Miscellaneous Writings

Part 7

J. T. Mawson

Miscellaneous Writings

The Way of God's Grace

 

If God had exposed to us our sinful and lost condition without manifesting that love and grace which could save us out of it how hopeless we should be. If, for instance, the Scripture had only stated that we were “without strength” and no more, we should have been plunged into the bottomless pit of despair. But it does not stop there. It says, “When we were yet without strength, in due time CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY.” The dark background of our sin and helplessness is truly given, but upon it there flames the glory of the love of God. So that we can be thankful that our case was so utterly desperate, that it was beyond all human-help; for this very fact made the intervention of God a necessity, and the way in which He has intervened has won our hearts. We can glory in His love, commended to us even when we were yet sinners, by the death of Christ.

The Way of Joy and Liberty

 

“How can I be filled with the love of God?”

“My failure in the past and gloom in the present weary me.”

“My life is full of failure, and each day is perhaps a little worse than the one preceding. As I review each day it is always failure, failure in every way conceivable, until one feels driven to despair.”

“I feel as though I must give up, but I dare not and in reality have no desire to do so.”

These are extracts from letters received recently from young Christians. And we are sure that many are passing through similar exercises. We shall be glad if we can help them, and it maybe a few simple words may do so even before they express the desire for it.

Are you childlike enough to sing a child's chorus? If so, sing:

“Yes, Jesus loves ME!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, JESUS loves me!

THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.”

Sing it over and over until the music of the truth of it awakens the dumb chords in your soul. Search the Bible to find out where it tells you this great fact; consider how He has proved it, still proves it, and will yet prove it. There could be no subject more precious than the past, present, and future of the love of Christ.

When you have to mourn the coldness of your love, think of His love that the many waters could not quench (S. of Sol. 8:7). When you have to confess your forgetfulness and faithlessness, give thanks to Him that He cannot forget (Isa. 49:15), and that He loves His own unto the end (John 13:1). When your selfishness and reserve fill you with shame, bless His name, that He held back nothing, but sold all that He had (Matt. 13:45), and gave Himself for you (Gal. 2:20). Take up the very words, they are divinely given and throb with a wonderful power, “THE SON OF GOD LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.”

“Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus LOVES me!

The Bible tells me so.”

Here is the Master key that will unlock every cell in Doubting Castle , the strong chain that will bind giant Despair in impotency, the angel hand that will lead you out of your captivity. Here is the sunshine that will bathe your soul in your liberty, the air that you will breathe for your constant invigoration. Here is the philosopher's stone that will transmute the base metal of your own life's efforts into the pure gold of acceptable service at your Saviour's feet. Here is your motive, your boast, your song:

“Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, JESUS loves me!

THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.”

The Way of Peace

Correspondence

 

We have received the following letter from a correspondent: “I have been so troubled in soul that when I read your letter to ‘A young man in soul difficulties', I felt I must write to you to tell me what is wrong. I professed conversion years ago, but I always felt that something was wrong with my experience. Others seemed to possess something I lacked. I prayed earnestly that I should be what God wanted me to be, and I have a desire to win men and women for God, but such an awful fear has come over me. I believe in God and love Him, but the thought keeps coming to me that I am not saved. I said for years that I was, but I am ashamed to say it now. I heard you speak on ‘The all sufficient Saviour,' and cannot forget it. If I only possessed that wonderful peace I feel that it would be life to me. I do not mind what I have to go through if only I have God's peace.”

My dear Friend,—

We will not talk of your experience, or your earnest prayers, or your desires to win men and women for God, or even of your love to Him, for not one nor all these things can save you or be the ground of your peace. Your whole letter convinces us that you are the Lord's, yet our convictions cannot be enough for you; what you need is an unimpeachable and absolutely reliable word that shall dispel your fears. We often tell of a young woman who was troubled as you are. She was lying ill in an infirmary, and a friend, knowing of her distress, sent her by post a Scripture text card. She eagerly read the words on it, which were, “Jesus said, My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hands” (John 10:27-28). “Oh, if only I could say that I was one of His sheep,” she said, “I should be happy.” But she could not say it, and almost in despair she threw the card upon the bed. Then she saw that there were words that she had not noticed on the other side of the card, and she took it up again, and read: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). That wonderful verse of Scripture let the light into her heart, and she said, “If I'm not a sheep, I'm a sinner, and Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and so He came to save me.” Now that was the reasoning of faith:—

1. Christ Jesus came to save sinners.

2. I'm a sinner.

3. So He came to save me.

Go over that, take it to yourself, and give thanks to Him for coming to save YOU. You will be on solid ground if you do, for you have that wonderful bit of news on the authority of the word of God who cannot lie.

It is only by the gospel that we can be saved, and there are two great facts in it: First, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; 2nd, and He was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-3). For your offences He was delivered to judgment and death, so that you can say, “He was there for me. He was wounded for my transgressions and bruised for my iniquities, the chastisement of my peace was upon Him and by His stripes I am healed .” But “He was raised again for our justification.” To be justified means to be cleared of every charge of sin before God. And it is God Himself who justifies him which believeth in Jesus (Rom. 3:26), and if it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? ( Rom. 8:33-34). God must have the last word about everything. His verdict must stand for ever. If you have believed this gospel you are justified—cleared of every charge of sin before God, as clear in His holy eyes as is Christ Jesus who sits at His right hand. He took upon Him all your sins when He suffered for you upon the cross. He was treated there as though they were His own, and He suffered for those sins, He the Just One for you the unjust. If He had not made a full atonement for them He would never have been raised from the dead, and He could not have been glorified at God's right hand. But He has been raised from the dead and exalted in heaven, and if you have believed in Him verse 1 of Romans 5 is for you: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”; and verse 1 of Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Of such, God says, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).

Now you have several God-given facts:—

1. You are a sinner, needing a Saviour.

2. Christ Jesus came to be your Saviour.

3. He suffered on the cross for your sins, and shed His blood there for your redemption.

4. God has raised Him from the dead and given Him glory, and this is proof beyond question of the completeness and perfection of His work.

5. God justifies all who believe this gospel concerning His Son, they are saved for ever.

Go over these facts, say as you go over them, Yes, I believe that, and that, and that, until you come to the last one. Be careful about this. Remember that it is the same God who tells you of the coming of Jesus to save sinners that tells you that all who believe in Him are justified, and that from all things (Acts 13:39). This means you. You have believed what He tells you about Christ, then do not question what He tells you about “all that believe” in Christ. The work of Christ makes you safe. The Word of God makes you sure. The FACTS come first, then FAITH in the facts, and the happy FEELINGS follow the knowledge of the facts.

The Way of Victory

Notes of an address on Judges 6:7-16; 7:19-22 at Edinburgh , 25 th October 1912

 

“ The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour . . . Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel . . . have not I sent thee? . . . Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man ” (Judges 6:12, 14, 16).

 

Our feeling is one of deepest gratitude to the Lord for the gracious way in which He has ministered to us in these meetings. We have not only been reminded of the fact that He is our glorious Head in heaven, but we have also had a practical proof of the deep interest which He takes in His members upon the earth, and our hearts have been made glad as we have listened to the ministry that has come to us from Himself.

But we do not live our lives in such meetings as these. We have our responsibility in the home and daily routine, and in connection with our fellowship one with another in the truth of God. That responsibility is to work out into practice those blessed truths which we delight to listen to. It is here that failure has come in, and it may be that there has arisen in our thoughts the great contrast between the truths we hear and the lives we live. Perhaps we have been made to feel how little the joy and the power of these blessed things of God and His Christ have been with us. We are going back again to those circles where lie our responsibilities, and is the future to be as the past, or shall the spiritual poverty and disaster give place to spiritual prosperity and victory? We desire the latter—earnestly do we desire it. The question is: How can it be secured?

 

T Deliverances

The first step, so it seems to me, is to be conscious of the poverty, and need, and weakness. If this is not confessed there can be no advance. Woe betide those who boastfully claim to be rich and increased in goods, for they “know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” To feel and to acknowledge our failure, to go low in the confession of it before God, this is the way of blessing, for God will meet us there. And He is the same God who presented Himself to Israel in our chapter. They could not have been poorer than they were, but when that poverty was felt, and they cried to the Lord in their distress, then He met them, and He met them as the God of deliverances . He carried their thoughts back to what He had done for them in the past; how He had brought them out of their captivity by a great deliverance; “how He had dried the waters of the great deep, and made the depths a way for His ransomed to pass over,” and had planted them in a rich inheritance, driving out all their foes before them. He wanted them to know that He was just the same God as He had ever been; they had changed, but He remained the everlasting God, whose strength cannot wane or falter. And we have this selfsame God to turn to, the God of deliverances, and if in our felt-weakness we are with Him what matters it howsoever strong the foe may be? If God be for us who can be against us?

In the eyes of men nothing could have been weaker than those few unlearned fishermen in the presence of the proud and bigoted leaders in Jerusalem; nothing could have been weaker than that aged and chained prisoner standing alone before the might of Imperial Rome; nothing could have been weaker than the German monk witnessing for the truth before all the pomp of an apostatizing church, grown powerful in her departure from Christ; and nothing, perhaps, appears weaker than two or three seeking to keep the Lord's word and not to deny His name. But out of these weaknesses in the past, these servants of Christ were made strong, for God was there, and the God of Pentecostal days, and of Paul, the God of the Middle Ages in whom Luther trusted, is the same God with whom we have to do today—the everlasting God, whose purposes cannot fail, and against whose will no device of the enemy can prosper, and His power is at our disposal as our faces are turned towards His goal for us. Let us believe this, beloved brethren, and in simple and holy faith rely upon Him.

 

The Cause of Every Defeat

But mark the solemn words at the end of verse 10: “ But ye have not obeyed my voice .” Herein lies the secret of the poverty and distress which had overwhelmed Israel , and herein lies the secret of every difficulty and defeat, of all lack of spiritual prosperity and power. If we have to mourn today the poverty of the church generally, or the lack of freshness and blessing in our own souls, we may trace this condition of things back to disobedience to the. Word of God. Take such a word, for instance, as that in Colossians 3:12-15. “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 charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”

If we had been obedient to such a word as that, would there have been the poverty, the spiritual destitution which we deplore? But it is only by the power of the unchanging God that we can walk in obedience to His word, yet that power has been put at our disposal; it is vested in Christ for us. “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power.” What a thought! All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in the Man who died for us, and there is not a power in the universe that can hinder those vast resources flowing down to us. If we are holding the Head, obedience to the Word will be our delight, and will be the natural outflow of the life derived from Christ the Head.

 

The Upward Path

But how does this power show itself, and who are they who can count upon it? Gideon's history, I believe, has been divinely given to us that in it we may see this illustrated. He is introduced as threshing wheat in the secret place to hide it from the Midianites. I gather from that that he could not do without the wheat, and that he prized it highly; he was determined not to be robbed of it by the Midianites. The wheat speaks of Christ. Is He so indispensable and precious to us that we delight, in secret, where no eye but the Father's, who seeth in secret, is upon us, to thresh out and feed upon the truth as to Himself? Are we determined to “hold this fast” which we have at all cost, and refuse to yield one bit of truth or ground to the foe? It is here that victory begins; it is here that we may become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Not in the public meeting, or before the eyes of our brethren does the path of victory begin, but in secret exercise of soul before God.

“Art thou weaned from Egypt 's pleasures?

God in secret thee shall keep;

There unfold His hidden treasures,

There His love's exhaustless deep.”

It was to this son of the Abeezrite that the messenger of God was sent with this wonderful salutation, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” Every element of victory was there, and this should yield much cheer to us; only let our souls delight themselves in Christ, and the world, the flesh, and the devil are powerless before us.

A second feature in Gideon was that he sorrowed over the broken and fallen condition of Israel . This was also a proof of power in him and marked him out as a suited vessel for the Lord. And to us it should be a constant grief of heart that the saints of God are in the condition in which we see them. Indeed, the more our souls feed upon Christ in secret, and become familiar with Himself and His thoughts, and with His love and care for His church, the deeper will be our exercise of soul as we view that church robbed of the precious truth, fed upon pernicious doctrines, led upon evil ways, and divided and broken by faction and schism. Such exercise will be pleasing to the Lord, for it will disclose a heart in sympathy with His own as to His interests on earth.

Still another indication that Gideon was the subject of the gracious work of God appears. He had low thoughts of himself. In his own eyes he was of a poor family and himself the least of all in it. He was a “nobody,” and, indeed, the man who thinks himself to be somebody is just the man who will not be used of God to help His saints, for he is not with God, nor God with him. But in the presence of the One who made Himself of “no reputation” dare any of us have high thoughts of self? We have but to contemplate the surpassing lowliness of Him who, taking the form of a servant, humbled Himself even to the death of the cross, to see how out of place is every lofty thought. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. May these three distinctive marks of the grace of God be seen in us all:

(1) The appreciation of and holding fast the truth as to Christ.

(2) Love and care for His saints.

(3) Low thoughts of self.

There are many details as to how God led His servant along the road of exercise to the final victory, full of interest and instruction, which we must pass over today. Suffice it to say that as a result of all that God taught him, he was able, at last, in a conquering faith to link his name with God's, and to cry “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” His whole thought and purpose was bound up, and one with the Lord's, like that other good soldier who could say, “The testimony of the Lord, and of me His prisoner.” The testimony of the Lord was everything to Paul. The glorious gospel of God concerning His Son, the risen Man, in whom is secured all glory for God and blessing for men; for this he lived, aye, and died also. May we, like him, being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, stand without shame or fear in this same testimony.

But this is not to be done in the strength of men; we must fall back upon the power of God. It was not by methods learnt in the military schools that Gideon overthrew the Midianites. Trumpets, pitchers, and lamps—these were their weapons. To this we have a reference in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7. “For God who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us

Yes, that is it; if the glorious light of the knowledge of God which has shone into our hearts, and which we carry about with us as a priceless treasure, is to shine out in the darkness about us, the power must all be of God. So that we come back again to that with which we began, that all the power for victory in the path of faith and testimony is in God, the everlasting, unchanging God, the God of deliverances. He must work in us to bring us into subjection to His thoughts and make us serviceable to Himself, but the end is assured.

Let us set out, in confidence in Him, along the road of His will; His power will sustain us in every step we take upon it until He brings us to filial victory, and then shall we with joy bear witness to the fact that Himself has done it all.

The Witness of Simon Peter

 

When the time came for Simon Peter to write his Epistle the Holy Spirit of God brought to his remembrance what he had seen and heard (John 14:26) and gave him the thoughts and the very words with which to express them. Like all the rest of Scripture what he wrote was inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16), and his words are not those which man's wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Ghost teacheth (1 Cor. 2:13). But what he wrote was what he had witnessed and out of his own experience. He had been one of the Lord's chief companions for more than three years, and had been impressed by the holiness of His life; this comes out in his memorable confession of the Lord, when many of the disciples forsook Him. Then he spoke out that which God had taught him: “We have believed and known that Thou art the Holy One of God” (John 6:69; N.Tr.). That was his confession of and to the Lord and it afterwards became a prominent part of his ministry in public preaching (Acts 2:27) and when he wrote his Epistle.

When writing of our redemption he tells us that it was by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot . This is the firm foundation of all our blessing, and it has secured glory to God. A holy God could not have accepted a blemished sacrifice, nor would one of lesser worth have availed for us. Only in divine righteousness could the grace that saves reach sinful men.

He knew that the redeemed of the Lord would need an example and a Leader in whose steps they would follow; and he sets before them no less a One than Christ Himself, but he is careful to state that He “ did no sin, neither was guile in His mouth

If they were called upon to suffer, Christ Himself had suffered before them, but He suffered as the Just One for sins. That statement cannot be too often quoted, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just One for the unjust that He might bring us to God.”

“Without blemish and without spot”! “He did no sin, neither was guile in His mouth”! He was the “Just One for us the unjust”! This was Peter's threefold witness to the holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The sinless One was a sufferer in this world of sinful men. The Spirit of Christ that was in the prophets testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ (chap. 1:11), and Peter had been a witness of these sufferings (chap. 5:1). He suffered for sins; it was for this He came into the world. “His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree . . . and by His stripes we are healed” (chap. 2:24). None can be a partaker of these sufferings; the cross stands alone in its mysterious darkness. No created being can fathom the depths of the woe that pressed from the soul of the suffering Saviour the unanswered cry, “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani.”

“But He was there, the Substitute

For our offences to atone,

To Him our guilt did God impute

And there He bore His wrath alone,

That we, forgiven and set free,

Redeemed by His most precious blood

From sin and all iniquity,

Might find our peace and joy in God.”

But He also suffered at the hands of men; He was despised and rejected by them. They reviled Him, but He did not answer in kind; when they caused Him to suffer, He did not threaten them—He wept over them, and prayed for them, and died that they might be saved; and He suffered thus with us in view, that He might leave us an example that we should follow in His steps (chap. 2:21). It is our privilege to be partakers of these sufferings for His Name's sake (chap. 4:13).

He tells us we must not be surprised when called upon to suffer, for it is not something strange; Peter would remember the Lord's own words, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” We are to expect the suffering, and to rejoice in it, for we are to be made glad with exceeding joy when Christ's glory shall be revealed (chap. 4:13). Surely Peter had those other words of the Lord in his mind as he wrote, “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you and when they shall separate you from their company, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man's sake; rejoice ye in that day and leap for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven.” The reproach of Christ is greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt .

Peter had also observed that it was in subjection to the will of God that the sinless One trod the path of suffering until He could say, “It is finished.” Nothing could turn Him out of the path of God's will. The contradiction of sinners could not do it; the subtlety and the power of the devil could not do it; His friends could not do it, Peter on one occasion, with the boldness of ignorance, had attempted to do it, only to be sternly rebuked, because he savoured not the things of God but of men. He set His face as a flint. Peter never forgot that. He addresses his Epistle to those who had been elected and sanctified unto the obedience of Jesus Christ and he calls them “children of obedience” (chap. 1:14, N.Tr.). He presses God's will upon us, as such; he tells us that it is the will of God that we should be known by well-doing; that it is better by the will of God to suffer for well-doing than for evildoing (chap 2:15); that our one aim in life is to live for the will of God (chap 4:2), and if we do suffer according to His will, we can commit the keeping of our souls to Him in well-doing as unto a faithful Creator (chap. 4:19); and in this we should be following in the footsteps of Jesus, who when He suffered, committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously (chap. 2:13). Submission and not self-assertion is to be a definite feature in our lives. We are to humble ourselves under God's mighty hand (chap. 5:6); to be subject one to another (chap. 5:5) and to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake (chap. 2:13).

The transfiguration of our Lord on the holy mount, had made an indelible impression on the soul of Peter: it was the sure pledge to him of the glory that should follow, the sufferings had been a witness of the sufferings of Christ, but he had also been given a glimpse of the glory that should follow. “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty,” he says, “when we were with Him in the holy mount”; 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” (2 Pet. 1:17).

The glory is to be revealed. Its revelation is our lively hope to which God, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us; and Peter cheers the suffering saints by reminding them of it. Our faith may be tried, but if so it is going into God's treasury and will be found more precious than gold that perisheth; it will be unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. We look on to that day—that day of manifestation, when everything will be seen and appraised at its true value. Hope must be active as well as faith; we are not to let our lamps grow dim, but to gird up the loins of our mind, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ (chap. 1:13).

Peter had not been docile and subject to his Lord like his friend John, but the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul had not let him go. We can understand his feelings as he wrote, “For ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” With what grace the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul had dealt with him when he went astray; he could write, “The Lord is gracious”; he had drunk deeply of that grace. None knew it better than he. With what grace the Lord greeted him when Andrew introduced him at the first and at every crisis and turn in his chequered soul-history grace abounded to him, until fully restored to confidence in the presence of his brethren he was recommissioned by the great and chief Shepherd, and could write of “the crown of glory that fadeth not away” that He, the chief Shepherd, will give at His appearing to all who care for His flock.

Peter had suffered for his self-confidence, the root of which was pride of heart, and he desired to save the beloved saints to whom he wrote, and us, from this folly; hence his exhortation, “Be clothed with humility” (chap. 5:5). The R.V. reads, “Gird yourselves with humility, and serve one another.” The New Translation reads, “And all of you bind on humility towards one another.” I am sure that Peter had in his memory the unforgettable act of the Lord when on the night on which He was betrayed He rose from the supper-table and laid aside His garments and took a towel and girded Himself and began to wash His disciples' feet. Peter had resented the Lord's taking that place of lowly service to him; he did not understand then that Divine love must serve its objects as long as a need remains; and while the feet-washing was a symbolical act, and while in it there is a depth of meaning only discerned by loving hearts, we must not miss that which lies on the surface. “I have given you an example,” said the Lord, that ye should do as I have done to you.” Luke tells us that at that same Supper He said to them, “I am among you as He that serveth.” God looks for the reproduction of the features of His Son in us, and if our hearts are affected by the love of the Lord we shall gladly serve one another with humility of heart. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” And grace from above and humility within are needed for such service.

When Peter wrote, “Casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you,” did he remember the storm on the sea? when he and his brethren in a panic of fear awoke their sleeping Lord with the faithless cry, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” Surely never again after that experience would he doubt the care of his Lord.

Had he his former inflated thought of himself and the dire result of it in mind as three times over he exhorted his readers to be sober? Three times he had denied the Lord, he had not been sober then and he did not watch unto prayer; hence the devil found him an easy prey, and would have devoured and destroyed him had it not been for the intercession and restoring grace of the Lord. But how sobered he must have been as he thought of his folly and sin, but more so, a hundredfold more so, as he contemplated the sufferings of his sinless Saviour for his fleshly self-confidence and the sins which were the fruit of it. We can only get a right estimate of our sins as we view them in the light of the cross. How deep must have been his feelings as he remembered it all and wrote, “ You who are kept by the power of God” (chap. 1:5, N.Tr.); for he had been kept that his faith failed not. The devil as a roaring lion may seek to devour those who belong to Christ, but his devilish hatred of them will not avail him, nor all his subtlety and strength, for not even he can pluck them out of the Shepherd's hands, and the Father who gave them to Him is greater than all and no one can pluck them out of the Father's hand. Yet with his own experience in mind Peter warns us to be sober, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end” (chap. 1:13). “The end of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (chap. 4:7). “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, walketh about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (chap. 5:8).

Three times the Lord had challenged Peter with the searching question, “Lovest thou Me?” and at least three times, four in fact, Peter urges us to love the brethren. “Unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (chap. 1:22). “Love the brotherhood” (chap. 2:17). “Love as brethren, be pitiful” (chap. 3:8). “Above all things have fervent love among yourselves, for love covers a multitude of sins” (chap. 4:8, N.Tr.). Peter had learned from the Lord's own words that the way by which all men would know that they were His disciples would be if they had love one for another. He would remember the Lord's resurrection message, “Go unto My brethren,” and he did not forget that three tines over He had given them a commandment. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). “This is My commandment that ye love one another as I have loved you” (chap. 15:12). “These things I command you, that you love one another” (chap. 15:17).

Finally, God is the God of all grace (chap. 5:10), and He has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, and meanwhile we stand in the true grace of God. “To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” Amen.

“The Woman whom Thou gavest . . . me”

“The Men which Thou gavest Me”

(Genesis 3:12, John 17:6)

 

How great is the contrast between the first man and the second, between Adam and Christ. To Adam God gave a helpmeet to be his companion and joy in the place of dominion in which God set him. And as it was his responsibility to keep the earth for God, so also was it his responsibility, and should have been counted his chief duty and joy, to keep the woman, also, from every evil, for she was nearer to him and more to him than all beneath him, seeing she was taken out of him and given to him by God.

But he failed to keep her. He had evidently given her God's word as to the trees of the garden, but he did not support her in the hour of trial, nor preserve her from the subtle tempter; and when she fell he made no attempt to rescue her, but followed her with his eyes open into the place of disobedience to God and defiance of His word. Hence “by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin.” And when he was confronted by God with his treachery and sin, his now sinful and selfish heart cast the blame of all the ruin upon the woman and upon God whose gift to him she was.

Then Christ came, and to Him were given men, who were to form the nucleus of His church, which is to be His helpmeet when He is given the place of universal dominion. He found them fallen and ignorant, but He gave them His Father's word, and thus He enlightened their darkness and brought them into a new life, and taught them so gently and patiently that when the test came to them as to whether they would join the multitude or follow Him, they chose to follow Him. “They have kept Thy word,” said the Lord of them.

But how was it that they had done this? The secret is revealed when He said, “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” (John 17:12). It was His love and power and grace that kept them from being seduced from Him by a subtle foe. But all this of which He spoke involved Him in death, for He found His own where sin had left them, lying under the judgment of death, and He had to bear that judgment to release them from it. The full penalty fell upon Him, and those disciples of His, and all who have believed on Him since, are kept by Him. He gives them eternal life, and none shall pluck them out of His hand. And soon shall come that day of His glory when all who have been given to Him out of the world shall be presented by Him, faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24). What a contrast this to Adam who, as a willing partner in his wife's transgression, stood miserable and afraid before God, casting the blame upon her whom he ought to have kept.

All those, kept by Him, shall form His church which He loved so well that He 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). Then shall we all be beyond the reach of evil and temptation, and His labour of love and constant solicitude for us in this respect over, He will rest in His love, and we shall be with Him, the eternal evidence of a love that died to deliver us and a care that kept us unceasingly.

The Word and the World

From an address given at a prayer meeting for the Gospel in heathen lands at Heaton Chapel

 

I got my message for this meeting through the post this morning. Among some circulars from a publisher was one advertising “Young's Analytical Concordance”—a very good book to possess. In this circular was a report of an address given at a meeting of a Bible Society. The speaker had been looking up the word “Word” in the Concordance, and had been greatly interested by the fact that the word following “Word” was “work” and following work was “worker,” and following worker was “world”—a very remarkable sequence of words. There was the “Word” for the “world,” but between the two, and indispensable if the Word is to reach the world, are the “work” and the “worker.” The speaker said, and very wisely too, that often this true sequence was reversed. That Christians saw and felt the need of the world and decided to be workers, and then asked to be provided with work, and then went to the Word for a message, and small wonder that disappointment and discouragement were the result. The order is not world, worker, work, Word, but Word, work, worker, world. We must keep the sequence right; we must begin with the Word, or we shall be running to the world without a message, as Ahimaaz the son of Zadok desired to run to King David though he had no tidings ready.

When the fullness and blessedness of the Word of God's grace gets into our hearts our mouths must speak, and we shall be like Elihu, who said, “I am full of matter, the Spirit within me constraineth me.” “I will speak, I will open my lips.” We shall not wait until we are sent to some field of labour 5000 miles away, to communicate what fills our hearts, we shall find those who need the Word close at hand. We shall understand that the world is one and that the Word is for the world, and that the world—the needy world—is here as well as there. If we are not interested in the souls of those close beside us, our interest in work abroad is of very little value.

But what is the message in the Word? “The voice said, Cry. And be said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” That is not an exhilarating message. No one would desire to carry that message to men if that were all the Word contained. Thank God it is not all; but it is necessary that it should be told to make way for what follows. “THE WORD OF OUR GOD SHALL STAND FOR EVER” (Isa. 40). And this Word is good news: it warms the hearts and energizes the souls of those who receive it. It has been said of it, “The essence and glory of the gospel is that it is for all, and he who truly receives it receives it as a salvation for all, and feels himself impelled to communicate it to others. With it comes the power at once to consider and to care for others.” Thus do we become the happy channels by which God communicates His Word to the world.

The Word is for the world. We cannot limit it to any smaller sphere. “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations ,” said the risen Lord. And the last words that the wondering disciples heard from the lips of their ascending Lord were, “UNTO THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE EARTH.” We here tonight have not been called to fare forth into other lands, but where we cannot go in person we may go in heart, and in our prayers. And as those who pray about the work we are partners in it. Let no one suppose that prayer is a secondary thing; a thing to be done or left undone according to our moods and whims. If the Word is in our hearts we shall then pray; we shall labour fervently in fellowship in the gospel and be partners in prayer, and thus shall we show out in the work of God in the world.

What encouragement for us to pray there is in the great apostles' appeal, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as it is with you.” We desire to share with others what we have through grace; we show this desire tonight by our prayers. It is the Word in our hearts that makes us pray for the work and the workers in world.

“The Word Became Flesh”

 

“IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD.” In this opening statement of the Gospel of John our thoughts are carried back to Eternity, and by the infinite grace of our God there is revealed to us who and what was there. Before Time began or ever the first creatorial word was uttered the Word was there. But He was not alone, “THE WORD WAS WITH GOD.” The “with” of that statement not only reveals to us the distinct personality of the Word, but implies companionship and oneness of thought and life. The Word was in absolute accord with God. There was no breach in the harmony of that timeless eternity; between God and the Word there was perfect, ineffable communion. “The face of the eternal Word, if we may dare so to express ourselves, was ever directed to the face of the eternal Father” (Liddon); or to use those divinely inspired words in Proverbs 8. “Then was I by Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him,” or to come to the more intimate and fuller revelation which is in this same chapter, we learn that this same Person, as the only-begotten Son, is in the bosom of the Father. No creature mind can fathom the depth and blessedness and intimacy of that eternal witnesses , but we know of no human language that could express it better.

This could only be because the Word was Divine in His nature and Being—“THE WORD WAS GOD.” The Fellow of the Lord of Hosts (Zech. 13:7) must of a necessity be God, eternally co-equal with the One who delighted in Him and in Whose bosom He dwelt. Then as though to give a special emphasis to His distinct personality, so that we may be in no doubt as to it the Spirit of God adds, “ The same was in the beginning with God .” There was no period of time when that withness began, it was eternal in its character and blessedness. Here then are three things to ponder as to the glory of the Word. His eternal existence, His distinct personality, His substantial Godhead. “The language of the Gospel is plain as possible, and like the sword of Paradise, turns every way, in opposition to the thoughts and reasonings of men, to defend the Divinity [Deity] and the personality of the Son of God” (J.N.Darby).

The Word is a divine title, and it belongs to Him whom we know as JESUS, our Saviour. This makes us eager to know what it means. It means that whenever and howsoever and to whomsoever God has spoken and revealed Himself, He has done it by Him who is the Word. It means more than that—all that has been spoken by Him was in Him before it was revealed. The prophet Micah declared that His goings forth were from eternity. What those goings forth were we do not know, but we cannot suppose that God was inactive in those measureless ages, but whatever those activities were, they found their expression in the Word. But now in Time His goings forth have been brought within man's range: first in creation, and then in the revelation of the heart of God and the redemption of men.

“ All things were made by Him, for without Him was not anything made that was made .” The Word is the creator and in creation He expressed the power and divinity of God. And this is acknowledged by all men who are not wilfully blind, or alienated from the life of God.

He was the originator, the designer, the maker of the universe and every creature in it. It is by faith that we understand this (Heb. 11) and we have no need to waste our time and weary our brains, as does the evolutionist, in the vain search for some cause within nature of its multifarious life, the Cause was outside of it and transcendent to it. We are carried to the source and cause of it all in these words. We begin with the Word. He has made all things and He upholds all things that He has made, and we know that He will eventually make all things serve his glory, and so justify the making of them, then shall everything that hath breath praise Him.

“ And the Word became flesh .” What great statements there are in this chapter they break upon us with an abruptness that would surprise and startle us if we had not become so familiar with them. Let us put two of them together. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh.” The first sentence carries us back into Eternity, the second brings Him who was eternal into Time. First we learn Who and What the Word was, then what He became, and this opens up a new chapter in God's ways with men, that must issue in eternal blessing for them and glory to Him. It was the Word Himself, the Creator that became flesh. He did not take the nature of angels, it was the sons of men whom He loved and sought: frail, mortal, sinful men; and He was made in their likeness that He might dwell among them, not to condemn them or make them afraid, but that He might win them and save them. Here is the mystery of Godliness, which is very great, it transcends all human conception, and because of this we are only safe as we abide by the words of Scripture in considering it. Master Ridley, who was burned at the stake in the days of the infamous Mary said, “In these matters I am so fearful that I dare not speak further, yea, almost none otherwise than the text doth, as it were, lead me by the hand.” He was a wise man. Many a fierce battle has been fought over the truth of Christ's person in the history of the church, to the damage of the saints of God and the glee of their foes. Gibbon, the historian, says of the early fathers, “The principle of discord was alive in their bosom, and they were more solicitous to explore the nature, than to practise the laws, of their Founder.” We must shun such folly as that as we would shun the devil himself. Creeds have been formulated in the hope of defining the truth and fixing the faith of men as to it, and these have become in turn the subject of conflict, insomuch that the text which will lead us by the hand, according to Ridley's quaint words, if we are subject and willing, has been obscured or forgotten. We turn to it afresh, here are Holy Ghost-inspired words, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” This is wholly of God. No man could have conceived such a thing as this. If the distance that separated us from God was to be removed, the best that we could have thought of was that we should struggle through impenetrable darkness and against incalculable difficulties out of the depth of our fall up to His throne—an eternal impossibility of course, but the awakened soul would say, His justice, His majesty the glory of His Name demands it, and because we are “without strength” to accomplish the impossible task, we are hopeless. But here we have the revelation of God that confounds us, that fills us with wonder, and changes all our false yet natural thoughts of Him. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” It was the only way in which He could reach us, only by becoming one of us could He communicate the thoughts that filled the heart of God towards us, and make known to us that love which is greater than all our sin.

It has been said that He might have come as the Judge in righteous wrath, and the law which was given by Moses, seems to confirm this saying: for if when the law came to men, Sinai was swathed in darkness and tempest, and from its flaming summit the lightnings flashed and the thunders pealed, so that Moses himself trembled with fear at the sight of it, we might well conclude that the coming of the Lord whose law it was would mean the complete destruction of men, but in this we should be utterly wrong. If He had come as the Judge, His creatorial work would have been in vain, His eternal counsels would have failed. His thoughts would have perished. He would have lost the creature of His choice for ever, and Satan would have triumphed. No, He could not at the first coming, come as the Judge. The Scriptures bore witness to the great truth that if God came down to men He must come as their Saviour, and further, if they were to be saved, God must come and do it. The incarnation of the Word was the fulfilment of the Scriptures.

“He dwelt among us.” He was not censorious and coldly distant from men, He ate and drank even with sinners with a freedom that angered the Pharisees; and so meek and lowly was He, so without self- assertion or insistence on His rights, that they despised Him. He was nothing more to them than a man, a Nazarene, a carpenter. How infinite was His condescension! From the eternal throne He came to tread the filthy streets of those Palestinian cities, and to move among men more vile than their streets, and to be with them “full of grace and truth.” He spoke, in everything that He did, from whatever point He was approached, there was grace and truth. Grace, stooping down to the deepest depths of man's need to meet it, and truth—exposing the lie, making all who received it free, and setting men in right relations with God for ever.

Grace belongs to the New Testament, it came into the world when Jesus came, He was full of it and its fullness was brought to men in Him. It is God's favour to men, and it is infinite and unlimited. God could not have shown His favour to men in a more complete and perfect way than by the coming of His only-begotten Son into the world, this was the best and the greatest that He could do. No other than the Word could speak fully and finally for God, no other than the Son could tell the love that filled the Father's house; He came to do this, and that love in its wonderful activities on the behalf of men is the grace of which our verse speaks. It brought Jesus down to men when they were and as they were, and looked for no merit in them, only need; they needed Him, that was enough. That grace was the fullness of the Godhead working untiringly for the blessing of men.

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

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

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

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

But in the very midst of this declaration of his grace, there comes an interruption. The apostle breaks in with the words, “And we beheld His glory, the glory of the only-begotten with the Father.” It would seem as though the Holy Spirit would allow no interval to elapse between the statement of the fact of the incarnation of the Word and the declaration of the unchanged and unchangeable glory of His Person. This testimony surely means that in becoming man He did not surrender what He was before. His circumstances were changed and His condition: He who was in the form of God had taken His place among men, in their likeness, and in a servant's form. He had become Man in the full sense of that word as God would define it, but He was still the Word, and more, He was the Only-begotten with the Father. This glory that the disciples contemplated, revealed the relationship with the Father that could not change, it ever must be as it was in those timeless ages before the worlds were made. In His humiliation, even down to the deepest depth of it, He was still “the Only-begotten with the Father.”

It was not an earthly glory but a heavenly that these disciples saw; it was not a human glory such as Solomon possessed, for it had never rested upon a man before, it was a divine glory, and the Man upon whom it rested was a unique and heavenly Man. The distinction that rested upon Jesus was that He was the all-sufficient Object of the supreme delight and love of the Father, and that He lived and found fullness of joy in what the Father was, for He was the Son. He was enough for the Father and the Father was enough for Him. This had always been so, for He said to the Father, “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (chap. 17:24), but John is talking about what they saw, that that was in eternity had come into time and was lived on earth before their eyes. No angel could claim this divine and heavenly distinction, it belonged to One alone, even the Only-begotten with the Father, and He a Man dwelling among them.

But to go back to a previous statement in our chapter, The Word was the Light. The statement should read, “The true Light was that which, coming into the world, lightens [or, is light to] every man.” The Light is the Word, but now He is not creating, but shining for the blessing of His creation. He came into it for that purpose. Yet, though He was in the world, and that not for judgment but for blessing, men neither perceived it nor desired to. “ He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came to His own, and His own received Him not. ” How dense must the moral and spiritual darkness be in which the devil holds the world! How complete must be the alienation from the life of God in which men are by nature! Such a statement as this reveals it all to us.

The world did not know its Creator when He came into it. The elements owned Him, for the winds and the waves obeyed His command, and the fish of the sea knew His voice. It was man, made in the image and likeness of God, that did not recognize Him and did not obey Him. And, worse still, His own, that favoured nation to whom God had spoken in the law and by the prophets, who boasted that they were God's people, they received Him not when He came to them. They loved the darkness and not the light, because their deeds were evil. The Creator was a rejected stranger in His own world, and not rejected only, but hated.

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

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

The Word became flesh with this end in view. He became Man that He might redeem men from their sins and the power of Satan, and this could not be done apart from His death. He became Man that He might die for men, that He might suffer for them, the Just for the unjust to bring them to God. “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” The Word who became flesh is He.

The Word of God and the Coming of the Lord

Revelation 22

 

“I JESUS, have sent My angel to TESTIFY UNTO YOU THESE THINGS in the churches.”

“I TESTIFY unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. . . if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book.”

“HE WHICH TESTIFIETH THESE THINGS saith, Surely I come quickly.”

We do not believe in making much of what may appear to be signs of the coming again of our Lord, for we may be so easily mistaken in these and injure souls by turning them to sensational and passing events rather than to Christ. Our business is to minister the truth as to the One who is coming, to so speak of Him and occupy the hearts of His saints with Himself, that they will long to see Him, and will cry, “Come, Lord Jesus.” But there are some signs we cannot evade; they force themselves on our notice continually and shout at us wherever we turn. One of these is the way the Word of God is treated by many who have professed to have heard it, and to have become His servants as a result of it. How presumptuously they treat the Holy Word!

It is JESUS, our Lord, who, in this last chapter of the Revelation, declares Himself to be the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, who testifies that every word of it is sacred, and not to be tampered with; and solemnly warns those that hear it of the terrible and eternal pains and penalties that those must suffer who dare either to add to it or take from it. But this solemn warning seems to have no weight, and the Lord Jesus Himself seems to have no authority with these men, who set their boasted learning above His Word, and think themselves competent to criticize it, and to say what of it is truth and what is error, what is the word of God in it and what the ecstatic dreams of fallible men.

To those who are subject to the Lord and to His Word, and delighted to be so because of the joy and blessing that such subjection gives now, and the certainty and hope that it gives as to the future, “the words of the prophecy of this book” are infallible and sure, and so, indeed, are the words of all Scripture. To them this profane and impious tampering with the words of Scripture is a sign of the last times, in which men are casting off the fear of God and despising His Word, and taking “counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands assunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

It is by His Word that God holds and exercises the consciences of men, but if they refuse to accept the Word as the Word, and arrogate to themselves the right to choose and refuse those parts of it that suit their moods and whims, what hold has God upon them? They have in this cast away His cords from them and broken His bands assunder, and they imagine that they are free.

This is a sign of the last days, and with it the Lord connects His coming again: “ He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. ” Shall we not then, as we see His Word so mishandled, expect Him? When men will not have the Word of God, which is a word of grace and warning, to enlighten and correct and restrain and bless them, but will go their own wilful ways in defiance of His Word and will, is it not then the time for Him to appear who will judge the world in righteousness? And when those who by solemn oath have pledged themselves to be the faithful custodians of His Word are faithlessly treating it as a conglomeration of truth and fable, is it not the time for the Faithful and True Witness to appear? And since the time has come when they will not endure sound doctrine but, having itching ears heap to themselves teachers, who deny that judgment is coming, and scoff at the thought of God's intervention in the affairs of the world, and are both adding to and taking from—chiefly taking from—the words of the prophecy of this book, is it not the time for Him to fulfil His word, and come quickly?

It is His last word, and is it not as sure as any other word that He has spoken? Shall we accept every other word in this book as the word of God and have a doubt about this? It is His last word, and it is a word from His heart for the heart of His church, His bride, and it is the heart that will understand it and not the head. He had said unto John of the whole book, “These sayings are faithful and true; and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show unto His servants the things that must shortly be done. Behold I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book”; and will not he be blessed who keeps this saying, and treasures it as the last word of the heavenly Bridegroom, the bright Morning Star? And what will the response be from the heart that treasures this saying? There can be but one. “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.”

It is His last word in this book in which we hear the thunders of judgment alternate with the thunders of heavenly praise; in which we see the pride and crimes of men challenge the very supremacy of God and call aloud for the wrath that is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness, and which shall crush them utterly; in which the Lamb girds on His victorious sword and triumphs over all His foes, for He is King of kings and Lord of lords; and in His last words in this book, the voice of judgment changes to words of love; the voice that makes the earth tremble, now speaks in tender tones to the hearts of His saints, that in them there might be awakened a response to His desire, and that that response might find expression in a cry that will be as sweetest music to Him, “Come, Lord Jesus.” He has heard this cry from many lips.

“They tasted His love and their souls were on fire,

While they waited in patience His face to behold.”

Is not this the time when He should hear it afresh? Nothing short of His coming, His presence, can satisfy the hearts of those who know that they are loved by Him. And His coming is drawing nigh. It ever was nigh to His heart; we shall show how near it is to ours by going forth to meet Him with this cry upon our lips.

Let all who love the Lord remember that He cannot come to put the world right and establish God's righteousness in the earth, until He has taken His church, His bride, out of it. We can hasten that glorious day for which all creation groans, by looking earnestly for Him and crying with hearts expectant and fervent, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

 

The Work of the Gospel

 

The fear has been expressed that there is a danger of our becoming, as Christians, too evangelistic. This is a strange fear and those who feel it must have imbibed a strange gospel, or sadly backslidden from the true one, if ever they knew it. Is it possible for us to become more evangelistic than the Apostle Paul, who, with a persistent zeal and indomitable faith, carried the glorious gospel to Jew and Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free? Is it possible for us to be more compassionate of heart and untiring in activity than the One who said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor?” If not, then we need not fear; there is no danger of our becoming too evangelistic.

The tendency, alas! is all in the opposite direction, nay, it is not a tendency merely that we have to deplore, but the sad fact that the evangelistic spirit, which is the true spirit of Christianity, seems ready to die. The indifference to the eternal welfare of the souls of men on the part of the vast majority of Christians is appalling, and should cause great exercise of conscience and searchings of heart. This indifference, and the fact that some should fear that we may become “too evangelistic,” is but sad evidence that the love of many has waxen cold.

It has been said by one who was a true minister of Christ: “I believe the Christian who is not cultivating an evangelistic spirit is in a truly deplorable condition. I believe, too, that the assembly which is not cultivating and manifesting an evangelistic spirit is in a dead state. One of the truest marks of spiritual growth and prosperity is earnest anxiety after the conversion of souls. It is hard to believe that “the word of Christ” is “dwelling richly” in any one who is not making some effort to impart that Word to his fellow-sinners. It matters not what may be the amount of the effort; it may be to drop a few words in the ear of a friend, to give a tract, to pen a note, to breathe a prayer. But one thing is certain, namely, that a healthy, vigorous Christian will be an evangelistic Christian—a teller of good news—one whose sympathies, desires, and energies are ever going forth toward ‘the regions beyond'” (C. H. Mackintosh).

But we must understand what evangelistic work is, lest we are deceived by what is spurious and not of God. That is not evangelistic work which, adopting sensational methods, works upon the feelings of the hysterical, and produces converts which last a day or a week or until the special excitement is over; that is the work of the devil, whatever else it pretends to be, and the results of it are often disgust with, or suspicion of, gospel work in general on the part of thoughtful men, or a callous indifference henceforward, or despair, on the part of those who have come under its influence. In any case the work of God is brought into disrepute, and He alone can calculate the harm of it. Nor is evangelistic work the merely holding of gospel services because the regular time for such has come round, and so, perforce, must be held; about such services there is often a frigid formality, a formality that hardens with a terrible hardness those who attend them regularly. This is often seen in the young who are children of Christian parents. “Gospel-hardened” has become a current phrase, but may not the sad condition that it describes be largely due to these dead and powerless services? We thankfully admit that the regular Sunday evening services are often means of great blessing to many, but this is where those who hold them do so in dependence upon God and communion with the Master, and the evangelistic spirit is in evidence in the gathering in of the unconverted.

Evangelistic activity of the genuine sort springs from the divine love that God implants in the heart of a man who is himself saved, and this love makes him desire the blessing of others. It is true that the most fervent desire that ever flamed in the heart of a Christian for the souls of men is as nothing to the boundless desires of the heart of God; nevertheless these desires are the same in nature and character, for divine love cannot act differently in the Christian from the way it acts in the Christian's God.

This love is lighted in the heart by contact with Christ, and is kept brightly burning as His company is kept. It must find its outlet in gracious activity, which, to be effective in blessing, must be directed by Himself. “ Come ye after Me, and ye shall catch men. ”

He is not an evangelist who is satisfied with the public platform, no matter how eloquently he may discourse, but he is one who, it may be with stammering tongue and broken utterance, goes after men because he loves their souls, who carries to them the glad news because it thrills his own soul like a trumpet call, who will win them for Christ at any cost to himself because Christ has become unspeakably precious to himself. We need to pray that God will raise up such in these dead, cold days, men whose love shall make them “ache for souls,” and be in season and out of season in their determination to win them, and may we covet to be such.

But our activities must be IN HIS NAME, for so runs the commission that our Lord has given. We may do it by His authority and count upon the “all power” which is given unto Him, but the work must be done as He would do it were He here, for we are in His stead to proclaim the life-giving Word—as His representatives, His ambassadors, this is the import of “IN MY NAME.” Solemn consideration! Demanding the refusal of every method and motive in the prosecution of the work that is not consistent with that name; demanding, too, the refusal of popularity in the world and the acceptance of the path that He trod.

“Yet it is well, and Thou but said in season,

‘As is the Master shall the servant be;'

Let me not subtly slide into the treason,

Seeking an honour which they gave not Thee.”

“In My name” defines also the character that the servant should bear, for it declares the character of the Master, and how shall we describe that? Meekness, lowliness, long-suffering, patience, forgiveness, tender compassion, and quenchless love, all these and more shone forth in Him with a wonderful shining, and it is ours to reproduce that character in our service amongst men. Oh, the dignity of it! The distinction! The incalculable privilege! Shall we not embrace it, and in lowly dependence upon God make our lives one ceaseless psalm of thanksgiving to Him for His grace in permitting such as we are to have a part in this work of God?

The Wrong Door

 

“ I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture ” (John 10:9).

 

Imagine a gathering of people in a hilly country in the north of England : farmers, shepherds and labourers, rough of exterior, but warm of heart, and with a glad light upon almost every face, for the gathering is largely composed of happy believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such was my first audience in the district of my simple story.

In that audience were two, a man and his wife. I could not help noticing them, for their looks were in direct contrast to those of the rest of the people present. I have not seen a man in the dock charged with a terrible crime, waiting for the verdict of the jury and sentence from the judge, but I believe that he would look just as those two people looked that night—miserable, conscience—stricken, and deeply concerned.

Glad news of the Lamb of God who had come to take away sin sounded from my lips, but no answering joy showed itself upon those abject faces; nay, the gloom seemed only to deepen as the meeting proceeded.

They had a three-mile walk to their home from the meeting, and for some time neither spoke; at last the wife, the more deeply concerned of the two, broke the silence. “Aye, Jim,” she said, “did you no' feel ashamed of yersel' in the meeting? Every word the preacher said was for us. I do believe we were the only sinners in the place.”

She did not sleep that night, for the thought of her sins and of hellfire, which she knew she deserved, made sleep impossible. How to be saved was her one concern.

It transpired that she had been more or less anxious as to these things for three months, and her anxiety commenced in this way: a Christian neighbour had invited her to an open-air gospel service which was to be held not far away, but she had said that she did not need that kind of thing, for she was a respectable woman, and went to church whenever she could and what more could she do than that? “Ah well,” said her neighbour, “don't forget that ‘ye must be born again.'” “Born again.” said she, “and what do you mean by that?” Her friend spoke to her of God and His holiness, of her soul and its sins, and again urged her to go with her to the open-air service. She went.

A few country folk gathered at the cross roads; the preacher stood upon a low wall and without any preamble announced his text. It was, “Ye must be born again.” “Dear me,” said the woman, startled into interest by the preacher's words, “that's what Mrs ___ said to me; what can it mean?” As she listened to the preacher's words, she realized that it meant something to which she was a stranger, and something that was absolutely essential to the blessing of her soul. From that time until the evening of which I have spoken she had groped in the darkness for the blessing, the salvation of her soul.

It was Tuesday night when she heard the preaching in the small village hall. On Friday afternoon of the same week I had to pass her cottage on my way to another gospel meeting in a farm kitchen some distance beyond. Hearing that she was very troubled I called to see her. We went over some Bible texts together and knelt in prayer before God, but still the darkness remained. I did not seem able to help her, and telling her that I hoped the evening's preaching would make all clear, I rose and opened a door in order to go; but I found that the door I had opened led into the pantry instead of the garden. That was not the way out. “That's the wrong door,” she said, as she threw open the right one. “So I see,” I replied, “ The wrong door ”. Do you know that there are a great many folk who are wanting to get out of misery into peace, out of danger into salvation, but they are going through the wrong door for it, they are seeking it by works and prayers and the like? Now Jesus said, ‘I AM THE DOOR.'”

“Why, so He did,” she said; “I never thought of it like that before.” And then, sinking into a chair, as the tears of relief flowed down her cheeks, she sighed, “I am glad that it is over.”

Yes, thank God it was over—the misery, the anxiety, the burden of soul, all that was over; she had found the door, the way of blessing; that door was JESUS our Lord and Saviour.

They came together, the husband and wife, to the preaching that evening, and, the husband while listening to the Word believed it; believed that the Lord Jesus had come into this world to save sinners, that in order to do this “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.” He believed that it was for the ungodly that Christ had died, and so for him. He believed that He was also raised again from the dead, and he confessed Him as his Lord and Saviour.

I said to the woman: “Your husband has got the blessing.” “I knew he would,” she said. “What a grand month November is for us. We first met in November, we were married in November, and now we are both saved in November.” They were a happy couple that night, and that blessing that they got on that Friday in November they can never lose, for God's salvation is eternal, and the life that He gives is everlasting, for “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But how do you explain it? asks the unbeliever. We do not explain it. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). We state the facts, and pass on the simple words that brought light to a soul in darkness and distress. It was a word of salvation, and salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9). But it is by hearing in faith the word of the gospel, the gospel concerning the Son of God. He it is who said “ I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture ” (John 10:9).

The Yoke of our Lord

Read Matthew 11:25-30

 

Of the Lord's grace and yoke I would speak to you. But as you well know we miss the full meaning and beauty of the great sayings of Scripture if we separate them from their setting, so I must first show you the circumstances in which He spoke these most wonderful of all His words recorded in this Gospel of Matthew. “At that time,” we read. What time was that? It was a solemn time, a time of crisis. As we reach this part of the Record a sadness creeps over our spirits, we feel that we are entering upon the fulfilment of Isaiah 53. There is a quotation from that heart-moving chapter in the 8th chapter of this Gospel. “Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.” The King had come to His kingdom, He had come to dwell among His people, full of grace and truth. He was with them to pour out His mercy upon them in a healing flood, but they did not know Him; to them He was only a passing sensation, He had no form or comeliness and when they saw Him, there was no beauty that they should desire Him. WHY?

You have all read Bunyan's immortal allegory, and may remember that when the pilgrims on their journey to the Celestial City reached the house of the good Gaius, where they were entertained after a godly sort, they had much profitable talk. The 53rd chapter of Isaiah was read, and old, white-haired Mr. Honest who was one of the pilgrim band enquired, Why was it that they saw no beauty in Him? And that is the question, surely, that must spring up in every honest, enquiring heart. Why? Greatheart who was the warrior and the instructor of the party—and no one can be a successful Christian warrior who is not instructed—answered, “ Those of whom that is said lacked the eyes that could look into the heart of our Prince .” That was a shrewd and inspired answer.

The wise and prudent of the day who formed public opinion, looked only upon what was outward, and for all their prudence they were deceived by the vain show in which they and their fellows paraded themselves, and Jesus was to them only “the carpenter,” or “a Galilean,” who “had never learnt.” Away with Him! They were blind. Blind! Blind to the infinite, divine loveliness of Him, blind to what was in His heart. They were blinded by the god of this world whose willing prey they were, and as it was then, so it is now, even in this last week of July 1932, those who do not rally to our Prince are those that have no eyes to see into His heart. Did that heart, the tenderness of which they could not appreciate, feel it when they turned with contempt from Him? Yes, it felt it deeply, but for their sakes and not for His own. Behold Him stretching out His hands towards blind, rebellious Jerusalem, and saying, while tears of pity ran down His face, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings but ye would not.” His heart was broken because they had no eyes to look into it, and because they spurned the love that was there.

It was in that crisis, “at that time,” when it could be clearly seen that they wanted neither Him nor His blessing, when they despised and rejected Him, that He lifted up His eyes to His Father. Did the Father care? He had sent His beloved Son into the world. “Having therefore one Son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also unto them, saying, They will reverence My Son” (Mark 12:6). Was He indifferent then to the fact that His Son was despised and rejected. No, He was not indifferent, He looked down upon it all and passed His judgment upon these wise and prudent men who imagined that they could discriminate and discern, and He left them to their blindness and gave to the babes eyes that could look into the heart of His Son, He revealed His grace to them.

It is a most affecting thing to keep in mind that if we have been attracted to Jesus and can say to Him

“Fairer than all the earthborn race

Perfect in comeliness Thou art,

Replenished are Thy lips with grace

And full of love Thy tender heart.”

We have been the subjects of the Father's work. He has revealed these things to us, He has given us eyes that can look unto the heart of our Prince. Our Lord was satisfied to have it so, since this was His Father's doings. There was no resentment in His heart, He accepted the situation, and spoke those memorable words of perfect submission, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Which words I desire you to keep in mind.

But though He was rejected by the people who ought to have welcomed and worshipped Him, yet His glory could not be hid. He is more than King of the Jews, He is Heir too and has been called and anointed to a universal throne, for He said, “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father.” The Father has trusted Him, fully and for ever. Into His hands the Father has committed the maintenance of His limitless glory and the carrying out of all His will. His absolute and universal supremacy is assured; He has the disposal of every created being in His power, from the highest angel in heaven to the meanest demon in hell. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, in earth and under the earth. But His personal greatness is greater than all that He will do. He is the Son, and none can know the mystery of His eternal being and of that eternal relationship but the Father. And He knows the Father, for He dwelt in an eternal intimacy of love in the Father's bosom, and He has come forth from the Father, and become Man that He might reveal to us men the Father's Name and love, that the fullness of joy and everlasting satisfaction that that Name and love afford might be ours, that we might share it with Him, who is to be the Firstborn among many brethren in the Father's house.

We are glad to have that glimpse of His greatness but now we come to the other side, we make haste to reverently acknowledge the glory of His Name, but now we must open our eyes to look into His heart. His face is toward the multitudes now. He has accepted His rejection by Israel and now offers Himself as the Saviour of a needy world. O listen to His words. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It is an overwhelming word. Behold Him in the presence of the world's need. He knew everything; He measured everything; He had heard every sigh, seen every tear, weighed every burden; no heart was hidden from Him; the sin, the sorrow, the sordidness of men's lives was all uncovered before His eye, and He stretched out His hands to the world, and cried to the world with its countless woes and claimant needs, “Come unto Me!” . . . Of course, we say at once that only God could speak like that. For who but God could sooth every fevered spirit, relieve every accusing conscience, bind up every broken heart and bless every troubled sinner! Great is the mystery of Godliness! Only God could speak thus, and yet these words came from the lips of Jesus, the lowly, rejected yet unresentful Nazarene. God was manifested in the flesh!

Have you been arrested by these words? Then now you need eyes to look into the heart of the One who spoke them. If you can do this, wonderful things will be revealed to you. That heart cares for you, it pities you. He looks into your heart and knows its sins and hopes and fears, its shattered ambitions and hidden secrets and desires, He knows your burdens and every deep and unspoken longing of your soul. He knows

“The regret, the struggle and the failing!

The long days desolate and useless years!

Vows in the night, so fierce and unavailing!

Stings of your shame and passions of your tears.”

As you look into His heart and see this you draw near, you are encouraged to commit yourself to Him, to trust in Him. Surely you may fully trust the One whom the Father has fully trusted, you may safely commit your soul and its everlasting welfare to Him whom the Father hath committed all His glory. Yes, surely, but it is only as you look into His heart that you will really Come. It is the grace rather than the greatness of His Name that attracts us, the tenderness of His heart rather than the glory. Here is rest for you, perfect rest. The only One in heaven or earth who could undertake your case is willing to do it. He appeals to you to come to Him, to come just as you are, and to bring all you are, with everything that is a burden to you, He invites you, and there is the yearning of divine love in His words, to cease your labours, and to rest in Him.

“Lay down, thou weary one

Lay down thy head upon My breast.”

How can He do it, and be consistent with God's holy Name and righteous rule? That question we must ask as we draw near to Him, and He answers it. Look upon the multitude to whom He calls. “There is not a man that sinneth not,” said Solomon, as on bended knees he stretched out his hands in supplication to Almighty God. How can this question be met. Above that multitude of sinners a cross raises its rugged head, and to that cross Jesus went; on it He bore in His own body our sins; there He was wounded for our transgressions. And His great sacrifice and precious blood answer the question. The Lord hath made to meet on Him the iniquities of us all, and our sins and iniquities are remembered no more. “I lay down My life for the sheep,” He said, “I have power to lay it down and power to take it again, this commandment have I received of My Father.”

Now it is this One who suffered for our sins, and whose grace has no limit, and Who is now the risen Lord who invites us, in winning tones, to subject ourselves to His will. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your soul” He says. Other lords have had dominion over us and the bondage was bitter. What a heavy yoke Satan lays upon the necks of his dupes and how he befools them. Artists have often portrayed Satan with a sardonic smirk upon his face, and they have not defamed him. He seems to take a pleasure in double-crossing his victims. We have examples in Scripture. He enticed Achan, and Achan saw and coveted the wedge of gold and the Babylonish garment, surely they were lawful plunder, but having got them what should he do with them? Bury them, that was all he could do, and he was soon buried with them beneath the avenging stones of an outraged people. And there was that servant of Elisha, who pursued Naaman because Satan had put it into his heart to covet his Syrian wealth and gay apparel, but do you think he would wear his ill-gotten finery with pride and satisfaction when with it went a leprous face? There are many examples both ancient and modern of this same thing, they warn us, if we need the warning, that the yoke of Satan is not easy and the burden of sin is not light, and that Satan lays his yoke upon the necks of his dupes with a sinister motive and a terrible purpose. How greatly we should rejoice if the hand of our Saviour has lifted that yoke from us and set us free. If the Son shall make you free ye shall be free indeed.

But we must come under some yoke, and Jesus offers His. Shall we not gladly accept it as a great gift? If we have looked into His heart we can do no other, for we shall be persuaded that His will can only mean our blessing. His will is not against us, it is for us and against everything that could do us harm, His will is our greatest blessing. In this Gospel of Matthew He is the King, but the King rejected, but we will not reject His Kingship. We rally afresh to His banner and with uplifted hands and loyal hearts we cry

“Christ of God our souls confess Thee,

King and Sovereign here and now.”

How shall I speak for Him who invites us to yield to Him? He must speak for Himself. He says, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” What is it to be meek? It is remarkable that Moses, the God-chosen leader for His people in the Old Testament, was the meekest man in all the earth; he was a figure of Jesus our Lord. God's leaders are meek, and that certainly does not mean weak. Meekness is not weakness. The meek man is the One who is subject to the will of God, and Jesus was so absolutely. “My Father's business,” “Even so Father,” “Not My will.” This was the whole tenor of His life, and He has qualified by His great obedience to command us. In the meek man there is an absence of pride, meekness and lowliness go together. There have been leaders of men who were haughty tyrants, men of unbounded pride, who brooked no challenge to their wills. Such were Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, Napoleon. But think of JESUS. He took the lowest place, even with those disciples who rightly called Him “Master and Lord.” His love made Him their servant. He is not a hard Master, His commandments are not grievous, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

“Learn of Me,” He says. Some of us have rather unpleasant memories of teachers, and tasks, and schools. But who of us would desire to be excused from this school and from the lessons that our Lord would teach us? We learn of Him as we consider Him. His words are words of life to us, He teaches us by His ways also. Our wonder increases as we sit at His feet and learn of Him, and as we wonder we grow and worship. If we cease to wonder we shall cease to grow; we shall slip back and lose the joy of what we know. But as we learn of Him we wonder and grow and find rest to our souls. We rest in His perfect love, His perfect wisdom, His perfect way, we can take up His own words in all circumstances, “Even so, Lord, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.” And that submission to perfect love and wisdom means rest of soul.

But I have heard it said, “It is hard to be a Christian,” and some of you have said it in your hearts if you have not confessed it with your mouths. A young Christian man said that to me once and he seemed very depressed about it. I met him about a year afterwards, and his face was radiant. “It was hard when I was half and half,” he said, “but it's different now.” He had yielded to the Lord's yoke and he was proving how true were the Lord's words, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

If your experience contradicts His word, it has not been true Christian experience, and can we discover where it is wrong? I once saw a man labouring with a mule. His desire was that it should go one way, its determination was to stand still just where it was. It was hard for the mule and hard for the master, for their wills were in opposition. If your will is opposed to the Lord's will, it is hard for you and it is not easy for Him, but that clash of wills will cease if you yield yourself wholly to Him. Do you find that difficult? Pray then for the single eye. Take your eye off the world's tinsel and its unsatisfying prizes, cease to consider for yourself and look into the heart of your prince. Here lies the secret. It is easy to yield to perfect love, and if you will look into the Lord's heart you will gladly yield yourself to Him, for His love for you is perfect, and you will find that His yoke is padded with love, it will not chaff or irk you. He will not lay upon you any burden you cannot bear. He lifts the heavy burdens, and puts a joyous burden on the necks of those who look into His heart. The burden He lays upon them is witness for Him; He wants you to bear Himself in witness to the world, to show to men what He is and how blessed a thing it is to belong to Him. It has been said, “His burden bears those that bear it.”

Take these words of shrewd old Bunyan with you and consider them well? “Eyes that look into the heart of our Prince,” and take these words of our Lord and let them be a comfort to your heart and a soft pillow for your head. “MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT.”

“Them Which Thou Hast Given Me”

 

“ I pray not for the world, but for them that Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them . . . And I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them ” (John 17:26).

 

Not for the world did the Lord ask in that sacred hour, the time had not come for that. It will come in due course, and when He asks for it, it shall be given to Him, for God, His Father, hath said, “Ask of Me, and I shall give the heathen for Thine inheritance and the uttermost part of the earth for Thy possession” (Ps. 2). And though the kings of the earth combine against Him and take counsel with Satan himself, as they will do, to frustrate the will of God and to keep Christ out of His inheritance (Rev. 17), it will be in vain. The Father's pledge to His Son will be honoured and He shall dash the rebellious hosts in pieces like a potter's vessel and shepherd the nations with a rod of iron But here, in John 17, His request was for something very different to crowns and kingdoms and far-stretching dominions, then it will be a question of righteousness; here it is a question of love. The Father had for Him a gift, purposed before the foundations of the earth were laid, a love gift, that should yield a never-ceasing joy to His heart and a continual glory to His Name, and the time had come for Him to ask for this great gift. Let us hear from His own lips what it was for which He was now asking “ The men Thou gavest me out of the world .” He was speaking of His disciples, and of us also, for we, having believed on Him through their word, are included in His prayer.

There was no more wonderful moment in His life on earth than this. He had concluded His farewell words to His disciples, and had turned His eyes to heaven and was speaking to His Father, and they were standing by to listen. They heard Him speaking of them, telling out to His Father what His desires about them were, and how dear they were to Him, because they were the Father's choice and chosen gift. They were not the sort of men that a polished society would have sought for, the world would not have considered them worthy of honour, they were not famous for culture, or learning, or intelligence, and we cannot even speak of their nobility of character, but they were the Father's gift, and He was glorified in them. They were the greatest gift His Father could give to Him, they and us, whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren, and He had proved Himself worthy of the gift, for He could say “THOSE THAT THOU GAVEST ME I HAVE KEPT, AND NONE OF THEM IS LOST.” The Father had no doubt from the beginning that His Son would treasure the gift He had given to Him, even beyond life itself, and would prove Himself able to keep them in a world of evil and subtle snares, hence worthy to possess them for ever, but this had to be manifested, and it was. He had given them the Father's word, the word that told out how blessed a thing it was to know the Father, and He had kept them in the Father's Name.

How great is the contrast between the first man and the Second Man, between Adam and Christ. God gave to Adam a great gift, the woman to be his helpmeet, but he kept neither God's word nor her nor himself, and when God sought him in the Garden to see how he had treated His word and what he had done with the gift, he excused himself and screened himself by blaming her. “ The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me , she's to blame,” and it seems as though he meant “let Thy displeasure fall upon her, for I could not help what has happened.” But he could, if he had given her God's word and unfolded to her the goodness of God whose gift she was, then would he have kept her from the wiles of the enemy, and have saved himself from that faithless and despicable cowardice and irreparable fall. But all must stand in contrast to the holy Son of God. He could say, “I have manifested Thy name unto the men that Thou gavest Me ,” and though Satan desired to have them to sift them, He had kept them while He was with them, had prayed for them on leaving them, and their faith failed not. And not only had He kept them and prayed for them, but He was to bleed for them, for when the time of judgment came, and the storm gathered thickly about Him, He said, “If ye seek Me let these go their way” (chap. 18). Such was His love, and thus had He preserved them from the world, and guarded them from Satan, and saved them from judgment.

He prays for them—not as associating Himself in sympathy with them as encompassed by infirmities and interceding on their behalf in regard to their needs, for that we must go to Hebrews—but as viewing them as His own inalienable possession given to Him by His Father, and remaining still the Father's. For all that the Son has are the Father's, and all that the Father has are His. Consider that great fact for a moment, for it brings out His co-equality with the Father, and the perfection of the oneness of mind and interests and affections that abide between the Father and the Son. And we also are Their joint possession! And as being this certain things were comely and necessary for those disciples and for us, and for these things the Lord lays claim.

THEY WERE TO BE KEPT FROM THE EVIL OF THE WORLD through the Father's name. He was to have control of them, and to keep them in the blessedness of the heavenly family circle from surrounding evil, for the Father's name gathers within its holy and blessed protection the whole circle of His children.

THEY WERE TO BE SANCTIFIED THROUGH THE FATHER'S TRUTH. In a world of evil, yet separate from it, and preserved in practical separation by the wonders of the truth as to the Father and the world of bliss in which His love is known. And so would they be shining lights in the darkness, and a witness to the fact that the Father sent the Son.

THEY ARE TO BE WITH HIM AND TO BEHOLD HIS GLORY. They are, and we are, to behold our Lord as the supreme object of the Father's love, we are to behold the glory given to Him of the Father and to learn by it that He was the object of the Father's love before the earth's foundations, and that He did not forfeit that love when He became a Man upon earth. Nay, that becoming Man He had given the Father fresh causes for loving Him (John 10:17).

How wonderful is the glory that the words of the Lord open up to us here, how surpassing all human thought is our destiny as being the Father's gift to the Son, but it is not all future, for, mark the closing words of the prayer, “And I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it; THAT THE LOVE WHEREWITH THOU HAST LOVED ME MAY BE IN THEM, AND I IN THEM.” Let us not hurriedly close the book on reaching the end of the chapter. Does the Father love us with the love wherewith He loves His Son? Is that possible? He says so here. We could not have conceived it and would not have believed it If He had not said it. But on the authority of His own words we can say the Father's love rests on us. Yes,

“The Father's love the source of all,

Sweeter than all it gives,

Rests on us now without recall,

And lasts while Jesus lives.”

But here is more, the Lord does not ask that the Father's love may be on us, but IN US. His aim is that it might be in our hearts, the enjoyed portion of our souls, that it might fill us and possess us, and that He Himself might be in us.

The world is to know this marvellous fact, for whom the church as the New Jerusalem shall come out of heaven having the glory of God (Rev. 21); when they see God and the Lamb shine forth from that heavenly city—the Father in the Son and the Son in us—then the world will know that the Father sent the Son and that He loves us as He loves His Son. But now we know all this. We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us as understanding, that we know Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. “ And this is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent .” We could not know these things except by the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit alone who gives the capacity to us to enter into these things. But since they are ours to be known and enjoyed now, and since the Spirit has been given to us all, let us go in for them and “LITTLE CHILDREN, KEEP YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS.”

There am I

 

“ For where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them ” (Matthew 18:20).

 

There are times in one's Christian experience when some great truth of God comes home with irresistible power to the soul and leaves an impression there that can never be effaced. Such a time I recall in my experience in thinking afresh of these well-known words of the Lord in Matthew 18:20. I was a youth of eighteen at the time and an interest in the Lord's work and things had begun to awaken in my life. With some other young Christians I was listening to a very gifted and well instructed servant of the Lord who had had nearly sixty years' knowledge of and practice of the truth. Suddenly he turned to where we were sitting and asked, “Would you young converts like to meet your Saviour?” And as he paused for a moment my heart answered, “Yes, nothing could please me better than that.” But he answered his own question for us and said, “I believe you would run fifty miles to meet your Saviour, but you have no need to do that, for He has said, Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Pausing again to let this great saying have its full effect upon us, he proceeded, “When I go to the Lord's-day morning meeting I say to myself, ‘ I'm going to meet the Son of God .'”

At that moment and for the first time the immensity of the privilege that lay within my reach broke upon me. I saw that our absent Lord had appointed a place where He could and would meet with those whose love to Him was enough to make them desire to meet Him, and today, as then, I feel that nothing on earth can surpass this in blessedness. Things took on a new complexion for me from that hour. I saw that there were two sides to my relationship with my Lord. There was first what He could do and be formed in His all-sufficient and ever-available grace. I had been learning a little of this, for He had saved me and was keeping me, and I knew that He would hold me last to the end, for so He had said, and He will never go back on His word; but now another side of things seized my attention. I saw that it was my privilege to be here for Him along with all who loved Him, and that I was to be gathered together with these unto His name. That the purpose of God was that those who love the Lord were to be His representatives during His absence, to carry on His interests and to do it together, and as such, and when so gathered, He would meet with them. His presence in the midst of them was to be their glory and to give character to their gatherings, in them He was to be supreme. This declaration of the Lord became to me a command, a command such as only love could give, yet a command kingly in its character that could not be ignored or neglected without great spiritual loss. Consider the meaning of His words: the now absent Lord declares that He will come to His disciples, to commune with them as His representatives on earth, for “in His name” means that; that He, the great and eternal Lover, will keep tryst with the objects of His affection, and delight Himself in their responsive love, and receive their adoration. The Lord here presents the fact of His presence with His own in its most elementary form, yet He so states it as to leave room for the fullest expansion that may be required by the truth that was afterwards to be revealed by the Holy Ghost whom the Father sent in the name of the Lord Jesus. Could anything be more blessed, more inspiring, more comforting to the heart or strengthening to the faith than His presence in the midst? And if it is so much to us, what must it be to Him who has made the appointment because His love cannot be satisfied with anything less than the company of those He loves!

It is the Son of God who has said, “There am I.” Us, whom He has redeemed by His blood, He has chosen as His companions! Unspeakable grace this is; and His love that passes all knowledge casts out all fear from our hearts before Him. Yet with what reverence we should greet Him! How the great fact of His presence should affect us! What manner of person aught we to he, who go to meet the Son of God! Now all who know anything about it will acknowledge that He must give character to any company into the midst of which He comes. He could not surely give His presence where this were impossible. Where Christ is, there He must be everything. Who would dare to say, Nay, to that? Then this means that not all who claim to have His presence have it because they claim to have it nor are all who claim to be gathered unto His name necessarily gathered so in truth. There are certain indispensable conditions, and these His grace alone can produce; let us not forget that it must be all of grace, else there would be room for spiritual pride and boasting, which things are an abomination to Him.

In Matthew's Gospel the Lord is King, but the King rejected, and those who rejected Him were rejected by the Father. The haughty leaders of a proud people were not the material of which the kingdom of heaven could be built, the Lord could not gather them into His assembly, and from them were hid the blessed things that the Father had to reveal. They were wise and prudent in their own estimation and so remained in ignorance and death, and babes and sucklings were chosen in their stead. That is chapter 11; in chapter 21 it is out of the mouths of babes and sucklings that praise is perfected. And these two great things are the joy and occupation of every assembly in which the Lord is—Revelation and Response—God made known to us as Father, and praise and worship flowing forth as a result.

But only the babes and sucklings enter into this. So here the Lord opens His discourse with the words, “Except ye be converted and become as little children ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Those whom He gathers together have the character of little children. This is the first essential. But what does it mean? It means that they have turned their backs upon everything that will make much of man, everything in which naturally men boast and trust. They have a new life which does not boast in the flesh but in the Lord. It is the beginning of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?” Not in the Christian assembly where the presence of the Lord is. These vaunt themselves in the assemblies of men and there they receive the admiration and applause of their fellows, or become the objects of their jealousy and envy. They understand not the things of God, and they are set aside. The cross of Christ which humbles their pride and which they despise and reject bars their way to the true assembly of God, and instead God chooses the foolish things and the weak things, and the base things and the things that are despised, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

These are the little children who delight in the Lord, who have nothing to glory in but the Lord. I repeat that this is the first essential, the first indispensable condition for securing the presence of the Lord. “Learn of Me,” He said, “for I am meek and lowly in heart.” The second essential comes out in connection with Peter's question, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Peter had felt that the Lord was leading them into an entirety new condition of things, and teaching them what the law had never taught. And he asks his question with evident surprise. But how he must have gasped with wonder at the Lord's reply: “I say not unto thee until seven times; but until seventy times seven.” This is unlimited grace. It is Colossians 3. “ Forgiving one another as Christ hath forgiven you, so also do ye .” Peter was too astonished to reply, but we can understand him saying, “Lord, that is not possible to human nature,” And we can understand the Lord's reply: No, it is not possible in human nature, but it is possible in the Divine nature. It is the way I have and am treating you, do unto each other as I am doing unto you.” In a word, this is the introduction of Christ.

1. Shut out man and all his pride.

2. Bring in Christ and all His grace. Where saints are on this line they have the presence of the Lord, and they will know it. Where a company of Christians are weak on this line the Lord's presence will be obscured. Where the pride of man has displaced the grace of Christ there the Lord's presence is not.

Are we impressed with the supreme blessedness of the presence of the Lord in the midst of His own? Is it anything to us that we may meet the Son of God who loved us and died for us? Then ought we not to put it first and make everything, even service for Him amongst men, secondary to it? May God greatly exercise every reader of Scripture Truth as to this great thing, so that we may seek and value the presence of the Lord in the midst above all things. We may return to the subject in another paper, if the Lord will.

Therefore I have Hope

 

“ This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope ” (Lamentations 3:21).

 

There was some great cause for this hope that seems suddenly to have illumined the soul of the weeping prophet; his THEREFORE proves this.

It is the word that is specially used to introduce the conclusion as a result of something that has been previously stated, “ Therefore ” looks in two directions and is a splendid word with which to begin a New Year. It looks backward to the preceding sufficient cause, and forward to the infallible consequence. The consequence in Jeremiah's case was HOPE. “Therefore,” says he, “I have hope,” That is an inspiring thing to have; without it life were impossible; with it the heart is made strong to meet any trial, if, of course, the hope is not a false one.

But what was the cause that brought the prophet to this blessed conclusion? A strange one indeed. Hear him! He is in the midst of a great lament; never from human heart and lips did dirge break forth more dolefully. In this centre section of it he tells in harrowing detail the story of his woe. An irresistible power had driven him into a tangled gloom, and his every effort to find a path to light and freedom only involved him in a deeper darkness and a denser thicket. He had struggled and strained for a way of escape, but it was in vain. “I cannot get out,” he cried. His shouts for help brought him no succour, for he says, “I cry and shout, but He shutteth out my prayer.” One answer only seemed to come to his agony, and that was the derisive laughter of his foes. Truly he was a man who had seen affliction, and had drunk deep draughts from the cup of wormwood and gall.

It would appear as though he had once lived in peace, and prospered, but that was long ago, or the magnitude of his calamities made it appear long ago, for now his soul was far removed from peace and he forgot prosperity, and utterly crushed and broken, he cries, “My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord.” Could mortal man be so beset and buffeted and yet live? If his strength and hope had perished from the Lord, what had he more? Surely that was his last despairing gasp ere the slough in which he struggled swallowed him up! Yet that was not the end of the story, though it was indeed the prophet's extremity.

He can do no more, and his cries and struggles cease, and with a heart humbled within him, he dwells upon his experience, remembering his affliction and misery, the wormwood and the gall—as a man might remember, sitting before the dying embers on his hearthstone, with back bent and head bowed in hands and misery in his heart, while the winter storm moans and beats about his dwelling. A stricken man was this prophet, and a stricken man is a disillusioned man, and a disillusioned man is more likely to reason rightly than one who lives in dreams. As he remembered and reasoned, he arrived at his conclusion and got the solution of the great problem; then he lifted his long-bowed head and cried, “Therefore I have hope.” Strange yet triumphant conclusion to be wrung from such unpromising premises! A great logician was this weeping prophet.

But how could this be? And from whence came his hope? Let nature teach us. How deeply into the soil the ploughman thrusts his share, leaving in his wake a gaping furrow! To what purpose is this determined labour? Ah, a great purpose! He is preparing the ground for a miracle. The seed-basket shall follow the ploughshare and into the furrowed soil shall golden grain be cast. Then shall come the reapers, when rain and sun and summer months have done their work, and sheaves shall he gather home in the joy of harvest time. But the field would yield no harvest were it not first cut and seamed and ploughed. Because the ploughshare does its work in the soil there is hope. Has the ploughshare of adversity or sorrow left deep furrows in your soul, “therefore have hope.” The good seed of the Word can take no root in a heart that has not been prepared for it. Therefore the ploughing was needed, and the gaping wounds, and though the process is not joyous but grievous, yet afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby.

But to return to our prophet, for we must not miss the great message that he has for us at the opening of this New Year. He remembered the wormwood and the gall, but another cup had been put to his lips that, in his misery, he had almost forgotten—a cup of mercies. “It is of the Lord's mercies,” he says, “that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” “Therefore we have hope.” What was it that sustained our souls in the past when they were all but overwhelmed? The Lord's mercies! Therefore we have hope. When other helpers failed and comforts fled, what was it that failed not? His compassions. For “His compassions are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.” Aye, the sorrows did not come alone, the mercies followed hard upon their heels. Therefore we have hope! And suppose there were neither mercies nor compassions, What then? Then, “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” It is good to hear the song that hope sings break in upon the prophet's dirge, and to learn that the Lord was greater than his greatest sorrow, and it carries us into the New Testament, where hope not only sings her song, but sings it with a great confidence. “And not only so,” says the Apostle, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

This is a word that will bear considering. Never did a trial visit any heart but it brought an experience with it, and everything depends upon whether that experience be the bitterness and resentment of an unsubdued will; or the indifference of a proud and unbroken heart; or of the sustaining mercies and compassion of the Lord. One of these three it must be, and if the last, which is always the experience of the humbled and contrite spirit, then way is made for hope to enter, not as a visitor only, but to abide as a most blessed companion.

And a wonderful teacher is this hope as she sings. She shows us that the present affliction is light, and the coming glories are exceeding and eternal in their weight, and that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.

We begin the year with hope; the sorrows and the joys of the past—and the sorrows more than the joys—fill us with hope, and our hope maketh not ashamed; it will not disappoint us, for it is based upon what God is—God whose matchless love we know, whose immutable word we trust, and whose Son we wait for—this is our blessed hope.

These Dead Times

 

“ The cloak that I left at Troas . . . bring . . . At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me ” (2 Timothy 4:13-16).

 

To deplore the days in which we live and to complain of the indifference of men in general and the deadness of our brethren in particular, is a common practice—and this may be but a cloak for our spiritual condition. Yet, in truth, the times are bad enough, and there is plenty to make us mourn, and, if the devil had his way with us in the midst of it, to make us hang our harps on the willow trees, and lapse into perpetual despondency. But is there nothing about which we can give thanks? Is there nothing to make us exult, as Barnabas exulted, when he saw the grace of God at Antioch , and was glad? We believe there is, if we have eyes to see it, and hearts to appreciate it.

The times are bad enough, but do any of us, who desire to follow the Lord, find ourselves in such times as did the great Apostle Paul? The winter winds whistled through the window-bars of his prison cell, and his aged body was made to shiver and twinge by the damp and cold, as he lay bound with a chain. Yet never a Christian amongst the many who dwelt in Rome sought him out in his need, or brought him a garment to protect his aching limbs. He had a cloak, just one, but it was nigh upon a thousand miles away. “Bring it with thee,” he wrote to his beloved son Timothy; for he felt the need of it.

The indifference of this day is great, no doubt, but we do not hear of any Christian being tried so sorely as was Paul the Aged. We can rejoice that there is love amongst the saints of God, and that it shows itself in doing good. The Spirit of God is active, and the grace of God is being manifested in His saved ones, not so much as it ought to be; but for what there is, which we shall see if we have eyes to see it, let us praise.

That same lone prisoner stood before the imperial Nero—a defenceless captive, bowed by age and weakened by a lifelong martyrdom. He stood in the very jaws of the lion, and fearlessly proclaimed the gospel of God, but no man stood with him. His friends forsook him; like frightened hares they hasted to their safety when his head was in jeopardy. Hard times those, when a servant of Christ had no man to confirm his witnessing, or to stand with him in the hour of his supreme trial; when all were ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, and of Paul His prisoner. He felt it, felt it keenly, felt it for their sakes more than for his own, for he prays for them that it might not be laid to their charge.

Not one of us has found himself in such isolation as this in our witnessing for Christ. No doubt it is partly because of our lack of faithfulness to Him, but we believe it also is because the grace of God is working powerfully in the hearts of some at least of His saints, and they must rally to the upraised standard of testimony to His Christ. Let us be thankful, and praise the Lord with cheerful voice for every evidence of His work on earth, and let us so keep our soul aflame with His love that we may be used of Him to rekindle dying embers in the heart of many another of His discouraged saints.

 

These Testing Times

 

Victories that history acclaims, and that make names which live upon the lips of men for centuries are not gained upon beds of sloth and in easy circumstances, but amid appalling privations and stern realities that put to the test the mettle, and nerve, and sinew of the warrior. Neither does faith flourish and win its triumph in times of material prosperity, such times cause it to become shrivelled and flaccid; but in the rough days of trial and stress, it revives, and thrives, and grows strong and valorous. May these testing times rekindle the faith of the saints of God in Himself, so that “GOD IS” may become the supreme factor in their lives.

 

We Shrink from Trials

We shrink from trials and difficulties, it is natural to do so, for they are not “joyous but grievous”; and yet we need not, for AFTERWARD they yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby (Heb. 12:11). They are wise who look on to the AFTERWARD—the result of the trial. This result does not hang in the balance, as may the result of some great battle that rages for hours and days; it is assured to us; we only stand to gain if we are exercised by the trial. Then let faith rear its head in the storm, let it lay hold upon God with strong grip. Let it speak out with confident voice, and say, “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him,” assured that if that be the end of the trial it shall be well, for He doeth all things well. And to have “died in faith” like those great souls in God's “Roll of Honour “in Hebrews 11 is better than to live without purpose and “die without mercy.”

 

Things Could Not Continue as They Were

If we carefully consider things we shall see that they could not have continued as they were. The iniquity of Sodom , which was “pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness” (Ezek. 16:49), prevailed in these “civilised” countries of Europe , and the church had largely fallen under their seductive spell. Christians caught by the spirit of the times have followed eagerly the prizes that the world had to offer, and it has laid a heavy toll upon them, so that spiritual life has become much weakened, faith has declined, the Lord's work has languished, and His interests have been neglected. He loved His saints too much to permit such a condition of things to continue, and, we doubt not, that, for the sake of His saints, as well as in mercy to the world at large, He has permitted the awful calamity of this European war to come upon us, so that—seeing that all these material things, which appeal so strongly to the senses, must perish—our faith might be quickened, and we might find God to be better than possessions, and look with a truer earnestness onward to that new heaven and new earth wherein righteousness shall dwell.

 

Days of Ease are Not the Best for us

Let us clearly understand that days of ease are not the best for us, and we shall be greatly helped. David's chequered career yields striking proof of this. When his prosperity had reached its flood-tide, he forgot the God whose goodness had followed him all the days of his life, and he could not rest though he lay upon a curtain-hung couch in a great palace. There his unsatisfied heart and restless eye led him into that foul sin that stained his name, and makes the enemies of the Lord blaspheme even unto this day. But in the darkest hour of this strange history, when his traitor son pursued him for his blood, and his only bed was the cold earth on the hillside, he could sing: “Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill, Selah. I laid me down and slept ; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about” (Ps. 3:3-6). Prosperity and the palace, with forgetfulness of God, gave birth to sin. Adversity, with the Lord at hand, yielded the Psalm that sings its music to our souls even in these testing times.

 

Christians Must Not Expect to Escape from Sorrow

God can deliver from trouble His people who trust Him; He can cover them in the day of battle, and preserve them from the terror by night; and He will do these things for them when it is for their greatest good that He should; so that they may always commend themselves and all that are theirs to His wise and tender mercies. Yet the Christian ought not to hope to escape the sorrow and suffering through which others are passing; it would be unwarrantable selfishness and sheer weakness to expect to do so. The sword is as likely to bereave the Christian home of a beloved son as any other, and the house that is sanctified by prayer has no immunity from the bomb that falleth in the darkness, except, as we have said, God sees that their preservation from these things will be for their greatest good. Then what advantage has the Christian over the one who knows not God? His advantage lies in the fact that he knows God—God behind the sorrow, God over it, God in it, and God abiding in all His infinite wisdom and love when the sorrow is past and gone. And faith in God—who is not only the Almighty but the God of all comfort—lifts the Christian out of all depression and enables him, instead of attempting to escape sorrow, to share the sorrows of others, and to suffer instead of them if needs be. With this knowledge the Christian is the man to brighten the corner in which he is set and to convey hope and comfort to the despairing and distressed.

 

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 ( Rom. 5:3).

The sifting may come in various ways. In Peter'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 the circumstances of these sad times through which we are passing—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).

They Departed Quickly . . . And Did Run

 

“ And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring His disciples word ” (Matthew 28:8).

 

Choose what cemetery you will, and standing at the gate of it, observe the folk who come to render their tribute of love to the lately buried dead. There is an eagerness, a determination in the way they come; the heart of them seems to beat more quickly as they approach the sacred spot and to impart its haste to their feet. They come to the grave almost as to a longed-for tryst where waits for them an ardent lover, but they do not so depart. Observe them as they leave the flowered plot. Their heads are bowed and their steps are leaden and slow, for they have received no response to the cry of the heart that aches within their breasts, though they have lingered lovingly and long beside the grave—the silent grave; and chilled and comfortless they are returning to face afresh the silence and the void of a desolated house—a house that is no longer a home. Account for it as we may, people who mourn do not run quickly from a grave, they go to it quickly, with earnest and uplifted heads, but they depart as though they carried a heavy load and were very tired; and because this is so it will be worth our while to ask why these women departed quickly and did run from this special grave of which the Gospels tell.

Never had brighter hopes been buried in any grave than in the grave of Jesus, and never had hearts been more bereft than the hearts of those women who shuddered in their sorrow as the great stone rolled slowly to its place at the door of that tomb, and shut from their tear-dimmed vision the body of their Lord. The night that followed that last Passover feast was a woeful night for them and for all who loved the Hope of Israel, a night unrelieved by any solace from without or faith from within, for having lost their Lord they had lost their all. Yet there was one thing that kept their broken hearts from refusing to perform their office: they would go on the first day of the week and anoint His body, His kingship had been rejected by the Jews; His claim to it was the charge upon which Pilate had condemned Him to the cross; the multitude had gone to their homes saying He was no king at all or He would have saved Himself; but to those women he was King, and more; and though He had lost the kingdom, yet He should lie in His tomb as a King if they could make it possible. By some means or other they would force their way into that sealed and guarded grave and fill it with the fragrance of the spices that they had prepared, and with the sweeter fragrance of their love; this should be their last tribute to Him and then they would return—yes, but how, and where, and to what?

With great impatience they endured those laggard Sabbath hours, and with eager haste they carried forth their precious ointment when the morrow after the Sabbath dawned. Nothing could hold them from their purpose; upon Him they must lavish these perfumes, long treasured for themselves, for “they loved Him more than they loved their own beauty,” as a famous writer has said, and what more could be said of woman than that? Mark tells us that they reached the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. Were they blind to the golden glow of that wondrous morning? It is more than likely, for a grave was their goal, and to pour their best upon the dead their purpose; this was the only balm they knew for their death-stricken and hopeless hearts; and what charm could sunrise have for such as they? But what a sunrise that must have been, though their eyes did not see it!

Let no man tell me that that day dawned as other days, and that all nature did not exult in that great hour. There must have been a triumph and a fragrance in it that never dawn had known before. If when He died—He, the Creator, clothed in human flesh—the sun drew a veil across His face, and all nature robed herself in sable garments, and the earth trembled to her very heart with horror at the deed that men had wrought, there must have been a corresponding joy when the conquering heel of life was placed upon the neck of death, and the shame of the cross was answered by an empty tomb. “ He is risen .” The glad news had sung its triumphant music to the ends of creation, and “the sun, moon And stars,” “the mountains and hills, and fruit trees and cedars,” the heavens and the earth were the glorious orchestra that accompanied the angel's proclamation.

They were slow, those women; in spite of their eagerness to be there they were too late to see the great event that has made that day to be the day of days; yet they were quicker than the men that had followed Jesus, for their love was truer, more ardent, and less selfish, and so they were the first to hear the blessed news, and it was fitting that it should be so. Faith and hope would have freed them from the legal bondage of the Sabbath and would have lit the darkness of the night for them and have brought them to that grave at even an earlier hour; as it was they came with eyes almost closed with weeping and with hearts dulled with despair. But when they reached the sacred spot what wonders greeted them. The stone was gone, and instead of Roman soldiers, brutal men who would have found a wretched joy in casting insults at them, they found a heavenly guard in possession, a messenger from God in white apparel. Heaven was not in mourning; its messenger wore the garments of victory and joy, and only waited for human ears to listen to his story. And these women were the first to hear it, and as they heard, the silent chords in their hearts awoke to song, and they turned their backs upon the grave, and forgot their spices and themselves, and with fear and great joy did run to tell the tidings. Blessed women, they were the first of ransomed sinners to be swept by the rapture of the resurrection triumph, the first of that countless host whose singing shall be sweeter and more joyous and more prolonged than any raised by sun and moon and stars, or even angers!

We know not whether those women were young or old, but we know that the fact of resurrection drove the darkness from their hearts and made them rejoice in the glory of the day that had dawned; and the strength of that new day was theirs, so that no matter how old in years they were, or weary with weeping they had been, their feet were fleet now to share their joy with others. They ran because the grave was empty, its victory was gone, they would see their Lord again. That was the secret, and that is a secret shared now by all whose faith has laid hold of the risen Christ. This changes everything and drives away despair, and makes us sing “Thanks be unto God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What a change the knowledge of Christ risen from the dead makes; Him, who is more to us than father and mother, husband, wife or child—our life, our joy, our all. What rest there is when we can say, “I am His, and He is mine.” The nearest earthly tie cannot yield this rest; in all earthly love there is the fear of loss, and the more tender and precious the tie the greater is the agony of that fear, and when fear enters, rest departs. But in our union with Christ risen there is no such fear. No power this bond can sever. For death itself, the great dissolver, has been dissolved by Him, and we can say, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” If we live He is with us, if we die we are with Him. In life and in death we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us. We know Him as a victorious and living Man. He is not a memory, but a reality.

It is more than likely that most of us have some precious relics that in some sort of way keep memory alive, and move the heart and moisten the eye, but how unsatisfying they are; they do not avail to bring back “the touch of the vanished hand, or the sound of the voice that is still”. But it is not so with Christ. He is not dead; He lives. Peter is dead, Paul is dead, many whom we loved are dead, and communion with the dead, whether saints or sinners, is a hellish delusion; but Christ is not dead; He lives victorious over death, and communion with H is a blessed reality by the power of the Holy Ghost.

It is true that we have the bread and the wine of the Lord's Supper that remind us of what He was— once dead for us ; but we remember what He was in the joy of what He is, for when we thus remember what He was, He Himself is there.

So we can run; vigour, spiritual vigour, may mark us even unto old age. We can run with our backs on the grave and our faces alight with the glory that shines before us, and as we run we can cheer our brethren by the joyous tidings, “THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED.”

“They Went After Them Unto Jordan ”

 

“ They took therefore two chariot horses; and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see. And they went after them unto Jordan : and, lo, the way was full of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste. And the messengers returned, and told the king ” (2 Kings 7:14-15).

 

What a relief it must have been to those starving Samaritans to find that Jordan was the end of their strong and remorseless foes. Traces of them there were every step of the way to that famous river, for the whole way was full of garments and vessels which the Syrians had cast away in their haste; but them they found not. With what eager steps would those messengers return to tell the king! What good news their report would be to the multitudes in the city! And, set free from fear of those terrible Syrians, with what relish they would turn to the feast so suddenly and unexpectedly given them, according to the word of the man of God. And the silver and gold and raiment! the horses and the asses! it requires no vivid imagination to picture how quickly these would be appropriated by those astonished and triumphant Israelites.

Such is the end of the story so strikingly told, and so well worthy of being read, in 2 Kings 7. A story of deep interest yet of important instruction, telling in pictorial language of “the better things” which the gospel of God proclaims to us.

The Jordan figures the death of Christ. Have we traced our foes to it, to the cross of our great Saviour, and found it to have been the death of them all. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ may do so, and rejoice in a complete and everlasting deliverance.

We had no foes more terrible than our SINS. How the guilt of them oppressed us! What a burden they were upon our consciences and souls as we staggered beneath the load of them to destruction! And the sins themselves—some of them went before us to judgment, proclaiming in trumpet tones as they went that rebels against God were coming that way, and others followed after, stealthily and sure, like a pack of hounds upon the trail of a fugitive, or an unerring detective on the track of a criminal, and ready to witness against us in the great judgment day! But whether they went before or after, the thought of them made us shudder and fear, for we knew that our sins would find us out. Before, behind, and on every side of us they gathered like a strong host besieging a doomed city.

What a relief it was to us when we heard the gospel—when we heard how the Son of God, whose precious name is JESUS, had come to save us from our sins, and when, by faith, we saw Him bearing His cross to Calvary as the Lamb of God, who beareth away the sin of the world! How great was the load that was laid upon Him there, for the Scripture saith, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6), and “who Himself bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). Because of our sins He suffered: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). As the scapegoat in Israel 's history carried away, in figure, the sins of that nation into a far off land where no man dwelt, so in His death, when the waves of judgment rolled over Him, did our Scapegoat carry away our sins. They are cast into the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19); they are to be remembered no more (Heb. 10:17); He was delivered for our offences that we might be justified from them all (Rom. 4:25; Acts 13:29). How blessed for us to see Him, the Omnipotent Redeemer, going down into the darkest waters of judgment with all our sins upon Him; to trace our sins to that sacred spot and to see the mighty flood roll over them and HIM. Then on the third day, to see Him rise up without them, having made expiation for them, and able to say to us, “Peace be unto you,” and to know that now there is no condemnation for any who are in Him. In the death of Christ our sins were overwhelmed and we are free.

And DEATH also, and him that had the power of it, which is the DEVIL, what merciless foes were these! No kindness throbs in the bosom of the king of terrors, no pity in the heart of the devil; this we knew well, and how the thought of it made us dread the future—the last unavailing struggle, the silent grave, and that which lies beyond! But the gospel has brought peace to our souls, for it has told us the tidings of Him who partook of flesh and blood that, through death, He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Heb. 2:14-15). As David laid the giant in the dust of Passdammin and delivered Israel from the dread of him, so has our Lord delivered us; He has bruised the head of the devil; “He death by dying slew”; He has taken the sting out of death and robbed the grave of its victory. We can trace our foes to His death and find in that the death and end of them all.

There were other foes—our own evil selves—the flesh; the world with its allurements and snares; sin as a master, and many others, but the death of Christ is the way of deliverance from them all, whatsoever they be.

And being set free we may now feast upon the provision of God's grace for us, for where sin abounded grace does much more abound, and the gold, the silver, and raiment, the wheat and the barley all have their counterpart in blessed spiritual realities in Christianity. These are “the exceeding riches of God's grace,” “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,” and “all the fullness of God.”

Yes; when we come to Christ the famine is turned into a feast, and where we expected foes and feared to meet them, there we find a full deliverance and God's plenteous pros vision for our need, and exceedingly abundantly more than we are able to ask or think.

Things Most Surely Believed

 

1. The Miraculous Conception: the Fact and the reason for it

In a recently published book a popular preacher gives his views as to the great facts of our Christian faith. He begins with the birth of our Lord and questions the miraculous conception and Virgin birth. His reasons are that only two of the New Testament writers speak of it: that nothing is based upon it, that the notion arose in the early church because it as supposed that natural conception was sinful, for which he quotes Psalm 51:5. There is nothing new in these views. Men who have pledged themselves to preach and testify to “the Faith once delivered to the saints,” have become bold and more bold in rejecting the truth as to our Lord's entrance into the world. To quote from one of them: “I cannot help including the birth stories among things that do not matter. There are some things that matter a great deal. There are some life and death matters, if it comes to that, but this is not one of them. It does not matter.” It is my purpose to show that it does matter, that it is one of the foundation stones of our faith, and that apart from it the whole edifice of the truth must collapse and fall. Indeed, if it is not as revealed to us in the Word, there is no truth at all except that which would condemn us for ever, for apart from the miraculous conception and birth of our Lord there is no Saviour for men.

 

Many are the names and titles that describe the person and glories of our Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He is the Word who was with God in the beginning, and who was God; the Creator of all things, the Light of men, and the Life-giver; He is the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, His Beloved in whom is all His delight; He is the Resurrection and the Life; He is the brightness of God's glory and the express image of His Person, who upholds all things by the word of His power; He is the Wisdom of God and the Power of God and the Lord of Glory, the Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever, having an everlasting throne and ruling with a righteous sceptre; the Same yesterday, today and for ever; He is the Root and the Offspring of David, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End; He is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, the Bread of God and of life, the Door of Salvation, the Son of Man with power on earth to forgive sins; He is the only Saviour and universal Judge, the Lord, having a Name which is above every name, before whom every knee must bend and in whose hand lies the destiny of every creature; He is the One who liveth and was dead, and behold He is alive for ever more and hath the keys of Hades and of death; He is Emmanuel, God with us, and in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; He is the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; and the bright Morning Star; the true God and Eternal Life; and the I AM.

Some of these names belong to Him as having become Man, and as having died and risen again; others describe what He was before the pendulum of time began to swing, or ever the world was made—what He is in His own uncreated, unchangeable and eternal Being. To these latter belong “the Word,” “the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father,” and “the Son” whom the Father only knows. By these names, He is distinguished as to His personality in the Godhead, but being one with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the Godhead, He shares in every title that belongs to God, such as “the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen or can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Tim. 6:15-16), We should not be subject to the Father's decree, “that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father,” if we did not acknowledge this.

We are to consider the entrance of this august Person into the world and to enquire what manner of birth was His who bears all this glory. That He was born of a woman is not disputed; He was a true and proper Man and not a phantom; and yet we must not, we cannot lose sight of the fact of who He was before He became Man. Every other man born into the world began to be at his conception, and

came into the world as a personality that had had no former existence; but our Lord Jesus Christ was rich before His poverty in Bethlehem; He thought it not robbery to be equal with God before He was found in fashion as a Man; He was the Word before He became flesh; God's own Son who was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, made of a woman, when the fullness of time had come (Gal. 4:4). This glorious pre-existence surely means that the birth of our Lord into this world was not as the birth of any other man that had ever been born; it was an incarnation, the coming of a Divine Person into a condition in which He had not been before, to carry out all the will of God and be the Saviour of us men.

His birth was a unique event; the greatest, the most amazing that had ever happened; greater by far than the creation of man at the beginning, and unless our minds are darkened to the true meaning of it, we should certainly expect that it would be brought about in some other way than by the ordinary laws of nature; we feel that a Divine Person must have a supernatural birth, and this feeling is established and confirmed by the Word of God.

We open the New Testament and find on the first page of it the story told in simple language and in about 250 words. It is a subject on which the imagination might have run riot, as it did in the numerous fables and legends that gathered about it as spirituality declined and superstition advanced in the early centuries of the Christian era; but in this God-breathed account of it, the imaginations of man's mind are excluded, and every sentence of the story bears the Divine imprimatur. “ Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream saying. Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take to thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins

This then is the beginning, the door through which we enter into the New Testament and into the realm of infinite and eternal blessedness that it reveals to our souls. It is the beginning of the revelation of God to man, and we must not refuse the beginning if we are to advance to its climax and completion. The fullness of time had come, and the voice of the Son spoke and said, “ A body hast Thou prepared Me . . . Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). It is said that only two of the New Testament writers make mention of the Virgin birth; well, if that is so, two witnesses are enough, and at their mouth every word shall be established; but does not this saying, “A body hast Thou prepared Me” give a third witness? It surely involves the miraculous conception; it proclaims the fact that the will of the flesh or the power of man had no place in it, but that the will and wisdom of God combined to prepare that holy incorruptible body within the womb of the Virgin-mother.

 

Matthew's Record

There are two accounts of this great event. Matthew's Gospel records the communication to Joseph by the angel, and Luke tells us of the annunciation to Mary. And when we discern the respective characters of these two Gospels and the way the Lord is presented in them, we have no difficulty in seeing how perfect these records are, each in its own place. Matthew unfolds the glory of the Lord as King. His Gospel is “ the book of the generation of JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF DAVID, the Son of Abraham

He came as the Heir to the throne of David and to establish and fulfil all the promises made to Abraham. But here was a difficulty; while Jesus Christ was the long-promised Heir, Joseph stood in the direct line of succession and was the legal heir, as this genealogy proves. And this was recognised by the Lord's messenger when he saluted him as “Joseph, thou son of David.” He was an obscure village carpenter, proving the truth of the words of the prophet that the tabernacle of David had fallen down and lay in ruins (Amos 9:11), and yet he showed traits of true royalty according to God, in his mercy to the weak, and as he thought, failing, and in his trust in the Word of God and obedience to it.

It was right that he should have been addressed by the angel, not only because of his own personal concern as to the condition of his espoused wife, but also because of his care for the integrity of the succession to the throne of David. It might appear a foolish and futile thing to have been concerned about the latter, seeing that six centuries had passed since the sceptre had departed from the house of David, but faith holds on to the promises of God, even when human strength has failed and every visible hope has fled; and Joseph was a man of faith. And being a man of faith, he did as he was bidden by the angel of the Lord and took Mary unto him as his wife, without hesitation or further misgiving; and by so doing, he cast the protection of his name about her, and made her first-born Son, his Heir—the legal Heir to David's throne. And this would be a matter of the greatest importance to those pious Jews who were looking for the Christ, the Son of David, and for whom this Gospel was written in the first place.

But there was a matter of even greater importance than what was due to Joseph and the integrity of the Royal line and the necessity of Jesus Christ being the legal Heir to the throne; there was God's own integrity and His faithfulness to His Word. And these were made good and revealed in the words, “ 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 was the most astonishing prophecy that God ever gave through a prophet's lips; it meant as we hope to show the intervention of God in a new and personal way for the deliverance of His people; it foretold something that would be outside and apart from all the power of man, and it was fulfilled when the espoused wife of Joseph conceived by the Holy Ghost and brought forth a Son, whose name was called JESUS, the Saviour of His people from their sins.

In that lowly Babe, the Virgin's Son, conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, the Son of David and Heir to his throne, Jehovah the Saviour, and Emmanuel, the two Testaments are bound together; the hopes of the Old and the faith of the New unite in Him, and we can with exultation take up the prophetic word and join with Israel and say, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be on His shoulders: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice from henceforth for ever. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD OF HOSTS WILL PERFORM THIS” (Isa. 9:6-7).

 

Luke's Record

The Gospel of Luke was written to a Gentile believer and has the world in view rather than Israel ; consequently there was not the same necessity as in Matthew's Gospel to show that the birth of the Lord was in accordance with the prophecies made in the Old Testament to Israel . In it, the Lord is presented as true Man, born of a woman, come in grace to all men, and there was not the same need to give Joseph the prominence that he has in Matthew's Gospel, where the true heirship to David's throne was vital. But there was need that all people to whom “the good tidings of great joy” as to the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord were brought, should know from whence He came and how, that they might understand and appreciate the fact that His coming was all of God and in sovereign grace. The annunciation to Mary, a lowly daughter of David's house, and espoused to a working man, brings out this grace in its unsurpassable richness and charm.

Gabriel's message from God to Mary is divided into three parts. First, the salutation which proclaims the greatness of the favour that God was to bestow upon her, unknown and poor though she was. She was chosen by sovereign grace, from among all women to be the vessel by whom God would bring about His great purpose. Second, there was the revelation of what this purpose was. “ Fear not, Mary ,” said the angel, “ for thou host found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end. ” He that was to be born to her was to be the Son of David, and to have His father's throne: that she might have understood, seeing she belonged to the house of David, but how could He be JESUS—Jehovah the Saviour? How could He be called the Son of the Highest? The Highest is the title of God in His supremacy over all the earth, and in heaven; the One whose word and ways none may challenge, and who will manifest Himself thus in the coming Millennial Kingdom . How could the Son of her womb have the right to be called His Son? We do not wonder that she asked that question; it was a right and proper question to ask, and it brought out the third part of Gabriel's message from God which enlightened her as, to how it was to be brought to pass. “ The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, 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

This last utterance of the angel, who stands in the presence of God, requires no comment. It drives away all doubt. This conception was miraculous, it was by God's power, it was God's work. Man and his corruptible seed had no part in it; the Son of Mary was holy and undefiled, He was the Son of God. “It is not here the doctrine of the eternal relationship of Son with the Father. The Gospel of John, the Epistle to the Hebrews and that to the Colossians, establish this precious truth and demonstrate its importance, but here it is that which is born by virtue of the miraculous conception, which on that ground is called the Son of God” (J.N.D.). And if unbelief says it is contrary to every law of nature and impossible, faith answers in the words of Gabriel, who knew God's power so well, “with God nothing shall be impossible.”

 

The Necessity of the Virgin Birth

The fact that men need a Saviour, a Deliverer, is evident everywhere, and has been all through their history since the fall. And the first promise that one should appear followed swiftly upon Satan's triumph over man in Eden , and it came forth from the mouth of God. “The Seed of the woman,” said He to the victorious serpent, “shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise His heel.” If Adam had been able to recover himself and bruise his tempter and conqueror beneath his feet, God would have stood aside and let him do it, but there could be no hope from him or from any that he could beget. If he had fallen a prey to Satan's subtlety when he stood erect in the plenitude of his powers, how could he by any means recover what he had lost now that he was defeated and fettered and lying under the sentence of death by God's just decree? and all his progeny were powerless like himself.

“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 hope was not in Adam but in the woman's Seed. It was He, whoever He might be, who was to destroy the great destroyer of our fallen race, and deliver us from his power. The New Testament tells us plainly who He is. “For this purpose,” says 1 John 3:8, “was THE SON OF GOD manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” And Hebrews 2:15 tells us that THE SON—in whom God has spoken in these last days—because “the children were partakers of flesh and blood, also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death, He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” It is plain from these Scriptures that the Seed of the woman is the Son of God, and we are told that “all the promises of God in Him are yea and in Him. Amen.”

The first promise prepares us for the Virgin birth and we are not surprised to read, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel.” And if unbelief declares that to be impossible, faith answers, Yes, with men it is impossible; and that is the great and solemn fact that this God-given sign throws into prominence, it is the very lesson that God would teach by the manner of His intervention. Men are unable to save themselves. and unable to find amongst even the best of Adam's fallen children one man who can redeem his brother, or give the just ransom for him. Every man needs a Saviour for himself, and because of that, God has stepped in and has provided the Man—the Kinsman-Redeemer, but He has done it in a way that humbles the pride of man and sets him aside. “ A virgin shall conceive and bear a son .” The Virgin's Son would owe nothing to man; His very presence in the world would be independent of man. His coming into the world would be God's work. It would be God's intervention in miraculous power and sovereign mercy—the salvation of the Lord. So we read that in due time, Mary brought forth her firstborn Son and “wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Thus came Emmanuel, apart from all the power of men and outside the abodes of men, for not only could not men produce the Deliverer, but they did not want Him when He came.

 

Does it Matter?

Like produces like. This is one of the fundamental laws of nature as established by God. It is stamped upon the Creation chapter—fish, fowl, and flesh were all ordained to bring forth each “after his kind.” And man could do no other than this. “Adam,” we read, “begat a son in his own, likeness, after his own image” (Gen. 5:3). And so it has been throughout all the generations of men. Sinful men beget sinful children. Therefore it is written, “They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3), and “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Isa. 53:6), and “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In the great penitential Psalm, David confesses, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me,” which simply means, ‘I have come of a sinful stock, my very nature is sinful, ‘ and this is true of every man born into the world. Does it matter then or does it not, how the Lord was born into this world? Had He come by natural generation, would He not have been as every other man? To deny the Virgin birth is to deny His pre-existence in the Godhead, and to deny the holiness of His Manhood, and apart from these two great truths as to His glorious Person, He could not have been the Saviour.

It is said that nothing is based upon this great truth in the New Testament. But everything is based upon it; it is the foundation of everything that follows. I stress the fact that it meets us on the first page of the New Testament, that it is the door through which we enter into the full revelation of God. Apart from it, we have no intervention of God for His own glory and our salvation; Jesus is not the great I AM, but a mere man like the rest of men, and we have no sinless Saviour. How, apart from the miraculous conception and the Virgin birth, could the Lord have said, “I know whence I came. I proceeded forth and came from God. . . . Verily, verily I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8); or how could Peter have applied to Him the words of the Psalm, “Thou wilt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27), or the Apostles have spoken of Him as God's Holy Child , Jesus (chap. 4:30). Or how could Paul have spoken of Him as “Christ who is over all, God blessed for ever” (Rom. 9:5), or as “the Second Man, the Lord out of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47); or how could John have insisted with such persistence on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, and is now the great object of faith, the true God and Eternal Life?

For ourselves, we linger with the shepherds as they gather round the Babe in the manger; we press into the house with the Magi from the East and worship the young Child with them. We own Him to be truly Man—sinless and holy; but more, for we confess Him, as did Thomas, when He saw His wounded hands and side after He had risen from the dead, OUR LORD AND OUR GOD. And we say as we consider the manner of God's intervention for His glory and our eternal blessing, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the 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 to Him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

 

 

2. The Sinlessness of the Lord Jesus

It will be for our profit to consider what sin is as God shows it to us in His Word, for if we have superficial thoughts of it we shall not appreciate the sinlessness of our Lord, nor the necessity and significance of His offering of Himself without spot to God; nor shall we feel how necessary it is for us to cleave to Him, the Holy and the True.

Three words are given in Scripture to define sin; they are brought together in Exodus 34:7, Psalm 32 and Psalm 51—they are transgression , iniquity and sin . These words are not mere synonyms that could displace one another and nothing be lost, for each has it own terrible meaning. TRANSGRESSION is revolt from, it means a tearing of ones self away. God has declared His will for men, but they prefer their own wills, and in the pursuit of their own wills they tear themselves away from God. INIQUITY means twisted, crooked, perverse. God has laid down a road for the feet of men to tread, and that road is as straight as His everlasting sceptre, but men have made for themselves crooked ways (Isa. 59:8); they are a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). SIN means missing the mark. God has set up His mark, the end at which every man should aim. God Himself should be the end and aim of every man's life, but every man has substituted self for God, and set up his own mark to displace God's; and has missed the very mark and purpose of his existence. Along with sin in this threefold character goes GUILE; it permeates the life of every man who has not been honest before God His effort is to appear different from what he knows himself to be, to cover up and hide his sinfulness and even to imagine that be can deceive God Himself as to it. Then the New Testament gives us a striking definition of sin in 1 John 3:4 where we should read, “for sin is lawlessness,” and that covers all that sin is; it is not a mere yielding to the sudden and capricious impulses of our nature, but the determination that lies deep in a man's will, though perhaps seldom expressed, to go his own way and be independent of God.

As we consider what sin is as it is defined for us in the Scriptures, we are conscious that we must plead guilty before God to transgression and iniquity and sin, and confess that it is not only in practice that we are sinners, but that we are sinners in our very nature that what we have done springs out of what we are, the fruit reveals the nature of the root. But we are equally conscious that in this respect our Lord stands out in complete contrast to all that we are; our minds recoil from even the suggestion that there was sin in Him; our spiritual instinct tells us that He was not as we are, that He would be of no use to us if He had been, and we find that these instincts are confirmed by the plainest possible statements in the Word of God.

The flesh and blood that He took was wholly apart from sin; His body was a holy body prepared for Him by God; as a man He was “holy, harmless and undefiled”; He was as holy in His manhood, nature and life amid the sordidness and sin of the world as He was in the beginning, when by His divine power and glory He created the heavens and the earth. This holy manhood could not have been apart from the miraculous birth. In no other way could the everlasting Word have come in flesh. Hence in announcing His birth to the Virgin-mother, the angel of the Lord declared, “That holy Thing that shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.” And from the moment that the Holy Ghost came upon the most blessed of all women, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her, her Firstborn Son was wholly for God; His own words were, “Thou art He that took Me out of the womb; Thou didst make Me hope when I was upon My mother's breasts” (Ps. 22).

Heaven and earth and even the nether regions confessed His holiness; God and men and demons bore witness to it. The Holy Ghost descended upon Him at His baptism, not as a burning flame, but as a dove, indicating surely that there was nothing in Him that was obnoxious to the holiness of God's Spirit, but everything in absolute harmony there with Him; and the Father declared that His eye had searched, and found only that in Him that delighted Him. At the very beginning of His public service to God and men, the demons recognized Him and confessed Him as God's holy One (Mark 1), and His Apostles, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and in the full light of His life and death and resurrection and ascension to glory, bore witness again and again to this essential fact of our Faith: this fact apart from which our Faith is a delusion and a lie.

 

The Sinless Sacrifice for Sin

It stands out in the Epistles as a thing to be noted and cherished, that when the question of sin and the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus as our substitute in regard to it arises, His sinlessness is emphasized. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that God made Him to be sin for us, but adds that He “ knew no sin .” 1 Peter 2:24 tells us that He “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” but assures us that He “ did no sin , neither was guile found in His mouth” (v. 22). 1 John 3:5 tells us that He was manifested to take away our sins, and adds, “in Him was no sin.” Surely nothing could be clearer than that no sacrifice but a sinless sacrifice could meet the claims of God's holiness against sin, and if Jesus had not been sinless He could not have stood in the sinner's place; He would not have survived the judgment and we should have had no Saviour.

The necessity for this sinless offering was foretold in the types and shadows of the Old Testament. The passover lamb had to be “without blemish, a male of the first year” (Ex. 12); and every sacrifice that was offered to God had to be of the same unblemished sort. “If there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God” (Deut. 15:20). “But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you” (Lev. 22:20). If God could not accept the blemished sacrifice as foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ, how abhorrent is the thought that He who was the Substance of all the shadows and the Fulfiller of all the types, had a blemish or the taint of sin in Him! And that such a thought might have no place in our minds, we are told that when the time for the offering up of the sacrifice came, He “through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14). Was that offering accepted? It could not have been if it had not been a sinless offering. It was accepted. The Word of God declares that “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins,” but that this Man's “one offering hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” That one offering was so free from all taint of sin, so essentially, inherently and intrinsically holy and excellent, that He having made it has sat down at the right hand of God, never to arise again for such a work; and so complete and efficacious is it, that the Holy Ghost can bear witness that God will remember no more the sins and iniquities of all those that believe, and that through it they have the title now to enter into the very presence of God (Heb. 10).

 

Not Sinless Only But Wholly Good

Now absence of sin would not have been enough, and we cannot stop at the fact that there was no sin, either in the nature or acts of the Man Christ Jesus; we look for positive good, for we read, “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17), and we find this positive goodness in Him at all times and in every circumstance; it was His glory. “He went about doing good, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38), and for this He was anointed with the Holy Ghost. He was conceived by and anointed with the Holy Ghost. There is a beautiful type of this in Leviticus 2, where the unleavened cakes mingled with and anointed with oil tell of the life of Jesus, permeated and empowered by the Holy Ghost, of which the oil is a well-known type; the absence of leaven teaching that there was no evil in Him, for leaven is everywhere in Scripture a symbol of evil. But our subject is what He was more than what He did, though we cannot separate the one from the other. Where every other man transgressed and revolted from the known will of God, He could say, “I do always the things that please Him” (John 8:29). Where every other man had sinned , and missed God's mark, He could say to His Father, “I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (John 17:4); and where every other man had loved iniquity and turned out of the right way, it is said of Him. “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity” (Heb. 1:9). And there was no guile in Him, He was even the same that He said from the beginning (John 8:25).

The more deeply the life of Jesus is studied, the more impressive does His holy dependence upon God and His obedience to His Word and will appear, and He was obedient without murmuring, though the will of God involved Him in a life of suffering and a death of shame. His heart went with all that He did. This is beautifully set forth in Isaiah 50, where the Spirit of Christ speaks in the prophet saying, “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. 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.” And in this connection I would quote a beautiful series of the Lord's own sayings that we might contemplate them with wonder and joy.

“My meat and drink is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work” (4:34).

“I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me” (5:30).

“I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (6:38).

“The living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father” (6:57).

“I and My Father are One.”

“Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always” (11:41).

“The Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak” (12:49-50).

“That the world may know that I love the Father: and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do” (14:31).

“I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love” (15:10).

“I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (17:4).

“It is finished” (19:30).

I might quote many more of these sayings of His, but these are enough to prove to us that He was the blessed Man of Psalm 1, that walked not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful. But His delight was in the law of the Lord, and in His law did He meditate day and night. In nature and life, in thought and word and deed, in spirit, soul and body He was always and altogether the holy One of God.

 

 

3. The Temptations of the Lord Jesus

Of what character were the temptations that the Lord Jesus endured? This question arises definitely out of the fact of His sinlessness, which was our subject in the last chapter.

There are some who do not seem able to understand any other sort of temptation than the incitement to do evil, which is the modern meaning of the word, and they argue that temptation can have neither force nor meaning to a man unless there is within him the desire, or at least the liability to yield. Now we are all familiar with that character of temptation, and it is recognised in the Scriptures, where we read,

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lusts and enticed” (Jas. 1:13-14). Yet, we are also told in the same Scriptures, “God did tempt Abraham” when He bade him offer up Isaac (Gen. 22:1). This must have been some other kind of temptation than that of which James speaks; it was certainly not an enticement to do evil; it could not have been, for it is as impossible that God should tempt a man in that way, as it is impossible for Him to lie. It was a testing of what was in Abraham; his faith was put into the crucible and it came out of it, as we know, as gold tried by the fire. And this character of temptation is spoken of more often in the Scriptures than that of enticement to sin.

 

The Two Kinds of Temptations

Peter speaks of both. He says, “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin” (1 Pet. 4:1). That means that when the enticement to sin assails the Christian, instead of gratifying the desire within that answers to the temptation without, he resists it, and suffers in the flesh. He says, No, Christ suffered for my sins. I will not allow and gratify that which caused Him to suffer, the Just for the unjust to bring me to God. But in chapter 1:6-7, he speaks of “manifold temptations;” these are not enticements to do evil, but the trial of the Christian's faith. They are tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, pain, bereavement, tears and other burdens and vicissitudes of life (Rom. 8:35), by which Christians are tested, and which discover whether God is greater to them than their sorrows and adversities, and nearer to them than their circumstances, and whether they can wholly trust in Him at all times. Plainly then, temptation is often used in Scripture when enticement to do evil is not the subject at all. Enticement, if yielded to, betrays the bad that is in us, but this other kind of temptation tests us and brings out the good if we really rely upon God, or it may reveal to us our self-confidence and folly, as it did in Peter's case.

Because people do not distinguish between these two kinds of “temptation they argue that—since the Scripture says that the Lord Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 2:18; 4:15)—He had to resist the assaults from without, and to watch a traitor within, though He ever fought this twofold battle successfully. We have heard it said by earnest though unenlightened Christians that in their conflicts with evil they have been comforted by the thought that the Lord had to struggle as they struggle, and that because He overcame in the struggle so may they hope to do. He did indeed overcome in every temptation, but the temptations were entirely from without and never from within as ours so often are; and they certainly may be more than conquerors through Him that loved them, but it will be on other ground entirely from that that they suppose.

 

The Lord Tempted Apart From Sin

I impugn this popular teaching; it is a lie. It means that there was liability in the Lord to sin even though He did not yield. Such a view of Him is not found in Scripture; it is false; it is derogatory to His holy person and damaging to the faith of His saints. Our Saviour, High Priest and Leader was and must ever be beyond the possibility of sin. The idea is chiefly built upon the passage already quoted from Hebrews 4:15; but there is no doubt on the part of those who are able to judge in these matters that the words, “yet without sin” in the Authorised Version, are a faulty translation and, should be “sin apart,” or “from sin.” (Those who have a Scofield Reference Bible will find it so given in the margin; see also J.N.Darby's New Translation.) He was tried by every kind of temptation except that kind. He was never enticed as we are, for there was nothing within Him that answered to sin without, except holy suffering because of it. This is the truth that must be emphasised. From the first breath that He drew until He committed His spirit into His Father's hands, He was holy unto God; no adverse will within Him ever warred against God's will for Him; no sinful thought or selfish desire ever spoiled the fragrance of His life; there was no fly in that sweet ointment. He was the well beloved Son in whom was the Father's full delight, doing always the things that pleased Him. He was in the world that reeked with moral putrefaction, surrounded by sin, hated by sinners, assailed by the devil and tested by every trial and He suffered as no other man had suffered or could suffer because of it all;

“Yet spotless, undefiled and pure

Our great Redeemer stood;

While Satan's fiery darts He bore,

And did resist to blood.”

The difficulty that some find of understanding any other sort of temptation than enticement to sin may be because they have known no other. Their conflicts have only been with the evil that is within them, the conflict described in Romans 7, and they have hardly started on the heavenly pilgrimage, and know little or nothing of the trials of the way: of the discouragements and difficulties of it, and the assaults of Satan in his endeavours to drive them back from it or turn them aside into an easier path. But it is this that is in view in the Hebrew Epistle where we read so much of the way the Lord endured temptation. Christians are not there viewed as struggling in the Slough of Despond, they have got beyond that, and are pilgrims, and warriors, and worshippers; partakers of the heavenly calling, leaving the world behind them and pressing onward to the city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Now Jesus is the Author and Finisher of this way of faith. He began at the beginning of it and trod every step of it to its completion, and He knows every trial and difficulty in it, and how Satan besets with many wiles and threatenings those who are following Him in it, for He has experienced them all, and was tempted in all points on that road and in that life of faith, apart from sin, and consequently He is able to sympathise with, and succour them in their hours of weakness and distress and in every time of need.

I quote from Lectures on Hebrews, by S. Ridout , “We read of one of John Bunyan's characters that at the close of his life he said, wherever he had found the footprints of the Lord Jesus, there he had coveted to put his feet. How beautiful that! but sweeter far is the thought that our blessed Lord, when here on earth, searched wherever the feet of His weary saints would have to tread, and He not only coveted to do it, but He did put His feet just there. He has gone through all the circumstances of the wilderness, He knows what all the testing and trials of it mean in a way infinitely beyond the experience of the ripest saint, for He has passed through it, apart from the deadening, dulling, wasteful experiences of sin. We pass through the wilderness, alas, too often yielding to sin. Our blessed Lord passed through never yielding in thought for one moment to a thing that was not in accordance to His Father's will.”

The Lord Jesus led the way in this path of faith and testing and suffering, and this is the meaning of such statements as, “In that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). And again, “Though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” (chap. 5:8). That does not mean that He learnt to obey, He never needed lessons of that sort; His very nature was wholly subject to God, but He learnt what obedience entailed in a world that was ruled by the devil, the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. He who is the Lord of hosts, came down into a life of obedience and dependence on God and faith, and He was thoroughly tested in it. As every girder in a great bridge is tested before it is put into its destined place in the bridge, so was our Lord tested under the utmost pressure and He was never found wanting. There was no resistance to God's will in Him, no resentment, no murmuring, no fault, no flaw; the yoke of God did not chafe His holy soul, He delighted to bear it both day and night, and having passed through every test, and graduated in the school of suffering, He has fully qualified to be the Author of eternal salvation unto all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9).

 

The Temptations in the Wilderness

But now leaving that phase of temptation in which we have a part and in which we may have the succour and sympathy of the Lord, we come to the great conflict in the wilderness, when He in whom was all goodness, and who was the God-ordained Leader of the forces of Light met the spirit of evil, the Prince of the powers of darkness. We may learn many lessons as we contemplate these temptations of the Lord; and as we watch His ways we may see how we may overcome, though we must always remember that if we meet Satan at all we meet a defeated foe. Jesus met him when he was flushed with four thousand years of triumph over men. But our subject is not what He was as a pattern for us, but rather what was involved in the conflict for God and men, for Himself and the great adversary.

The Lord had appeared according to the ancient word to “preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” but these whom He had come to bless were the devil's captives. He held them as prisoners in his palace, and was “the strong man” who was determined to keep his goods from all molestation. Moreover he trusted in his armour and thought himself invincible—it is all described by the Lord in a few terse sentences in Luke 11:21-22—for forty centuries he had bound men as captives; he had forged many weapons to effect this and apparently he had done as he wished among them, no one had appeared who could spoil him of his armour or dispute his rights to the children of men. The question had been asked by the prophet in former days, “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty? and shall the lawful captives be delivered?” so hopeless did it all seem to be. But Jehovah had answered, “Even the captive of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered . . . and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am the Saviour” (Isa. 49:24-26). But this deliverance of the devil's captives awaited the coming of the One who was “stronger than he,” and against whom his most subtly forged weapons would utterly fail. That JESUS was He, we know, but He had to prove Himself in direct conflict with the devil. Before He could do one public work of mercy or speak one public word of grace this issue had to be tried.

Then further the devil had claimed the kingdoms of the world; he dominated them and arrogated to himself the right to dispose of them as he pleased, but Jesus was the destined and rightful Heir, and the devil knew it; could he outmanoeuvre Him and deceive Him and bring Him under his dominion as he had done Adam? He was to be permitted to try, and to tempt the Lord to the utmost of his power, and by his efforts bring into manifestation what was in the heart and mind and will of the Lord, and prove whether He loved righteousness and hated iniquity or not, and whether He was able and worthy to wield the universal sceptre.

And there was still another matter at issue, this second Man had come as the image of the invisible God: as His representative; could He hold the ground for God against all attacks where the first man had basely surrendered his trust? Was God to be glorified in and through man? Was He to look upon One, who would sacrifice every worldly advantage and Himself also for His will, and overcome the adversary by complete dependence and absolute, unquestioning obedience? This was a great issue, everything in the age-long conflict between good and evil, depended upon it.

In this encounter with Satan, Jesus was alone and wholly dependent upon God; no disciple was near to cheer Him and no angel ministered to Him until the fight was finished. This isolation from all aid from others is emphasised by the fact that He was carried into the wilderness by the Spirit to meet the foe: away from the abodes of men to the haunts of the wild beasts. And the fact that the temptation is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels and not in that of John, would teach us that it was in His manhood weakness and dependence upon God that the fight was waged, and not by the Godhead power that dwelt in Him; for John's Gospel is the Gospel of His divine glory, the glory of the Son brought down into Manhood; while the Synoptic Gospels show us, the same Person, truly, but as “the woman's Seed,” the lowly Man of sorrows, who had no resources but in God.

 

The First Temptation

It has often been said that in these three temptations of the Lord “all that is in the world, 1. the lust of the flesh, 2. the lust of the eyes, 3. the pride of life” appear; and have no doubt that this is true, for these three phases of the world are the weapons in which the devil trusts in his enslavement of men, and it is in this order that they are recorded in Luke's Gospel, which gives us the moral and not the historical order of them.

In the proposal that Jesus should make the stones into bread there was a subtle suggestion of kindly interest in His welfare as well as a reflection upon God, as there had been when he tempted Eve in Eden . Are you the Son of God, and hungry? Surely God has forgotten you, or is indifferent to your need! Use the power you possess and relieve your hunger. Thus might the temptation be paraphrased. It was met by a perfect answer. “It is written that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of GOD .” God and His word were all to Jesus, He would not use His power on His own behalf or to take Himself out of the place of dependence upon God. He could endure hunger but not independence of God. He sought no ease or comfort for Himself, His meat and drink were the will of God and to finish His work. The lust of the flesh had no place in His heart nor was there a joint in His armour where a doubt as to God's goodness could be thrust; and where Adam and Eve were overthrown and wounded to death, Jesus stood firm and unscathed.

 

The Second Temptation

In the second temptation the world's kingdoms were set before His eyes, with all the power and pomp and splendour of them, which dazzle and fascinate men, and for which they will sell their souls and deny their God. And these kingdoms all belonged to Jesus, but God's way, and the only way by which He could secure them in everlasting righteousness was by suffering and death. “You shall have them,” said the tempter, “by an easy way. I will give them to you if you will but worship me: acknowledge me as greater than yourself and God; take them from my hand and all shall be yours.” But those glittering kingdoms had no attraction in that hour for the holy One of God. He would not take them from any hand but God's hand, He could trust God to put all things beneath His feet when the due time came, but that time was not yet. His eyes were upon God, and He met the temptation with an uncompromising answer, “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.”

 

The Third Temptation

The third temptation was the most subtle of the three, and the devil backed it up by a partly quoted text. He proposed that the Lord should cast Himself down from a pinnacle of the temple, and by such an exploit gain a double advantage—Put God to the test, and prove Him, as to whether You are the special object of His care according to the word quoted, and at the same time convince the multitude in the courtyard of the temple that You are the Messiah, the Son of God. The trap was laid in vain, and His answer, “It is written, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God,” showed how thoroughly Jesus perceived the devil's purpose. It was no business of His to put God's word to the test to see whether God would honour it or not, no doubt as to it ever entered His mind, it did not need to be proved to Him; nor was it His business to vindicate Himself before the people. “My times are in Thy hands” was the whole spirit of His life and activities, and He would not take them out of God's hands.

GOD was the answer of this ever-dependent and so ever-victorious Man. He looked to GOD for His sustenance; GOD filled His heart to the exclusion of all other glory; His whole confidence and trust was in GOD, God's will was His law, God's way was His delight; He set the Lord always before Him and He was not moved. It was thus that He was tested and came through the testing stronger than the foe. By resisting all the efforts of “the strong man” to turn Him from His devotion to God, He bound him fast and went forth in the power of the Spirit to make his goods His spoil; for the grace and mercy of God showed themselves in Him and He went about doing good and delivering all that were oppressed of the devil. He was in the midst of men as a living Deliverer, the Master of Satan who had oppressed them so long.

How miserable and inadequate and dishonouring to the Lord is the teaching, that He met no personal devil in the wilderness, but merely retired into it to consider various schemes by which He might press His claims upon men and prove His Messiahship to them, and that the temptations were nothing more than plans of campaign that He considered and rejected. It is by such teaching that the devil would hide from men the fact of his defeat.

 

The Final Temptation

But the overcoming in the wilderness was not the end of the conflict, the devil wielded the power of death and by it kept men in bondage all their life-time for fear of it. And Jesus had come to wrench that power from him, and He could only do this by dying. It was not a living Deliverer that could emancipate men from the tyrant's power—blinded by the devil they rejected Him in that character—but a dying Redeemer. He had come to die, this only was the way, of obedience to God and of love to men. And it was as the shadow of that death crept darkly over His path that Satan returned to the attack, to tempt Him to draw back from that way of suffering. The horror and shame and woe unspeakable that lay before Him pressed heavily upon the spirit of the Lord, and He began to show to His disciples that it was to a cross and not to a throne that He was progressing. And Satan seized the occasion and using the impetuous and unwary Peter as his spokesman, he endeavoured to turn the Lord from His fixed purpose to do the will of God even to death. “This be far from Thee [pity Thyself] this shall not be unto Thee.” But the Lord detected the foe in that friendly guise, and the temptation to think of Himself was met with stern rebuke, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” and then to Peter, “thou savourest not the things that be of GOD.” As in the wilderness before He entered upon His public service so now at the end of it, GOD was the sole object of His life.

It was in this same spirit of dependence and full subjection to the will of God that He went through the agony in Gethsemane, when Satan marshalled all the powers of darkness to appal Him and drive Him back from making the great sacrifice; but He came out of the trial saying, “The cup which my Father hath given me shall I not drink it;” and so onward to the cross. In the days of His flesh He “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him out of death, and was heard in that He feared,”—or, for His piety—His whole-hearted dependence upon God and His trust in Him (Heb. 5:7). Satan was utterly foiled, he was beaten at every point in the field, and Jesus, whom he could neither decoy nor drive from the path of God's will, by dying has destroyed his power and has become the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. He went down into death, committing Himself into His Father's hands, and the Father's glory has raised Him from the dead, and now He can say to all who bow down before Him. “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.” And the devil is a defeated foe. He has no authority or power over the saints; he

“trembles when be sees

The weakest saint upon his knees.”

They have but to resist him and he will flee from them, for they are no longer his prey, but the blood-purchased possession of the Saviour who has delivered them, and they are to share in all the results of the great victory of the Lord over him for “the God of peace shall shortly bruise him under their feet” (Rom. 16:20).

 

 

4. The Deity of the Lord Jesus—The Necessity for it

We can understand the envy with which the kings of Egypt would view the rise and progress of Israel . They had held that nation as slaves for many generations but had been compelled by the will of Jehovah to release them, and had seen Jerusalem become the most magnificent and wealthiest city on earth under the rule of David and Solomon. Small wonder that at the first evidence of weakness Shishak came up against that city with a great army and pillaged the Temple and the king's house, and took away the priceless treasure of them, including the shields of gold that Solomon had made. Then Rehoboam, that feeble and foolish son of a great father, does not appear to have put up any resistance; he let the glory of the city go without protest. What did it matter? He could substitute brass for gold, and brass looks like gold, almost; peace seemed cheap at the price. And so it was when he went up to the house of the Lord, brazen shields went up before him instead of shields of fine gold, and when his religious duties were done they were committed to the guard for safe keeping as though they were the real thing (1 Ki. 14).

What the king of Egypt did to Jerusalem , the devil, who is the god and prince of the world, has done for Christendom. For ages he had held mankind in darkness and bondage, but deliverance came at the advent of the Lord Jesus, who lived among men and died and rose again. Then God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. Multitudes were delivered from the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of the Father's love, and there was established on earth the kingdom of heaven which was enriched by heavenly treasure: the pure gold of God's truth concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

But with the decline of living faith and the rise of profession with out reality in these modern days, the devil has seen and seized his opportunity, and has laid his envious and ruthless hands upon these treasures and has robbed Christendom of its shields of gold. He could not have done it if there had not been traitors within who were pledged to hold and fight for these treasures of “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” They have been his allies in this.

The truth as to the person of the Lord is the finest of the gold of our faith; what He is in His own eternal being gives character to it all—“God was manifest in the flesh,” not, “Jesus was a manifestation of God,” as some say, but that He is Himself, in His own person, God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. . . . and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-14). But this fine gold has been surrendered at the devil's bidding; and leaders in Christendom who ought to have defended it to the death, have surrendered it with other priceless treasures for popularity with the world and in fear of “modern scholarship.” Indeed they seem to be well pleased to let these great truths go, for their insubject minds prefer their own investigations to God's revelation, and man's effort to uplift himself is more to them than God's intervention for his redemption, and they have seized the opportunity to substitute their own base brass for God's fine gold. A Christ of their imagination is more to their liking than the Christ of God, a Christ who is stripped of the glory of His eternal Deity, and being stripped of that supreme glory is stripped of every other glory that could be acceptable to God and of use to men. And they think that they are the gainers by the change. “We are rich and increased with goods” they boast, “and have need of nothing,” and they know not that “they are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” and need to turn again to our Sovereign Lord and buy of Him gold tried in the fire that they may be rich (Rev. 3:17-18).

The pretence of approach to God is kept up, but the brazen shields go before them instead of shields of gold, and God will not have their counterfeits. “ I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me ,” are our Lord's own words, and they are recorded for us in that Gospel which reveals to us the glory of His divine and eternal being, which indeed is not absent from any part of Scripture; and nothing less than this wilt do for God. The brazen imitation may suit and fascinate men, but it is an abomination to God, nothing but the pure gold can He accept, and in vain is their worship of Him as long as they teach the doctrines and opinions of men for the gospel of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. And nothing but the pure gold of this gospel will satisfy the soul of a man when he is fully awakened to his deep need. When the light of God streams into his conscience and he sees the exceeding sinfulness of his sin, and the greatness of his peril and how far his sin has removed him from God, he will spurn the brass of man's imaginations as a mockery and a sham and confess that there can be for him no salvation in any other Name, but the Name of JESUS—Jehovah the Saviour. As to this, the late Handley Moule wrote, “The human soul, once fully awakened to its needs, to its mysterious greatness and to its mysterious but awfully real sinfulness, can find rest only in the Saviour, who is, in equal truth, one with man and one with God. Such a Saviour bridges as with living adamant the gulf of doom and sin which severs creature from Maker. A saviour who is not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end.”

It is here I would begin; before endeavouring to show that all Scripture bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the eternal Word, “the Christ, who is over all, God, blessed for ever,” I would urge the necessity for it. It is a necessity to God, if He is to be known by His creature, and to find His delights in the sons of men, redeemed from all iniquity and purified unto Himself as a peculiar people, zealous of good works; and a necessity to man if he is ever to know God as his God, to be forgiven, and at peace, and find his soul's everlasting satisfaction in Him. The human soul would grope in vain for light if it were not so; it would cry out hopelessly in its misery, for there would be none to help; there would be “neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded,” as it was when the prophets of Baal cried all the day long to their false god (1 Ki. 18:29). We should be a lost race, wandering stars cut off from our central Sun without hope of restoration to our true orbit and with no outlook but the blackness of darkness for ever, if Jesus were not God; “the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father.”

Consider the cry that broke out of the awakened soul of that pagan jailer at Philippi , “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” What answer could satisfy that bewildered man, trembling on the brink of a lost eternity? There was but one answer that could satisfy him. Suppose instead of that one and only answer Paul had said, “Believe in Adam, or Abraham, or Moses or John the Baptist.” What a mocker of the man's misery he would have been; or suppose he had said, for he was a greater man than them all, “Believe on me and thou shalt be saved.” Would not the soul and conscience of the jailer have revolted against the outrage and have turned from him as a blasphemer and an imposter? But how fitting, how satisfying was the answer that he did give, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” The whole gospel of God was involved in that answer; it put that seeking sinner into vital contact with Him who of aid had said, “Look unto Me and be ye saved all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none beside Me” (Isa. 45:22), it satisfied him, for it gave him a perfect, because a divine, Saviour.

The necessity for the Word to become flesh did not arise only when that great event took place, it was there from the beginning when sin entered into the world. The patriarch Job felt the necessity and voiced it in memorable words when he said, as he searched for a way by which a man could be just with God. “He is not a man as I am, that I should answer Him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both. Let Him take away His rod from me, and let not His fear terrify me: then would I speak, and not fear Him; but it is not so with me ” (Job 9:33-35). It is not difficult to interpret what his feelings were, for they are the feelings of all who are awakened by God's Spirit to their need. He said in effect: “I know that I have sinned against Him, and if He were a man as I am, I could, having the feelings of a man, understand how I have offended Him; I could go to Him and make restitution for the wrong I have done to Him and so be at peace. But He is not a man as I am, and I cannot measure the demands of His justice against me. The gulf between us is unmeasurable from my side; He is almighty, holy and just, and I am weak, sinful and unholy, and there is no one that I know of to stand betwixt us, who could speak from Him to me, and from me to Him.” See how accurately his awakened conscience had gauged the situation: he desired one who could stand betwixt God, infinitely holy and just, and the sinner, guilty and afraid, and put his hand upon them both: He must be equal to God and equal to men. And says Job, “I do not know such a one. I have felt the need for Him, I have longed for Him and sought for Him but I have not found Him.” And Job, be it noted, who expressed his soul's deep longing in these words, was the man who came nearer to perfection than any man of his day; and if he was hopeless and despairing because he had no Daysman, it is plain that the Daysman, the Mediator could not arise among men if He is to come at all He must come from above and when He comes, He must be able to put His hand upon God; He must be God's equal; pure as God is pure, holy as God is holy, great as God is great: no one less could intervene, or be of any use in this supreme matter to Job or to any other man. Yet He must come low enough to put His hand upon men. He must pass by angels and be one of us, yet sinless, or His touch would defile the throne of God and be unavailing for us. He must represent God and yet be able to identify Himself with us and to take up our vast indebtedness and speak for us. He must be God and man.

Man's extremity is God's opportunity, and the One whom Job could not find on earth has come from heaven, and JESUS, the Virgin's Son, is Emmanuel: GOD WTH us. Being God, He knew according to God's perfect estimate what the effect to the universe of man's sin was. He knew how the majesty of God was challenged by man's disregard of His will, and what the demands of the eternal throne were in regard to the violation of its just decrees. He knew how man's pride and self will had made him the lawful capture of Satan, and how great was the gulf that separated him from his God, and how powerless he was to right the wrong. He knew the penalty that had to be paid and the work that had to be done and knowing all this He came, saying, “A body hast Thou prepared Me . . . Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5-7). He became the Son of Man, that He might stand in the place of men, and be lifted up as their substitute and representative and meet the bill of their indebtedness. This involved Him in all the sorrows of Calvary , and there “He gave Himself a ransom for all.” If He had not become man He could not have died, if He had not been God His death would have been without value, but now His death accomplished and the ransom paid, He is “the one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.”

He stooped from His eternal glory and was made in the likeness of men and being found in fashion as a man, He put His hand upon us, degraded though we were, and He did it tenderly, graciously, so that we are not afraid. He is full of grace and truth and there is no terror for us in His hand; we do not shrink from Him, for He has touched us with the hand of a man, yet He was never less than God, and God has touched us in Him. He has put one hand upon us and the other He has placed upon the throne of God. With the one hand He has offered the fullest satisfaction to every righteous claim of God and with the other He bestows fullness of grace upon men. He brings us to God and gives us a place in His presence without fear, and in everlasting peace, a place established upon an infallible and immoveable foundation of divine righteousness laid down by Him who is God and Man in His own blessed person.

But if the necessity on man's side was great, it was even greater on God's side: the fulfilment of His purposes and the revelation of the deep love of His heart towards men as well as the glory of His Name all depend upon the Deity of the Lord Jesus. How could God reveal Himself to men who were cut off from Him by their sins? How could He win their hearts from their fear and hatred of Him and deliver them from the darkness in which they groped? How could men love God if they did not know Him, and how could they know Him, since “no man hath seen God at any time unless the only-begotten Son which is in His bosom come forth to declare Him?” It was certainly necessary that these things should be done if ever that great word was to be fulfilled, “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 be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, not crying, neither shall there be any more pain, “for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4). Before all this could be an accomplished fact the sin of the world must be borne away, and who could do that? It is recorded that, “John (the Baptist) seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We are familiar with the words, so familiar that we are but lightly impressed with their immensity and meaning, “The sin of the world!” Think of it! Think of the sin of one city, what man could take that away? or of one street in a city, or of one house in that street, or of one man in that house? Could any man take away his own sin and stand before God, “holy and without blame before Him in love”? for nothing less than that will suit Him. The questions have only to be asked to prove to all who are not wilfully blind that this work could only lie in the hands of the eternal God. Yet as John saw that lowly Stranger from Nazareth moving towards him among the multitudes of Israel , he proclaimed Him to be the taker away of the sin of the world and in that word he proclaimed His Godhead power and worth. No wonder that he was compelled to add, “This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me.”

That which is written in Revelation 21 shall come to pass for “the words are true and faithful” (v. 5). The same voice that cried, “It is finished” on the cross at Golgotha shall be heard saying, “It is done” and God shall rest with the multitude of His redeemed sons, in His own love that has been declared by the Son, and shall be all and in all. Meanwhile He declares, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life.” God Himself is the Fountain, and the thirst of the human soul can only be assuaged and satisfied with God, and God is fully revealed to us in JESUS. For “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world received up into glory.”

5. The Deity of the Lord Jesus

In the history of the church on earth no greater theologian than Athanasius ever arose to champion the truth of God against error, yet great and faithful as he was, he confessed that “whenever he forced his understanding to meditate on the Divinity (Deity) of the Logos (the Word) his toilsome and unavailing efforts recoiled on themselves; that the more he thought the less he comprehended; and the more he wrote, the less capable was he of expressing his thoughts” (Gibbon). We do not wonder at that when we consider the immeasurable greatness of the Subject and the limited capacity of man's understanding.

This inability of the human mind by its own effort to discover and know God was clearly recognised by men of intelligence in ancient times. Zophar the Naamathite challenged Job as to it, when he asked, “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?” (Job 11:7). And Agur the son of Jakeh appealed to Ithiel (whose name meant, There is a God) for help when he confessed his ignorance of God. “I have neither learned wisdom,” said he, “nor have I the knowledge of the holy. Who hath ascended up into heaven and descended? Who hath gathered the wind in His fists; Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established the ends of the earth? What is His name and what is His Son's name, if thou canst tell?” As far as we know Ithiel had no answer to that appeal.

The modern mind is not more capable in itself of grasping the things of God than were these great men of old, for “It is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” And if the things of God are outside man's range how infinitely above him must God Himself—the Father and His Son—be! And yet we must know Him; the awakened soul is conscious that all its blessing lies in the knowledge of God, and pants for this knowledge as the hart pants for the water brooks.

When “the Word became flesh” and dwelt among men, He revealed the great secret as to how God was to be known when He said, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and has revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight” (Matt. 11:25-26). These words from the lips of the Lord Himself, declare that the knowledge of God cannot be gained by laborious and brain-wearying investigation, no matter how sincere the labour may be, but only by revelation; they strike at the root of the pride of the human intellect and prick the bubble of those who “vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds” reject the revelation and think to find out God by their own searching; they shut out the reasonings and imaginations of the self-confident mind, which always, alas, since man is fallen, and “alienated in his mind by wicked works” exalts itself against the true knowledge of God (Col. 2:18; 1:21; 2 Cor. 10:5). And they show that there are two sides to the fact of revelation. There is activity on God's part and receptivity on ours. God is revealed, and the babes receive the revelation; the light shines and there are eyes that admit it; the truth is declared, but it is also believed; God must speak and men must hear, for faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” And we are as dependent upon God for the babe-nature and the opened eyes and the believing heart, and the listening ears, as we are for the revelation that these perceive, appreciate and appropriate.

In Old Testament times there were certain limited revelations of God's attributes and ways. The heavens declared the glory of His power, and the firmament showed His handiwork. The law given at Sinai announced the uprightness of His kingdom and the justice of His throne. He showed Himself often in His providential care for men and as the covenant-keeping God; and proclaimed His name, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” But these partial revelations, rays from the eternal splendour, only served to make those who received them cry out for a fuller, a complete knowledge of His heart and nature, as when Moses said, “Show me Thy glory” (Ex. 33) and David pleaded, “O send out Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto Thy holy hill and to Thy tabernacles” (Ps. 43). Those soul longings have been answered in a manner that neither Moses nor David could have conceived; the glory has appeared and the light and the truth have come in the Son of God, for “God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets hath in these last times spoken unto us by His Son (lit, in Son) . . . Who being the brightness of His glory , and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18). And the Son in whom God has spoken and who has declared what God is in His very nature and has glorified Him on the earth, said. “ I am the light of the world ” (John 8:12), and “ I am the truth ” (John 14:6).

We are dependent upon the Holy Scripture for all our knowledge of this full revelation, for we were not on earth when the Son of God dwelt among men, but we are thankful indeed, that the Father sent forth the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide the men who companied with Him, to bear an infallible witness to what they heard and saw. “That which we have heard,” wrote one of them, “which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life . . . declare we unto you” (1 John 1:1-3). There is a peculiar dignity and authority about the Scriptures. It could not be other wise, since they are the words of the living and almighty God. For instance, they do not set out to prove that God is, they state the fact and show the effect of His presence and power, and they tell us that it is only the fool—the man void of all understand—that says in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1). They open with that majestic statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But the New Testament is more than the equal of the Old, in this dignity and authority. It does not set out to prove that the One we know as Jesus is God, equally with the Father and the Holy Ghost. It states the fact and shows the effect of it. So that the Gospel, which I think may be justly called the greatest book in the New Testament, opens with the sublime statement, “In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.”

The “beginning” of Genesis signifies the moment when the voice of God called the worlds into being, and the pendulum of Time began to swing, but the opening words of John's Gospel carries us further back than that and tell us that when the first creatorial word was uttered the Word was there. Whatever may have been the activities of the Godhead anterior to creation, He had His part in them, for then He was with God, His delight and companion (Prov. 8), and He was God, God's equal, “His Fellow,” in all things purposed and done—“In His existence, eternal, in His nature, divine; in His person, distinct” (J.N.D.) “All things were made by Him.” His was the voice that commanded and it was done; that creative life-giving energy which abides only in God, wrought with divine power and wisdom through Him; “and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Two, other passages in the New Testament definitely and fully predicate the creation of all things to Him. In one of them, words are taken up from the Old Testament (Ps. 102) as having been addressed to Him by God Himself, “And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the works of Thy hand: they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years fail not.” This ascription to Him, who creates for His own purpose and dissolves what He has created when it has served that purpose, but who abides, unchanging and eternal in His person and being, occurs in an Epistle addressed to Hebrew Christians, that they might be properly impressed with the glory of their Lord and the greatness of the salvation that they had in Him. The other passage was written to Gentile believers and tells us “By Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions or principalities, or powers, all things were created by Him, and for Him; and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” (Col. 1). Jew and Gentile, alike must recognise and acknowledge His glory, and none who believe, whether Jew or Gentile, must have any doubt as to the greatness of the One whom they have confessed as Lord and Saviour, and in whose hand lies their destiny. He is God the Creator: as to power almighty; as to wisdom infinite; as to authority, supreme; as to being, eternal.

The opening of the Gospel according to John could not be plainer in its statements than it is, and they are framed by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to meet every opposition to the truth that might arise in the human heart; and interest is awakened by these statements as to whether any on earth would believe and confess the truth of them as they were known and confessed in heaven, and we may be sure that heaven was engrossed in this same question. As we pass from page to page of the Gospel, we see a ray of the light break first into one heart and then into another; here a man and there a woman is brought to bow in worship at the feet of the Sovereign Lord of all, and so to tacitly confess that He is indeed God; but it is not until the end of the Gospel is reached, (chapter 21 is a beautiful postscript to it) that His disciples behold Him and own Him in His full glory. It was on that second “first day of the week” when the disciples were gathered together, and Thomas the unbeliever with them; in disposition and temper he was a veritable materialist and had declared that he would believe nothing that he could not see and handle—that Jesus stood in the midst, and showed to the astonished eyes of His obstinate follower the wounds that He had sustained and which remained in His incorruptible body. It was enough for Thomas; he was an infidel no longer, but falling down before His Master, he voiced the faith and adoration of all his brethren, in those true and memorable words, “My LORD AND MY GOD.”

If the Lord Jesus had not been what Thomas confessed Him to be, but only a good and true man He would have rebuked him for uttering foolish words, for it would have been an unspeakable wickedness for one man to accept from another man that adoration which only belongs to God; but He did accept it because it was His right, and He went further and declared the blessedness of all those throughout the ages who should perceive His glory and confess it and render like homage to Him: saying, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen yet have believed.” In this great and convincing incident we see how the end of the Gospel answers to the opening words of it.

The place that the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father, has in the thoughts and affections of the Father and the Holy Ghost is instructive. I will quote certain passages from the Gospel of John which show that He was the worthy and adequate Object of the Father's love when on earth and the One for whose glory the Holy Ghost labours now. “We beheld His glory, the glory, as of the only begotten of the Father” (chap. 1:14); “the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father” (1:18); “The Father loved the Son, and hath given all things into His hands” (3:35); “The Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth” (5:20); “The living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father” (6:57); “The Father hath not left Me alone” (7:29); “Therefore doth My Father love Me because I lay down My life” (10:17); “I and My Father are One” (10:30). And that we might know that this love that the Father had for Him and the delight that He had in Him were not confined to His life on earth, but that they were eternal in their duration, we hear His words, “Father. . . . Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (17:24).

But now that He has gone back to the Father we learn that the Holy Ghost has come from thence to bear witness to Him. As the Father once looked down upon Him, so now the Holy Ghost looks up to Him, and would turn the eyes of all His disciples in the same direction. We read, “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 ” (14.:26). “But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me ” (15:26). “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you. ” (16:13-15).

The revelation of God is complete, and we know God now as Father, Son and Holy Ghost: three Persons yet one God. It was this that came into full manifestation when Jesus was here, for “in Him all the fullness [of the Godhead] was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19, see also 2:10. Darby's N.T.) and “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).

The Father is the source of all blessing for men.

The Son has brought the blessing to men.

The Holy Ghost makes the blessing good in men

And each person in the Godhead is engaged in making the revelation a reality in the souls of men for we read, “No man knoweth the Father save THE SON and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).

“Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but MY FATHER which is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17).

“God hath revealed them unto us by HIS SPIRIT : for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10).

The Holy Spirit dwells within the believer. A power commensurate with the love that moved the Father to send the Son, and works in the hearts of those who have humbly yielded to the Lord, so that they are not now groping in darkness, or wearying themselves in a vain search after God by human effort, for the true light is shining and “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding that we should know Him that is true and we are in Him that is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life . Children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:20-21. N.T.)

 

 

6. The Deity of the Lord as seen in the opening of the New Testament

It was not the business of earlier writers of the New Testament to prove that the Lord Jesus Christ is God. To them this great truth was not a matter of debate, it was their whole faith, and the standpoint from which they made their inspired-by-the-Holy-Spirit records. It has been said that just as the golden threads were inextricably woven with the blue and purple and scarlet and fine linen of the High Priest's ephod and girdle (Ex. 18) so is the Deity of Christ woven into all that these men wrote; and that is true, yet the type is feeble and inadequate, as all material types of what is infinite must be. The Deity of Christ is more than interwoven into the Gospel records, it is the warp upon which all that is recorded in them is wrought; it is the root out of which all truth grows; it is the fountain from which all blessing flows. If it could be torn from these four Gospels they would be meaningless shreds, and the glorious faith of the Son of God would be compelled to take its place along with other vain, worldly philosophies, having some interest perhaps to scholars, but void of all saving value for sinners. Those who reject it, reject the only hope, the only way of deliverance for men, for all Scripture shows that if men were to be saved, God must come down to them to do it, and also, if God does come down to men, He must come as their Saviour. Naturally we should have thought otherwise but that is most assuredly the truth.

And it is with this that the New Testament opens. Upon the first page of it, in our Authorised Version, the Name of Jesus appears in capital letters, and it gives us the title and the great subject of the Book. That Name means Saviour, and He had come to save. The New Testament is the Book of God's salvation, and it shows us that God Himself is the Saviour, and He only. He might delegate great works to His angel-servants, and speak in diverse ways to men by His prophets, but this work of salvation He must undertake Himself, or it would never be done.

Let us now consider this, “Fear not,” said the angel of the Lord to Joseph, “to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” He did not say that He would save sinners, Jew and Gentile, though that is most blessedly true, and comes fully to light as the truth unfolds, but in perfect keeping with this first Gospel, to “save His PEOPLE.” The people of Israel were in view in the angel's announcement, and the fulfilment of the Word of God by His prophets to them. They were Jehovah's people, a people chosen of God as His own peculiar possession, even though they had departed far from Him. Their sins had separated them from Him, but He would not, He could not, abandon His rights in them, He would undertake their salvation. And Jesus was to appear to do this, because as the angel said, these people chosen of God were His PEOPLE. There are many Old Testament passages addressed to Israel which bind up their salvation with God's personal intervention on their behalf and that prove conclusively that He only could save them. I will quote a few of them, “I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isa. 43:3). “I, even I, am the Lord, and beside Me there is no Saviour” (v. 11). “There is no God else beside Me, a just God and a Saviour” (45:21). “All flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour, and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob” (49:2). “I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt , and thou shalt know no god but Me; for there is no Saviour beside Me” (Hos. 13:4). It has often been said that the name Jesus carries divine glory with it; that it means Jehovah the Saviour; it is certainly clear from these great texts that none but God could save His people, and if any others pretended to be able to do this, their pretence only proved them to be thieves and robbers (John 10), but of Jesus, the angel said, “He shall save His people from their sins.” Then who else could He be but God?

 

The First Quotation From the Prophets

As we apprehend the force and meaning of the words of the angel of the Lord to Joseph we are prepared for the statement that follows, “Now 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.” When Mary brought forth her first-born Son the Saviour-Messiah had entered the world. He who had said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM: Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel , I AM hath sent me to you” (Ex. 3:14), was not now sending a servant with a mes sage but He had appeared Himself to be their Saviour. We are not asked to fathom this mystery of God-incarnate, it must ever baffle all intellectual investigation, but it does not stumble faith; for faith recognises that God will perform His word; if He had spoken of this by the prophet, what He had said must come to pass. And faith knows that when God moves He moves in a way worthy of Himself, to confound the wise and the proud and the mighty by that which is apparently weak and of no account. It was even so in this matter. He came into manhood and in great humility not to condemn and consume a sinful people, but to offer Himself to them as their Saviour Lord, though we know well that where grace is rejected judgment must fall.

 

The Second Quotation From the Prophets

The coming of the wise men from the East to enquire where He was who was born King of the Jews, gave Jerusalem the opportunity of not only beholding its King but of seeing its God manifest in flesh. The chief men of the city were gathered together by Herod, the Idumean usurper, and they showed that they were well acquainted with the Scriptures that spoke of His birth. But in citing Micah 5:2 why did they omit that part of it that declares His eternal being and activities? The omission seems to indicate that they had no desire for a close acquaintance with their God, the idea was not acceptable to them; an alien tyrant seems to have been more to their minds than Jehovah their Saviour. But the prophecy which they quoted not only foretold the place of His birth and the dignity of His office, but the glory of His person. Micah wrote:

“They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek”—an extraordinary prophecy; but actually fulfilled when they took the reed that they had put in His right hand as a mock sceptre and smote Him on the head, (Matt. 27:30),—“But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting [or the days of eternity ]” (chap. 5:1-2).

Who could have conceived this great thing, that He whose goings forth were from eternity, who in divine, creative energy had cast the stars before Him as a golden pathway for His glorious feet, should have come forth in obscure Bethlehem, born of an obscure virgin mother, in all the apparent weakness of human babe-hood; to be the Servant of the Godhead and to tread the filthy streets of those eastern cities in His search for the diseased, and distressed and devil-possessed; and to go forth at last bearing His cross to Golgotha to save His people from their sins? What goings forth were these! Yet these were the ways of divine love, made known in the Son of Man, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. It was the only way if God was to be known as the Saviour, and if Jesus was to make good His title to that glorious name.

 

The Third Quotation From the Prophets

Passing over other quotations from the prophets that do not bear on our subject we come to chapter 3. John the Baptist was a man full of the Holy Spirit, and by the guidance and power of the Spirit he bore testimony to Jesus. He refused to talk of Himself; his mission was to “prepare the way of the LORD,” according to the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3. And of Him whose forerunner he was, he said, “He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in His hand and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner, but He will burn up the chaff with Unquenchable fire” (chap. 3:11-12). With the Lord close upon his heels, this faithful forerunner declared his own limitations; he could baptise the people with water; he could bring them down into that which signified death, but at the same time he proclaimed the might of his Lord, He would lift them into the sphere of life and endue them with the power and intelligence that belonged to that life, or—dread alternative—baptise them with fire. He would gather His wheat into the garner and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Israel was His floor; and He the Lord would discriminate between His wheat and the chaff. Who but the Lord could do this? It is written, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” He had come in grace, the Lord in whom is salvation, but He had come to a recalcitrant nation, a remnant only of which would receive Him; and since He is a just God as well as a Saviour, His judgment must fall on the rebellious. “For the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4:1). “The Father . . . hath committed all judgment to the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:22-23). “What a fact of immeasurable greatness was the presence of the Lord God in the midst of His people, in the Person of Him who, although He was doubtless to be the fulfilment of all the promises, was necessarily, though rejected, the Judge of all the evil existing among His people” (J.N.D.).

 

The Fourth Quotation From the Prophets

The next quotation from the prophets which has a definite bearing on our subject is in chapter 4. John had been cast into prison. He had been a burning and a shining light in the darkness, but as the stars fade away when the sun rises, so he passed out of sight that all eyes might be fixed upon the One who was greater than he; “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zebulon, and the land of Naphtali, 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 of the shadow of death light is sprung up.” The quotation is from the 9th chapter of the prophecy and it declares the greatness of the One in whom this great light shone, and we must not fail to notice this. “Unto us,” says the prophet, “a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be on His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The 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.”

How great are the glories of this fivefold name! too bright indeed for mortal eyes, if it were not in Jesus that they shine, but in Him they reach us as softly and sweetly as the dawn, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given .” Here is meekness, gentleness and love. We are not afraid of a babe; we do not shrink in terror from a son, “Fear not,” said the angel to the Shepherds, “for, behold I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” And His Name—the name of that Babe upon whom the Shepherds looked with wonder and whom the wise men worshipped—has a five-fold glory. Can we discern it in the Gospels? I think we can, indeed it pervades them and diffuses its fragrance from every page of them. His name shall be called WONDERFUL. The devil owned it when he was compelled to leave Him, having utterly failed to allure Him from the path of righteousness, (chap. 4:11). The people confessed it when they were astonished at His doctrine. (chap. 7:28); the soldiers who were sent to take Him confessed it when they said, “Never man spake like this man,” (John 7:26); the people confessed it again when they said, “He hath done all things well” (Mark 7:37); His disciple confessed it when they asked, “What manner of man is this?” (Matt. 8:25); the devils confessed it when they said, “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus of Nazareth?” (8:29); and the Father proclaimed it when from the excellent glory He said, “Thou art my Son [even] the Beloved, in Whom I greatly delight.”

COUNSELLOR. “Learn of Me,” He said, “for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest to your souls” (chap. 11:29), and “Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (chap. 7:24).

THE MIGHTY GOD. This is the name of God as the Omnipotent One, the mighty EL, the Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, Who disposes of men as He will and is the strength and refuge of those that trust in Him. This is the central glory of the five-fold name and it shone from the lowly Nazarene when He stilled the storm on the midnight sea (chap. 8:26); thrust back and controlled the power of death (8:23); multiplied the loaves and fishes to satisfy the hungry crowds (14:15); claimed the undivided allegiance of the hearts of men (4:18:22; 19:21); forgave the sins of those that sought Him, (9:2); and said “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (11:28).

THE FATHER OF ETERNITY. Our minds can travel back through the ages of time, but they halt at the frontiers of eternity; it is too vast for us to scan, yet this fourth beam of this all-glorious name carries us into Eternity whether we will or not, and tells us that every age of it proceeded from Him, and that He controls them with all their issues. If I may be permitted to go outside our Gospel I will quote from Colossians 1 where it is said of “ The Son of the Father's love ” (v. 13), “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” (vv. 16-17). And turning back to our Gospel I read of this Creator-Son, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father” (11:27), and there shines a beam too bright for creature eye, a glory that no man hath seen or can see.

THE PRINCE OF PEACE. There is not much said about peace in Matthew's Gospel, it belongs more to Luke's and the latter part of John's, but the reason is not far to seek. As the Prince of Peace He sent forth His messengers preaching peace in every house into which they went, but the people were not worthy of that peace for they rejected the Prince of it, and the peace they would not have returned to those who carried it (10:13), and the Prince of Peace had to say in view of this stubbornness and blindness, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace but a sword” (10:34). Nevertheless He was the Prince of peace, and Peter proclaimed this when He told the first Gentiles that ever heard the gospel, “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel , preaching peace by Jesus Christ; (He is Lord of all)” (Acts 10:36). And all who owned His Lordship entered into peace then as they also do even unto this day.

The glory shone in vain for Israel then, for they stumbled at the lowliness of their great Messiah, but the day is surely coming when it will dispel their darkness, and lift the veil that covers them and open their wondering eyes and they shall say in that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isa. 25:9). Then of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, and He will establish His kingdom with judgment and justice for ever. And He will swallow up death in victory and wipe away tears from off all faces, for He is the Saviour of His people, JEHOVAH-JESUS.

Thus we see Him in the early chapters of Matthew, who is the Son in the glorious Trinity (chap. 28:19), co-equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost, enter into the world as man, yet Emmanuel, to be the Saviour of His people, and their Ruler, who was not a child of days, but the Lord of Eternity; and as their all-discerning and righteous Judge, and the One who will drive before His victorious feet all darkness and the power of death and fill His kingdom and the whole earth with the light of the knowledge of God which shines even now in His face for all who believe.

 

 

7. The Deity of our Lord in the later Epistles (continued)

It is not in Paul's later Epistles only that the truth of the Deity of our Lord is emphasised, it is the fountain from which all his ministry flowed. “It is taken for granted all through his Epistles, and is the very soul and marrow of the entire series of doctrines. When this is lost sight of, all is misshapen and dislocated, but when this is recognised all falls into its place as the exhibition of infinite power and mercy clothed in a vesture of humiliation and sacrifice, and devoted to the succour and enlightenment of man” (Liddon). The Divine glory of his Lord was everything to Paul. We surely realise this as we read of his heroic life of labour and zeal and endurance and sacrifice, and consider his burning words. From the hour when he saw Him in the glory and heard His voice as he lay stricken by His power on the road to Damascus , the enthroned Jesus was the object of his faith and love and life, and he yielded to Him an allegiance that only God could claim. He delighted to speak of himself as His bond slave; to count the greatest prizes that the world could give as dung and dross and well lost for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. He preached Him as the subject of the gospel of God, and called upon men to repent Godward, and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for their soul's salvation as they would believe in God. He charged the princes of this world with crucifying the Lord of glory , and boldly declared, “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ let him be anathema.” He spoke of Him as our “great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” and as the “Judge of the quick and dead.” How awe-inspiring are his words in 2 Thessalonians 1 “The Lord Jesus 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.” Of whom could such words have been written but of the eternal God?

But it is not difficult to see how necessary it was that the truth should be stated in definite terms in the later epistles not only for those to whom they were first addressed but for us also. The Deity of Christ is the central fact of our faith; it is the glory of it and that that gives stability to our souls and enables us to endure when persecuted and tried; and it is that which is the object of the most persistent attacks of Satan, that and the truth of His holy manhood. Fierce was the war that raged about it in the early centuries of the Christian era, and to this day the test of everything is “What think ye of Christ, whose Son is He?” If He is David's Son, “How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord?” How good it is that we are not left to the vagaries of the Fathers, or to the opinions of modern theologians, or to our own deductions and conclusions, but that we have the clear, definite, unequivocal words of Holy Scripture for what we believe.

 

The Hebrew Epistle

The faith of the Hebrew Christians was being sorely tried; they had hoped that their nation would have accepted Christ as the Messiah, but only a feeble remnant had done so, and they were between two fires, persecuted by pagan Gentiles and reviled by their own countrymen. And just ahead of them lay the destruction of Jerusalem and their dispersal to the ends of the earth. The time had come for a complete and final break with all that they had held most sacred—priests, sacrifices, temple, city. What could carry them through this time of sore trial and maintain them steadfast in the faith? One thing—the transcendent glory of their Lord and Saviour. Hence their need was the occasion for the Spirit of God to take of the things of Christ and show them to them, and to glorify Him (John 16:14), and to clothe Him with distinctions and glories which belong only to the eternal God. How wonderful are the opening words of the Epistle, “God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.” Lack of space and time prevent me from attempting to say anything about this range of glories that could belong to no creature however exalted, but surely the contemplation of them must bow every believing heart in wonder and worship at His feet and especially so as we realise that it is Jesus, who died for us, to whom these glories belong.

But there is one passage in the chapter that we must consider. It is a quotation from Psalm 102, “And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the works of Thy hands, They shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed, but THOU ART THE SAME, and Thy years shall not fail.” Who can this be who creates for His own glory, and who, when what He has created has served His purpose, folds it up and sets it aside like a worn-out garment, but who abides Himself in His own eternal, immutable, unchanging Being? Who can He be? Let the end of the Epistle answer the question. “JESUS CHRIST THE SAME yesterday, today and for ever.” But consider this declaration of His glory: the words were addressed to Him when as a man on earth His strength was weakened in the way and He drew near unto death. It was one Person in the Godhead addressing another, and addressing Him as the words indicate, as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the One whose creatorial voice called time into being and who will have the last word about every thing; who when former things have passed away and time has ceased to be, will say, “Behold I make all things new.” “It is done” (Rev. 21).

Consider what the effect of the contemplation of this glorious Lord must have had upon these sorely harassed Hebrew Christians; and shall we be less affected? It is He who has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” As He said of old to Jacob the wanderer (Gen. 28:15) to Joshua the warrior (Josh. 1:5), and to Solomon the worshipper (1 Chr. 28:20), so He says to us, and what strong consolation His word gives, for it is impossible for Him to lie. So that we may boldly say, as those Hebrews could say, “Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”

 

Colossians 1

I have been impressed with the fact that those Scriptures in the Epistles that make reference to our Lord's pre-incarnation being, present Him to our faith as the Son and as the Creator. As the Son He stands in relation to the Father and as the Creator He stands in relation to time and all that He has created. And I am sure that it would be right to say, that the universe was made and is upheld by His power that He might fill it with the blessedness of that love wherewith the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world.

In Colossians 1:13 it is said that the Father “hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (New Trans.). This is the only time that the Kingdom is spoken of as the Kingdom of the Father's Son, and there must be a great reason for it. I suggest that the reason for it and what follows of the divine glories of the Son is to be found in the danger that menaced the faith at Colosse.

A subtle foe was bent upon seducing the faithful brethren in that church from Christ. He was insinuating that while it was well enough to have Christ they would be none the worse off for a little of the world's philosophy, Christ and Plato would make an admirable mixture; and if they would borrow from Jewish ordinances and curb their Christian liberty by a discreet asceticism they would be gainers in every way. The best of Judaism, and the best of Greek thought would enrich their faith. But the whole effort was to displace Christ in their souls and blind them to His eternal oneness with the Father, and to reduce Him in their thoughts to the level of a created being. And this, also is the trend of modern thought in Christendom. Even the missionary is told that he must no longer go forth proclaiming the Name of Jesus as the only name in which there is salvation, for there is good and truth, say they, in all religions, and the Moslem and the Hindu have also got messages for mankind and they should meet together with the Christian on equal terms and pool their respective wealth. In view of this how necessary to us is the Epistle to the Colossians.

How necessary it was that Paul should arise in his loyalty to his Lord, and in bold, God-given words declare the peerless unassailable glory of Christ, for only that could preserve the saints of God from this deadly error in his day, and nothing else can do it in this. The truth of God does not change, Christ does not change: the Son of the Father's love is from everlasting to everlasting, and He is the Head of His body the Church, and must have no rival. In all things He must have pre-eminence.

We read that “by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him; and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” “ By Him .” The force which has summoned the worlds out of nothingness into being, and which upholds them in being, is His; He wields it; He is the one Producer and Sustainer of all created existence. For Him . He is not as Arianism afterwards pretended, merely an inferior workman, creating for the glory of a higher Master, for a God superior to Himself; He is the End of created things as well as their immediate Source, and in living for Him every creature finds at once the explanation and the law of its being. For He is before all things, and by Him all things consist ” (Liddon).

We surely realise the infinite character of His glory and wisdom as the Creator, yet as the Son He has a greater glory, a glory that surpasses all creature comprehension. As the Creator He is supremely above every creature that He has made and that supremacy will yet be confessed by every creature in heaven, on earth and under the earth; but the Name of Son declares what He was to the Father before any creature existed. “The Son of His love;” “the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father,” “Thou art My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” “Having one Son, His well-beloved.” How these words move the heart, and bow us down before the Father, especially when we read that it is into the kingdom of His Son that we have been translated through grace.

Some have endeavoured to explain the mystery of this eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, and have made deductions and arrived at conclusions which have been neither wise nor helpful. I will not do that, it is better to accept what is written without asking, How? For “no man knoweth the Son but the Father.”

“The higher mysteries of His fame

The creature's grasp transcends.

The Father only that blest Name

Of Son can comprehend.”

What is beyond all controversy is that He, the Son, was loved by the Father before the world's foundations, and that the Father sent Him forth, made of a woman. He gave His only-begotten Son, that the love of the eternal relationship might be revealed to us, who without it would have remained in the power of darkness for ever.

The Kingdom of His Son is a Kingdom of light, and outside of it is darkness. It is a Kingdom of light, because “He is the image of the invisible God,” “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.” “The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” He is the One who represents God to the universe He has created. Adam was created in a minor way as in God's image, but he was but a figure of Christ. It is THE SON who is the true image, and God is fully revealed in Him, not as Father only, though that surely is the most blessed part of this divine revelation, but all that the eternal God is has found its expression in Him, for “all the fullness [of the Godhead] was pleased to dwell in Him”—the despised Nazarene, and now “all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily” (Col. 1:9; 2:9, N.T.). All the light of God for His universe streams from His beloved Son. All else is darkness whether it be Judaism, Grecian philosophy, Hinduism, Mohammedanism, or that Modernism that while holding to the Christian name denies the Father and the Son. For “whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (1 John 2:22-23). And John, inspired by the Holy Ghost uses strong language, of such, in saying they are liars and antichrist. He is the true Light, the Light of the world, and shineth for every man, but “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Great and varied are the glories that He bears in this chapter, glories upon which no creature could lay his hands, or claim a title to. He is the Redeemer; the Image of the invisible God; the Creator of all things, and the End for which they were all made, and He sustains the universe that He has made by His almighty and undiminished power. In Him the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell, and by an infinite sacrifice He has made peace so that He will as a result of it, and by His own divine power, reconcile all things on earth and in heaven to God, and bring them into harmony with the central throne. But these are glories that belong to Him because of who He is; they are names and renown that none but He could have gained, but before He rose up and went forth to glorify God in any of them He was the Son of the Father's love. He is this in His own eternal Being.

And those who have believed have been brought into His Kingdom, into subjection to Him, and as being in that Kingdom they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God's Son; and they are loved with the love wherewith the Father loved Him, for said He, “I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:26).

“Beware,” then, since such a glorious Lord and Saviour and Head is yours, O Christian, “lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power” (chap. 2:8-10).

 

 

8. Atonement by Blood

“ And behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne, and He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone ” (Rev. 4:2-3). It is my conviction that if the glorious and eternally blessed Occupant of that throne had appeared only as the jasper stone—the clear, unsullied crystal—no created being could have stood before Him, but because the blood-red rays of the sardine blend with the light of the jasper, the worst of sinners may have a footing there in everlasting righteousness and peace. To understand what the symbol illustrates take the great Christian message which is declared to us in 1 John 1:5, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” There is the clear shining of the crystal, but if that had been all could any man have abode in the searching brightness of it? But there follows at once the fear dispelling, peace-giving word, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” How perfectly that great fact harmonises and blends with the light! Indeed it is part of it. What confidence it gives to the soul! and what up rightness! for in the light nothing can be hidden, yet all is covered by the blood, it is the perfect atonement, equal in its efficacy to the full shining of the light. In the knowledge of this the one who believes can walk in the light even as God is in the light and can rejoice in the supremacy of the throne that shines as the jasper and the sardine Stone.

Had sin never entered into the world there would, of course, have been no need for atonement by blood, and according to our estimate of what sin is will be our appreciation of it. If a man thinks that sin is merely “the survival of the tiger in humanity” which evolution will most surely destroy, as some divinity professors have asserted in defiance of the Word of God, he will deny all need of it; if he thinks that a man's sin is nothing more than weakness or a mere negation that he may overcome in time, he will resent the word that tells him that he needs a Saviour such as Jesus is; but if he discovers that his deeds are the outward evidence of a corrupted inward nature and that his “sin is lawlessness” as the Bible says it is, “for every one that doeth sin doeth lawlessness” (1 John 3:4, R.V.); if his soul bows down before the truth that “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), then atonement by blood will become a necessity to him and his awakened conscience will be satisfied with nothing less.

Atonement by blood is as necessary to God as it is to us. Apart from it His true and full nature and character could never have been known by any of His creatures, least of all by sinful men; but by it His ways are revealed and justified, for it is by the way He has dealt with this question of man's sinfulness that what He is has been fully declared.

We must face the question as to what God is as well as what we are. Would we have Him to be other than the gospel says He is?

In the gospel His righteousness is declared and His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Could any creature have security and peace if it were not so? There are those who cavil at God's right to execute justice, would they care to live in a land where crime was strong and law weak? Where even the greatest criminal lived in fear of a greater arising to crush him unchecked by the law? No, they are ready enough to support the law of the land in which they live, and to justify its penalties for their own protection, but deny the right to God which they claim for themselves. Of them the Bible says, “Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them that commit such things.” How daring and how unreasonable is that spirit in a man which insists upon his neighbour obeying the laws of the land and yet flouts the law of God!

If the judgment of God were not according to truth and justice, if He winked at sin, and were the indulgent and weak-fatherly being that the modernist would have Him be, then an awakened conscience would be morally greater and better than He, and the devil would take advantage of His weakness and seize His throne. But we may be thankful and rejoice that God is God and that His justice will “never descend from her sceptred royalty” and compound with sin. God will maintain His supremacy and abide forever and without change in His infinite and unsullied holiness, and all His ways will be in absolute and unchallengeable righteousness.

Since that is so, what of men who are sinful and who have been guilty of rebellion against Him, and as a consequence are lying under the sentence and power of death? There could be no hope for them apart from atonement by blood. Hence the Bible, which is God's Word to men, is full of it; it is, as someone else has said, the diamond pivot upon which the New Testament turns, and it is the burden of the Old; it is woven into the very fabric of the Holy Scriptures and is the basis of all relationship between God and sinful men; apart from it there is no light, no peace, no hope for men. If we reject this the Bible has neither message nor meaning for us.

The Old Testament declares, “It is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11), and the New Testament adds its witness by saying, “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). The coats of skin with which God clothed Adam and Eve in Eden first proclaimed the fact that a victim not chargeable with the offence must suffer in the place of the guilty if he is to go free. Abel's lamb, the ram that was caught in the thicket and offered instead of Isaac, the paschal lamb in Egypt and all those offerings that were consumed upon Israelitish altars taught to all who had ears to hear and hearts to understand that there was no other way by which a man's sins could be covered and his transgressions forgiven.

Yet in those countless altars and sacrifices God had no pleasure. He had no pleasure in Israel 's offerings because of the character of those that brought them. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks.” There was only wickedness and no sincerity in the hearts of those who brought them and the blood of their sacrifices could not change this; but the great, the fundamental reason was that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. Hebrews 10 is the great chapter which shows us the futility of these offerings, there we learn that they called sin to remembrance every year, for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin, and nobody could suppose that they could please God Then why were they offered? They were a shadow of good things to come, and they filled up the period of waiting until the Substance appeared. The substance is Christ; it was to Him that all those ancient sacrifices pointed and of His coming they spoke with tongues that were eloquent to the ear of faith. Theories are wearisome and doctrines are of no value unless they centre in Christ. IT IS HE whom God hath set forth, a propitiation through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25). He is the Propitiation for our sins, but not for ours alone, but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2).

The word atonement does not occur in our New Testament, except in Romans 5:11, and it is well known that in that passage it is a wrong translation, and should be “reconciliation.” It is an Old Testament word which means “to cover” and does not mean “atonement” as theology declares. It means that the offence is blotted out by the offering; an equivalent is rendered to the aggrieved party which covers the crime. Yet atonement, or to use the New Testament word, reconciliation, is very closely allied to it, for as a result of the atoning sacrifice and death of Christ men are reconciled to God and they could not have been by any other way.

And further if there has been awakened in our souls a sense of need, our eyes are turned upon Him to whom God Himself looks and in Him we have a common object with God. What an hour that was when the Son of God rose up and coming into the world said, “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” (Heb. 10:5-7). We are sure that all heaven was stirred, and the attention of every creature in those realms above was entirely concentrated upon that great event, but who shall tell what it meant to God? His holy will, His glory, the vindication of His character, the revelation of His love were all committed to His beloved Son, to Jesus—the Babe in Bethlehem, and to Him we must look, for the words of the Baptist are as much for us as they were for the crowds that heard them on the banks of Jordan, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Suppose that when mankind had proved itself to be an incurably sinful stock, God had cast the whole race out of His presence, executing His judgment upon every member of it, for He could certainly have done that in pure justice, what then should we have said of Him? We should have said, God is just, and our sins are great in His sight but we are of small account. Suppose on the other hand He had waived the question of our sins aside as though they did not matter and had lightly pardoned and blest us all without any reference to righteousness, what should we have said of Him then? We should have said, God thinks a great deal about us, we are very important in His eyes, but sin is nothing, He thinks very little about sin and He is not righteous. I need not say that this latter supposition is an impossible one, for God cannot pass over sin as a thing of no account, it calls for His judgment and upon it His judgment must fall.

Then if God must punish sin, what of the sinner? Shall God be robbed of His joy in man for ever, and shall sinners never know the love that fills His heart towards them? In short, is it possible for God to pour out His just judgment upon sin and yet save the sinner? Can His justice and mercy be harmonised, and His righteousness be upheld, while His love flows out to men? Hebrews 10 is the triumphant answer to the questions. “Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offering and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once.”

“Wouldst thou know in My great creation

Where the rays of My glory meet?

Where to My awe-ful righteousness

The kiss of My peace is sweet?

Where shine the wisdom and wonder

Of God's everlasting plan?

Behold on the Cross of dishonour

A cursed and a dying Man.

It has been argued that the doctrine of the atonement is an immoral doctrine, for according to it the innocent is compelled to suffer in the place of the guilty. But this is a perversion of the doctrine, and it falsifies the fact. When the Son of God came forth to suffer for guilty men, there was no compulsion but that of love. The love of God was the spring and motive of His coming. To prove this we do not quote the well-known John 3:16, though that wonderful word would be enough most surely to decide the question for ever, but we draw upon other texts not so often used, “We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” ( Rom. 5:8). And when the Father sent the Son He did not send One who was unwilling to go at His command. “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God,” proves beyond question that His coming was voluntary. He was one with the Father in this, and He took up that body which was prepared for Him by God—He became Man that He might accomplish in manhood all the will of God in regard to men. Nor did the innocent suffer for the guilty when Jesus died. We cannot attach that word to Him, for it means without the knowledge of good and evil, and He had full knowledge of all things. He was holy and not innocent; He knew what the sin of man was in its exceeding sinfulness and hated it and was Himself sinless though a Man, and He knew what the righteousness of God was and loved it and was God's righteous servant to manifest and establish it.

Yet He did suffer for the guilty, the Bible tells us this in the plainest language, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). Yes, that is it, “the Just for the unjust,” and in that suffering He rendered to justice a full atonement. Atonement was accomplished when the blood flowed forth from the spear-riven side of Jesus, and in virtue of it the sinner is brought to God. By it God is glorified and the sinner redeemed. The love of God and His mercy and grace are exercised in the sinner's salvation in absolute accord with His holiness, righteousness, justice and truth; the majesty of His throne is upheld and His heart flows out in blessing to men, and all who believe can say He is our God and we are His people.

There is the Godward aspect of it and the usward who believe aspect of it. The Godward aspect of it is propitiation, which is brought out in Romans 3:25. It was typified in the sin offering that was consumed without the camp of Israel on the great day of atonement. The fact that it was consumed outside the camp indicated in figure God's abhorrence of sin, and the great antitype of that comes out in those solemn words, “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). Here, we must confess, is a holy mystery, as deep and impenetrable as was the darkness that for three hours enveloped the cross. But we know that having taken the sinner's place Jesus endured the judgment that was against the sinner, even to being forsaken of God There was no mitigation of the judgment for Him, but because of who He was, the holy Son of God. He was able to endure and exhaust the judgment and cry “It is finished.”

The blood of the sin-offering that was burnt without the camp was carried by the high priest into the holiest in the Tabernacle and sprinkled there upon the golden mercy seat and seven times before it, and that was the propitiation, that was the place where God could meet with His people. Because of the blood the throne of God has become a mercy-seat without any diminution of its holiness. This is what is meant when it is stated, “Being justified freely: by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood .” The requirements of His justice have been met, and He has been glorified in all His attributes and nature by that great sacrifice; the blood is equal in its value to the gold; and the gold symbolists what God is in His absolute righteousness. Now He is just and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.

The usward who believe aspect of the atonement is redemption and reconciliation. In Christ, who has so blessedly glorified God about the sin question, “we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” and we “have been reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” Could it be otherwise? All enmity must die out of our hearts as we see God's great desire for our blessing as it has been displayed in the death of His Son, and the more we consider His death the more we are filled with wonder at its suitability to the situation. Nothing else could have met God's claims, nothing else could have met our need; Christ crucified is the power and the wisdom of God and the present and eternal boast of all who are saved.

It should not be difficult to understand that the carrying out of this great work depended wholly upon what the Lord is. If He had not become man He could not have been our substitute and representative, but having become man, He was lifted up for us, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness; and if He had not been the sinless Man He could not have stood for us, for how could one who had sins of his own to suffer for, be a substitute for others? But if He had not been more than man, if He had not been God in His own eternal being, His sacrifice would have had no atoning value. Who could measure and meet the claims of God's eternal justice but God? Who could understand how sin had challenged the very majesty of God and threatened the stability of God's throne but God; who could put one hand upon God and one hand upon a guilty sinner, and glorify the One and bless the other, and bring the two together in righteousness and peace, but One who in His own Person was God and man? If He had not been man He could not have died, if He had not been God His death would have been without value.

We rejoice in a full atonement; great peace fills our hearts as we consider it, for what He, our Saviour-God, has done will abide for ever, His blood can never lose its value. We know that by His one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified and we know that all things in heaven and on earth are to be reconciled to God on the sure foundation of that same offering. And when that has been effected the throne of God and the Lamb shall be the great centre from which streams of blessing and life will flow to multitudes of men who own the authority of that throne. Thus we return to our beginning, “And He that sat upon the throne was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone.”

9. The Resurrection of Christ

Never had brighter hopes been buried in any grave than in the grave of Jesus and never had hearts been more bereft than the hearts of the disciples and of those women that loved and followed Him. How they must have shuddered in their sorrow as the great stone was rolled to its place at the door of the sepulchre, and shut from their tear-dimmed vision the body of their Lord. The night that followed that last Passover feast was a woeful night for them, and for all who loved the Hope of Israel; it was a night unrelieved by any solace from without or faith from within, for having, as they supposed, lost their Lord, they had lost their all and could do nothing but mourn and weep. Yet there was one thing that kept the broken hearts of those women from refusing to perform their office: they would go on the first day of the week and anoint His body. His Kingship had been rejected by the Jews: His claim to it was the charge upon which Pilate had condemned Him to the cross; the multitude had gone to their homes saying, He was no king at all or He would have come down from the cross and saved Himself; but to those women He was King, and more; and though He had lost the kingdom, yet He should lie in His tomb as like a King as they could make it possible. By some means or other they would force their way into that sealed and guarded grave and fill it with the fragrance of the spices that they had prepared, and with the sweeter fragrance of their love; this should be their last tribute to Him, and then they would return—yes, but how, and where, and to what?

Mark tells us that they reached the sepulchre at the rising of the sun . Were they blind to the golden glow of that wondrous morning? It is more than likely, for a grave was their goal, and to pour their best upon the dead their purpose; this was the only balm they knew for their death-stricken and hopeless hearts; and what charm could a sunrise have for such as they?

But what a sunrise that must have been, though their eyes did not appreciate it! Let no man tell me that the day dawned as other days, or that all nature did not exult in that great hour. There must have been a triumph and a fragrance in it that never rising of the sun had known before. If when He died—He, the Creator become flesh—the sun drew a veil across its face, and all nature wrapt itself in sable garments, and the earth trembled to its very heart in horror at the deed that men had wrought, there must have been a corresponding joy when the conquering heel of life was placed upon the neck of death, and the shame of the cross was answered by an empty tomb. “HE IS RISEN.” The glad news had sung its triumphant music to the ends of creation, and “the sun, moon and stars,” “the mountains and hills and fruits, trees and cedars,” the heavens and the earth were the glorious orchestra that accompanied the angel's proclamation.

What wonders greeted those women when they reached the sacred spot. The stone was gone and instead of Roman soldiers, brutal men who would have found a wretched joy in casting insults at them, they found a heavenly guard in possession, a messenger from God in white apparel. Heaven was not in mourning; its messenger wore the garments of victory and joy, and only waited for human ears to listen to his story. And these women were the first to hear it, and as they heard, the silent chords in their hearts awoke to song, and they turned their backs upon the empty grave, and forgot their useless spices and themselves also, and with fear and great joy did run to tell the tidings. Blessed women, they were the first of ransomed sinners to be swept by the rapture of the resurrection triumph, the first of that countless host whose singing shall be sweeter and more joyous and more prolonged than any raised by sun, moon and stars, or even angels.

The proofs of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are so many and infallible that nothing but blind unbelief would deny it; but the modernists deny it, they think, like their forebears, the first century Sadducees, that it is an incredible thing that God should raise the dead. The fact is it does not fit in with their evolution doctrines, which doctrines reveal their wish to be free from all responsibility to God. “The wish is father to the thought.” The solemn fact of death, not as the debt of nature, but as the wages of sin, the judgment of God upon man because of sin (Gen. 3:17) and resurrection from the dead, which is God's intervention in a scene of death, put an impassable gulf between man and the beasts, and show clearly, in spite of all the efforts of these men to prove the opposite, that their pedigree cannot be traced to a common ancestry. These great facts prove that man was created entirely apart from the beasts, a being accountable to God, and that he has fallen from the high estate in which God set him, and that God only can deliver him from the death that has passed upon him by and through resurrection. But these men rather than bow to the truth of God as to their hopeless sinful state, and receive from Him the life, through Christ, which He as the God of resurrection gives, reject the truth and love the lie. As to resurrection, say they, the idea sprang up in the mind or Zoroaster, the Persian philosopher, and that the Jews brought it back from their exile in Babylon , and that the Lord and His disciples incorporated it into their teaching, and that He never rose from the dead.

But the resurrection of the Lord was “according to the Scriptures,” Scriptures that existed centuries before Zoroaster breathed. Take the words of David in Psalm 16, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol): neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” We might well ask, Of whom spake David this, of himself or some other man? Not of himself surely, for he was not God's Holy One. Simon Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost answers our question. “Men and brethren,” said he to the assembled Jews, “let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell (hades), neither His flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up whereof we are all witnesses ” (Acts 2:29-32).

That which we have most surely believed was predicted by the prophets in the Scriptures and proclaimed by the Apostles who were chosen of the Lord to be witnesses of His resurrection. How interesting and convincing are the witnesses cited by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. The women are not called, for their evidence in those days would not have greatly counted, but says Paul, “I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ; and was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures : and that He was seen of Cephas .” How like the Lord it was to appear first to Cephas; by that act He not only proved that He had risen up from the dead but He showed that He was unchanged in His unwearied grace towards the most failing of His beloved disciples. He was the same Jesus. And this fact had impressed itself upon them all, for we remember how they said when gathered together on the evening of the Resurrection day, “The Lord is risen in deed and hath appeared unto Simon.” “The Lord is risen,” that was the revelation of His glory, “And hath appeared unto Simon,” that was the revelation of His grace. His grace is as great as His glory. “ Then of the twelve .” Could they be deceived who knew Him so well? They evidently did not expect to see Him, for when He appeared in their midst they were troubled and affrighted and thought that they had seen a spirit, but His well-known voice dispelled their fear, and when He showed them His hands and feet and side they were glad, for they knew and recognised their Lord. And would they ever forget the peace that filled that upper room, when He had said, “Peace unto you”?

“ After that He was seen of about five hundred brethren at once. ” This appearance is probably that recorded as having taken place in the appointed mountain of Galilee , where they bowed in worship before Him, though some doubted. But worshippers and doubters alike had become witnesses, and the greater part of them remained witnesses to the day when Paul wrote of them, at least twenty-five years after.

“ After that He was seen of James ,” who was one of the Lord's brethren, who did not believe in Him in pre-Calvary days, but that sinful unbelief was atoned for by the Lord's death, and dispelled by His appearance in resurrection, so that James delighted to speak of himself as the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ; “ then of all the Apostles .” This may not have been that occasion when phlegmatic, unbelieving Thomas fell down at His feet and exclaimed, “My Lord and My God! “ but it was an outstanding appearance to which all the apostles bore witness and of which all the Christians talked.

“ Then last of all He was seen of me also ,” not on earth but in the glory of God, exalted to the Father's right hand, but the same Jesus of Nazareth whom men despised and slew, and whom Saul of Tarsus persecuted. But what a change that sight of Him made in the persecutor! for him from hence forward the world's prizes were but dross, and His risen living Lord became the sole object of life and love and service for him

“Christ was his end, for Christ was his beginning

Christ his beginning, for his end was Christ.”

And need we go beyond the witness that Paul added to that of those who were in Christ before Him? except to confirm and seal it all by the Lord's own words to John in the Isle of Patmos “When I saw Him,” said John, “I fell at His feet as dead, and he laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, ‘Fear not I am the first and the last I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen and have the keys of hell and death'” (Rev. 1:17-18).

Now consider the alternative that Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit sets before us. He says, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain also. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. . . And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15).

If Christ be not raised the gospel is a myth and salvation a dream.

If Christ be not raised , His mission to earth has failed. His words have been proved to be false, He has perished, and we mourn a defeated Christ.

If Christ be not raised , the Scriptures have not been fulfilled, the Bible itself has deceived us and there is no word that we can believe.

If Christ be not raised , God has lost His Son and men have no Saviour, God Himself is defeated and no power can ever hope to break the power of death.

If Christ be not raised , all faith is vain, there is no forgiveness, and we are yet in our sins.

All this and more is involved in Paul's dread alternative to the resurrection of Christ. How welcome then is the declaration, “But now is Christ raised from the dead and become the First-fruits of them that slept.”

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the great witness to His greatness and glory, and to the Father's approval of His life and work on earth. He came forth from the Father to declare to men the great love wherewith He loved them; but they gave Him hatred for love; they despised and rejected Him, they could not endure His presence in the world, and though He was the Lord of glory the princes of this world crucified Him. He was numbered with the transgressors, the cross of a malefactor was the sentence passed upon Him and duly executed by the world. What was God's answer to that? Again and again the Apostles declared God's answer to man's crime. “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just,” said Peter to the Jews, “and you desired a murderer to be granted to you; and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead ; whereof we are witnesses.” We do not wonder that “ God hath made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), having exalted Him to His own right hand, the marvel of redeeming love is that thus exalted He should be a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31) and not to Israel only but to every sinner that bows at His feet.

We rejoice and are glad that the Prince of life could not be holden by the power of death. We look within that empty tomb and behold with the wondering disciples the perfect order of it and learn thereby how complete is Satan's defeat, and how signal is God's victory over all the power of death; and we bow in adoration before Him as we be believe “the gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ . . . declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”

 

 

10. The Exaltation of Christ

The Old Testament Scriptures hold a riddle that the Jew cannot solve. They looked for—and still look for—a glorious Messiah, the Son of David, but there are many arresting passages in these Scriptures that tell of One who should come in great humility and suffering, who should not be glorious in the eyes of men, but who should in fact be despised and rejected by them. Who could He be? They revelled in such exhilarating prophecies as, “My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high;” even the disciples of the Lord looked earnestly for the out shining of that glory, but what could be the meaning of “His visage was more marred than any man, and His form more than the sons of men”? It was easy enough to discern the voice of Israel 's Deliverer and God in the words, “I clothe the heavens with blackness and I make sackcloth their covering. At My rebuke I dry up the sea” but Who is it that says, “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheek to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting” (Isa. 50)? Of course, we find the key to the riddle in the New Testament; we know and believe that it is Christ and Him crucified; but this to the Jew is a stumbling-block; he will not have a suffering Messiah and abides in ignorance and unbelief.

It is clear from all Scripture that since man became a sinful, self-centred creature, and death lay upon him as God's judgment, the way to the glory is through suffering; it is “he that humbleth himself that is exalted.” I should hesitate to apply the saying, “No cross, no crown” to the Lord Jesus personally, for all the crowns were His according to His rights as the Creator Son and Heir of all things, yet having descended from the place of His eternal glory and become man for God's glory and our redemption, even He could not reach the joy that was set before Him apart from enduring the cross. He took the downward way of suffering to do the will of God and became obedient unto death even the death of the cross; it was the only way to the crown.

The disciples of the Lord were as blind to the fact that the way of suffering was the only way to the glory as the rest of the Jews, for when He told them that He “must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests and scribes and be killed and raised again the third day. Peter took Him and rebuked Him, saying, “Be it far from Thee, Lord, this shall not be unto Thee.” He had no conception of God's way, though he understood it afterwards when he wrote of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.

The exaltation of Christ cannot be separated from His humiliation. It is God's answer to all that He suffered in a world dominated by the devil, and as a sacrifice for sins. His own words to His disciples unfolded the story that we love to tell, and which indeed, had been the burden of all Scripture, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things,” He said, “ and to enter into His glory, ” and Peter took up the same theme and enlarged upon it in his Pentecostal witness, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ.” And Paul gives the full measure of that exaltation, as the consequence of the descent from Godhead glory to the shame of the cross. “Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him 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).

That Christ is in heaven, a real living man, raised up from the dead, is fundamental to our faith and must be maintained and proclaimed. The Scriptures are so definite about it, that it may seem needless to stress it, but the fact is that multitudes have no knowledge of it at all, they think of Him as a spirit, and not as a man having flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). A young man, a true but unstable Christian, said to me after we had listened to an address on the exaltation of the Lord, “I never knew that Christ was a real, living man in heaven before, I always thought that He was a spirit.” I need not say that the knowledge he gained that day changed his life. I think it would be right to say that even as the disciples of the Lord during His life with them thought only of the glory, and in spite of His own words had no thought of the sufferings, for they were “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken; so now many sincere Christians think only of the sufferings and do not realise the glory to which Christ has been exalted; they sing, “Simply to Thy cross I cling,” and have a very feeble conception of Christ “crowned with glory and honour” at the right hand of the Majesty on high. But our faith is not complete without this, it is the crown of it, and a full, robust and joyful Christian life is impossible if it is not known.

From whichever point we view the ways and counsels of God, whether for His own glory, the blessing of men, or the overthrow of all evil, we see that the exaltation of Christ is a necessity. Take these ways of God on their most simple and elementary ground, that of our blessing. The answer to the challenge, “Who can lay anything to the charge of God's elect?” is “It is God that justifieth.” But everything that He does must be according to eternal justice, and how can He justify the ungodly The answer is “ It is Christ that died ” by His death a full expiation was made for all our offences. “ Yea, rather, that is risen again ” and His resurrection is God's seal upon the value of His death, and the proof that the price paid in it was sufficient; had it not been, death would have held Him as its prey and even the power of God could not have raised Him. “Who is even at the right hand of God,” and His exaltation is the declaration of God's entire satisfaction and delight in His work which He accomplished for us. The believer's Substitute and Representative is at the right hand of God. Could He have been there if one sin had remained on Him? Impossible! Yet on the cross He was delivered for our offences; there He was made sin for us and the Lord laid upon Him the iniquities of us all. Nothing else could prove how completely He has borne away “sin's heavy load” for us, like His exaltation to the Father's right hand. The devil himself could not prevent that exaltation and can say nothing against it, and consequently he cannot bring any charge against us for whom Christ suffered and died. But further, “ Who also maketh intercession for us .” If He died and rose again for our justification, He lives and intercedes for us that we might live as justified people. It is in Christ that we have redemption; in Him we are justified from all things; in Him we are sanctified, and in Him we have an everlasting, inalienable acceptance with God, but it is in Him who is exalted and crowned in glory , beyond the reach of question or challenge. “This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool” (Heb. 10). The value of His death abides; His victory over death by resurrection abides; but He is in the glory and as glorified He is the measure and the pledge of our blessing.

The vindication of the Lord and the subjugation of all evil are involved in this exaltation. Let us consider the words of David in Psalm 110. “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” The Lord used this great saying in His conflict with the Pharisees as a challenge and a warning, giving them thereby an opportunity of discerning who He was and repenting their enmity towards Him. The words declare His Deity, for they tell us that He was David's Lord, but they also proclaim His exaltation consequent upon His humiliation and rejection by men. Peter takes them up in this way in his Pentecostal appeal to the nation, and his appeal was most powerful; he set two ways open to his hearers, the one was that of surrender to Him whom God had set at His right hand, but refusing that the other was to be crushed beneath His victorious feet. And it must be one or other for every soul of man.

One most precious feature of our Lord's obedience to His Father's will was His complete committal of Himself to the Father. No thought of self-vindication entered His mind, “He is near that justifieth me” was always the spirit in which He moved onward to the cross. When one of His disciples drew a sword to defend Him in the garden, He said to him, “Put up again thy sword into his place. . . . Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” And when at last His enemies had done their worst and He hung rejected and put to shame upon the cross, and the chief priest with the scribes and elders mocked Him saying, “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God,” He sought no deliverance, and died apparently unheard by heaven. But He was heard. “Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns,” and His exaltation to God's right hand is God's answer to that complete obedience and perfect trust.

In His life of humiliation He proved Himself worthy to command all things for God; and the father has given all things into His hands. He has set Him “far 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: and hath put all things under His feet, and has given Him to be head over all things to the church.” And woe be to those who refuse to own His supremacy, be they men or devils. God's will and purposes shall be carried out to the last letter of them and all are centred in Christ in the glory of God.

It is clear that God created the earth as we know it for man's habitation, for His delights were with the sons of men, and He crowned Adam as the head of it, giving him a glorious dominion which he was to hold in fief for God. How soon he handed over his dominion to the devil and lost his crown and became subject to death, and every member of his race is like the head of it. Struggle as they may to regain the lost crown, and no matter how great their ambitions and powers, they cannot do it, all their efforts are brought to naught by death, and the crown lies beyond death. Was then God's purpose that man should have this dominion to be frustrated? That could not be; but we must look away from the first man to the Second, from the first Adam to the Last Adam, even as God has done. And we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels: for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour. He has gained the crown, but He could only do it through death. By the grace of God He tasted death for everything He came down into a ruined creation, groaning beneath the curse and the power of death to remove the mortgage that was on it; He became man to stand in the place of man who had ruined himself, and to take up all his liabilities and to taste death in all its bitterness that He might remove it; and having humbled Himself to the lowest point He has been raised to the highest and all things have been put in subjection under His feet. But not yet is this manifested. This is the “not yet” period, the period of faith. But faith has eyes that see things that are to come, and is assured that they must be, and has the present pledge of them in Jesus crowned with glory and honour.

 

 

11. Our Great High Priest

The closing words of Luke's Gospel are most notable. They tell of the Lord Jesus being carried up into heaven and how His disciples “worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” It is this “great joy” pouring itself out in worship and praise that arrests the attention. What was the cause of it? These men were distressed and troubled, when they knew that their Lord was going away, and He had to comfort them by telling them of His Father's house and of His coming again to take them there. But now that He had actually gone they showed no sign of being bereft, they were not sorrowing orphans, but men brimful and overflowing with confidence and joy. This must be accounted for. It is interesting and instructive to see that this Gospel by Luke opens with a dumb priest in the temple, and closes with these happy worshipping men in the same place. Clearly they were the true priests, offering up spiritual sacrifices to God, even though they were not sons of Aaron. Nothing but a great, and to them unexpected, event could have achieved this miracle.

It is not hard to discover why the official priest was dumb; an angel had brought good news from God to him, and he did not believe it. His dumb mouth was the outward sign of a dumb heart. A sad beginning to the Gospel, but what a joyous close. We catch the spirit of it, and share its gladness as we enquire the reason of it.

The understanding of these men, beloved of the Lord, had been opened to understand the Scriptures. They saw with hearts that believed that the road that Christ had taken was the only road; “it behoved Him to suffer and rise from the dead the third day.” He had fulfilled the infallible word and glorified God in doing it, and God had given His righteous answer to His suffering and death by exalting Him to His own right hand. They had seen Him go into heaven and they exulted in His triumph, but the way that He had gone must have added to their joy. “He led them out as far as Bethany ”—that showed their willing subjection to His control. He was their Lord and Leader—“He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.” Those uplifted hands and that benediction declared Him to be their great High Priest who had entered into the heavenly sanctuary for them. We must see the meaning of the place into which He has gone and the manner of His going if we are to understand His present High Priestly service. Highest exaltation was His, His going up showed that, but in that exalted place He would not forget them, the manner of His going showed that. No wonder they were filled with joy!

We were not there when He was parted from them and “carried up into heaven,” yet the fact is recorded that we might believe it, and vision has been given us by the Spirit's indwelling, and “we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour” and we are exhorted to consider Him, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. This we will now do.

But first we must site what our profession, or confession, is. We are addressed as “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.” This is our confession. We know that if He had not tasted death by the grace of God for us, and purged our sins by His own blood, and come triumphantly out of death, such a designation and confession could never have been ours. We owe it all to Him. He is our Sanctifier, “for He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one,” He has set us apart for God, even as He has “set Himself apart” (John 17:19) and we are one with Him, “for which cause He is not ashamed to call us brethren.” If we are His brethren we are sons of God and the glory of God is our destiny. This is the revelation of God's grace to us, and being received by faith it sets us in motion towards the glory, and Christ is our Leader in that homeward march; He is the Captain of our salvation. But we need to be sustained and succoured in this way of faith, for we are beset with infirmities and the road is not always easy to travel; we need a great High Priest, to sympathise with us and to succour us and to save us to the uttermost as we come to God by Him; and this office has been bestowed upon Jesus, our Saviour.

“Lord, in all Thy power and glory

Still Thy thoughts and eyes are here,

Watching o'er Thy ransomed people

To Thy gracious heart so dear.”

It is in the Epistle to the Hebrews that the Lord is shown to us in this attractive way, and it opens with the declaration of His Divine glory: He is the SON. None less than He could have made purgation for our sins, or could lead us to the glory of God. But He had to come down to us and take part in flesh and blood for this, and chapter 2 plainly teaches the truth as to His coming into manhood. There was nothing lacking in Him as to His eternal Deity, He was the SON. There was nothing lacking in His complete manhood, He was JESUS, and what He was He ever will be. This truth as to His Person is necessary for us; He only, who is God and man in one blessed Person, could be our Saviour, and He only could be our great High Priest. We have trusted Him as our Saviour; we have committed the eternal welfare of our souls to Him, we may with the same confidence rely upon Him to carry us right through to the glory of God by His intercession for us as our great High Priest.

We are dealing now, not with His finished work of atonement, which cost Him those unspeakable sufferings on the cross, but with the sufferings of His lifetime in the midst of sinners by which He qualified for His present service towards us in heaven that of being our great High Priest. His finished work on the cross was for sinners, His present work in heaven is for those sinners who have become saints through faith in Him, it is for all who have believed. We read, “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining unto God . . . for in that He Himself suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted ” (Heb. 2:17-18) “For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we, yet without sin (sin apart)” (chap. 4:15)

And again, “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience, by the things that He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him (chap. 5:8-9). “But this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchanging priesthood. Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (chap. 7:24-25).

Here is a theme for our meditation, it is a theme that might well fill volumes printed in gold, but it were better to have it deeply written in our heart. In pursuing it we are permitted to speak of our great Lord as JESUS, for this precious personal Name occurs many times in this epistle. It is Jesus, who is “the Author and Finisher of faith” (chap. 12:2), which means that He has trodden every step in the way of faith. There is not a trial, temptation, or difficulty in that way that He has not encountered and overcome. That way lay through a world, in which all that are godly shall have tribulation, but He overcame the world (John 16:33). He “endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself” (chap. 12:3). “He hath suffered being tempted” (chap. 2:18), and this because He was obedient. Everyone who will be obedient to God shall suffer in a hostile world of which Satan is the god and prince, but His obedience was absolute, nothing moved Him from it. Nothing, neither allurements or terrors, diverted Him from finishing the road upon which He had set His feet for God's glory, and that He might succour us. That road started at the manger—for He said, “Thou didst make me to hope when I was upon My mother's breasts, I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother's belly” (Ps. 22), and it ended at the cross, when He cried, “Father, unto Thy hands I commend My Spirit.”

Of course there is nothing strange in a servant being obedient, it is his life and duty to obey the word of his master, but the wonder here is “though He were SON, yet learned He obedience by the things that He suffered.” The Son in the Godhead, whose prerogative it was to command and uphold all things by the word of His powers took the servant's place, but He did not cease to be the Son when He did that. He “was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death” (chap. 2:9), but He was always the Lord of the angels, and they must always worship Him (chap. 1:6). Though He took the subordinate place for the will of God, there could not be any question of inferiority as to His Person. How emphatic is the word that the Son is God: “Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever and ever” (chap. 1:8). And in chapter 3, we learn that Christ is “Son over His own house,” which He has builded, and that “He that built all things is God.” I stress this that the wonder of His path of obedience and suffering may grow upon our souls and that we might have a deeper appreciation of the outcome of it.

“Being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto them that obey Him.” He has fully qualified for this, there is not a test that He has not endured and triumphed in. Hence He is able to sympathise with those who are enduring trials and testings—for that is the meaning of temptations—and to succour them. He is able to save them to the uttermost . . . seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Here is the revelation to us of His unchanging, unwearying love. It has been said, that if it were necessary He would come again from heaven to die for us, so great is His love. That is not necessary, “for by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (chap. 10:14), but it is necessary that He should live for us, and intercede for us and succour us; we should be overwhelmed by the difficulties of the way if He did not, and He does this as being moved by the same love that made Him die. 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.”

To all who obey Him it can be said, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession, for we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He is Jesus, that carries us in thought down to the depths of humiliation and death into which His love carried Him. He is the Son of God, that presents His glory, His magnificent greatness, the splendour of His Person and inheritance. He is Jesus, that tells us of the tender sympathy of His heart for us. He is the Son of God, that tells us of the power of His arm; the tenderest love and the greatest power in the universe abide in Him. He is Jesus, that tells of His preciousness to us. He is the Son of God, that tells us of His preciousness to God. Since He is Jesus, He loves us so well that there is nothing that would be good for us that He will not ask for when He intercedes before God for us; since He is the Son of God, there is nothing that He asks for us that God will deny Him.

Having such a great High Priest we are exhorted to draw near to God with boldness. First for the help we need in all the ups and downs of life, and second, to be worshippers before Him. We must not confound these two drawings near; they are distinct, and separated one from the other by five chapters in our Epistle. First, having such a sympathetic High Priest, we are exhorted to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace for timely help” (chap. 4:16). We are put into contact by our High Priest with the inexhaustible resources of Divine grace, and we have but to ask at the throne of grace, and that succour that we need in the hour of trial will be supplied. We could not have a better illustration of this than Paul, when the thorn in the flesh oppressed him so sorely. Should it be taken away? that was his desire; or would he give way under it? that was unthinkable. The Lord soothed his spirit with infinite sympathy and succoured him with all-sufficient grace. We see how Simon Peter missed this wonderful sustainment because of his self-confidence. He did not cry to the Lord in the hour of trial as Paul did, and he fell. Yet even he was preserved from despair by the intercession of the Lord. “Simon, Simon,” said the Lord, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Paul and Peter were alike the objects of the tender solicitude of the Lord. He interceded for them, before the trial seized them. Paul was preserved from failure, and Peter was preserved in spite of failure. Grace to keep and grace to restore came to them through the Lord's priestly activities on their behalf. We might take another illustration from Peter's experience. He walked on the water to go to Jesus, and found that the circumstances were such as he could not overcome and he began to sink. But when he cried out in his fear and need the Lord stretched forth His hand and held him up, and he walked on the waves by His support. No picture could set forth more beautifully the gracious succour that is ministered now to those who are conscious that they have no help outside the Lord. He stretches forth the hand of a man to their aid, but in that hand is the power of God.

But He is not only our great High Priest to succour us in our weaknesses, He is over the house of God, and He would have us draw near with boldness, not to the throne of grace only, but into the holiest, into the very presence of God; where, not our needs are in question but where God's glories shine forth. We have the title to enter there, and we may do so with hearts full of thanksgiving, without any fear, being fully assured that it is God's delight that we should be there, having our conscience clear of all sense of guilt through the one efficacious offering that Christ has made, and our whole beings consecrated to Him whose love has won our hearts. This is the great present end of the service of the Lord as our great High Priest, and we ought not to be indifferent as to it. It is sad that we would so often avail ourselves of the means without reaching the end, glad to have the relief that the grace gives, but not pressing on to have God as our exceeding joy and the object of our hearts adoration.

Those men of Luke 24 were in the joy of this in spirit, they do not seem in that glad hour to have had anything to pray for, it was all overflowing praise and worship with them. They had to pray later, and they did pray with real purpose, and we shall need to pray every day, but there is this other side, so near to the heart of God. He would have us draw near for His own sake and not simply because we have needs. He would have us near to Himself because He loves us greatly and He desires that our love should flow out to Him in response.

Time and space fails us to pursue this great subject now but “of the things we have spoken this is the sum. We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” and this glorious person is Jesus the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us, and who ever liveth to make intercession for us. May we be stirred up to know the Lord and His present gracious activities on our behalf in a fuller measure.

 

 

12. The Judge of Quick and Dead

“The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the father” became THE SON OF MAN that He might fulfil the whole will of the Triune God. His title of Son of Man is a glorious title. It carries with it universal dominion, as we should expect, seeing He is who He is, and yet the first occurrence of it in the New Testament is in those memorable words of His. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests: but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head ” (Matt. 8:20). It was into such poverty that He who will rule all things for God came for God's glory and the salvation of men. Before taking the dominion and power, He trod the way of service and suffering. He gently rebuked the pride and ambitions of His disciples with the words, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Yet He knew what the result of His sojourn on earth would be, for even in the darkest hour of His life, when arraigned for blasphemy before the high priest of His people, and when “they did spit in His face, and buffeted Him; and smote Him with the palms of their hands” He said, “Nevertheless I say unto You, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:24).

As the Son of Man He was lifted up, even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. It was a necessity; without which His kingdom would have been a barren kingdom, with never a man in it to rejoice in His glory. He was lifted up as the representative of men to bear the judgment that lay upon them that He might be the Redeemer before He takes the throne as Judge. But as surely as He was lifted up upon the cross, so surely will He fill the throne, for, “The Father . . . hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man ” (John 5:27).

He has been “ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” So Peter declared in the first gospel sermon ever preached to Gentile hearers, and I should connect the judgment of the living with His title Son of Man. He will judge the dead also at the end of Time at the great white throne, for “the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father” (John 5:22). but He will do that, in His Divine majesty. It is before God that the dead, small and great, shall stand (Rev. 20). HE IS GOD.

As Son of Man He will deal with the living when He comes. Then He will wield the SICKLE, the SWORD and the SCEPTRE. He is seen with the sickle in Revelation 14:14. “And I looked,” says John the Apostle, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man , having on His head a golden crown, and in His band a sharp sickle . . . and He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.”

He came into the world to sow the good seed of the kingdom, for “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man ” (Matt. 13:27). That sowing cost Him more than mortal tongue shall ever tell. He fulfilled the word “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed.” Aye not only were “strong crying and tears” His portion, but blood also. “The seed is the Word of God,” the full revelation of what God is, and He had to the to sow that seed; and He who sowed the seed must reap the harvest; and the latter part of that ancient word will also be fulfilled—“Shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him” (Ps. 126:6).

But tares have been sown in the wheat field; this was the work of an enemy, and that enemy was the devil (Matt. 13:29), and the Son of Man must discriminate between the wheat and the tares; so we read that “He shall send forth His angels and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity.” As the wielder of the sickle He will execute a discriminating judgment. To use another forceful figure, that of the rugged Baptist, “His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather the wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).

That passage probably has Israel specially an view, but this discriminating judgment will be extended to the Gentile nations as Matthew 25:31 teaches. “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” It is strange that so many theologians should have interpreted that passage as being the great final judgment of the dead, until which none could know whether they would stand on the right hand of the Lord or the left, saved or lost. It is clear enough that it is the judgment of living nations at the appearing and glory of the Son of Man, and that it will take place at the beginning of His reign of a thousand years over the earth, while the final judgment of the dead will take place when those thousand years are finished (Rev. 20).

The Son of Man will bring in the glory and the blessing, the angels of God shall ascend and descend upon Him (John 1:51) He will bring down heaven to earth for “He shalt come down like rain upon the mown grass” (Ps. 72:6). But note well the figure. It is upon the mown grass that He comes down. The sickle will have done its work first. The sharp sickle in the hand of the golden crowned Son of Man will be thrust into the earth when God's work and the devil's shall be fully ripe.

We are not surprised that as their Master went up to Jerusalem for the last time His disciples followed Him amazed and afraid. Their forebodings must have been greatly increased when He said to them, “Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles: and they shall mock Him, and shall scourge Him and shall spit upon Him and shall kill Him” (Mark 10:33). Could it be the same Son of Man whom John saw in Patmos , shining in his divine Majesty? Yes, it was the same. There is none other who could go down to such depths and be exalted to such heights; and He is the Ancient of days. Even John's eyes could not look upon such glory as was there revealed in Him, nor could he stand upon his feet before Him. He says, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” Nor would he have known Him as his beloved Lord if He had not laid His right hand upon him with a well-remembered tenderness, and in tones of compassion said, “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 (hades) and of death” (Rev. 1:12-18).

The keys of death and hades in His hand declared that He, the Son of Man, is the undisputed Master of the unseen world, even though His authority is challenged by living men. But He is coming to judge the living for “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword with which He would smite the nations” (Rev. 19:15).

THE SWORD must precede the sceptre because of what men are. How strange is that popular delusion that the world is to be gradually converted by the gospel, or that the kingdom of God will be evolved by men's own efforts out of the world as it is. Hear what the Scripture says. “Behold He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him . Even so. Amen” (Rev. 1:7). A converted world would welcome Him with acclamation; a godless world will wail with terror at the sight of Him. The sword first and then the sceptre. That sword indicates resistless justice: the vengeance of God upon unrepentant, wicked men. It will compel every stubborn knee to bend and every rebellious lip to confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. “Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most mighty, with Thy glory and Thy majesty. And in Thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and righteousness: and Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things” (Ps. 45).

It seems almost an incredible thing that men should assemble together to make war on Him, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, yet they will, and such is the delusion with which the devil will delude them that they will hope to achieve their purpose and keep Him for ever out of this world. So we read, “I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war on Him that sat upon the horse, and against His army (Rev. 19). They will stretch forth their hand against God, and strengthen themselves against the Almighty; and in their blind hatred they will run upon Him, “even upon the thick bosses of His buckler” (Job 14). But the battle will be swift and decisive, for the sword of the Son of Man shall prevail, and the blasphemous leaders of that vast host of men shall be seized by divine power and cast alive into the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, “And the remainder shall be slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth, and all the fowls of the air were filled with flesh.”

THE SCEPTRE of the Son of Man will be an iron sceptre and for it He has been in great conflict. It has been the devil's purpose from the beginning to oppose His wielding it. He must have understood and taken to heart God's words to him in the Garden concerning the woman's Seed. “It shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise His heel,” and he has spared no force or wile that he hoped would prevent this. He was not ignorant of the times, for the time of the Advent of the woman's Seed had been plainly told in Old Testament Scripture and when that time came, he “stood up before the woman (Israel) which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12). Failing in that first onslaught, he changed his tactics, and masked his guns and advanced with a flag of truce and terms of peace. We read, “The devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” But the Lord knew him for the adversary that he was, and answered, “Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4)

He refused the short and easy way to the throne and sceptre that Satan offered Him at such a price, and took instead the way of obedience to the will of God, and God's will was the death of the cross. He showed Himself worthy to rule by complete subjection. “Though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things that He suffered.” He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and the sceptre of His kingdom will be for ever a sceptre of righteousness. But He would take that sceptre neither from the devil nor men, but from the hand of God only. We learn this from Daniel's night visions. Said he, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man , came with the clouds of the heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him: His dominion is an ever lasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13-14).

A corresponding scene to that is found in Revelation 5. “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and the four beasts (living creatures) and in the midst of the elders stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the hand of Him that sat upon the throne.” In John's vision He receives the sickle and the sword from the hand of God, and in Daniel's vision He receives the sceptre. The LORD had said unto Him, “Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shall break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel” (Ps, 2). He would have nothing and take nothing except from the hand of God; in this He is in striking contrast to the first man, Adam, who grasped at something that God in His wisdom had withheld from him, and fell into disaster and death.

God intends that the proclamation of His coming kingdom of righteousness should go out in testimony to the Gentiles. It was announced by Paul to the Athenians on Mars hill, when He said, “God now commandeth all men every where 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” (Acts 17:30-31). He is the King that shall reign in righteousness, and the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever (Isa. 32).

Marvel not that the sickle and sword and sceptre should be put into the hands of the Son of Man. He only of all men who have appeared on earth could wield them in undiminished righteousness and power. Every other man to whom power and authority had been given had failed; Adam, Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, Nebuchadnezzar all broke down when tested and have had to make way for the Son of Man. He has prevailed and will never fail, for in His absolute dependence upon God He has been upheld, and the word has been fulfilled and will yet be fulfilled, “Let Thy hand be upon the Man of Thy right hand, and upon THE SON OF MAN whom Thou madest strong for Thyself” (Ps. 80:17). Again I quote His own words. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth, they that have been good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29). “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power.” “But the rest of the dead lived not again ill the thousand years were finished.” Then will come the final judgment, which John describes in awe-inspiring words. “And I saw a great white throne, AND HIM THAT SAT ON IT, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20).

He will lay aside the sickle when its work is done; He will lay aside the sword when its work is done, and when as Son of Man He has glorified God in His universal kingdom He will hand back to God the sceptre, for we read, “Then cometh the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet . The last enemy, that shall be destroyed is death. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:24-28).

“Things that Cannot be Shaken”

 

The division of our Bible into chapters sometimes spoils our apprehension of the connection of things, and an instance of this may be seen in the 12th and 13th chapters of Hebrews. Without the break we should read, “OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE. LET BROTHERLY LOVE CONTINUE.” To the human conception of things there is here a contrast that is startling. The statements appear to be incongruous, contradictory, and mutually destructive. There seems to be no connection, agreement or sympathy between a consuming fire and brotherly love. But it is thus that the thoughts of the divine mind flow out to us, and the spiritual-minded believer will discern the blessed association, not of thought only, but, of the divine nature and the expression of it that exist here.

The closing statements of chapter 12 are most majestic, telling us that everything that is not of God—that is not founded upon what He is and is not upheld by His power shall be shaken and removed, so that there might be nothing forever that should rise up and oppose His good and acceptable will, and so bring discord and ruin into that new creation—that kingdom which cannot be moved.

But brotherly love belongs to that immovable kingdom. It is the nature of God which He has imparted to us finding its expression in our dealings with one another. “Love is of God and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” And love shall abide. Faith is good, enabling the one who has it to remove mountains. Hope is good, carrying the heart outside of present difficulties to the glorious prospect before us and making us sing in the gloom. But greater than all is Love. Love makes those who are moved by it forget themselves in the care and service of others; it finds a holy joy in self-sacrifice for God's sake.

This shall abide. All our self-seeking, our pride, the advantages we have gained for ourselves at the expense of others, all that hateful satisfaction that comes to the flesh in being thought better of than another, all that will be consumed, for it is not of God, but of the flesh, and our God is a consuming fire and will destroy everything in us and about us that is not in accordance with His own nature. Brotherly love is of His nature, so let brotherly love continue . C—O—N—T—I—N—U—E.

Things to Come

 

A correspondent asks us to place in order the events that are to happen upon earth after the translation of the church to heaven. We here endeavour to do this.

 

The prophetic Scriptures divide the earth into three parts, namely: (1) the land of Israel ; (2) the Roman world, throughout which the Christian faith has been promulgated; and (3) the nations that have remained heathen. Though all three come into view more or less in the Revelation, the first is dealt with mainly in the Old Testament and the Synoptic Gospels, while the judgments on the Roman world are given in the Revelation, though references are also made to it in the Book of Daniel. The Old Testament gives us the history of the Jew, and so naturally there is given the sufferings and final glory of that nation. In the New Testament the history of the gospel and the church are given, and here the blessed destiny of those who have received, and the doom of those who have rejected or perverted what God has given at so great a cost, is foretold.

The great event which forms the true hope of the church now on earth is the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to translate her to heaven. This must take place before the events which we here enumerate take place. When He comes personally to earth to reign for a thousand years His church will come forth with Him, and it must be with Him to come forth with Him.

First, then, the church is translated to heaven at the descent of the Lord to the air for her (1 Thess. 4:16-17), when all His saints will be changed into His likeness (1 Cor. 15:51-55; Phil. 3:21). At this time the Lord will present the church to Himself, a glorious church (Eph. 5:27); and each saint forming that church will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive His estimate of their whole lives.

This brings us to Revelation 4, where God appears as the eternal and self-existing One who has created all things for His own pleasure, and who is about to assert His rights which have been denied by men upon the earth, and to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to Himself that He might find His pleasure in them. In Revelation 5 the Lord appears as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who, having been slain as the sacrificial Lamb, alone is worthy and able to bring this about for God. He takes the seven-sealed scroll of judgment from the hand of God to open the seals of it and to execute the judgments therein written.

 

Anarchy with the attendant suffering, misery, follows the opening of the seals , in, we judge, the professedly Christian lands, for they speak of the Lamb (v. 16), a title by which the Lord is only known where the gospel has been preached. This condition of things is not due to the direct judgment of God, but seems to be the outcome of the unrestrained development of the pretentious and promising schemes by men for their own betterment apart from God. Their wisdom turns out to be folly, and the way that seemeth right unto them ends in death (Prov. 16:25). This condition of things opens the way for the rise of the Beast—the devil-inspired empire and its ruthless head.

 

The Fall of Great Powers is indicated under the Trumpets (Rev. 8) in the same sphere as that affected by the seals, but the awful calamities seem to spread to heathen lands in chapter 9, as indicated by the fact that idolatry comes into the catalogue of crimes in verse 29. We see in these visions a world that has refused God and His Christ at the mercy of men's passions and the malice of demons.

 

Palestine peopled with Jews . At this time the Jews will be fully established in Palestine under the protection of a maritime nation (Isa. 18).

 

Satan cast out of Heaven . The seat of Spiritual Authority that lies behind all great movements in the world is the heavens. Satan occupies this position now (Eph. 2:2; 6:12), though God is above all and only permits evil to go so far. But he is to be cast out of this place by Michael the archangel to make way for the church, which is the Lamb's bride, the holy Jerusalem , for it must eventually have that place for the blessing of the world (Rev. 21:9-27).

 

The Rise of the Beast . Being cast out of heaven Satan exercises all his power and ingenuity in the reconstruction of the Roman Empire . It comes up out of the anarchy of Revelation 6, and to its head, the Beast, Satan, the Dragon, gives his power, and his seat (Rev. 13), and his authority (v. 2). In this person Prussianism, with its godless, blasphemous, diabolical ruthlessness will be intensified, he will devour and break in pieces, and all those who dare to resist his political schemes—the residue—he will stamp beneath his feet (Dan. 7:7).

The intention of Satan in this, his masterpiece, is to hold the kingdoms of the world against the Lord and His Christ, and the ten kingdoms that form the Roman Empire will join in this, and give their power to the Beast in order to make war with the Lamb who is Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17:12-14).

 

Antichrist will also arise as the great coadjutor of the Beast. He will be an apostate Jew, regarding not the God of his fathers (Dan. 11:37) and will be the leader of the Jews in Jerusalem . The Dragon (Satan), the Beast, and the False Prophet (Antichrist) will form a trinity of evil (Rev. 16:13).

 

The last week of Daniel's seventy commences . The Prince of the same people, the Romans, who destroyed the temple and city of Jerusalem, i.e. the Beast, will make a covenant with the leaders of the Jews for one week, a week of years, or seven years; this is the last week of the seventy of Daniel's prophecy that still waits to be fulfilled (Dan. 9:20-27). This covenant is referred to in Isaiah 28:14-20 as being on the part of the leaders of the Jews a God-defying covenant. They will at this time believe that they are at last firmly established in their land, and that an era of peace has been inaugurated. They will say, “Peace, and there is no peace.” They will build a wall of protection about themselves, and daub it with untempered mortar, but a storm wind will rend it, and great hailstones shall consume it in the wrath of God (Ezek. 13:10-15).

 

The Great Tribulation . In the midst of the week the Beast will manifest another Prussian characteristic, and treat his covenant with the Jews as “a scrap of paper,” to be scorned and torn according to his imperious will. The great tribulation will then begin, which will spend its greatest fury upon the Jews (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:8), but which will also try all that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10). During this period all will be compelled to receive the mark of the beast and worship him, or suffer boycott and death (Rev. 13:16-17). A remnant will be preserved of the power of God (Rev. 12:14, 16).

 

The Remnant and their Service . At this time there will appear the two witnesses for God at Jerusalem , in the power of Elias (Rev. 11), and the remnant which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17). To these Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21:8-19, 25-33 will apply. The commission given to the apostles in Matthew 10 will be taken up again, and the sufferings and persecutions and martyrdoms there promised will be endured, and by this remnant a people will be prepared amongst the Jews to receive the Lord at His coming, and they “shall not” have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come” (v. 23). Others will go further afield and preach “this gospel of the kingdom” “in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matt. 24:14).

 

Babylon the Great, the corrupt Church of Rome, overthrown . After the translation of the true church to heaven, the false profession in Christendom will all be merged into the Romish church, and this will become more powerful and greater than ever in the past, and as the scarlet woman, corrupt, blood-drunken and splendid, she will ride upon the Beast, the political and military power, but she is to be destroyed as described in Revelation 17 and 18.

 

The Great Apostasy . Then there will be no semblance of public religion in Christendom or in Jewry (for the Jewish sacrifice will be stopped by the law of the Beast), except the worship of the Beast himself, the exaltation of man above all that is called God. Then the great apostasy will have come to its head (2 Thess. 2:3-12), and the abomination of desolation will be set up in the Temple at Jerusalem , probably an image to the Beast (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15). At this sign those who are faithful to God amongst the Jews in Judea will flee to the mountains (Matt. 24:16).

 

Invasions of Palestine . Towards the end of the second half of Daniel's last week the King of the South ( Egypt ) will invade Palestine , in order to attack Antichrist (the wilful king) at Jerusalem . Simultaneously the King of the North will sweep down upon the land and attack the armies from the south and overthrow them and compel the whole force from the South to submit to his will and support his campaign against Jerusalem (Dan. 11:40-45). The King of the North is the Assyrian of Old Testament prophecy, the overflowing scourge.

 

The Gathering of the Kings for Armageddon .

Revelation 16:13-16 describes how the kings of the whole earth and of the world will be gathered into Palestine at this time, and Joel 3:9-11 foretells that war will be the supreme business of all nations. Various political reasons will doubtless move these kings to march upon the Holy Land, but the object of Satan, who will move behind the scenes so as to involve all in this crisis, is to fight against the Lamb and hold Jerusalem against Him. But God will turn all to His own glory. So that in reality God will gather them there (Zech. 14:2), and will stain the pride of all militarism and glory of men, and smash it for ever outside the city which He has chosen to place His name there. The kings of the East , probably four, with an almost countless host, will gather with others (Rev. 9:13-19; 16:12).

 

The Coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords . The sudden appearance of the Lord in this character has special reference to the Beast and false prophet and their armies, for the Beast will have assumed this place and title. These two devil-inspired leaders of men are cast into the lake of fire and their armies are destroyed by the word of the Lord (Rev. 19:11-21).

 

In Flaming Fire taking Vengeance . Simultaneously all who had not obeyed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they must have heard to be judged on this ground, whether with the armies of the Beast or not, will be destroyed at the glorious appearing of the Lord (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

 

His feet shall stand upon Mount Olivet . He shall appear for the salvation of the godly remnant of' Israel who look for Him (Heb. 9:28), and who have fled to the mountains according to His word (Matt. 24:16). In the same manner as, and from the same spot from whence He went up, He shall return (Acts 1:11; Zech. 1:4). And then the Lord will sit to judge the heathen round about (Zech. 14; Joel 3:12-16).

 

Israel delivered and the Kingdom established . Those of the Jewish nation who have been faithful to Him during the great tribulation now brought to an end by the coming of the Lord will have a special place in His Kingdom, but He will gather the ten tribes also from north, south, east and west (Matt. 24:31), and all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:26). The nation born again, and with the law, written in their hearts, shall live unto God (Ezek. 37).

 

The Invasion of the land by Gog and Magog . This invasion of a mighty host from Russia and adjacent lands foretold in Ezekiel 38, 39, after the striking description of the restoration of Israel in chapter 37, appears to take place after Israel has accepted their Messiah, and when they “are at rest and dwell safely” (chap. 38:11). The destruction of these armies is described in chapter 39.

 

The Judgment of the living nations . The last section of mankind left alive on the earth to be judged of the Lord are those that have been farthest off from Him, morally and spiritually, and who have had the least knowledge of His will, the heathen nations. This judgment is described by the Lord in Matthew 25:31-46. It is not as the Messiah of Israel that He judges these nations, but as Son of man, who is set over all things, and it takes place when He sits upon the throne of His glory in that character. The test for all who stand before Him then and there will be how they have treated His brethren (v. 40), who had preached to the ends of the earth “ this gospel of the kingdom ,” who had been the heralds of His kingdom.

 

Peace and Blessing will follow which shall be earth-wide, having its centre on earth in Jerusalem , but all the light and wisdom and blessing will come through the heavenly Jerusalem , which is the wife of the Lamb, His helpmeet in the place of administration that is given to Him. And Christ shall be the golden ladder by which the blessing of heaven shall come to earth, and the angels of God shall ascend and descend upon Him (John 1:51).

 

Principalities and Powers and Dominions , other than those connected with the earth will have to be subdued by Him and reconciled to God (Col. 1:20), for “ He must reign , till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death . . . and when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:25-28).

 

The close of the thousand years reveals the fact that millions who had been born during their peaceful course had not been born again, and that they will be in heart and character just what man has ever been since the fall, ready to rebel against God, which they do with great enthusiasm when Satan who had been chained up in the bottomless pit during the millennium is released for a little season (Rev. 20:7-9). The devil is then sent to his eternal doom, the lake of fire (v. 10).

 

The Great White Throne . This will be the last judgment, the judgment of the dead who have died in their sins, all who stand there have but one judgment; they are shut off from the God whose mercy they had refused and cast into the lake of fire, where the devil is whom they had served (Rev. 20:11-15).

 

The Eternal State . The earth and the heaven having fled away from the face of the Judge upon the throne, a new heaven and a new earth comes into being, and the “tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, 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. “And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these things are true and faithful. And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 21:3-6).

Thou Shalt Be Saved

Gospel Address at Bangor , N. Wales , on Romans 10:1-13

 

It may sound strange to some of you but the fact is there are a lot of people in this city who are religious, very religious, and yet not saved. In spite of their religion they are unforgiven sinners, they do not know God and are on the broad road that leads to destruction. If you challenge my statement I answer, This tenth chapter of Romans is my authority for it. Paul, the great apostle, was not the sort of man to waste his time praying for something that had already happened, and here he tells us that he was praying for Israel , that they might be saved. Then they were not saved, yet they were religious, they were zealous, they were doing their best. “They have a zeal for God,” said the apostle, “but not according to knowledge,” and it should be plain to everybody that the greater a man's zeal the worse it is for him if he is wrong. The more zealous a man is on the wrong road the further he is carried from the right destination. A false religion is the greatest curse a man can suffer from, for he is blinded to the truth, he is deceived, he thinks he is right when he is wrong, his ignorant zeal is his undoing.

These people were doing their best, they were going about to establish their own righteousness. Forms and ceremonies were important in their estimation, they would not miss the Temple services; they would show both man and God, and the devil too if he cared to take notice, that they were all that they ought to be, and they did not know that the devil was deceiving them all the while. And in going about to establish their own righteousness they did not submit to God and His righteousness They did not submit! What is a boy who will not submit to his parents? He is disobedient. What is a man who will not submit to the government? He is a rebel. But how shall we label the man who refuses to submit to God? By what name shall we call him? Can you find a name sufficiently strong for him in your language? and having found the name who amongst you does it describe?

Do you see what this means? Take that self-righteous lady. In the third chapter of this Epistle God says, “There is none righteous, no, not one”, and she says, perhaps not with her words, but certainly by her ways. I'll show God that when that statement was made He overlooked me. God says, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one”, and she says, If that's the rule I will show that I am an exception to it. She is making God a liar. She does not believe the word of God and refuses to submit to it.

I remember a good story. There was a man named Joe Whitbread, he was a self-righteous man, and boasted in his goodness. He was taken ill and was visited by a wise Christian. It would have been useless to tell him that he was a sinful man, it would only have provoked an argument. The visitor adopted another plan; he turned to Romans 3 and read. “It is written, there is none righteous, no, not one ( except Joe Whitbread ); there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God ( except Joe Whitbread ). They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one ( except Joe Whitbread )”. That was enough, the word of God pierced the conscience of the self-righteous sinner, and he confessed that what was true of all was true of him. And there ended his self-deception.

The question arises, why was the law given, if we cannot gain righteousness by it? The answer to that question is here. “We know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God ” (chap. 3:19). That was good advice that a Christian woman, of whom our dear friend Ed White used to tell us, who gave to her loquacious husband, who was always talking of his goodness and wondering why he could not get the peace that she had. Said she, “Do you not know that it's not manners for two to talk at once, hold your voice man and listen to God.” It was good advice, for faith does not come by talking, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Then shut your guilty mouth, ye self-righteous sinners; bow your heads in repentance and submission to God, and by so doing acknowledge the truth, that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, ” Make the general statement particular and personal, and own like the prodigal, “ I have sinned .” Then say no more but hear what God will say to you, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” What a blessed and most satisfying statement is that, it answers the deepest questions of the heart and the most poignant need of the soul. Since you are a sinner, you need forgiveness. Where will you find it? Not in the law, but in Christ. If you are to be at peace with God you need righteousness. Where will you find it? Not in the law but in Christ. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. The law pointed with a thousand fingers to Christ; its many voices proclaimed, Christ is coming. The ordinances, the sacrifices, the ritual of Tabernacle and Temple all spoke of Him; they were the shadows of the coming Saviour, and faith in those distant days perceived their meaning and rejoiced in anticipation of His day. Now He has come, and the shadows have served their purpose and disappeared, Christ has come, He is the hope of weary sinful men. O ye who are burdened with guilt and defiled by sin, to you He says, “Come unto Me.” Christ is your hope, Christ and His blood!

“It is not your tears of repentance or prayers,

But His blood that atones for the soul.”

Of course if a man did the deeds of the law without any failure he would live by it; but can you find such a man in your city? “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Thus God's word declares and warns; and again, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” You are not a murderer but have you spoken evil of your neighbour, or hated another? You are not an adulterer but have you coveted your neighbour's goods? You are not a thief, and yet have you not robbed God of the reverence and worship and love that is His righteous due? You admit it; your conscience condemns you; you are guilty, “guilty before God.” What is it you need? Salvation. And where is that to be found? In Christ: only in Christ. He is the God-provided Saviour, for such sinners as we are.

Hear what faith says. “Say not in thine heart who shall ascend into heaven? (that is to bring Christ down from above)” What does that mean? It means that if we are to be saved the Saviour must come from heaven. Then must we send a delegation to heaven to beseech a Saviour to come from thence? No. Why? Because Christ has already come. He came before we sought Him, and faith lays hold of that great fact and rejoices. The Saviour has come. The Father sent Him. “We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Faith does not say who will bring Him down, it believes that He has come down even to the cross. That is the first of the great gospel facts.

And it does not say, “Who shall descend into the deep? (that is to bring up Christ again from the dead)”. Why does it not say that? Because it knows that He has come up. “God hath raised Him from the dead.” These are the two great gospel facts. “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures and was buried, and was raised again from the dead, according to the Scriptures.” He came down from heaven: that proves His willingness to save. He died and rose again from the dead, that proves His power to save. He is wiling, He is able.

If we are to be saved our Saviour must be both willing and able. It is not enough that He is willing. If I owed £1, 000 and was terribly distressed about it, and you came to me and said, Tom Jones says you must not worry about that debt, he will see to it, I would answer, What's the use of talking to me about Tom Jones, don't you know that I owe ten hundred pounds and Tom Jones is not worth ten shillings; he may be willing but he is not able to help me. Now Jesus, our Lord is willing to save. We cannot question that. He would not have come down from the eternal throne to the cross if He had not been willing, but is He able? Yes, thank God, He is able. How do we know? He has come up from among the dead: He has broken the power of death; He has triumphed over the grave, and best of all His resurrection is the proof that His work is indeed a finished work: the price He paid for our salvation is enough; the just claims of the throne of God have been met, and God has shown His infinite satisfaction in what He has done by raising Him from the dead. The devil is silenced and all who believe are saved.

And what now? “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED.” God hath decreed that every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord, either now or hereafter, to do it now means salvation, to be compelled by power to do it hereafter means damnation. To believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead means that you have a personal interest in this matter; the salvation of your soul from eternal hell depends upon it; for if Christ is not raised there is no salvation, no Saviour for men, and all faith is vain. You must be sure as to this. How can you be sure? God declares it in the gospel. God says it, you believe it. What then? You cannot withhold your allegiance from Christ; you surrender to Him; you acknowledge His rights over you, you confess Him as your Lord. The love that brought Him down from heaven to suffer, the just One for you the unjust, claims you as its own, and you yield yourself to that claim.

“Just as I am, Thy love I own

Has broken every barrier down,

Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,

O Lamb of God, I come.”

I can give you no better illustration than that of a young man in Bristol . On my way to the gospel meeting one week night a Christian man overtook me and said, “I wish you would speak to my son, he is a silent lad at the best of times but since Sunday we have not heard a word out of His mouth and we believe he is anxious to be saved be is coming to the meeting tonight, and I will introduce him to you.” After the preaching I was duly introduced to a young fellow of twenty-three. We sat together and I talked to him and asked him many questions, but I got no answers; for thirty-five minutes I talked, but he said nothing. He certainly seemed to be all his father said he was. I got tired and rose to go, he got up at the same time and I thought he was as tired as I was. But it was not that. He stood erect and raised his right hand, and said, “I own Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.” I was thrilled by that confession, I believe heaven was thrilled by it. It was well done, it was nobly done. The young man who had kept silent so long had reached the time when it was time to speak. If you have been silent before God, conscious of your sinfulness and guilt, look up, behold the Saviour who died for the ungodly and now raised from the dead, and open your mouth and confess Him as your Lord and THOU SHALT BE SAVED.

Three Great Sights

 

“ And he that saw it bear record ” (John 19:30-35).

“ And he saw and believed ” (John 20:1-9).

“ When they saw the Lord ” (John 20:19-22).

 

The disciple whom Jesus loved saw his Lord dead upon a cross; he looked within His empty tomb, and, along with his brethren, he beheld the living Lord in their midst. A great sacrifice, a mighty triumph and a changeless love! Since the world began no sights to compare with these had ever been seen by the eyes of men. What emotions must have swept John's soul in those great hours: sorrow, despair, amazement, triumph! The Sorrow and despair passed, but the amazement and the triumph remained.

 

The First Sight—A Great Sacrifice

It was God's great mercy to men that He had an eyewitness there who could record what he saw. We are sure that John never did nor could forget those sights. They would be an indelible and ever-present memory with him throughout the eighty years that he lived after them, often spoken of but recorded at last for our good. But it was not a tenacious human memory only that bore the record, the Holy Ghost also had His part in it (John 14:26). “He that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that be saith true, that ye might believe .” What was it that he saw? The suffering and death of His Lord. He stood by the cross when all his brethren had fled, he stood there with the mother of Jesus and some other women and saw the head of his Lord bow down in death. He saw the soldier rend His side with a spear, the last stab of the world's hatred, and he beheld blood and water flow forth from the gaping wound. He must have seen many crucifixions before this one, for it was a daily occurrence in the land under the rule of the ruthless Roman, but he had seen none like this, and of this only does he bear a record.

He bears record, inspired by the Holy Ghost to do it, because of who He was who died there, and because of the eternal and infinite results of His death. He opens his Gospel by declaring the eternal power and Godhead glory of his Lord, who became flesh and dwelt among men. Jesus is the Creator and life-giver, and He came into the world that He had made but which had gone from Him, not to condemn it, but that it might be saved through Him. His death was the only way; about this there could be no question, and of His death an infallible witness had to be borne to all generations of men that they might believe.

But why did He die? I know why other men die. The Scriptures tell us why men die in the plainest possible language. “By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and death passed upon all men for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). But here the holy, sinless Son of God hung dead upon a cross. Why? There could be no question but that He really died. It was no swoon that John saw, as some of the religious rationalists declare. The soldier's spear thrust settled that. How could a natural body be still alive out of which the life-blood had been drained? Though we know that He was dead already before that last act in the terrible drama of man's sin. He had given up His life; but why?

In this same Gospel we read “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” but we cannot rightly separate those words from what goes before them. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” “Must” is a hard word. There is no word in any language that presents with greater force what is inexorable. He must be lifted up. If eternal life was to reach a ruined race, carried far from God and under the judgment and power of death by their sins, a Son of man must be lifted up in their stead, as their substitute and representative. Divine and eternal justice demanded this; nothing less could avail. But this Son of Man must be unlike every other man, He must be entirely free from the taint and offence of sin that brought in the ruin, and upon Him death must have no claim. Where shall He be found? He was found in God's bosom. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” The Son of man is the Son of God.

This is love indeed. How shall we describe it? What words shall we employ to tell out its greatness? We call it great love, wonderful love, love surpassing all other loves: we pile adjective upon adjective, but we feel that all are feeble and inadequate. All words that we can command, or their equivalents in the days when Paul wrote his Epistles must have been considered by him when he desired to describe this love and the gift that it gave, for the two are one; but he discarded them all and declared that the Gift was “ the unspeakable Gift .” We shall have a new language when we reach heaven, our home; we shall be able to speak in heavenly superlatives there, but shall we even then find words that shall fully describe this great gift of God's love? I doubt it. It will be for ever the unspeakable gift, unspeakable love.

We stand in thought with John, and with his eyes we see it all. We gaze upon the dead Christ upon the centre cross, who was made sin for us—the proof and pledge and measure of God's love to men, His love to us. And there we learn the necessity for it, for without shedding of blood is no remission, but the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin. The judgment could not spare Him when He was lifted up as our substitute. His life was poured out as the infinitely efficacious sacrifice, and it has met the demands of justice against us, and because of it God hath given to all who believe eternal life. For “this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”

But John saw water as well as blood flow forth from the side of his Lord, and though he did not understand it at the time, he learnt its meaning afterwards by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. He saw the evil of the human heart clearly exposed in the bitter hatred with which they hated Christ. And let the reader say, as he beholds through John's eyes, as the writer says, “There go I, but for the grace of God.” There is no difference, not only because all have sinned, but because the nature that does the sins is alike in every man.

But the evil of man's heart brought out the good that was in God's, and by His Son given, not only were our sins borne in His own body on the tree, but He died for us, not because of what we had done only, but because of what we were. We can face it all now; not only the sins, transgressions and iniquities, but the evil spring of all within us, and we can take up Paul's language and say, “I am crucified with Christ.” There was the blood to expiate our sins, but there was water also, marking the judicial end before God of the man who had sinned the sins. “There are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit, and the water and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 John 5:8). They witness to the glorious fact that God Himself has taken up our case, and whether it be sins or sin, the fruit or the root, He has dealt with it according to His own wisdom, that nothing might stand in the way of our full enjoyment of the revelation He has made of Himself, and nothing stand in the way of His delight in us. John bore his true record, that we might believe. Have we believed? To all that believe God has given eternal life.

 

The Second Sight—A Mighty Triumph

We pass to the resurrection chapter for the second great sight. John is there again as an eye-witness. He and Peter had run together to see the sepulchre because of a report that the Magdalene had brought to them, and going into it they beheld the linen clothes lying and the napkin that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. John saw this and has recorded what he saw; and his record gives the lie to the report that was circulated amongst the Jews that His disciples had come by night and stolen His body. If they had done that, or if anyone else had done it, would they not have taken the clothes with the body?

Peter and John had run to the sepulchre with no other hope than to find His body there, “for they did not yet know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” They ought to have known, for He had plainly told them all about it before He died, but they had no faith as to it and only sight could convince them. They may have thought that tears had so dimmed the eyes of Mary that she could not rightly see in the gloom of that early morning, or at the worst, that His enemies had robbed the tomb; but the clothes lying as they were and no body in them convinced the amazed disciple, and “he saw and believed.” He saw an empty tomb; the great sacrifice had been followed by a great triumph, the power of death was broken, the Lord was Conqueror.

It were as well that we should all ask if we have reached this point in faith, for there are many who sing with true sincerity “Simply to Thy cross I cling” who have not reached it. They do not know in their souls what triumph may be theirs by the knowledge of the Lord's resurrection. We all need to consider well the words of Paul in his defence of the resurrection. “If Christ be not raised your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins.” A most serious consideration. His resurrection was as necessary as His death if we were to be saved, and without the resurrection the Gospel is incomplete.

I have met Christians who have had a great fear of death, but if they do only see the empty tomb as John saw it, or accept his testimony as to it, they will be able to challenge death and the grave, and cry, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory”? “Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The power of death has been broken and the Lord has triumphed not for Himself alone, but for all who believe. We thank God for the empty tomb, and John's record of how he saw it.

“It takes the terror from the grave.

From death the victory.”

 

The Third Sight—A Living Lord

But where was the One who had lain in that empty tomb? First of all, He made Himself known to Mary as she stood disconsolate and hopeless in the garden, and He made her His messenger, to carry a most wonderful message to His disciples. “Go unto My brethren,” said He, “and say unto them, I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” I would have you to notice of whom He was thinking. We should have thought that the first thing that He would have done on that day of His triumph would have been to go to the Temple and convince the apostate leaders of that nation that He was indeed the Christ, and convict Pilate of his crime against all justice; but He did not do that. He had no thought of self-vindication, His thoughts were on His feeble, fickle, faithless disciples, who had scuttered for safety, like frightened rabbits to their holes, at the first sign of danger. Oh, how He loved those men, and those women! He had spent a busy day here and there reawakening their faith in Him, and had sent a message to them, telling them that He would meet them in Galilee , and that appointment was kept later on as we know, but such was His love for them that He could not wait for that appointment. The news of His resurrection had brought them together in the evening of that same day, He knew where they were and He could not refrain from going to them.

He might have claimed His crown and kingdom, and the vindication of His Name of all the foul aspersions that had been cast upon it, but He did not. Those fishermen disciples were more to Him than crowns and kingdoms; they were His brethren, the Father's love-gift to Him, for them He had died that He might never lose them, and if they were glad when they saw Him, how infinitely greater was His joy.

“ Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. ” They saw their living Lord, unchanged in His love for them. They heard Him say, “Peace unto you,” for no words of upbraiding were upon His lips. He showed them His hands and His side, and by those wounds they knew Him, and He breathed them into a new life and relationship with Himself, that neither death nor hell could dissolve. And as He loved them so He loves everyone of His own; the centuries have not changed Him, we who have believed through grace are as precious to Him as were His disciples on that resurrection day. He said to Thomas just one week later, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. ” That blessedness rests upon us who have believed John's testimony, and the living Lord may be as real to us as He was to those men who actually saw Him, for faith is greater than sight. Yes, we may know the supreme blessedness of the living Lord in the midst of His own beloved brethren, for where they are there He is.

What a dignity rested upon that company in the upper room that night. Men would have called them a wretched crowd, despicable cowards, and so they were until Jesus stood in their midst, then a dignity was put upon them that no company of angels will ever bear. He identified them with Himself; He shared with them His Father's name and love, and appointed them to be His witnesses in the world.

And there we stand who have believed, and in view of this great place of nearness and relationship with the Lord, what are the prizes that the world can give? Paul counted them as refuse for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus His Lord; and so may we.

We needed a great sacrifice for the salvation of our souls; we needed an empty tomb for the assurance of our faith, and we need a living Lord for the satisfaction of our hearts. We need Him as our Lord, our Centre, our Leader, our Head. I commend these three great sights to your earnest consideration. You will find in them and flowing out of them that which covers all our need until we shall see the Lord in His glory.

Three Men

An Address on Devotedness to Christ

 

“What think ye of Christ is the test

To try both your state and your scheme,

You cannot be right in the rest

Unless you think rightly of Him.”

David, the son of Jesse, was chosen of God to be the saviour, shepherd and king of His ancient people Israel , and in these respects he foreshadowed our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Saviour of men, and the coming King. Being God's chosen man, it followed that all in Israel who were subject to God would think well of him and yield him obedience, indeed, he became the test in his day as to how far every man understood the thoughts and ways of God. There were three men—Saul, Jonathan, and Mephibosheth—who were brought into direct contact with him, and the way they treated David is illustrative of the way men are treating our Lord Jesus Christ in our day; and this is the subject of my address.

David was not the man whom Israel would have chosen, for he was but a shepherd-lad, without any pretension to greatness. They chose Saul because of his outward appearance, and even Samuel, the prophet of God, would have repeated their mistake, when sent to the house of Jesse, by pouring the anointing oil upon the head of Eliab, because of the beauty of his countenance and the height of his stature. But “the Lord seeth not as man seeth: for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

To the natural eye there was “no beauty” in Jesus, and so “He was despised and rejected of men,” but He was infinitely lovely and lovable in the eyes of God, for He loved the Lord His God with all His heart, and the heart is the mainspring of every action.

Yes, Jesus was the Man after God's own heart, His Anointed, who fulfilled all His will.

Israel discovered in the day of their distress that God's chosen man was the only one who could deliver them. When the great Goliath threatened them, and Saul and Eliab trembled before him in their helplessness, they had need to look elsewhere for salvation. It was then that David appeared, and girded with the strength of the God of Israel he overthrew the giant and set the people free. Then they proved what was stated of the shepherd-lad at his anointing, that he was “goodly to look to.”

The enthralling story of David's victory is recorded in 1 Samuel 17, and shows us, in figure, the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over our mighty foe, the Devil—a victory told in the words of Hebrews 2:14-15, “Forasmuch then as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

How complete was David's victory, and how glorious; yet how surprising to both Philistine and Israelite, for Goliath was a man of war, invincible as he thought, and armed to the teeth, while David was a stripling, with no other weapons than five smooth stones and a simple sling. But by these was that huge mass of boasting flesh brought to the dust, and there, “by his own sword,” was the giant spoiled of his head, so that even the most fearful and timid in Israel might join in the glad shouts that rang out triumphantly from the heights of Pasdammin. The Lord was crucified in weakness; He went out against the powers of darkness and the Devil on our behalf, and as He hung rejected and gibbeted upon a malefactor's cross it seemed as though He had met with utter and irretrievable defeat But it was—

“By weakness and defeat

He won the meed and crown;

Trod all our foes beneath His feet

By being trodden down.”

And by His death, death's dominion has been overthrown, and the Devil's power annulled, and this so completely that our risen Lord can say, “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 death” (Rev. 1:17-18)

“Triumphant saints no honour claim,

The conquest was His own.”

 

Saul

After the overthrow of the giant, David got a measure of recognition in Israel , for we are told in 1 Samuel 18 that “he was accepted in the sight of all the people” (v. 5), the women sang his praises (v. 7), all Israel loved him (v. 16); and “his name was much set by” (v. 30). But Saul stood out in base and brutal contrast to the rest of Israel ; there sprung up in His heart a bitter and undying hatred towards the people's deliverer, he eyed David with jealous eye, and sought to destroy him (vv. 9-10). Saul represents the unconverted man, the man in the flesh. We read a great deal about the flesh in the New Testament. It is that evil principle within the heart of men that shuts out God and Christ, and will always make SELF the supreme object of the life in opposition to Christ. The flesh will have religion, and meetings, and sometimes tolerate Christians, but it will not have Christ. When He came into the world it betrayed Him for the price of a slave; spat upon His sacred cheek; and nailed Him to a cross. It has not changed in the course of the centuries, and the Christ of God is still rejected and hated by it. The unconverted man in this gathering is in the flesh, he has no love for our Lord Jesus Christ, and his position is terrible, for the Scripture saith, “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ let him be anathema maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22).

Indifference to Christ and His rights may seem a small matter to some; and they may be surprised that it should call down the anathemas of almighty God upon them, nevertheless it does; and the justice of it will be evident to you, I believe, if you see its baseness illustrated in Saul's attitude towards David. Israel owed everything to David, for the Philistine threatened not only to seize their lands and wealth, but to make every one of them—men, women, and children—their absolute slaves. And Saul could not deliver them, nor Jonathan, nor Abner, and the people were at their wits' end. It was then that David appeared, and taking his life in his hand, he overthrew the great foe and delivered the people from his power. David was undoubtedly the one man in the realm whose right it was to reign, and Saul's conscience told him so, but in his selfish pride he refused to surrender to David. Saul was first in his own thoughts, and he hated David because he knew that David ought to be. Yet David did not suffer in the fight that he waged for Israel ; protected by the mighty hand of Jehovah he came through it without a scar. How different it was with our Lord Jesus Christ when He came to deliver men; His visage was so marred more than any man's, and His form than the sons of men. His hands and feet were pierced and nailed to the tree, every sorrow found its centre in Him, and He drank to the dregs the bitterness of death. He has won an everlasting deliverance for sinful men at great cost to Himself—a deliverance from Satan's power, from the fear of death, and from eternal hell; and the preaching of the wonderful love that made Him do it should have prostrated the whole race at His feet. How base is that ingratitude that refuses to love Him! How sinful that selfishness that will not yield homage to Him! How terrible the pride that will not have the blessing through Christ crucified! God has blessing, great and free, for all, through the death of Christ, but none shall have the blessing apart from surrender to Christ; and this is just and right. To refuse to yield to Christ and to love Him is rebellion against God, and this must bring down the righteous wrath of God upon the offender.

Alas! “All of self, and none of Thee,” is the answer that thousands are giving to the claims of Christ.

 

Jonathan

Saul hated David, but Jonathan loved him as his own soul; and no wonder, for he had watched the fight in the field of Elah, and as he saw David go forth against the enemy he could say, he has undertaken that conflict for me; and when the victory was completed, he could say, he has destroyed the foe for me. He had also beheld him in the tent of the king with the head of Goliath in his hand, and there David won his heart, so that he stripped himself and everything that distinguished him, and made a full surrender to him. David was victor in the battlefield; he was also victor in the tent of the king; the trophy of his first victory was the head of Goliath; the trophy of the second was the heart of Jonathan. Have we known an epoch like that in our lives? Has the Lord Jesus captivated us? Do we love Him and have we made a full surrender to Him? Four lines from Charlotte Elliot's sweet hymn express this surrender perfectly:

“Just as I am, Thy love I own

Has broken every barrier down;

Now to be Thine, yea, THINE ALONE,

Oh Lamb of God, I come.”

How beautiful was the devotion of Jonathan to David! And we learn how greatly David prized it by his touching lament at Jonathan's death: “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been to me: thy love was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Sam. 1:26). Yet Jonathan was slain in Saul's company by the hands of the Philistines, and he did not see the glorious kingdom of his well-loved friend. I have often wondered why this was; why the one who shone like the rising of a brilliant star in his love to David at Elah should have set in darkness at Gilboa. I believe I have found the reason in 1 Samuel 23:16-18.

We have a heart-moving scene there. David and Jonathan met in the wood, as they had met before in chapter 21:41-42, and there they bade each other a last farewell; and Jonathan, moved by love to his friend, and the knowledge that God was with him, renounced all claim to the throne in the words “THOU SHALT BE KING . . . AND I SHALL BE NEXT.” It was there that the strength of Jonathan's devotion declared itself; it was there also that he betrayed its weakness. David first, but “I NEXT.” Oh, why did he not put a full point after he had declared that the kingdom was David's, and been silent as to himself! Why did he not leave the appointment of his place to his king? for surely the king alone had the right to say who should be next unto him. It was the introduction of the capital “I”—his thought for himself—that was the undoing of Jonathan. This carried him back to his father's court, where his friend was hated, and where in former days he had been persecuted for his friend's sake. How different his history might have been if he had said: “David, thou shalt be king, and I will share thy rejection until thy rights are publicly owned; whither thou goest I will go. I am wholly thine, command me as thou wilt.” It would have meant for the time being the cave, and the mountain-side, and the scorn of all time-servers instead of popularity and the palace of the king. But it would also have meant a place of honour in the kingdom of David instead of ignominy and death at the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines.

How solemn is the lesson that this story teaches. It is possible to begin well and yet to fail in that full-hearted response to the Lord's love which alone is right and pleasing to God; it is possible for thought for self to come in and to make us careful for our own ease and safety, and, as we often falsely judge, our own present advantage.

The believer is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but the flesh is still in the believer, and whenever it is consulted, or allowed to control us, it will find room for self, and in so far as it does this our lives are not wholly for Christ.

David in his rejection prefigured Christ in His rejection; and be it clearly understood that Christ as just as much rejected now as when men cried, “Away with Him.” His rights are not acknowledged, the world does not put its crowns upon His brow, men do not want His interference in their affairs, and those who truly follow Him must heed the words of the One whom they follow: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My sayings they will keep yours also” (John 15:19-20).

This is our life, and the treasure we have found in His love should make us welcome it.

“Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands our soul, our life, our all.”

And “if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.”

But I must add here, that all who love the Lord will see His glory, and in the day when He reigns they shall be with Him, and He will remember every pulsation of love to Himself, and every act of faithfulness to Him, and this should constrain us, as well as His love to us, to live wholly for Him, and to refuse all the clamouring of self and the flesh for a place.

 

Mephibosheth

The good start in devotion to David that Jonathan made was carried on and seen in perfection in his son Mephibosheth. He does not appear to have been a brilliant man, and, crippled as he was, he could be of no use in the field of battle to a warrior king, but he appreciated the kindness of David, and was devoted to his person. It is not necessary that we should be brilliant, or great, or learned; what our Lord looks for is the response of faithful love to Himself; this He will prize above all the service we may be able to render to Him. The love of Mephibosheth to David comes out beautifully at the time of David's exile from Jerusalem because of the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam. 19). He would have gone with the king and shared the hardship and sorrow of that exile, but he could not. It was his lot to remain behind in a city that held high festival because the usurper was in power. But he would not join in the revelry of guilty Jerusalem , he held himself in strict separation from it all, and mourned for the absent king. He “neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace” (v. 24).

Do we realize, O Christians! that the true King is rejected by this world, and that the Devil is the god and prince of it? This the Scriptures teach most plainly, and since this is true, must not our life be one of separation from it? If we are rightly devoted to the person of Christ, we shall feel that this is so, and there will be a great moral gulf between us and the world.

“Its grand fête days

And fashions and ways

Are all but perishing things.”

But not only because of this, but because it is a world under the guidance of the arch-enemy of Christ, for its god and prince is the Devil (see John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4). We must, in consequence, go through it as Christian and Faithful went through Vanity Fair in John Bunyan's book, and hold ourselves in separation from it as Mephibosheth held himself in separation from the ways of Jerusalem . You may be sure that we shall not be miserable if we do so, for we have the Holy Ghost dwelling within, and He can lead our thoughts to where Christ is enthroned in highest glory, with the result that we shall rejoice in the Lord alway, and again rejoice.

It is interesting to read what Mephibosheth said to David on the monarch's return to his throne. He did not claim any place for himself; instead, he tells the king that all his father's house “were dead men” before him; and a dead man has no place or standing whatever, he has no claims; and this, so it seems to me, is what this son of Jonathan meant. But if he could claim no place in the king's palace because of what he was, yet he could cast himself upon David's good favour, as he did when he said “My lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes.”

He could also boast in David's grace to him, for he says, though having no claim upon David's goodness: “yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table.”

Here he struck the right note, and if we tune our boasting to the same key we shall do well. We had no claim upon the grace of God, for we were dead in trespasses and sins— all dead men before Him ; but He has saved us, and set us among those that eat at His table, and we owe it all to Christ, our Lord and Saviour; we cannot boast in ourselves, but we may glory in the grace of God. “Him that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

Moreover, Mephibosheth declined to put in a claim for any possession in the land, for when the question arose as to Ziba his servant sharing the land that formerly belonged to him, he said, “Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace to his own house.”

It was as though he said “I want nothing for myself; the king has come into his own, he has got his rights, and in this is my joy full.” If our thoughts towards the Lord are of this sort, then are they pleasing to God; it was thus that John the Baptist thought towards Him when he said: “This my joy, therefore, is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

We are looking for the time when He shall come into His rights, when the long years of His rejection shall cease, when, in the very land where He was crucified He shall be exalted, and when every knee shall bow before Him. It shall be true then, as we sing sometimes—

“The floods have lifted up their voice

The King hath come to His own—His own!

The little hills and vales rejoice,

His right it is to take the crown.

Now Zion 's hill, with glory crowned,

Uplifts her head with joy once more,

And Zion 's King, once scorned, disowned,

Extends His rule from shore to shore.

Sing for the land her Lord regains!

Sing for the Son of David reigns

And living streams o'erflow her plains

Thus shall it be when the King comes!”

Glorious and happy day will this be for all those who love Him.

But how stand we in this matter? Let us put the treatment that David received from these three men together and test ourselves as to our attitude to the Lord Himself.

SAUL—Saul everything, David nothing.

JONATHAN—David first, Jonathan second.

MEPHIBOSHETH—David everything, Mephibosheth nothing.

In one of these classes we stand. Lord—

“Take Thou our hearts, and let them be

For ever closed to all but Thee;

Thy willing servants, let us wear

The seal of love for ever there.”

“Thy Brother . . . for whom Christ Died”

 

Consider these words, they occur twice in the New Testament, Romans 14:15, and 1 Corinthians 8:11, “Thy brother . . . for whom Christ died.” Christ died that he might be thy brother, and that thou mightest be his brother. How are you treating him, as a brother or as a criminal? As one who should be welcomed to every family privilege, or as an alien, to be kept at a distance and treated with suspicion? Think of thy brother, as one for whom Christ died; only at that great cost could he be made a brother! He may be weak in the faith, and ignorant of much knowledge that has made you proud; he may be even—anything you care to call him, but Christ died for him. He could not have done more for him than that. What value the Lord has set on him! To die for him! Look at him from that standpoint, and you will neither think nor say, “Am I my brother's keeper?” That is the voice of the flesh, of Cain that was of the wicked one; the divine life within us rejoices in opportunities of serving Him, for we must love him for whom Christ died.

“Thy House” and His Dwelling

 

While visiting an afflicted Christian some time ago we were given a word of counsel, which was this: “In sending out the magazine, do not forget the needs of the invalids who are deprived of the help of Christian fellowship and public ministry.” Our friend told us that such are often greatly tried and needed much comfort, and this we can well believe.

Let all such rejoice that, though they are deprived of many privileges that others enjoy, they may still have uninterrupted communion with the Lord, for of Him it is written: “THE LORD HEARETH THE POOR, AND DESPISETH NOT HIS PRISONERS” (Ps. 69:33). Let them take the affliction or sorrow from Him who orders everything in His infinite wisdom and love, and account themselves as “His prisoners,” and they too “will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving” (v. 30): for how praiseworthy indeed is that compassion that takes notice of each of His saints, and that according to their individual needs. All this is included in that grace which first sought and saved us, and is most beautifully expressed in the Lord's words to Zacchaeus: “Today I must abide at thy house.” This was not said for the chief of the tax-gatherers alone, but for you and us also; it is the way the grace of the Lord compels Him to take towards all whom He has sought and saved, and so it can be said that salvation has come to all who are His: salvation not from the penalty of sin merely: from hell-fire at last, but for every day of the journey to the homeland, for He Himself is salvation to us, and He is an everyday Saviour, who will never leave us nor forsake us.

What a comfort lies here for all about whom the storms of trouble sweep! The Lord is with them, and every sorrow may be laid at His feet and every difficulty told to Him. That life which appears to have the least sorrow has its difficulties and burdens, and none of us have sufficient wisdom or strength to deal with these. But He is sufficient for little trials and for big, and so precious are we to Him that He will never abandon us. Only let it be realized that the grace of God brought Him down to us, not only to save us, but to abide with us , and that He is ever by our side to support and succour us and to sympathize with us, and it will change the aspect of every sorrow and produce the song where the sigh has been. It is the realization of His presence that can lead the saint of God to say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for THOU ART WITH ME; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” (Ps. 23). And if “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

But let it be observed that the Lord did not merely say to Zacchaeus, “I must abide with thee ,” but “at thy house .” A place was to be found for Him in the home circle, so that not only the individual needs and difficulties, but those of the household might also be brought to His notice; for he is not indifferent to those things that lie at the hearts of His own.

And further, beyond all the need for grace and mercy that arises in the lives of His people as they pass though trial of various sorts, there is the need of their hearts. He is a living, bright reality, to fill the heart and close it to all but Himself, that He may be supreme in every sense.

We believe that the contemplation of the tender interest of the Lord in this regard will be of great benefit, not merely to the suffering and sorrowful amongst the saints of God, but to all; and it will lead, where godly exercise is produced by it, to the turning away from everything incongruous to that gracious presence.

But the grace revealed in the Gospel of Luke, which finds a kind of climax in the Lord's going to the dwelling of the sinful tax-gatherer, is not the end of His thought for us. It is a means to an end; the end is disclosed in the Gospel of John. There we learn that He delights to introduce us to His dwelling , and desires that we should be absorbed in the things that are precious to His heart.

It must have gratified the Lord to see those two disciples following Him, and to hear their answer to His question, “What seek ye?” It was not their need that made them go after Him, but Himself, as their answer “Master, where dwellest Thou?” proved. The only response that divine love could give to such a desire was, “Come and see.” “And they abode with Him that day” (chap. 1:39). In that lovely incident at the opening of the Gospel there is given to us an illustration of Christianity as it is revealed in John.

His dwelling-place is the bosom of the Father (v. 18); He dwells in the Father's love and in all that that love affords, and His disciples are called to share that dwelling with Him, for He makes them one with Himself in this place of divine blessing. They are His brethren, and to them

“He gives not as the world, but shares

All He possesses with His loved co-heirs.”

LIFE belongs to this place, for He has said, “ Because I live, ye shall live also ” (chap. 14:19). This is eternal life, the life that belongs to the Christian position and relationship.

PEACE belongs to it also, for He has said, “ My peace I give unto you ” (chap. 14:27). This peace is one that no circumstances, however favourable, could yield—it is peace that belongs to the world of divine love.

JOY belongs to it, for He has said, “ That My joy might remain in you ” (chap. 15:11). It is a joy that springs from the knowledge of and abiding in the thoughts and words of the Father's counsels, and as the “ friends ” of the Well-Beloved these things are made known to us that we might abide in them and do them.

GLORY belongs to this position and relationship, for He said in prayer to His Father, “ The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them ” (chap. 17:22). It is a distinction outside and above the highest that could be gained in the world, it is the dignity that belongs to the sons of God.

Let us not shrink from entering, in the energy of faith, upon the enjoyment of this most blessed place and relationship, the dwelling of the Lord, for it is ours; nor are we strangers in it, for love removes all sense of strangeness from the heart: “Perfect love casts out fear,” and we are loved with a great love, as we learn from the Lord's own words: “For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me” (chap. 16:27); and “ Thou hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me ” (chap. 17:23).

Let none suppose that we must actually enter heaven before this can be. It is true that that is our destiny, for the Lord has gone into the Father's house to prepare an abode for us there, and in that innermost dwelling of divine love we shall have our place with Him. But now and here we may begin to know the joy of those intimacies that we shall know without any distance or cloud in the swiftly coming day of glory.

 

It is good to learn what He can be to us in our circumstances, but it is a great epoch in our spiritual experience when we begin to realize what we are to Him, and a still greater when we begin to discover what He is to the Father, and the Father to Him, and are able to say, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). It is into this that He longs to lead us, and He pours His grace upon us that we may be free in spirit from all burdens and worries to enter into this.

The subject is an attractive one. Limitations of space forbid us to pursue it, but we commend it to the prayerful contemplation of all.

To a Young Man in Soul Difficulties

 

We have received a letter from a young Christian—a very poignant letter—who for some years had served the Lord with zeal, but who has been swept on a tide of doubts to the very verge of lost faith and hope. He writes of having “lost every tithe of enjoyment of the things of the Lord,” and of “the barrenness and bitterness” of his life in consequence. The sovereignty of God as revealed in Romans 9, and eternal punishment are the questions over which he has stumbled, those will be taken up in due course in “Answers to Correspondents.” This only we reveal of his letter, and give some answers to it, for it may be that others may be helped as well as he by them.

 

“My Dear brother,

“Your letter telling of the distress and darkness of soul into which you have fallen has reached me and I want to assure you of my sympathetic interest in you. First of all, who is the author of this condition in which you are? It is not God, darkness does not come from Him, for ‘God is light'; distress does not come from Him, for He is the ‘God of peace' and of ‘all comfort'; barrenness and bitterness and loss of enjoyment do not come from Him, for He is the giving God, who not only gives the living water that the souls of men may be satisfied and happy, but considers them in every way, and gives ‘to all life, breath and all things' (Acts 17:25), ‘filling our hearts with food and gladness' (Acts 14:17). It is from Satan that this wretchedness has come. From the very beginning he has poisoned the minds of men by hard and false thoughts of God. ‘The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them' (2 Cor. 4:4). It will help you if you discern this, your present misery is the work of an enemy, of the devil himself.

“But on your side there has been failure, you have failed to use the shield of faith. This is that part of our defensive armour that is most essential to our warfare, hence the Scripture says, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16). How can a soldier stand in an evil day if he is sorely wounded? You have been wounded by the fiery darts of the wicked one, and these fiery darts are still rankling in your soul.

“Two questions have to be faced: first, what was it that led up to your present condition? and, second, how can you be restored to spiritual health again? As to the first, I judge that you shouldered far more responsibility in Christian work than your spiritual experience warranted, and that you leaned on your own understanding and trusted your natural ability instead of turning wholly to God for wisdom and strength. I fear that you had not learnt the lesson of your own nothingness as Paul had when be cried, ‘Who is sufficient for these things? . . .' Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; ‘BUT OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD' (2 Cor. 2:8). This you ought to humbly confess to God, if it is so. All those who engage in the work of the Lord should remember that power from on high is necessary for it. To take up His work in independence of His grace and of His Spirit is really presumption, it is a slight to the Lord, it is injurious to us, and it gives Satan an opportunity that he is not slow to seize.

“It is an inexorable law that if our expenditure is greater than our income a crash must come, in matters financial it leads to the bankruptcy court, in matters physical it leads to overstrain, breakdown, and invalidism. Can we expect this law to be reversed in matters spiritual? Certainly not. Your barrenness and bitterness of soul is proof that it cannot be.

“Yet it is a mercy, a blessing disguised, that you have discovered this. You might have gone on with your work in a dead mechanical way, and the devil would have let you alone, for in that you would have served his purpose well, for you would have been no use to God and a hindrance to others, but you were too sincere for that, and the devil thought you worth his fiery darts. I do not think that I am wrong in saying that this deep exercise of soul and spiritual sickness is going to eventuate in great blessing to you. It certainly will if you learn by it to distrust yourself and your own ability, and exchange your fancied strength for the power and grace of the Lord.

If you are to be restored to spiritual health the enemy must be defeated and your wounds healed. He can only be defeated by the Word of God, and the same Word will be as oil and wine to you. ‘I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one' (1 John 2:14). Let the Word of God fight the battle for you. You have used your own reason and failed, your carnal weapons are no use against Satan. But the Word will not fail, it is the sword of the Spirit. Do you think that God is less just than you? ‘What shall we say then, Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid' (Rom. 9:14). Is He less compassionate than you? He has revealed Himself in Jesus, and He ‘is rich unto all that call upon Him' (Rom. 10:12). If He is sovereign, it is in compassion and mercy while judgment is His strange work. We may rejoice and be glad in the former, and leave the latter which we do not understand to Him who will do right in all things.

“Your darkness of soul cannot be greater than that of Simon's, who denied his Lord with oaths and curses. Was he cast off or forgotten by his Lord? No, Satan's triumph was short-lived. For we read that the disciples, in their astonishment at the turn events had taken, were saying to each other, ‘The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared unto Simon' (Luke 24). At first sight there seems very little correspondence between those two facts. The Lord is risen. That was the greatest event of all time, an event that reached up from the depth of death to the throne of God and out into an illimitable eternity, why should His appearance to Simon be coupled with it? Who was Simon? What was he worth, either as a man, a friend, or a disciple? He had shown himself to be altogether untrustworthy, as you have. Ah, but he was precious to the Lord, as you are! And He who had just DEMONSTRATED HIS GLORY by breaking the power of death, DISPLAYS HIS GRACE in appearing to His weak and bewildered disciple and binding up his broken heart. His power was enough to vanquish the greatest foe, and His grace was enough to meet the greatest failure. It was necessary that He should prove both, and He has done so.

“Now will you listen still to the voice of the enemy who has maligned God to you and robbed you of your joy, or will you permit the Lord to manifest Himself to you as the Great Physician who can heal your soul by His grace and restore you to His service again? Let the Lord's ways with Simon encourage you. When George Herbert was assailed by the foe with many questions, he cried, ‘Do thou answer for me, O Lord.' Let this be your child-like and trustful attitude, and you will surely be able to sing, ‘I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies' (Ps. 18).

“Thus will you be strengthened and restored to your service, with a knowledge of the One whom you serve that you never had before. You will not think less of the needs and miseries of men, but your compassion for them will not spring from your own natural kindness of heart, though that will not be any the less, but it will flow from His heart of infinite love through you to them.

“Having proved Him for yourself in your own deep experience, you will be able to tell men out of that experience that the tenderest heart in the universe beats in the bosom of Jesus, who is the image of God, and that you know that He is enough for them, for you have proved Him to be enough for you. You will preach that God is love.'

“Yours sincerely in Christ,

To Every Man His Work

1 Chronicles 23

 

“ Now the Levites were numbered . . . man by man, 38, 000

The “dole” was not known in King David's realm, or if it was it did not operate for the Levites, for the simple reason that none among them were unemployed. There were 38,000 of them fit for the work, and of these 24,000 were labourers, and happy to be such we should judge, 6,000 were officers, “4,000 were porters and 4,000 praised the Lord with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith,” they were the singers. Thirty-eight thousand men and not an idler among them.

These Levites were an interesting people and their position in Israel a most important one, and a few remarks about them will be necessary before I come to my theme. They were taken by Jehovah instead of the firstborn sons of the whole nation. These firstborn sons had been sheltered from judgment by the blood in Egypt , and Jehovah claimed them as His own, but took the tribe of Levi instead of them for special service in His house and for His Name. They were a privileged people, called to devote themselves to God's interests and to be specially cared for by Him (Numbers 3:40-51 tells us all about this). They were a type of the whole Christian company today, and their service, as ordered by King David, shows us in type the place and spiritual service to which we have been called. Indeed, we are designated “the church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Heb. 12:23).

Let us clearly understand, then, our place, privileges and responsibilities, if we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. God who has paid that great price for us has claimed us for Himself and we have no option but to respond wholly and heartily to His claim. He has taken possession of us by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, and we are now His church and called by this very remarkable name, “ The church of the Firstborn, which are written (or enregistered) in heaven .” We are the Levites of this day. The honour of the family falls specially upon the firstborn, it is his duty and privilege to devote himself specially to its interests and to carry out his father's wishes, and this is our place by the infinite grace of God. When we see how high and honourable the service is to which we are thus called, we shall be neither idle nor lazy.

There is a difference between being idle and being lazy; a man may be idle because he does not know what to do. We are familiar with the parable of the labourers. At the eleventh hour of the day the householder went forth into the market-place and found men standing there and said to them, “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” And they answered, “Because no man hath hired us.” They were ready to work, but did not know what to do. A lazy man is one who knows what he ought to do and does not do it. How shameful is laziness! If any of my readers are inclined to be lazy as to God's work, I would suggest to them that they read The Proverbs and mark and consider all that the wise man said about the sluggard in contrast to the diligent man. My desire is to instruct the idle and to stir up the lazy and to encourage all who are serving the Lord with diligence.

The service of these Levites had to be carried on in three spheres; verses 27 to 32 of our chapter tell us of these. Their office was to wait upon the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, in the courts and in the chambers, and in purifying of all holy things and the work of the service of the house of God.

 

“In the Chambers”

The chambers were where the Levites lodged, and would show what sort of lives they lived. The key to everything lies in the chamber. What a man is when alone and able to do just as he pleases, that he is really and as God sees him. All true service to God begins in secret with God. How necessary it is that we should heed the words of the Lord Jesus, “ When thou prayest enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father in secret; and thy Father that seeth in secret shall reward thee openly ” (Matt. 6:6). It is here that service begins, and it is here that we are prepared for service in public. A man who has not been with God in secret soon betrays the fact in public. He will think more highly of himself than he ought to think, and be boastful and forward or perhaps show an exaggerated humility, which is even worse. But the man who makes good use of the chamber will walk in the fear of God all the day long; he will not fear others, but he will be a self-judged man.

We get sober and right thoughts of ourselves in secret with God and we judge others according to their true value also. We learn in the chamber how precious to God and how indispensable to Him are all His saints, and this will cause us to pray for them. What a blessed chamber-service it was that Epaphras rendered! “ Always labouring fervently for you in prayer that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God ” (Col. 4:12). There was nothing spectacular about that service, but so important was it that the Spirit of God has recorded it in the Holy Scriptures as a pattern and encouragement for us.

But unless we come under the power of two necessities the chamber is sure to be neglected. There are two great “musts” that must operate in our lives and make God's presence indispensable to us or we shall not be vessels meet for God's use. The first is our need. We must go to God, we must seek His presence in secret, because without Him we can do nothing. We have neither strength nor supplies in ourselves, and the neglect of the presence of God soon becomes apparent in the service of a man though he may endeavour to deceive himself and others as to it. And in this connection it is interesting to see that the word used by the Lord in Matthew 6:6 means not only the chamber, but THE STOREHOUSE. The secret presence of God is the storehouse of all His riches in Christ Jesus, and there we are enriched. OUR NEED MUST DRIVE US to that inexhaustible storehouse. But there is also the attractiveness of God's presence. If what we are in our nothingness should drive us to Him, what He is in the fullness of blessing should draw us to Him. “ As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God .” He has been revealed to us in Jesus; His perfect love has cast all fear out of our hearts. His presence is our home. Surely His love has made it essential to us to be often in secret communion with Himself, and has made us ready to put ourselves wholly into His hands, with the prayer in our hearts and on our lips, “ Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting

It is when we have reached this point of reliance upon the love of God and complete surrender of ourselves to Him that we are fit to be trusted with service to Him in public.

 

“In The Courts”

The priests and Levites would congregate in the courts. There they would talk together of their service and of the things that they had in common. There they would have fellowship together, and the greater their enthusiasm for the service of God in His house and their joy in it, the happier their fellowship would be. As they viewed things sanely they would see that each had his place to fill if the service of God was to be a complete service, and hence they would encourage each other not to be slack, but to show continual diligence and endeavour to work together and in harmony. Hebrews 10:24-25 is a passage which would show us the application of this to ourselves: “ Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: 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

Important as is our individual life with God, it is not everything. Indeed, as we look at things as we ought, we see that it has its place in view of the one great work of God in the world. We are each of us a part of a whole work. We have been called into the one fellowship of God's Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and into the unity of the Spirit. The saints of God are the house of God and not one of them can be omitted from this. For the full development and expression of Christian life we must take our part in Christian fellowship. To use our type, we must serve in the courts as well as in the chambers. Whether we will or not we must have some sort of intercourse with our fellow-Christians, and we are either a help or a hindrance to them. Our business is to promote the fellowship, to strengthen it and enrich it, and to avoid the things that would mar it.

Divine wisdom and grace are needed if we are to fulfil our service in the courts. We are queer creatures. It is astonishing how selfish we can be in spite of the grace of God that has saved us. And we can talk, and talk very glibly, about the cross and the crucifixion of the old man and of self-judgment, and yet we are keener and more ready to judge others than ourselves. We often speak of the Twelve who, on the road to Jerusalem, and at the very supper table, disputed as to who should be the greatest, and we marvel that they could have done this when in the company of the Lord, but who marvels when we do precisely the same things who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us? We are queer creatures, and it is not in such a spirit as that that fellowship is promoted. If the Levites had been of that spirit there would have been strife and bitterness in the courts instead of harmony and happy fellowship in the work of God. We need a pattern—a standard, and the Lord Himself has given us one. “I am among you,” said He, “as he that serveth” and we are told that “even Christ pleased not Himself.”

We need His Word and the grace that He gives along with it. “ A new commandment I give unto you, He said, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another ” (John 13:34-35). This is the law of the courts, the spring and the power of Christian fellowship. Let a man be ever so brilliant and gifted, and learned, if this is lacking he is nothing, and worse than nothing in the service of God in the courts. There are other words that must be heeded, which have been given for our instruction by the Spirit of God; let us think of them as being upon the walls of the courts for us. “ Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves . . . Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus ” (Phil. 2). “Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness and long-suffering, forbearing one another in love. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4). These are exhortations that have their special bearing upon our fellowship together. They show the spirit and character that must prevail if we are to be together according to God. There are many others; indeed the whole force of Paul's Epistles seems to flow along this channel. Consider Colossians 3, which is a searching and beautiful passage showing the only suitable clothing for those who serve in the courts: “ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the Peace of God (Christ) rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. ”

While the Epistles give us the beautiful qualities and spirit by which fellowship may be promoted, they also warn us as to what will hinder it, and wise and gracious brethren will avoid these things, “ But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes ” (2 Tim. 2:23). “ But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about law; for they are unprofitable and vain ” (Tit. 3:9). How sadly the harmony of the courts has been disturbed, and the work in them wrecked, because we have refused to heed such warnings as these. We do not now discuss whether we ought to be subject to the law of Moses, or whether the Jew is a better man than the Gentile and more favoured of God than his Gentile brethren, but the devil has seen to it that other laws have been formulated and that other questions equally unprofitable have taken the place of those of old time; and we often love to have it so, for “the Jew” lives more or less in every one of us, and he will fight for the religious position that he favours and claims regardless of the fact that the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, languishes in consequence.

 

“The Work of the Service of the House of God”

But our secret life with God and our fellowship with our brethren flow naturally on to our approach to God in worship. The great end of the service of these Levites was that God should have His own portion in His house. So they had to prepare the burnt sacrifices, and the meat-offering, and the showbread, and to see that nothing hindered the priests from lifting up their hands in God's holy presence. All this was only typical of what in the New Testament is a great reality. Peter tells us, “ Ye are an holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ ” (1 Pet. 2:5). And how wonderful is that exhortation, “ Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith ” (Heb. 10). How profoundly these words should move us! It is looked upon as a great honour to be summoned to meet the king when he holds court; but here it is God Himself who calls us to draw near to Him, and that not in relation to our need, for all that is met by the one offering of the body of Jesus, but in relation to His own glory, “ that we might behold the beauty of the Lord ” (Ps. 27). He delights to have us near Him because of the love He bears us, and it should be our earnest desire to answer to His wish. This is the place of honour in which the church or assembly stands, and we should look diligently lest we fail to appreciate it and fulfil it. It is our privilege to feed upon Christ, and to consider Him in His death in its various aspects, which the sacrifices that these Levites had to prepare typified, so that we have something to offer to God that is acceptable to Him when we come together.

This worship is the worship of the church or assembly. “ I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee ,” said the Lord, as the risen Leader of His church, and shall we think little of this? But where there is no fellowship there will be no worship in this sense of it. If two Christians have bitter feelings in their hearts against each other they do not worship, no matter how correct in doctrine the hymns they sing or the words they use when they come together. And those bitter feelings will not disappear from their hearts unless they have to do with God in secret about then. Hence we can see the need of true exercise of heart in the chambers and the courts, if the service and sacrifices in the house of God are to be acceptable to Him.

 

“To Stand Every Morning to Thank and Praise the Lord, and Likewise at Even”

I have more to say about these Levites and their service to God, but it must be reserved for another time. One thing, however, must be noticed in this closing month of the year, which, I think, we shall find seasonable, and it is not less important than any that we could consider— their days had to be filled with praise. They had to stand up and break into songs of praise every morning, and the day had to close in like manner. Really if they knew Jehovah whom they served they could do no other, and can we, who know Him as “our Father,” and “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”? If we are in a backslidden condition or if we are allowing burdens that should be laid at His feet to weigh our souls down, we shall wake up each morning with sighing instead of singing, and lie down at night with depression; but if we sleep with a sense of His care for us and with His peace keeping our hearts and minds, we shall wake with praise and thanksgiving. We shall stand up as those who have been strengthened and ennobled by His grace and we shall praise Him. The poet Addison surely felt that this was right and fitting when he sang:

“When all Thy mercies, O my God,

My rising soul surveys,

Transported with the view, I'm lost

In wonder, love and praise.”

His mercies are new to us every morning and our praise should be new as well. And if we begin our day with praise and thanksgiving and faith and hope, we must end it with thanks and praise, for its needs and vicissitudes do but bring out the trustworthiness and the resources of our God. Extend the day to the year. We knew not what would befall us in the morning of 1930, but we began it rightly—we began it with praise and thanksgiving: we have now reached the evening of it, has God given us any reason to murmur or complain? As we forget not all His benefits are we not constrained to praise and give thanks? Or extend the day still further. Think, Christian, of the morning of your Christian life, when first you were saved by the grace of God. How brightly you sang:

“Happy day, happy day,

When Jesus washed my sins away.”

That morning may have long since passed and the evening of your day may be drawing in, but you can still sing sweetly. You can sing the morning song and can add to it, for you have learnt much more than you knew then; the day has revealed more of the treasure that you have found in Christ, and while you do not give up the morning songs you have your evening hymns also which are sweeter if less exuberant, and surely not less triumphant.

“If here on earth the thoughts of Jesus' love.

Lift our poor hearts this weary world above

If even here the taste of heavenly springs

So cheers the spirit that the pilgrim sings

What will the sunshine of His presence prove?

What the unmingled fullness of His love?

What hallelujahs will His presence raise?

What but one loud eternal burst of praise?”

He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning of our blessing and the end and object of our praise, and unto Him of whom and by whom are all things, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

“To the Son of Faith”

Hebrews 1

 

There seems to be a beautiful order in the quotations from the Old Testament that are given in Hebrews 1 concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. They are well-set gems, as we should expect them to be as we consider Him who is their theme. Verse 5 gives us two, and shows us by its twofold testimony that He is the Son. If we might say so, the first word that came forth from the Father's mouth when Jesus was born into this world was that He was the Father's Son. He was always the Son, and the fact that He became flesh did not annul this relationship of changeless and eternal affection. HE IS THE OBJECT OF THE FATHER'S LOVE.

The next quotation, in verse 6, shows the Father's determination that even though He had become man, He should not have less honour than He had before. The angels must worship Him. The second word from God's mouth, as His beloved Son lay in the manger, tended by His Virgin mother, declared His unchangeable Deity. He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, yet He was and is always above them. HE IS THE OBJECT OF THE ANGELS' WORSHIP.

The third quotation (v. 8) declares Him to be supreme in God's far-stretching realm, and in this supremacy He shall uphold the righteousness of God, as once He maintained it in His own life in the flesh amid surging tides of iniquity. He is God upon an everlasting throne, and yet Man, anointed with the oil of gladness above His companions. These shall surround His throne, rejoice in His joy and bask in His favour; they shall hear His wisdom and see His glory. Once they were sinners, but saved by grace they are now His brethren, sanctified by Him and one with Him, but He is always above them, the Firstborn among His brethren, and their God, who will hold the sceptre of righteousness for their eternal good. HE IS THE OBJECT OF THE ADMIRATION AND WORSHIP OF ALL THE REDEEMED.

The next quotation (v. 10) declares Him to be the Creator who made the earth and the heavens, that in them He might bring into full manifestation what God is in His righteousness as opposed to all iniquity, and when these works of His hands have fulfilled their purpose, He will set them aside as one would a disused garment, and establish a new creation in which righteousness shall dwell, but in that new creation He will be the same; as He was and is, so shall He ever be, the pledge that His word shall stand and that every thought of the heart of God that has been expressed in blessing shall abide. He is the unchanging One, and so THE OBJECT OF THE UNWAVERING TRUST OF A UNIVERSE THAT SHALL BE BROUGHT INTO BLESSING BY HIM.

Then finally (v. 13) every foe that would resist Him—and how evil must all those be that would resist Him, who was God manifest in the flesh, full of grace and truth—will be silenced and crushed beneath His feet for ever, for no discordant voice must be heard in that world to come in which everything that hath breath will praise the Lord. He must be supreme Ruler, but also the great Leader of the loud Hallelujahs, as He is the cause and the theme of them. HE WILL BE THE OBJECT OF UNIVERSAL AND HARMONIOUS PRAISE.

Tobiah, The Enemy

 

We are not surprised that Nehemiah was sorely grieved when he returned to Jerusalem after a long absence and found that Eliashib the priest had prepared a great chamber in the house of God for Tobiah the Ammonite and installed him there. In that chamber had previously been stored the wealth of God's house, for aforetime they laid there the meat (meal) offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of corn, and the new wine, and the oil. These supplies were necessary for the maintenance of the energy and life for God in His house; they were given to the Levites and the singers and the porters and were the offerings for the priests. But they were all cast out when Tobiah entered the chamber and his household stuff filled the place instead (Neh. 13).

Now this Tobiah was an enemy of Israel and of God. He was an Ammonite, and in the Book of Moses it was written that the Ammonites should not come into the congregation of God for ever, because they met not the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them that he should curse them (chap. 13:1-2). This old enmity was strong in the man and very active, for when first Nehemiah went to Jerusalem Tobiah was “grieved exceedingly that a man had come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel ” (chap. 2:10). And when the wall of the city was rebuilt he was “very wroth and conspired with others to fight against Jerusalem ” (chap. 4:7-8). Eliashib was a traitor to God and His people when he gave Tobiah this chamber in God's house; he was the Quisling of his day, and the result was that the service of God ceased, for the Levites and the singers fled every man to his field and the temple was forsaken.

The incident is not recorded on the sacred page merely to interest us in the joys and sorrows of the Jews, but for our learning and that we might be warned by the treachery of Eliashib. I will give the story, its simplest application and for this will quote a familiar passage from the 1st Epistle 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” (chap. 6:19-20). Think of this amazing fact—through the infinite grace of God your body is His temple. Now your body is governed by your mind. It is the great chamber pictured in our story and everything for God's glory through you, and your own spiritual blessing and prosperity depends upon what is stored in your mind. As Eliashib the priest had “the oversight of the Chamber of the house of God” so you have the oversight of your own mind and there goes into it that that you choose. And what goes into your mind controls and directs your body and life. The flesh stands in striking analogy to Tobiah. It is that evil nature in men that makes them “lovers of their own selves” and enemies of God, for “the carnal [fleshly] mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8). Eliashib who ought to have stood for God to the death against the entrance of the Ammonite, was allied with Tobiah the enemy, and he allowed him to fill the great chamber with his household stuffs, and the meal and frankincense and wine and oil and corn for the service of God's house ceased to flow into it. So if “the flesh” is allowed to clutter up and control your mind there will be no room in it for the things that are true and honest and just and pure and lovely and of good report, and the God of peace will not be with you (Phil. 4:8-9). And His praise and service will cease in your life. “To be carnally [fleshly] minded is death” (Rom. 8:6).

“They that are in the flesh cannot please God, but ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Rom. 8). Yet the flesh may assume a dominating place in your life; your safety lies in cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart and walking in the Spirit. It was God's mercy to Israel that Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem . The record tells us that he said, “It grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat (meal) offering and the frankincense.” Nehemiah's work seems to be analogous to the work of the Holy Ghost. He is sorely grieved when your mind is controlled by the things of the flesh and He works to restore you the joy of God's salvation. If you find the flesh too strong for you, remember that “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh,” and that the Spirit of God now dwells in you and “walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” “The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live.”

The Spirit is the power by which Tobiah and his household stuff is cast out and it is by the Spirit that what is good is brought in. He waits upon us to fill our minds with Christ, for of Him the Lord said, “Howbeit when He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth . . . He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I that He shall take of mine, and show it unto you” (John 16:13-15). What a range of things is here: here are the meal offerings and the frankincense and everything else that can energise your soul and make you not only a Levite in service but a priest in worship and a happy singer of the praises of God. Consider the story well and the Lord give you understanding in all things.

“Together”

 

“ Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity ” (Psalm 133).

To whom is it good and pleasant? To the brethren themselves surely, and to all who can admire what is comely, but most of all to the Father of them all. A true father is sorely grieved if his children quarrel, and is never happier than when they gather affectionate and united at the family hearth. God is a father and He has children, and it is good and pleasant to Him when they dwell together in unity. Indeed when they do it is evidence of His love flawing into their hearts and flowing out again to those who are begotten of Him, and by this dwelling together they show that they are His children and that His own nature is strong and vigorous in them.

“ Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is ” is a word of first importance. It is necessary for our mutual prosperity in spiritual things; we have not been born of God to be independent one of another, and if we are to hold fast our confession we must assemble together, and consider and exhort one another, and provoke one another unto love of good works. All that is true, but behind it all lies the delight that God our Father finds in seeing His children caring for another and delighting in one another's company. And such is the delight of the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father, when His brethren are gathered together, that He will not, cannot, remain away from them. He has said, “ Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them , ” and where He is there the Father is also.

We may not have realised it, but just as a register of the children's attendance at school is kept, so God keeps a register in heaven in which He records the gatherings together of His children on earth and who they are that gather together to speak and think of Him. But it is so. That remarkable passage in Malachi 3:16, certainly teaches 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 the deep satisfaction and joy that it gave Him finds expression in what follows. “ 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 .” As it was so it is; indeed it must be more so in these days than those, for the tie that binds His children to God now is a closer and dearer one than that which bound the saints to Him in Malachi's days. How profoundly it should affect us, that every time His children gather together to speak of Him it delights His heart, and that He records it in heaven's indelible, eternal record, and that to Him it is a service that only a son can render to a father. This should constrain us above all other thoughts, but there is this other added for our encouragement: all such are to be distinguished as His special jewels in the day when He manifests His glory. As they have been faithful to Him, and have pleased Him in degenerate days when His Name is derided and blasphemed, so shall they flash forth His glory when He shall make all things bend to His will.

In musing on this joy of God in the unity of His children there comes to my mind words that deeply move the heart and tell us how only this unity could be. “ Jesus should die. . . that He should gather TOGETHER in one the children of God that were scattered abroad ” (John 11:51-52). It was the Father's will, yet in no other way could His will be accomplished, and Jesus came that the Father's will might be done. He said, “ 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 that hence was Golgotha ! The darkness, the sorrow, the shame, the judgment of our sins, the forsaking of God, and then death! It was through that that Jesus passed to set the children free from the devil's power, and bind them together in a unity of life that not death itself can dissolve. He died to gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad.

Do we consider this as we gather together in holy, happy Christian unity, that it is the death of Jesus that has made it possible? We should have had no title, no desire, no power to gather together, or dwell together, or talk together, if Jesus had not died. How near to the heart of God must this be since He secured it at so great a price. And yet I have heard it argued that divisions among God's children are of God, and so to be sanctioned and vigorously maintained. The word says, “for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men? For while one saith, ‘I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?'” (1 Cor. 3:3-4); and we know that it is the wolf that scatters what God would unite (John 10). Divisions among the children of God are not of God, but are of the flesh and the devil, and they please well a scoffing world. “He that soweth discord among brethren” is one of the seven abominations in God's sight, He hates him (Prov. 6:19), and no wonder, since Jesus died to make them one, and bring them into harmony with God.

What pleases God must be a joy to His children if they are in communion with Him. They do not love a solitary path. Love for their brethren, love in the Spirit is written on the fleshy tables of their hearts, and they seek the company of those they love. This is shown in a striking way in the life of Paul, in whom all the thoughts of God for a saint and servant on earth were delineated. It he went forth as a missionary where no brethren were he took them with him. On one of these journeys he seemed likely to be left alone and he sent a commandment to Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed (Acts 17). And if on his voyage as a prisoner to Rome he had not this companionship, what a joy it gave him when at ports of call some of them were waiting to greet him. He gave thanks to God at the sight of them, and took fresh courage.

It must be a grief of heart to God when any of His children begin to forsake the assembling of themselves together, and choose the company of the ungodly instead of that of their brethren, for that is a sure sign of spiritual decline and backsliding. I would urge upon all, and especially upon young Christians, to seek the company of those who love and fear the Lord. God has set you in His family, and family affections cannot be developed if one is isolated from his brethren or seeks the friendship of the world.

I know that there are those to whom the gatherings of God's children are impossible, invalids, aged saints, mothers of large families and others, what of these? There is an encouraging word for such in Psalm 69, “The Lord despiseth not His prisoners.” He knows how to make up to such what they may lose by their isolation. Though He is the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity whose name is holy; and dwells in the high and holy place, yet He also dwells with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isa. 57:15). It is a wonderful word, but as true as it is wonderful. Yet these, the prisoners of the Lord, so greatly blessed by the company and care of the Lord will be interested in the gatherings together of the children of God they will be with them in spirit, for they will be in communion with Him.

We are waiting for the complete and final gathering, the gathering that will never be broken up—“ Our gathering together unto Him .” It is described in well-loved and oft quoted word. “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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).

Trading for an Absent Lo rd – “Occupy till I come”

Notes of an address in 1911 on the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:20-27)

 

An educated Hindu visited a missionary in India , and said to him, “We have found you Christians out. You are not as good as your Book.” As I read that story it arrested me, and I asked myself the question, “If the Hindu came to that conclusion after watching the life of a devoted missionary, what would he say if he could see us in the homelands?”

If he had the opportunity of comparing our lives with the Book we read and profess to prize, would he not have to lay a double emphasis upon the blunt charge? Undoubtedly he would.

The Book speaks of “joy unspeakable and full of glory:” how much of that do Christians know? It assures us that we may be more than conquerors through Him that loved us; but is this the life that we are living? In it we find the Christian life described as one of devoted, joyful, self-sacrificing service. Are our lives this? Alas! we have to confess that there is a sad disparity between the Book and the lives we live.

I venture to suggest that one reason for this, perhaps the chiefest, is that we have but feebly realized that we are the servants of an absent Lord; the privileges and the responsibilities of this position have not fully laid hold of our souls, and in consequence we live too much to ourselves, which means a joyless and barren existence.

We are not our own; we have been sought in marvellous love, and purchased at a great price; we have been lifted by divine grace out of death into life and that with a high purpose in view, part of which purpose is that we might live unto Him, our absent Lord, who died and rose again for us; but until we come under the domination of this fact our lives will remain common-place and ineffective, they will not be as good as the Book.

 

No True Service without Salvation

This responsibility of which I speak is disclosed for us in the parable of the pounds, and it should be observed that it was while they heard “these things” (v. 11) that the Lord propounded the parable to the people. “These things” are found in the tenth verse. “ The Son of Man is come to seek and save that which was lost .” It is as on this gracious mission that the Lord is revealed to us in the Gospel of Luke. The first words recorded in that Gospel, as having fallen from His blessed lips, are “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” That business was to seek and save the lost. This becomes most evident to us as we read through the Gospel, and we find in it that the contempt and hatred of the leaders of the Jews was manifested because of this one thing. In chapter 5 they complain that He ate and drank with publican and sinners; in chapter 7 they deride Him as being a friend of publicans and sinners; in chapter 15 they murmur because “this man receiveth sinners;” and in chapter 19 they again murmur because “He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.” But He heeded not the derision of the Pharisees, for He loved the lost and sinful with a great love, and in order to fulfil His mission towards them the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, and most beautiful were His feet upon the mountains as He brought good tidings and published peace to these guilt-burdened souls. But if He came to seek and save the lost, it was that He might send them out when found and saved to do business for Him during His absence, even as He did His Father's business when here.

This is the life's business of every saved person; it cannot be rightly undertaken apart from the knowledge of Christ as Saviour, for without this we were still captives, needing deliverance, and so not free to serve Him; moreover, the one motive for service, His love to us, were also lacking if He were not known as Saviour. It is when we think of what He has done to save us, and of the strength of the love that moved Him to do it, that we are constrained, by this same love, to live unto Him.

Let us rightly consider this matter: He came to seek and save us; for this He gave Himself; yea, suffered the unspeakable anguish of Calvary , and passed into the darkness of death, in order to accomplish this purpose of immortal love. The only right answer that we can give to Him for this, is to yield ourselves to Him as His bond-servants for ever. He knew that when we rightly understood His love to us we should desire to do this; that it would be a positive luxury to us to serve Him: to do business for Him while He is away, and until He comes again; and knowing this He has given to each of us a “pound.”

 

“But His citizens hated Him”

But our service is in the world that hates Him. Let us not attempt to disguise or reason away this sad fact; the citizens of it said, “We will not have this man to reign over us;” and that decision has never been reversed. We must face this in order to gauge our position with regard to the world. It hates the One who loves us ; and we are called to do business for Him in it. If it hates Him, and we are true to Him, it will hate us too, and in it, as His representatives, trading for Him, we shall be confronted by opposition, and have to endure tribulation. Time will not permit us to turn to the many passages of unchanging truth to prove this, so one must suffice: “ If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you . . . He that hateth Me hateth My Father also . . . They hated Me without a cause ” (John 15:18-25).

It is useless to plead that the world has improved since then: it may have become more adept at veneering the surface of things, and have made more stringent laws for the more effectual restraint of the fierce passions of men for the common peace, for it loves its own (John 15:19); but it is still the world that hated and rejected Christ; and if we have not experienced its hatred and contempt it is because we have not been faithful to Him.

The world heaped shame and contempt upon our Lord, it had no crown for His sacred brow save one of thorns, and in its estimation He had merited a malefactor's cross; may we never be guilty of the treason of seeking ease and honour where He was rejected and despised.

 

“He called His ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds”

Two things thus far are clear, namely, the Son of Man came to save us, that we might serve Him; and the place of our service is in the world where He is hated. It is important now to see that He has also committed to us the wherewithal for our service. He has given to each of His servants a pound with which to trade. It is not here a question of talents as in Matthew 25, where one received more than another, but one pound to each servant.

You may be very small in your own eyes, and scarcely able to claim the place of a servant at all, but to you has the pound been given, as well as to those who appear great and gifted, and you are responsible to be active with it even as they are. I suggest that the pound represents the way in which God is presented to us in the Gospel of Luke, as glorious in His grace. The knowledge of this is given to us; it has shone into our hearts from the face of Jesus Christ. “ For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us ” (2 Cor. 4:6-7).

What a golden pound is this! What a precious treasure to bear about with us—the knowledge of God! Christian, consider it well. As you rise in the morning you can say, “I know God. He has been revealed to me in the glory of His grace, by the Lord Jesus Christ. I go out, carrying this priceless treasure in my heart, into the world that does not know Him, to put it into circulation for the glory of Christ—not to keep it hidden within my own consciousness, but to let it shine forth, to pass it on to others, that they may be enriched as I have been, and that this treasure may increase in the earth.”

We may tell men that we know a God whose compassion is without limit; that never a cry to Him for pity has been or shall be refused so long as this day of grace shall last. We may tell them that the heart of God is moved because of their distress, and that His mercy leaps forth to meet them in their misery. We may tell them this, for we ourselves have proved the truth of it: we are living witnesses to the incomparable grace of our God.

Would not such a thought if constantly present with us add a dignity to our lives? Would it not make us feel that here was something to live for? Would it not make us diligent to hold forth the word of life, and to shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2:15-16)?

This is our matchless privilege, but it is also our responsibility; our Lord has the right to command us, and it is that we might attend to His business that He has saved us. We cannot, we must not, ignore this. I knew a Christian man who said he did not want to learn much truth, because light increased responsibility, and he had enough already. But we cannot treat the matter in that way, for our responsibility abides, and the day is coming when our Lord will call us to account as to how much we have gained by trading with this pound.

Evidently, then, this is the chief business of our lives. We are not here, in the first place, to be mechanics, shop-keepers, or professional men, to guide the house or rear the children, much less to live lives of selfish ease; but to trade for our absent Lord. Our very lives are His, as well as the pound that He has delivered to us. We may be able to put the pound out to the best rate of interest as we follow our business, and guide the home, rubbing shoulders with men in the affairs of this life. But this will only be as, in these things, we serve the Lord Christ. It may be, on the other hand, that He would have some of us to carry the pound with us, in diligent labour for Him, into the streets and lanes of the city; or into the highways and hedges where the fallen and lost stray and sin and hide; or it may be His will that others should go far afield to heathen lands: in these things He must direct and command, it is ours to obey, to serve, and to trade.

 

“Occupy till I come”

I have heard of some who claimed to have retired from the ministry; but here is a ministry from which none have the right to retire, even if they had the wish; for to each of His servants—to you and me and all others—He has said, “Occupy till I come.” These are solemn words for our consideration, and especially so when we remember how much of the past time has been wasted in selfish pursuits, how much of it is lost time; but they are also words that should act as a powerful tonic for our souls for the future, for they tell us that our Lord is coming again, and of what He expects from us meanwhile. Yes He is coming again; we shall see Him whom, having not seen, we love; and what will that mean to us?

“If here on earth the thoughts of Jesus' love

Lift our poor hearts this weary world above;

If even here the taste of heavenly springs

So cheers the spirit that the pilgrim sings:

What will it be to see Him?

What will the sunshine of His glory prove?

What the unmingled fullness of His love?

What hallelujahs will His presence raise?

What but one loud eternal burst of praise!”

 

The Day of Reckoning

When He comes His servants will be called unto Him, to whom He had given the money, that He may know how much every man has gained by trading; and as we think of this side of His coming serious and solemn thoughts possess us, for we must feel how poorly we have used our opportunities.

Yet there is here encouragement for us, for we find that one servant had gained ten pounds by his trading, and why should we not be like him? Ten seems to stand in the Scriptures for the measure of the Lord's demands from men (see Ten Commandments), and we may conclude that there is grace with our Lord for us to enable us to render a full return to Him in that which He has committed to us; if there is any failure, it is on our side. But everything, be it much or little, will be rightly appraised by Him, and nothing shall lose its reward that has been done for Him.

 

A Servant who knew not the Lord

But one servant hid his pound in a napkin; it was an encumbrance to him, something, perhaps, of which he was ashamed—for the gospel of God is folly in the eyes of the wise ones of the earth—so he put it out of sight, his own as well as that of his fellows, and if he did any business at all he did it with his own base coin, and for his own enrichment.

He was servant by profession, and in name only; he did not know the Master, his own confession proves this, though he imagined that he did know Him when he said, “I knew that Thou wert an austere Man. ”

Is the Lord an austere Man, a hard Master, reaping where He has never sown, and demanding where He has never given? Who amongst all of us who know Him will give Him such a character? Nay, we have other things to say of Him; we have proved Him to be exactly the reverse of this. We can bear testimony to the fact that the tenderest heart in the universe beats in the bosom of our Lord Jesus. We have seen no frowns on His brow, neither have we heard hard words from His lips. Our service has been poor and faulty, often we have thought more of ourselves in it than we did of the Master whom we serve. But this has not changed Him; His tender pity has not failed, and our very blunders have become the opportunities for manifestation of a grace that is as constant as it is free. Knowing Him as we do, we must conclude that the man who spoke as the servant spoke knew Him not. He was a “wicked servant,” who had not appreciated the pound entrusted to him, nor loved the Master who gave it.

There are such today. We do well to test ourselves. Do we know the Lord? If we do, we love Him. Do we appreciate the pound entrusted to us? If we do we are trading with it.

But time is short. Let us fling ourselves in full and unreserved surrender at the feet of Christ; let us there confess the failure of the past, and seek grace and power to fill up the future for Himself alone. His giving is always greater than our asking; and as we receive from Him, we can trade for Him, and the world will not be stumbled by the grave inconsistencies that often lie between us and our Book.

Unchanging Love

 

At the close of another year we recall the old story of a Christian farmer who erected a weather vane upon the gable of his house, upon which was the text, “God is love.” He was asked if he meant to convey the idea that God's love was as changeable as the wind, and his reply to the questioner is worthy to be often told: “No, I mean that ‘God is love' whichever way the wind blows.” What a comfort and stay is this in the midst of passing seasons, changing circumstances, and sometimes fierce trials, to those who know God as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, revealed to us in all the blessedness of a quenchless and eternal love.

The rolling years cannot ruffle the peace of such, for whether they look back into the receding past, or forward into the swiftly coming future, all is bright with that love which nothing can destroy.

The past has been likened to a sunset, and the simile is an apt one; we can look upon it with adoring hearts and eyes, for we see the clouds that once threatened us, and filled us, perhaps, with misgiving, made glorious by the golden light of the ways of God. Those clouds, perhaps, tell of hopes blighted, ambitions thwarted, and idols broken, but it is well to have behind us those things which would obscure faith's vision and impede faith's footsteps in the race.

The future is the sun-rising, when every promise and purpose of God will be fulfilled at the coming of the Lord. The eager hands of faith stretch forward to the eternal realities which then shall be revealed, and the heart substantiates them even now (Heb. 11:1); but what will it be when faith gives place to sight, and the glory of God surrounds us in His home above?

“Our hearts beat high, the dawn is nigh

That ends our pilgrim story,

In that eternal glory!”

Unity

 

The discussion of questions generally results in the formation of parties and sects; the ministry of Christ unifies His saints, for it binds their hearts together and makes them glow with a common object. Questions will arise as long as the church is here below, for the devil will not cease his efforts to scatter the one flock, but if these questions are brought to the light of God's all-sufficient Word, which is able to elucidate every one of them, and approached from the standpoint of how they affect the glory and heart of Christ, in dependence upon Him, and not from the standpoint of tradition or precedent, or in self-will, they will be rightly answered and the devil's malicious intentions be frustrated. Yet the work of the servants for Christ is not to occupy the saints with questions, but to minister the truth as to Christ wherever an ear is inclined to hearken to their words. It was so at the beginning, and it has not been changed during the course of the centuries.

While being devoutly thankful to God from all the truth that has been opened out during the last century, let us not be too much occupied with the immediate past, or imagine that in these latter days the divine standard has been given to us, but let us go back to the revelation of the truth as it was given by the Holy Ghost at first in all its force and glory; for only so shall we be able to act rightly; and we may be sure that any revival that may have taken place within the last century has been the result of the servants of the Lord coming under the power of that.

Take that most triumphant passage in Ephesians 4:8-13:—

“ Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave same, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. ”

Mark well these expressions “for the perfecting of the saints,” “for the work of the ministry,” “for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Are these things not worth labouring in and for? This is the greatest work that is being done beneath the heavens today; we say it without fear of contradiction, this is the greatest work that is being done in the universe at this moment. No empire on earth, no matter how great its might or righteous its cause, is prosecuting so glorious a campaign as this—if we may be allowed to adopt military phraseology—of which the great Leader is our victorious Lord in heaven, and of which the power is the Holy Spirit of God on earth. Will the devil remain passive while this is going on? Certainly not. Of old he tried to hinder it by persecutions, but these frontal attacks only served to further the truth—“the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church”—and the tribulation only made the saints of God value the more the blessed unity into which He had put them. The public persecutions have ceased, but let us not suppose that the enemy has been driven from the field. To do so would be to blind our eyes to his diabolical strategy. He has succeeded in these closing days of much light, in filling the minds of the servants of Christ with questions, so that they, instead of unitedly and without fetters, carrying on the work of Christ, indicated in this passage, often waste much time in discussions one with another, sometimes with much heat—alas, that it should have to be said—resulting in estrangement of heart one from another and further division in the flock of God.

The discussion of questions, either in public, or by pamphlet, or in private intercourse with the saints, or by letter will not result in “the perfecting of the saints,” it is not “the work of the ministry,” it will not “edify the body of Christ.” The saints are perfected as the truth as to Christ is formed in their souls, and by this they grow into the “unity of the faith . . . unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” But questions provoke the flesh, cause emulation and strife, and stunt the growth of the saints, so that they are imperfect—babes, as witness the Corinthians (1 Cor. 2:3). This is the devil's work.

The saints of God might well learn a lesson from the British Empire at this time. How speedily all questions were abandoned, and how the greatest extremes became as one when the supreme need of defending her honour and maintaining her integrity arose. Have those who love the Lord no common cause? Or, to put it in a way that should affect all our hearts: Have not those whom He has loved, and for whom He gave Himself, no common cause? It was said in our hearing recently: “Nothing would be so calculated to produce practical unity amongst the saints as an outbreak of persecution.” We did not question this, for we are more than a little selfish, and while on the one hand the sorrows of others might draw out our sympathies, we should be glad to have sympathy in our own. And beyond that, the flying to one common Help in trouble would throw us more together, and perfectly right too. But is there not something higher than this? What of the glory of our Lord and the truth? In these last days, as never before in the church's history, the enemy has attacked our holy faith. Not the outworks of Christianity merely, but the very citadel of it—the truth as to Christ's own person, and His atoning work. Ought not the love that He bears us, and His own glory, which is surely more dear to us than life, have made us, because of these attacks of the enemy, “ Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel ” (Phil. 1:27)?

Who could imagine, by way of illustration, the British soldiers in the fire-swept trenches forgetting the great conflict and quarrelling with each other, or wasting their time in debating questions, or refusing to succour each other in their need, or withholding words of cheer or of good news which was their common right! And if only the saints of God were alive to the infinite seriousness of the conflict that they are called to wage, and the tremendous issue of it, and their need of one another in it, it would surely result in a solidarity in their ranks that would be for the glory of the Lord; it would make them greatly appreciate that unity which is a divine fact, and which cannot be dissolved.

Every part of the revelation of God in our holy faith has the oneness of the saints in view. Take a few familiar passages of Scripture.

(a) “I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd” (John 10:15-16).

(b) “And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me” (John 17:22-23).

(c) “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 4:13).

(d) “Wherefore He saith, When He ascended on high He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men . . . till we all come to the unity of the faith . . . speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:8-16).

(a) The Lord gave up His holy life, passing down into the darkness of judgment and death that His saints might be one. Was His death in vain? Impossible. The saints of God are one flock.

(b) The glory of sonship has been given to them that they might be one—given to them in a new and inalienable life and title. They are brought into an intelligent relationship with the Father and the Son, and this in a way that baffles all description: the Son of God in them and the Father in Him, that the oneness might be in the power of that unbreakable and eternal love in which the Father and the Son abide, So that as no thought of division between the Father and the Son could possibly be entertained, so also should they be indivisible.

(c) The Holy Ghost has been given to the saints also, that they might be one. He has come upon them baptising them into one body, and they have all drunk into one Spirit. So that they are no longer feeble and isolated atoms fighting their way against storm and wind and tide to the glory, but they are one body by the power of the Holy Ghost. Being in that body, it might be said that they are in the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost is in them, so that as you cannot divide the Holy Ghost, for He is one, so neither can you divide that body that He has formed.

(d) And Christ in glory is the Head of His body on earth, and every member of it has been formed in Him, so that each one, in the virtue of the life and grace that it has in Him, may contribute to the self-building up of the one body in love.

These are great truths. Shall those who profess to know them practically falsify them by a sectarian spirit, or by withholding them from those who do not know them, or only know them imperfectly? Or prevent the effectual working of this divine organism by raising needless questions and divisions amongst saints? Nay. If these truths are known they must be obeyed, and ministered wherever a listening ear can be found. And if any who know them act otherwise, they will speedily lose the joy and the power of them.

Contrast with the foregoing scriptures the following: “The wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep” (John 10:12).

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not yet carnal and walk as men?” (1 Cor. 3:3).

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, fornication . . . idolatry . . . strifes . . . contentions, disputes, schools of opinion . . . murders” into what terrible company the sectarian is here put, and mark the declaration of the Holy Ghost—“as to which I tell you beforehand, that they who do such things shall not inherit God's kingdom” (Gal. 5:19-22, N.Tr.). It is evidently a fleshly and devilish work to scatter and divide the saints of God. May our souls shrink with horror from having any part in it.

But to return to what we said at the beginning; the practical abiding in this unity can alone be maintained as Christ is before the soul. We have a song, one line of which is—

“All the mind in heaven is one”;

but that is because Christ is everything to all. Ministry in the power of the Holy Ghost, according to John 16:13-15, will perfect the saints in this now, and nothing else will. Questions distract, doctrines, apart from this, harden, but by the ministry of Christ the work of the Holy Ghost proceeds and the body of Christ is edified. May this be our great object now and henceforward.

Unity and Praise

 

That which shall be established and publicly manifested by the power of the Lord in His coming earthly kingdom should be characteristic of those who own His Lordship now.

 

Salvation

“ How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion , Thy God reigneth! ” (Isa. 52:7).

How beautiful to the eyes of the remnant of Israel, grown weary with weeping and watching, will be the advent of their Messiah's feet on the sacred crest of Olivet, for that will be the time of their salvation (see Zech. 14:4; Matt. 24:16). They will behold them “as if they burned in a furnace” strong to tread down their enemies and His; and the sight of them, as it greets the eyes of the watchers will make them “lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing.”

We Christians have greater cause for singing than Israel will ever have, for we have heard better tidings of good than they will ever hear, and have seen those blessed feet in a more heart-moving path. We have seen them in the path of humiliation and suffering, for the Spirit of God has come to make all the ways of Jesus upon earth most beautiful in our eyes; and we know that He trod that downward and thorny path to reach us, and that He went into the depths of death to save us. We have seen those feet as the woman of the city saw them when she washed the dust of the way from them with penitential tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. How beautiful they were to her, bringing as they did the good tidings of salvation, and forgiveness, and peace! These same tidings they have brought to us; but at how great a cost!

We have seen them also as the disciples saw them when on the resurrection day the Lord said to them, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself . . . And He showed them His hands and His feet.” They were victorious feet that the disciples looked upon and handled, feet that had trodden down the enemy in His own stronghold, though wounded in that deadly fight, as had been announced on the earliest day of man's sin: “It [the Seed of the woman] shall bruise thy [the serpent's] head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). The disciples beheld those feet when back from the grave He brought a perfect peace to them; feet in which were the nail-prints, mute yet eloquent witnesses of the love that led Him unto death for them and for us.

 

Exultation

“ Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem : for the Lord hath comforted his people. He hath redeemed Jerusalem

“ Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion ” (Isa. 52:8).

But there is more: the Lord likened Himself to a shepherd going after the sheep that was lose “until He find it” and He said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this [Jewish] fold: them also I must bring, they shall hear My voice; and there shall be ONE FLOCK, AND ONE SHEPHERD.” And it is in this connection that He said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me because I lay down My life.” He laid down His life to gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad. What tongue shall tell of the terrible way that His blessed feet travelled in the infinite yearnings of His love to gather His sheep!

“Across His path oceans impassable weltered;

He sank where the tempest-tossed billows did roll,

And where deep called to deep amid cataracts roaring

The waters of death found their way to His soul.

He sank in deep mire, lone, abandoned, forsaken;

Nor in earth nor in heaven compassion He found;

He drank to the dregs the deep chalice of judgment,

While the curse shook the caverns of chaos around.

He tasted death's waters, offensive and bitter,

Yet dared He to drink, for the lost He would save,

His great love upheld Him, strong infinite, quenchless,

And for His lost sheep He went down to the grave.”

And shall He have travelled that road in vain? And if Israel will sing together when He gathers them in Zion, having delivered them from the paw of the lion, cannot those who have been gathered of the Gentiles, from uttermost distance and danger and death, into the one flock of God, break forth into joy, and in happy, holy unison lift up the voice—

“And sing of the Shepherd that died,

That died for the sake of the flock.

Whose love to the utmost was tried,

Yet firmly endured as a rock?”

Cannot they see “eye to eye,” since He sets Himself before them as their gathering Centre, and the object worthy and able to fill their hearts?

Are there any waste places in the flock of God where the harp is mute and the music still? Are there places where “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” is but a memory, or a doctrine, instead of a living and present reality; where the wolf has scattered; where pride and strife has caused the sheep to push with the side and shoulder, to push the diseased with the horns, till they are scattered abroad? (Ezek. 34:21) Alas! there are. Yet there is a remedy. It is to hear His voice afresh; to trace the way His feet have trodden and to turn in deep self-abasement to Him, and into the path in which He leads, and then shall we find true and practical unity, for seeing Him we shall see “eye to eye”; and then shall we render true praise, for Himself being the theme of it, we shall lift the voice together, with the voice together shall we sing.

Unity not Uniformity

 

There are millions of believers on the earth all of whom are indwelt by the Holy Ghost, and being indwelt by Him they are formed into one body: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” It is this that accounts for the fact that in the heart of every believer in whom the Spirit of God is ungrieved there is an earnest desire for fellowship with other Christians, and it is this that makes them chafe at the tyranny of sectarian bonds and barriers. The instincts of the Christian are true to the unity that the Holy Ghost has formed.

It is common to men to strive after uniformity; but uniformity is not unity. Unity is God's work; uniformity is man's. To satisfy his prejudices and to give expression to his narrow ideas man would force all into the same mould, and those that will not take the die are cast aside. Cliques, divisions, sects and parties, barrenness and death are the unfailing outcome of this wherever it intrudes into the church of God .

There is no uniformity in a body, but great diversity; all the members are diverse, no two fulfilling the same office, but when subject to the brain, and filled with the life-fluids, each works unremittingly and harmoniously for the good of the whole. This is unity, and this is the figure used by the Spirit to illustrate God's thought for His saints on earth: they are actually one body, “for ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:27). It is upon the thwarting and destruction of the practical expression of this unity that the devil bends his energies. And nothing serves his purpose better than the rules and regulations that men make, for they reduce the beautiful variety which the wisdom of God produces to one doubly dead level.

This unity is not a beautiful theory merely, an ideal to be admired by us and then put aside as unpracticable and impossible; it is a fact that should govern us, and fill us with an earnest desire to maintain our separation from the evil things that mar it, and to follow after those great and positive realities which are the common portion of all saints, and to seek the blessing and prosperity of all, that it may have a practical expression through us as far as in us lies.

Unspeakable Things

God's Unspeakable Gift

“ God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son ” (John 3:6).

“ Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift ” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Paul knew how to use acceptable words, wise preacher that he was, and when occasion required, he could pile superlative upon superlative, as when he wrote of “the exceeding greatness of God's power” and “the exceeding riches of His grace,” and of His ability to do “exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think,” and of “a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory.” Moreover, when the deep things of God were to be expressed in words, he was not left to labour with his own vocabulary, for he tells us that he spoke of the things that are freely given us of God in the very words that the Holy Spirit taught him. He was not permitted to express Divine thoughts in words that human wisdom would have selected, else would his Epistles have been faulty and unreliable, it was the work of the Holy Spirit not only to fill his heart and mind with the truth of God and to reveal to him things never known before, but also to give the very words by which the divine revelation was to be made intelligible to others. In this, of course, the Holy Spirit was limited to available human language, which is evidence of the greatness of His grace, but he selected and chose the language. Hence Paul's writings, and all the Scriptures, were God-breathed, inspired by the Holy Ghost; the very words were Divinely given and could not be replaced by others; we speak, of course, of the Scriptures in their original form.

But when Paul wrote of God's gift there were no words that could describe it. If there had been any in human language that could have conveyed to the human intelligence the immensity of it, the Holy Spirit would have known them and given them to him, but there were none. We may try to encompass that gift with words, and call it great, ineffable, wonderful, incomparable, boundless, perfect, but none nor all of these words will do. All these, or their equivalents in the language of the day, were rejected by the Divinely inspired writer. Overwhelmed by the character of the gift, he tells us in one brief sentence that it defies definition, baffles all description, that it is inexpressible, unspeakable.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

The gift is the proof and measure of God's love. We may consider it, but never comprehend it; we may know it, but it surpasses all knowledge; we may speak of it, but it is unspeakable; we may search the breadth, length, depth and height of it, but all dimensions and magnitudes fail to supply plummet or compass by which we may tell the extent of it. His gift is unspeakable. The incarnation and the cross; the rough way that Jesus trod, His sighs and sorrows, the suffering and shame of Gethsemane and Golgotha, the darkness, the woe, His death and blood shedding were all God's voice to men, speaking with growing intensity; it was God's utterance of an unutterable love; His love declared by His unspeakable gift. Whether we think of the love that gave the gift, or the gift which the love gave, or the flood of life and blessing that flows and will yet flow to us as a result of it, there is but one thing we can do—give “thanks unto God for His unspeakable gift.”

“Unto me, the vile, the guilty,

Flows the living flood

I, Thine enemy, am ransomed

By the precious blood.

Prostrate at Thy feet I lie,

Lost in love's immensity.”

 

Unspeakable Joy

“ Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory ” (1 Peter 1:8).

An unspeakable gift must produce unspeakable joy. Appreciate the gift, let it be kept by the Spirit's power before the heart, and the answering joy will be there; a joy the heart knows for itself, deep, silent, unspeakable. Every earthly pleasure is speakable. Natural sensations may be expressed in human words, the most exquisite thrills of earthly joys that the heart may know may be seized by the poet and poured forth in rhythm and song, but God's unspeakable gift carries us outside earth and nature, and, human though we are, makes us thrill with divine joy, full of glory, unspeakable in human speech. It is the joy of faith, the joy of love, not natural but divine. And strange though it may seem, this unspeakable joy is not inconsistent with, but goes along with, “heaviness through manifold temptations.”

If we understood this we should not be so afraid of trials and tests, indeed we should glory in tribulation, for these things wean the heart from the earth, and remove the dross and dirt of it from the soul, and set it free from the speakable to enjoy that that no words can express. On the earthly side, trial and sorrow; on the heavenly side, joy and glory. On the earthly side, “light affliction”; on the heavenly side, “a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory.” And though we have not reached the latter, yet we know by faith, and love the One who has reached it, and it is in Him that our joy is found, a joy that cannot be measured, for His love is immeasurable, without taint of selfishness or mortal failure, and He Himself is unspeakably precious, and in Him we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. We might dwell long and dolefully upon the absence of this joy amongst the children of God, but that is not our purpose. If it is not known it may be, for God can fulfil every word that He has spoken, and He will fulfil this word to all who seek after it.

 

Unspeakable Groanings

“ The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered ” (Romans 8:26).

There are times when the manifold testings increase in their severity until the Christian knows not what to ask for. And the heaviness of his spirit becomes so great that he cannot pray, and all language fails to express the deep exercises of his soul. Is he forsaken then? Because no prayer rises from his heart and lips, does intercession cease? No, it continues with greater intensity because the need is greater. The Holy Spirit takes up the case and He can make articulate in groanings the need that is too deep to be uttered in mortal words. The passage opens up for us the wonderful love and interest that the Holy Spirit takes in our welfare.

A mother bends her knees in earnest supplication for an only son. He is exposed to many dangers in the great city where he toils, and the greater her knowledge of this the more she prays, until prayers merge into groans, and the groans are the evidence of the depth of her love. So the Spirit intercedes for us. It does not say here that we groan; what is said of us is that we do not know what to pray for as we ought. It is the Spirit that intercedes with groanings, and these groanings are unutterable. So completely has the Spirit identified itself with our need that the full weight of it is carried in these groanings before God, and God hears the unutterable groanings of the Spirit, and He understands them, and answers them so blessedly, that all things work together for the good of them that love God, and we may know it. That is the answer to the unutterable groanings of the Spirit. The very things that might appear to be against us are the very things that will help us in our journey to the full manifestation of the purpose of God.

 

Unspeakable Words

“ Heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter ” (2 Corinthians 12:4).

In the revelation that has come to us in the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Ghost was necessarily limited to the language of mortal men, we could understand no other. But as we have already said, He selected the very words by which the thoughts of God were to be expressed. In doing this He purified these words, amplified them, and often clothed them with meanings that they had not hitherto worn. And as having become the expression of God's thoughts, they are now God's words, possessing a power and purity that no other words possess. They are pure words, perfect words, converting the soul and making wise the simple. They have Divine authority, and should be instantly, implicitly, and constantly obeyed. Still they are human words, and suited to our condition here, while there are yet things to be known and glories to be revealed that could not and never will be expressed in this language, and in view of this, and as we look on to the glorious future, we may truly say and sing—

“With joyful wonder we'll exclaim,

The half has not been told.”

If we think of the life of the Lord here, we read, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30). And again, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). But if these things have not been written in the Scriptures for us to read and know in this mortal life, their record is on high, and we shall surely know them when we reach the glory of God. It may be said that these things were too numerous to be written; that may be so, but I prefer to think of them as inscrutable, so infinitely blessed in their nature and character, that no language of men could describe them; they could not be written, or contained if written in this world. What is written is enough to give us the full knowledge of God and to give us fullness of joy in that revelation, and what we have yet to know and absorb of the glories of the triune God will in no wise be contrary to that that we have already learnt.

But there are themes in heaven that we cannot hear or understand in this earthly, mortal condition, and these things Paul heard, but could not communicate. And not until we are clothed upon with our house which is from heaven shall we be able to enter into them; then they will become the subjects of our conversation. We shall not then hear, and speak, and know in a partial way, as 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 tells us. All that is imperfect, and belongs to our present state of mortality, will be swept away by the power of immortality, and heaven's language will become our familiar tongue, and we shall have the unfettered capacity to enter into the full life of all that is expressed by it. Wonderful prospect! Glories too bright for mortal eyes shall pass before our ransomed vision, and as glory flows on glory throughout the generations of the ages, as now grace flows upon grace, we shall speak a language that will express our full appreciation of if all. No more with lisping, stammering tongues,” but our whole beings strung and tuned by Divine power to bless, and praise, and worship God our Father and His Christ.

The unspeakable gift has reached us in our sin and infirmity and mortality, and that gift was God's pledge to us that He would bring us out of all the degradation of our mortality to a sphere of life where neither sin, nor fear, nor death can come. The glories of that scene of incorruptibility and life will be new to us, for it will be a scene into which flesh and blood cannot enter, and bodies like unto our Lord's own glorious body we must have for it. But what a joy to us now, and an encouragement to us to reach forward to those bright and blessed scenes, it is to know that He who in that place shall greet us will “greet us with a well known love.” God will not be any other to us than Him whom we have seen revealed in Jesus in perfect love. Him we know now, for nothing is wanting in God's revelation of Himself for this, and this is life eternal, to know the only true God and Jesus Christ His sent One.

Unwearied Love

 

“ Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well ” (John 4:6).

 

He had been driven out from Judea by the hatred of the proud traditional religionists, there was neither, room nor rest for Him in their dead ceremonies, and could He find rest in the false pretentions of the Samaritans? No, “neither in Jerusalem nor in this mountain” was there rest for Jesus. He sat thus—just as He was—on the well, wearied, thirsty, hungry—how truly Man He was, feeling in His spirit the hatred and rejection of the Jews with a perfect sensibility, and feeling in His body the vicissitudes of life also—the heat of the midday sun, the roughness and the length of the way, the pangs of hunger and thirst. And yet He was God, the giver of living water. He was wearied in body but unwearied in His love, and at that well side He found both rest and food in doing the will of Him that sent Him.

Let us sit with wonder at His feet and learn of Him. It is not by the strict observance of rules and traditions that He is pleased, HE CARES FOR SOULS, and the soul of a disreputable woman was precious to Him. What a sight for us to look upon, when rejected and driven out by His own people, He finds consolation and compensation in blessing this wretched Samaritan who had exhausted her life in the vain search for happiness. He spoke to her of the Father, of the Spirit, of Himself, and if He did draw back the veil from her life, it was but for an instant, that one glimpse of it in His holy presence might make her turn from it with loathing to find her rest in what God is—the giving God.

What heavenly light filled the soul of that once ignorant and unhappy woman when He had finished His gracious work with her! Was there ever a more ready or eager witness than she, when she went to the men of the city and cried, “He told me all things that ever I did, IS NOT THIS THE CHRIST?”

Waiting, Watching, Working

 

“ Like unto men that WAIT for their Lord

“ Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find WATCHING. ”

“ Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when He cometh, shall find so doing [WORKING] .” (Luke 12)

 

To be waiting indicates readiness . To be watching shows expectation . To be working is a sign of faithfulness to a charge. And the servants of the Lord are to be ready, expectant, and faithful in view of His coming again.

But is He really coming again? Long has He been expected; will He fulfil that expectation? May it not be a vain hope? “Behold the Bridegroom cometh” (Matt. 25), was a great text with earnest men nigh upon a century ago, and the hope of His coming spread amongst those who loved His Name, until many were saying: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” It became a theme of ordinary conversation. I heard of it as a child. My father and mother talked about it in our home, and I remember that one of the first teachers I ever had asked me: “What do they preach at the meetings you go to?” I answered: “They preach that the Lord Jesus is coming again.” “What!” she exclaimed, evidently startled. “Yes,” I said, “and we believe it because the Bible says so.” It was a child's answer, but it shows that whether true or false this teaching had made a deep impression on my mind.

But that was many years ago, and He has not come yet, and those who looked for Him so earnestly in those years that are past have fallen asleep without realizing their hope. Were they deceived in their belief? And are we? Will He really come? The scoffers are saying: “Where is the promise of His coming?” and we must give an answer to their challenge. What shall that answer be?

Our answer is: “Yes, He will surely come,” and the basis of our confidence is that He has said so. We do not build our hope on signs and portents, they may easily and often deceive us, but we rest in His own Word, for that cannot fail. Other prophecies have been fulfilled, and so shall this be. God declared in the Garden of Eden that the woman's Seed should bruise the Serpent's head. It was the first word that was ever uttered as to the coming of the great Deliverer, and that word was fulfilled when the due time came. Four thousand years passed between the prediction and its fulfilment, and throughout those long, long years men of faith waited and watched. They carried the torch of faith and hope in the darkness for a while, each in his own day, and then handed it on to their successors, until at last He for whom they looked appeared; the Daystar from on high visited them, and faith and hope gave place to sight as they gave thanks to God and cried, Our eyes have seen Thy salvation.

God's prophets had spoken of the sufferings of Christ and of the glory that should follow. When He did appear His disciples thought only of the glory. But the glory was not yet to be, it awaited His second coming . It behoved Him first to suffer that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. His first coming was for shame and spitting, for suffering and death; His second coming will be for honour and glory, for the crown and the throne. He told His disciples in the plainest language that He had come to suffer, that He would be delivered to the Gentiles and be mocked and crucified. It seemed much more likely that He would be stoned, indeed the Jews in their frenzied hatred of Him attempted this more than once, but they could not do it, a power they did not understand restrained them, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But why should He be crucified? This was a Roman mode of execution, and He did not come into conflict with Rome . He offered no resistance to its authority, but on the contrary He taught that what was due to it must be rendered to it, and for that saying the Jews hated Him the more, but the Romans had no cause to condemn Him for such teaching, He was no criminal according to their laws. Yet they crucified Him? Why? Because the Scripture had said that thus He would die, and they cannot fail. More than one thousand years before it happened it was all foretold in the most graphic detail (Ps. 22). Long before the Roman power had any existence the very way they would treat Him was revealed, and the ancient word was fulfilled to the last letter of it. And by His own words He confirmed what was written of Him. He said He would die and He did, HE SAID HE WOULD RISE THE THIRD DAY AND HE DID, HE SAID HE WOULD COME AGAIN IN GLORY AND HE WILL .

Every word of Scripture that foretold His first coming and His sufferings when He came has been fulfilled, and just as surely shall every word that has been spoken about His second coming in glory be fulfilled. If He does not come again His own word and the Scripture will be broken, and this cannot be: Heaven and earth shall pass away but not one jot or tittle of His word can fail. Our first and greatest reason then for holding this as a sure and blessed hope is His own word, and the word of Holy Scripture.

Our second reason is that the Divine plan and purpose would be incomplete if He did not come. If Sir Christopher Wren had built St. Paul 's without its dome, we should have said that it was not finished, that the crown of it was wanting. And if the Lord Jesus does not come again there will be a great want in the ways of God. To come in humiliation and not return in power, to suffer and die for sin and not come again in glory to establish righteousness in the world where wickedness has so long held sway; to bear the cross and not wear the crown, would be to leave unfinished God's great scheme of blessing for men and glory for His Son. The crown of His purpose would be lacking and the universe would say that God was not wise, or He had not the power to make His wisdom effectual. Yes. The once suffering Saviour must come in glory; where He was dishonoured He must be exalted; He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore His throne must be established for ever. He must come again.

Our third reason for His coming again, is that His love demands it. He cannot leave even the bodies of His blood-redeemed saints under the power of death. He must raise them up again, and He will do this at His coming again: then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 1:4). And then will He present to Himself His church, His bride, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Jacob would not have been satisfied to have laboured and waited for Rachel and not have possessed her, neither can the Lord be satisfied without His bride, complete and glorious. He gave Himself for her and He must have her, and this cannot be apart from His coming again (Eph. 5). And because His love demands it, we read: “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). “And then shall be 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, Alleluiah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb to come ” (Rev. 19:6-7).

The first message that the ascended Lord sent from the glory to His disciples upon earth was that He would come back again (Acts 1), and His last message from the glory to His church on earth is “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22). Truly His coming again lies very near to His heart. It is as though a mother leaving her children for a while, said to them as she puts her good-bye kiss upon their lips: “I'll come back soon,” and if she has the opportunity of sending a message to them during her absence, the burden of it is, “I'll come back soon.” She knows well that nothing will please them better than that. Yes, but in the message her own desire breaks out. It is because she longs for them, yearns to see and embrace them again that she sends such a message to them. Her desire is greater than theirs. Even so it is with our Lord. Yet surely His love to us has awakened desires to see Him in our hearts, and if so, we shall respond to His message to us with the church's cry. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

And if this is so, we shall be waiting and watching and working; we shall be ready, expectant and faithful. Think of the absent mother and her children again. Mary has been left in charge of her brothers and sisters, and the day has arrived for the return of the mother. They do not know the hour, but they are up early and they work with a will until everything is ready. The home is clean, the children are dressed, and they are ready. Mother can come 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 watching , and it is their love for their mother that makes them so. But Mary is in charge of the home, and she feels her responsibility. Between her journeys to the door and window 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, and wash them, and keep them out of mischief until her mother comes; and so she waits and watches like the rest, but she works also. She is faithful to her trust. Blessed is Mary when her mother comes. She has a twofold happiness. Not only is her mother back again but she has said “Well done” to her faithful little daughter. She has the joy of her mother's presence and the satisfaction of her mother's approbation. And now the mother's turn has come, and she serves Mary, she makes her sit down at the table and brings forth the good things that she has brought, and while all join in the feast, it is a reward for Mary. She has this as a secret understanding between herself and her mother. Has our Lord's love to us affected us as the mother's love affected her daughter? Are we ready, expectant and faithful? Blessed will it be for us if it is so. But this is the way we show our love to Him and not by talking of His coming only. We shall be anxious to keep our charge, anxious that all His own shall be such as will please Him when He does come. We shall feed them, encourage them, wash their feet if need be. In this our responsibility lies, here shall be proved our faithfulness to our trust. It will not be enough that we are waiting ourselves, we shall desire all His saints to be waiting too, yes, all His saints , for He is coming for all, and all should be looking for Him.

“Watchman, what of the Night?”

 

THE MORNING COMETH! Yes, those whose trust is in God and whose hope is Christ may lift up their heads and rejoice, for as surely as the Word has spoken of the morning, so surely shall it come, IT COMETH. The music of its advancing feet already vibrates in the hearts of the watchers, and the furious clamour of the darkness, preparing for one desperate, one last, supreme resistance, is only added evidence to those who believe that it must yield up its almost impregnable fortress in this earth, and fly before the victorious march of the coming day.

This is a hope that maketh not ashamed, though those who live in the power of it do not walk by sight but by faith. And it is this hope, made true to the heart by faith, that will alone keep the Christian from despondency; it will be his sure and steadfast anchor in the storm, and make him sing in the present gloom.

But this hope does not rest in anything that men can achieve. The Spirit-taught Christian knows that nothing but evil, and that continually, can come forth from men; he also knows that behind poor blinded man the powers of darkness are at work in the endeavour to accomplish their foul schemes. It is not to the success of the Allies that he looks for the dawning of the day and perpetual peace; even though an Archbishop declares that, by the triumph of their arms, the forces of righteousness will be advanced in the earth and the Lord's kingdom come. Whether they are triumphant or beaten, whether the conflict comes to a speedy end or is indefinitely prolonged, will make no difference to this one great declaration of God: the Morning cometh. It is not by the military prowess of one nation, or the peace proposals of another, nor by the triumph of this philosophy or that philanthropy, that the morning shall be ushered in, but BY THE UPRISING OF THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS—THE PERSONAL RETURN TO EARTH OF THE ONCE-REJECTED AND CRUCIFIED LORD JESUS CHRIST. “He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even as a morning without clouds; as tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain” “The Lord will make bare His arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

Before this can come to pass the Lord must first come into the air to catch away to Himself His church, His heavenly bride, and all those who have died in faith since the fall in Eden as is plainly told in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. But this glorious event may take place at any moment, it is the immediate hope of the church—the dawning of the morning for them which shall open out into the reign of righteousness on earth, and finally into the day of God's rest in a new heaven and earth.

“Our hearts beat high,

The dawn is nigh,

That ends our pilgrim story,

In His appointed glory.”

THE DARKNESS DEEPENS . It must do so, for the darkest hour is always that which precedes the dawn. One of the greatest living statesmen has said, “We live in times when the whole world is either standing in arms, or is standing in expectation of what next is to come to the human race in the way of some great calamity.” That expectation of which he spoke might well deepen into the gravest apprehension, for the signs are many that those hitherto unknown calamities that the Exile in Patmos saw in Apocalyptic Vision are hastening to overwhelm this rebel world.

GREAT CHANGES MUST COME . The entrance of the Turk into the conflict is portentous, for if we rightly read the Prophetic Word, that once proud and vicious empire must fail, and the northern portion at least of its dominion must come under the rule of the King of the North ( Russia ), and this would seem to be the probable result of its present folly. It must cease to hold the Holy Land also, for this must come into the hands of the Jews. They will take possession of it in unbelief, and there pass through such a furnace of persecution as has not been witnessed since the world began.

The armies of the kings of the whole habitable world will be attracted to that land as by a mighty magnet, driven there also, by the spirits of demons (Rev. 16), in high rebellion against God, and there shall they perish in the great ARMAGEDDON; for there shall the King of kings tread “the wine press of the fierceness of Almighty God,” until the blood flows even to the horses' bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs, or two hundred miles, the entire length of the land (Rev. 14:20).

The absence of a great military genius in the present war will tend to its prolongation, which will weaken all the nations engaged in it, and especially the Governments of them, and so make the way easy for that terrible anarchy that shall prevail over Europe and beyond its bounds, in comparison with which the French Revolution will appear like a nursery game. It will be through a terrible travail of that kind, that highly favoured, but then apostate, Christendom will bring to birth the Beast, to whom Satan will delegate his power (Rev. 13).

But those birth throes will be but the beginning of sorrows, overwhelming woes shall follow them: the death pangs of all the hopes that man will place in the Beast and his false prophet—those two devil-inspired monsters of iniquity—the perfect supermen, who will attempt to blot the name of God from the earth and exalt themselves to His throne, and marshal their hosts of fighting men to keep the Lamb out of His inheritance. Unspeakably solemn for the men of Christendom are the words of 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 in this connection.

“And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: Even him , whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Truly the night cometh, the devastating blackness of which shall be unrelieved by a single star for those who “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” We do not assert that these terrible happenings will immediately follow upon this war, but that the way for them is being prepared by it, and if a breathing space is given, it will only be a time of preparation for the final cataclysm.

But before that night of unparalleled wrath sweeps over a grace-rejecting world, the believer will be in the glory of his Lord, for he has “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, even Jesus, whom He raised from the dead, our Deliverer from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). To Him the Spirit and the bride say, Come, and in answer to their cry He will come; and He may come at any moment, first to claim His own, and then to establish righteousness in the earth, and

“Bid the whole creation smile

And hush its groan.”

Thank God, the morning cometh!

In considering the present condition of things in the world and their outcome, men and their achievements are apt to loom too large in our eyes, for we are men, and far too little place be given to the spirit forces that work behind the scenes.

The fact is that everything that men do that is eternally good and enduring is done under the constraint and the power of God the Holy Ghost, and everything that is done in disobedience to God is provoked and energized by the powers of evil. Nothing can be clearer than this in Scripture. Take such a passage as Ephesians 2:1-2, “You were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Satan is the prince of the power of the air, and he is behind man's disobedience to God; he is the subtle schemer and they are but his puppets; and men are willing to carry out his schemes, for their hearts are at enmity against God.

Now Satan has legions of spirit beings at his command: Ephesians 6:12 speaks of them: “principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, wicked spirits in the heavenly places” (margin). These find an outlet for their diabolical energies, and express their evil character in the great movements of the world—political, social, economical, military, and religious; they are very plausible but most deceptive, and their real object is the forcing of God out of the world and the final destruction of men. And men are carried on the tide of these movements, believing, the while, that they have originated them, and that the outcome of them will be the final glory of man.

When we come to the Revelation these spirit forces come into clearer manifestation, for there is unfolded for us the great final struggle between good and evil, God and the devil; this earth and mankind being the battlefield. In the chapters that refer to this present time we find “Satan's seat,” “Satan's dwelling” (2:13), “Satan's depths” (2:24), “Satan's synagogue” (3:9). He has a form of government by which he controls men, “the power of darkness” (Col. 1), designed in imitation of God's, and as perfect and strong as his wisdom and power can make it.

As the book unfolds, his activities come more into evidence, but there is not a work of mercy among them, all are utterly evil; he is a deceiver and a murderer from the beginning—“the dragon, that old serpent, the devil, and Satan” (Rev. 20:2)—and his angels, from the most exalted prince to the meanest demon, are all like him. The awful world-wide misery and devastation, and the terrible torments inflicted upon men, that the Revelation predicts, prior to the revelation of the wrath of God against them, is the devil's work and not God's; much of it may be perpetrated by men upon each other, but his is the plan and the energy behind it all. He is the great destroyer, and but for the restraining power of Almighty God in His long-suffering with men, he would long ago have brought about universal physical, as well as moral, chaos. When the day of grace is over and the church has gone from earth, God will remove the restraint, and the devil will be permitted to do his will, that it may be demonstrated to the universe how terrible a choice man made when he turned from God and His goodness; in which choice, alas, he has persisted, refusing to be reconciled to Him.

These powers of darkness under the devil's control are not idle now; they are growing bolder as the churches' pilgrimage on earth is drawing to its close. In every direction their work is evident; it is seen in the growing apostasy, the boldness with which men are denying the truth of God and casting aside the Bible, for they hate God and would rob men of His truth; it is seen in the awful carnage on the battlefield, for they do not love men and would destroy them utterly.

How the devil must have laughed of late, as many who stood in the place of ministers of God, and ought to have known better, exulted in the progress of civilization, and the spread of culture, and the march of science and of universal brotherhood, and the solidarity of the race; and who saw visions, and prophesied of the kingdom of the Lord along that attractive road! What now? Their visions were a baseless fabric; and their gorgeous hopes are blasted, and as completely destroyed as any Belgian fort battered and broken by German shells. The whole resources of the civilization in which they hoped, and the latest devices of science in which they boasted, are being eagerly used for the destruction of men by each other; and the most progressive nations on earth, who, according to them, were to carry the kingdom of God, mainly through Higher Criticism, to races less favoured, are pouring forth their hatred of each other from the cannon's mouth. And if the bewildering wickedness of it all is relieved by any kindness, manifested in the way of care for the souls and the bodies of men, it is because true Christianity is still in the world. How awful will things be when this is gone!

Different degrees of guilt in this matter there undoubtedly are, and we are sure that some, at least, of the belligerents had no desire for the fight, and bear no great enmity against those they are fighting. Nevertheless, proof enough is given in earth, and air, and sea, that the kingdoms of this world are not yet His who came to save men's lives, but that the Word is true which says, “the whole world lieth in wickedness (or, the wicked one)” (1 John 5:19). The devil is its “prince” (John 12:31), and its “god” (2 Cor. 4:4).

OUR CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN (Phil. 3:20). And we are not of this world (John 17:16). These are truths which are often stated, but how little understood by those of whom they are stated; and how few there are who take them up wholly in the simplicity of faith and live according to them. Yet they lie at the very basis of all Christian testimony in the world, and no Christian is an intelligent and true witness for Christ who is not, in some measure at least, acting upon them. The instincts that belong to the new life within the child of God answers to these great truths, and he shrinks from the world and its evil, and longs to breathe more fully the air of his home-land—unless beguiled by that cunning craftiness of the devil's teaching, so largely adopted by Christendom, that Christianity is only one of the world-forces set in motion for the progress of humanity. The fact is that identification with the world's ambitious schemes, as well as complicity, in its evil, is a practical denial of the Christian position. “ They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world .” How a thousand difficulties disappear in the presence of such words, spoken by the One who has set Himself apart in heaven for our sakes! And how clear and straight a path through this world shines before us in them!

“We are but strangers here,

Within a foreign land,

Our home is far away

Upon a golden strand.

Ambassadors are we

For Christ beyond the sea.

We're here on business for THE KING.”

“Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

The Christian's place is that of an intercessor before God for those in sorrow and for all men, and the more truly his “not of the world” character and heavenly calling is understood by him, the better he will be able to intercede. We must not be disinterested, much less indifferent spectators of what is going on in the world; its woes and wickedness should cause us grief of heart, and deeply exercise us before God and drive us to Him in prayer that strife may cease and the gospel of peace prosper. But if we become absorbed with our surroundings, or carried away by national feeling, or by human passions, we are so far unfitted to fill our high and holy place before God on behalf of men.

“We Have Sinned”

Notes of an address on 1 Samuel 7 at Sutton, 1939

 

“ Then Samuel took a stone, and set it up between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us ” (1 Samuel 7:12).

This bit of divinely-given history of the people of Israel may be a help to us in this time of distress. They were God's chosen people, He had redeemed them out of Egyptian bondage and given them the land of Canaan for a national home and a possession, but they had turned their backs upon Him and had chosen to worship and serve the gods of the heathen, with their unspeakable abominations, and God had left them to their own devices and the mercy of their foes: and bitterly they suffered for their folly. But now they had begun to yearn for the former days and to “lament after the Lord.” Samuel's faithful ministry among them and his intercession for them coupled with Philistine tyranny had done its work in their souls. Then Samuel spake to them on God's behalf. “If ye turn to the Lord with all your heart, put away the strange gods from among you, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistine. And the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth and served the Lord only.” The Lord did not turn from them when they turned to Him, for His mercy endureth for ever; He is the much-neglected but ever patient God, very pitiful and of tender mercy, and He is the same today for us as He was for those ancient people in their day; and we shall prove this as they did if we turn wholeheartedly to Him.

We cannot call any nation Christian in the vital sense of the word, for vital Christianity is intensely individual, the result of the new birth by the Holy Ghost, and personal faith in the Lord Jesus our Saviour. Yet the British nation professes the Christian religion. The heads of the German and Russian peoples have abandoned this position, but we may be thankful that the King of these realms in Privy Council has ordained this 1st day of October for a day of public prayer. The result may be largely formal, but we may be sure that thousands of sincere and sorely burdened hearts are sending up their cries to God this day. It would have been well if a call to repentance and confession had been joined to the call for prayer, for these are sorely needed. In our chapter it was when Israel repented of their idolatry and put away their false gods and confessed with repentance “we have sinned against the Lord” that Samuel interceded for them and God heard his prayer and delivered them.

If the question arises as to why repentance and confession are called for at this time in this land I will answer by reading from 2 Timothy. “This know, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves , covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful , unholy , without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God ; HAVING THE FORM OF GODLINESS BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF.”

We may plead that we have to look across the North Sea for “truce-breakers”, but where upon this earth are men lovers of themselves and of pleasure more than lovers of God than in this land? What a man loves more than God is his idol; and if God has not the first place in a man's life He has no place. But there is one charge in this heavy indictment and another in chapter 4 that I must put together and stress. “Having the form of godliness but denying the power thereof”, and “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine: but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” Here is not man's treachery to his fellows but a state of things in which religion is fashionable but God unreal and unwanted? The first is, broadly speaking, ritualism, and the second religious rationalism, and the second is worse than the first. In ritualism the profession is kept up, there are forms, ceremonies, sacraments and the outward parade of religion but the power is not there. “These people draw near with the lip but the heart as far from Me.” But rationalism—modernism, is the proud denial of God as He has revealed Himself in Christ, the record of which we have in the Holy Bible, and that by men who claim to lead the religious life of the people. The fable and farce of evolution has dispensed with the Creator, and since man is laboriously but successfully climbing out of the slime to a godlike stature and character, what need has he of a Redeemer? The blood that cleanseth from sin is an insult to him; he is his own Saviour and needs none other, and all this while still holding to the name of Christian.

These are the Ashtaroth and Baalim of modem Christendom, and must not God be against them? Surely because these false gods have been set up in this land there should be deep heart searching and confession and repentance in the church of God .

How do we stand in relation to these things? Hear what the word says, “Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY.” Have we done that? Do we separate ourselves in faithfulness to the Lord from all that is pretentious and false, and by standing for the truth bear witness against the false? How are we to intercede with God in this hour of need if we tolerate or sanction that which is obnoxious to Him? And how have we acted in regard to the inrush of modernism, bold criticism of God's holy Word, and the rejection of His great salvation secured for men by the blood of His dear Son? Hear what we ought to have done. “ Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine .” Have we done that, and endured afflictions in doing it, (many have in Germany ) or have we sought the easier path of bearing witness only among those who appreciate and applaud us?

There is surely need for repentance. “Be zealous therefore, and repent” is the Lord's own word to all who have ears to hear. But will the mass repent? I fear not, “for evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). The darkness will deepen and the evil increase until the Lord comes forth to judge the world in righteousness.

But the challenge is to every one of us. Are there no idols in our hearts and lives? We may not spurn God's holy gospel, but having believed it, are we governed by it? The last of the Apostles after discoursing on the blessedness of knowing the true God and Eternal life, and all the favour that has come to us as those who are born of God through Him, closes his Epistle with this solemn charge, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” God is sifting out the hearts of men, let us be swift to answer Him; let us yield our hearts to Him, and say, “Search me, O God.” Whatever challenges the supremacy of Christ in our lives is an idol, it is iniquity, and “if I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18). We cannot pray with sincerity if the eye is not single, or if the heart is divided, and because this is so it would be well for us if in the presence of God we went over these nineteen solemn features of these last days, beginning with “men shall be lovers of their own selves”, and ending with “having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” and discovered how we stand in regard to them.

The way that Israel travelled from their deep degradation to their triumphant Ebenezer is full of interest and instruction; let us consider the steps they took in this journey.

They lamented after the Lord and put away Baalim and Ashtaroth.

Most surely these days are like those of our chapter and if we are to have God as our helper and deliverer in days of darkness and distress we must begin where Israel began, and 2nd Timothy confirms this thought and helps us, for there we read, “Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ [the Lord] depart from iniquity” (chap. 2:19). “If a man purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honour” (v. 21). “Free also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (v. 22).

They gathered unto Samuel at Mizpeh.

They were united in their misery, but also in their search after God, and it was to Samuel they gathered, he was their hope, for he was the one great intercessor of his day, a type and foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus who ever liveth to make intercession for those who come to God through Him. It was to Mizpeh they came, and Mizpeh means the watch tower and reminds us of the words of the prophet Habakkuk, who at another crisis in Israel 's history said, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon my tower, and see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.” If we draw near to God in prayer we must heed His word to us. For His word is a light and lamp for our feet in the darkest of days, and there is no other.

They poured water out before the Lord and confessed, we have sinned against the Lord.

They owned in this dramatic way their helplessness and nothingness. Their sin and departure from God had brought them to their wits' end. It would be a blessed thing if this spirit of humility and confession spread among the people of God. “Humble yourselves in the sight of God and He shall lift you up.” “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” “Submit yourselves therefore unto God” (Jas. 4). To God we must look, our confidence must not be in mighty munitions and fearless battalions but in God. He fights for the humble, and approves of those who in their weakness look only to Him.

And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord.

The confession of sin and helplessness on the part of the people was right, their repentance was a proof of God's work within them, but more was necessary. God is holy and righteous, and on what ground could He meet them and bless them? Only on the ground of a spotless, sinless sacrifice. The eyes of all Israel were turned to the lamb that was sacrificed for them. Of course it spoke of Christ. The first word of public testimony that was given to Him when He appeared amongst men was, “Behold the Lamb of God.” He offered Himself without spot to God, and it was for us, for we read, “Christ also loved us, and hath given Himself FOR US, an offering and a sacrifice TO GOD for a sweet smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). The testimony of John the Baptist is our testimony. If any feel the burden of sin, we say, “Behold the Lamb of God”; if any are longing to be rid of the idols that have oppressed them and to be right with God, we say, “Behold the Lamb of God”; if any are looking on to the future with fear and uncertainty, we say, “Behold the Lamb of God.” In Him alone is salvation; His blood cleanseth from all sin. It is because of His perfect offering, and the efficacy of His blood that God can bless us and meet us when we turn to Him. God has set Jesus forth “a propitiation [meeting place] through faith in His blood.”

The blood of the Lamb of God has not only made complete atonement for the sins of all who believe, but it is to them the proof and measure of God's love, for He commendeth His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, and if this love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost who is given unto us, the Baalim and Ashtaroth must be swept out. What attraction could the fictions of Rome and the “vain babblings and opposition of science, falsely so called” have for those whose faith has grasped the meaning of the blood of the Lamb? and what place could dead forms and all the ceremonies that please the fleshly mind have with those who have seen God revealed in Jesus?

“ And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel : but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines and discomfitted them

We cannot say whether the war will be long or short; we make our requests known unto God, and tell Him all our fears, and desire nothing that would be contrary to His holy will. We may have to suffer deprivations, but He is able to sustain us in trials and carry us through. Spiritual victories against spiritual darkness and the rulers of it are greater than victories in the air or on the land or sea, for they are eternal in their issue, and these victories God will give us if we turn to Him. His eyes “run to and fro in the whole earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him”, and “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

“ Then Samuel took a stone. . . and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. ”

We may leave the issue of the great conflict now raging with God. He has said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Rom. 12:9), and not one word of His will fail, but we may pray that His chastening hand may not be in vain on this greatly favoured land, but that many may turn to Him wholly and find their strength and solace in Him whatever the future may hold. He is good, a very present help in time of trouble and He knoweth them that trust in Him, and all such will surely build their Ebenezer to His glory, for none ever trusted Him in vain.

A Christian who had had fifty years' experience of the goodness of God said that if she had raised a stone of remembrance every time the Lord had helped her, she would have built a solid wall fifty years in length. She had found the Lord ever by her side, a very present help, renewing His mercies every morning, and never failing in His compassions. And many can say, and we among them, “there has not failed one good word that He has spoken, ” and if in our wall of Ebenezers there are gaps, they mark the times when in self-sufficiency and pride we thought we could manage our own affairs without reference to God; then we had to learn sore lessons as to our folly, and own that independence of the Lord meant disaster for us. But even then He was not far from us, and as when He arose from the dead He appeared to defeated Simon (Luke 24), so has He often proved to us that His grace is greater than our failure. And because of all this we can say, as we look back on the past, “ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us .” We have been kept by the power of God, and with confidence we can look on to the future when He will present us “ faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy .” To Him be thanksgiving and praise both now and for ever!

“We Know”

 

“ Change and decay in all around I see .” We shrink from changes as a rule, especially if we have passed out of the hopeful days of youth. Yet if changes come that are not of our own seeking we need not fear them at all. The greatest change that we can know in this mortal life is the end of it, the dissolution of this earthly house of our tabernacle. But suppose this great change comes, whether gradually, by the loosening of the cords and the pulling up of the stakes by disease or old age, or suddenly, as by a hurricane out of the blue that gives neither warning nor reprieve. What then? We know that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ” (2 Cor. 5:1). A familiar text, but how comforting is the knowledge of which it speaks. It is one of those great and decisive texts that leave no room for question or doubt. It tells us of mortality being swallowed up of life, of a body a home and surroundings that await us as incorruptible and abiding as God Himself, who is the Author of them. We shall certainly rejoice in, and earnestly desire this greatest and last of all changes for us if the glory of God that shines in the face of Jesus has cast its most blessed attraction upon us.

But if we need not fear the greatest change of all, need we fear the lesser changes as we . . .

“Nightly pitch our moving tent

A day's march nearer home”?

Certainly not. They are not the result of some irresponsible or hostile force that wages war against our ultimate good, but they are for our training and chastening here and yield present and eternal fruit. They come from the hand of Him whose faithful love will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able to bear and who turns all things to our good.

The vicissitudes of life are “our present light affliction which is but for a moment,” and they are not without purpose or void of blessing, but “WORKETH FOR US A FAR MORE EXCEEDING AND ETERNAL WEIGHT OR GLORY.” This is not theology, cold and pulseless, but the sure word of God to be taken up by us in triumphant faith. It is not human fortitude, much less insensibility to suffering, that takes up such language and gives this serenity of soul. No, it is the divine life in the Christian, strengthened and made glad by the glory of the grace that shines in the face of Jesus, stretching out beyond the changing things of time to those eternal things which God has set before us—

“But who that glorious blaze

Of living light shall tell

Where all His brightness God displays,

And the Lamb's glories dwell?”

We look for Christ

 

There can be no improvement in a world that rejected Christ and continues to refuse Him His rights. Dispelled already are the delusions of those flatterers of humanity who for years have cried, “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace; and equally vain are the hopes of those who are comforting themselves with the conjecture that as a result of the present welter of blood the wolf shall lie down with the lamb and the nations learn war no more.

The Bible is the Christian's chart, and no such universal and perpetual quiet by the consent of humanity as these would-be prophets predict is marked upon its infallible page. Such a peace is coming, but it will be when the kingdoms of earth become the kingdoms of Christ, whose right they are, and against that glorious event the whole energy of humanity will be marshalled, for deluded by the devil the world does not know the things that make for its peace. “ Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways. The way of peace have they not known it. There is no fear of God before the eyes ” (Rom. 3).

The world's trial is past; its own judgment as to God and His Christ was definitely and finally recorded when they cried, “Away with Him, crucify Him.” Sentence has gone out against it, and the wrath of God will presently execute that sentence. But those who have turned to God to serve the living and true God are no longer of the world, and they await His Son from heaven, even Jesus, who died for us to deliver us from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1).

To some the coming of the Lord to take His saints out of this world may seem long delayed, and a weariness may have crept over the spirit and the freshness of the hope declined, and slumber as regards that great event supervened. May the Lord in these times of trouble awaken His saints from sleep and restore the joy of this hope where it has been lost.

If His coming seems to tarry we must still wait for it, for the just shall live by FAITH. “For yet a very little while He that comes will come, and will not delay” (Heb. 10:37, N.Tr.). Meanwhile we know the reason why the “little while” has been and is still extended, for the Bible makes all things plain. It is God's long-suffering with men. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

If God is not slack concerning His promise, may we not be slack in looking for the fulfilment of it, and meanwhile, in sympathy with His incomparable grace to men, be diligent in spreading the gospel of His salvation, which saves men from the world and its delusions and the wrath which is most surely coming upon it.

 

“Well-pleasing to Him”

Report of an address given at a gathering of young Christians at Leeds on Oct 22nd 1932 on 2 Corinthians 5

 

That may not appear to be a very suitable Scripture to read and speak from at a gathering of young Christians. What with the dissolution of this tabernacle, our body, in which we are said to groan, and the desire to be absent from it, and the word in the previous chapter about the outward man perishing, it does indeed seem to be an old man's chapter, and so it is, but what is good for the old is good for the young, and Scripture adapts itself to every state and phase of spiritual life and growth. Young as some of you are there is one sentence in it that I know will appeal to your heart if you love the Saviour; it is verse 9, and I will read it as it ought to be. “ Wherefore we labour that whether present or absent we may be well-pleasing to Him .” That is my text. The “Him” of it is the One who died for you, your Saviour and your Lord. You will all agree with me when I say that we could have no higher and more blessed aim or ambition in life than that, and also that we ought not to have a lesser one. No life can be right and successful that has not the right aim, and this is the Christian's right aim, to be well-pleasing to his Lord. The life that has this aim will be a happy life; it will be a life moreover that will be useful and full of blessing for others, and most and best of all, it will glorify the Lord. Truly this aim must be yours; you will be hopeless and miserable failures if it is not, and we do not want you to be that. You must labour to be well-pleasing to Him, there are a thousand reasons why you must.

Now Paul, the writer of the Epistle, speaking for himself and his fellows, says, We labour to be well-pleasing to Him. We realize as we read the words that this is not a mere pastime, something about which we may be more or less indifferent, and take it up and put it down as the mood takes us. Paul was zealous about it; it was his great purpose in life and to it he bent all the vigour of his saved and devoted soul. It must be so with you if you are to make anything of this Christian living, for of a truth if you are not well-pleasing to Him, you will please nobody worth considering, and if you are to please Him you will have to labour for it. And that rules out other objects and pursuits; it means a bending of all your energies to this purpose.

If you are to do this you must, of course, be free from all anxious thought about yourself. Some of you may not yet have the assurance of salvation. You are happy sometimes, in the gospel meetings for instance, when the Name of Jesus is sweetly proclaimed, but at other times you are just as miserable and uncertain. If that is the case with any of you, you cannot labour to be well-pleasing to Him, for you are self-centred and thinking of your own blessing, and quite right too, until that question is a settled one with you. Look at the end of our chapter, “ God hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him .” That wonderful statement ought to satisfy your anxious longings and still your fears. In amazing love to us God made Christ, our great Substitute, all that we were in our sinfulness, when He suffered for us on the cross, that we might become all that He is in righteousness now before God. He was charged with our guilt, for the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all, but more than that, He was made sin for us. He suffered for what we were as well as for what we had done, that there might not remain one stroke of judgment for us either because of what we were or had done, but that we might be received into everlasting favour. And now for all who believe it is true, that though they were lost and vile indeed, to every sin a prey, and could do nothing else but sin because of the very nature that was in them, yet now as a result of and on the basis of that great sin offering they are made the very righteousness of God in Christ. God will be able to say to the intelligent universe, “If you want to see My righteousness, the way I can act in blessing in complete consistency with My eternal justice, look at those who were once in their sins and Satan's slaves, but are now in Christ before Me.” If you are in Christ there is no condemnation for you, you stand in grace and favour before God, favour which is as changeless as God Himself. Consider that great statement well, pray that you may understand it, and cast away your doubts and fears for ever.

Questions as to the future may trouble you and prevent you from labouring to be well-pleasing to your Lord, you may be afraid of the changes that such an aim and purpose might involve you in. You don't know what His will might mean for you, and you shrink from wholly yielding to it. Well, the beginning of the chapter describes the greatest of all changes in our lives.

“If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The greatest of all changes means the greatest of all blessings, and every other change in our lives which shall be according to God's will, will bring to us fresh blessing. We speak with absolute and unshakable confidence as to the final change; we cry with exultation, “We know,” and we may have the same assurance as to every other change, for it is written, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” You then, young Christian, may look back on the past and view it in true Christian peace. You may face the future and press on to it in this blessed Christian confidence, and free from all anxiety and fear labour to be well-pleasing to your Lord,

But others say, “These are not the questions that trouble me, what hinders me, and what I deeply deplore is my coldness of heart. I never loved the Lord very well, but I seem to have lost what little love I had, and how can I labour to be well-pleasing to Him when my heart is cold and fickle.” Look again at our chapter, verse 14 says, “ For the love of Christ constraineth us .” This love of Christ only will avail to rekindle the divine embers of love to Him in any heart, but it is enough. This love constrained Paul to labour and endure the most extraordinary suffering, and it will act in like manner in you if you will let it. I hope you all read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, especially the second part of that immortal story; in it you will find much profitable talk, and especially from the mouth of Greatheart, the warrior pilgrim. Well, when in that story old Honest desired to join the pilgrim band, he had to give an account of himself to them, and he said, “I come from the town of Stupidity , it lieth about four degrees beyond the city of Destruction .”

“I have often wondered,” remarked Greatheart, “that any should come from your place; for your town is worse than is the city of Destruction .”

“Yes,” said old Honest, “we lie more off the sun, and so are more cold and senseless. But were a man in a mountain of ice, yet if the Sun of Righteousness will rise upon him, his frozen heart shall feel a thaw, and THUS IT HATH BEEN WITH ME

“I believe it, father Honest, I believe it,” cried Greatheart, “for I know the thing is true.”

That is it: let but one ray of the love of Christ into your heart and it will thaw its iciness, and warm its coldness, and it will operate in constraining power, and you will not desire to live unto yourself but unto Him who died for you and rose again. The love of Christ! What a theme it is! How tender yet how strong it is! It passeth knowledge, and you can say, He “loved me and gave Himself for me”!

Yet still you plead your weakness; you have the desire, but how to realize it you know not. Turn again to our chapter. Verse 5 tells us that God has wrought us for the glory, for that magnificent destiny that the first verse describes, and it also tells us that He has given to us the earnest of His Spirit. The Spirit of God dwells in you, to make the love of Christ a present and living reality to you and to foster your desires to be well-pleasing to your Lord, labouring with that object in view. You are not cast upon your natural powers for that would be vain indeed; the Spirit is in you as the power by which Christ strengthens you to do His will, and the Spirit does not work in vain.

Now to be well-pleasing to any person you must know him, and it is even so with your Lord, and you cannot know Him intimately and well if you do not spend much time with Him. You must live unto Him and not unto yourself. I am sure you will gladly admit the rightness of that, for if He died for you that you might live the life you live should be unto and for Him. I am not talking now so much of your service, though He does appreciate your service. It pleases the Lord when a young brother stands up and out of a full heart tells what a dear Saviour he has found, and when a young sister gathers a few children about her to tell them of Him, but this must flow from acquaintance with Him if it is to have its full value in His eyes. Do you remember that when He chose His apostles, it was not that He might send them forth to preach, first of all, but that they might be with Him; the preaching followed that. We are well-pleasing to Him when we desire His company above all things else and when His love is better to us than wine. John was well-pleasing to the Lord when he put his head down upon His bosom, and he was not an old grey haired brother when he did that; he was the youngest of the disciples, and as far as we can make out, not more than twenty at the time. He found his solace in a time of trouble on that breast, in which the tenderest heart in the universe beats, and when the great test came and all the older brethren fled, this youth of twenty with a few women stood by the cross of Jesus. And his Lord was able to trust him, to entrust to him his mother, a most precious legacy, for to him, and not to Peter, He said, “Son, behold thy mother.” Put your head on His bosom, there is room for it there and as you do you will live unto Him; you will be His friend and He will be able to trust you and when the test comes you will witness, and when the opportunity arrives you will serve, and your witness and service will be well-pleasing to Him. Yes, in these smoky, sordid West Riding towns with their sin and sorrow and misery, you will be well-pleasing to Him.

Finally, the time is coming when He will show us everything as He sees it. “ For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad ” (v. 10). The review will take place and we shall all stand face to face with our Lord at last, and give an account to him as to how we have lived. And some of you say, “I don't like the thought of the judgment seat of Christ; it makes me tremble.” Well it may not do you any harm to tremble a little; it may indeed be good for you and make you seek the Lord more truly now and learn the infinite efficacy of His one sacrifice that gives a purged conscience and peace with God even in view of the judgment seat of Christ. And if His love with you is made perfect, you will have boldness in the day of judgment because as He is so are you in this world.

You will see everything in that day as He sees it, and you shall know as you are known; and it will give Him great joy to show His approval of all that has pleased Him in your life and to put the crown on your brow, which you will cast with gratitude and adoration at His feet. How glad you'll be to have a crown to cast before Him then, then see to it that you labour for it now. There will be much that will not bear His scrutiny. The wood, hay and stubble will all be burnt up, and everything will be lost that has not been well-pleasing to Him. Yes, with some there may be days, weeks, months, perhaps years of life—all lost.

I was asked to visit a young man. He had professed the Saviour's Name as a boy, but when in his teens the world put in a claim for him and he yielded to it, and lived for sport and pleasure and forgot the Lord, and at twenty-nine he was dying of consumption. He was unresponsive to anything that I could say; the world had cast its chilly blight upon his soul and he seemed insensible to the Word. But that night or the next, he awoke out of his sleep in a state of great excitement. And after a while he told his wife the cause of it. He had dreamt that he was in an exhibition of wood carving work. He was himself an expert in that branch of art, and many fine pieces of his own were there. Suddenly the building burst into flames and he managed to escape almost miraculously through a window, and only just in time, for the whole structure collapsed and buried in its ruins every bit of work in it. No wonder he was excited, for he saw the meaning of his dream. His life was like that. He was going into heaven truly, his soul was saved, but all his life was lost. The thought filled him with regret. He might have lived those dozen years well-pleasing to the Lord, but he had wasted them, they were lost years. It is true that his soul was restored, for the grace of the Lord is unbounded, but the joy was mingled with sorrow. A friend called to see him and he said, “It is kind of you to come and see me, but don't stay. I am going to spend my eternity with Jesus, and I know so little about Him; I want to spend all the time I can with Him now.” In a few days he went home, through the merits of the Saviour's blood, but he left his wasted years behind, all lost.

O gracious and living Lord, grant in Thine infinite grace that not one here shall have that bitter experience, but may we, whatever our past has been, live henceforth not unto ourselves but unto Thee, and so be well-pleasing to Thee. For Thy dear Name's sake. Amen.

What Grace Does for Us

 

We knew a man who was brought to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour in his old age. His gratitude for the grace that had saved him was very deep, and it was always a pleasure to talk with him.

He was on his eighty-second birthday, to partake, for the first time, of the Lord's Supper in remembrance of the Lord in death—the greatest privilege that any Christian can enjoy on earth—and we called at his house on that Lord's Day morning to help him to the gathering where this was to take place. He told us that he had passed through a great conflict during the night He had been thinking of his long life of sinful selfishness, and of his own utter unworthiness, and the devil had attacked him in his self-occupation and said, “You are not fit to sit down with God's people and take the Lord's Supper. You are altogether unworthy, and had better give up your intention of doing it.” He told us that his distress was very great for hours, when quite suddenly the thought came to his mind, If his Majesty the King were to invite me to feast with him at his palace, he would have to provide me with a suit of court dress, for I am a poor man and could not purchase one myself. And if the Lord invites me to His “banqueting house” to feast with Him, will He do less than this? Then he remembered the parable of the prodigal, upon whom the best robe was put. He remembered the wonderful words of Ephesians 1:6, which tell us that God “hath made us acceptable in the Beloved.” These thoughts banished all the darkness and distress from his mind and made him exult in that abounding grace that does everything that is needful for its objects, and in that great love which had put him in Christ and clothed him in all His perfection. In the consciousness of this he rejoiced that morning; and being set free from self-occupation was able to glory in the Lord.

There may be some amongst our readers who are often in similar distress about their unworthiness. Let us say to such that self-occupation can only distress you the more, though self-judgment is always wholesome and needful. Grace looked for no merit in you when it laboured to win you. The Lord did not save you because of your worthiness, for you had none to plead before Him, and it is not now a question of what you are, but of what He is—

“Thou art healed by His stripes,

Would'st thou add to that word?

And He is thy righteousness made,

The best robe of heaven on thee He has put;

Oh, could'st thou be better arrayed?”

Your unworthiness, if you think of yourself, could not be more absolute than it is, but Christ who bore your load of sins upon the tree, and who is now raised from the dead, is your righteousness, your acceptance, your beauty in the sight of God, and the highest angel in heaven is not so well clad as are you, nor so fit to be in the presence of God as you are in Christ.

Then give “thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12); and gratefully and with lowliness of mind take up every Christian privilege that He puts within your reach for His name's sake.

So shall the devil's intentions be thwarted, for he would make your heart miserable and your mouth dumb so that God shall get no praise from you, for he knows that whoso offereth praise glorifieth God.

What is Meant by the Lord's Table?

 

In response to our invitation we have received letters regarding the paper entitled, “What is Meant by the Lord's Table?” which appeared in our June issue. The question that has raised most enquiry is, “Is it possible to put a person away from the Lord's Table?” And about this we feel that something more needs to be said. Our readers will readily agree that it is both safe and wise in an enquiry of this sort to discard phrases and terms, no matter how long honoured, and take up in their stead words of Scripture, especially so as in this very epistle (1 Cor.) we are told that the Apostle unfolded these things “not in the words that man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (chap. 2:13).

Instruction as to putting away a wicked person is given in chapter 5; the Lord's Table is the theme of chapter 10; and we must not overlook the fact that the Lord's Table is not mentioned in the former chapter, nor has putting away by the assembly any place in the latter, and we believe that the confusing of the two has led to the weakening of the lines of truth in both.

Chapter 5 brings out the solemn truth that the Christian company is an unleavened company (v. 7), sanctified in Christ Jesus (chap. 1:2). A company set apart for God, Christ Jesus being the measure of that sanctification. But in order to this all the evil that they had done, and all that they were as to their former sinful state (chap. 6:9-11) had first to come under God's unsparing judgment, and this took place when Christ our passover was slain for us. They had appropriated this judgment to themselves when they believed the gospel, but it had to be kept up by them continuously, they had “to keep the feast . . . with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Having become the temple of God , which temple is holy (chap. 3:16-17), they had to maintain their separation from the evil of the flesh and the world. Their sense of this had become dulled, or had never been truly awakened. They were not alarmed or grieved at the outbreak of sin in their midst, hence the need of the tone that the Apostle adopts towards them as to their own state. But there was more than this; he commands them with Apostolic authority, and as inspired by the Holy Ghost to “ put away from among YOURSELVES that wicked person ” (v. 13). The continued presence of this evil-doer with them as one of themselves was a denial of the holiness of God's temple, which temple they were, and a falsification of the fact that they were “called saints,” and “sanctified in Christ Jesus.”

This command to put away such a one holds good to this day; no plea of weakness or the divided state of the assembly of God can relieve us of this solemn obligation when need arises; and where there is indifference to it, or wilful disobedience of it, there is an association that is virtually denying the truth that “Christ our passover is slain for us”—the truth that lies at the very threshold of our relationships with God and one another.

The man put away according to this word would be put away from all privileges that Christians share in common, that is, assembly privileges. He would be put away from all his former intercourse with those who partake of those, as being unfitted by his state and conduct for such intercourse; he would be “without” and not “within.” Thus would his brethren express towards him their abhorrence of evil, and maintain what was due to the Lord's name.

But the substitution of the term “put away from the Lord's table” for “put away from among yourselves,” has led to the false thought that one so dealt with was merely to be deprived of participation in the Lord's Supper, but might still be allowed to maintain all other kinds of intercourse with the saints, and the inevitable consequence of this, to those who come under this judgment of their brethren, is that the seriousness of their position is not felt, and they have not been brought to that deep repentance and abhorrence of their sin as was the man of 1 Corinthians 5. And the saints themselves have failed to realize, not the holiness of the Supper merely, for that does not come in here, but the holiness of the Christian company, what they themselves are as an unleavened company, sanctified in Christ Jesus. This latter is of the greatest importance, and should cause us much exercise of heart.

If the necessity for maintaining practically the unleavened character of the Christian assembly had been realized the church of God would have been delivered from that indifference to true holiness that has defiled it. On the other hand, if the seriousness of such action as is here commanded were seen, how that it is not merely discipline , which word has a more general use, but JUDGMENT—the last act of the assembly in regard to a person who has proved himself to be unfit for Christian intercourse, it could not be treated in a light-hearted way, or meted out to those to whom it does not apply.

Chapter 10 presents another side of the truth. Our communication with one another is not the prominent thought here, but our identification with the Lord. In chapter 5 “among you,” “yourselves” and “keeping company” occur, but here it is “the Lord,” “the cup of the Lord” and “the Lord's table.” It is not here a question of the assembly clearing itself of an evil-doer when need arises, but the Lord's own jealousy as to what is due to Himself and in consequence His direct dealings with His own.

The Apostle begins by citing Israel as typical of the Christian position. They were all identified with Moses in the cloud and sea, and did all eat of the manna and drink of the spiritual Rock which was Christ. They were maintained by the bounty of the Lord, and yet they perished when they were unfaithful to their covenant with Him. They moved the Lord to jealousy by their conduct, and He did not call upon Moses or the congregation to judge them, but He did it Himself. Do we not get an example of this judgment of the Lord exercised in chapter 11:29-32? “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep.” Exception has been taken to the statement, “We cannot put away from the Lord's table and God won't,” and the latter part of the statement is probably open to question, for those who were removed by the Lord's hand in death were removed from His table—which undoubtedly means identification with Himself , and participation, in common with all His members, in all the blessings that His death has secured for them here upon earth . We shall not have the Lord's table in heaven. It is in the midst of our enemies, and His, that He has spread it for us.

Others are writing on the subject, and so we proceed no further, our object in these brief notes being, not to explain what the Lord's table is, but to show the difference between 1 Corinthians 5 and 10.

What is Salvation?

 

There are some who look upon salvation as something they have received in the same way as they might receive a present by parcel post. It was good and kind of the Lord, and an evidence of His love to them, to send it to them. They had but to receive it, and had nothing to pay for it, for He paid the full price upon the cross, and now it is theirs. But though they have it, He, the Saviour, they imagine, like a friend who sends a present to them, remains at a great distance from them. This is an utterly false conception of the grace and ways of God, and accounts for much of the joylessness and retrogression of many converted people.

When the heart of Zacchaeus began to hunger for something better than gold, he climbed into a tree to see Jesus. It is more than likely that he could not then have given articulation to his deep longing, but Jesus knew it, and answered it in those words which must have filled the tax-gatherer with amazement, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thy house .” And when the Lord reached the threshold of that hitherto godless and joyless house, He said, “This day is salvation come to this house.” But why and how had salvation come there? It was because He, the Saviour, had come. Salvation is in Him, He is it; and in having Him we have salvation, and every other priceless blessing that God can give. He does not send salvation, He brings it; and where He is received there He abides, saying, “ I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee ” (Heb. 13:5). It is as though He said, “I have sought you so long, and love you so well, that never again will I allow you out of my company and care!” This is salvation—blessed, present, every day, and all-the-way salvation. It means to be protected, cared for, and upheld by the ever-present and infinitely tender Saviour, who has suffered for our sins, endured all our judgment, broken the dominion of the devil, and lives—yes, LIVES—as the Victor over death, for those who trust in Him.

Bless, bless the Conqueror slain,

Slain in His victory;

Who lived, who died, who lives again

For thee, His church, for thee.

What a living, blessed, joyful, pulsating matter salvation becomes when it dawns upon the soul that it is in Christ Jesus; that it is ours because He is ours and we are His; that we are joined to the Lord by everlasting bonds, and bonds that no device of the devil nor power of hell can sever. Nothing less than this would suit Him, and meet our need. Anything else is but a human conception of a divine reality.

“What—know ye not?”

 

“ 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, and in your spirit, which are God's ” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

 

There are two reasons why we are not our own. (1) The Spirit has taken possession of us for God. (2) We are bought with a price, even the blood of Christ; it is a completed purchase. Purchased by blood, possessed by the Spirit, to be for God and His glory, our bodies are not our own to do as we will with them; we have no right to give them over to sin. The last words of the verse are not a cold, logical deduction from a previous argument, but an earnest exhortation suggested by the solemn thought of our oneness with Christ, and the price paid by Him to make us His.

“When Ye Come Together”

 

We desire to press upon our readers the necessity of deep heart-searchings before God as to the present general condition of things, and the lack of spiritual power and freshness in the gatherings together of the saints of God. Much depends in the way of testimony to those without, as well as edification to those within, upon the condition of the assemblies of the saints (1 Cor. 14), and the glory of the Lord is ultimately linked up with it. Thence the importance of the subject.

When the soul is not honest and open before God it is easy to persuade oneself that things are not so bad after all, better, at least, in the limited circle in which we move than in any other. We exaggerate what seems right and minimize what is undoubtedly wrong, and compare ourselves with others to our own advantage, and in so doing we are like children playing at “let's pretend,” and all the advantages of such folly go to our tireless and subtle enemy. Delusions of this sort are specially fatal, for they hinder us from going to God in true soul exercise and learning in His presence how we appear before Him, which is the only road of recovery.

It will do us no harm to hear what solemn things God had to say to His people of old. They might well come home to us today. He said, “ This people draw near to Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men ” (Isa. 29:13). That indictment described THEIR PRAYERS AND WORSHIP WHEN THEY PROFESSEDLY GATHERED TO HIM. Do they describe ours? and do our consciences stir uneasily as we read the words? Notice what went along with this condition, that which probably was the chief cause of it—the precept of men had taken the place of the Word of God and His fear. The Word had been ousted from its authoritative place, and precept and tradition had become the rule of conduct, and they walked in the fear of what men thought and taught instead of the fear of God. Consequently the Word was a sealed book to them; seers, prophets, and rulers could not understand it and the unlearned could not read it. The whole state is laid bare in this solemn passage (vv. 10-13).

But is not this increasingly the condition of things today? How often does some teaching, tradition, or man-made rule bind the conscience instead of the Word! How often is the plain Word—the commandments of God—neutralized, made of none effect by the precepts of men! Could any condition be more deplorable than this? For does it not prove that man is more to us than God, that God Himself has been displaced in the heart? It surely does, for “IF A MAN LOVE ME HE WILL KEEP MY WORDS.”

God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth, and if men's words have taken the place of His, this cannot be done, and to profess to draw near to Him in prayer or worship when the heart is removed from Him can only move His displeasure, for it is mere pretence. And where such a condition of things has set in recovery is needed, and recovery can only be reached by the way of repentance.

There is another solemn description of these people not less searching:

“ The children of thy people . . . speak to one another, everyone to his brother, saying, come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they came unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and THEY HEAR THY WORDS, BUT THEY WILL NOT DO THEM; for with their mouths they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument for THEY HEAR THY WORDS BUT THEY DO THEM NOT ” (Ezek. 33:30-32).

Here is described their gatherings for the PREACHING AND TEACHING OF THE WORD.

These people came to be interested and pleased by the preaching, to approve or to criticize as the word accorded or otherwise with their particular view of things, but they had no intention of being subject to the Word they heard. They did not gather with Samuel's cry in their hearts, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” Nor did they inquire with Saul of Tarsus, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Their minds were already made up to go their own way, and to please themselves.

Happy are we if this state of things does not describe the meetings with which we are familiar, but the test as to this surely is, “How much does all the preaching and teaching of the Word to which we have listened affect our practical living? Do we go forth from hearing the Word to do it? Or are we like these hypocrites of old who with their mouths showed love, but whose hearts went after their covetousness?” Solemn questions these, and yet it is only by searching and probing that the true condition of things is revealed.

There is a further passage which brings out the awful subtlety of the human heart, and proves the necessity of living before God if we are to be preserved from being deceived by it. It tells us that when Israel was in trouble under God's chastening hand, “ They sought Him and enquired early after God . . . Nevertheless they did flatter Him with their mouth, AND THEY LIED UNTO HIM WITH THEIR TONGUES. For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they steadfast in His covenant ” (Ps. 78:13-37).

“They lied unto Him with their tongues.” With these ancient people there was merely the wish to escape trouble, they did not intend to hear the rod, or learn the lesson that God's chastening love would teach them. They professed sorrow and piety, but it was hypocrisy. From such an awful condition may the good Lord deliver us. But we need to search our hearts. God is not less holy than ever He was, though the fullness of His grace has now revealed itself. For lying unto God Ananias and his wife were stricken with instant death. “Our God is a consuming fire.”

It will be noticed that in each of these scriptures quoted the heart has a prominent place.

1. They removed their heart from Me.

2. Their heart goeth after their covetousness.

3. For their heart was not right with Him.

Everything depends upon the heart—out of it are the issues of life. When the people of God become sick with this heart malady He alone can recover them, but how comforting it is to know that He is always ready to do this. The heart is reached through the conscience, and that again is reached by the Word, but the Word is ineffective unless there is revived in the soul the fear of God. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, it is the gate of every true blessing. Under its influence His Word assumes its proper sway in the conscience, enlightens the understanding, and revives the languishing faith, so that “GOD IS” becomes the prime fact in our lives. Men sink into their true insignificance, the thoughts and intents of our hearts are laid bare, judged, and repented of, and we and our brethren are all measured according to His presence.

“Whence Come Wars”?

 

The Self-Will of Man

There is an important statement of truth in Acts 17:26, “ God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitations , that they should seek after God.”

It should be evident to all that if men dwelt together as being of one blood and were contented to abide within those bounds set for them by God, humanity would not be disgraced by strife and bloodshed. But the history of the world is one long record of man's insubjection to God's ordering in this respect. Not that a man's habitation is sufficient to satisfy his heart no matter how wide the bounds of it may be. Alexander got the whole world, and then wept like a disappointed child because there were no others that he could get. God's intention was that men should seek after Him, for it is in Him alone that the human heart can find satisfaction, and when God is found by a man he is contented with his lot. So we read—“Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

In the day when THE TRUE KING shall rule with equity men shall no longer be insubject; “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig free” (Mic. 4:4)—that is, each will be contented with the holding apportioned to him, and he will not attempt to transgress the bounds of it; but that will be because he has found his satisfaction in God. “And in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree” (Zech. 3:10); that is, all shall recognize that they are of one blood and shall seek each other's good. The best that a man has in knowledge, skill, and strength will be put at his neighbour's disposal. Then the sword shall give place to the plough and nations shall learn war no more, but that day cannot come until the law of God is put into men's hearts and written in their minds; that is, the law of God will be loved by them, and it will control them—the law which says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.”

But this much-to-be-desired condition does not yet exist; men are still in rebellion against God; they are lawless, and sin is lawlessness.

Sin has affected man both in his relations with God and with his fellow men. As regards God he is insubject, as regards his fellows he is envious of their prosperity and covetous of their possessions. He is self-centred and will not admit God's right to command him and wants the best his neighbours possess for himself, and will not scruple, should a favourable opportunity occur, to bring all his powers into play to seize their wealth or land or glory. He will not LOOK UP TO GOD to find the satisfaction that no earthly possession can afford, for with his heart he hates God, but he looks North, South, East, and West, and tries to satisfy his covetous and empty heart by reaching beyond his appointed bounds and grasping that which belongs to others. This is one of the great causes of war and strife, whether between nations, individuals, or brethren.

“ Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even from your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war ” (Jas. 4).

 

Satan's Part in it

But Satan works behind the lawlessness and covetousness of men and makes use of them for the perpetration of his own designs.

Man supposes that in throwing off God's yoke and in doing, as he believes, his own pleasure, he is a free man. The fact is that when he first exercised his sinful will in opposition to God's will he became the servant and dupe of Satan.

Through man's sin and his rejection of Christ, who is the Prince of peace (Isa. 9:6) and the true God (1 John 5:20), Satan has acquired the place of prince of this world (John 12:31), and god of it (2 Cor. 4:4). He exercises his authority in the counsels of nations as the prince of the world through the spiritual powers that serve him—the universal lords of darkness (Eph. 6:12, N.Tr.; Dan. 10:13; Luke 4:6).

Now he to whom men have yielded and allied themselves in their opposition to God's claims is a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), he is the dragon or destroyer (Rev. 20:2). There is no pity in his breast, no mercy in his works, no peace for his dupes. Satan's domination of men must mean, so long as it lasts, “no peace” on earth. That he has strange, spiritual forces under his command for the stirring up of strife on the earth, when it suits his purpose, is revealed in connection with the great “Armageddon,” which is not yet. The Seer saw “three unclean spirits . . . the spirits of demons go out to the kings of the whole habitable world to gather them together to war of that great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 16:13-14, N.T). This remarkable revelation to John lays bare for us, we believe, an important secret as to the reason of warfare. It proceeds from the devil and it is fomented by demons, the devil's angels, and in this belief we are confirmed from 2 Chronicles 18. These are wholly evil, and though they may unite to oppose God and destroy men, love is foreign to their nature, and hatred is characteristic of them; thence strife must prevail in Satan's kingdom of darkness to which they belong, and to which also all men belong who refuse the gospel. The fact of Satan being “god” and “prince” of this world, then, is another cause of the shoutings of armed men upon the battlefields and the sobs of broken-hearted women at home.

 

The Government of God

But there is another side to this question, namely, the supreme government of God. His government is not yet in manifestation, for as we have pointed out, the devil is the prince of this world, and so we pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Nevertheless, God has not abandoned the earth to the will of man and Satan. He is the Judge of the whole earth, and the Almighty God. He says of unscrupulous men and to the forces of evil, as He says to the waves of the sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” And the wrath of man, when it breaks forth, shall be made to praise Him, and the remainder of the wrath shall He restrain (Ps. 76:10). So that whether it be the will of men or the malice of Satan they shall both alike be made to subserve the will of God.

Now the sword is spoken of as one of God's sore judgments. “For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast” (Ezek. 14:6).

Israel was greatly favoured by God in those olden days, and because they did not answer to the favour shown to them they came under His judgments and were punished by the sword. In this present period, the Gentiles, for the effectuation of God's purposes, have come into Israel 's outward place of favour. They, a wild olive branch, have been grafted into the olive root, while Israel , the natural branch, has been broken off for the time being (Rom. 11). How specially favoured of God have the European nations been, and particularly has this been so in respect to those that came under the cleansing and invigorating power of the Reformation. They have had free access to God's Word—that priceless treasure. But to what account has this favour of God been turned? They have turned it to their own aggrandisement. Unbelief, pride, and high-mindedness have flourished—the sins against which special warning is given in this very connection—and there has been very little of the fear of God before their eyes as a result of His favour (Rom. 11:20). We believe that this must be taken into account at this present time, for the greater the favour the greater the responsibility, and this men cannot escape. And if God has at this time withdrawn in measure His restraining hand, giving men and the evil powers behind them a loose rein for a while, may it not be one of His sore judgments upon the nations that have set His will so completely at defiance?

But such dealings of God with nations must not be confounded with His wrath that is still to come upon men at the coming of Christ because of their ungodliness and rejection of Christ, nor with the individual judgment of all who die without mercy at the great White Throne.

Every nation involved in the present war must suffer enormously, whether victorious or defeated, but can any say as they consider the way God has been defied and His Word rejected, by these nations, and their pride and unrighteousness, that chastisement is not overdue? We do not dogmatise about it, but so it seems to us.

To GERMANY was given the Reformation in large measure; and the Word of God put into the hands of the people proved to be a great lamp in the darkness for all who feared Him. But from this same Germany has gone forth that destructive criticism of that same Word, which has rolled in a whelming flood over the whole of Christendom, clearing the way for all that evil teaching which dethrones Christ from the throne of Deity and exalts humanity in a godless and terrible pride. For the place that New Theology, Christian Science, Theosophy, and kindred blasphemous teachings have gained in Christendom, modern criticism, which originated in Germany , is largely responsible. Has not God seen this? And may it not be that at the very end of the church's history upon earth He will open the eyes of multitudes of His saints who have been deceived and seduced by this German “learning and culture,” by showing that the casting off of God and His Word by a highly favoured nation can only result in so great an increase of human pride, that at last neither the fear of God nor man can hold it within bounds.

FRANCE refused the Reformation and stained her annals, under the influence of Rome , with a St. Bartholomew and many other persecutions of the saints. She has been humiliated in the past, but has not learned the lesson. Her atheism and immorality are world-notorious. The name of God has been obliterated from every textbook in her schools; her legislators have openly boasted that the name of God has been banished from state, schools and homes. Some years ago all religious orders were swept from her borders, not because she abhorred these abodes of vice and superstition, we fear, but to be rid, as far as she was able, of even that which professed to own God. And not many months ago a high festival was held in Paris in honour of the Sun—an obvious return to heathenism on the part of many there.

BRITAIN above all nations seems to have had a place in God's providence, for from these countries have gone out missionaries world-wide, and wherever her flag has flown there has been secured an open door for the gospel and the truth of God. For this we may be thankful. But of late years what a change has passed over the land. She has slighted the Bible which good Queen Victoria spoke of as the cause of her greatness. Her Universities have opened their doors to “modern” thought; German rationalistic and atheistic teachers have been lauded and honoured; her theological professors have bowed the knee to the Baal of “higher criticism”; and a large percentage of the pulpits of the land have been captured by the progeny of colleges in which human intellect and culture are everything and the Word of God despised or openly antagonized. And, as though this were not enough, the mission fields, many of them won by the soul-agony and blood of devoted men of God, have been invaded by this same proud, Bible-despising, humanity-exalting cult.

The necessary consequence of the weakening of the authority of God's Word has been the decline of the fear of God, the growing indifference to spiritual things, and the mad rush after pleasure, and luxuries and wealth, until London and the larger towns run almost neck to neck with the Continental pleasure cities.

RUSSIA and the persecution of the Jews are almost synonymous words. And the atrocities committed upon the Congo natives by Leopold's, the late King of the Belgians, servants cannot be forgotten. What an estimate must both Jews and heathens have formed of the God whom these “Christian” nations professed to own as a result of the cruelties that have been inflicted upon them. And God's eye has witnessed these things.

 

“Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” is an inexorable law in God's ways with every man, and it is equally true in the history of nations. If nations persistently sow disregard of God's will they must reap the evil results of the wills of man and Satan. If they sow military pride they must reap unrestrained lust for war. If they sow diabolical engines of destruction for land and air and sea they must reap a blood-drenched earth and sobs and tears and misery and death.

In God's governmental ways with nations He may use one as His rod with which to punish another; this we constantly see in Old Testament Scriptures; but woe betide the nation so used if she becomes lifted up with pride thereat, for as surely as God rules with justice so surely shall she be justly humiliated in her turn. For of all alike it is true that there are “sins with you, even with you against the Lord your God” (2 Chr. 28:10).

The Christian may rest in the fact that this affair can only go as far as God permits, and that He will keep it within bounds as long as His church is here. His saints as long as they are here are the salt of the earth, preserving it for the while from these overwhelming sorrows that must sweep over it, when the church has been raptured out of it, and in the meanwhile the Christian's position in the midst of it all is that of the intercessor. He can be of more use to others in this position than in any other, for the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Abraham and Elijah filled this place in former times; it is open to every child of God today; but if prayer is to be of use it must be according to the current of God's will, and it can only be thus as there is great nearness to Him. In His presence we are lifted above all national prejudices; we are able to appraise things according to His thoughts, and we pray according to the breadth of His grace and the feelings of His heart—for “ALL MEN” AND FOR “ALL SAINTS.”

Where are the Dead?

 

The fact that a leading London newspaper finds it worthwhile to devote half a page daily to the question of whether there is a life beyond this, proves that it is a subject in which many are interested, and that they are anxious to hear what can be said about it by all sorts of men. So there are published the opinions of scientists, spiritists, philosophers, preachers, priests and politicians, but it is surprising how little all that has been said amounts to—in fact, if we had nothing but these published opinions to go upon we should have nothing at all. How disappointed must those folk be who eagerly looked for some definite pronouncement and have got instead mere inferences drawn by clever men from suppositions or doubtful premises.

The subject is one that must give all thinking persons much concern, it is one that cannot really be ignored, for sooner or later this life must come to a close for all, and we want to have certainty as to what the future may be, if there is a future. But we can have no certainty about it at all without reliable authority. This we must have or be the victims of continual and distressing doubt.

Now it is a fact that there is inborn in the human race the feeling that the shock of death does not kill the soul, but that beyond death individual conscious existence will continue. This and the sense that there is a higher and unseen power have been the most potent instincts in the hearts of men throughout all their generations The earliest records that have been discovered by the excavators show that this was the dominating factor in the lives of the ancients, the master-thinkers of Greece, before Christ came, incorporated it with their systems of philosophy, and it matters not how degraded men may have become from their primitive dignity, or what they may have lost of the knowledge that their forefathers possessed, they have not forgotten this. The missionary from Christian lands has no need to tell the aborigines of Australia or the cannibals of the South Sea Islands that death will not be the end of them, they know it already. It is a fact that cruelty and superstition are associated with their belief of it, but the secret as to this is revealed in Romans 1:21-22, “Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.” The darkness that is the result of turning from God to the devil has deepened about the minds and hearts of these poor wretches as the centuries have rolled on. Yet this remains embedded in their very consciousness, that the soul of a man survives the death of his body.

There always have been, of course, and always will be exceptions to this rule, like the Sadducees of our Lord's day and Sir Arthur Keith of this, whose denial of life after death resulted in the subject being taken up by this London daily paper, and we must confess that there is a considerable amount of consistency in his position, for if man has come down from a beastly ancestry, if he is nothing more than an elevated chimpanzee, why should he not end his days like his progenitors that perish? By what means has he evolved himself into a being with an immortal spirit? If we held this evolutionary theory as to man's origin, we should be compelled logically and consistently to believe with the President of the British Association that he has no existence beyond the grave, and that his life goes out at death like a snuffed-out candle, and he is no more. The inconsistency is on the part of those who have cast over the Bible account of man's creation and origin, and yet want to hold on to its teaching as to his destiny.

Of this universal feeling science takes no account, it scarcely lies within its province, nevertheless to ignore it or scoff at it is to turn light to darkness, for it has been the candle of the Lord within the souls of men along the highway of the centuries that preceded the coming of the Light. That Light has come: it is Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, who said, “I am the Light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The fact is that we may exercise our minds and pursue our investigations as to the facts and phenomena of our lives between the cradle and the tomb, but if we are to know from whence we came, why we are here, and where and what we shall be, we are dependent upon revelation. God must tell us or we shall not know. Is He deaf to the cry of the heart of His creatures? Is He dumb in the presence of their agony? No. He has spoken and His word is the light of the lives of all those who hear and believe it. In it alone we have reliable authority upon which, to base our confidence.

 

Do the Dead Live?

In Matthew 22:23-33 the Lord Jesus, in whom God has spoken to us and told us all the truth, answered and demolished the infidelity of the Sadducees. They were the materialists of that day and denied the survival of the soul. They brought to the Lord a story of a woman who had had seven brothers one after the other for a husband. It was a fable of course, but they thought it would serve their turn, and make the idea of survival and resurrection ridiculous. At once the Lord turned them to the Scriptures, and to the Books of Moses, that part of the Scriptures that the evolutionists deny. “ Ye do err, ” He said, “ not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God .” The words of the Lord are wonderful and plain and assuring. He gave to those ancient Scriptures their credentials when he said, “HAVE YE NOT READ THAT WHICH WAS SPOKEN UNTO YOU BY GOD?” Is it a fact that God has spoken to us in the Books of Moses? Our Lord has said so, and that should be enough for us. What God said was, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” And when He said this these men had been dead for centuries, had they, then, ceased to exist? No, for then would God have said, “I was their God,” for He is not the God of the dead, of people who don't exist, but of the living. In this memorable answer the Lord not only showed conclusively that those who are dead to this present life live in the next, but He gave special emphasis to the fact that individuality is maintained. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were still Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and were in conscious individual relationship with God.

Romans 14:7-9 also bears witness to this for us, for there we read: “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's. For this end Christ both died and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.” What comforting words are these for those who, having been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, can cry, “We are the Lord's.” Death will not carry us beyond His reach. He will be our Lord still, for He is the Lord of both the dead and the living. And here is comfort for those who mourn for their dead. They have passed beyond your ken, but they are not beyond His, they are no longer in your care, but He has them in His safe keeping, they are still in His kingdom and under His Lordship, even as you are. Think of His words in John 10 in this connection: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” How safe must all those be who are in the hand of Jesus, in that hand that broke the power of death! The dead who have died in the Lord are in His hand, and we who live are in His hand also, and if we die we shall still be there, for death cannot rob Him of us nor separate us from Him, nor from the love of God that is in Him. I am writing now of the Christian dead, and plainly if the Word of God is true, they live unto the Lord even though they are dead to us.

 

Where are the Dead?

As to this question, the story of the dying malefactor in Luke 23 will help us. He realized, as he hung upon his cross, that his life had been a sinful one. The fear of God came upon him, and he shrank from the future until he recognized who He was who hung by his side, then hope awoke in his heart and he cried, “Lord, remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” He had no doubt that both the Lord and he would survive that death of shame, and the Lord's answer to his cry made him doubly sure, and must have filled his heart with peace about it all “Verily, I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” No one would dare to question the survival of the Lord. He was truly man, but what He was could not be extinguished by death, and we imagine that even Sir Arthur Keith would hesitate to question that. Yet if none survive death, Christ Himself has ceased to be. But to this ransomed sinner He pledged His word that he also should not only live beyond his death but that where He was there also should he be that very day. There are other Scriptures that speak definitely as to where the dead that die in the Lord are. Two shall suffice. “ WE ARE CONFIDENT, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord ” (2 Cor. 5:8) and, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain, . . . having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21-22).

 

Are the Dead Conscious?

In order to bolster up the false doctrine that the soul sleeps until the resurrection of the body, it has been said that the punctuation in the Lord's words to the thief has been wrongly placed, that the comma should have been placed after “today,” and that the words should have read, “Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” But a moment's consideration will show how puerile such a contention is. The Lord could not have said it to him yesterday or tomorrow, then of what use can the word “today” be in the sentence at all if it does not describe the time when the thief would be with his Lord? There was no interval, that dying man exchanged the cross of suffering for the Paradise of God that very day. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord” conveys the same thought, and there can be no doubt at all about the words of the apostle, “to be with Christ, which is far better .” The man who wrote these words, “Rejoiced in the Lord alway.” No man ever found greater joy in the Lord and His service than did he. Would it have been far better for him to have sunk from that happy life of service for Christ into absolute unconsciousness? No, it would not His words mean that the highest joy that he had known or could know on earth would be far surpassed by the joy that awaited him in the presence of his Saviour.

 

Is the Disembodied Condition Final?

There have always been those who denied the resurrection, but we are told in 1 Corinthians 15 that these have not the knowledge of God. If we know God we know Him as the God of resurrection, and we shall believe in the resurrection of the dead. We read of THE FIRST RESURRECTION, (Rev. 20:6), a resurrection from among the dead, and “'blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” And this glorious resurrection is described for us in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. “Behold, I show you a mystery, We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on Immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

 

Comfort for Those that Sorrow

The Lord who wept with Mary and Martha at the graveside of their brother is not unmindful of those whose lives have been darkened by the shadow of death. His heart is just as sympathetic as ever it was, for He is the unchanging One. He has put His Spirit into us who belong to Him, and He knows that we also will desire in our measure to sympathize with and comfort those who are in sorrow. He knows also that we must feel how cold and inadequate are the best words that we could command for this, and so He has put words into our mouths We shall find them in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words

The 21st verse of Philippians 3 tells us that “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, who shall change these bodies of humiliation and shall fashion them like unto His own glorious body, according to the power by which He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.” What a prospect! “It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

 

“The Rest of the Dead”

They were solemn words that came from the mouth of the Lord Jesus, when He said: “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear Him” (Luke 12:4-5). They clearly teach the survival of man beyond the death of the body, and that God is the judge of his destiny. However men may challenge His authority and please themselves in this life, God will dispose of them according to His own justice in the next life and there will be no appeal from His verdict.

The Scriptures speak of “the rest of the dead” who will not have part in the first resurrection, for they are those that have died without Christ and without mercy. They have not believed that Jesus is He, and so they have died in their sin; and as a consequence they cannot go where He has gone (John 8:21-24). They will be raised, but at the last resurrection, and will stand at the Great White Throne for judgment, when their doom will be the lake of fire (Rev. 20), and this is the second death.

There is one passage only that gives us information as to the intermediate state of these; but we need no more. That is Luke 16:19-31: “The rich man also died and was buried; and in hell [hades] he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” The words of the Lord speak for themselves. We accept them as He spoke them, without either cavil or comment. Love lies behind the warnings that fell from His lips just as truly as behind the wooing words of grace. “In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you ,” He said; and equally true is it, that if there had been no hell to dread and shun He would have told us. He has told us in definite terms about both heaven and hell, and wise are all they who heed His words.

The way to blessing and heaven and God has been opened wide and all may tread that way of peace, but there is one way and only one. “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Thus the Saviour said, and His words abide for us until this day.

Finally: from God's hand man came forth at his creation, God is the sustainer of his life as long as he lives, for in God “we live and move and have our being,” the spirit will return to the God who gave it at death, then must we give an account to Him. For it is written, “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).

“Whom the Lord Loveth”

A Word to Those who are Passing through Trial

 

Is it not a wonderful thing that the Lord should take a special and individual interest in you, and that for your own profit? If you were asked what you desired for yourself above all things, would you not answer, I should like to be just that which the Lord Himself desires that I should be? If that is your desire He will bring it to pass, and it is more than likely that this present pressure, this trial through which you are passing, this sorrow that has lacerated your heart, is going to be a great factor in bringing you to the Lord's end for you. Therefore, “My son, DESPISE NOT thou the chastening of the Lord, NOR FAINT when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:5-6). You will not despise it if you take it directly from the Lord, you will not faint under it if you are conscious that His love is behind it and will sustain you in it.

Nothing happens to us that is not common to men. Grace has made us the sons of God, but it has not made us immune from those things which humanity suffers as a result of sin being in the world; yet we do not accept things as matters of fact that cannot be escaped and so must be endured. No: we have a great and perfect example in the Lord Jesus who, when His cup was filled to the brim with hatred and shame and suffering, said, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink?” You will be sustained and comforted if you look upon your trial from that standpoint—if you take it from your Father's hand and watch for the blessing that must surely accompany it.

Our fathers after the flesh were interested in our welfare; they had their own ambitions for us and their own ideas as to what they wished their children to be. Sometimes we chafed under their discipline, for we were not always sure of their wisdom, but with our Father's chastening, who is all-wise and full of love, it is different. His purpose is to bring us through the world to the zenith of His own delight in us, and to the fulfilment of the purposes of His love for us, and even now He desires that we should be partakers of His holiness, He wants us near to Himself.

It should be evident to you that there are things within your heart and life that need to be checked, that there are ways that need to be corrected, that there is a persistency of will that calls for scourging. On the other hand there is His own work within you—a spiritual growth that needs to be encouraged and developed. He only knows how to effect all these things, and He will not fail, as our earthly parents often failed to secure their pleasure in us.

He wants you to be conscious of His purpose for you and to have confidence in His love. He wants you to rest in Himself, and the more you do so the more independent you will be of other sources of comfort. He will not begrudge you other comforts. Nay, He will give them to you abundantly, but He wants you to realize that He is more than them all and that when

“Other helpers fail and comforts flee,”

He, the Help of the helpless, will never leave you nor forsake you. Let the chastening be to you a proof that the Lord loves you. This will be a soft pillow for your head, and you will find in the thought that which will strengthen your faith, and the chastening itself will be preparation for your next trial, for neither you nor any of us can expect to be free from trial as long as we are in the body.

The time came in our ordinary lives when we reached our majority and we were cast upon our own resources and had to carve out our own lives. We had outgrown our childhood and the sphere of chastening by our fathers after the flesh. But this can never be so with our Father in heaven. You would shrink from claiming independence of Him. You would much rather have His will than yours, for your will would probably lead you into all sorts of foolishness and misery, while His will is good, perfect and acceptable, and seeks only your good.

If some who are suffering have to own that it is the result of their own folly and self-will, what then? Ah, there is only one way. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. Let lowly submission mark you before Him, be honest and without guile in His presence, and in His own good time—the due time when it will be good for you—He will make a way of deliverance and raise you up.

So the winter of your sorrow and trial will be followed by a wealth of summer fruit, for these wintry blasts and all these trials afterwards yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby (Heb. 12).

Whom Will You Follow

 

“ For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour ” (Hebrews 2:5-11).

 

I will quote two Scriptures. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way,” and “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.” The first describes the road that we take when we follow Adam, the second the road we take when we follow Christ. There are these two leaders, and we are following one of them, our choice must be one or the other. This is not theology, worn out and exploded, as some would say, it is fact, stern and solemn fact, as all will discover either here or hereafter. Let us consider these two leaders.

The question is asked, What is man? And we have to ask another, Which man? for there are two, the first and the Second, Adam and Christ. God created Adam and was mindful of him. He crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of His hands. How great were the capabilities that God gave him, and the possibilities that He put within his reach as He crowned him lord of creation, and gave him dominion over the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea, and the beast of the field. It was not long, however, before he lost the place of honour and trust that God gave him, for the devil offered him another crown. “Ye shall be as gods,” said he, and that was a crown that he thought he could wear in independence of God; it allured him from his fidelity to God, and he grasped at it, and turned his back upon God to do it. That crown was a chimera, and he gained nothing but a guilty conscience and a great dread of God, and the crown with which God had crowned him was struck from his rebel brow, and he passed out of Eden a crownless man.

The majority of men are following the fallen head of the race. The life and nature of Adam is in every one of his children, and though they can do great things they are never satisfied with the results of their labour, and there lies within the very consciousness of the race the sense that something has been lost. Men are reaching out and stretching forward continually for something that always seems beyond them, and the tragedy of Tantalus is the continual tragedy of the race. It is the devil that deceives them; he can redeem no promise that he has made, but he lures them still with false hopes. The crown that God gave, this over-lordship, they have lost, but they are seeking it, the urge for it is within them, but they are seeking it in independence of God.

They would not so describe their ambitions and would rather cling to the vain dream of evolution, that flatters them into believing that they are striving after something that man never possessed before; but it is a delusion, and the unpleasant truth is that man is fallen, defeated, crownless. He has lost his best possession, his crown, which would have given completion and satisfaction and glory to his life. The crown could only be held in fealty to God his Maker—if he had held fast to that he would still have lifted up his head with great nobility and exercised his authority as lord over creation; and he would have been a free man with God as the Captain of his soul, where he is now a slave of sin and Satan, and his desire for “liberty, equality and brotherhood” would have been gratified, and not have grown into a frenzied cry, attended by blasphemy and blood.

There have been great men in the world's history who seemed in their day on the point of achieving the great ambition. There was Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the earth and then fell from his high estate to the level of the beasts; there was Alexander, who conquered the world and died in a drunken debauch; there was Napoleon, who crowned himself Emperor of France and died of cancer, a dishonoured exile in St. Helena .

There have been many men in different spheres of life who have grown great and famous and have thought that they would secure the fadeless and immortal crown; they have followed it, and fought for it, and expended every power they had to secure it, and just as they thought that they had achieved their ambition and reached their destiny, they tumbled into the grave. The fact becomes clear and plain that the crown lies on the other side of death, and death which was God's judgment upon Adam, the disobedient and fallen head, lies upon the whole race. Death is the end of man's ambition; his hopes lie shattered beside his open sepulchre; he cannot grasp the crown he craves for because he cannot grapple with and overthrow the power of death. “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ” (Rom. 5:12), That is the secret, the solution to the terrible problem.

What was to be done? God had great purposes in regard to man when He made him in His own image; He intended that he should indeed be head over everything that He had created. Then have His purposes failed? If so, then the devil has gained a victory and God's throne is no longer the throne of God. No, God's purposes have not failed, and God has not failed. He had in reserve another Man, the second Man and the last Adam, His well-beloved Son, and in Him He has triumphed and recovered more than was lost. In due time God sent Him into the world. “He was made a little lower than the angels.” “He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” When He appeared as a lowly babe in the manger at Bethlehem , the child of the virgin mother, it was not the beginning of His existence. The Hebrew epistles tell us that He is the Son, the Creator, for by Him God made the worlds. He came from the glory of God into the world of man's failure and sin, to stand firm and invincible in every place where man had been defeated. He comes into our view in the manger; we trace His footsteps through the earth, the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; we see Him confronted by Satan's temptations and power, and finally by death itself. The prince of this world, who had defeated and degraded Adam's race, came, but found nothing in Him. He was unmoved by Satan's subtle wiles, because He had set His God always before Him, and desired nothing for His own satisfaction but the love and will of His Father, and the deliverance and blessing of the devil's poor dupes.

I would dwell upon the achievements of the second Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. He withstood the devil's threefold temptation in the desert, and when that arch-enemy returned in a more subtle form, and endeavoured to turn Him from the way of God's will, saying, through Peter, “This be far from Thee,” He discerned the snare and answered, “Get thee behind Me, Satan, for thou savourest not the things that be of God.” He had come for the suffering of death; it was for this that He was made a little lower than the angels, but His death was not for Himself; death had no claim upon Him, it was for others He died, for you and me. His love led Him into the depths of death, that He might lead us out of them and crown us with a brighter crown than Adam lost, on the other side of death. He died to glorify God and establish all His purpose in regard to men. Think of Him in that hour. He should have been crowned with the royal diadem and led amid the acclamations of the people to the throne of David, this was His right, but instead He was crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross, and He knew that it would be so. He had become man thus to suffer, and He took the cup, filled to the brim with sorrow and shame and woe, not from Pilate, or from the chief priests, from neither man nor devil did He take it, though both were concerned in it, but from His Father. “The cup that My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink It?” He said, and refused to allow His disciples to fight on His behalf, or to defend Himself by word or act.

He has been raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, and now WE SEE JESUS, CROWNED WITH GLORY AND HONOUR. He has gained the crown; it shines upon His brow, but He has gained it by overthrowing the power of death; it is in resurrection that the crown is His. We do not yet see all things put under Him; they will be according to God's unalterable decree, but this is the “not yet” time, but it is nevertheless a time of great blessedness in which THE CROWNED CHRIST is leading God's many sons to glory. We read, “It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” He has qualified to be the Leader of the many sons by His suffering. Many enemies blocked the way, they stood a formidable host between us and the crown and the glory, for the devil's intention was that man should be crownless for ever, but Jesus has met every foe Himself, and without aid; He did not conduct the fighting from a safe place in the rear, and from thence urge the sheep to be valiant in the fight and to the slaughter. This was His place. He went before them. He stood up in the face of the foe, and when arrows of death and judgment flew in a blinding cloud they found their mark in His bosom. He gave Himself for us. He willingly died in our stead. He has cleared the way. If we may change the figure and adopt one used by the prophet Isaiah: He has smitten the sea when it roared and made the depths a way for the ransomed to pass over. He has made a clear road for us right up to the glory of God.

I appeal to my readers, and especially to those who have youth and energy on their side, which of these two leaders will you choose? If you follow the first the world will honour you and your name may be inscribed high up in its temple of fame, but you will surely go astray and miss the prize and go down to disappointment and death without a hope and without a crown. If you follow the second Man, owning Him as your Lord, He will lead you in the paths of righteousness, and bring you at last to the glory with all the sons of God. You will be crowned there, for whom He called them He also justified, and whom He justified them He also glorified , and these are they whom He leads out of their bondage into this glorious liberty of the sons of God. It is true that He is still despised and rejected of men, and those who follow Him must not expect to be popular in the world that hated Him, but faith weighs the value of present things with what the future holds; it sees Jesus now crowned with glory and honour, and refuses the false glory of the world that lies in the wicked one, and gladly follows Him to the day of glory yet to be.

“O, who will follow the Nazarene,

Of God and man forsaken?

Such grief and sorrow ne'er were seen,

His life from the earth was taken.

“He shall see of the travail of His soul,

The spoil with the great dividing.

The heavens and earth shall He control,

In grace and truth abiding.

“O, who will follow the Nazarene?

O Lord, our hearts awaken!

May no false pomp Thy glory screen,

Thy life from the earth was taken.

“And O, Thy name is above the skies,

All past Thy toil and sorrow.

Though the earth may woo me, my heart replies

That I wait the grand tomorrow.”

Consider our great Leader, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. If we have believed in Him, God has committed us to His care, for two reasons. First , He could trust no other, no man or angel was equal to this great work of bringing the sons of God home to His glory, only Jesus, who has destroyed him that had the power of death which is the devil. He has prevailed to bring us safely home; and second , His sons are too precious to God to be committed to any other person, and their dignity is too great. We are the sons of God. Let us consider the dignity that is ours. Our Scripture tells us that He is not ashamed to call us brethren, and that not because He has come down to our level and become one of us, but because He has made us one with Him, for “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one,” and it is for this cause that He is not ashamed of us. We are His brethren and loved with the same love that rests upon Him, for we are the sons of God on our way to the glory of God. And He has entered into heaven as our Forerunner. We are well aware that the feelings of the place into which a forerunner enters indicate how the one whom he represents will be received. It is even so in our case, impossible as it may seem. Because He has entered heaven, so shall we; if He, our Leader and Forerunner, has been received there with joy and honour, so shall we; as to this our hope is both as sure and steadfast as the immutable Word of God. We do not travel with uncertainty, we are not travelling to disappointment and death. How glorious is our prospect! When He shall appear in glory then shall we appear with Him in glory, and when we see Him we shall be like Him. Creation waiteth for the manifestation of the crowned sons of God; when the first man lost his crown he involved the whole creation over which he was set in his fall, but it is to be delivered from its travail, its groaning is to be hushed and the curse for ever rolled away, and this shall surely be when the second Man, the triumphant Man, appears, the Firstborn among many brethren, all of whom shall be conformed unto His image and crowned with Him.

Why does not God intervene? And Does God Care?

 

“Bewildered.” —Yes, thousands are bewildered at the unparalleled destruction of human life of which we are the witnesses—unparalleled not merely as to numbers, but as to the hatred that inspires it, the callous ingenuity with which it is planned, the ferocity with which it is done, and the unspeakable misery and tears that accompany it. They are bewildered because they know that God is good, and also almighty; and they cannot understand why He does not intervene in power and punish the instigators and perpetrators of such crimson deeds, and establish a reign of righteousness on the earth. The scoffer also says, “Why does God allow such things to happen, if He is what you claim for Him?” And in the taunt the blame for all man's misery is cast upon God.

Our concern is not for the scoffer, but for those who truly fear the Lord and whose faith is sorely tried because God does not act as they think they would if they had the power. It is right that for the sake of these the question should be answered.

 

Do Men Wish for God's Intervention?

In the first place, would men welcome God's intervention? In democratic countries government is according to the popular voice; and whether “ vox populi, vox Dei ” be true or not, the will of the people carries the day. Let us suppose that in the democratic countries of the world a party could be formed that would adopt as its policy “the unfettered intervention of God in the affairs of the day.” What would the answer be to such an election cry? Would the people acclaim the party that raised it? Does any one suppose that they would be returned to power by an overwhelming majority, which would for them be the abdication of all power, for if God did intervene it could only be on His own terms, according to His own inflexible justice and unerring wisdom, in which neither cabinet nor counsellor could have any part?

Let us consider what the intervention of God would mean in this lurid chapter of the world's history: Prussian militarism would be swept into its proper hell, that of course goes without saying, but are there no other evils on earth the cry of which reaches unto heaven? God is no respecter of persons. He cannot be flattered or bribed into winking at the evil in one land while crushing it in another, and while Britain , France and America have not broken solemn treaties, devastated fair homesteads, and murdered women and children, yet are there not sins within their borders too horribly flagrant to need enumeration? And would not these meet with God's rebuke as well as those of the Central Empires?

It is pleasant and easy to sit in the seat of the judge and to denounce the vices of others, and to wonder why God does not suppress them, and even to criticize Him for apparent inactivity, as though we were more righteous than He, and to point the finger at the enemy and cry, “Thou art the man.” But what if, in answer to our denunciation, there rang out the challenge from some prophetic lips, as of old, “Are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God

How great is the multitude of those who reiterate the prayer “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Will God ever answer that prayer? Yes, He will, when the moment arrives; but when He does, every act that has its genesis in the will of man as opposed to the will of God will receive an instant punishment, and that punishment will be death. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Are men prepared for that? We know the world a little—its ambitions, and schemes, and ways, and we have read its character in the Holy Scriptures, where it is plainly writ, and we have no hesitation in saying that it will keep God's fingers out of its affairs as long as ever it can; it will tolerate the most infamous deeds within it, if only God will keep out of it; it will hug its own misery rather than invoke God's intervention. But the cause of God's non-intervention is not the feelings of men on the subject.

 

How and Why God will Intervene

“Will the Balkan States intervene, and on which side will they stand in the great conflict? And will America maintain her neutrality?” These are questions about which there is much doubt and speculation, and a variety of opinions. But there is no doubt about the fact that God will intervene in the course of this world. And lest any should think that by that statement we mean that He will stand between the hosts of combatants as an arbitrator, and inflict punishment on one side and make awards to the other, we hasten to explain that what we mean is that He will enter publicly and in mighty power into this sin-tossed and devil-ruled world and act according to His own will in such a manner that the dullest intellect in the universe will say, “It is the hand of God.” That He will do so is as certain as that the sun will rise tomorrow, nay, it is more certain than that, for heaven and earth shall pass away but His Word shall not pass away. And this has been the testimony of all His prophets since he who “walked with God” not less than fifty centuries ago said, “The Lord cometh.” Nor have the manner and the purpose of His coming been kept secret from men, for that same Enoch prophesied, saying, “The Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment ” (Jude 14).

There are two reasons why God must act as His Word declares He will. (1) His rights as Creator and God have been flouted and denied by men. (2) His beloved Son, rightful Heir of all, has been rejected and murdered by the world. The second act was the ratification of the first, it was the considered declaration on the part of the world, come to maturity, that it would uphold at all costs its early decision to be independent of God. It will be admitted, we believe, by every right-thinking person, that if these things have been done, either of them is a more than sufficient casus belli between God and the world; that they were indeed acts of war against God on the part of the world, and that neither of them can be passed over for the sake of peace. If God does not hold the world strictly to account for these things and maintain the eternal honour of His throne in regard to them, He will cease to be God. But that is unthinkable. Then our conclusion, even apart from what His Word has told us, must be, that He must come in judgment.

We would not minimize the deeds of horror which have filled the world with indignation, and for which the perpetrators shall give account to God, but they must take a secondary place in the presence of that terrible act at Calvary, about which the world remains unmoved—the murder of the Son of God, the One who was God manifest in flesh, in whom God was reconciling the world unto Himself. This and the world's determination to go its own way, regardless of the will of God, are the great questions at issue that must be taken up by God as against the world. If God takes up the affairs of this world at all, these great questions must take precedence of all others, and that will involve the whole unregenerate world in judgment.

 

What the Scoffers Say

Here the scoffers ask, Where is the promise of His coming? (2 Pet. 3:4). All things continue as our fathers have known them. Men have done as they have pleased with apparent impunity from the beginning. But the scoffers are ignorant of two things: (1) That God did once publicly take account of the ways of the world, when it was filled with violence, and, with the exception of one family, it was totally destroyed by a flood of waters. (2) That a thousand years are as one day in the reckoning of God. The former shows that God is not indifferent to the state of the world, the latter that His ways must not be judged by the ways of men. They live in hours, and days, and years, and must work feverishly lest they be too late to accomplish their purposes. He is the eternal God, whose being is outside the bounds of time, and so He can patiently await the development of all things until the moment is ripe for the manifestation of His glory.

 

Why God Withholds His Hand

“ The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance ” (2 Pet. 3:9).

God does not intervene in the affairs of the world, because if He did the whole unregenerate world would be involved in judgment, and this He does not desire. Judgment is His strange work.

What an answer is that to the scoffers, and to those who, ignorant of the reason, presume upon the fact that God has not fulfilled His promise to come in judgment, and so continue to flout His claims. He is not willing that men should perish, He is full of tender pity, and is waiting for their repentance. How fully His character in this respect came out when Jesus was on earth. He did not intervene in public affairs; had He done so He must have assumed the place of the Judge of all—this was indicated on that one solemn occasion when He made a whip of small cords and drove the defilers of the temple from its precincts—but He came not to condemn the world but to save it.

God was in Him reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them (2 Cor. 5:19). And the world murdered Him . But His coming was the proclamation of a great amnesty on God's part, and that amnesty is still in force; it is still the “time, the day of salvation,” and God's ambassadors are still here proclaiming the fact. It is true that many of them have been treated in the same way as the Lord was treated, and the more faithful they have been the more have they been hated, but God has not withdrawn them, and as long as they are here they are here to beseech men to be reconciled to God, and the door of repentance for men stands open.

But the withdrawal of the ambassadors is imminent; the Lord's promise to them is, “Surely I come quickly”; and the manner of His coming, and their withdrawal from this world, is plainly told us in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

When that event has taken place there will not be a true Christian left on earth, and the world may prepare its forces then to meet God coming in judgment. How vain will be all their power, for when “the great day of His wrath is come, who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17).

 

How shall the Ambassadors Act?

The ambassadors are still here; God's long-suffering is still being manifested, and His long-suffering is salvation; so we count it, and in so doing we are right (2 Pet. 3:15). “I'll tell you why I think this war is allowed,” said a grave-looking soldier to us one day, “It is to make men think, and when a man gets into the trenches, as I have been, he does think, too.” No doubt he was partly right. The mercy of God in this way makes the wrath of men to praise Him, and men are made to think of the great issues of life and death, and to turn to God, and this leads to their salvation. But how shall we (Christians) who are left in this world, which is not our home, act towards those for whom we are left here, towards the men whom God is not willing should perish? Ah, surely if we understand the times we shall be actively interested in them. We shall beseech them in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. We shall be diligent in this our business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. As the time draws near of our withdrawal to our own land, which will close the door of hope for the world as it is, we shall be the more persistent in pressing upon men the claims of God's grace, and in making them feel how tenderly His heart yearns for them.

While God does not intervene publicly and make wars to cease in the earth, He still acts providentially, and brings good out of evil for the blessing of men and for His own glory, He sees every wicked atrocity and says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” He beholds all the sorrow in the earth, and calls the distressed and broken-hearted to find in Him everlasting consolation, and a peace and hope that the world cannot afford.

 

Does God Care?

We read the casualty lists in the daily papers—lists so long that the mind grows sick at the sight of them, and the sighs break unbidden from the breast, and the eyes grow moist as we recognize here and there a familiar name. But do we realize all that those lists mean? Do we hear in them the anguished cry of strong men mortally stricken upon the blood-dyed field? Or realize the vain yearning for the presence and comfort of the dearly loved far away as the mists gather before the eyes; or the deeper horrors to men, perhaps unprepared, of the sure advance of death—that most merciless and strongest of foes? Do we, as we read those lists, visit in thought the mansion and the cottage and see the broken-hearted mother's lips pressed upon the portrait of the darling boy whom she will kiss no more? Do we think of the sorrow not of one mother, but of thousands rising in an infinite sob to heaven? Do we read in them the grief, too great for tears, of the widow, as she sits bewildered and bereaved in the midst of fatherless children, too young to understand their loss. Yes, in a measure we feel these things, we should be unworthy of the name of Christian if we did not, for no true Christian heart is cold and callous to the sorrows of others; but while we feel and sympathize, how powerless we are to help. Then in our helplessness to whom shall we turn, and from whence may the multitude look for succour? Does God see their sorrows, and does He care? That is a question that is being earnestly asked, and what shall the answer be?

There are some who tell us that God does not care, that He is an indifferent spectator of the present agony of humanity, and that He has no interest in the affairs of this world. Is this true evidence as to God's attitude?—if so how hopeless we are—or is it a devil-inspired slander upon His holy person? It must be one or the other.

We acknowledge the greatness of God, every man who is not a blind fool does that. In the wide-spreading heavens we can read by day and by night the story of His power and glory, but is this all we know of Him? If it is, there lies in it no answer to our question. We may be moved to admiration at the grandeur of His limitless glory, but if that is all we know our knowledge yields no comfort, it only makes us feel that from us He is far removed, and we cannot tell whether He cares or not.

But that is not all we know; He has taken a wonderful way of telling us more. He has sent to us, not an angel, but His own Son, and from the lips of JESUS we have learnt that not a sparrow falls to the ground without His notice; that He whose word upholds the mighty worlds that He has formed cares for the weakest, and in our thought, the most worthless of His creatures; and as we consider this we are profoundly affected, for here is revealed His character and compassions. It shows us that He is not distant and indifferent when His creatures suffer, it brings Him near to us in our need, and warms our hearts and awakens our hopes, for we reason that if God pities the sparrow that falls, men are worth more than many of them, and He cannot be careless as to the sorrows and fate of men. We feel that we have need of pity, and without mercy we are wretched beyond expression, but the God who is so compassionate as to think of the sparrows must pity men in their sore travail, He must have mercy for them: we feel this in spite of every contrary voice.

Thank God, this feeling is no delusion, we have solid ground for it. Indeed, it is more than a feeling, it is a deep conviction, A FAITH—founded upon a stable base, formed by a sure and infallible testimony, the word of the God who cannot lie; and were the present sorrow to grow into a world-wide tribulation, we should still sing—

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.”

God has given many proofs that He cares for men, and not the least cogent of these is that He has permitted this great war to commence and continue. He is God, and He is over all, and He could if He saw fit rebuke the ambitions and restrain the wrath of men; this we must concede, for if we deny it we deny that God is supreme, and make evil greater than He. In days of prosperity and ease men place a false value upon things, and they forget God and the hereafter; and present things, which are only illusive and effervescent, assume a substantial appearance. Thus they are deceived by Satan, the god and prince of this world; God has no place in their lives, and they are lured to an eternal doom. But when the things that seemed to be stable are shaken by a mighty convulsion, and when the earth is filled with hatred and lust for blood, the human soul is startled into a sense of insecurity, and longs for something outside and beyond it. And in this result of trouble God's goodness is seen.

If it were impossible for our thoughts and hopes to reach beyond the time-sphere, and if the enjoyment of material things were the only good, if pleasure, ease, and an unruffled life in this world were the highest things to which men might attain, and to lie down in an eternal sleep the lot of all, then these days were dark indeed, the war an unmixed evil, and the God who permitted it were not the friend of humanity. But the truth is that men have immortal souls, that they have been made for eternity, and in comparison with their existence the longest life in mortal flesh is but as a vapour that disappears before the wind; that there is no lasting satisfaction in material things, and that GOD ALONE IS SUFFICIENT TO FILL THE SOUL WITH GOOD.

Now God would turn the thoughts of men to the highest good, He desires that they should find in Him their wealth and joy, and we learn—it has been the experience of multitudes, and it is plainly told in the Scriptures—that it is often only in hours of distress that men will turn to Him. How clearly is this declared in Psalm 107, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: therefore He brought down their heart with labour: they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Ps. 107.8-15).

The space at our disposal will not permit us to quote the whole of this remarkable Psalm. Our readers have their Bibles, and we beg of them to read it for themselves. It is most apposite to our subject. It proves that God does care, that, as we have said, the very sorrows of men, which He allows to come upon them, are used of Him to turn them to Himself for their everlasting good. And the present experience of men confirms the ancient word. Take the confession of Larredan, the French atheist, which we published in our May issue, and which has since appeared in other papers, and is well worth re-quoting: “I laughed at faith and considered myself wise. I no longer retain my gaiety over this derision as I see France bleeding and weeping. It is something consoling to know an eternal homeland which shines with love when the earthly is glowing with hatred . . . Behold, a nation of dead covers the fields. How difficult to remain an atheist on this vast national cemetery. I cannot. I have betrayed myself and you—you who have read my books and who have sung my songs . . . I see death, and I cry for life. France, France , turn to faith. I know not if I be alive tomorrow, but this I must tell my friends, ‘Larredan dare not die an infidel.' . . . God lives and I stand far from Him. My soul shall joy mightily if ever I experience that moment when, kneeling, I can say, I believe, I believe in God, I believe. These words are the vespers of humanity, for those who know them not it is night.”

Or take this extract from the letter of a British prisoner in Germany: “We should always be prepared to meet our Maker, and I am glad to say that ever since we first mobilized in August last I have been prepared; so should every one be, especially those who have come through this campaign and seen hundreds of soldiers dying on every side of them, their last words being a prayer to God to save them

Who can tell how many thousands in pleasure-loving and infidel France have been awakened like Larredan to eternal realities as a result of the sorrows that have wrung their souls? Who can tell how many thousands of heroic young soldiers have turned to God as they faced the horrors of death upon the field of battle, and so have been gathered to that eternal homeland for which Larredan longed, who otherwise might have spent long years in the sad service of sin?

But what of the anxious mothers and wives who grow pale at the sight of postman or telegraph messenger, or those who sit overwhelmed by the blow that has fallen upon them? For these, too, God cares, and to Himself He desires to draw them that they may know Him as the God of all Consolation, and so gather eternal blessing from their present grief.

When JESUS was on earth God was manifest in flesh, He was here below showing Himself to men so that they might be ignorant of Him no more, and that revelation of God abides for ever; what God was as made known in Christ He is today for all who seek Him. Every phase of human anguish surrounded the Lord and in the midst of it, and because of it, He was the Man of Sorrows, and at all times and everywhere His tender heart was moved with compassion as He saw it. One instance in which this was manifested must suffice us. There were heavy hearts at Bethany , for Lazarus was sick, and “the Master” knew it, yet He did not move. He could have rebuked that sickness with a word, could have prevented its blight from falling upon that house entirely, but He did not. He waited and allowed the supreme sorrow to afflict them, and so Lazarus died. Did He care? Behold Him as He stands with Mary prostrate at His feet. Listen while she pours out her grief before Him. See her as she looks up through her weeping into His dear face, and see, His cheeks also are washed with tears. Yes, He cares. How beautiful must He have seemed to her that day! How His sympathy must have swallowed up her sorrow! What a revelation of His heart were those tears! What intimacy with Him did Mary's sorrow yield her!

“The bud had had a bitter taste,

But, O, how sweet the flower.”

But Lazarus was restored and so the sorrow was removed. That is true. But it was not upon Lazarus that the pound of spikenard was poured but upon Jesus. Mary had gained infinitely through her great sorrow. Lazarus was not less dear, but Christ was supreme in her love. She had learnt in that silent walk by the side of Jesus to the grave of her brother how fully and tenderly He entered into her grief, how able He was to lift her out of the depths and sustain her by His sympathy, how every question that could arise in her mind as to the rightness of God's ways with her was settled in Himself, and how His love so perfect and true, for it was God's love, was able to heal the wound and fill the void in her heart, and those were lessons, and that was an experience that no mortal words can describe, but the result of it appeared when in silent adoration she poured the precious ointment upon His sacred feet. And what He was to Mary “yesterday,” He is “today” to all who will bring their sorrow to His feet. And in Him is God revealed, turning that which seems only evil into everlasting good.

Yes, God cares. He has proved it in a thousand ways, but chiefly in the fact that He gave His only begotten Son to die for men; and we would appeal to the desolate and broken-hearted, and especially to those who as yet know not God, to put Him to the test and bring their woe to Him. He will listen to your cry, pardon your sins, save your souls, pour everlasting consolation in your hearts, and give you a place and portion in that world where “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and where [there] shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, [but where] the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Show us a man who says that God does not care, who asserts that He is unmoved by the deep anguish of the human heart, and we will show you a man who bears false witness against the Almighty, and who slanders with the devil's own lie the beneficent and faithful Creator, who longs to be the Redeemer and Father of all.

Why the Lord was Condemned

 

It is deeply interesting to see that all the endeavours to convict the Lord as worthy of death on the evidence of the false witnesses failed. It was for the truth that He died. This, and the inveterate hatred of the truth on the part of the leaders of Jews particularly, had to be clearly demonstrated. “We have a law,” say they, “and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself THE SON OF GOD” (John 19:7). It was on His own confession as to this that they condemned Him. What a moving scene that must have been in the high priest's palace. False witness after false witness was called in order to find some ground for His death, and He answered never a word. He was not there to answer false charges or vindicate His own character, but for the truth. Then the high priest, seeing the futility of the proceedings, rose up from his seat in his excitement and charged Him in the name of the living God to tell them whether He was the Christ, the Son of God. To that charge the Lord had one answer, whatever the consequences He must bear witness to the truth. In his frenzy the high priest rent his clothes, by which act he destroyed his priesthood, and pronounced the Lord guilty of blasphemy. And they all answered, “He is guilty of death.” Their verdict recalls the command in Deuteronomy 21:22, “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and He be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day (for he that is hanged is accursed of God).” From that time onward they were determined that He should be hanged on a tree, the object not only of their accusations but, as they hoped, accursed of God.

But this confession that He was the Son of God on the part of the Lord was nothing to the Roman judge; he must have something more than that if he was to condemn him also. Hence the charge that He made Himself a king. When Pilate asked Him as to this He confessed the truth again. For this cause He had come into the world. Hence the accusation that Pilate wrote and placed over His head on the cross was not, This is the Son of God, but “ This is Jesus , THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

He was crucified, then, because He confessed He was the Son of God and a King. As Son of God He is the One who brought the revelation of God into the world, as the King He is the One who is to establish and maintain the rights of God in the world. The former is LOVE, the latter is RIGHTEOUSNESS. But neither the love of God nor the righteousness of God could be tolerated when they were set forth in all their perfection in Jesus. The love was spurned and the righteousness flouted. Caesar, the Roman tyrant, was preferable to God, revealed in Jesus, and so they crucified Him.

We may bless God that we know our Lord, both as the Son of God and the King of Israel, and that He is yet so to be owned by the nation that rejected Him, when they shall see Him, the Son of Man, sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven. And before the day of His public glory, we may rejoice that we have been brought into His assembly, where He is known as the Son of God, the Revealer of the Father's Name and heart, and the Lord, who establishes and maintains the rights of God even now. For in the midst of His brethren to whom He has declared the Father's Name, He sings praises to God, and so God is glorified (Heb. 2).

Wings and Wheels

 

There are some parts of Scripture that are not easy to understand and may even seem to be of no value to us at all, but the claim that it makes for itself is that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” and those that believe that will read every part with expectation. But what can such a passage as Ezekiel 1 teach us? It does appear at first to be a jumble of meaningless symbols. I certainly was not surprised when some time ago a young Christian said to me, “Its the wings and wheels that baffle me in that chapter, whatever do they mean?”

Well, these are figures that enter into our common everyday speech. We talk about the “flight of time” and “the wheels of fortune,” and sometimes life seems so complicated that we talk of “wheels within wheels,” just what Ezekiel saw in his vision. And it may be that to some, time and circumstances seem so completely out of gear that they conclude that they are the victims of blind chance. But these wings and wheels that Ezekiel saw were not blind or out of control, they were attached to living creatures that had great intelligence, moreover they were under very definite control as we shall see.

To consider Ezekiel for a moment his circumstances were not happy. He was an exile from his beloved land, a captive under a foreign tyrant, the wings and the wheels seemed all against him. We are not surprised that he noted the flight of time. Any one who has been far from home and hoping against hope for a speedy return can understand that. He is great on dates, he tells us the year, the month and the day on which he saw his first vision and heard the voice of God speaking to him, and he keeps it up, date after date he gives, and all with a purpose. God has His calendar, and events in the histories of nations and men must fit into it. He tells us also of the revolving wheels, he tells us of the overthrow of mighty empires, the power and glory of which seemed to make them invulnerable and everlasting. And if we had not Ezekiel's secret we might well say, Of what use can all this destruction be? Surely civilization will collapse entirely, and mankind will perish from the earth, but when we come to the end of his book we find instead of chaos the most wonderful order, a perfect system of government and a great and beautiful city the name of which is “The Lord is there.” The Lord in full control. The wings and wheels move to some purpose, they go here and there, and turn and turn and overturn until He shall come whose right it is and He will establish His glorious kingdom in the earth. The Lord hath spoken it and it must be so.

But how could these wings and wheels and the living creatures to which they were attached co-ordinate and work together to this great end? The answer is found in chapter 1:26. Above the firmament and above those wheels and wings there was a throne and upon it was the likeness as the appearance of a man , and His voice controlled all. It was a vision of a present great reality. There is a throne, it is the Father's throne, the supreme throne in the universe, and on that throne there is a Man, and that Man is Jesus. “Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him and given Him 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) He has “set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far 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: and hath put all things under His feet” (Eph. 1:21). The wings of time and the revolving wheels are all subject to Him, and at His word will they fly and move, and the great end in view is that the whole world of nations and men, and the wide universe of spiritual beings and forces should be brought into acknowledged and manifested subjection to Him.

When we understand this we are not disturbed though covenant are broken, and the League of Nations fails, and pacts and treaties are but as scraps of paper. The Man at God's right hand is in control and He will deal in eternal justice with all the unrighteousnesses of men. Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” He sits above the water-floods and makes the wrath of men to praise Him. No dictator on earth is master of his own destiny. The wings of time move onward and the wheels turn and turn and the men of power and pride crash to their doom, it has ever been so, and it will be so finally, for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased. Chapter 28 of Ezekiel might well be headed, “Dictators Beware” for therein we read of the destruction of the greatest dictator that shall ever be, and the overthrow of the one who is behind the dictators and all the pride of men, Satan himself.

But to come to the individual life of those who have bowed down to the supremacy of the Lord and have committed themselves to Him. Are any such tempted to think that their circumstances are a hopeless tangle and have they a perpetual question in their souls? Do the times seem out of joint and the wheels always turning against them, and are they inclined to think, as those who do not know God think—that they are at the mercy of uncontrolled and fickle chance? Let such consider the fact that the Saviour is on the throne, above all the wings and wheels that perplex them. It all comes out so wonderfully in Romans 8, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” He has not forgotten you, nor the apparent tangles in your life. He cannot forget you, for you are graven on the palms of His hands. He is above all circumstances, and controls all the wings and wheels that have their part in your life, you may say, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose.” There is the sound of the revolving wheels in those words, not a harsh, discordant, jarring sound, but harmonious with the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.

Faith and hope and patience must have their place in our souls in relation to this matter, or we may be tempted to say, like faithless Israel , “My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God” (Isa. 40:28). But confidence in the Lord will keep us right.

“I know whom I have believed,” cried Paul, when his fortune seemed to have reached their very nadir, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). William Cowper, “the stricken deer,” a man of strange experiences, got a gleam of heavenly light on the whole question when he wrote his famous hymn. Everyone who knows anything of Christian hymnary knows it, but I must repeat it here it fits in so well with my subject:

“God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps on the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill,

He treasures up His bright designs,

And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessing on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace:

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast.

Unfolding every hour:

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan His works in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.”

It is remarkable how constantly in Ezekiel's prophecy the words occur, “They shall know that I am the Lord.” The wheels and wings shall all bear witness to that, and His people, whether His ancient Israel, or the sheep of His “one flock” (John 10), shall own at last that “as for God His way is perfect,” and though now there are “the sufferings of this present time, they are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). But our present confidence and peace, and quietness of heart all depend upon our seeing Jesus crowned with glory and honour on the throne, for now there is not “the appearance of a man” that Ezekiel saw but the reality of which his vision was the shadow. There is “the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain,” . . . the glory of the Lord. “And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One that spoke” (Ezek. 1:28), and that voice is the voice of Him who laid His right hand on John in Patmos and said, “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 death” (Rev. 1:17-18).

Within the Holiest

Notes of an Address at Cockenzie, New Year's Meeting, 1926 on Hebrews 10:17-22; 9:1-6

 

We are invited by God, as His forgiven and reconciled saints, to have our affections set upon things above, and these things are not shadowy, or mystical, or unpractical: things that will not be of any benefit to us in the ordinary affairs of this life. No. Christ is the sum and substance of them, and God delights in Him and we are invited to delight ourselves in Him, in whom God Himself delights.

We shall all readily admit that all that is in Christ is of the greatest possible blessing and help to us. We have been told today that the Tabernacle in the wilderness was a pattern of the things in the heavens, and was full of the most blessed typical teaching, and that is true. That Tabernacle was pitched to cover the Ark of the Covenant, a golden box that was set in the Holiest where God's presence was. The Ark speaks to us undoubtedly of the Lord Jesus Christ; the gold that covered it of His Deity, and the wood of which it was made of His humanity. But it was not an empty box, a mere shell; within it there were three things, things that delighted the heart of God, and we are invited to share with Him His joy in these things. The things that were put, in the Ark of the Covenant were the golden pot that had manna, Aaron's rod that budded and the tables of the Covenant; and these three things speak to us in type of the life and love and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ in three different sets of circumstances in which He serves God and us with a holy and perfect service.

The Manna speaks of Him as humbled here in this world. It tells of the time when He made Himself of no reputation, but took upon Himself a bondsman's form, a Man upon earth for the service of all. Exodus 16 is an instructive chapter, for it is where the manna first appears, and we find in connection with it that the glory of God appeared in the wilderness. Those whose eyes were anointed saw in Jesus here God manifest in the flesh, Emmanuel, come near to us to bless us. And to us who believe He has become our food, food that fits us to meet the trials of our wilderness life.

“Jesus! Thou art enough,

The mind and heart to fill;

Thy patient life—to calm the soul;

Thy love—its fear dispel.”

That is the manna. The wilderness was the place where the people had no resources except in God, and such is the world. The Lord Jesus was in wilderness circumstances, tried in all points as we are tried, but, oh, the meekness and the lowliness of Him! How perfect He was in His dependence upon God, in His obedience to God! In all these circumstances that tried Him He was never found wanting. Never was He taken by surprise; never did He hesitate as to what He ought to do. And that because He was as to His holy manhood in absolute dependence upon God in perfect obedience to His will. He did the right thing at the right time and manifested perfect meekness and lowliness in everything that He did. He made Himself of no reputation in a world where every man sought his own glory, and lived for God where all others lived for self. Here was a Man different from every other man; a Man of a new order, the heavenly Man in earthly circumstances. Here was One who had come from the glory into the wilderness of this world, altogether according to God, and it is the contemplation of Him that will enable us to endure temptation. If we are to be patient in trial, if we are to go through testings, and overcome, we must have Him as our Pattern, and feed on Him as the Manna. We cannot be strong unless we feed, and the food with which the Spirit strengthens us in the inner man unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness (Col. 1:11) is Christ as the One humbled here; the manna must be our food; it is the food of the mighty, as the Psalm tells us. In Christ there was the manifestation of everything God could desire in a man upon earth, and that meant blessing for others wherever He went. Men did not think much about Him, but the fact of His being here in dependence upon God meant blessing for man. There was blessing for everyone when Christ was here. The blind got their sight, the deaf heard, broken hearts were comforted. Wherever He went there went with Him the grace of the Father's heart, for He was the full manifestation of grace here below, and that grace was manifested in wilderness circumstances. It was declared and made known amid the trials of this life below. He, the Christ of God, humbled here below, was delightful to God and He was here in blessing to men, the faithful PROPHET of God.

The children of Israel in the wilderness got tired of the manna. It was a mystery to them in the beginning and it was distasteful to them in the end. They “loathed this light food.” So it was when Christ was here. There was no form nor comeliness in Him, no beauty that men should desire Him. He was despised and rejected of men. Not only rejected but loathed! The things that delighted God found no place in the hearts of men, but rather provoked them to hatred and opposition, and that is the man that once we had our links with. We were of the fallen, corrupt race that loathed the Son of God. Beloved Christians, may we not thank God that the death of Christ has broken those links? Once we belonged to Adam's race, and that race loathes JESUS. Are we not thankful that the Cross has severed those links, and that God, in His infinite grace, has transferred us from Adam to Christ and now we are in Christ and have the capacity, the power, the nature, that can find delight in Him?

But if Israel loathed the manna God said to Moses, “Fill a golden pot with it and set it before Me. Put it in the Ark of the Covenant, it shall be then before Me for ever.” What does this mean? It means that God will never forget, nor will He allow to be forgotten, that lowly life of Jesus here. It was a short life as men speak—thirty-three and a half years, not more. A short life, but the glory of it is going to fill eternity. In the language of the type, the manna has been put in a golden pot. God has taken the One whom men despised and loathed and set Him in the very midst of His glory and crowned Him there with glory and honour. And yet, when God raised up His beloved Son to that place of eminence He did not add any glory to Him, He was only setting that which is infinitely glorious in the only place suited to receive it. As a diamond is put into a golden setting because it is the only setting worthy to receive it, so Christ has been set there above all principalities and powers, and might and dominion, and every name that is named. He has been set there to control everything for God, but that is not the thought typified in the manna being put in the golden pot, but it is the expression of God's pleasure in the lowly life of Jesus here. The glory is the only place that was worthy to receive Him. Infinite grace disclosed itself in His lowly life, and now exalted and in its true setting God invites us to enter into the Holiest, His own presence, and share His joy in what Christ was to Him when humbled here below. To learn in His presence what that Man is to Him; to learn in His presence what kind of a man delights His heart. Then strengthened by feeding upon Him we can go out and be like Him, we can walk in his steps. That is the direct effect of entering into the Holiest and feeding there upon the perfections of Christ as they came out in His life below. Not a word or act of His will ever be forgotten, and all that is recorded for us is for our joy and strength now.

Then Aaron's rod that budded was there, and the story of Aaron's rod is very instructive. Rebellion had broken out in the camp (Num. 17). The people had been marked by murmurings from the very beginning. I do not believe from the time they sang by the Red Sea to that moment that God had heard a note of praise from them. Murmuring all day and every day, so ungrateful were they, so little did they know the God who had brought them out of bondage to Himself. Now that state of things was to be met by priesthood. Aaron's rod was the symbol of priesthood. The twelve dry sticks were set up in the Tabernacle in the evening, and the following morning there were eleven dry sticks and one had leaves and blossoms and almond nuts. The almond is a figure of resurrection. It is the first tree of the year to blossom. It sets forth Christ in resurrection. Christ as our great HIGH PRIEST. There is one intensely interesting word on God's part in regard to the budding of Aaron's rod. God said, “I will clean take away from before Me the murmurings of the children of Israel .” Let us consider this, and what it means to God and to us. Because we have a great high priest it is possible for us to go through wilderness circumstances without a murmur upon our lips. Instead of murmuring there may be thanksgiving and praise to God. How is it made possible? There lives on high the great High Priest who also makes intercession for us, and through the supplies of grace that He gives He takes away the murmurings from the people of God, and fills their mouths instead with the songs of overcomers. Now the Lord is carrying on this service. He has not ceased to be God's Servant. He came down into this world to be God's Servant, and in the lowly circumstances of His earth-life He was the PROPHET, making known what God is He has gone on high above every principality and power, and He is now serving God as PRIEST. You say, But how is He serving God? Surely as Priest He serves us. Yes, but in serving us He is serving God. Who are we? Well, you say, of not very much account. Is that so? I tell you that the angels in glory have not a greater dignity than we have. We are sons of God, and He is bringing us, His many sons, to glory (Heb. 2). We are the sons of God now and the glory is our destiny and Christ is our Leader, He will lead us through wilderness circumstances to our glorious destiny. Our great High Priest is serving God, whose sons we are. A simple illustration will help. Here is a little girl, and she has wandered from her mother and she is lost in the crowded thoroughfare of the city, and stands frightened and weeping. A friend of the mother passes by and, seeing her, takes her by the hand and leads her safely through the traffic, and when she is tired carries her, and if she is hungry feeds her, and at last brings her safely back to the mother's home. Oh, you say, what a great service that to the little girl! Yes, a very great service, but how great a service to the mother! Our great High Priest is taking us safely to the home of our Father. We have been committed to His care, He is carrying us safely through, because able to save us to the uttermost, and in doing this He is serving God whose sons we are. But are we getting the full benefit of His service; beloved friends? This service that the Lord is rendering is delightful to God. Aaron's rod that budded was set in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holiest. Are we entering there and learning what this service means to God and to us? He would have us so to do.

When we are oppressed, when circumstances are trying, when we find ourselves full of infirmity, when we are disappointed and discouraged and cast down, when difficulties appal us and sorrows surge around us, what then? Then how great the comfort, the support, that comes to us from the One who intercedes for us with a ceaseless intercession. How blessed to know that His intercession is a prevailing Intercession, our faith will not fail, He will carry us through. I remember receiving a letter from a weak Christian. He said, “I cannot understand how the Lord can be thinking about me and caring for me and interceding for me when He has so many to think about. I am nobody. I cannot understand it.” And because he could not understand it he had got right down into the Slough of Despond, and there he was discouraged and miserable and self-occupied. My answer was a very simple one, it was this, “Neither can I understand it. It is far too great for my tiny mind to comprehend, but I believe it and I get the joy of it. I know that He thinks of me.” He is thinking of you, and if you read in Romans 8, you will find that because of His intercession for us we are more than conquerors. He wants His saints to be more than conquerors since it is for His glory that we should be. But how can we be more than conquerors? Only through Him that loves us. He died that we might be free of every charge of sin before God, He lives that we might be maintained as God's sons in this world, more than conquerors in every trial in spite of the flesh within and the devil without. And at last we shall all reach the glory. We shall stand there a blessed, ransomed triumphant company, without spot before Him in love. Do you think when the Lord's service as Priest towards the people of God is finished God will forget the service He has rendered? No. The memory of Christ as Priest will abide for ever. It will abide in the glory of God unforgotten, unforgettable. God will remember it and we shall remember it. He will delight in it and we shall delight in it. We shall feed upon the hidden Manna, shall share God's thoughts about Christ in humiliation, and rejoice with God in the perfection of His service as the great High Priest.

But that won't be the end of His glory, nor the end of His service. He will still be God's Servant. He took upon Him the form of a servant, and will He ever lay down that form? He certainly will serve God in the age that is coming, for these two tables of stone that were also put in the Ark set forth God's will for man, and that will is yet to be done on earth. But that will be when Christ is KING. What a golden age it will be when He sits upon the throne as King and sways the righteous sceptre and rules with equity for the meek of the earth, so that throughout His Kingdom the will of God will be done, and the glory of God will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. As Prophet He served God, as Priest He is serving God, as King He will still serve God throughout His reign on earth. And then, when He shall have given up the Kingdom to His Father that God may be all in all, what He was as Prophet, Priest and King will be remembered for ever.

But we come under His sceptre now. We come under His dominion; He is the One to whom we have bowed; He is our Lord, blessed be His Name, He exercises His authority over us in perfect grace. Grace reigns today. The throne upon which He sits is a throne of grace, and He ministers to us from the throne of grace what God is. We could not rightly pray, “Thy will be done on earth,” if we were not desiring as believers to be doing His will now, and that which will be revealed in a day that is coming surely should be true of the sons of God in this day. We come under the dominion of Christ now, and the law which will be fulfilled then is fulfilled in us who own Him as Lord. As we come under His influence we become like Him. As we enter the Holiest and behold God's beloved One and are occupied with Him, and feed upon Him we become like Him, and in our daily lives we shall be subject to the will of God.

These things were in the Holiest. When the priest went in there everything he saw was gold. The gold typifies the glory of God. Everything was gold save one thing, and that other thing was blood. The blood that was sprinkled before and on the Mercy Seat spoke of the blood of Jesus, the blood that as equal in its value to the full shining out of the glory of God, and if we come into the Holiest, into the presence of God, and are able to have our minds set upon those heavenly things, upon Christ Himself, it is because of the value of the precious blood. We shall not forget that for ever. We shall remember His love on earth, we shall remember His service in heaven, we shall remember throughout all eternity the glory of His kingdom. But we will never forget the value of the precious blood. It is Christ first, Christ last. God presents Him to us. Not merely doctrine, not creed, not tradition, not rules nor regulations, but Christ. Apart from having Christ before the soul, there is neither fellowship nor worship, but as He fills our hearts we know what true, holy, happy fellowship means, and in holy, happy fellowship we worship God.

“Woman, Why Weepest Thou?”

To Those in Sorrow

 

The blight of death has fallen upon your life, and you stand bereaved among the tombs with sorrow gripping your heart with a ruthless and iron hand. What is the world to you now, or life, since the sun of your hopes has set so suddenly, and the one who filled your heart has been torn from it, leaving a void that seems to challenge any power to ease its aching! You have sometimes in the past thought of the approach of death; in the still night, it may be, the possibility of a loved one being snatched from your side has made your heart cry out and the blood run cold in your veins; but now that the dreaded thing has come and cast its black and hateful shadow upon you—a shadow to you so tangible and dense that you have sought in your agony to lay hold upon it and tear it asunder—what will you do, and where will you look? Ah! in this poor earth, that has grown grey in its sin and sweat and sorrow, there are thousands, yea, tens of thousands, like you.

In deepest sympathy with you in this hour of darkness, and only intruding upon your sorrow in order to introduce you to true and lasting comfort, we would invite you to accompany us to a spot where the dead were laid of old, that we may show you how the tears of one were dried whose heart was broken.

Mary of Magdala stands in the garden where the mournful cypress cast their shadows and sigh in the freshening breezes o'er the tombs of the dead. The morning sun breaking over the eastern Olivet has not reached the deep grove where she weeps, and if it had its rays hold no power that can dispel the gloom of her soul, for she has lost the One in whom her life was centred, and she knows not where to find Him. The disciples, her friends, have homes and duties and distractions, but earth has no comfort for her as she stands beside that sepulchre where all that she loved had lain. Neither can heaven yield her consolation, she feels, for though “angels in white” appear and speak to her, she turns from them as though they were intruders, unable to understand or ease her grief. Behold her as she weeps, darkness above, darkness around, darkness within, and listen to her broken cry, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” Is your case comparable with hers?

Yes, there is much in common between Mary and you, for your soul is searching among the shadows, searching alone, perhaps, for something, you know not what. We know what you need, and can tell you that there is a balm for your sickness of sorrow. Mary found one and much more in that erstwhile mournful garden, and so may you.

Among the shadows He waits for her—her risen Lord, and when she turns herself back and stands face to face with Him, He speaks to her, asking the cause of her grief. But she supposes Him to be the gardener, and of what use can a gardener be to her? He labours upon beautiful things that have neither sorrows nor souls—she has both, things that grow and shed their sweetness for a day, then die and are forgotten—she is full of bitterness and cannot forget—she seeks not flowers, but “Him”—who can heal the broken-hearted, who Himself is called the “Man of Sorrows.” Marvellous designation for Jehovah's fellow! The gardener may work among the graves and endeavour to cover with the beauty of nature the stark nakedness of death, but a flower-strawed grave remains a grave, and the flowers fade, but the sorrow lives to drain the red heart white, unless a hand other than a gardener's intervenes. She does not want a gardener to garnish a grave, she wants her Lord to heal and satisfy her soul. And Mary's want is yours.

But if Mary knows not Jesus, He knows her and calls her by name in accents that throb with infinite love. He commands the morning for her and turns the shadow of death into joy. The darkness flies away from her soul and the dirge gives place to the triumph song within her heart as she sees Him, recognises Him, and responds to His voice to her in that one word, “Rabboni.” Here is a glorious deliverance from the bondage of a hopeless sorrow. THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED. He calls her by her name, and His presence and His voice change her outlook at once and for ever.

In this, O sorrow-burdened soul, there is everlasting consolation and good hope. Death has met his conqueror; his stronghold has been stormed and taken, and the dark King of Terrors dethroned. Christ is risen, He is Victor.

In no other way could the gates of death be open for us than by His resurrection from the dead. He has opened them, and holds the keys of them, as He that liveth for ever more. To all who put their faith in Him He says, “Fear not.” He has flooded the darkness of death with the light of hope and love, and you may look forward with confidence to the day when “shall be brought to pass that saying which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And the tenderness of His grace is as great as the triumph of His might; as it was for Mary in that distant day, so it is for you in this, and amid the shadow of your sorrow He waits, as He waited then for her, to speak to your heart, and to lead you out of darkness into the light of His victory and love.

The words of your friends reach your ears, and perhaps leave you more hopeless and bewildered than before. His words will reach your soul and give you divine support for human props, and a comfort and peace that death cannot destroy, for His words reveal Himself, and He is more than all you need. Turn yourself about to Him; lift your tear-filled eyes to His; hide not your broken heart from His touch; tell Him the cause of your grief.

“His love is as great as His power,

And knows neither measure nor end.”

Do you now understand what it is we would bring you to? There was only one Mary Magdalene on earth, and her heart alone knew its own bitterness. There is only one YOU, and your sorrow is your own. To that one Mary Jesus revealed Himself, knowing every pang of her heart, and in such a way that she could respond and call Him “MY MASTER.” This is where and how He will meet you, so that you may say, “I have not heard about Him only, I HAVE HEARD HIM. I know Him. Into the secret chambers of my soul that were possessed by a great sorrow, He has come. I have welcomed Him. I am His, He has called me by name, and He is mine—RABBONI.”

It is this personal link with the living Saviour that each soul that knows Him has for itself that sweetens the most bitter cup, silences the most rebellious questions, and satisfies the deepest longings of the heart. And it is in the knowledge of His personal interest in and everlasting love for each individual sheep in His flock as though each were His only one that enables each to sing:

“With mercy and with judgment

My web of time He wove,

And aye the dews of sorrow

Were lustred with His love.

I'll bless the hand that guided,

I'll bless the heart that planned,

When throned where glory dwelleth

In Immanuel's land.”

You will say “It is well” when you can say “RABBONI.”

Ye are Christ's

 

“Ye are Christ's” (1 Corinthians 3:23). These three words will be enough for my purpose at this time. I invite you to dismiss from your minds all popular notions as to what our relations with Christ are, for the more popular the notion is the more likely it is to be false, and come back to the clear, unmistakable words of Scripture. They are not Christ is yours, but “Ye are Christ's.” I am not aware of any passage in the New Testament that says Christ is yours. We are His possession; His claims are absolute; He is Lord; this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Many things are ours, before we reach this arresting statement, we are told, “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours,” and popular Christianity would crown this glorious heritage by saying, “And best of all Christ is yours.” But the Scripture does not say that at all. What it says is, “YE ARE CHRIST'S, and Christ is God's.” Just as Christ was and is and ever will be altogether at God's disposal, the willing Servant of His good pleasure, so are we to be at Christ's disposal, to be pleasurable to Him both now and for ever.

There is a great deal of unhealthy sentiment, I had almost said unholy sentiment, expressed in hymns often sung in modern “revival” and other gatherings, about Christ being ours. This sentiment is the product of a religion that has self for its centre and object, and one's own blessing and happiness and feelings and experiences and doings as its sole concern, instead of Christ and His rights, and these hymns and the sentiment behind them help to perpetuate a worldly, selfish, emasculated Christianity that the apostles knew not. From it may the Lord deliver us and bring us back by a gracious revival to the fact that we are Christ's, and to what that great fact means. We did not choose Him, but He chose us, we did not buy Him, but He bought us, and great was the price that He paid; and since He chose us and bought us we must belong to Him—spirit, soul and body. Yes, body as well as spirit and soul. It is this that is emphasized later in the epistle when the apostle, full of surprise that his Corinthian converts were forgetting it and of indignation at the conduct that resulted from their forgetfulness, urges, “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 bodies, which are God's” (Chap. 6:19-20, N.Tr.). Our bodies belong to God because they are Christ's and Christ is God's. Not only purchased but taken possession of—purchased by blood and possessed by the Holy Ghost. What else could be true but this, “Ye are Christ's”?

There was no selfish challenge to this great fact when first the apostles proclaimed that God had made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ. So real was it to those who yielded themselves to Him that they put all they possessed at His feet; they kept nothing back: lands, houses, everything belonged to Him if they were His; and without delay or regret they surrendered all to the disposal of their Lord. Was that because they were a generous and large-hearted people? Not likely; they were Jews. It was because they wholly recognized the claims of Christ. Nor was the truth less effectual amongst the Gentiles who believed, for the churches of Macedonia , though in great poverty, first gave their own selves to the Lord and then placed what else they had at His command. So it is recorded for us in 2 Corinthians 8.

The Christians at Corinth had not fully owned this fact. It is probable that they boasted that Christ was theirs. It seems certain that they did, for they were taking the benefits and gifts that they had received because they were Christ's and using them for self-exaltation. They were laying hold of these benefits and saying they are ours, and they were puffed up thereby, and producing all kinds of strife, and envy, and ill-blood where peace and love should have held sway. They were reigning as kings, these people who could boast that Christ was theirs, white Paul and his fellow-apostles, men who fully owned that they were Christ's, were the offscouring of all things, for so we learn from chapter 4 of this epistle; they could not reign where Christ was crucified, they must be as their Lord.

The sort of Christianity that the Corinthians showed is the sort that is popular today, and just as they needed to have the truth pressed upon them that they were Christ's, so do we. There can be no advance in grace and truth, no walking and growth in the Spirit apart from this, “Ye are Christ's” must gain its proper ascendency in our lives if we are to be what the Scripture shows us that Christians really are.

Now before proceeding to speak of the blessedness of this fact, it is not my intention to take from anyone any definite blessing or joy that they may have derived from thinking of Jesus as theirs. There is a certain measure of truth in that side of things; the trouble is that it is forced wholly out of its place to the detriment of souls. It is true that the Lord Jesus has placed Himself at our disposal. All the grace and love that fills His heart flows out without limit for us, in that sense He may be said to be ours; but was there ever a Christian who really got the benefit of these things apart from owning the claims of the Lord? It is only as we are owning that we are Christ's that we can be in the joy of what He is to us. We rejoice to speak of Him as our Saviour. Yes, but what did He save us for? That we might belong to Him, “He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”—that we might be His peculiar treasure. We rejoice to speak of Him as our Lord; but that means not that He belongs to us, but that we belong to Him; it is not our claiming Him, but our owning His claims over us. We delight in the fact that “The Lord is my Shepherd.” True, but does the Shepherd belong to the sheep or the sheep to the Shepherd? His own account of this blessed relationship is very definite. “I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep . . . I am the good Shepherd and know My sheep, and am known of Mine . . . My sheep hear My voice . . . neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand . . . My Father gave them Me.” There is no part of Scripture that emphasizes the great fact that we are Christ's more than John 10, and, oh, the preciousness of it! We are His because of the great love that fills His heart for us, love that has flowed forth and proved itself by His death for us. He gave Himself that He might possess us for Himself for ever without a rival. We are His because His Father gave us to Him, and we are more precious to Him because of this than thrones and kingdoms; we are the Father's love gift to His well-beloved Son. We are His because He can keep us. He can hold us against the threatenings of every hostile power. In His right hand dwells omnipotence, and in that hand we are, for we are His. The sheep belong to the Shepherd. “Ye are Christ's.”

We may begin, and often do, like the bride in Canticles who sang in her new-found joy, “My beloved is mine, and I am His,” but if we advance in the knowledge of the Lord we shall speedily change our song as she did, and rejoice with a greater joy to sing, “I am my beloved's, and His desire is toward me.” The first is a sort of half truth in which self has a place of prominence, the last is the whole truth, in which Christ is all. There the heart loses sight of all but the greatness and tenderness of Him who has been spoken of in poetical language as “this tremendous Lover.” Then it is realized that the only response to love such as His is to yield ourselves to Him, and it becomes the joy of life to own that we are His.

This means much to Him; if we would know how much we must measure the travail of His soul when He gave Himself to save us and as we endeavour to do that which is impossible, we must remember that His joy in possessing us will compensate Him fully and for ever for all that He has suffered to make us His. But consider the Lord's intercession on behalf of His own in John 17. He is speaking to His Father. In that full and blessed communion that ever existed between the Father in heaven and the beloved Son upon earth, He makes requests for His own. Hear Him say, “the men Thou gavest me out of the world; Thine they were and Thou gavest then Me.” . . . I pray for them which Thou gavest me; for they are Thine, and all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine . . . Keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me.” When He spoke to His disciples, He could not tell them all; He was straitened and restricted, but here what was in His heart could flow out without any reserve, and could anything affect us more deeply? Could we possibly listen to that wonderful prayer and not gladly and fully own that we are Christ's indeed? His because His Father gave us to Him, His because He bought us with a great price, His because possessed on His behalf by the Holy Ghost. Yes, the truth, the whole truth is this, “Ye are Christ's.” Much is involved in it of which I cannot speak now, the fact itself is enough for the time being. Let it fix itself in our hearts and minds, and produce in our lives its own true and blessed fruit.

You and Me

 

“ This is My body which is given for you this do in remembrance of Me ” (Luke 22:19).

 

It is the personal element in the Lord's Supper that makes it so attractive to all who love Him. This is the one arresting thing in the words that He used when He instituted it on the night of His betrayal: “ This is My body which is given for YOU: this do in remembrance of ME .” We must all feel that the emphasis rests upon the personal pronouns in these wonderful words. His heart was set with an unquenchable love upon those whom He addresses as “YOU,” for them He gave His holy body in sacrifice even unto death; for them He shed His blood. It was not for a vague, intangible theory that He suffered; it was not for some great and important principle that He died, as some who profess to admire Him but don't know Him assert; it was for persons, “FOR YOU.” His outlook on that night when treachery and hatred conspired to destroy Him was the “YOU” of whom He spoke.

Every Christian can, of course, make this an individual matter, indeed all must begin there, and from a full heart exclaim as Paul did: “The Son of God loved ME, and gave Himself for ME.” But the “you” that filled the Lord's thoughts in those hours of darkness was the Christian “you.” Every individual of that company had a place in His thoughts, was an object of His love; but it was an indivisible company upon which He looked, and the love that filled His heart for them made Him die for them. “Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it.” Not for crowns and kingdoms did He do battle on that great day, though these He shall have, for they are His inalienable right, and a defeated foe must yield to Him all that he had seized in presumptuous usurpation; but He fought and suffered for persons, for those whom He loved: to deliver them, to redeem them by His blood, that they might be free and for Him, moved by His love to responsive devotion and love: His own forever.

It is wonderful to recall the sufferings of the cross, and to remember that they were for us, and that no consideration for Himself made our great Saviour hesitate for a moment in what His heart had purposed. “This be far from Thee,” said Peter, who did not understand. “Save Thyself”; “Come down from the cross,” cried His foes with bitter taunts. But He would not save Himself. He thought of us—persons who could never have been saved if His blood had not been poured out for our salvation, but whom He knew would appreciate His love when, by the Spirit of God, we perceived its greatness and felt its power, and respond to it with joy, and thus be a recompense to Him for all He suffered.

When we come to the Supper it is not to a mere ordinance we come; we do not sit down to perform an empty rite, but to remember a Person. “This do,” He said, “in remembrance of ME.” If at the cross the “YOU” filled His thoughts, at the Supper the “ME” must fill ours. We may rejoice in what He has done for us, and be grateful for deliverance from sin and Satan's power and judgment to come; cold would our hearts be, and hard, if we forgot all this, or were not thrilled at the remembrance of it. Our deliverance is real, we gather together in the joy of this, we are spiritually free, and we must sing our song of praise to Him who has done it for us; but it is not that that gives its own precious character to the Supper, the personal element eclipses all else. It is Himself that must fill our thoughts. He said, “Remember ME.”

As He looked onward amid those never-to-be-forgotten sorrows to the “YOU,” so we look backward at the Supper to the “ME.” It is Himself, but it is Himself pouring out unspeakable love in immeasurable sacrifice. Only in that way could He fully reveal Himself to us, and it is by that we know Him.

“Wouldst thou know My glory, beloved?

Know Me, the great I AM?

First must thine eyes behold Me,

The slain and stricken Lamb.

“My visage so marred more than any,

My form than the sons of men;

Yet to the heart I have won Me,

I am the fairest then.

“Thou knowest the sun by his glory—

Thou knowest the rose by her breath,

Thou knowest the fire by its glowing—

Thou knowest My love by death.”

Praise and thanksgiving there must be for what He has done and for what we have received, but in this act of remembrance it is Himself, and as He rises up before our souls and we realize His great love by the Spirit, we forget ourselves, and these lesser notes give place to worship that may deepen into silent adoration, silent because too deep for words.

“Silent at His feet we lie

Lost in love's immensity.”

“YOU” and “ME” and only love between! Love that holds us in an embrace which is eternal, and from which no power can take us! What joy it must yield to the heart of the Lord when we realize this! He finding His joy in us, and we absorbed with Him! The natural man cannot understand this, for it is not a mere natural emotion, it is the outflow from the new spiritual nature within us that delights in the Lord, whom having not seen we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

It is here that we find our truest and holiest fellowship, for where every heart bows down before the Lord there must be one mind. About many things at other times we may differ, and that will be no credit to us, but not here, surely. The love that has bound us all together in that blessed “YOU” forbids discord and division, it rebukes all selfishness and pride, and sets us in happy unity before Him, and “we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). How wonderful it is to know that we are part of the “YOU” for whom He gave Himself, and to know in truth what His words mean, “Remember ME”! It is this that soothes the restless spirit and blends all into heavenly harmony, and draws from us the adoration of wondering and satisfied hearts, which is to our Lord as fragrant as was the spikenard, very costly, that Mary poured upon His sacred feet in other days.

Your Own Salvation

 

“ 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 ” (Philippians 2:12-13).

 

We were sitting in a room where played a little baby boy; he had just begun to walk and talk, and was putting his new found powers to the test. As he tremblingly ran from one chair to another, we heard him say to himself, “Mind the fender, C——.” A careful mother had warned him of the danger that lurked just there, and he was now repeating her warning to himself and so working out his own salvation in respect to it.

God has warned us, in His Word, as to where the dangers lie, and as we keep His Word in mind, and are obedient to it, we, too, work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. “Concerning the works of men, by the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer” (Ps. 17:4).

But not only are we preserved from falling into the devil's snares by the wholesome fear of them, but also by the attraction of something greater and better than the temptation presents. In ancient Greek mythology we read of the Sirens, beautiful in voice, but malignant in soul. They lived by the sea, and sang their sweetest songs as the ships sailed by in order to lure the mariners to destruction on their treacherous shore. When the Argonauts set sail for Pontus in search of the Golden Fleece, they knew that they must pass this point of danger, and that they might not be turned from their purpose by the seductive songs of the Sirens, they induced Orpheus, the greatest poet and singer of those times, to accompany them.

Every day of that voyage he poured forth his most enchanting strains in the ears of those sailors, so that when they came to the point of danger the Sirens sang in vain; the Argonauts passed them with contempt for the inferior music had no charm for them because of the sweeter strains that filled their ears.

It is thus that God works in His grace. Christ is presented to us in all that wonderful charm that has won our hearts, and with the eye and heart filled with His surpassing beauty, our souls are proof against the false glamour which only attracts to destroy. The same holy Word of God, which warns us of danger around, also unveils for us the excellencies of Christ. Consider them as they are presented to us in this second chapter of Philippians. As we consider it we are compelled to sing—

“Brightness of the eternal glory

Shall Thy praise unuttered be

Who would hush the heavenly story

Of the Lamb who came to die.

“Came from Godhead's fullest glory

Down to Calvary 's depth of woe;

Now on high we bow before Thee,

Streams of praises ceaseless flow!”

The world has nothing to show us or tell us like that wonderful story, and we do not wonder that Paul, who knew the Lord so well, wrote “what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Now this passage is often supposed to be an exhortation to work for salvation, but those who so use it do not know the grace of God, nor the supreme excellence of the work of Christ. It is “By grace are ye saved . . . not of works , lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Thus saith the Scripture, and it cannot be broken, nor contradict itself. The words were written to those who were already saved, who had within them the new life, nature and power—by the exercise of which they were to be preserved in the path of God's pleasure in obedience to His will. And who can obey the Word of God but those who are His children by grace? Is it not written, “they that in the flesh cannot please God”?

When in the Transvaal we went down into one of the gold mines there, and saw the quartz being worked out from the bowels of the earth; then presently we saw the bars of yellow metal all ready for shipment for the English mint. The gold was there in the mine first of all, but it had to be worked out to be of use in the world and of profit to the owners. So it is with us who believe—there must be exercise, and diligence, and work, so that that which God has placed within us may be worked out for His praise and glory and the blessing of men. But only a gold mine can produce gold, you would work in vain for it in any other mine. And so only the truly saved person can work out salvation.

But there is still a point of greatest importance in this passage, which must not be overlooked; “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” We have no power in ourselves naturally, and many Christians are greatly disappointed because this is overlooked. It is God who works in us both the will and the energy. As some mighty electric dynamo supplies the factory with the force needful for the production of that for which it was erected, so God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, works in us His will and way, so that we may follow the Lord wholly, and give pleasure to Him who has bought us at so great a cost. Our place is to obey Him, to yield ourselves to Him alone, having no confidence in the flesh; then shall we be sons of God, blameless and harmless, and only by our obedience to Him can we prove ourselves to be such. And such are sorely needed, for the world is crooked and perverse; darkness and death hold men in their terrible thrall and they need light that can only come from God, and the Word of life.

Good it would be for us if we could see things as Paul saw them when he wrote these words. He saw a stream of death and darkness carrying men further and further from God into a lost eternity, and he also saw the sons of God, rescued from that dread river, delivered from it and standing clear of it casting their light across its dark waters and stretching out to the poor victims in it the Word of life, their only hope. Ah, we need to work out our own salvation, not only that we may be witnesses for God, but witnesses to men, giving them no cause to blame us, but every reason to bless us.

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