part of the earth—the Solomon Islands in the South Seas. Here former cannibals now gather in holy fellowship together in the Name of the Lord, and while the work spreads the difficulties are many, and some of these difficulties are explained to us in DR. NORTHCOTE DECK'S latest circular, which he entitles “HOLDING FAST THE FAITHFUL WORD” (see below). We venture to reproduce one part of this circular, so that our readers, informed as to some of the difficulties that arise in these assemblies, may have matter for prayer.

Another thing—in being interested in and praying for these “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,” who were once in the very lowest degradation and darkness, we are able to give some expression to the great and blessed truth that “there is one body,” the members of which “should have the same care for one another.”

 

“Holding Fast the Faithful Word”

In this work for God in the Solomons, the very success of the mission is becoming one of its gravest dangers. On a large scale God has begun “to do and teach,” so that about three thousand have become reconciled to God. Yet the chiefest peril for the future spread of the gospel lies in these same God-given converts. When a babe is born the mother's work is but beginning, not ending. And remembering the perils, the divisions, the heresies of the early Church, in spite of Pentecost, in spite of the manifested power of the Spirit, in spite of apostolic prayers and guidance, it is demonstrated that even when large numbers are truly converted, the Evil One is merely foiled. He may apparently depart “for a season,” but it is merely to return with fresh devices, subtle, seductions and temptations, if he may deceive even the elect.

One of the most impressive lessons one learns in the mission field is the diversity of his operations, the resources of his attacks, and, humanly speaking, one's heart would fail with the cry: “Who is sufficient for these things?” Thank God He has laid help upon One Who is mighty. Yet if in any way these infant churches become side-tracked, and thereby, lose their first love, their present powerful witness to the heathen will be quickly limited, and the further progress of the Gospel impeded.

The Victory of Love

 

“ Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away. And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a Skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst ” (John 19:16-18).

 

“They took Jesus and led Him away:” in that the guilt of men reached its flood-tide.

“He bearing His cross went forth:” in this was manifested the great victory of divine love over human hate. He was not dragged forth, nor driven forth: He went forth. No man took His life from Him: He laid it down Himself. The shouts of the rabble smote His ear, and, with a holy sensitiveness, He keenly felt it all, and yet no thought of saving Himself was in His heart. In majestic lowliness He went forth, bearing His cross. He knew, to its last bitterness, all that the cross meant. He was not taken by surprise, nor did He go forth on the impulse of a moment. On the night that was passed in Gethsemane 's garden He had looked into the darkness and had fully counted the cost. He had talked of it on the holy mount with Moses and Elias. This hour had been planned in the council chamber of eternity ere ever He came, and now He does not draw back. There was no resistance, no regret, and every step He took towards Golgotha shook the kingdom of the devil.

And there “they crucified Him:” and the crucified Christ is God's answer to the devil's lie in Eden . “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” (John 3:16). If God had left us to reap the bitter harvest of our rebellion and sin, we could not have complained; but, instead of this, He undertook to dispel the darkness and overthrow the power of the devil by this mighty and convincing proof of His love to us. Satan had made men believe that God was a hard Master, gathering where He had not strawed. God has proved that He is full of love by giving the very best gift that heaven contained, even His own beloved Son, to bear the penalty of our sin; and it is when the glorious light of this love shines into the hearts of men that Satan's thraldom comes to an end. Jesus was lifted up upon the cross, and that lifting has declared the whole truth, and we who believe it have been drawn to Him. He has become our great attractive centre, and the devil no longer holds us as his prey. The lie is laid bare, the darkness of ignorance past, and God has triumphed; for the prince of this world is cast out of the hearts of those who believe. He no longer holds them as his citadel. They have surrendered themselves to the God whose perfect love has been demonstrated in the cross of Christ.

How great is the splendour of Calvary ! By its glorious light we have been awakened from our night of sleep as by the rising sun at morn. We have been compelled to exclaim: “Then God did love us, after all!” The entrance of His word has given light, and with light has come liberty. The curtains of darkness have been torn asunder, and our souls have stepped forth into the day.

Science has revealed to us the fact that light, like sound, is caused by vibrations, and with all vibration there is music, and if the auditory nerve were as sensitive as the optic we should hear the music of the light as well as see its beauty. Certainly the light of God's love brings sweetest melody with it, even the melody of heaven—and the chord that was lost in Eden is found again; only the music is sweeter, the strain higher, and the glory of the praise more wonderful; and as we gaze upon Him who is now upon the throne, and in whose face all the brightness of God's grace shines, our hearts will be kept in tune, and our whole souls vibrate in responsive praise to the love of God.

Nor have we any doubt as to the completeness of the triumph of Jesus, for He is alive from the dead, and His glorious words to us are: “Fear not; I am the First and the Last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:17-18).

The Walls of the Holy City

 

It is remarkable that more is said of the walls of the Holy City than of the city itself (Rev. 21); there must be an important reason for this. The city is, as we have seen in a former paper (see “ The Holy City ”), the glorified church and the vessel which radiates the light and blessing of God throughout the universe. The question arose the other day as to what these walls indicate—why are they there? My answer was: They are not there to exclude from that city a single saint of God; for “they that are written in the Lamb's book of life, shall enter in.” Those walls are inclusive walls; everyone whom sovereign grace has chosen and called to heavenly glory; everyone who has been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb will have a place there.

“ A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse ,” says the Bridegroom, in the Song of Songs, meaning that she was all for Him, and it is this that the walls of the city, great and high, teach us; if they are inclusive of all whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, they indicate that the city is exclusively for God. The city will be for God's pleasure in the first instance, without restraint and in perfect complacency He will walk in its golden street, and though its gates are opened wide to every point of the compass and will never be closed there shall in no wise enter into it ought that defileth; the gates are guarded gates.

No wall will be needed in the eternal state, when God shall be all in all, then He will dwell with men, and His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, and no fresh invasion of sin will ever cause Him to retire behind a veil. But in the Millennial age sin will not be wholly vanished from the earth, and while God will be active towards men in goodness and blessing, there will still be reserve as far as His relations with them are concerned, His temple and dwelling-place will be walled about. But within those walls all will be as He would have it—holy and unblameable shall His saints be before Him in love.

The walls will not be frowning battlements grimly reared for defence or defiance, raised against great foes and manned by intrepid warriors, for from those heavenly places in which the city will appear the foe will have been cast down, and the devil chained in the bottomless pit (Rev. 12 and 20). The city is the church triumphant, and will fear no attack from without and will be free to enjoy the riches of God's grace within. It will be God's enclosure, within it He will show His glory and every created intelligence will learn from it what pleased Him. And through the walls the glory will shine; they will not obscure the glory or hide its beauties, but they shine as a jasper stone; they have the glory of God. And in their foundations are every manner of precious stones, cut by the supreme art of the Divine Lapidary, the all-varied wisdom of God will radiate there, not to repel, but to attract all nations in admiring worship to it.

How great the glory of it will be— the glory of God , how great is the grace that has given us a part in it— the grace of God .

The Way Home

 

“I am treading a path of sorrow, but thousands of God's pilgrims have trodden it before me, and He who sustained them in it will also sustain me, for His grace and power are always the same.” (From a Letter)

 

It is a rough road that many whom the Lord loves are treading, but IT IS THE WAY HOME. They are learning as they tread the road that earth can yield no rest for their bruised and tired spirits; but it should cheer them to know that THERE REMAINETH A REST FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD (Heb. 4:9). Tears of sorrow are often on their cheeks, but their experience of God's ways with them in their homeward journey shall not end in sorrow, for from the lips of JESUS have come those startling and hope-inspiring words, “Blessed are ye that weep now: for YE SHALL LAUGH.”

We wish to say to our fellow-travellers to the heavenly home, Don't let the devil dim the eye of your faith or obscure for you the glorious outlook by questions as to whether God is good to you or not; lay firmly hold of His sure word and find strength in the promises of HOME with the REST and holy LAUGHTER that belong to it—blessed compensation for the pilgrimage and the labour and tears of the way to it.

“I have a home above

From sin and sorrow free,

A mansion which eternal love

Formed and designed for me.”

Not all God's children are tested in the same way in this homeward journey. Some are well acquainted with bodily pain and weakness, with weary days and sleepless nights; others are misunderstood and persecuted by those they long most to bless; many suffer keenly as they see those suffer who are dearer to them than life, and still others have the deeper and, if it were not for the sure hope of resurrection, the darker sorrow that death lays heavily on the heart as he swings his sharp and effective scythe. No wonder that many sigh and weep, nor can we condemn them, for “Jesus wept,” and the heart that is not moved by sorrow and trial is a hard and insensible heart.

The Christian in a world of sorrow cannot claim an immunity from tears, nay, it sometimes seems as though he had more weeping times than those who know not God; but God has His own gracious way of bringing forth meat from the eater. He is the great and only true Alchemist who can transmute our tears into priceless gems; He can and does turn that which threatens to be wholly evil into our greatest good, and so the Christian has a deeper joy in his sorrow than the worldling has in his pleasure. And the road along which God leads His children is THE WAY HOME. It is this that we wish to emphasize.

“High in the Father's house above

Our mansion is prepared;

There is the home, the rest we love,

And there our bright reward.”

The thought of home makes the mariner cheerful in spite of the waves that dash and foam about the ship; he can whistle in the very teeth of the gale if the prow of the boat is turned to port and the sure hand of the skipper holds the helm. And so the Christian can sing, in the joy that the knowledge of Christ's love yields—

“And though by storms assailed,

And though by trials pressed,

Himself our life He bears us up

Right onward to our rest.”

We want the thought of heaven as our home, and of the One who has made it home for us, and who will come again to take us there, and of the Father whose welcome awaits us, to give our hearts a strong tug in that direction and thrill us with fresh hope.

“Home, home, sweet home:

Our great Friend is Jesus,

And heaven is our home.”

There is another thought not less sweet, and most wondrously sustaining, it is that the love that has prepared a home for us beyond the clouds and the sorrow will not neglect us on the way to it. And we have brought together in Hebrews 4 some of the great provisions of God's love for us while we labour to enter into His rest.

THE WORD OF GOD, in verse 12, is that which discerns and makes manifest every thought and intention within us that would make our feet falter in the road home. It comes to us directing our steps, enlightening our path, cleansing our way. It warns us of by-paths, flashes its light upon the devil's snares and pitfalls, it searches the innermost recesses of our souls and rebukes every unbelieving thought that might spring up in our hearts. How priceless is the word of God! how absolutely necessary it is to us and how all-sufficient in its own sphere! God grant that we may never harden our hearts against His word.

THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST, in verses 14 and 15, is also for us; He undertakes our cause in our heaven-bound way. And here is a theme that might well occupy volumes printed in gold, but how little it is understood. The great high Priest is Jesus, the Son of God. Does not the heart swell with holy exultation at the thought of His greatness? The service to which He devotes Himself in this character is that of bearing up His pilgrim saints in intercession before God, and He does this with truest compassion and deepest sympathy. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities—marvellous thought! It means that every pang in every heart that loves Him is felt by Him. You may not be able to understand it; you are not asked to do so, it is too great for your small mind, but He asks you to believe it, and if you don't you will grieve that heart that loves above all things to be trusted. He would have you to believe that He is serving you every hour because He loves you; yes, loves you with the same love that led Him to Calvary for you. The birth pangs do not exhaust the mother's love for her babe; she would be willing to lay down her life for it at any time.

“Yet she may forgetful prove,

He will never cease to love.”

How could He cease to love? He is JESUS. And what does that name mean to us? It tells us of the love that brought Him from the eternal throne to Bethlehem 's manger; it tells us of a life of suffering service that led through sorrow and shame and loss to the cross of Calvary ; it tells us how His love declared itself there. The waves of death uplifted their awful crests and rolled upon Him to engulf Him; the billows of Satan's power roared about Him to destroy Him, and He went down beneath the deep waters of God's judgment against sin on our behalf. But though He stood for us where all the seas met upon Him, yet was His love not quenched. It burned with a fervent flame amidst the fierce waters, and shed its wondrous light in the darkness of that awful hour, and there it triumphed—and now the Lord is risen.

“And we stand beyond the doom

Of all our sins through Jesu's empty tomb.”

That love has not changed one whit; it is as deeply interested in your welfare today as it was when it bore your sins on the tree. Were it otherwise, Jesus would no longer bear that precious name for us, and we should have neither Saviour, Priest nor home.

But Jesus is the Son of God, for so our text presents Him, and while “JESUS” carries us in thought down to the very depths of the humiliation into which His love carried Him, “THE SON OF GOD” presents His glory, His magnificent greatness, the unmeasured splendour of His Person and inheritance. But there are other thoughts than these in the bringing together of these names and titles that should talk eloquently to our hearts. “Jesus” tells us of His preciousness to us. “The Son of God” tells us of His preciousness to God. “JESUS” TELLS US THAT, SINCE HE LOVES US SO WELL, THERE IS NOTHING THAT WOULD BE GOOD FOR US THAT HE WILL NOT ASK FOR US WHEN HE INTERCEDES BEFORE GOD FOR US; AND “SON OF GOD” TELLS US THAT GOD WILL NOT DENY HIM ANY REQUEST THAT HE MAKES. So that the fact of Jesus the Son of God being our great high Priest means that we are put into contact with the eternal and infinite resources of God, and that eternal and infinite love sets these resources in motion for us, for God loves His Son and Jesus loves us, and Jesus is the Son of God.

Our limited space forbids that we should enlarge upon this most blessed theme, but we would urge upon our readers, and especially those who are passing through trial and sorrow, to consider the High Priest of our profession—Christ Jesus. He it is who can and will sustain you. He has passed through the heavens from the very lowest point of suffering and shame; He has gone to the highest point in glory, and no watchful sentry rang out the challenge, “Halt!” for every gate was thrown open wide for Him to pass triumphantly through, and He is our Forerunner as well as our Priest. He has passed into the glory which is our HOME before us, and for us, and the welcome that He received is the welcome that awaits us. There is not a difficulty or hostile power that He has not met in the way that we travel as we follow Him. He was tempted in all points as we are apart from sin. And now He lives in the glory to succour us with gracious help from thence.

THE THRONE OF GRACE, in verse 16, is also available for us. We may come boldly to it, and when we do we shall discover that our best Friend sits upon it, and there we shall obtain mercy and find grace for seasonable help.

Here are some of our resources, and as we draw upon them we shall hold the full assurance of hope unto the end, and THE END IS HOME.

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