Miscellaneous Writings

Part 8

J. T. Mawson

Miscellaneous Writings

Section 2

 

Articles of J.T.Mawson that were not printed in Scripture Truth

A Letter From Australia

 

It is plain from 2 Timothy that the sphere of service for the faithful man is wider than his sphere of fellowship. We must keep this in mind. Purity must mark our fellowship; need should command our service. We must not compromise the truth, yet we should make fringes upon the four quarters of our vesture wherewith we cover ourselves (Deut. 22:12). How abrupt we often are with our “principles.” We forget to put a fringe on our vesture, and to become all things to all men that we might save some. And as for those that belong to the Lord, we need to have that compassion for the ignorant that the Lord shows to us.

Another Scripture speaks of the ribband of blue upon the fringe, which is a necessary reminder to us that while we should be ready to meet men in their ignorance and need, we are still heavenly, and must not deny our character.

A Publican Named Levi

 

“ And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance ” (Luke 5:27-32).

Was this publican a Levite? If so his degradation was all the greater. But to whatever tribe he belonged he was an Israelite, and, by becoming a publican he dishonoured his name and nation, and cut himself adrift from his friends and possibly from his family, to be classed with heathen men and sinners. And for what? There can be but one answer. It must have been for gold. Gold dominated him, it was more to him than honour, fame, friends, national pride. It had hardened him also to the opinion of others, for he sat at the receipt of custom in the open market, heedless of the scorn of his fellow townsfolk. A despised man was he and degraded. And Jesus saw him sitting there, and said to him, “Follow Me.”

The command must have started those who stood by, and especially, Peter, Andrew, James and John. They had heard the same command and had instantly obeyed it, leaving boats and nets and fishes and parents and hired servants, but they were hard-working and respectable men; rough perhaps, and uncultured, but as far as was known there was nothing in their lives of which they needed to be publicly ashamed. And they had followed Him, for His call had been irresistible, and they had dimly glimpsed in Him the Redeemer of Israel, and for Israel 's sake as much as for the power they had felt in His word, they had followed Him. But this publican! What cared he for Israel ? He was no patriot, he was a traitor to his nation. And could the cause of Jesus prosper with such as he among His followers? Public opinion would be most definitely against Him for this choice, as indeed it was from that day onward, and would not these respectable disciples find this addition to their number most objectionable, and question their Master's wisdom and abandon Him? And would the man whose very soul had become withered by its greed for gold heed the call? The great question was, What would Levi

do?

A miracle happened at that wayside booth. The publican LEFT ALL, ROSE UP, AND FOLLOWED HIM. It was not at an evening service, when all the gold possible had been gathered in and safely locked away, that this call came and this decision was made; it was during business hours, as he collected and counted the coveted coins. Then the voice of the Lord reached him, and the chains that had held him fell away, and a new life quickened his dead soul, and he left all, rose up and followed Jesus. It may be that in his unsatisfied heart there was a secret yearning, and he could not tell it to Pharisees or scribes or priests, for they would have spurned him, and he would have been ashamed to tell it to the baser men who had become his companions. But it was there surely and he was a soul-sick sinner, with a sickness that was only aggravated by his covetousness, and when the great Physician passed by and looked upon him, there was an instant response to His gaze and an answer to His call. He realized that Jesus who was seeking him was the One he had needed, the One in whom he could trust. Then what he had counted as gain he spurned as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus, the Lord. The gold had lost its hold upon him, and he forsook the old life once and for all, leaving the tax-gatherers revenue to whoever cared to claim it, for the glory of the King had broken into his dark life. Jesus was better than gold.

He answered to the divine claim, for Jesus is God. Who but God has a right to claim men before father, mother, wife, children, houses or lands? And who but God can so fill the heart that every right claim falls into a subordinate place, and every evil thing drops off like a broken fetter? And who but God can take up such men as Levi was and save and transform them and mould them to His will and make them the happy servants of other's needs? Happy is the man who hears in the voice of Jesus the voice of God and answers it with an instant obedience.

The people had said “We have seen strange things today, ” when they saw the impotent man take up his bed and depart on his own legs to his house glorifying God; but they saw a stranger thing when covetous Levi, delivered from his master passion, followed Jesus, and with a heart overflowing with new and generous feelings gathered into his house a great company of publicans and others to hear the voice that had set him free. He had ceased to collect the shekels and had begun to select souls. Yes, a greater miracle was wrought on Levi than upon his palsied, neighbour, for it was a moral and spiritual miracle changing his very nature.

The Scribes and Pharisees murmured but the heart of the Saviour rejoiced and Levi's feast gave Him the opportunity of proclaiming His grace and announcing His mission. “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

Adorning The Doctrine

 

What is this doctrine of God our Saviour of which Titus 2:10 speaks? It is the Gospel, that wonderful message that has come to us from our Saviour God and that has brought peace and life into our once troubled and dead souls.

But how can we adorn that? It is already perfect and all-beautiful. It has not only met our souls' deep need, but has given us the Lord Jesus as a living and glorious Object to satisfy our hearts. Surely that gospel needs no adorning!

But while it is beautiful in our eyes, it is not beautiful in the eyes of the world. To those who know not God it has neither form nor comeliness; they prefer their own “dead works,” their vain philosophies, their “science falsely so-called,” their pleasures and lusts, to the very revelation of God Himself, which the gospel is. And just as they despised and rejected the Son of God when He was here, so now they despise and reject the Gospel of God which bears witness to Him. It is for us who believe it to bring out its beauties, to adorn it in all things, to show the value of it in our lives, to demonstrate that it is not empty words or unpractical doctrine, but that those words have a living power, give life to the soul and can so transform a man that his life is fruitful and fragrant in all things.

This seems a great thing, and impossible for us to accomplish. It is indeed impossible with men. If men could do it there would be no need for faith or the Holy Ghost. Everything that the Christian is asked to do is impossible with men, but not with God, and when we have believed the Gospel the grace of God delivers us from iniquity, and from our sinful wills that make it impossible, and gives us a new life and power, so that the very slaves who had believed could adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, and this is the normal life of all who have been saved by God's grace.

A hyacinth bulb shall illustrate it. Nothing could be less attractive than a hyacinth bulb. The gardener knows its value, he understands well the beauties that lie hidden in it. But a man who saw one for the first time would not go into raptures about it, nor set it as an ornament amongst the treasures in his drawing-room. He might treat it as a certain servant-maid of whom I heard treated a parcel of them that the master of the house brought home one day. At dinner-time she said to the mistress, “I cooked them onions, ma'am, that the master brought home, but they had neither taste nor smell, so I threw them away.” But give the hyacinth bulb to the gardener, let him treat it as his skill teaches him it should be treated. Then will it strike its filaments deep, and send up its glorious spikes of flowers, to delight every eye, and shed its fragrance wherever it is placed.

The Gospel has been planted in our hearts that it may develop its beauty in our lives like that, and we have but to yield ourselves to the blessed culture of the grace of God, and to be subject to the Lord Himself, whose tillage we are, and the blessedness of the Gospel will soon be seen. The meekness and gentleness of Christ will not be mere phrases on our lips, but beautiful realities in our lives. The Gospel brought forgiveness to us, so shall we forgive others; it brought peace into our souls, so we shall be peaceable; it set us in righteousness before God, so shall we be practically righteous in our ways; it has brought to us the knowledge of Gods love, so we shall love one another and do good unto all men. And these flowers of grace will not bloom and wither in a day as so many flowers in our gardens do; they are everlasting flowers. God Himself will preserve them, for they glorify Him, and that which glorifies Him, because it is the fruit of His own word, will live and abide for ever.

The poet Gray has tunefully said,

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

But these flowers of grace that adorn the Gospel in the lives of God's people are not in that category. God sees them and delights in their fragrance even if nobody else cares. But others see them too, and many a weary Christian has been refreshed and blessed by their fragrance. A schoolmistress said to a friend of mine, “Your garden gives pleasure to many. I bring my girls past it every day, for I like them to appreciate beautiful things.” It was a fading earthly garden of which she spoke. But these heavenly flowers in the Lord's garden bless the soul. They flourished well in the young assembly at Antioch . And Barnabas, who had travelled all the way from Jerusalem to see what God had wrought there, was glad when he saw the grace of God. The Gospel was thus made visible there.

It is not by great efforts that these results are produced, but by beholding the Lord's glory. Let the Gospel talk to us, in our waking moments at night, and as we walk about the streets, or whenever or wherever our minds are free from other things. Let us dwell in the grace of it, in the love of Jesus that it reveals to us. He is brighter and better than the brightest and best that the world can give, and as our hearts are satisfied with Him, our once unlovely and desert lives will blossom as a rose garden. God will be glorified, and others, perhaps, will be attracted to the Saviour whom we love, as was a rough, godless navvy whose wife had been converted. He went one day to the city missionary and said to him, “Mister, if you have any of that religion left that you gave our Betty, I'd like a bit of it myself.”

“Amount Received in Full”

 

Our Gospel service on Sunday evening had been a time of great blessing. The Spirit of God had used the word to the salvation of souls, and my host, who was never happier than when men and women were turning to the great Saviour, went to his office on Monday morning a most happy man.

He was a wholesale provision merchant, and there came to see him that morning a woman, who had a sad story to tell. She was one of his customers, and had got heavily into his debt. He had allowed her to have goods because he believed her story that she had a property that she was intending to sell, when she would be able to clear off all she owed.

Now she had come to tell him that she had deceived him, and was at the end of her tether, that she was in fact a bankrupt. She made a weeping and complete confession, hiding nothing. After consultation with his cashier who was a Christian man and a preacher of the gospel of God's grace, she was called into the private office, and what she witnessed there amazed her. The cashier opened the safe and took out the money box—it was in the days of golden sovereigns before the war—and counted out of it the amount of the debt. The merchant counted the money, and took the bill that stood against the woman, and stamped it, and wrote across it “Amount received in full, ” signed it and handed it to her.

She was a grateful as well as an astonished woman, and my friend explained to her that that was what God wanted to do with the debt that she owed to Him.

Let me explain. Sinners are spoken of in the Bible as debtors to God, and as all have sinned, all are debtors. Some have sinned more than others, and the Lord Jesus recognized this when in the parable He spoke of the debtor that owed fifty pence and the other that owed five-hundred pence. There was no difference between them, however, for neither had one penny to pay. Not a sinner on earth can atone for one of many sins that he has committed against God. All are alike in this respect, they have nothing to pay.

It would be a most melancholy consideration if the Gospel which God is sending into the world did not proclaim the fact that He desires to frankly forgive every debtor, to pardon every sinner. And He can do it, because He can write across every dark account of indebtedness—“Amount received in full.”

Again I must explain. My merchant friend found in his own cash box the money that enabled him to clear his debtor's debt. It was a noble deed and nobly done, and I never came across a case that illustrates God's way so well.

Even then it falls far short of what God has done. Out of heaven's treasury He gave His best. He gave His Son, His only begotten Son! He gave Him to meet all the righteous demands of eternal justice, and it was His love that made Him do it. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” ( Rom. 5:8). His blood was shed for us, and no creature, neither angel nor man, can tell the value of the blood, the efficacy of that sacrifice. But God knows it, and because of its value He can forgive with an eternal forgiveness everyone that comes to Him, confessing their sinfulness as that woman confessed her debt to my friend.

To some who had come in this way to God, the aged Apostle John, who had leaned his head on Jesus' bosom wrote:—“I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His Name's sake” (1 John 2:12).

My friend's cash box was more than equal to the woman's debt, and where sin abounds God's grace does much more abound, and those who come to Him may have the full assurance of God's own forgiveness. That woman went away at peace and happy about the debt, and deeply grateful to her creditor. And if anyone had challenged her, and said, “How do you know that the debt is cancelled?” she could have shown them the bill signed by the creditor over his own words, “Amount received in full.” So God tells us in His own word, upon which we can rest without a doubt, that “all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:39).

Andrew and Philip

 

It is a blessed thing to know that the Lord Jesus Christ has settled the question of our sins so that we can say without a doubt, “We have peace with God.” But it is quite another matter to make His acquaintance personally. We may receive the blessing of forgiveness through Him, and be very little changed; but if we make the acquaintance of the Blesser, our whole life will be transformed—service will become both happy and natural, and it will be successful in the truest sense of the word.

I want to illustrate the great difference that heart-acquaintance with Christ makes by what is recorded of Andrew and Philip in the Gospel of John. They are, with one exception, always spoken of together in that gospel. The first mention of them is in the opening chapter. Andrew was with John the Baptist when he stood and looked upon Jesus as He walked. He heard John's words, “Behold the Lamb of God.” He had been with John and learnt blessed things from him, but now the One of whom John spake was there, and he was attracted by Him and followed on, drawn by the magnetism of His person. The Lord turned, and seeing him and his companion following, said, “What seek ye?” They replied, “Master, where dwellest Thou?” Ah! We quite understand the meaning of their inquiry. It was as though they said, “No place will satisfy us but whore Thou art; we cannot do without Thee.” Would not this give pleasure to the heart of the Lord Jesus? Indeed it would. So He replied, “Come and see.” Oh, the heartiness of the welcome!

Evidently they believed that in the place where He dwelt there would be room for them, or they would never have dared to ask the question. It has often been pointed out that the Lord's dwelling-place is in the bosom of the Father (v. 18), the circle of the Father's love. That is not my point just now. And the Lord Himself will not be satisfied until we are in heart with Him in His own dwelling-place. So we need not draw back, for we, too, shall find a wonderful welcome in the place where He dwells. Oh, how He loves us!

What I want to point out is that Andrew gained the company of the Lord and abode with Him that day. What wonderful things he must have learned! His heart had been looking out and yearning for the One whom God had promised through the prophets to send; and now He had come, and Andrew had found Him. He had been welcomed to His home; he had found Him to be full of grace and truth, and his heart was satisfied. Happy Andrew! May we get where he got!

Now with Philip things were different. He was not attracted to the Lord in the same way, for we find the Lord had to command him to follow Him; nor do we read that he reached the place that Andrew did. But beyond doubt he must have been blessed through coming into contact with the Lord in any way.

We find these two men go forth to bring others to the One whom they had found. It must ever be so when real blessing is received. Its course is outward and onward to others, and if, in your heart, there is no desire to see others blest, we greatly doubt as to whether you have got the blessing yourself. One thing is absolutely certain—you are not enjoying it.

Andrew first sought out his brother Simon, saying to him, “We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus.” What a lovely sentence that is, He brought him to Jesus”! He brought him to the One who had satisfied his own heart, the One in whom is all love, all grace, all tenderness, and all power. In short, he brought him to One whom all sinners need, and the One who is sufficient for all.

See what follows. “Jesus beheld him.” With what love He must have looked upon him! Those words—“Jesus beheld him”—speak volumes to us. Then He said, “Thou art Simon, the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas,” which means “a stone.” Thus we learn that Simon had heard and believed the testimony of Andrew. And now the Lord tells him that, having believed, he was to become one of the bright stones in God's spiritual house, which Christ, in His omnipotence, was to build.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” If you compare this testimony with Andrew's, you will at once see the difference. Nor was it so eminently successful, for we find that Nathanael straightway began to cavil, saying, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth ?” And it was not until Philip said, “Come and see. Prove it for yourself before you judge,” that Nathanael was drawn to Jesus.

We pause here for a moment, for it is possible that some unconverted soul will read this paper. You have long doubted the power and grace of Jesus. You have imagined that He cannot benefit you at all, because you do not see much brightness or joy in Christians around you. To you we would say, as Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see. Prove Him for yourself; you shall find Him to be brighter and better than the best thing on earth”. But even Nathanael takes higher ground than Philip in his testimony, for when he came, and had to do with the Lord Himself, he exclaims, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Here, then, we see a distinct difference, at the very outset, between Andrew and Philip.

Now the next time we read of them is in John 6. Gathered round the Lord and His disciples were five thousand famishing people, and His heart was moved with compassion towards them, and He intended to feed them. But, first of all, He speaks to Philip to prove him, saying, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” Philip's reply proves that he thought such a thing impossible. “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little,” he said. He had no thought of the power of his Master.

Andrew standing by hears the question and the answer, and he says, “There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes.” Apart from faith, to mention so small a supply in the presence of such vast need was absurd in the extreme. But Andrew had some knowledge of the Lord's power, or he never would have mentioned the small supply that the lad had, even though he spoiled it somewhat by saying, “But what are they among so many?” We know the result. The Lord took that small supply of which Andrew spoke, and made it sufficient to meet the need of every person in that vast multitude.

They are brought together again in chapter 12. Certain Creeks had come up to the feast to worship. These came to Philip, saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Philip seems to be somewhat in a dilemma. But he goes and tells Andrew his difficulty. Andrew had no difficulty at all; for we read that at once he and Philip go and tell Jesus. We gather that Andrew had some idea of the overflowing grace that was in Christ Jesus, which could and would reach outside and beyond the bounds of the Jewish nation and take in the Greeks.

The whole secret comes out with regard to Philip in chapter 14. There Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip?” This was the secret. Philip had received blessing from the Lord, and he was one of those of whom it is said, Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” But he had never really known the Lord Jesus as the One who came from the Father, bringing of the fullness and wealth of heaven down to those who were brought to Him. His attractiveness as in chapter 1, His power as in chapter 6, His grace as in chapter 12, had not really been comprehended by him.

Oh that we may be like Andrew, attracted to the Lord by the beauty that we see in Him! May He become so indispensable to us that we cannot do without Him.

But if He is indispensable to us, He is also all - sufficient . We have no need to turn to any other source of supply. If this is the case with us, like Andrew, we shall always be found bringing something or someone to Jesus. With him it was first the sinner—then the smallness of his own supply in the presence of a vast need—then as the servant of the Lord who knew how to act in an emergency. All alike were brought to Jesus by Andrew, because he first had proved how wonderfully Jesus could meet and answer every question in his soul. “Go, and do thou likewise.”

Assurance and Protection

 

Uncertainty as to the future, and discontent with present conditions are the chief features of the world as we know it; and it is not pessimism but the truth that says, no man or group of men, no party, nations or league of nations has any practical remedy for things as they are. We have no intention of wasting our time or space in proving this; we have no need to, for it is being proclaimed from every house top. But it is our intention to urge upon our Christian friends that they need not be uncertain or discontented, for full assurance and satisfaction lie in the knowledge of God—in what He is and what He will give.

He has said, “I AM Alpha and Omega . . . I WILL GIVE unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:6). “I am Alpha and Omega”—the A and the Z. He was the first to speak and He will have the last word about everything. We may rely with an absolute assurance on His word. He has spoken to us in His beloved Son, our Saviour; and His voice has not driven us from His presence trembling with fear, but has drawn us to Him. How could we help believing on Him who sent our Lord Jesus Christ into this world to speak to us His words of salvation, of reconciliation, and eternal life. They have given us a great and sure hope, and we know, having heard and believed them, that the Tabernacle of God, which John saw in vision in this chapter, is our everlasting abode. To dwell with God, who is now not a stranger or an unknown God, but well-known to us in Jesus' love, is our destiny. We are not uncertain.

God will not go back on His Word, for the “I AM” changes not, and He “willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:17-18).

Yet it seems easier to trust about eternity than about time, and many who have no fear as to what lies beyond death are greatly troubled about present circumstances and what tomorrow may bring forth. But this should not be. The word of the Alpha and Omega is surely enough for us. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.” If His love has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, we cannot doubt Him. He may, and often does, use our circumstances in the way of chastisement, in order that we may be partakers of His holiness and weaned from the world, but He will not leave us nor forsake us as we pass through the trial. Thus has he said, and He will most certainly be faithful to His spoken word. He would deny Himself if He were not. He would not be Alpha and Omega.

To whom can we go but to Him? “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” No matter how well meaning and honest they may be, they are not equal to the unravelling of the universal tangle. And this is because God is not the beginning of their schemes, nor His glory the end of their measures. The world is not ready for the fulfilment of the prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, ” and it is because of this that the Christian who sincerely prays that prayer must stand apart from the world and its politics. If he does not, he will be involved in the confusion and uncertainty of the world; but if he trusts in the Lord, he will be kept in peace. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.”

It gives great confidence and quietness of spirit to know that God is over all, and that He can, and does, control the waves of evil, saying, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” And in this confidence the Christian becomes an intercessor on behalf of all men, and is of the greatest service to his day and generation. This is God's will for His children, that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority: that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty ” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). As long as the Church is on earth, God will keep His hand upon affairs and make all things work together for the good of them that love Him. It must always be so, since He is the One who has said, “I am Alpha and Omega.”

It is “Alpha and Omega, ” whose word is infallible and final, who proclaims, “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” He is the giving God, He delights to give; it is His very nature. He does not withhold His gifts even though men are unthankful and unholy. We praise His goodness as we think of His kindness to men, but what tongue of men or angels can tell the love that led Him to give His Son? This was His “unspeakable gift.” Thanks be unto Him for it, for ever.

But the greatest of all gifts did not exhaust His giving. He still gives and must do so for ever. He gives of Himself, not for now, but to the thirsty; For He is Himself surely the fountain of the water of life. And he that drinketh of this water shall never thirst. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that is given unto us.” And we do not here separate Father, Son, and Holy Ghost from each other in this infinite outpouring of the fullness of divine love. The Father is the Source, the Son has fully revealed it, and is the channel by whom it has reached us, and the Holy Ghost makes it a living reality to us, who apart from His work in us would be for ever dead to it.

Here is satisfaction, and the heart that knows it could not be discontented even though his poverty were as deep as that of the Son of Man who had not a place to lay His head. What has the world to offer as compared with this? Its best is vanity, and what it gives, it gives with a grudging hand; but here we have heaven's fullness offered freely and the only condition is thirst on the part of the recipient.

Let us thank God that in days of uncertainty and discontent we may rejoice in full assurance and complete satisfaction.

Believing and Confessing

 

“I'm saved tonight, sir,” said a lad to me some time since, as he left one of our Gospel meetings.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“It was the word you spoke, sir,” was his prompt reply.

“What was the word?”

“It was from Romans 10:9, Thou shalt be saved IF thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead.”

My young friend saw that on the cross Jesus bore his sin, and that God had taken Jesus out of the grave and put Him on His throne, thus proving to us that not only was the work done on the cross, as Jesus said it was, but that God was satisfied with it.

The dear lad had believed this in his heart, and now opened his lips to confess the Lord Jesus.

He did not mind how his mates laughed at him. He had found Jesus as his Saviour, and was not ashamed to speak of Him.

This is why he could say with such confidence, “I'm saved tonight”—because God had said it about him first.

Now, what about you who are reading this story? Are you saved?

My little friend was a black boy, but as soon as be trusted in Jesus all his sins were washed away, and his soul was made as white as snow.

You may have a fair, white skin, but, remember, God does not look to see what colour your skin is, but He looks right down from heaven into your heart.

Just think of your sins, which are all in God's book and have grieved God's heart. And while you think of them turn to Jesus, who can wash them all away. Then tell your friends that Jesus has saved you, and that He can save them too.

Christ and His Church

 

Introductory

Before the lips of our Lord first uttered those two words, “My church,” words which impress us with the preciousness of the church to Him as being His own peculiar possession, He asked His disciples, “Whom do ye say that I am?” Peter answered at once “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God .” The truth as to His Person must come out, for there could be no church apart from that, for it is formed upon and will be filled with what He is. But in this connection it is important that we should rightly grasp the significance of this episode in the revelation of the truth. Peter had not arrived at the truth by the exercise of his natural wits, or through any education he had received in the schools of men; nor can any other man; the scribes and Pharisees were far more intellectual and educated than he, and they neither discerned nor confessed the truth as to the Son of God. Nor had he gathered it from his study of the Old Testament prophets, though they all spoke of Christ; nor from the preaching of John the Baptist, though he was a faithful messenger, going before the face of the Lord's Anointed. He had received it from the FATHER — name of perfect grace, unknown to saints and sages of dispensations past, however exalted their privileges; hidden even now from the wise and prudent of the earth, but revealed unto babes. And it was from HEAVEN that the Father had revealed it. It was a heavenly revelation, the fruit of unmeasured grace which the name Father implies. This great revelation upon which so much hangs, was not made because of any merit in those who were chosen to receive it; and it connects itself, not with prophecies regarding the kingdom which are earthly in character, but with heaven and the counsel of God's will, by which all who were to receive it were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.

We cannot pass over this passage of Scripture lightly; it arrests us by its blessedness, and certainly we must learn what lies under the simple statements here given if we are to have any true understanding of the truth of the church. WE BEGIN WITH THE PERSON OF CHRIST, this is fundamental, there could be no church apart from Him; but what we would at this point emphasize is, that it is His Father in heaven who reveals what He is that the church might be. It is not what He will be as Son of David, that is set forth in the Old Testament; or even as Son of man , His glory in this position is also spoken of in those indispensable prophecies; but, Who is this Son of Man? He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is upon this revelation of Him that the church is brought into being, built up and completed; and every other glory which is His will manifest itself fully in relation to what He, the Christ, is personally with the Father. It is the Father's work to make this known, indeed we might, speaking with reverence, call it His own special and chief activity; but does not this show what a world of ineffable love is here opened up to us, that had never been opened before, where the counsels of the Father for the glory of the Son are unfolded, and into which none can intrude. Only those chosen for it by surpassing grace may enter here.

Our deep conviction is, that we shall make no progress in the knowledge of the truth of the church if we fail to understand this, so that we make no apology for seeming repetition. It was not as Elohim — the strong One (Gen. 1:1) that God made this revelation to Peter, or as Jehovah — the self-existent One, (Gen. 2:7) or as El-Shaddai (Gen. 17:1) the Almighty, all-sufficient One, but as the FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ — “ My Father ,” as He said. All that had come out in former days He is and will ever be; but it is not here a question of His attributes, His power, faithfulness or sufficiency, but what He is in His very nature. This could not be known to us by any work of His hand in creation, but only by the revelation of Himself by the only begotten Son that dwelt eternally in His bosom. So that we have first-the Father revealed in and by the only begotten Son, Jesus our Lord; and then the truth as to this glorious Person revealed to our faith by the Father; one can easily see that this must eventuate in fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ for all who respond to this revelation. Thus all truth hangs together.

Again we insist that it is the FATHER IN HEAVEN who reveals it. It is made to us upon earth, but it is from heaven, it is heavenly in character, and lifts us above the earth, and carries us into a range of things about which the prophecies that have to do with earth have nothing to say. The great majority of even pious Christians have not grasped the force of this, but the importance of it will be seen as the truth is developed. Then further, the way in which Christ is revealed is as victorious over death-He is “the Son of the living God.” This revelation from the Father in heaven looked onward and carried the thought of resurrection with it. Immediately the Lord speaks of His suffering and death and resurrection; the truth is placed upon that platform, outside man in the flesh, with his ambitions, hopes and activities, which all lie shattered and dissolved at the touch of death.

So that we have at the first mention of the church in Scripture, the Father's activity — fullness of grace; the revelation He makes is a heavenly one, and it is of Christ, who would establish His church outside all the schemes and failures of man in the flesh against which all Satan's power and subtlety is directed in vain. It is invincible. This by way of introduction.

 

Christ the Glorious Head

The mystery which is unfolded in the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians is Christ and the church, not the church without Christ, nor yet Christ without the church. Christ is the Head and the church His body. Consequently, though the church is in this blessed unity which is formed according to the purpose of God and by the might of His Spirit, its place is the subordinate one, as every body is subordinate to its head, and its blessedness and importance lie in the fact that it is the body of Christ, united to Him, the living Head in heaven.

We begin with Christ, whatever place of favour or testimony the church has now, or of glory it will have hereafter, it has by virtue of the fact that it is united to Christ, hence the necessity of beginning with Him. In doing so, the affections of the heart are brought into activity. One might say, “I am not particularly interested in the truth of the church,” but none who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ will say, “I am not interested in Him,” and in occupation with Him we are led naturally to be interested in that which He loves and nourishes and cherishes.

He is the Son of the living God. We are carried at once to John's Gospel by this declaration. Of this Gospel Augustine said, “John . . . deservedly compared to an eagle has opened his treatise as with a peal of thunder; he has raised himself not merely above earth and the whole compass of the air and heaven, but even above every angel host and every order of the invisible powers, and has reached even to Him by Whom all things were made, in that sentence, ‘In the beginning was the Word.'” It is with this Person we have to do and with Him we begin:

“ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made ” (John 1:1-3). Here is the glory of His Person — As to His Being, He is eternal in the Godhead, as to His power and handiwork, He is the Creator of everything that exists.

“ And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). Here is the greatness of His condescension made manifest in His incarnation, for His humanity was not in form merely, something put on, as one would put on a garment for a certain purpose and then cast it off again when that purpose was accomplished, but it was a reality. He became an actual man, and this He will never cease to be.

“ We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten with the Father ” (v. 14). “ The only-begotten which was in the bosom of the Father ” (v. 18). Here we reach that which baffles description or explanation, nevertheless, it is revealed to us and we may at least say this of it, that in this epithet we learn the infinite worthiness of the Lord to be the eternal object of the Father's love, and His capability of responding to the full to that love, and as such He has come to declare it to men.

“ Full of grace and truth .” And of this “have all we received, and grace upon grace Here is declared His absolute suitability to the entire need of man. Coming from the highest height of God's glory as the revelation of it, He stooped to the deepest depths of man's need to remove it.

Space fails us even to recount the matchless range of glories that shine upon this first page of John's Gospel, and we pass on to “ I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do ” (John 17:4). Here is the perfection of His life and the completeness of His work. “ He said, It is finished: and bowed His head and gave up the ghost . . . and one of the soldiers pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water ” (John 14:30-34). Here is the one great sacrifice , by which He did the will of God and redeemed and perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

“ The same day at evening when the disciples were assembled . . . came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you ” (John 20:19). Here is His triumph over the power of death and the introduction of His disciples into a sphere of peace — afterwards to be known as His assembly — of which He would be the all-sufficient Centre and Head.

The Gospel of John closes with the statement, that if all the things Jesus did and said were written the world would not contain the books that would be written. This in the judgment of the critic is hyperbolical language; we claim that it is the sober statement of the truth inspired by the Holy Spirit. Remember the greatness and glory of the Person; endeavour to conceive the character of the revelation that He made in His works and words, and then say whether this could be told in books.

Who, for instance, discerns fully, and could write truly, except the Father, the glory of the Son of God as displayed in the first miracle in Cana of Galilee; when He found man in his brightest social circumstances, his marriage day, a failure, for the wine ran out; but produced for him out of the water of purification, typical of death, the wine that could not fail; the best brought out last. Is not this the glory of the last Adam, who, out of His own death, shall bring forth the wine that makes glad the heart of God and man; shall roll back the tide of darkness and death brought in by the first Adam; remove from this creation the groans, disappointments, failure and loss; the vain reaching out on the part of man for what appears to be substance but is only shadow, vanity, vexation of spirit; and fill it with the wisdom and knowledge of God? Every cry hushed, every desire satisfied, everyone at rest, and God glorified through it all.

And who discerns fully the glory of that last miracle, which can scarcely be read without tears, when our adorable Lord, rising from His agony and sweat of blood in Gethsemane , was confronted by His eager, ruthless foes. One of them, Malchus, a slave of the high Priest, must have offered some gross insult to the Lord, and Peter, indignant and impetuous, drew the sword he carried and smote off his ear. Thus nature acted, thus man displayed himself, thinking he served his Lord. But Jesus, e'er His wonder-working hands were bound by His hardened captors, quietly touched the severed ear and healed it. What absolute goodness; what invincible mercy; what tender compassion; could this be written in books? Such divine goodness overcoming such appalling evil will have its place in the days of His glory when He shall fill all things; and every other ray of His glory seen by the Father's eye when He trod that lonely pathway, which “led only to the cross,” will shine forth there.

It used to be said of a spiritually-minded minister of the Word, There is a book in which all would be written, for nothing that Jesus did or said could be lost, and that book is the church; it will be the lesson book of the universe. And this is true. The Father is writing in this book now by the Holy Ghost. For of the saints, who are the body of Christ, it is said, “ Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart,” and the divine intention is “that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly-places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10-11). The church, as we shall see, is the transcript of Christ. This is where “the mystery which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God who created all things by Jesus Christ ” comes in (Eph. 3:9). And we would remark that it might be thought that we have gone outside the range of our subject in bringing into it the glories of Christ as unfolded in the opening of John's Gospel, but this verse, and the fact that the creatorial glory of Christ is connected with the same subject in Colossians justifies us in so doing.

The purpose of the mystery is to fill the universe with Christ, and this will be done by the church.

1. Christ — the full revelation of God in manhood, the display.

2. The Church — the vessel for the display.

3. The Created Universe — the sphere of the display.

Yes, God intends that Christ, who fills His own heart, shall fill the universe, and this will be glory , and one part of the mystery now is that ‘Christ is in His members the hope of glory ' (Col. 1:27)-God intends that the One who in the narrow compass of 33 years, in lowliness of life and obscurity, beset with every conceivable hostility of evil, fully declared His name, and revealed His nature in such a way that the world cannot contain the books, shall Himself be revealed in the fullness of His incomparable worth to every intelligence in the vast universe; and His body is the chosen vessel through which He will do it; and this not only in the dispensation of the fullness of times, but, unto the ages of the ages God will have glory in the church by Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:21).

 

How the Body Was Formed

Now the question arises how, and by what means has the church, which is the body of Christ, the vessel for the fulfilment of the counsels of God, been brought into being for the accomplishment of this great purpose.

First . “ Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone: but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit ” (John 12:24), shows the necessity of the death of Christ that there might be brought into existence the “many grains” like Himself, for the members of His body must be of the same order and nature as the Head.

Second . “ The Holy Ghost was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified ” (chap 7:39), shows the necessity of His exaltation and glory if the Spirit was to be given; and the body could not be formed apart from the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth,” said the Lord to His disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”

The first chapter of Acts records the ascension of Christ to the glory, the second chapter records the descent of the Holy Ghost from that spot upon His disciples on earth; and the unity of the saints in one body starts here and cannot be divorced from these two great facts, a Man at the right hand of God, and the Holy Ghost come from thence to earth.

Let us consider these great facts. The first is described in Ephesians 1 in most wonderful language. “ The working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and 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, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. ”

He has not only gone to heaven, but the exceeding greatness of God's power has carried Him there from the very depths of death, and set Him in indisputable supremacy above every created power, and this, mark it well, in relation to His body, the church. Now a work commensurate in greatness with the raising up of Christ must be done in order to raise His body up, unite it to Him, fashion each member of it after His likeness, and fill it with Himself; and that work is being effected in the second great fact, the coming of the Holy Ghost to earth to indwell every member of the body of Christ.

We would press home upon our readers, the character that these facts give to the body of Christ, of which they each form a part. It is heavenly and not earthly; it is of the “last Adam,” who is the Lord raised from the dead, and not of the first man who is of the earth, earthy. We have heard the fact of the heavenly character of the church derided and it is little thought of by the bulk of Christians; hence we press it; it ought not to need pressing, for there are many passages of Scripture which state the fact in so many words. But it ought also to be clear, that if we are members of the body of Christ, who is not on earth but in heaven, and if we have been formed into His body, not by any earthly organisation devised by men, but by the indwelling of the Spirit from heaven, we must be now heavenly; however poorly we make it manifest, this is what we are in the thought of God.

Christendom acts as though Christ were accepted on earth; hence we have aims for world-power in Rome , the church and the state united in Episcopacy, politics rampant in Nonconformity. The solemn fact is refused that Christ was and is rejected by the world. We have briefly considered His glory and perfection in John's Gospel; consider now His rejection by the world, His humiliation and shame.

“One of the officers struck Jesus with the palm of his hand” (John 18:22).

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

“The soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it upon His head, and they put on Him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands” (vv. 2-3).

When the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”

But they cried, “Away with Him” (v. 15).

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

Need we continue? Does not that centre cross upon which hung the Author of life, the Father's sent One, declare to the universe that the world dominated by Satan would not have the Son of the living God? Consequently God has raised up His Son, and with like energy and exceeding grace He is gathering out of the world the members and uniting them to the glorious earth-rejected, heavenly Head. The members cannot be part of Christ and be of the world that rejected Him at one and the same time; they cannot be diverse from the Head; they must be as He is. So they are God's ecclesia, an assembly of out-called ones, no longer of the world out of which they are called. But if you call out a number of people without a purpose or centre you have a rabble, that was not the purpose of God when He commenced to call out His church. He unites them each by one Spirit to one Head and forms an indivisible organism, instinct in every member of it with the life of the Head, to be under the dictation of the Head and to manifest what He is.

Christendom has departed from this and become a rabble; setting up heads of its own choosing; going its own way; section warring with section; a veritable babel. How could it be otherwise when it denies its heavenly origin and turns from the Head in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells and seeks instead the help of men and the world that rejected and crucified Him. And there is no deliverance from this but by the truth as to what God has established. For this reason we are endeavouring to present the truth to our readers.

But let us, not fearing repetition, consider what this means. The Holy Ghost from heaven takes possession of a company of men upon earth; one Spirit in each individual in that company, forms them by this indwelling into one body; but having come from the exalted Christ, He unites them all to Him, so that now they form the body of the Man who is out of death and exalted in heaven. He is their Head there, and they being His body are to be expressive of Him here. The Head must direct the members of His body: His thoughts, His graces, His manners, His very life have now to find expression in them. This is outside entirely what man is naturally, for Christ has passed through death and is out of it; it is outside also all the springs of earth, for He is exalted in heaven; hence it can only be done in the Holy Spirit's power, but the members of the body of Christ have not to seek Him, for He dwells in them for this very purpose. This is an entirely divine conception, but it is a blessed reality to be entered into consciously by every one of us. It is such a reality, such a fact established in the invincible might of the Holy Spirit that no power of the enemy can destroy it; such a reality that when Jesus arrested Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road He challenged him with the question, “Why persecutest thou ME?” The Head and the body are one. And the Head directs the body; the members need no self-appointed leaders, they are to look to their Head for direction, and to be descriptive of Him where He is in the very scene of His crucifixion. What a victory for God is this! What an overthrow for the devil is here disclosed! He thought to rid the world that he dominated of Christ, living a life of lowliness and obscurity; he has been foiled by the wisdom God, for now the exalted, heavenly Man is here in His body; it is His epistle, known and read of all men; it is here maintained by the mighty power that has come from Him at God's right hand. Its destiny is the place where He is, meanwhile it is descriptive of Him where He was rejected, for Christ is in you the hope of glory.

On this line lies unity, to seek it on any other can only fail, but this is outside all failure, it is the unity of the Spirit. And if we see the truth and appreciate it we shall welcome the precious exhortation, coming as it does from the prisoner of the Lord.

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).

Christianity – It's Foundation

John 1:29-42

 

Four things—the Foundation of Christianity, its Power, its Centre, and its Activities—come before us in these verses. In John, Christianity is unfolded to us, not so much in terms of doctrine as in the love, power, and joy which belong to it. Reading carefully through this Gospel, we are struck by the number of times that the Lord Jesus Christ uses the possessive pronoun “MY.” He speaks of My Father, My Father's house, My peace, My joy, My glory, and so on. It seems as though He was in the midst of His treasures, things most precious in His eyes, and which He could call His own. He is in the midst of them, however, not to abide alone in the enjoyment of them, but inviting others to come and share them with Him.

So when He calls the two disciples in this chapter to “come and see,” it is as if He said, “I want you to come and let Me share with you the things that are Mine.” To those who respond to His invitation, His love

“. . . gives not as the world, but shares

All it possesses with its loved co-heirs.”

Some folks imagine that Christianity is a mere set of doctrines, that it consists in rendering assent to a creed and believing certain dogmas. On the contrary, Christianity is a throbbing, living, vital thing. It is characterized by power, joy, blessing, and knowledge that moves the soul and mightily affects those who possess it. It is no dry system of theology to know that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is our God and Father; and that His own joy He imparts to us, His peace He leaves with us, and His glory He has given us.

Of all these wonderful things we read in the Gospel of John. They belonged to the very essence of Christianity.

We may rightly speak of Christianity under the figure of a building. For in John 1 the Lord marks out Peter as “a stone, by the new name which He gives him. He was to have a place in the spiritual house which God would build.

A shanty intended to stand for only a few weeks needs no very solid foundation. But for an edifice which is to stand the wear and tear of centuries a foundation deep and strong is necessary. Now, as God's building is to last throughout eternity, He must have a good foundation. And what better one could be found than this that is brought before us in verse 29: the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ ? He is the Lamb of God, and upon His sacrifice, upon what He has wrought on the cross, God builds. And the building is like the foundation, strong, sure, immovable, absolutely flawless and perfect.

Is it upon this foundation that we have taken our stand? Many are building upon their own works, imagining that they have in them a sufficiently strong foundation. They are terribly deceived, for their works are but shifting sand, and the day is coming when the winds of judgment will blow, and the floods of righteous wrath uplift their voice. Then will their vain hope perish, their building collapse, and they themselves be left shelterless for ever in a lost eternity.

The only sure foundation is the Saviour's atoning work. There must rest our undivided trust. It will not do to depend partly upon what Christ has done and partly upon what we can do. The tabernacle in the wilderness was made of boards covered with gold. Each had two tenons, or feet, which rested in silver sockets. Silver, in Scripture, is figurative of redemption, and like these boards we are to stand with both our feet, as it were, upon the basis of Christ's redemptive work. To stand with one foot on His work and one upon some work or effort of our own is to deceive ourselves with a false confidence.

Besides affording a sure foundation upon which our souls may peacefully repose, the death of Christ opens up wonderful things to our astonished and worshipping hearts. It is to us a great lesson book, and will be such for ever, for therein the great truths of God stand fully revealed.

The death of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the first instance, is the utter condemnation of sinful man. By it God declares that there is no good thing in the flesh. Throughout the Old Testament ages God was testing men. Not that He did not know what was in them. He knew perfectly.

But it was necessary that the truth as to the condition of men should be declared, and the final test, which brought out the full truth, was applied when the Son of God came into the world. For when they saw Him they said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” Self-enrichment and self-gratification controlled them. They would not acknowledge the claims of God. Now this putting self before God is the root of all sin, and is the very nature of man in his fallen condition. This being the case, God could not build upon what man is. The material is utterly bad, nothing can be made of it; it must be condemned.

Is any good to be found in the creature who could spit in the face of the Son of God, who could crown His sacred brow with thorns and nail Him to a malefactor's gibbet? And this after He had displayed in all His ways and words how full of grace, love, tenderness, meekness, and long-suffering He was.

Let no one say that it was the act of the rabble. It was not. The princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory. The three elements of world-power, represented by the three languages in which the accusation upon the cross was written, Hebrew (religion), Greek (wisdom), Latin (political government), combined to cast Christ out of this world.

As were the leaders, so is the whole family or species, and nothing else can be evolved therefrom. We all belonged to that family once, to the man of sin and shame. Thank God a thousand times that by the death of Christ we have been freed from that connection, transferred from Adam to Christ.

In the death of Christ, too, God not only judged our sins, but condemned sin in the flesh ( Rom. 8:3). The judgment of God, which is death, passed upon Christ, who in wonderful grace became the Representative of sinful men. So that now the believer can say that not only were his sins atoned for on the cross, but what he is as a sinful child of Adam was condemned there and his history closed before God. And now God has begun a new creation, and all who believe in that wonderful Lord and Saviour who died, but who lives again, have part therein.

But not only was man fully exposed and condemned in the cross of Christ, but God, in His very nature, was perfectly revealed. Every attribute of God blended in the out-shining of that light which shall fill eternity with glory. There goodness was victorious over evil, there righteousness was declared in its judgment and holiness in its abhorrence of sin; there truth was told out without any mixture of error, and there love was manifested in the fullness of its desire, in the precious blood that is the undeniable and everlasting pledge of a love that would save men even at such a cost. We stand amazed at this revelation of God, and the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ becomes our chief boast, for there “mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Man condemned, God revealed, Satan defeated, the lie unmasked, and salvation, full and free, obtained for sinful men. Now it is upon what that death has disclosed that God builds. His righteousness, love, holiness, and mercy: these are the everlasting foundation, which no conspiracy of evil can undermine nor weaken. Upon this He is building, and here in sovereign grace He has placed our feet.

Correspondence (Prayer for Revival)

 

What is the reason for the general dearth of spiritual life and blessing in these days?

Your correspondent H.E.Heath asks many questions, but this one lies at the base of them all. Christianity, for the vast majority of those who still profess it, has become a formal thing, and if formal, then dead; and if dead, no longer the medium of life and blessing to others.

The “mighty revival” for which your correspondent sighs must begin within himself, and in the rest of us who feel the “general dearth of spiritual life and blessing.” It will commence when we say to the Lord, not with our lips only, but in the heart, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” If we do not place ourselves unreservedly at His disposal we become formal and dead. It is the bringing of “a certain part,” and holding back the rest for SELF, while saying “Lord” to Him, that grieves the Holy Spirit, stops His gracious work within us, and makes all our efforts in service futile.

If we are “keeping back part” we shall be as dead spiritually as Ananias was actually when the young men “wound him up, and carried him out and buried him.” But “there is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise” (Prov. 21:26). The wise are they of whom the Lord speaks in John 14:23. The Father and the Son dwell with them, and what a desirable treasure is this! The Spirit is there also in all His blessed ministries, for the oil is typical of Him. And he of whom this is true “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither: and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” He “shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall he cease from bearing fruit.”

Correspondence ( The Assembly in Function)

 

Having invited correspondence we consider it only right that our readers should have the benefit, if any, that may arise from it. It is with some hesitation, however, that an endeavour has been made to meet the difficulties raised in the following letter; but as they are, alas, very common difficulties, they cannot be ignored, and it may amount to moral cowardice to shirk them. Others may be able to give clearer and more definite help; if so, the pages of the “ Supplement” are open.

“Dear Bro, — I have recently received a copy of “Scripture Truth” with the “Supplement” No. 5. I am delighted with these papers, the teaching is so clear and Scriptural. They arrived at a very opportune moment, for it is not long since I found my way outside the religious systems of men, and I have since been through much exercise of soul in seeking to walk in the right path for God's people. I therefore gladly accept your invitation to send questions to your magazine. There are some questions which are troubling me greatly. I wish now I could express myself plainly enough for you to understand my difficulties. However, I will try to do so.”

 

Divisions

“First, with reference to fellowship. I found in this city three different companies of believers claiming to be gathered to the Name of the Lord, but each in separation from the other, inter-communion being strictly forbidden.”

It is plain that in apostolic times only one assembly was recognized in one city, or to put it more correctly, the assembly in each city was viewed and addressed in its unity and oneness. When cliques and sects began to spring up in any one of these assemblies, as at Corinth , they were unsparingly condemned by the Holy Spirit in the Word (see 1 Corinthians). They were an evidence of a rampant carnality and not of a higher spirituality as the sectarians thought. If the germ or bud of division met with God's rebuke at the beginning, the fully developed and vicious fruit cannot have His sanction now. Hence we have no difficulty in concluding that the state of things which you deplore in your city is wrong, radically wrong; it is contrary to the truth and Christ dishonouring; it could never have been if there had not been disobedience to the Word. There may, of course, be just cause for separation. If a company of believers in any place refused to judge known evil, either in morals or doctrine, as directed by the Word, it would be, we believe, incumbent upon those who desired to be faithful to the Lord, after due patience, to separate from them, for to do otherwise would be to say holiness and truth are of little account; consequently the name of “the Holy and the True” would be denied and His Word not kept. But such separation would be the last resource, after all efforts to exercise the consciences of the company had failed. Cases of this kind have arisen in the history of the truth, and it would not be right to characterize those who so separated as sectarian, they have simply stood for holiness and truth against complicity with evil and error. “Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity . . . but follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:19-22) would be sufficient warrant for such action, and enough also for the guidance of all who in every place call on the Name of the Lord, for what is done according to the truth and in the Name of the Lord in one place, would surely satisfy all who love the truth and hold to that Name wherever they are found. The one Head will direct all His members in unison, and there is one body and one Spirit.

We need not say that such a course must always be deeply serious, to cause a separation where one heart and one mind should prevail at the bidding of some leader, or because of some difference of judgment, or of the interpretation of some passage of Scripture is to be guilty of the gravest of sins, because it is sin committed in the holy circle of the Lord's interests. This we know has been done, causing widespread confusion, and stumbling many of the saints of God. The condition of things spiritually that made this possible is our common shame; but those directly responsible for these difficulties will have to answer to the Lord for their self-will and independence of Him. All who would walk in the truth must surely decline to recognize separations of this sort, for they are contrary to the truth. You may say that all this does not help you in your difficulties, but it will, we trust, at least, direct your exercises in the right channel, so that you will not waste your time weighing the claims of one company against another, but weigh all in the light the Word gives for such conditions, and that may result in many others being exercised about a state of things that must be displeasing to the Lord.

 

Independence

“I walked alone for some time, then was received into the fellowship of so-called Brethren. I longed for an expression of the unity of the church, but here I learned that although there were three meetings of these Brethren within a radius of a few miles, they were not in fellowship with each other; the City meeting had separated from the other two meetings some years ago, and the breach was not healed. This caused much confusion. The meetings would not receive from each other locally, yet the assemblies in the Eastern States received brethren from all of the assemblies here. A case actually occurred where two brethren from the meetings at variance here were on a visit to the Eastern States, and were both received on the same Lord's Day in one assembly, but returning home they could remain in separation from each other. I was much concerned on the question of unity in discipline and other matters, and soon withdrew from this meeting.”

Do not let the desire for an “expression of the unity of the church” control you. That unity exists and will be fully expressed when the New Jerusalem — the bride of the Lamb — comes out of heaven having the glory of God. Meanwhile it is not expressed, though we may act in the faith that it is no mere doctrine but a reality — “There is one body and one Spirit.” If an expression of the unity of the church is your one thought, Rome will claim to express it, but she is the great harlot.

But an expression of unity, or to more correctly express our thought, unison is much to be desired, but if it is gained at the expense of the truth the gain is an incalculable loss.

But while we cannot find a full expression of this unity in these broken days, it is altogether another matter to deny it in practice, and the state of things that you describe is clearly a denial of it, and confusion. It all arises from the idea of independent assemblies, that each must act for itself regardless of what may happen elsewhere, and this is the principle of congregationalism, and not of the church of God .

One Scripture that would prove that all who are subject to the truth would act in unison is 1 Corinthians 1:2. The directions and commands that the Lord sent through Paul to the assembly at Corinth were for “ all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours Hence unity of discipline would be secured, for no one would assert that the Lord would direct an assembly in one place to act in one way, and direct another somewhere else in the opposite. As Head of the body He will move all who are subject to Him in one direction, and the one Spirit is here to give force to that direction. The one Lord administering in each assembly will produce one mind in all. Hence there will be unity in discipline and in everything else. It does not follow from this that one assembly must have the approval of all assemblies before it takes any necessary action. But that what it does is so clearly according to the Word that all who are subject to the Word will recognize the leading of the Lord and gladly acquiesce.

 

Official Oversight

I was afterwards received into the fellowship of another company which I learn was once in fellowship with what was called the ‘Needed Truth' party. The principles of that party are still practically maintained in this meeting. Your article on ‘Apostolic Fellowship,' in “Supplement” 5 has caused me to think very much. I have fears that I might have swung to an extreme, and that ‘Needed Truth' principles are but a reflex of the Romish Metropolitanism mentioned in your article. Could you therefore enlighten me as to whether there is Scriptural ground for the assertion that all meetings in a city should form the one local assembly? In all cases of discipline, etc., these meetings act as one, and they have one united oversight.”

It is clear, we believe, from Scripture, that all saints in any given place are looked upon as one assembly, even though through difficulties as to distance, etc., they were not able always to meet in one place. The Epistle to the Galatians was written to assemblies in a province, and they are addressed as one. They had come under the influence of error and were being swept away as one, and the apostolic letter was to call them back as one to the truth.

There is no Scripture for an official oversight today. Bishops, elders and deacons were appointed when the church in the house character was in order. But these were not appointed by the assemblies, that is another principle of congregationalism, but by the apostle or his delegates. No word is given to us as to the continuation of this, and the apostle, in his farewell to the saints, did not commit them to the oversight but to God and the Word of His grace. The Lord is faithful and will raise up and maintain faithful men who shall have the moral qualities that fit them to care for the saints and their needs, and such will be recognized by all who are subject to the Word. But the appointing of an oversight is going beyond the Word. We must look for what is moral and not official in these days.

 

The Use Of The Word “ Church ”

“Again, when in Scripture we read the expression ‘The Church of God,' does it only refer to the local assembly or has it a more comprehensive meaning?”

The designation “church,” or “assembly” as it should be, is used in the Word for the local assembly and also for the whole body of Christ upon earth. The first time it is used (Matt. 16:38) it has in view the whole assembly without any reference to locality, and every time that it occurs in the Epistle to the Ephesians it is used in this way.

It is of the greatest importance that the truth as to its oneness and completeness should be understood, otherwise it will not be possible to act in the truth of it in the local assembly.

 

Worship

“I would like further to mention the question of worship. In this city there is a large meeting. I have always felt strangely attracted to this meeting, but withheld from seeking fellowship because of several things that I cannot get clear about. The order of the worship meeting drew me very much. These brethren maintain that there is certainly a Divine order in the worship meeting. Could you tell me, therefore, if it is a mistake to address our God and Father in prayer before the breaking of the bread? It is maintained that the Lord Jesus should be addressed personally until the act of remembrance is past. It is then He conducts the assembly in Spirit to the Father's presence in the Father's House, sings praises in the midst of the assembly, and declares His Father's Name to His Brethren. It is claimed there is no worship until we come to this phase in the meeting; that other meetings that do not maintain this order, only keep the Passover and cannot rise to the height of privilege there really is in the Lord's Supper.”

To have rules and regulations in the conduct of meetings for which there is not Scriptural warrant is the sure badge of a party, no matter how intelligent those who compose it may be. Moreover it means that the authority of the Lord and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are set aside, and you will be able to realize the seriousness of that. Further, since the standard set is a high one, and must be attained to regardless of the state of the assembly, nothing but insincerity can ensue, and true worship — worship in spirit and in truth ceases, for that cannot be arranged and directed by us, it must be spontaneous and free.

Nevertheless we believe that where the Lord leads there will be order, and since the object of the coming together is to break bread in the remembrance of the Lord in His death, this should be, and will be, where things are right, the first and chief thing. The heart and mind of the assembly, as guided by the Holy Ghost, will certainly dwell upon the Lord in death, with accompanying adoration to Him, but it would be a bold thing to say that the Father has no part in this, and no note of praise or word of worship should ascend to Him in connection with it. To whom did the Lord give thanks when He instituted the Supper? To the Father, surely. Then the Father may be addressed before the Supper.

The expression, “The act of remembrance is past,” jars upon our mind. It is well that no time should be wasted, and that the Lord's Supper should be eaten early in the meeting, since it is for this we come together; but even here the principle contained in the words, “Tarry one of another,” would prevent undue haste. Yet the whole meeting is a remembrance of that that we shall never forget even in heaven, and there is no true worship that is separated from the death of Christ. The blood was ever in the Holiest.

We believe it is utterly wrong to say that not until the Supper is eaten does the Lord lead us into the Father's presence. The expression itself is unscriptural. What is said is, “I will declare Thy Name unto my brethren in the midst of the assembly will I sing praises to Thee.” We are in the presence of the Father when we assemble, if we do it rightly, for His presence is the home of the brethren of Christ. And the Lord is there to make the Father a reality as the Father to us, for this is what declaring His name means. We should have from the beginning a sense of the Father's love and favour in our hearts, and it is thus that we look back into death, the death of Christ, and there learn the greatness of His love (1 John 4:9-19). To say there is no worship until after the bread is broken is to say what is not true, you may worship individually in your own room, and there may be assembly worship in any meeting of the assembly. No one can keep the passover now. The Christian feast is the Lord's Supper, and to make a certain standard of intelligence necessary for this, as these friends of yours are doing, is to spoil it. Love is the quality needed. Love to the One Who died for us, though the more intelligent we are the better, if love is maintained.

 

Light

“I do earnestly hope you will enlighten me on this question, having observed the order mentioned I sometimes feel distressed in our worship meeting at what appears to be confusion. I know the Holy Spirit will lead the assembly in that order which is pleasing to the Lord. But it is thought by these brethren, who really seem to have remarkable intelligence in the mind of the Lord, that those meetings which do not observe this order are not according to the Truth. They say the Lord will only give light to that which is according to His Name, and this question of order is light given for these closing days.”

We should advise you to beware of those who talk much about “fresh light,” and “light for closing days.” We must remember that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, and we may be easily deceived. The Word is enough. To that Word of grace we are commended by the great apostle of the Gentiles, and John said, “He that is of God heareth us.”

 

Baptism

“One more question as to baptism. Is an assembly right in refusing fellowship to any who have not received believers' baptism?”

To make believers' baptism — by which is meant the immersion of believers — a test of fellowship, is to make a narrower test than the Word and to form a Baptist sect.

“Dear brother, I do hope you will help me with these questions. At present I am away in the loneliness of the Australian bush, many miles from the address given at the head of this letter. I have been away some weeks now from the fellowship of meetings. But these questions have given me much thought, and after receiving the “Scripture Truth” direct from England , I felt impelled to write to you. You may not have time to answer me personally, but I am assured a little ministry on these questions would be very helpful.” A.G.K.

It will be a great joy if we are able to help you and your earnest friends who are searching the Word. One closing word we would say. In avoiding all error and all sectarianism, and in taking the separate path that the Word indicates, be sure and walk in love towards all the saints.

 

Correspondence (The Mystery)

 

The Unity of the Spirit.

W.H.D. writes as follows: —

“You may be sure I hailed with the greatest pleasure the announcement of the Quarterly Supplement, and have read it with deep interest. But I must confess to a shade of disappointment; I am at a loss to understand quite what the four contributors have set before themselves as the object of their writing; what in point of fact is the precise effect they wish to produce upon their readers.

“They enlarge much and most justly upon the extraordinary wonderful blessings and destinies that God in His grace has designed for those who believe His witness from among the Gentiles, that vast multitude, His church, which He has gathered out during this 2,000 years to a heavenly in contrast to an earthly portion, and they rightly insist that the heavenly destiny of the church separates its interests entirely from the course of this world. But there seems to be a tendency to fix the mind so entirely on the heavenly side as to lead to the feeling, if not the thought, that the earthly side is not so material. J.T.Mawson prints Ephesians 4:1-3, in large capitals at the end of his article, but he does not appear to lay any stress on the point of the exhortation, which is, to keep the Spirit-made unity in the uniting bond of peace; this surely applies to earth only, for in heaven there can be no need.”

We had hoped that the exhortation of Ephesians 4:1-3, being printed in capitals at the end of the paper referred to, would show that we do lay great stress upon it; this was certainly our purpose in thus giving it prominence.

We welcome this criticism from the pen of a valued correspondent, whose letters always give us food for thought; especially so, as generally what is expressed by one is thought by many. The object we have in view in this publication is to bring afresh before our brethren in Christ the truth of the assembly which is so precious to Christ, and which holds its unique place in the purpose of God. To Ezekiel, it was said, “ Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee; for to the intent that I might show them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel ” (Ezek. 40:2). Then the house which was to be God's dwelling was shown to Him in all its parts. And the impression to be produced upon the people is clearly stated in chapter 52:10, “ Thou son of man, show the house to the house of Israel , that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern

This is the effect we desire to produce upon our readers and ourselves; as we go over the truth of Christ and the assembly we want to feel with them before the Lord how inconsistent are the ways of the vast majority of those who through infinite grace have their part in the one assembly with the pattern that is shown us of it in the Word. We want to set the truth before them so that they may measure the pattern , and in exercise of soul give heed to the exhortation, which our correspondent desires to have emphasized. We know of no way by which the saints of God can be delivered from false positions and false ways and false doctrines but by the ministry of the truth. “ Ye shall know the truth ” said the Lord “ and the truth shall make you free .” It is by ministering the truth that we shall help others, and, by acting upon it ourselves, and here we have to confess with shame much failure; few can link their manner of life with their doctrine, as could the Apostle Paul. Yet however imperfectly we carry out the truth; however far our feet lag behind what our eyes see; yet this is our desire, to understand the truth better, to minister it more clearly and in the power of the Holy Ghost, and to walk in it and be under the influence of it more truly with all saints.

The first part of the exhortation which our correspondent thinks we fail to emphasize is the first exhortation in the epistle to the Ephesians, and consequently of first importance. The apostle, as the Lord's prisoner, suffering bonds for His name's sake and for this special revelation from the Lord of which He was the special steward, beseeches us to walk worthy of the vocation set before us in the earlier chapters; we cannot know it unless we read them, we must not come to the exhortation of chapter 4, except through the teaching of chapters 1, 2, and 3. As we learn them we measure the pattern. And the exhortation of chapter 4 is to be consistent with what we have learnt. In those chapters we learn where God has set us: abounding towards us in all wisdom and prudence, and, according to the mighty power that raised up Jesus from the dead and set Him as Head over the whole universe, He has raised us up who were dead in trespasses and sins, to satisfy His own great love. Saved by His grace, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which He hath before ordained that we should walk in them. We were once without Christ, aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel , strangers, from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

1). Yet from that hopeless “afar off place we have been made nigh in Christ Jesus by the blood of Christ That is the new position .

2). Jew and Gentile are brought together, and Christ has made of these twain in Himself one new man. That is the new man in the new position.

3). He has reconciled us unto God in one body by the cross. That is the new unity , not of ordinances but of life.

4). And both have access to the Father through Him by the Spirit. That is the new favour , for what favour could be greater than to have access to the Father, the source of all glory and grace.

5). We are now fellow-citizens with the saints. That is the new dignity , but not only have we our part in a city where is maintained a polity which is entirely of God, but we are of the household of God, where His secrets that lie behind His administration are known and where His very character must be maintained. A new responsibility surely attaches to that.

6). In the Lord they are “ builded together an habitation of God through the Spirit

These things are all included in our present vocation of which we are exhorted to walk worthy; and this can only be done as with the absence of pride which is the chief characteristic of the flesh, we walk in lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering bearing with one another in love. This is the life of Christ in practical manifestation and only in this life can we walk worthy of our vocation which is in Christ. The Spirit also has His part in this. “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Diligence is needed for this, but of what sort? It is not enough to say, “We are all believers, let us obliterate all differences and walk together.” That would be comparatively easy, for to do that we should only have to drop all prejudices that keep saints apart, or make compromises in regard to them. The unity of the Spirit means more than that; in this the man from whose carnal will all prejudices spring is obliterated by the cross, he has no place in it. We speak here of the man after the flesh, the old man, who showed himself in the Jew as a proud and intolerant bigot, and, still shows himself in that way in many who profess to take very high ground; and who showed himself in the Gentile in lawless will and unrestrained licence. That man has come under God's judgment in the cross, and has no place in the unity of the Spirit. God has displaced him as being utterly useless and profitless for His purpose, and has created in his place the one new man.

Our quotations from Ephesians 2 prove this. It is “in Christ Jesus that we are made nigh by the blood of Christ. ” He has abolished the enmity in His flesh. i.e. His dead body on the cross. It does not say that we are reconciled to one another, but it does say what is greater and higher, that both Jew and Gentile, between whom the greatest hostility existed are reconciled to God in one body by the cross.

The unity of the Spirit is inclusive of all who are in Christ and exclusive of all that is not of Him, and in the endeavour to keep this unity we also must be both inclusive and exclusive. We must be exclusive first of all in regard to the man that brings in dissension and division, and that man we find very ready to assert his will in ourselves. The more we walk in the truth of the cross of Christ as to ourselves the better able shall we be to walk in the grace of Christ towards those who are His. Let us measure the pattern, and learn the truth, we are “ in Christ Jesus ;” “ in Himself ;” reconciled to God “in one body,” and are “a holy temple in the Lord.”

In endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit we do not form a new unity or build a new church, but walk in the truth of that which already exists, though so little seen. “All saints” must have their place in our affections for they are all in the unity of the Spirit. Christ is the centre, all saints are the circumference, and the Spirit the binding power. “ There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling .” There is set forth the vital unity that can never be dissolved and into which no failure can come. What we earnestly desire is to know more of that and keep the truth of it in a practical way, not in conflict one with the other, but in the bond of peace, the peace which belongs to the assembly of God.

Our correspondent continues: —

“Much space is taken up with setting forth the glories and the graces of the Lord Jesus, and none too much, no one can go far enough in that direction much less too far; but it must be remembered that what He asks for is not honour and praise in word only but in deeds. “If a man love Me” He says “he will keep My words,” and the thing He said of old time still holds good, “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” I notice the expression “bridal affection” occurs once or twice, but the Lord never asks for that; it is a different kind of love He seeks from His redeemed. In another quarter one hears a good deal of this and one is not surprised. Not he that offers the loudest and highest laudation “is he that loveth Me” is what He says, but “he that hath My commandments and keepeth them.”

As to these closing words, we remark that the saints at Ephesus were charged by the Lord with having departed from “first love,” that we take it to be bridal affection. And when the bride in unison with the Spirit cries, “Come, Lord Jesus,” that will be the sweet expression of bridal affection, for which He is looking from His church. But our correspondent is right in pressing that the test of true love to the Lord is the keeping of His word. This is the one and only test. May we all be exercised as to how far we are proving that we love the Lord. To keep His word and not deny His name, will cost us something, but the compensation is great. His command is that we love one another, this stands first of all, and it is deeply significant that the one assembly that receives the fullest commendation from the Lord in Revelation 2 and 3 is Philadelphia — which means, the love of the brethren. May we all be Philadelphians in this respect.

Delivered and Delivering

 

Every reader of the New Testament, if enlightened by the Holy Spirit, will easily understand that if we have been delivered from the power of sin and the snares of the world ourselves, we should now seek to be the means of the deliverance of others. No argument should be needed to convince us of the truth of this.

From the beginning the devil has maligned the character of God. The Bible, it is true, is an open book in the land, but, nevertheless, there are multitudes still hoodwinked by his lies and travesties of the truth. They are kept in darkness, they know not the love of God. They do not understand that His heart is full of gracious feelings towards them, they do not believe that He is offering a wonderful salvation to meet their deepest need—they are held in bondage, blind to all that is real and true and eternal.

It is our high and holy privilege, as well as our great responsibility, to show forth the praises of God and to make known His true character, so that the eyes of men may be opened, and that they may be turned from the devil's lies to the glorious truth of the gospel of the grace of God. We appeal in this paper especially to young men who have professed the name of Christ. Where do you stand with regard to this matter?

You are interested, we doubt not, in a general way in the spreading abroad of the fame of Christ and in the emancipation of souls from the power of darkness, but how far is it your happy lot to be used of God yourself in the deliverance and refreshment of others? Do you know what it is to visit a weary and tried saint, and by some simple ministry of Christ to chase away the gloom and bring fervent words of thanksgiving to the lips of the tried one or has it been your happy lot to sit down by the side of an anxious and repentant sinner, and by the help and grace of God to lead such a one to the feet of the Saviour? If so, you know what it is to have the music of heaven vibrating through every chord of your heart, and the whole of your spiritual being filled with joy unspeakable. But if you have not as yet tasted the blessedness of being thus used of God, why not? There is a cause: may God give you to discover it. Do not say: “We are not all called to preach,” for that is not our point here. We have the wondrous promise from the lips of the blessed Lord that out of the one who drinks of Him shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). This is as much for you as for the most gifted evangelist—it is for “ANY MAN.” Oh that we might be greatly stirred up to desire to be found in this happy condition!

We believe the one great essential to all true devotedness and service is to yield ourselves to the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 8:5, Paul could write of some who “ FIRST GAVE THEIR OWN SELVES TO THE LORD.” It is not first work, or first pray, or first learn. No, you may know all about the doctrine of deliverance and yet be a poor slave to your own selfishness, and utterly useless to others. Nor is it great knowledge that is the lack, for it is painfully evident, on every hand, that knowledge even of the things of God puffs up and can go on hand in hand with little power and great barrenness. We thank God for all the light He has graciously given to us, but we shall be altogether unprofited if we do not FIRST give ourselves to the Lord. “YIELD YOURSELVES UNTO GOD” (Rom. 6:13) stands, as it were, at the very threshold of the chapters which enlighten us as to the way of deliverance.

And, surely, herein lie the failure and the weakness—we have been afraid of such words as yield , surrender , consecrate . Not so much, we fear, because we might possibly make a wrong use of them, but because we have been afraid to take the great step which the words involved. But can there be any true Christian experience or power apart from this step? We trow not.

Yes, if we really surrender ourselves to the Lord it will mean, in all probability, some sacrifice, some idol long cherished by our selfish hearts will have to be thrown down—and more than all, it will mean the giving up of self—and this is the greatest of all tests. We are often ready to give our time, our money, our ability, but are we prepared now to do as did the Macedonian saints, “FIRST GIVE OUR OWN SELVES TO THE LORD”? Oh! let us not shirk this matter, but let us bring our dearest treasures, ourselves, with all our hopes and aspirations and ambitions, to the cross of Calvary; let us contemplate the measureless sorrow of the One who hung upon that cross, and then say with Paul of old: “He loved ME, and gave Himself for ME” (Gal. 2:20). Let us shut ourselves up more often with the One whose love is too vast to comprehend, and we shall soon begin to discover how great is the recompense if we give up anything for Him. How often have we sung—

“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!”

May we say this not in word only. May our hearts go with it in deed and in truth.

But there is another side to this matter. You belong to the Lord Jesus, you are His by right of purchase, and the price He has paid is His own precious blood. You BELONG TO HIM ABSOLUTELY, EVERYWHERE, AND FOR EVER. This is an indisputable fact, and while it must make you feel, on the one hand, your solemn responsibility, yet on the other, it will bring vividly to your mind the quenchless, all-conquering love of the Son of God which led Him to brave the storm of judgment, to endure even the cross of Calvary for your sake .

Oh, seek grace to yield to Him that which is His perfect right—even yourself; then as a vessel meet for His service He will be able to lay hold of you and use you as He will.

Now let us obey the command of our Lord and Master, and lift up our eyes upon the fields. Are they not even now ready for the sickle? Oh! think of the multitudes in this land and others without the knowledge of God, and passing onward and downward to destruction! They are sinners, ungodly, rebellious, but such were some of us, and for them the Saviour died as well as for us. Can we think of them without being moved to compassion? Is God indifferent to the destiny of His creatures? Nay! He willeth not the death of any. In olden days He rebuked His servant Jonah for his hardness of heart when the blessing of men was concerned, and in that rebuke we read how truly “gracious” and “merciful” and of “great kindness” is He.

In due time He gave His only begotten Son that men might not perish. Today He is sending far and wide the precious gospel, and lengthening out the day of grace, that sinners might even at the closing of the day turn and repent. We have it also from the lips of Jesus, that, in the presence of the angels, God rejoices over one repentant sinner. Yea, truly the blessing of men is very near to the heart of our God. Nor can we have a single doubt as to His feelings in this matter. If then we are near to him, His compassion will fill our hearts, and we shall seek by life and lip to win them from the ways of death to Jesus Christ our Lord.

There is such a thing as living evangelical lives as well as delivering evangelical addresses, lives in which the power of the gospel is seen, because subject to Christ, and through which the music of the gospel is heard, because walking in the Spirit. It was our privilege the other day to meet a dear Christian in the railway train. He told us that twenty-one years previous he was, without exception, the worst sinner in Stockton-on-Tees—a drunken, blaspheming sceptic; but God laid His hand upon him in a Salvation Army meeting, and he turned to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a mechanic, and in the shop where he worked were six other infidels. They first scoffed, and often afterwards tried to draw him into argument. But his one reply was: “I will not argue with you, for you can beat me at that; but you know what I was, and you see what I am now. If you want to argue, argue with the power that saved and keeps me.” That power was the power of the grace of God. They saw it, and their mouths were closed; and ere long he had the joy of grasping the hand of each of his fellow-workmen as fellow-Christians! This man illustrates what we mean by being evangelical in our lives. May we be greatly exercised in this matter, at the same time not indifferent as to the proclamation of the Lord. How greatly labourers are needed, men with devoted hearts and fervent souls, prepared to make sacrifices and to suffer hardships for the Lord's sake and the gospel's! It is God's way to take up those who are faithful in their own circle and thrust them out into a wider field. The Lord alone can thrust out labourers—this is His prerogative; ours it is to earnestly desire to be taken up by Him (1 Cor. 12:31).

You may speak of your weakness, and the more you feel it the better, but remember God takes the weak things to confound the mighty. The jawbone of an ass was a weak and useless thing in itself, but wielded by the strong hand of Samson it laid a thousand Philistines in the dust. It is the Lord's grace, the power of God, the work of the Spirit; and these may be manifested in us, and through us, if we are yielded to the Lord .

The other day we read a story which interested us greatly. A young lad of fifteen was visiting his mother in the city of Boston , U.S.A. At the time God was working greatly in the gospel in that city. Many souls were blessed, and amongst them this young lad. Presently the day came for him to return to his work on the farm in the country. He was sad at the thought of leaving the meetings, but knew that the Saviour whom he had found could keep him even if he stood alone; and so he sought grace to be true to Him.

The day after his return he was chopping wood on the wood-pile, and round him gathered his companions. He at once related to them what he had found in Boston . They were interested, and some of them said they would like to be saved. He asked them to come round to the shed when work was over; and twelve came. “Now,” he said, “the preacher in Boston always sang first, so we will sing hymns.” That finished, he said, “The next thing is to pray,” and he began to pour out his heart in pleadings for the salvation of his companions. His tears were mingled with his prayers, and not his only, for his companions began to weep and pray with him. This continued many nights, and the blessing spread until no less than three hundred souls in that district had turned to Christ ! Oh! it is not eloquent preaching, fine points, and great correctness in words, but simplicity and devotedness, a heart yielded to Christ, and a preparedness to be used of Him!

This year may be our last on earth. Long before its close the shout of the Lord may have called us from our service and failure into the joy of His home. Oh, with this before us and the cross behind us, with His love about us and over us and in us, may we be for Himself and Himself alone. May we know His increasing love, His blessed likeness be shining through us, His service our joy, and be ever ready to say to Him, our Lord, our Saviour, our Master, “Here am I, send me.”

Enlargement

 

Many a time we must have marvelled at the favour shown to those eleven Galileans to whom the Lord Jesus showed Himself after His resurrection from the dead, by many infallible proofs. And we may have wished that we could have been with them and listened to His own voice speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God . Well, we should not have been alive today if we had been there, and I am inclined to think that the last days of the church's history on earth are as important as the first, and to have part in the final victory and to greet our Lord at His coming again will be as great a favour as it must have been to have had a part in the first great move against the forces of the foe.

Not only this, but I apprehend that all that has gone before, and which is recorded in the Bible, is an inheritance upon which we have entered, and which we may hold fast and enjoy. We may put ourselves, for instance, alongside those disciples as they assembled with their Lord, and study them. We may see the effect upon them of His victory over death, and His presence with them, and learn the good and right way as we listen to the final instructions and commandments that He gave them.

They were happy men, of this we can have no doubt, and triumphant men, and eager to tell the glad news of God's signal vindication of His well-beloved Son, and I have thought, and I pass it on, that they were also impatient men. This comes out in their question, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel .” There was not a doubt in their minds as to His being the King, nor had they any question as to His taking the throne. He had conquered death and surely no other foe could stand in His way. Yet, why did He not do it? Why the delay? Why waste forty days when Jerusalem might be at His feet and the land ring with His fame?

Ah, they had much to learn, and needed to be greatly enlarged. Yet they were teachable and obedient, and bowed before His wisdom, and were ready to await His way and will. Blessed men they were! We owe much to them. Yet at first they had limited thoughts of His greatness. They thought only of the throne of Israel ; the Father had no less a place for Him than His own right hand. Their horizon stretched out from Dan to Beersheba , but the story of His glory was to be carried to the uttermost parts of the earth. They looked up steadfastly unto heaven when He was taken up from them, and no wonder! We may stand with them in thought and look up there also, and see Jesus crowned with glory and honour, and how the heart thrills, at the glorious knowledge that He is thus acknowledged and exalted! And as they gazed upward, they were assured by heavenly messengers that He would come back again.

So He will, and we may look for Him as they did, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Between these great events, His departure and return, we see them; obedient , for they tarried in Jerusalem , and were of one mind, loving one another, according to His word; dependent , for they continued in prayer. And in these things they showed their love to Him, and He fulfilled His own word to them—“If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter” (John 14:15-16). So they were empowered to be His witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth!

We know that our Lord has been raised up to the highest place , and that His fame must be spread abroad to the widest circle , and that the greatest power has come from on high to bear witness to the honour that heaven has given Him, and of His worthiness to be trusted by every creature under heaven. We feel that the Holy Spirit must often be grieved and quenched, that in spite of our knowledge we yet have such narrowness of heart and such limited views of Christ and His greatness. We are so ready to confine Him within geographical or ecclesiastical bounds, when the Holy Spirit would enlarge us and make us overflow in the triumphant knowledge of the greatness of Christ and His all-sufficiency for all saints and for sinners to the uttermost part of the earth. The grace of God that shines in the face of Jesus, shines for all. The Bride that is to share His throne and glory, must be gathered out of every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation.

The work is almost done. For nearly two millenniums the Holy Spirit has continued His labour with an unwearied devotion, and He will finish it, and the Bride of the Lamb shall be presented all glorious and perfect to the heavenly Lamb. And we may have a blessed part in the labours of the Holy Spirit just at the close. Abraham's servant who went forth to bring Rebekah to Isaac, did not go forth alone, we read of “ the men that were with him. ” Deeply interested, we may be sure, they were in his mission, and ever ready to do as he might direct them; they were his companions and helpers, bearing witness to the truth of every word that he uttered in Rebekah's ear. The disciples of Jesus were the men that were with the Holy Ghost when He came forth first on His great mission; honoured men, faithful men they were! And now that the mission is almost completed, we may be the men that are with Him , working with Him, in communion with His mind and ways, being the vessels of His testimony.

But if we are to be this, our hearts must be enlarged, our eyes must be turned upward to Christ in glory, and our sympathies must flow out to the uttermost part of the earth. Our prayers must be for all men, and our love must be for all saints. And thus shall there shine out at the end of this gospel day, the same light that shone at the beginning. It will shine through those who are thus enlarged.

“Every Dark Shadow Wiped Out”

 

It is not a difficult matter to shun the preacher of the gospel and his warnings. It is easy, in the rush of business and the whirl of pleasure, to shut out all thought of God and eternity; but when death—the inexorable—puts in an appearance, brushing aside friends, pleasures, wealth, and earthly pursuits, then all is changed. When the soul is left alone in the presence of death and eternity, the solemn facts of God and forever—facts that will remain unchanged when the fallacies of time are exposed—these force themselves into view. GOD, SIN, and ETERNITY in the hour of death must become exceedingly real. Ah! it is well, in the full light of these solemn realities, to have solid comfort.

I was talking the other day to a dying man. There was no doubt as to his physical condition—a fell disease was upon him which baffled all human skill; nor had he himself any doubts upon that score—he knew full well that shortly he would pass from time into eternity.

He was alone in his room when I called, and it was not long before we were speaking together of the all-important question of his soul's salvation. He referred to the oft-told story of Luther's vision, in which he saw Satan appear with two large scrolls covered with a true record of his life's guilt. Having assured himself that the sins were really his, Luther said, “Take thy pen, O Satan, and write across the scrolls, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth [ME] from all sin.'”

Said the dying man, “That was a dark picture indeed that Satan brought before Luther, but Luther had a bright answer.” “Yes,” I replied; “the blood cleanseth from all sin; that was sufficient for Luther.” “Yes,” he said, “it was, and for me, too. There is great comfort in it, every dark shadow is wiped out.”

Indeed, it is most blessed and comforting to have come to the knowledge of that which can clear the conscience of the sinner and make him perfectly happy even in the presence of God and eternity. It is the precious cleansing blood of God's dear Son. Have you got this comfort, my reader? Can you say, “Every dark shadow is wiped out”?

You have heard that the Son of God died for man; you have even been told that He died for sinners. Did it ever strike you that it was for you—for You? To you God offers not only relief of conscience through the blood of Christ, but joy of heart in the love of Christ. To you this blessing is sent. Will you spurn it, counting the trifles of this life as greater treasures? Beware, O despiser! Thou hast got to die, and judgment follows death. Sin is real, death is real, hell is real. Oh, beware, and escape thee to Christ the Saviour now.

Fill the Water Pots

Notes of an Address to Sunday-School Workers

 

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

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

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

Secondly: The material that we have to work with. Children are, in the first place, empty vessels. Now, grown-up people are not empty, they are full of their own notions, and very well satisfied with themselves. But with children it is not so. They are empty, and it is our blessed privilege to fill them. Think of the water-pots in the second chapter of John. You remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said to the servants, “Fill the water-pots with water.” They obeyed to the letter. There was a blessed enthusiasm about them, for they filled them to the brim ! What did they fill them with? That which the Lord would turn into wine. It is your business also to fill the water-pots to the brim. Fill them with that which the Lord can turn into wine.

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

We shall not be able to fill them with water unless we are first filled with the water of the Word ourselves. If we read trashy literature, we must not be surprised if our children turn to folly. You know better than to do that. You feed your soul upon the precious Word of God. Alas, there are those who take up the service amongst children who feed their souls upon mere garbage. No wonder if the children grow up for the world and the devil. Read, by all means. Read anything that can help you in your service, but feed upon the sacred Scriptures, and make the Bible your chosen book. And do not forget that you must also be in personal contact with the blessed Lord, of whom the Scriptures speak. If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.” Let us, then, be like the servants of John 2, who filled the pots to the brim and then brought them to Jesus. We cannot change the water into wine, nor could they. We must do what they did—we must bring them to Jesus; and that necessitates prayer. Oh, beloved fellow-labourers, we shall not be successful unless we are found in dependence and prayer before Him.

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

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

The third point shall be, The spirit in which we serve. The one who deals with children must be like his Lord if he is to be successful. There was Peter, he could stand up on the day of Pentecost and preach so that 3000 souls were converted; but Peter, in earlier days, had driven the children away from Jesus. We must be very careful that there is nothing in us to drive them away. They doubtless shrank in fear from the disciples, but can you not imagine how eagerly they would run to the outstretched arms of the Saviour? Do you think the children were afraid of Jesus? Was there anything in Jesus to drive the children away from Him? You know that Mark's Gospel sets the Lord Jesus before us as the true Servant, and in the tenth chapter we see how He dealt with the children. He put His hands upon them, drew them to His arms, and blessed them. They had a place in His heart. Have the children a place in your heart? If you are like the Lord they will have. Then they will feel that we love them, and we shall seek, in dependence on the Lord, to communicate to them the blessed things that have made us happy—the things of Christ. The Lord grant that we may be able to do that. But we must be near to Him, for it is at the feet of the blessed Lord that we learn and are trained for service.

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

God, Our Shield

 

“Are you on the Lord's side?” I asked of a man, to whom I was introduced.

“Yes,” he replied, “by the grace of God I am; and better still, He is on my side.”

His answer was good, for it proved that he knew the gospel of God's grace as it is unfolded for us in the Epistle to the Romans, where we read, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

But there are many who have trusted the Saviour, who dared not have given such an answer; they would deem it presumption to say that God was on their side, such sinful, faithless creatures as they are; yet though they have not believed it, it is the truth and God would have their hearts established in it.

Let them consider His words to Abraham, “Fear not, Abram; I am thy Shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1). What a glorious statement for a man to hear from the mouth of God! Abram did not question nor doubt the Word of God; for we read in the same chapter, “And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (v. 6). How safe he must have felt with God as his shield, he would fear neither man nor devil with those words in his heart.

God as the shield of those who believe is strikingly set forth in the case of the passover in Egypt . Abram's children had multiplied exceedingly and had become a great nation, but they were slaves, groaning under hard and cruel masters. God looked upon their sorrows and undertook to deliver them and make them a free people to serve Him with gladness. But His holy character demanded that this should be done on a righteous basis, otherwise it could not be done at all.

The sprinkled blood of the paschal lamb provided this basis. It spoke of the life of a sinless victim being surrendered and sacrificed on behalf of those who had sinned, and who, because sinners, were under the judgment of God. It was a type of the blood of the Lamb of God which was shed for our redemption.

The word of the Lord came to Moses: “Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin; and strike the lintel and the two side-posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians: and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel and on the two side posts; the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you ” (Ex. 12:21-23).

The words, “the Lord will pass over ” you are significant and comforting. They do not mean that He would pass by the door where the blood was, but that He would halt before it, and cover all within it from all judgment and harm. The use of the word here translated “pass over” in other Old Testament scriptures will prove this. In 1 Kings 18:21, it is given as “halt,” the sense, as the context shows being to stand still or hover. A remarkable instance of the use of the word is found in Isaiah 31:5, “As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem , defending also He will deliver it; and passing over He will preserve it.”

How striking is the figure! With all the tender solicitude of the mother bird for her brood when danger threatens, so the Lord hovers over them that are His. This is the meaning of “pass over.” The Lord Almighty stood as sentinel and shield outside the doors that were blood-marked, and did not suffer the destroyer to enter in.

And God's passover in Egypt is the type of the way He deals with every soul, that obeying the gospel, flies to the precious blood of Jesus for shelter. That blood bears witness to the fact that righteous judgment has been executed, and the righteousness that inflicted the judgment must now protect those on whose behalf that judgment was borne.

We are sure that His mercy and grace and love are on our side, but His justice and His righteousness are equally so, since Jesus died. He is a just God and yet a Saviour. He is just, and the justifier of Him that believeth in Jesus. The knowledge of this fills the heart with peace and the mouth with praise and we can take up the glorious boast, “If God be for us, who can be against us? . . . It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?”

“Godliness with Contentment”

 

We are not surprised at the unrest and discontent which are more than ever manifest in the lives of those that know not God. We are not surprised that the poor, who are not rich in faith, should cast envious and covetous eyes upon the possessions of those who seem more fortunately placed than themselves. But it is surpassingly strange if this spirit of discontent and covetousness should break out in the lives of those who have God as their Father. It is strange because it means that a rebellious will is at work, and that confidence in One who cannot make a mistake has grown feeble, and these are conditions which indicate ill health in the children of God. Yet undoubtedly this discontent is prevalent and is sapping the spiritual vitality of thousands who otherwise might be strong in the grace that is in Christ.

What is the remedy for this unhealthy spiritual condition? We know of only one. Confidence in God must be restored, and this can only be as we dwell afresh upon His great love and infinite wisdom. How wonderful are those words of the Lord, “Even the very hairs of your head are ALL numbered.” Those small details of our lives that are too insignificant to be noticed by us, like a simple hair of our head, are matters of interest to God. It is wonderful that He who upholds the universe should be so minute in His care for those whom He loves. The knowledge of this and of the fact that His will is never against us but for us, should encourage us to wholly trust in Him.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” To depend in simple trust upon God alone, and be satisfied with what He gives, must be great gain indeed, and yet—“Well, ” says one, if I only had an income like Mr.—— I should be quite contented, and I could do a lot of good with it; and why should I be denied that which he has so abundantly?”

Hear a parable. A little child is attracted by the sight of a highly polished knife; it is so pretty to look at, it must be nice to possess, and he attempts to grasp it. But a watchful mother places it beyond his reach and under lock and key. But he whines and complains and asks, “Why can't I have the knife?” He is told that he would certainly hurt himself with it if it were given to him. But he persists in his complaint which is now very real to him, for he sees one in the hand of an elder sister, and why should he be denied what she is allowed to have? “My child”, says the patient mother, “that which would be a dangerous weapon in your small and unskilled hands is a very useful thing in sister's hands, for see, she is cutting the loaf for your tea with it.”

Earthly possessions are like that polished knife; if another has them, it is to use them to the glory of God, and if they are put beyond your reach it is because they would hurt you if you had them. Let your heart be happy and contented then, for God, who is your Father, knows what is best for you. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Yes, everything that He can give to us “with Him” He will, and that without a grudge.

But, say you, “Some Christians have wealth that they do not use for others' good, and it seems to hinder the progress of their souls.” That is so; and do you desire to handle the weapon that is injuring them? Distrust of self would lead you to thank God that in the wisdom of a perfect love He has made it impossible for you to hurt your soul as others seem to be hurting theirs.

“ Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I WILL NEVER LEAVE THEE, NOR FORSAKE THEE

His company is better than broad acres and a large income. And if He hath said that He is with us, we may boldly say, THE LORD IS MY HELPER, AND I WILL NOT FEAR WHAT MAN SHALL DO UNTO ME ” (Heb. 13:6).

“He Leadeth Me”

 

There is melody in this sentence. The heart can sing it, and does. For it enfolds in its short compass of three words the tender pity, the intimate care, the personal love of the Lord to me . I am an object of interest to Him; He has a destiny in view for me, and He does not commit me to another to bring me to it. “HE leadeth me.” Does not that strike a chord in the heart?

He does not drive me as though I were reluctant to take His way, nor drag me as though He were impatient with my weakness. “He leadeth me.” Yes; His heart is in it. It is Himself that does it, and He does it as only He can.

I called to see a young mother. Her baby boy, the first, was just learning to walk, and she was anxious that I should see how well he could do it. So, taking his small hand in hers, she led him across the floor. I noticed that she did not make him take long strides that she herself could have taken, nor go the pace that she could have gone. No; she shortened her steps to his and went as he could go, and steadied his weak effort until the task was done, and then she caught him to her breast and kissed him in the ecstasy of a mother's love.

“That is it,” I said. Thus “He leadeth me.” And all the tenderness of that love that made Him die to win me is in the way He does it. He knoweth our frame, considers every infirmity and is able to succour. When our steps falter He is near to support. And if we tire in the way He will carry us.

“He leadeth me.” I walked away from the house where I had learnt that sweet lesson with a light step and a glad heart that sang a song of praise to the Lord, for I had had a fresh glimpse of His grace, and I felt that the way must be a right way, a path of righteousness, if He leads me in it, and that His grace will be sufficient to uphold me to the end of it. Then the eternal embrace of love. What a wonderful Saviour is He!

His Friends

 

“ Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you ” (John 15:14).

“Ye are My friends.” Wonderful words! How deeply searching! A friend is one who is worthy to be trusted. Is this true of us? The blessed Lord is our Friend—a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother, and “who loveth at all times.” Never a moment when we may not trust him with every secret of our lives, He has proved Himself to be trustworthy, for He laid down His life for us. O wonderful love, passing all bounds of human thought!

But can He trust us? Are we really His friends? “ If ye do whatsoever I commend you .” This is the proof. Not doing what we think, but what He commands. And He has said, “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me.” There is no such thing as knowing the Master's mind apart from the intimacy of communion. This involves separation from this world and its ways, and nothing but His love can draw us to Himself. As we are thus drawn our hearts will be closed against every other voice, and in the solitude of His presence we shall learn His secrets and get His commands.

How dear to the Lord's heart must the gospel be! His last moments with His loved disciples ere going back to His Father are occupied in commanding them to sound it forth, “Thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.”

The first moments of the Holy Ghost's presence here on earth were employed in sweeping into the circle of blessing thousands of souls. Those disciples, in fervent love to their Lord and Master, began to fulfil His command that day. Empowered by the Spirit of God, they proved themselves to be His friends, worthy to be trusted with the precious gospel. But how do we stand? The gospel is just as dear to the Lord's heart as ever, and the power of the Holy Ghost is just as great. But are we proving ourselves to be His friends in this line of His work? If we are near to Him we shall. Andrew went and found his own brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. The woman of Sychar went forth eagerly to bring others to the One in whose company she had been. Had the apostles held their peace it would never have been recorded that “they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus ” (Acts 4:13).

Oh that we may be so near Him that what is dear to HIS heart may be dear to ours, and that we, by His grace, may prove ourselves to be His friends, doing His commands.

“I Went Into the Sanctuary of God”

 

When Asaph went into the sanctuary of God it was as though he got a pair of new eyes. His whole outlook was changed, and better still he himself was the subject of a moral revolution. Before he went in he was a miserable and restless man, and as ignorant as a beast, as he afterwards confessed. He understood nothing, and everything appeared wrong. His whole soul was in rebellion against the state of things, and consequently against God who is behind all. And this is the subtle and serious thing about judging things by the natural powers. The man who does so, be he Christian or infidel, becomes a discontented man and a murmurer, and nothing offends against God like those two things, for they indicate a soul at war with the will of God.

But Asaph was no infidel. He was a man whose God was the Lord, and he had a deep sense in his born-again soul of what was right, but he was most desperately perplexed because that sense was outraged whichever way he looked. And yet he said nothing about these inward conflicts in case he should stumble some of God's children. He was a good man but troubled, as we may learn from Psalm 73.

He was the type of a vast multitude of people in these days. They cannot understand why the good things of life should be poured into the lap of the wicked and why trouble should dog the steps of the honest and good. They see unrighteousness ride triumphantly in a gilded coach, or perhaps in a luxurious motor car, while goodness goes afoot on the dusty high way, sometimes shoeless. It is a strange world! And these are great problems; and does God see and know? And if so—!

One hour in the sanctuary of God changed everything for Asaph.

Is there anything in the New Testament that answers to the sanctuary in which Asaph found the key to all his difficulties? Yes there is, we have a sanctuary in the New Testament and the Minister of it. Hebrews 10 tells us that we have boldness to enter into the Holiest—that is, into the very presence of God, —and it tells us of Jesus who is there, our great High Priest who delights to lead us in, and maintain us in that place of light and blessing.

It is wonderful how things change as we sit in the presence of God. It is more wonderful how we ourselves are changed. If any of us have not experienced this we should lose no time in testing it. 2 Corinthians 3 speaks of beholding the glory of the Lord and being changed into the same image. It is this that takes place when we sit in the presence of the Lord. The world's tinsel glitters just as brightly, but it loses its attraction for us. The wicked still prosper but we envy them not. Even our brethren who have deeply offended us appear in a different light, and we are glad not to meet them as enemies but to greet them as brethren beloved for God's sake. The little storms that have shaken us are calmed; our difficulties that towered up like mountains, hiding the sunshine of God's countenance from us, sink into their due insignificance, and our souls are rested, wonderfully rested and filled with peace. There is more than this, as we shall see, if we consider the effect upon Asaph of being in the sanctuary of God.

In the presence of God he saw how transient were all worldly things, and he saw also the end of them, and the end of a thing is the great test of it. The Christian, who can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, and who knows that he is an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ Jesus, will not covet the worldly goods of a man who is without Christ, without God and without hope in the world. But it is in the presence of God that these things become real. As Asaph saw things as they really were he was greatly humbled, and rightly so. He had misjudged God in his blind ignorance, he had been as a beast and yet he learnt that God had been patient with him, and had waited to show him things as they were. In spite of his foolishness, God had upheld him. Even though his faith had been shaken and his foot had well nigh slipped, yet God had held him up with His right hand. And he learnt more, even that God would not abandon him, but that He would guide him with His counsel through all the maze of life and afterwards receive him into glory.

What more could he desire than that? To be the object of God's special care: to be guided through every difficulty in life by God's counsel, not blindly nor by bit and bridle as a horse or a mule, but instructed step by step, and led as being instructed, and growing in intelligence and in the knowledge of God as each difficulty is overcome; and at last of all to be received into God's glory! Surely every question was settled and quietness and confidence must have taken the place of distress and distrust in the heart of Asaph!

And it was even so, for he breaks out into worship, the worship of a mind at rest and a heart satisfied. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” God became his present and everlasting portion.

Shall we be behind Asaph in our knowledge of God? Greater light shines for us than shone for him, yet if it is to shine into us, illuminating us, and filling us with the knowledge of God, we must draw near to Him. It is in His presence in the sanctuary that we see everything clearly. How good it is for us that the light shines in the face of Jesus, the sinners' Friend and Saviour. Men do not commit themselves and their lives to God because they do not trust Him. And they do not trust Him because they doubt His justice. They see the wicked prosper and they ask, Can God be just? Some calamity befalls them and they blame God for their trouble. Even Christians have been known to question God's dealings with them. But we cannot judge what is right by the sight of our eyes, we need faith, and it is in the presence of God that our faith grows and is strengthened and our fears disappear. We learn that God's way is perfect. He is a just God and a Saviour. He cares for us, and will bring every trial to a right issue. Yes, in the presence of God our outlook is changed, and what is greater, we are changed.

Was not Hannah changed in 1 Samuel 1 when having knelt in the sanctuary and poured out her grief before God, she arose and went her way and her countenance was no more sad?

Was not Thomas changed when in the presence of his Lord, having seen the wounds in His hands and side, he cast his depression and unbelief to the winds and confessed, “My Lord and my God”?

Was not Mary changed when she bent in adoration at the feet of Jesus, and arose to carry about in her person the fragrance of the spikenard that she had poured upon Him, unmoved by the criticism of her brethren?

Was not Paul changed, when having three times sought the presence of the Lord about the thorn that galled him, he cried, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities”?

Yes, and we shall be changed as we behold the glory of the Lord in His sanctuary. The burdens and buffetings of life may remain, and circumstances be unchanged, but we shall be changed, and become rich in faith, and they will become the opportunities for us to show how great is our God. No longer shall we murmur at the inequalities of life but refreshed in the sanctuary we shall joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“In Christ”

 

Does the illustration illustrate?

Two contradictory statements were made at Bible readings by different speakers. I place them side by side and ask for your kind comments thereon.

 

STATEMENT NO. 1

Somebody says, slipping a letter into a book, “That is how we are IN CHRIST, hidden in Him.” All I can say is that if anyone thinks that that illustrates what it is to be “in Christ,” he only demonstrates his utter ignorance of the matter.

 

STATEMENT No. 2

Let this Bible represent Christ, and this folded hymn-sheet represent myself. Now (putting the hymn-sheet into the Bible) you cannot see me, can you? I am hidden in Christ. That is how we are “in Christ,” the accepted Man.

 

The former of these statements was made some twenty-five years ago; the second much more recently. Which is right? Can you think of any illustration that sets forth more perfectly the meaning of the expression “In Christ”?

I should not care to weaken the thought that we have found a hiding place in Christ. The Old Testament abounds with many beautiful expressions that present the Lord as our refuge and strong tower, and every soul that has felt the burden of guilt, or has passed through great sorrows and temptations and has fled to Him in these times of stress, knows what a blessed hiding place He is. So that we may still gratefully sing,

“Thou blest Rock of Ages,

I'm hiding in Thee.”

But this is not what is meant by the New Testament term, “In Christ,” and I should agree with statement No. 1, that whoever so interpreted it did not understand the full meaning of the unspeakable blessing of being in Christ. The second statement carries us further than being simply hidden to being hidden in the accepted Man, but it does not illustrate the fact at all, for the hymn book, though hidden in a larger and better book, remains what it was before, perhaps filthy and dilapidated, its condition is in no wise changed, though it is now completely hidden from the eye. That is not what God has done for us. He has placed us in Christ for His own pleasure as well as for our blessing, and that does not mean that He has hidden us out of His sight, but that He has put us where He can look upon us with satisfaction.

I cannot give an illustration which will perfectly illustrate the meaning of being “in Christ.” Even the illustration sometimes used of the change of the grub into the butterfly does not fully serve, for, while in that phenomenon there is a change of condition and sphere of life, yet the life of the butterfly was in the grub before that change came about. The subject is an important one, and unless we understand something of what is involved in it we shall remain in bondage to the law of sin and death, hence I shall endeavour to comment upon it as it comes before us in the Epistle to the Romans, and it may help us to appreciate it better if we see the great contrast given there between being “in Christ” and out of Him.

To be out of Christ means to be in Adam , or in “the flesh” as our Epistle puts it, that is, to be in the natural condition in which we came into the world, a condition marked by self-will and enmity against God. We learn in the early chapters of Romans that all were in this condition, whether the degraded heathen, the proud philosopher, or the religious Jew. They were all alike in Adam because they all belonged to the fallen race of which he was the sinful and fallen head. He, too, was in them, for the life and nature that he had was in them, and they showed it by their deeds, for “all have sinned,” and because of this condemnation and death came upon all, and no member of that race ever appeared to break the terrible entail that lay upon it. That is where all who are out of Christ are to this day; it was where we, who are now in Christ, all stood before the sovereign mercy of God reached us and set us in this place of favour. If I set out the condition clearly before our eyes it may help us to appreciate the great deliverance.

 

Adam – Disobedience, Condemnation, Death

 

But Christ came, the second Man. His humanity was sinless. He grew up delighting in the will of God and all His ways were pleasing to Him. He was the obedient Man. Men hated and condemned Him, but God justified Him. He justified Him in His life when He declared that He was well-pleased with Him, and He justified Him beyond all question when He raised Him from the dead. Because He was the altogether obedient One, death had no claim upon Him. His was the right to live and not die, but He died that others might live, and that He might impart to them His resurrection life. In all this He stands out in great contrast to Adam. Let me set out this great contrast that we may be impressed by it.

 

Christ – Obedience, Justification, Life

 

I have said that He died that He might impart His life to those for whom He died. It was necessary that He should die first, for only by dying substitutionally and sacrificially could He lift from us the condemnation and death that lay upon us because of our disobedience, and deliver us from the sinful nature of which that disobedience was the proof. He became sacrificially all that we were actually, that is, He was made sin for us (though He Himself knew no sin) that our judgment might fall upon Him. The eighth chapter of our Epistle puts it thus: “God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (v. 3, R.V.). If He died our death of judgment for us, we are free from that, and that brings to an end before God what we were as in the flesh. Our baptism is the figure of that (chap. 6), “Know ye not that as many as were baptised unto Jesus Christ were baptised unto His death?” Hence we are free, for he that is dead is freed from sin.

Are we then left without any standing and life? Certainly not; we are now in Christ. He is the last Adam, the life-giving Spirit, raised up from the dead. And the risen Christ imparts His own life to all those who have believed on Him. He has become the Head of a new race, and all who have been justified by His blood are of that new race. They have, by the infinite grace of God, the life and nature of the Head, and the life they have, as identified with their glorious Head, is a life that is free from sin. They have “justification of life,” as Romans 5:18 puts it. The life of Adam could never have evolved this new life. It is a life in absolute contrast to it.

 

In Adam

 

In Christ

Disobedience, Condemnation,

The Death of Christ

Obedience, Justification,

Death.

 

Life.

 

With the two great races into which mankind is divided, and their condition and destiny, before us as in this diagram, we shall all feel most thankful to God for the grace that has transferred us from the one to the other. But this could only be because Christ died for us; only thus has the way to life been opened up, and to enter experimentally into this we must accept the death of Christ as our death. This we acknowledged in baptism, but it must be maintained. We must “reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (we have passed out of the Adam square) “but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (we are now in the Christ square).

Let us consider these two lives and their natures and characteristics. We have read in the Old Testament the history of the Adam race; there was no good in it. Nothing brought this out more clearly than its culminating sin when Jesus came. When it saw Him, the absolute manifestation of God in fullness of grace, it spat in His face and nailed Him to a gibbet. That was Adam; it was the whole race showing its enmity against God. No good can come out of such a race. If any individuals in it were to be blessed at all, they must be taken out of it; they must be transferred from Adam to Christ. The Adamic race loathed the beloved Son of God, and cried, “Away with Him.” Which do you loathe and which do you love? I can understand every ransomed soul saying, “I loathe the man of sin and shame that would not have Christ, and I love Him, for He loved me and gave Himself for me. Then you loathe yourself and you love Christ! You have passed in your affections from self to Christ. Your heart has travelled out of the Adam square into the Christ square. Thank God for that, for as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

Let us not pass hurriedly or lightly over this matter. I will put before the reader the features of these two lives, that we may clearly see their fundamental difference.

 

Out of ADAM come

To the CHRIST race belong

Evil Thoughts

Love

Adulteries

Joy

Fornications

Peace

Murders

Long-suffering

Thefts

Gentleness

Covetousness

Faith

Wickedness

Meekness

Deceit

Temperance

Lasciviousness

And they that are Christ's

An Evil Eye

have crucified the flesh

Blasphemy

with the lusts thereof

Pride

(Galatians 5:22)

Foolishness

 

(Mark 7:21-22)

 

 

None of us, whose hearts have been reached by the Gospel and purified by faith, would hesitate for a moment between these two. We reject the bad and embrace the good; then we can thank God that in His sight we are out of the one and into the other; we are in Christ, where there is no condemnation.

It is quite possible that someone will say, “While all my desires and affections are in the Christ square, I find I still live as to my actions in the Adam square, and I long that it should be otherwise.” So far, so good. Lay hold of the fact that God has put you where you desire to be and that there He would have you to live. Moreover, He has given you the power that belongs to the sphere where your affections are. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). This great principle of the Spirit of life is not in Christ personally only, it is the animating principle of all who are in Him, it is the Spirit and power of the race—the Holy Ghost, just as the law of sin and death holds and enslaves the Adam race.

A celebrated aviator has stated that the law of gravitation has no longer any terrors for flying men, because of the perfection and power of their motors. The perfect machinery in their aeroplanes sets them free from the law of gravitation, and carries them above it by its power. This is a good illustration of what I am now seeking to elucidate, though of course sooner or later the airman's power fails and the law of gravitation exercises its irresistible pull. But within the Christian there is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of life, a greater power than the law of sin and death that would hold us down and chain us, as to our experience, in the Adam square, carrying us free of it, so that we may rejoice in the blessing of being in Christ, and breathe the pure air that is there, and manifest from day to day the beautiful features that belong to the life and nature that is ours.

Thus are we IN CHRIST as to our position by the grace of God, and in the enjoyment and power of it by the Holy Spirit, and God can find His delight in us as the life of Christ is manifested in us.

“In the Midst”

 

“ 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.

I was a youth of eighteen at the time and an interest in the Lord's 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 the 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 at the same time expressed our feelings exactly. He 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 for me 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 know that He would hold me fast 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 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 nor 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 persons ought we to be, 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 to 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.

 

 

Dear Mr. Editor.

A reader of Edification commenting on the paper, “In the Midst, ” which appeared in your May issue, says that it had given him great pleasure, as the Lord's presence with His own when gathered to His Name and especially for the Lord's Supper, had been very real to him, and that his desire on these occasions is well expressed in the verse,

“O teach us, Lord, Thy searchless love to know,

Thou who hast died;

Before our feeble faith, Lord Jesus, show

Thy hands and side

That our glad hearts, responsive unto Thine,

May wake with all the power of love divine.”

But he had been questioned by some as to this, who said they did not understand what he meant by “realizing the Lord's presence, ” and “seeing His hands and side.” They look upon it as something mystical. And he asks for further help on the subject, and for confirmation of what to him is a great reality, unless he is deceived. With your permission I will briefly pursue the subject, which should be of great importance to all who love the Lord Jesus.

First, there is the Lord's own side to this question, and on this side two things are necessary for His presence in the midst of His own on earth: His unchanging love and His reliable word. If His love can wane and cease, and if He can be indifferent to His word, then we may dismiss the idea, of meeting Him and rejoicing in His presence, as a dream. Every heart that knows Him, knows that these two things are as impossible as it is that God should lie. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” His is,

“Love which on this cold earth grows never cold,

Love which decays not with the world's decay,

Love which is young when all things else grow old,

Which lives when heaven and earth shall pass away.”

And His word is as immutable as His love is true.

We know that one of the great features of love is the constant desire to be in the company of its object. If it must be at a distance it will communicate with, and labour to the limit of its power for, the loved one; but nothing can satisfy it but its company. We believe that this is most eminently true of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ for His own. He serves us and often communicates precious and comforting thoughts to us, but can He come to us? Is this possible? If it is, we know that He will do it. He is not on earth. He has passed through death, has risen up from the tomb, and ascended up into heaven; and heaven seems so far away sometimes. Can He reach us from His high and exalted place in the glory? Yes, He can, love has found a way, and He has said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you ” (John 14:18). I know that these words were addressed to His bewildered and sorrowful disciples, and that they had a very special application and meaning to them, even that they were to SEE Him alive from the dead. They did see Him; they looked with wonder on His wounded hands and side, but they are also good and true words for us and, “ blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed. ”

Consider them, “I will not leave you orphans, ” for that is the meaning of them—I will not leave you desolate, forlorn, lonely, uncared for. It is all that and more. An orphan may be cared for, and that very tenderly by others, but the heart cries out for the love of relationship. “I want my mother” is the cry that breaks from the heart of the bereaved child. I will not leave you crying out like that for Me, said the Lord, I will come to you. Will He keep His word? Assuredly. His word is a steadfast as the pillars of the throne of God, and His love can be satisfied with nothing less than the company of the loved ones. Then everything is right on His side. What about ours?

On our side three things are necessary. They are love , faith , and the Holy Spirit . Perhaps I ought to have put the Holy Spirit first, for every impulse towards the Lord is from Him; but He must direct the impulse also and sustain it and make it bear its full fruit in Christ's own assembly. And not the Holy Spirit alone is active, but the Father also. Read verses 16 and 17 of John 14. The Lord was going away, but His love would find a way by which He could meet His loved ones. He would pray the Father, and the Father's interest in these disciples, beloved of the Lord, would be so great that He would send the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, that the Lord might not seek their company in vain, or love them without response. Full provision has been made.

Is our love for the Lord enough to make us long for His company? Do we miss Him in the world where we have to live and do business? Are we like the bride in Solomon's Song, who searched for her lover, and said, “I sought him, but I could not find him, ” and said to the watchmen, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” He is not in the world's busy marts or in its haunts of pleasure; our hearts cannot be satisfied in any of these. Do we cry out for the company of the Lord? Would you, for instance, like to meet your Saviour? If your answer is, “Yes, yes, above all things that is my desire, ” then there is one thing more, Do you believe His word? He has said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them, ” and “I will come to you.” Is that enough? If so, with what joy we shall hasten to this tryst. His presence, realized by the Spirit, will be real to affection and faith, and holy subjection to Him, the Lord, will most surely result. And the heart that has known it can never forget it; and there where His presence is, where He is supreme in the midst of His own, is His assembly. There He shows His hands and side—i.e., He brings afresh to adoring hearts the sense of the love that made Him suffer, and He will do this until He comes to rapture His church to glory.

“Jesus Calling”

 

In his autobiography, the late Canon Fleming, by permission of Queen Alexandra, tells of the death of the Duke of Clarence, the elder brother of our late King George. His mother sat by his bedside, when suddenly he looked at her and said, “Who is that calling me?” She answered, “It is Jesus calling you, dear.” They were his last words, in a few minutes his soul had passed into eternity. His bereaved mother, turning to a table near the bed upon which his diary was lying, read these words:

“Just as I am, without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come.”

“And we could not doubt, ” she said, “that dear Eddie had come.” And that is the way that all must come, for there is no difference, whether you live as a prince in a royal palace or sleep on the Embankment, all have sinned, and every sinner needs a Saviour, and there is no Saviour except Jesus our Lord. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name, under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Jonah – A Type of Christ

 

Many are the similitudes and contrasts between type and Antitype. In the type light and shade alternate amazingly; in the Antitype we have one course of light.

 

Chapter 1

Jonah was sent of God, but he did not delight in God's will and way. JESUS WAS GREATER THAN JONAH in this, for He not only delighted in speaking of Himself as God's Sent One, but the will and ways of God were His life and pleasure. “I do always the things that please Him,” He said.

 

Chapter 2

Jonah went down into the depths of judgment, in figure, because of his disobedience, the result of which was that the storm abated its fury, peace and salvation came to the mariners and they feared the Lord and acknowledged His claims over them. JESUS WAS GREATER THAN JONAH in this, for by one obedience (Rom. 5:19) which involved Him in being delivered for our offences, He went in reality into the depths of death and judgment, whereby peace and salvation have come to us who were storm-tossed mariners upon the sea of life, before whom nothing but destruction loomed. Now we fear the Lord, for with Him is forgiveness, and we own His claims, for the love that sent His Son to die has won our hearts for ever. The goodness of God has led us to repentance.

 

Chapter 3

Raised from the dead, in figure, Jonah became God's sign and witness to a Gentile city which repented immediately of its sins and turned to God. JESUS IS GREATER THAN JONAH in this, for through His suffering and resurrection repentance and remission of sins are preached in His name, not to one nation only, but among all nations (Luke 24:47), and God “now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained: whereof He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

 

Chapter 4

The witness that Jonah bore in his own person, apart from his message of coming doom, was that God's judgment must fall inevitably upon disobedience to His commands, but that He is “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.”

This was really the testimony that Peter gave in the name of the Lord to the first Gentile company that ever heard the gospel since the resurrection of Christ. He had commanded them to teach and to testify that it is He which is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead, but meanwhile there was mercy and grace offered to all. How MUCH GREATER IS THE LORD JESUS than Jonah in this. He, the obedient One, was made sin for the disobedient, bearing their judgment to the uttermost, and being raised from the dead, judgment is put into His hand, who is the only righteous One, but meanwhile He is the channel of mercy for whosoever believes in Him.

When Nineveh was spared Jonah retired disgruntled and angry from it with no responsive pulse in his heart to God's great mercy. He cared only for His own reputation as a prophet, or perhaps for the well-being of his nation, whose chief foe that Gentile city was. In either case his heart was narrow and his thoughts selfish. Why could he not have believed that having repented towards God these Ninevites would bring forth works meet for repentance, and oppress his nation no more? Again we turn with relief to THE GREATER THAN JONAH, who, as the Good Shepherd, goes after the lost sheep (the wandering Gentile) until He finds it, and having found it lays it on His shoulders rejoicing with so great a joy that friends and neighbours are summoned to share it. There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. Jonah knew nothing of this, but this is the heart of God made known in Jesus.

The sign of Jonah given to that evil generation to which Jesus was presented meant that His testimony would go out to the Gentiles and they would believe it.

For ourselves Jonah is a humbling and searching sign, reminding us that they “that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Adam's race is the disobedient race, and condemnation and death lie upon each member of it in consequence. Death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Is there no way of deliverance, then? Yes. “One died for all,” and that One was the righteous One. God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh. A solemn lesson to learn, but the way of liberty for us. Now Christ is raised from the dead and has become the Head of a new race, not now in Adam but in Christ. Obedience, justification and life are characteristic of that race. Christ instead of self is the object of the hearts of all who belong to this new race.

Life

 

It is plain to all who have eyes to see and hearts to understand that the world is in darkness, i.e., in ignorance of God. And the blame for this condition of things lies entirely at its own door, for “the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). And this is not said to be because men cannot perceive the light that shineth, but because they won't, for they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19); they are wilfully in the darkness; consequently they lie under condemnation. This condition can only be described as death — moral and spiritual death. It is alienation from the life of God, it is bondage to sin; it is active hatred of God; it is subjection to the wicked one, for “the whole world lieth in the one (or wickedness)” (1 John 5:19); it is but the prelude to “the second death,” i.e., severance from God.

No writer in the New Testament describes the world in such terse and uncompromising language as John. He sees it in its native blackness; a sphere in which the Father has no place, as witness the casting out of His sent One; the stronghold of the devil in his fight against God; he sees it by the light of the Father's world in which he dwells, and as inspired by the Holy Ghost he writes what he sees, and well it is for us to consider his words, that we may understand out of what we have been delivered, and what grace has made us in contrast to it. It exists in darkness, in death, under condemnation, in active enmity against God; wilfully sinful, lying in the very lap of the devil, it is his nursling; it is the barracks and the battle field where he trains his army of men to resist and fight against every rightful claim of God over them.

But John describes, also, what we might well call another world, composed of those who are said to be “born of God,” and as described by John there is not a feature in common between the two. Those who have entered this world by Divine generation have the light of life and do not walk in darkness; they are of God and not of that wicked one; they love God and one another; they shall never come into condemnation, and over them the second death shall have no power, they have passed into life out of death; their dwelling-place is a sphere of life and light and love. Death is characteristic of the world in which sinful men please themselves, life is characteristic of the world in which those who are born of God dwell.

The first mention of life in John's Gospel is in chapter 1:4. Speaking of the eternal Word by whom all things were made, he says, “ In Him was life, and the life was the light of men ” and the last mention of life in the Epistle is, “ This is the true God and eternal life He is the first and the last, we must begin with Him, nor can any know what life is or enjoy it except in Him.

We cannot define what life is, but when we see it in manifestation we are able to tell the nature of the creature, person or being, whose life it is, and the life of God has been manifested in the world so that we may know His very nature. The Word who was God and with God poured forth from Himself all created life. He was the originator of every system and character of life in the universe, His own all powerful word was sufficient to do this, for He spake and it stood fast, but when we read, “In Him was life” something more is meant. “All creation was made by Him but it does not exist in Him. But in Him was life, in this He was in relation with a special part of creation, a part which was the object of the thoughts and intentions of God. This life was the light of men, it revealed itself as a testimony to the divine nature, in immediate connection with men — for ‘this life was the light of men' — as it did not with respect to any others at all” (J.N.D).

There is no light for men apart from the incarnate Word. Men have no light in themselves, though they may become light-bearers, and shine as lights in the world when the word of life has its place in their hearts, but naturally they have no light, “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?” (Job. 11:7). “The world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21). “The god of this world hath blinded the eyes of men that believe not” (2 Cor. 4:4). But if God, for the great love that He has towards us, is pleased to reveal His own life to us, that surely shall be light to us, and we shall want no other; that surely shall dispel the moral darkness that enshrouds our fallen nature, unless indeed, our case be entirely and eternally hopeless. This revelation of Himself has come to pass, not in creation but in incarnation, not by works of power in the physical spheres, but in the lowly life of Jesus. And this manifestation of the life of God in the world has brought into being the new world of which we have spoken. The Creator was in the world, a man in the midst of it, but it did not know Him. He came to those to whom in former days He had committed His oracles, but they received Him not, and yet the manifestation of the life was not in vain, the light of it was effectual, for Jesus could say, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” (Matt. 11:28). And these babes “were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” These form the new world, the new circle, having a most blessed centre, and a well-defined circumference — in the world but not of it; enlightened and vitalised by Him in whom life is; God Himself from whom the life has flowed forth, being the object of the whole circle and every soul in it. “He is the Fountain and the Focus of life; it issues from Him as its source and returns to Him as its object” (Liddon).

To contemplate the One in whom this life is is the first business of all who belong to this new world, they cannot know what their life is unless they do. “We beheld His glory,” said the apostle, and again, “the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:2). It was not our privilege to be with Him, as were those wonderfully-honoured Galileans, and actually see Him, and hear Him, and handle Him, as He tabernacled amongst them, but what He was, and is, has come forth in words, as He Himself said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:33). And the disciples recognized this when they said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And because the life that was manifested abides in the words He spoke we do not walk in darkness.

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men” and this was the true Light which shines for all, but its blessed life-giving rays could not have reached us, quickening our souls into life, apart from the death of the Life-giver. It is well to be constantly reminded of this fact. He came from God, even the Father, to bring those who believe on Him into life, to share, in fact, in the life that He manifested, but it could not be apart from His death. Hence when first the term “eternal life” is used in John's writing, which seems to be the way this life is described when it is a question of its impartation to men, it is in connection with the death of Christ. So we read, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (chap. 3:14-15). This was because death lay upon us, sinful men, as the judgment of God; and sin could only be expiated and death removed by the death of the Son of Man, made in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet entirely holy and true. This has taken place, and while demonstrating the condition of sin and death in which men were it is also the great proof of God's love, in this His nature has been fully revealed.

“Inscribed upon the cross we see

In shining letters, ‘God is love.'”

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

God made Himself manifest in that great gift, and what light is this to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, who looked upon God as their foe, as some tyrannical being who only created them to crush them! Life, and light, and love are inseparable. The life is the light of men for in it is declared the love of God. “God is light,” and “God is love.”

We proceed no further with this side of the subject as it is ably dealt with in the following paper, but turn to that which is our purpose in this paper, namely the practical outflow of this life which has been given to us, and into which we have been called. The reception of this life is individual, as the Lord said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). And the maintenance of the life must be individual also, and this is by feeding upon Christ who gave His flesh for the life of the world. His death is efficacious; His love is infinite; the expiation He has made is total, absolute, perfect. To appropriate that by faith brings us clear of all that separated us from God, and it becomes the food upon which the new life that is ours lives. But having eaten His flesh and drunk His blood, and finding these to be meat and drink indeed we dwell in Him and He in us. In Him is this new life, and all who have it are in Him; He is the centre of this new circle of divine life and binds it altogether in one. So that we must consider others who are there. We are in relationship with Him and with the Father, but with all others also who are in this sphere of blessing.

It is wonderful to see how when the light had fully shone in the world and the darkness rejected it, and men began to plot His death, the oneness of His own is brought into prominence. The first intimation of this occurs in chapter 10, where He declares that He must give His life for the sheep that there might be one flock and one shepherd. Then in chapter 11 we learn that He must die that “He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” In chapter 13 when Judas had gone out and He could look upon them as one in the life into which He brought them, He gives them the new commandment which should keep them in practical oneness. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” His is the measure and manner of the love wherewith we who are in His life are to love each other, and so it will be as His life finds expression in us. We have been brought together into one flock, one family, one assembly — brethren of Christ, that this love might have occasion to develop and flow out one towards another. This could not be in isolation, and everything that divides the children of God one from another hinders the development and outflow of this love. Love binds us together, it is the flesh in its lust and pride, and the devil in his perpetual hatred of all who are of God that scatter and divide.

Coming to Paul's side of the truth we find that we are to “walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and given Himself for us,” but that simply means that the life that is ours now in Him is finding its normal expression. And the necessity for this amongst the saints of God is clearly set forth in 1 Corinthians 13 while the beauty of it is also disclosed for us. Love is of God. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and this never fails.

In Colossians 3 we find this same life — for there is no other — showing itself in the saints as one body. “ Christ is our life Hence we read:

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.”

This is the character of the life we are to live for “the little while” that Christ is hid in the heavens, and so take His place in the darkness, blameless and harmless the sons of God, without rebuke, “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world: holding forth the word of life.” For Christ now, and like Him morally, because living in His life; with Him soon in His Father's glory, when we shall be altogether like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Then the purpose that was His as far as we are concerned, that brought Him forth into this world will be fully and for ever realized.

 

Lord and Head

Acts 9:1-6; Colossians 3:12-17

 

To Paul was given that wonderful truth, the truth of the mystery, to complete the Word of God. The way in which the Lord Jesus was first made known to him characterized the whole of his ministry. Two things are prominent in that interview. One, the lordship of Christ—“Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” the other the headship of Christ, underlying the Lord's first words to Paul—“Why persecutest thou Me?” In the title Lord we have specially brought before us His rights, what is due to Him; and in the headship of Christ the One in whom are all the boundless resources of God for us.

Turn to Colossians 3:12-14, “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”. I can understand somebody saying. “Is it possible for these wonderful things to be manifested on earth? If a spot can be found where these things are manifested, that spot would surely be heaven upon earth.” Indeed, it would be like heaven upon earth if saints manifested these heavenly graces. How can this be brought about in us, who by nature are the very opposite of these things? I believe if we keep subject to the Lord, and if we are truly holding the Head, if we know His lordship aright and His headship aright, these things will be seen in us as a natural consequence; and where it is otherwise, you may be sure that we are weak in these two ways. Alas! how much do we see that is contrary to these things. We find a brother with a grudge against another, and he maintains that grudge. Hard and bitter feelings come in between Christian and Christian, and no attempt is made to settle the difference or remove the feeling. Instead of there being a forgiving spirit there is oftentimes a spirit of retaliation, revenge, bitter feeling, back-biting, and the like, all so different from the beautiful qualities mentioned in these verses. We little understand how terrible these evils must be in the sight of the Lord. Many who shrink with horror from the gross sins of the flesh think lightly of speaking evil of their brethren and harbouring bitter thoughts against them, and yet, are they not equally wrong in God's sight? Ah, when we get to God's side of things how different our view of evil. We then see that to harbour bitter feelings against our brethren, and to speak evil of them, brings in a breach into that holy, sacred circle where the Lord is Head. It breaks up fellowship, and instead of God and our Lord Jesus Christ seeing that which is delightful to them in the saints, there is seen the very opposite.

Thank God, it is possible for these lovely graces to be manifested in and through us. They are exactly the things that characterized the Lord Jesus Christ. We are never exhorted to be anything that He was not, hence, these lovely things that are to be manifested in the Christian circle, are the things that came out in all their perfection in the Lord Jesus Christ upon earth, to the delight of God's heart. If they are to come out in us we must be brought under His control, and that can only be as we come under His Lordship. There must be subjection to Him in our individual lives. That is what we are called to.

“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.”

He calls us to acknowledge His Lordship. He calls us to be in every way under His authority, and do not think that will be a life of hardship. Listen to His gracious words: “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

But what kind of a Lord and Master is He? He is a Lord and Master who is most tender in His dealings with those who are subject to Him, and moreover He desires that they should serve in a very blessed capacity. You will remember the passage in the fifteenth chapter of John's Gospel, where our Lord Jesus Christ sets forth the character of the service wherewith He would have us serve Him. There He says: “I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” “Ye are My friends.” Oh, think of that. Think of the Lord Jesus Christ saying, “Ye are My friends.” Many a time I have said to myself, “Am I?” What is a friend? A friend is one whom you can trust, one to whom you can commit your secrets, one who is true to you—who you know will maintain your interests and not betray you. That is a friend, and the Lord Jesus says, “Ye are My friends.” Are you? Can He trust us? Can He commit to us His secrets, and know that we will maintain those secrets here in this world for the honour of His name, and act in accordance with them?

He is our Friend; yes, never a difficulty in which we cannot go to Him; never a burden that we cannot put at His feet; never a trouble that we cannot tell Him. He is a Friend that loveth at all times, the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Every one of us has proved that, but can He turn round and say, “Ye are My friends”? “If ye do whatsoever I command you” is the test by which we may test ourselves as to whether we are His friends. He has called us into communion with His thoughts and purposes, He lets us know and understand what He is about, the blessed motives that are behind all His gracious work, the purpose and the reason for everything He does; He would bring us intelligently into these things, so that we might serve as friends and not as servants.

This being the case, it becomes us to be in true subjection to the Lord, and the maintenance of His rights in our individual lives, as well as His rights in connection with the people of God. Hence we must not be found in any association in which the Lord's rights are set aside. We may be called to serve the Lord in the world where His rights are altogether rejected, but we ought not to be found in association with any circle where there is not the desire to maintain His rights, and where there is not the maintenance of them as far as light is given. This will keep our feet in the narrow pathway, but it will also keep us with the sense in our souls of the approval of our Lord. As we tread that path He will be able to say to us, “Thou hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My name.”

But what is to maintain us in such a pathway? The Lord Jesus Christ as our Head. Let us read a wonderful verse: “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” (Col. 2:9-10). See what is said: “are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.” But who is it that is the Head of all principality and power and in whom we are complete? The One in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. There is a Man upon the throne of God in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells. All the mighty resources of God are in Him for us; we are complete in Him. That means there is no necessity to go outside Him for anything we need. We do not need philosophy, the wisdom of man, religious organizations, or anything men can produce. We are complete in Christ. We have everything we need in Him, for in Him are all the resources of God.

Then He is the Head of all principality and power. There are mighty powers in this world, powers of evil, powers seeking to withstand the work of God, powers seeking to turn aside Christians from the right way, principalities and powers under the lordship of Satan, but the Lord Jesus Christ towers above them all; He is the Head of all principality and power. All the resources of God are in Him for us, and there is no power in the universe can prevent those resources from coming to us if we are subject to the Lord. So no matter how weak we are in the eyes of the world, if we are in touch with those mighty resources, what results there will be!

Our great business is to hold the Head. Just as the members of our body are all in touch with the head, and the nourishment of the members comes from the head, so we find in the Colossians that all the nourishment the members receive comes from Christ. The life of the Head is the life in the members. The same life that is in Him is the life that is in us. He is our life . But what does it mean to be holding the Head, and how can we hold the Head? There is a verse in Colossians 2 that will help us, I think: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him and stablished in the faith as ye have been taught” (vv. 6-7). How did you begin your Christian pathway? Oh, you say, “The Lord Jesus Christ received me, a poor sinner, and I received Him, a great Saviour. He saved me, He did it all.” The language of my heart was:

“Thou hast Thyself redeemed me,

Yes, Thou hast done it all.”

Yes, we found everything we needed in our Lord Jesus Christ. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” Let us continue in that way. If He was sufficient for us at the start, He is sufficient for everything along the road; we need not look outside Him for anything. If we are not looking outside of Him for anything we are holding the Head, and from Him will come the nourishment that we need, so that the spiritual life will be vigorous within. How would that life manifest itself? In exactly the same way that it manifested itself in Him. Oh, how tender we should be one with the other; how graciously we should act towards each other; in short, we should act towards each other as the Lord acted towards His own when He was here. Do you see Him in the midst of His disciples, girding Himself with the towel, and taking the basin and stooping down and washing those feet, and then saying, “Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” Yes, if His life is in us in vigour and power—as it will be if we are holding the Head—we shall be acting towards each other as He acted, in accordance with His own words, “I am among you as He that serveth,” and again, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Is that to be my pathway? Yes, that is the pathway, and that is the life that will be seen if you hold the Head. Impossible for us naturally, for no power in nature can maintain us in a path like that. For instance, Peter listening to the Lord's gracious teaching realizes that it is very different from the things he had heard under the law. He had listened to the scribes and teachers in Israel , rehearsing the law its “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and with the sense in his soul that this is very different from the Lord's teaching, he says, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” And the Lord replies. “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” You can understand Peter saying, “Lord, is it possible?” and we say, “Lord, is it possible, seventy times seven to forgive one another?” Why, if we did that the most cantankerous Christian would be overwhelmed by grace. I have said to myself, “Is it possible?” and like a flash the answer came from the Lord, “That is the way I have treated you, that is the way I am treating you; and I only desire that you should treat others as I have treated you.” That makes all the difference. I am not righteous in the place He has put me in if I do not treat others in the way He has treated me. When we come under the power of His grace, instead of it being a difficulty, it becomes a pleasure, it becomes the natural welling-up of that love that is within us to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.

This scripture in Colossians 3 presents a lovely picture of what every Christian company should be, but these things will not be seen in us if first of all we do not become subject to the Lord—if His lordship is not a fact in our lives. But if owning Him as Lord, and being subject to Him, we hold Him as the Head from whom all nourishment flows—weak and feeble and insignificant in the eyes of the world as each one of us may appear, the life, the blessed life of Jesus, will be seen in us to the delight and glory of God.

Loyal-Hearted, Though Not Lion-Faced

 

Mephibosheth was a very different sort of man to the Gadites with “the faces of lions,” who were “swift as the roes upon the mountains,” and “could handle shield and buckler,” and were “fit for the battle” (1 Chr. 12:8). David needed such men as they were, for he was a man of war, but he was also a man with a heart, great and tender, and he valued above all things devotion to his person; and who shall say that the crippled son of Jonathan did not give him more pleasure in the long run than the fearless veterans of his old guard?

David was chosen of God to be the saviour, shepherd and king of His people Israel , and in these respects he foreshadowed our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Saviour of men and the coming King. It is this that makes his history so interesting and instructive. The men that came into contact with David showed by their attitude towards him how far they understood God's thoughts and ways at the time; and in like manner Christ is the test of every man today.

“What think ye of Christ is the test

To try both your state and your scheme.”

It is from this point of view that we will talk about Mephibosheth and his relations with David.

One thing is certain. David found great pleasure in showing him kindness “for Jonathan's sake.” He called what he did “the kindness of God,” and seemed happier in doing it than in slaughtering his foes. In this one incident he stood out prominently as the man after God's heart, for we know that God finds His delight in bestowing blessing upon needy, helpless men. That part of Mephibosheth's contact with David is beautifully told in 2 Samuel 9.

The question is, How did Mephibosheth react to David's great kindness? He could not do great and brilliant things, he would have been useless and a burden on the field of battle, yet there was something be could do—he could appreciate David's kindness and he could keep a heart loyal to him. He certainly seems to have been grateful to David for all the benefits he bestowed upon him, but sometimes a man may appreciate favours and have very little true love for the benefactor. It may even be so with us; we may value the blessings that come to us through Christ and yet not have much loyalty of heart for Him. It is a sad thing to contemplate, but it may be so, and assuredly the test will come.

The test came to Mephibosheth. Absalom, the favourite and spoiled son of his father, rebelled against him, and David had to flee the city of Jerusalem . There never had been such a day of sorrow for David in all his chequered career, he reached then and there the very nadir of his fortunes, and the strange thing was that Jerusalem seemed glad to see the back of him, and to welcome the traitor-son. What would Mephibosheth do? When the full story is told we learn that he would have shared the sorrow and evil of the King if he could have done so, but it was not to be. Robbed and slandered by his servant, he was forced to remain behind in the city that had cast off David. The city rejoiced, it held high revelry, but Mephibosheth did not join in the festivities; 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 he came again in peace” (2 Sam. 19:24).

Do we realise, O Christians, that the true King is rejected by the world, that the devil has usurped His throne, and is both god and prince of the world? This the Scriptures teach most plainly, and since this is true, what should we do, who are left in it? If we are devoted to the Person of our Lord as Mephibosheth was to David we shall feel that a great moral gulf lies between us and it, that we have nothing in common with it, and that practical separation from it becomes us.

“Its grand fete days, and fashions and ways

Are all but perishing things.”

Yet not because of this only but because it is enmity against God and Christ, and lieth in the wicked one, we must go through it as Christian and Faithful went through Vanity Fair in John Bunyan's book.

It is exceedingly interesting to see what Mephibosheth said to David when he returned in triumph to his throne and city. He rejoiced that the King had come back to his own, and he wanted nothing for himself. The King's rights and not his own were everything to him. He claimed nothing for himself, but he made his boast in David's grace and in David's word. Hear what he says, “All of my father's house were but dead men before my Lord the King.” Dead men have no place or rights; they cannot claim anything, especially when they are dead under the sentence of a righteous law. And it was this that this grandson of Saul, David's great enemy, meant, so it seems to me. But if he could claim no place in the King's palace and favour because of what he was, he could rely on David's word and boast in his kindness. “Yet,” he said, “didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table.” David had said that he should eat bread continually and always at his table as one of the King's sons, and he knew that the King's word would stand and he wanted nothing more.

He struck the right note, and it is happy for us if we can tune our boasting to the same key. We had no claim upon God, for we were all dead men before Him, but He is rich in mercy, and for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins , He quickened us, and saved us, and set us among them that eat at His table. In the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us He has made us His children in an unchanging, everlasting relationship. Shall we not boast in this? Mephibosheth could not forget David's kindness. In this last incident in his life's story it stands out as the one thing that dominated him and expressed his relationship to his King. And can we forget? It would be a strange and unnatural thing if we did.

As we consider Mephibosheth his moral greatness grows upon us. He was no whining, time-serving sycophant, thinking only of his own advantage. His loyalty to David in rebellious Jerusalem was great; the entire absence of self-conceit and self-seeking on David's return increases our admiration for him, and his reliance on David's word and boast in what David had done for him were evidence of true gratitude. His joy at the King's return in peace was so great that he does not even ask that his slanderous, thieving servant should be punished. He desired no property, he sought nothing for himself. The person of the King was everything to him, and that the King should have his rights was all his desire. Everybody may not agree with me, but I set Mephibosheth, lame and apparently useless to the King, as the greatest of all the King's men, and I am inclined to think, that in those closing years of the King's life he found more pleasure in Mephibosheth than in any other.

We are looking for the time when our Lord will come into His rights, when the long years of His rejection shall close, and the nations shall see Him and own Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. It will be the day of His glory, and a happy day for us if some of the traits of Mephibosheth are showing themselves in us now.

More About the “Open” Meeting

 

Considerable comment has been made, both favourable and otherwise, on a paper that appeared in the last issue of the “Supplement”, entitled “The Abuse of the Open Meeting.” We are sure that such a paper was needed, and also that it by no means exhausted what ought to be said on the subject. It dwelt chiefly on the side of the conduct of those who take part in ministry at these gatherings together of the saints of God, but there is the other side also, the conduct of those who are gathered together. Seeing that they are the many, and those that minister are the few, they must exercise by far the greater influence on such gatherings.

Those that minister, if truly led of the Lord to do so, “ speak unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort ” (1 Cor. 14:3), or as it has been well put, “they build up, stir up, bind up.” And the responsibility of such is very great. If they give forth something of their own they surely do it in self-sufficiency; and they ignore the Lord as the great Administrator in the assembly, and the presence of the Holy Spirit as the only power for true ministry. Hence, not only is the time of all gathered wasted, but the character of the gathering is set aside; the voice of men and not the voice of the Lord is heard, and the saints of God miss for the time being the direction that they should have for that special moment. We need only to carefully consider all this to see how serious a matter it is to take part in such gatherings, and what dependence on the Lord should characterize those who do so.

But what of those who come together for ministry? The way in which they come and the object before their minds in being present will most surely greatly affect their gathering together. The meeting that we are discussing, which is described in 1 Corinthians 14, is a gathering having assembly character, and as such the Lord is there, for those gathered are there “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Faith in this great fact is of the very greatest importance, apart from this, these meetings must degenerate into mere voluntary gatherings of believers, at which it would be far better to arrange beforehand who should speak, so that all might know what to expect. This is a matter that concerns every individual, for if the gathering is an assembly gathering it means that “the King holds Court.” It means that we are together because it is the Lord's wish and according to His ordering, not because we like to meet our brethren, or like to hear ministry, but because the Lord calls us into His presence; it is Himself and His will that is prominent and not our brethren and our likes.

If His Majesty the King holds a Court, they are very privileged people who are invited to be present, and they deem it a high honour; how much more highly honoured are they who are invited to the court of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, for nothing less than this is every assembly gathering. Every one attending court at the King's invitation must be there in court dress according to the regulations. And so all who come into the presence of the Lord should be exercised in coming to be there according to His thoughts; not surely in a legal frame of mind, but self-judged, and with preparation of heart by the Spirit to meet Him who is so glorious and yet who is known to us by the love that led Him to die for us. If all who come together are thus prepared, how different will be the atmosphere created, and how free will the Lord be to reveal Himself. We are talking now of all present, from the oldest to the youngest, and not of those who minister only. If invited to take tea with a friend, we would endeavour to be neat and clean, and to conduct ourselves in his house in a fitting manner, recognizing him as the head of it, and our host. But how often do those who are “called saints” gather in the Lord's presence slovenly in mind and spirit, without due preparation of heart, having never looked into the glass of His word in their homes, or sought His presence in their chambers before coming, and so are totally unfit to speak to Him in His circle, or hear His voice when He speaks in His own place. We urge upon our readers the need of much thought on this side of the question, for herein lies the cause of unprofitable and powerless meetings. Every individual member of Christ's body present at such meetings is either a help or a hindrance, and none can escape the responsibility that rests upon them.

Having come together we must recognize, not that so many or so few gifted men are present, and that our time of profit will be great or small in consequence, but that the Lord is there, and the Holy Spirit. If the Lord's presence is realized, songs of praise will surely rise from united and glad hearts to Him, and quiet and confident waiting and expectation from Himself will mark all present, and He will not disappoint those that wait upon Him. The ministry given will not be something that has been laboriously prepared for the occasion, as though this were a matter of individual service, but it will be fresh and spontaneous, because from the Lord for the moment; and five words given of that character will be better than ten thousand drawn from memory, for they will be the fresh springing up and flowing forth of living water, and not the pumping up out of a stagnant pool.

When should these open meetings be held? This is an important question. In some places they are held once a month, or once a quarter, or once a year. But if we take our guidance from 1 Corinthians 14 shalt we be satisfied with this? Is it not clear from that chapter that such meetings were the regular gatherings of the assembly, and were held certainly not less often than those for the taking of the Lord's Supper? They were not special occasions held when Paul or Apollos could be present, but the ordinary every-week meetings of the local assembly. If we take up these meetings at all, ought we not to take them up in this way? What warrant have we for taking them up at all if we are not prepared to take them up according to the Scriptures? It is said that there is neither faith nor power for such meetings now, but if there is faith and power for the gathering together of 1 Corinthians 11, why not for that of 1 Corinthians 14? It is the same Lord that presides at both gatherings, and faith has to do with Him, and it is the same Spirit who is present at both, and all power is in Him.

Much failure evidently marked this special meeting at Corinth , but the apostle did not tell the Corinthians to cease to hold it because of this, but he instructed them as to how to conduct themselves in it. The chapter is there in the God-breathed Scriptures for our instruction also, and is specially said to be the commandments of the Lord, it would be a sad thing if it became a dead or useless chapter to us because of lack of faith on our part.

“My brethren”

 

“ Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God ” (John 20:17).

In the whole range of revealed truth there is nothing higher or more blessed than that which is declared in these words of the Lord Jesus. Those men whom He called “My brethren,” were the sons of men when He found them — Simon son of Jonah, and James and John the sons of Zebedee, and so forth, — sinners every one of them; lying under the judgment of death, for death passed upon all men, and so upon these men, for that all have sinned. And yet here is this glorious resurrection chapter, they are sons of God, and to them is given the life, nature and power proper to that exalted relationship. They stand associated with Christ in this relationship which none could claim but He, a relationship which He enjoyed to the full in all the perfection of His own worthiness. No angel knows it, or ever will, but those men knew it; it was theirs, according to the purpose of divine love, and it is ours also, according to the same unalterable purpose, it is the place and portion of all who are of Christ's assembly or church — each one of such can say “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons [children] of God” (1 John 3:1).

This is the relationship into which the risen triumphant Head and Leader of His church brings all His own. We do not now speak of the church as the body of Christ, that is but one aspect of it. As the body, the church has been formed for the manifestation of the graces of the Head of it now, and of His glory hereafter. It has this special relation to Christ; it is the vessel in and through which He displays the fullness of His wisdom and knowledge to every created intelligence; there is more in it than this, but this we believe is the chief thought in it. As the body of Christ, Christ presents through it all the treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge man-ward and creation-ward so that they will eventually be filled with the glory of God, and unto Him will be glory in the church in Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.

But under that wonderful designation “My brethren” the assembly appears in another aspect. It is collective and not corporate, it is not in the first place for the display of glory before the universe, though that will have its place when the sons who are joint heirs with Christ come into the inheritance with Him (Rom. 8), but it is for the joy and satisfaction of the Father's heart. The Father comes first. He must ever be first.

It may be said that here we ought to speak of the family and not the assembly, but as we proceed with the subject we think it will be clear that the truth of the assembly has its place in this connection. In that wonderful 8th chapter of Proverbs, wisdom speaks, and we have no difficulty in seeing that wisdom can be none other than the Son of God, for He is God's resource, the One by Whom every problem in the universe is solved — Christ, the power and the wisdom of God . “ The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old” we read, bringing to mind the opening of John's Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,” and Hebrews 1, “by Whom also He made the worlds.” But there was something deeper, fuller and more blessed than that which was displayed in creation. Before any of these things in which God's power and divinity are displayed existed, wisdom says, “ Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight rejoicing always before Him .” “ Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world ,” are the wonderful words that were addressed to the Father by the Lord in John 17. They explain this passage in Proverbs 8. What joy and what delight, what love, surpassing all human comprehension, do these words unfold! But wisdom continues, “ Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and My delights were with the sons of men Again one must turn to the New Testament, and there we learn that the Father and the Son are one. Their object, work and joy are one. That which delights the Father delights also Jesus Christ, whom He sent into the world; and the sons of men in whom wisdom delighted before there were any of them are the subjects of communion between the Father and the Son, and of the intercession of the Son with the Father. Hear His own words.

“ I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them. ”

These wonderful statements made first about the first disciples of the Lord are true also of all who have followed them, they were all “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.”

But notice that not only are the sons of men spoken of as the Lord's delight, but the habitable part of his earth also. Evidently there was to be a suitable dwelling place on earth where the Father and the Son could delight in and with these who were brought to know them.

Creation was not this. Adam was made in the image and likeness of God, and most wonderfully endowed, and he was placed in a garden made habitable for him by God's own goodness, but God's delight in him was soon spoiled, nor was that garden a habitable place for man and God for long, for sin came in, and the trail of the serpent defiled that Paradise, so that it was impossible that God should dwell there, and the man also was turned out of it.

It is helpful to see that wisdom does not say my delights are with man, had the passage read thus we might have supposed that Adam unfallen was only meant, and that when he fell Satan had triumphed over God and for ever robbed Him of His delight in men, but it is the sons of men in whom wisdom delights. God would take up the sinful sons of that fallen head and by His own power and wisdom make them such as He could delight in.

Nor did Israel and the land of Canaan yield any truer satisfaction than Adam and Eden had done. That land was surely made a habitable place for the chosen people, for it was a goodly land, flowing with milk and honey, but they did not make it a habitable place for God. “ Israel ” we read, “was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of His increase.” Yet God said to them, “I brought you into a plentiful land, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered ye defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination” (Jer. 2:7). But when Israel failed and Canaan became an abomination God was not defeated, hence we read, “ How shall I put thee amongst the children and give thee a pleasant land Here are these two things again — the sons of men brought into relationship with God, and the habitable part of His earth — but the question is asked how could these wayward men of Israel, how could any of the wayward sons of men be brought to answer God's thoughts in a place where He could dwell with them? God's own answer is, “ Thou shalt call Me, My Father; and shall not turn away from Me ” (Jer. 3:18). It is evident that God could only secure men for Himself according to His own desire by bringing them into this wonderful relationship with Himself. In the knowledge of Him as Father their hearts would be satisfied, and so they would be secured for ever for God's own satisfaction. It is this that seems to be hinted at in this remarkable statement.

If we come back to John's Gospel we find the way in which this is brought about. First we hear the Lord Jesus saying to the woman of Sychar, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:23). We cannot worship One Whom we do not love, and we cannot love One Whom we do not know, and we cannot know God unless He is revealed to us. For “no man hath seen God at any time.” So that none could tell his neighbour what He is in the full blessedness of His nature, but, “the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). And now being fully revealed, all may know Him from the greatest to the least, and this knowledge is eternal life.

It is as the Father, name of infinite grace and love, that God desires to be worshipped, and as neither angels nor men knew Him in this way they could not worship Him. But the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, came to reveal Him in all the fullness of His love, and in Christ we see the Father seeking worshippers, not among angels, but among the sinful, unhappy sons of men.

Three great steps had to be taken by the Lord if God's end had to be reached, and it is interesting to see that these three steps were first revealed to women.

1. He must come into the world.

2. He must go into death.

3. He ascend again to the Father.

 

The First Step

That the first of these great steps had been taken was revealed to the woman of Sychar (John 4). What a need was hers! She was a woman with a sinful past, an empty heart, and a hopeless future; true picture of all who are outside the blessing that Christ has opened up. The Lord met her where she was and revealed Himself as the Giver of the living water, which should not only be in her a well of perennial satisfaction, but should spring up to its Source, the Father, and so yield satisfaction also to Him.

There had to be a probing work to fit her for this, as there must be with us all, and this work the Lord accomplished until He had brought her to the point where she confesses that Christ was her only hope. “I know” said she “that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when He is come He will tell us all things.” The Lord's response, “I that speak unto thee, am He,” changed her life, and sent her to witness to the men of the city that Christ had come. “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did, is not this the Christ.” He searched the sinner and revealed Himself as the Saviour. So the men of the city say, “We have heard Him ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world

We become familiar with the great truths that are revealed to us in the Word, and consequently they often lose their greatness in our eyes, yet how wonderful it is that the Son of God should come into the world, and should come as the Saviour. Two things made this necessary, first, that God might be revealed, second, our need of salvation. It was God who sent Him not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. More than thirty times in the Gospel of John the Lord speaks of Himself as being sent into the world by the Father. He glories in it, and so shall we if we understand it. No angel could have fulfilled His mission, He only could make the Father known, and the Father sent Him to do this. The only begotten Son shone as the light in the darkness, He came near to men full of grace and truth, seeking for them in their misery, to take them out of it and lead them to His Father. David cried: “O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me . . . Then will I go unto the altar of God, my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise Thee, O God, my God.” But David could never have imagined that God's light and truth would come forth in the person of God's Son, in order to lead multitudes to the Father Himself. But this has happened, and in it our souls do greatly rejoice.

 

The Second Step

But the revelation that He made of the Father would have been in vain, if He had taken no other steps than this. He must die. This was the second step. This fact was plain to Mary of Bethany . She alone of those who followed the Lord had perceived this. The disciples thought that they were following Him to the throne and kingdom, and to the outward senses it looked like it when multitudes of Jews followed Him because He had raised Lazarus from the dead. They were carried away by the temporary enthusiasm of the Jews which led them so far as to meet the Lord with loud hosannas. But Mary understood, and brought forth her alabaster box and poured its costly contents upon His feet. For His burying she had kept it. How long she had kept it we know not, but there it was to be brought out at the right moment. She honoured Him, owning His kingly glory by her act, but she knew that notwithstanding all that glory, He Himself was going into death. The relationship in which His own were to stand with Him before the Father could not be after the order of natural life, that life was forfeited by every sinner, none could abide in it except Christ who was sinless, and if He had chosen to live He must have lived alone, for “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone.” Even Lazarus, who was raised from the dead into the old natural life, must die again. If death were to be removed Christ must die; if those who were under its power were to be delivered from it He must pass into the depths of it, for only by coming where we were could the Lord come into definite contact with us, and this He has done. His love to us, and His Father's will carried Him into death in His search for those whom He would bring forth out of death to be His brethren and worshippers of the Father.

 

The Third Step

But the third step had to be taken, He must go to the Father; and for this He was constantly preparing His disciples from John 13 onwards.

We come now to our resurrection chapter, in which to Mary Magdalene was revealed the full and glorious truth. When she realized who He was she thought that the old relationship, that of an earthly Messiah in the midst of an earthly people, was to be resumed. Hence His words, “Touch Me not.” He must ascend to His Father. The new relationship was to be a heavenly one.

Psalm 22 records for us the path of sorrow that the Lord trod in the fulfilment of the will of God and also of His triumph. And there we learn what was foremost in His mind; for when heard from the horns of the unicorns and brought out of death He exclaims, “ I will declare Thy Name amongst My brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto Thee These very words of the Lord are quoted in Hebrews 2 where we learn that the congregation in the midst of which He sings is the Church, and in the Church His brethren also are. The Church is the habitable place for God upon the earth today, in it He can rejoice; those who form it “are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22); and the brethren of Christ are the sons of men in whom He delights. So that at last He has His habitable place on the earth and the sons of men in it.

But the Church is here only for a while, the brethren that form it are partakers of the heavenly calling, but in the fact that it is here, we see the triumph of Christ. Oh, that we understood it better. Consider that wonderful description that is ours — “ Holy Brethren Two words are found in Psalm 22. There, in giving the answer to His own question, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” the Lord says, “But Thou art holy.” This is the very nature of God, and this is the nature that is ours as those who are sanctified and one with the risen Christ, our Sanctifier; and we are His brethren, those of whom He spoke when He said, “I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren.” Nature and relationship all according to God! And this is His assembly, His Church, that which is of Himself. Where the Father's name is known, where Christ triumphs in His own, and sings the praises of God. If God of old inhabited the praises of Israel , how much more will He dwell in this higher and perfect praise! How blessedly habitable must that place be to Him in which His Well-beloved, raised up from the dead, sings in the company of His brethren.

Think of those men who for fear of the Jews had hidden themselves in the upper room in Jerusalem , they possessed neither dignity nor renown before the world. And they cannot have been proud of each other, but we read, “ Jesus came and stood in the midst What a change that made! He had called them His brethren. What a dignity that gave them! How honoured, how honourable in this new relationship and association with Christ were these sons of men, now the sons of God! And Jesus was supreme in that new circle. And where He is supreme there the assembly is. He is the great Leader of the many sons, the Firstborn amongst many brethren. He has so blessedly accomplished the will of God that even now He can present to His Father those in whom the Father can delight.

Surely there is in this side of the truth that which ought most blessedly to engage our hearts and minds, and make us with purpose of heart to seek to enter into the joy of it, and seek to be in the state of our souls just that which we are in the thoughts and purposes of God. No higher place could be given us than this, we cannot by effort enter into it. It is ours, given to us in sovereign grace, and the Spirit has been given to us also that the place may be known by us experimentally and in power.

“My Father's Business”

 

The first recorded words of the Lord in each of the gospels furnish an index to its character. For example

In Matthew 3:15, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness,” we see the King, Who will rule His kingdom with equity and truth, Himself marking out the way of righteousness for all His subjects.

In Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled,” etc., we see the great servant prophet making known the testimony of God to His people.

In John 1:38-39, “What seek ye?” —“Come and see,” we behold “the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father,” inviting others to share His rich inheritance; and this is Christianity.

And in Luke 2:49, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business ?” we find even more strikingly still that which governed and altogether characterized the Lord in His lovely pathway, as we may see it all through Luke's gospel.

In the gospel of John the words and works of Jesus called forth the bitter enmity of the leaders of the Jews, for these words and works were the evidence of who He was Whom the Father had sent to declare Himself.

But in Luke's gospel they find another reason for their hatred and contempt— He went after sinners ! In chapter 5:30 they complain that He ate with sinners.

In chapter 7:34 they say, He is “a friend of sinners.”

In chapter 15:2 they murmur, “This Man receiveth sinners.”

In chapter 19:7 they murmur again, saying, “He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.”

But this of which they so constantly complained, and for which He was despised and reproached, was “His Father's business”

The very first words of His public ministry fully confirm this, for when He had opened THE BOOK, He found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord was upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (4:18-19).

And amongst the last words that fell from His blessed lips ere He returned to His Father were: “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem ” (24:47).

Never for an instant did He allow Himself to be turned aside from this blessed mission. The taunts and revilings of His foes did but serve to give it emphasis. So that when they murmur in chapter 5, He replies, “I came to call sinners to repentance.”

In chapter 7 He answers by drawing the sinner of the city after Him, and when Simon despised Him for this, He propounds the lovely parable of the creditor who found his great delight in pardoning even a five-hundred-pence debtor.

So also in chapter 15, when they complain that He receives sinners, He replies by telling them of the Father who runs and kisses the returning prodigal, and fills the whole house with merriment because he was safe and sound. It is as though He said, “Yes, I receive sinners, but the reason is because God receives them, I am but manifesting amongst you the grace that is His!”

But not in the activities of life only was the Lord controlled by this one “business.” Even amid the unspeakable sorrows of the cross He blessed and gladdened a dying malefactor, which only Luke records. There seems to be a special ring of triumph in the words, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise ,” for in that is demonstrated the fact that His mission had not been in vain. He had come from heaven to gather gems out of the sin and sorrow of this sad world, and the converted thief of Calvary was a sample of these—the earnest of the countless multitude that shall fill heaven to its utmost. Such will be the blessed result of the Father's business having been so perfectly accomplished by Jesus our Lord on earth.

Now every chapter in this precious gospel is stamped by the same things. The miracles and parables all exhibit most strikingly the grace of God which Jesus brought down to sinners. And not only so, but He Himself was the very embodiment of that which His works and words expressed.

We delight to admire, but we are also called upon to imitate, for in this gospel alone the words occur, “ Go thou and do likewise .” His business has become ours, and that which controlled Him has now to govern His disciples.

We may enter with Him into the joys of the Father's bosom in the gospel of John, but it is equally our privilege and responsibility to come out for Him in the midst of sinners, and be His witnesses there, as in Luke. But in order to do this we shall need to sit at His feet as did Mary (Luke 10), and have hearts and eyes that can weep for sinners as did His (Luke 19). May we have grace to tread this blessed pathway, and be about our Father's business, in the power of the same anointing which He received (Luke 24:49).

Our Great Leader

 

John Bunyan did not give the hero of his dream much fellowship on his pilgrimage to the Celestial City . His only companions were Faithful who suffered martyrdom in Vanity Fair, and Hopeful who crossed the river with him, and shared in the welcome he received when the bells of the City rang for joy, and it was said to them, “Enter into the joy of your Lord. He had advanced in knowledge when his fertile mind produced the second part of his book, for Christiana fared better than her husband. She had her boys for company, and had not travelled far before the pilgrim band had grown to a considerable company with the splendid leader, Greatheart, for instructor, protector and guide. I have a notion that if he had lived to add a third part to his immortal work, he would have improved upon the second part and given us an army marching to Zion with the Prince Himself, the Captain of our salvation, as the great and infallible Leader.

Anyhow that is the full truth of the Christian's pilgrimage to his home beyond the skies—the Father's house. It is not the will of God whose sons they are that they should travel alone—“He is bringing MANY sons to glory” and they should tread the way together and comfort one another as they go. This matter of company is important, but the chiefest question of all is that of leadership .” All we like sheep have gone astray”; (Isa. 53:6), that was when we followed Adam along the road of disobedience to death; “But are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25), that is how we stand today. But unless we follow Him, and loyally accept His leadership, we shall still stray and our homeward journey will not be the triumphant march that God intends it to be.

The journey lies through an enemy's land, for the whole world lies in the wicked one, and he is the god of it, and the road is often rough and abounds with trials and temptations; and then what of death? It is as plain as can be that the dangers and conflicts through which Bunyan passed his pilgrim were not imaginary, he wrote out of his own experience. But let them be as bad as they may, if our great Leader, who has been tested by every trial, is near we shall not only come through all with safety but with triumph, more than conquerors through Him that loves us.

We must consider Him. He is the crowned Christ, but He was crowned on having suffered temptation, and gone down into the suffering death. He became Man for this, and now we see JESUS, crowned with glory and honour. All this we read in Hebrews 2. He qualified to be the Leader of God's many sons by His suffering. Many enemies blocked the way; they stood, a formidable host, between us and the glory, for it was the devil's intention that God should have none of us; but Jesus has met every foe Himself and without aid. He went before us. He stood up in the face of the foe, and when arrows of death and judgment flew in a blinding cloud He bared His bosom to them all, and they found their mark there. He met the devil himself, who has the power of death and annulled his power, that He might deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage. He gave Himself for us and willingly died in our stead, and He has made a clear road for us right up to the glory of God, and on that road He leads us, His delivered brethren; for wonderful as it is, He is not ashamed to call us brethren.

God, whose sons we are, has committed us to His care for two reasons. First , He could trust no other. No man nor angel was equal to the task of leading God's sons home to glory. Jesus only could accomplish this great work; and will He fail because of the dangers, or be discouraged because of our fickleness? Never. He is not only our Captain, but our merciful and faithful High Priest, and not one of God's sons will be missing at that glorious homecoming.

Second , God's sons are too precious to Him to be committed to any other, their dignity is too great; they are the brethren of Christ, and loved with the same love that rests upon Him. We do not travel with uncertainty; we are not marching to disappointment and death. How glorious is our prospect! When we see Him we shall be like Him, and when He appears in glory we shall appear with Him. Then the crowned Christ will be the Firstborn among many brethren all crowned with Him.

But that is not all. That same chapter 2 of Hebrews tells us that in the midst of the church He sings praises to God; that is, He sings in the midst of this travelling host. It is well-known that soldiers can do their long road marches with less fatigue if they sing as they go. Brethren, do we sing enough? Our Leader sings in His triumph and joy. Are we near enough to Him to catch the notes? It seems to me that we do not sing as much about heaven and home as once we did. Let us open our hearts to the glory that shines before us and sing,

“High in the Father's house above

Our mansion is prepared;

There is the home, the rest we love,

And there our bright reward.”

He leads and He sings. He sympathises and He succours.

“And though by storms assailed,

And though by trials pressed

Himself our life He bears us up

Right onward to our rest.”

And what shall we do? Why, follow Him and walk close to Him, speaking to each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. So shall we make an even better pilgrims' progress, than even the gifted and devoted Bunyan wrote.

Preparations

 

I stayed in the home of a bride-to-be. It was an interesting experience, and not interesting only, but instructive. She was a capable girl and carried out all her house duties as she had always done, but it was evident that the coming looked-for day filled her thoughts, and all her leisure was filled up in preparation for it. If she went out she did it with a purpose, either a visit to the dressmaker's establishment or to make purchases of new and needful things, and if she stayed at home she kept her needle busy. Certainly she wasted no time. She was to live in a distant town and there the happy, expectant bridegroom was just as busy as she. All the time that he could snatch from his day's work was spent in preparing the home for his bride and a daily letter reported his progress. I could not help being interested—who would not have been?—even though it is the sort of thing that is happening every day and in every land.

But the instructive part of it to me was, that two brief words of Scripture were brought forcibly to my mind by it. The first was words that came from the Lord's own lips. Said He, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The second is said of His bride. “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Preparation in heaven and preparation on earth!

We have no doubt as to what lay behind these words of the Lord. It was that love of His that will not be satisfied until the marriage day comes. And what a glad surprise His bride will get when she enters that eternal home. Her eves will not rest on a single thing or scene that is not perfect, all the fruit of a perfect love: a home prepared for her joy by a love that surpasses all her thought. It seems to me that the Lord intends us to consider His words: it would be good for us to consider them every day. “I go to prepare a place for you.” Will His love overlook one single thing in that home that will contribute to the joy of His bride? Not a single thing. All the preparation must be to make her absolutely and happily at home with Him. But it would not be home to her if He were not there, so those other words, “that where I am ye may be also.” He, Himself, will be the all-absorbing Object there, His company her supreme joy, but everything within that home will bear the eternal impress of His love for His bride and His consideration for her.

But what of the other side—“His wife hath made herself ready”? His wife is His church, as Ephesians 5:25-32 clearly shows. What preparation is she making for the great day, and where do we see it? Of course, she could not make herself fit for heaven, or fit to be the wife of the Lamb, her fitness for that home of eternal love is Christ Himself. He is her righteousness. She did not chose Him but He chose her, and when He did so He purposed in His heart and according to God's own counsels to give Himself for her, even to death, not only that He might possess her without a rival for ever, but that He might redeem her from all iniquity and sanctify and cleanse her by the washing of water by the Word. Blood and water were both necessary if she was to be His spotless and glorious bride, and both flowed from His side when He died at Calvary .

Yet she makes herself ready for the marriage, just as the young bride of my story prepared for her wedding by her diligent stitching. “To her was granted, ” says our Scripture, “that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.” The word, as is well known, should be in the plural. It is righteousnesses and not righteousness. What are righteousnesses?

First of all, and what lies behind them, and without which there could be none of them, is the thought, “What will please Him?” How would He who is my Lord as well as the coming Bridegroom have me to appear? And such a question could only arise in the heart that loves Him.

We must begin there. That “first love” which the church at Ephesus lost must be revived in the heart of the bride if she is to make herself ready for the marriage day. It is as this “first love” controls her that she will cry with earnest expectation, “Come, Lord Jesus, ” but along with that will be the diligent preparation that she be not found wanting in that day.

This fine linen, clean and white, is of imperishable beauty and the threads of it are “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, faith, meekness, temperance;” it is the life of Jesus reproduced in His saints on earth by the Holy Spirit that dwells in them, and every thread of it is a wonderful triumph for God. He will be able to show on that marriage day the reality of His work in His saints, and that Christ was enough for their hearts in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil.

It is evident that the thoughts of the Lord are upon His church on earth. “I go to prepare a place for you, ” proves that, and the thoughts of His church must be upon Him if she is preparing for the hour of meeting and union with Him. We know that all is perfect on His side; on ours there is fickleness and failure, and yet we love Him and desire His approval. May God's Holy Spirit deepen this love for Him and increase our desires to be just what He would have us to be, that we may have a large part in this preparation for the marriage day.

Prevailing Prayer (1)

 

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

The Queen of Sheba came from afar to hear the wisdom of Solomon. She had heard his fame in her own land and desired to see him of whom she had heard so much. So she set forth on a tedious journey, with her mind full of questions and problems hard to solve.

What a picture of a soul first coming to Christ! How many are the difficulties that then arise—difficulties relating to the question of sin, the holiness of God, the power of Satan, the judgment of God, and eternity that looms before us all—these trouble and perplex souls when first awakened, and all the wisdom of men fails to give peace, or solve the problems that demand solution. But when the gospel message, speaking of Jesus, falls upon the ear and reaches the heart, it arouses a desire to see and know the One of whom the gospel tells. And faith makes the journey, believing Him to be as good as His word, when He says, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The Queen of Sheba had not been long in the presence of King Solomon before all her hard questions were answered. And so it is with the one who comes to Jesus. For King Solomon is a figure of Him, raised from the dead, and in the glory. Let us bear that in mind. He is in the glory a real living Man, on the right hand of God, and in him we shall find the solution of every question. He took the sinner's place upon the cross, and settled in His death, for those who trust in Him, every question that could arise between the soul and God. The fact of His resurrection and exaltation proves that these questions are settled, and now believing in God, who raised Him from the dead, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

When the Queen of Sheba's difficulties were removed she could then look round on the glory of Solomon. And she was overwhelmed by his greatness, his glory, and his wisdom. There was beauty in everything she saw, and her heart was filled with praise. She speaks of the happiness of those who stood before Solomon, and praises God, who had delighted in him, and made him supreme in Israel . Now is not this what takes place in the soul that really turns to the Lord Jesus Christ? When delivered from doubts, and difficulties, and perplexities, it is free to be occupied with Christ, and to see how great are the glories that shine in His face. He is the effulgence of the glory of God, and the express image of His person, and all true greatness and moral excellency are seen in Him. As the heart is thus occupied, two thoughts possess it: first, the happiness of those who are brought to Him to be His companions for ever, and then the delight of God in setting Him upon the throne. And God has done this, not only because He loves His Son, but because He loves His people. Wondrous fact!

Then the Queen of Sheba began to make her requests, and we can see why they were more than granted. Her whole vision was filled with the greatness of Solomon, and being about to return to her own land, she says, so to speak, “I am going back to my people, who know you not. Give me those things which will exalt you before them, for I want them to know something of your greatness, and your wisdom, and your glory.” And could Solomon deny such a request as that? We think not. And so it will be with us if our hearts are filled with the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. We shall not be praying for something for ourselves so much, or that which will make us great in the eyes of others; but we shall earnestly desire to have that which will exalt the name of Christ. In this way we shall ask in the name of Christ, and He Himself tells us that whatsoever we ask in His name believing, we shall receive. And again: “In that day ye shall ask in My name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me.” Receiving answers to our requests from the Father, we shall be able to go forth to men, to lift up and exalt Christ in the power and energy of the Spirit and the grace which God gives.

“So the Queen of Sheba turned, and went to her own country.” This seems to answer very much to what is said in the Acts of the Apostles, that “they which were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” They went about speaking of Jesus, and this surely is the happy, privilege of all who know Christ for themselves. They turned into this world of darkness and death to shine as lights and hold forth the word of life; to proclaim the blessed saving name of Jesus, and thus to enlighten others as to the grace, the wisdom, the love, and power which are found in Him to meet all their desperate need. Oh, may God grant that we may know what it is to pray prevailingly, and the result must be a devoted life and fruitful service. But if we are to pray and prevail, Christ alone in His glory and love must fill our souls. Then all we ask for and seek will be for the exaltation of His name, and we shall receive all our desires, yea, exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.

Prevailing Prayer (2)

 

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

No more successful prayer than this has been placed on record, for not only did the suppliant receive an answer to her full satisfaction, but out of his royal bounty the king gave her more than she could ask or think. Greater than Solomon and more liberal in His giving is our Lord, and this Ethiopian queen, by her coming to Solomon, shows us how needy folk may come to Him, whether they are sinners or saints, and no matter how far they have lived from Him, and be enriched beyond their best expectations and in turn enrich others. It is an interesting and instructive story.

 

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

She heard of his fame; this is the first step, for “faith cometh by healing, ” and it is faith that puts the soul in motion towards the Lord, and, “how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard.” But there are some who hear and are unmoved; they do not believe. The story of the glory of the great Lord and Redeemer of men is to them as a tale that is told; they are like the people who lived during the Lord's life on earth; they heard with unhearing ears, and did not heed the words of wisdom that flowed from His lips; they would not come to Him that they might have life. Like them we must not be, or this Queen of the South will rise up in judgment against us. Having heard of Solomon, nothing would satisfy her but she must see him, and become acquainted with him. Moreover, there were many baffling problems in her life and kingdom, which her wise men could not solve; she felt that Solomon could. Her very needs urged her to go to him.

 

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

She was not disappointed, for as she unburdened her heart to him, he answered with God-given wisdom. All her difficulties disappeared, for “Solomon told her all her questions; there was not anything hid from the king that he told her not.” It is even thus when the heart turns to Christ; and to whom can we go but to Him? He is the wisdom of God, and is made wisdom to us, and He has the words of eternal life. He only can solve our problems. Have we wrestled with those great problems concerning our sins, our sinful self, our past, our present, our future? Do questions as to our relations with God and our fellow-men disturb our tranquillity and burden our spirits? He has said, “Come unto me . . . I will give you rest”. What a relief it is to lay our burdens at His feet, and to place ourselves there and learn of Him. This is no mystical, unreachable, imaginary theory; it is real, and thousands can testify to its reality. It is the knowledge of Christ, and the entrance of the Word of Christ into the heart, that gives the peace of Christ in view of all difficulties.

When the Queen's mind was relieved of all its questions she was able to consider Solomon and his wisdom and his works. And so great did she find him to be, and so wonderful the wisdom of his works, that there was no more spirit left in her, and she exclaimed:

 

“ Mine eyes had seen it; and behold, the half was not told me ” (v. 7).

She was entranced with his greatness, and it was under the influence of his royal splendour that she made her requests. It is a great day when the soul reaches this point in regard to Christ; when the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord breaks first upon the soul; when it is set free from a profitless self-occupation and from all its harassing questions, to be Christ-centred and filled with the glory of His greatness. Why, this will be our heaven in heaven!

“For ever our still wondering eyes

Shall o'er His beauties rove

To endless ages we'll adore

The riches of His love!”

This is the one true condition of heart for prevailing prayer. It is when Christ and His glory controls us that we shall pray in His Name and “whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” It was charged against some, “Ye have not because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (Jas. 4:2-3). We shall not be guilty of such folly as that, if the glory of the Lord fills our souls; for no man could seek His glory and the gratification of his own lusts at the same time. If we are near to Him we shall know the wealth of His giving and we shall ask . We shall be guided in our asking by our knowledge of Him, and we shall not ask amiss . We shall desire only that He may be magnified and we shall not desire to consume what we expect from Him upon our lusts .

 

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

She went to spread Solomon's fame in her own land and to show the benefits of acquaintance with him by the great gifts he had given her. And in like manner it is the Christian's privilege to witness for Christ in the world, and it is in connection with this witnessing that prayer is indispensable. We can understand how this dusky Ethiopian woman would say “O king, I am returning to my people, they know nothing of your greatness. Give to me that which will show to them the truth as to it, that I may show it to them.” The king could not refuse such a request as that. And will the Lord refuse our prayers if we pray in such a spirit and to such an end? Nay, He will give to us all that we desire, whatsoever we ask, and He will do more, He will do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, for this is His royal bounty. And to Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Profit and Loss

John 1:29-42

 

As a rule men do not care to make any change unless for the better. “ Will it pay ?” is the great question. And who can blame them? Now, if the reader is unconverted, I call upon him, to make one of the greatest changes that can be made, even to turn from the world to Christ, from the service of Satan to God. I shall not be surprised if he asks me, “ What's the profit ?” My business is to answer that question; and I pray that earnest heed may be given to what I have to say, for the issues are tremendous.

We will draw up the Christian's profit and loss account, at least name some items in it. I begin by saying, When I came to the Saviour I lost a great deal. Now I ask no pity, and certain I am that I need no sympathy. Do you inquire what I lost? I will tell you. When I came to Jesus I LOST MY SINS, and lost them for ever. Many they were, but, I thank God, they are gone. Then let us put this down as the first item on the loss account, the one who trusts in Jesus loses (1) his sins.

Can you say that you have lost yours? You never will be able to say it until you know the One of whom the twenty-ninth verse of our chapter speaks. If you take Him as your Saviour, then you will be able to say, “ He has taken away my sins .” If you cannot say that your sins are gone, is it because you do not desire that it should be so? Many hug their sins and desire not to part company with them. But to hold to your sins now means to be held by the judgment they deserve in eternity. The wages of sin is death, and death is followed by the judgment throne of God and the fire of hell. I beseech you look ahead; think of the risk you are running— ever-lasting loss and no profit ! Turn from it, and “ behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. ”

But to those who desire to be rid of their sins, and to know that that dreadful question is settled before God for every I repeat there is one who can take away your sins. His name is Jesus. He is the Lamb of God. God is holy in His character and righteous in all His ways. He could not have you in His presence for ever; nor could you be happy there if your sins were not put away. You could not do this, nor could the wisest of all the earth-born devise a way by which it could be done. No sacrifice of sufficient worth could be brought by men. Then it was that God provided a Lamb for Himself. Such was His love, such His desire for your blessing, that He sent His well-beloved Son—even Jesus; and He came as the Lamb of God to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and He has done it. Upon the cross of Calvary He suffered and died. His precious blood was shed, and here the work was finished that can set you for ever free—free from the load of your sins, free from the judgment they deserve, free to love and praise and serve the One who has made this possible. Behold the Lamb of God, then. Turn the eye of faith to Him. See Him as the God-provided substitute for sinners, the One who has made propitiation in His own blood and through whom you may have every blessing that God delights in giving.

But many souls who have trusted Jesus are beset with doubts and fears. The complete character and blessed results of His work have not been realised. Such was our case for some time, but the moment came when I lost my doubts. This, then, is the second item in the believer's loss account—(1) sins, (2) doubts.

How is this brought about? Notice verse 33 of our chapter. We learn from it that He who died upon the cross baptises also with the Holy Ghost. In this lies the light which for ever dispels the darkest fears. John 7:39 tells us that the Holy Ghost could not be given until Jesus was glorified, and we know that He could not be glorified in the sense of that verse until the work of redemption was completed. If He has given the Holy Ghost—and we know from Acts 2 that He has—then He must be glorified; and if He is glorified, then His work is for ever completed. And how will the knowledge of this affect you? In this way: it proves, first of all, how sufficient is the work of Christ for all those who trust in Him. And not only so, but by His death and resurrection they are put on a completely new footing before God.

There are three grand reasons why believers should be perfectly at peace as to the question of their souls' salvation. (1) Because of the greatness and perfection of their Saviour. The Son of God could not fail in what He came to accomplish. (2) The perfect satisfaction which God has found in the work which He did on their behalf—proved by the fact that He has glorified Him. (3) All who have turned to Him as their only hope are placed now in association with Him in resurrection, completely beyond not only the penalty of sins, but the condemnation which rested upon them as belonging to Adam's guilty race. Yes, they are as clear of judgment as the Saviour Himself upon the throne, and clear because He has borne it all Himself. He took your place, believer, under the judgment and the curse that you might share His in the unclouded smile of His God and Father and yours.

You have looked to the cross and seen Him there bowing His head in death that He might save you. You have beheld Him by faith going through the storm and the judgment because He loved you. Look up now to the throne and see Him there in the glory of God, and know that you are as clear as He is, and by Him you are justified from all things (Acts 13:39). When you believe this testimony the Holy Ghost seals you as Christ's, and you have bidden goodbye to your doubts and fears.

There is still another item. In verse 37 we find two disciples following Jesus. They were not following Him for some blessing they hoped to get; they wanted His company—Himself. No place but His dwelling would satisfy them; they had, in fact, lost their hearts . I put one question. Have we lost ours? The devoted Christian has His affections have, been taken possession of by the Saviour, so that it becomes perfectly natural for the feet to follow Him; and every place becomes a wilderness where He is not. Apart from this none of us can really be here for Him. Our time, our service, our money are of little account if He holds not our affections. But every look and word and deed which finds its spring in love to Him is of priceless value. And it is for this He came to save us. He has saved us from hell and Satan's power, from judgment and the power of death, but it was that He might have us for Himself and with Himself; nothing less will satisfy His love. Can we say that nothing but His company satisfies our hearts?

There are three things, then, which the Christian loses—(1) his sins, (2) his doubts, and (3) his heart. We must now briefly glance at what he gains, for there is a very positive side to the Christian's blessings as well as a negative. First, he gains the Saviour. What a wonderful exchange! We are free from the sins that would have dragged us down to eternal perdition, and have in exchange the Saviour whose grace and power can lift us into the everlasting glory! And what does He say? “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). And again it is said of Him, “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). This, then, is the character of the Saviour whom we have found. He is unchanging in His faithfulness and perfect in His love. No change in us can change Him, “the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” Has He not made Himself indispensable to you? Have you not already found that you cannot do without Him? You could not do without Him as a sinner, now you cannot do without Him as a saint. The pilgrim path is not a smooth one. The world and Satan are strong, and you are weak. Your burdens are often heavy; your heart has its own sorrow. Listen! It is Jesus you want. There is none like Him, not a heart in the universe so tender as His, and He is yours and you are His. Oh, turn not to any other source for comfort! If He is indispensable , He is also all - sufficient . You have no need to turn to another for solace and support; His grace is sufficient for you. O wondrous, blessed fact, “Jesus is thine”!

Secondly, you have received the Holy Ghost. Let your thoughts dwell upon this. You are not left to meet the wiles of the flesh and the world and Satan in your own strength and wisdom. You have the Holy Spirit, and relying on His power and His wisdom, your feet will be kept unwearied in the path and your hand strong in the light. Nor are you left to your own thoughts as to the truth of God. The Holy Ghost is here as Teacher, and He can open your eyes to behold the wonderful and blessed things of Christ as we have them presented in the Word of God. He is within you as the living link with Christ in glory, turning your thoughts and affections to that scene of eternal joy and satisfaction. How this blessed fact proves to us the great love of God! He loves us so much that He will not keep us waiting until we get to heaven in order to enjoy heaven, but He has given to us His Spirit that we might enjoy the things of heaven now . Oh, where is your treasure, your home, your Saviour, your God and Father? To that place, even to heaven, the Holy Ghost would direct you and make all more real to you than the things of time and sight.

Thee is still another point. The two disciples who followed the Lord Jesus were brought to His dwelling-place, and in a spiritual sense His dwelling-place is in the bosom of the Father. And this is the home to which you are invited. Jesus said to His disciples, “Come and see.” To us He says the same. It is ours to know the warmth and greatness of the Father's love, and if the Lord Jesus takes possession of our affections, this love we shall surely know. The Lord Himself said to these very disciples, “The Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me” (John 16:27).

And who can tell the sweetness of this love, the height and depth and length and breadth of it? Only One; and He came to earth to make it known—your Saviour and mine. Let us keep near to Him, beloved Christian, that our ears and hearts may become daily more familiar with His voice as He makes known to us His Father's love. And now as we close let me put these things together; and tell me, unsaved one, do not you desire now to be a Christian, so that you might say, “I have

LOST

and

GAINED

My sins,

 

The Saviour,

My doubts,

 

The Holy Ghost,

My heart,

 

The Father's heart”?

May it be so, for Christ's name's sake.

Questions of Interest – Revival

 

Is there any reason why we should, or any good reason why we should not, expect a world-wide revival before the end of the present age?

May we expect a worldwide revival before the coming of the Lord? Huge, enthusiastic conventions have answered this question with a vociferous “Yes!” and the echo has reverberated to the ends of the earth. But what say the Scriptures? Their reply will be one of unerring precision, unbiased by pride in human achievement. But we shall need a prayerful and diligent spirit in order to read their predictions aright.

What do the Scriptures lead us to expect? On the one hand, that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” that “they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to them teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 3:13; 4:3-4). This the Holy Ghost declared nineteen centuries ago, and “Higher Criticism,” New Theology, Theosophy, Millennial Dawnism, Seventh Dayism, Mormonism, Christian Science, etc., with their hosts of adherents, have fulfilled the word to the letter.

From such a mass of spiritual corruption and apostasy no revival can be looked for. The evil leaven will work with its baneful influence until the professing church is spued out of the Lord's mouth as an unclean thing (Rev. 3:16). The outlook could not be darker for Christendom, for the profession which has the form of godliness without the power. There is not a feature of it that is acceptable to God. Its sole aim is the glory of man, and God has declared that no flesh shall glory in His presence.

Yet, in spite of all this, those who love the Lord have a glorious hope. The bright and morning star shining amid the deep gloom casts its beams into their hearts. The Lord is coming again, quickly coming, and in connection with this hope we may expect revival.

To His disciples, before He left them, the Lord Jesus said, “I will come again.” These words were as balm of Gilead, administered by the great Physician, to their broken hearts and troubled spirits. From the day of His departure from earth they longed and looked for His return, because they loved Him. Just as the hope of His coming again had a prominent place in the hearts of His people at the beginning, even so, if we read the last book of the Bible aright, will it be immediately before His return. The prospect of His coming will be precious to them according to the measure of their love for Him.

It is a revival of this kind, of love to the Lord Himself on the part of His own and of earnest longing for Him, that we may expect, rather than a world-wide gospel movement. Such a revival seems to be involved in the fact that the Bride, in concert with the Spirit, cries “Come” in response to the Bridegroom, and that the final word of all is—“Even so come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:17, 20).

This revival of earnest longing for the Lord may not be widespread, nor attract the attention of the world, nor be chronicled in the columns of the newspapers; but it will be a great reality in the lives of those who come under its gracious influence. It would appear that three things will result from it: (1) Separation from the world: there will be a going out to meet Him (Matt. 25:6). “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself” (1 John 3:3). (2) Faithfulness to the truth: there will be a holding fast to the Word, a cleaving to the Name of the Lord (Rev. 3:8, 11). (3) Evangelistic zeal: for it is written, “Let him that heareth say, Come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

Those who are thus revived will surely be maintained by the grace of the Lord and the power of the Holy Ghost, and will continue quietly, and perhaps unnoticed, to witness for Christ. Undoubtedly He will bless their testimony now, as He will assuredly recompense them with an abundant reward in the day of His appearing.

Readings on Psalm 23

 

A Paean of Faith: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (v. 1)

P. V. W. Appropriately the translators of our English Bible labelled this psalm “David's confidence in God.” God's grace it was that relieved us of the burden of sin; it supports us all along our journey, and teaches us to walk in God's ways.

Q. How far is the language of the psalm that of the Lord Himself in His pathway here?

A. J. P. Surely as a dependent Man (though “God over all blessed for ever” at all times), the Lord could adopt the language of Psalm 23, save on the cross itself, when His language was, “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” rather than “Thou art with Me.” But in all His perfect life down here He could surely adopt the language of this psalm. Remember “He restoreth my soul” is in the sense that rest or food restores, and not the recovery from backsliding which, needless to say, could never apply to the Lord.

Q. How far may a Christian employ the psalm as expressing his own experience? Does it not rather belong to Israel ?

P. V. W. This psalm cannot be sung by Israel until she is restored. As the redeemed of the Lord, we anticipate Israel in this song of praise to our Saviour.

A. J. P. It is one of the psalms that the Christian can quote entire as his experience, for it describes a Person, and personal relations with Him. Dispensations may change, but Jehovah is ever the same.

Q. Who is the Shepherd?

H. S. The Lord, Jehovah. And Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus of the New. He is the forsaken Man of Psalm 22, the accepted Man of Psalm 24.

W. B. D. Psalms 22, 23 and 24 form a group presenting Christ as the Good Shepherd in death, the Great Shepherd in resurrection, and the Chief Shepherd in glory.

A. J. P. The connection is obvious. Psalm 22 gives us the Saviour, in His past activity; Psalm 23, the Shepherd in His present activity; Psalm 24, the Sovereign in His future activity.

H. S. In Psalm 22 His strength is “dried up like a potsherd”; in Psalm 24 He is “strong and mighty.” In the former He is “a worm and no man,” in the latter, “the Lord of hosts” and “King of glory.” This is the One who is “my Shepherd,” One who has “descended first into the lower parts of the earth,” who has “ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all things.” He has filled every position in which a man can be found, from the utmost distance to the highest glory. He has trodden every step between these vast extremes. With such a Shepherd we need fear no evil, nor wonder at any blessing He bestows.

Q. What thought is conveyed to the mind by the word “shepherd”?

W. B. D. It suggests solicitude, strength, tenderness and, in the case of our blessed Lord, before everything else, self-sacrifice. Can we conceive anything more beautiful than the words of Isaiah 40:11, “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom”?

Q. There must, of course, be the appropriation of the Shepherd as one's own, must there not?

H. S. It is one thing to speak of the Lord as the Shepherd, quite another to say, He is my Shepherd. The first is a matter of knowledge; the last, a question of experience. “The Lord is my Shepherd” is the language of one who has proved the Lord in the varied circumstances of his pathway and gladly submits to His leading.

E. D. To say “my” Shepherd is the language of faith; the word “my” is therefore the doorway into the psalm.

H. S. All questions as to our standing before God must be presumed to have been settled. I could not say, “my Shepherd” if I had a lingering thought that after all He may be “my Judge.” “My Saviour” must come before “my Shepherd.”

J. T. M. This Psalm is full of wonderful blessings, and all depend upon the first sentence. Think of the immensity of the grace that is in it; the love that has made it possible for poor, despised people, thought nothing of in the world, to say: The Lord is my Shepherd, I belong to Him and He is mine.

Q. This implies, does it not, that we are everlastingly safe?

J. T. M. To be sure. If you can say “The Lord is my Shepherd,” then, on the authority of His own Word you can say, “I am everlastingly safe.” Do you not remember how He said, “My sheep hear My voice . . . and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” The hand that broke the power of death, and that annulled the mighty power of the devil, is the hand that holds your soul secure.

Q. But on our part there must be a cleaving to the Lord, must there not?

J. T. M. Yes. We are exhorted to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart. But it does not say, Cleave to the Shepherd, or to the Saviour. We are to cleave to Him as our Lord , another character entirely.

W. B. D. But our safety is not the only thing. He who can truly say “The Lord is my Shepherd” is entitled to add “I shall not want.” To question the latter would be to doubt the former, and to have fears as to the efficiency of the Shepherd.

H. S. If we look at this world with its many wants and failing supplies, it is no small thing to say “I shall not want.” But with a great Shepherd we can say great things.

E. D. We shall not want, not because we are sheep, but because He is our Shepherd. This conclusion flows not from what we are to Him, but from what He is to us.

P. V. W. What He is, has done, and is now doing, gives perfect rest to those that know Him. He has charged Himself with all our cares and needs—we shall not want. Both vagabondage and want have ceased for those represented in this psalm, because they have returned to the Lord.

A. F. P. The emphasis is on Lord , who by virtue of the sufferings of Psalm 22 is qualified as Shepherd, having proved faithful unto death; and also because of who He is the Psalmist can triumphantly say, “I shall not want.”

W. V. B. The Psalmist seems to give a graphic review, under the eye of the Shepherd, of his whole life in the wilderness pathway, commencing from the moment of his realization that since Jehovah was his Shepherd it was impossible for him to want.

Q. But the children of God are often in want. Take Paul, for instance. According to Philippians 4:11-12, was he not sometimes in want?

W. B. D. Certainly; otherwise how could he say, “I shall not want”? If a child is hungry, it comes to its mother to have its want supplied. It knows that its want will be met, so that it can say, “I shall not want.” When Paul had wants he turned to the Shepherd, confident in His care, and as a result He could say, “I have all things and abound.”

Remark. What we lack sometimes may not be good for us to have. It says, “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing” (Ps. 34:10).

A. J. P. Paul might be in want of food, raiment, shelter and liberty. But the Shepherd supplies what is necessary to keep the soul at rest in whatever circumstances the sheep may be. Whatever might be Paul's privations affecting the outer man, the inward man knew no lack.

P. V. W. If we think of our many needs, both in our testimony for God and for the present life, He is (and we must learn to make Him so) our competence for all the way. With Him filling the soul's vision it is easy to say, “I shall not want.” With Him on board, our little boat cannot go down, no matter how big the waves. It is the sense of the Lord's love and presence that gives the holy boldness in our psalm's expression, “I shall not want.”

 

Love's Sweet Compulsion: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters” (v. 2).

A. F. P. A sheep only lies down when satisfied. When it says “He maketh me,” the idea is not force, but the result of satisfaction in consequence of the Shepherd's care.

W. B. D. The sheep is not here brought to green pastures to have need supplied, but because it has eaten well. Every want has been met, and amid peace and plenty, under the protection of the Shepherd, it lies down.

P. V. W. What a lovely picture of repose in safety! We could not thus lie down if the enemy were at our gates, and we were in fear of what might befall us. The soul is in sweet contemplation of Him who, having defeated the enemy and borne sin's judgment, becomes now the object of the soul's affection. Now, in LOVE'S SWEET COMPULSION, He makes His obedient sheep to “lie down.”

H. S. Not only does He provide for our temporal needs, but He satisfies us with spiritual blessings. He would set me free from earthly cares to fill my soul with heavenly joys. He not only brings His sheep to pastures of tender grass, but there He makes them lie down. No hungry sheep will lie down in green pastures; the hungry sheep will feed in the pastures of tender grass, but the satisfied sheep will lie down and rest. So our Shepherd not only provides us with spiritual nourishment, but He fills our souls with satisfaction and rest.

J. T. M. Then He leads us beside still waters. The words are better rendered “waters of quietness,” signifying peace, no matter what the circumstances.

W. B. D. It is what another has termed “a scene of satisfied desire.”

A. F. P. Not only does the Shepherd satisfy hunger, but thirst also, by these still waters, as He himself said, “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.”

J. T. M. You may have to go through scenes of trouble; the storm may rage about you, and you may have your share of trouble. But the quietest life in regard to these things is not always the most fruitful; that is, those who have the least trouble in this world do not always yield the most glory to God.

Q. But what about the waters of quietness? How can we talk about waters of quietness if a storm is raging about us?

J. T. M. We have a lovely illustration of it in the case of the sudden storm on the Galilean Sea , when

All but One were sore afraid

Of sinking in the deep;

His head was on a pillow laid,

And He was fast asleep.”

But why did not the disciples lie down beside Him? They would have been just as safe as they were when the great calm, at His bidding, stretched itself upon the waters. It does not matter what our circumstances are. If we can say, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” we can have quietness and peace like that.

P. V. W. Everlasting goodness takes us by the hand and leads us beside the still waters. These waters were not always quiet, they were not so in the former psalm, but now He has stifled them for His own beloved sheep. When the waters came in unto His soul at the cross (Ps. 69:1) they were a mighty flood. But these water-floods are passed; Christ has stilled them; He has made them “still waters” for us.

H. S. Our Shepherd ministers refreshment to our souls. He leads us not by running streams that dry up, but the deep still waters of the well. We sometimes sing:

Is the wilderness before thee,

Desert lands where drought abides?

Heavenly springs shall there restore thee

Fresh from God's exhaustless tides.

Like Israel, who forsook “the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that could hold no water,” we too often seek satisfaction in earthly things, only to find that all earthly springs run dry. If only we could trust the Lord, not only to save our souls, but to satisfy our hearts, He would lead us into the green pastures that never wither, and beside the still waters that never run dry.

 

“He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake” (v. 3).

P. V. W. This is not a once accomplished work, never to be repeated, but a present ministry of our Lord toward us. It is the expression of His care and thoughtful provision for every step of our journey through the world. “He restoreth” and “He leadeth.”

W. V. B. The Shepherd takes the direction of the sheep entirely under His own supervision, conducts it the whole length of the pathway; nothing can harm it, for He is there. It is “He” and “me” all the way through. How touching are these expressions: “He maketh me ,” “He leadeth me

Q. What is the thought of restoration in verse 3?

J.T. M. When it says “He restoreth my soul” it means, He invigorates my soul. He gives me spiritual tonics. They are not tonics that brighten you up for a few hours and then leave you more depressed than you were before. When the Lord invigorates us He makes us strong for that which is before us.

A. F. P. The sustainment is constant, giving strength to walk in the paths of righteousness.

Q. There is also the thought of restoration from wanderings, is there not?

W. B. D. If wearied, He lifts us up; if downcast, He encourages us; if wandering, He brings us back.

H. S. Alas! we often turn aside. And after a season of deepest spiritual blessing we are in the greatest danger. In Matthew 26 we find priests and scribes plotting to kill Jesus. But in the upper room all is quietness and peace. The Lord has been leading His poor weak and weary sheep into green pastures and beside still waters, and they close that time of sweet fellowship by singing a hymn. But the Lord warns them that that same night all would be offended because of Him, and every one would be scattered. Singing a hymn in His company one hour; offended and scattered the next. But if they wander, He restores. He restored Peter. How often we are like Him, and like Naomi who said, “I went out,” but had to add, “The Lord hath brought me home again.”

W. B. D. He who in verse 2 leads us beside still waters, in verse 3 leads us in paths of righteousness. Having led us in, He leads us out, that, satisfied with His provision, refreshed with His blessing, encouraged of Himself, we may walk here to His praise and glory.

Q. What is meant by paths of righteousness?

J. T. M. It was once true that all we like sheep turned every one to his own way. Then our straying feet trod the paths of unrighteousness. But now we have heard the Shepherd's voice, and as we follow Him obediently and adoringly we are walking in the paths of righteousness, for we are taking His way, not our own.

Remark. He leads us beside the still waters for our sake , that we may be refreshed. But He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake , that He may be glorified.

H. S. He leads us so to walk as to glorify His Name. That Name stands for all that is holy. He leads in paths that accord with His Name.

J. T. M. He does it; but He does not drive or drag, He leads. I watched a lady teaching her little boy of fifteen months to walk. She did not make him take long strides nor make him go fast. She shortened her steps to his, and went the pace that he could manage, and she knew it exactly. As I watched her, this verse came to my mind. That is how the Lord leads us. We may trust Him altogether, all the time, and for everything, and He will lead us in right paths for His Name's sake.

 

Company in the Valley: “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” (v. 4).

W. B. D. This verse is full of cheer and inspiration, if it is a “valley,” it means that there is something, or some place, above and beyond. If we “walk through,” it indicates that we shall certainly emerge. And if there is a “shadow,” it shows that the light of the scene beyond the valley is illuminating the darkness, cheering and beckoning us onward and forward.

Q. What is meant by the valley of the shadow of death?

A. F. P. It refers, I judge, to this world, where death abounds.

A. J. P. We can understand how, when David was being hunted from one place to another, that his experiences, never knowing when the bolt of death would reach him, would lead to such an expression. The valley of the shadow of death refers to the whole of our life down here. But the believer of this Christian dispensation can say in triumph. “Death is ours.''

J. T. M. This world is just the sepulchre of Jesus, and the more faithful we are to the Lord, the more the world will be to us the valley of the shadow of death. The shadow of His death lies on the fairest prospects that present themselves to us here.

Remark. In another sense, the valley of the shadow of death is the path we have to tread when death is actually in view, and perhaps even the path through death itself.

H. S. Speaking of it thus, the paths of righteousness may lead into the valley of the shadow of death. It was so with the martyrs. They suffered death rather than sin. But there is no need to fear.

Q What is the particular “evil” referred to in this verse?

A. J. P. “I will fear no evil” simply means, “I will not fear evil.” Evil, or harm, of any kind.

H. S. Four reasons are given in this verse why we need not be afraid.

(1) We are only “WALKING THROUGH” the valley. We do not fear when we enter a tunnel, because we believe we are going through it, and that soon we shall reach the bright sunshine on the other side of it.

(2) It is only the valley of death's “SHADOW.” When the Good Shepherd took His lonely way down into the dark valley it was to encounter the “substance” of death in all its terror, as the wages of sin. If the believer is called to go through the valley, it is but the “shadow” that he has to meet.

P. V. W. A shadow may frighten, but it cannot harm.

H. S. Sheep are poor timid things and easily frightened, even by shadows. We come now to another thing to silence our fears.

(3) If we pass the way of the valley we have COMPANY, and such company—the One who has already been through death's raging flood journeys with us. Well may we say, “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Q. Do we not find a striking illustration of this in the case of the three Hebrew youths in Babylon ?

H. S. Yes: the path of righteousness led Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego into the valley of death, but the flames that encompassed them only unloosed their bonds and put them in company with the Son of God, according to the word that says: “When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned” (Isa. 43:2).

Q. What is the fourth reason given why we need fear no evil?

H. S. (4) Because of the Shepherd's rod and staff. The Psalmist says: “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”

J. T. M. When the Psalmist comes to the valley of the shadow of death, he changes the pronoun. Up to this point he has been speaking about the Lord; now he speaks to Him, showing how near the Shepherd is to the sheep. He says “Thou.”

Q. What is the difference between the rod and the staff?

W. B. D. The rod may speak of power (compare Exodus 7:10-12; 17:5, etc.), or, as is generally supposed, of correction, while the staff is for support. But whether His power, His correction, or His support, all are for our “comfort” in difficult circumstances.

A. F. P. I have thought that the rod with its crook would be used by the Shepherd to help the sheep out of a ditch back into the path, or to restrain it from straying into danger. The Shepherd would use the staff to drive off savage beasts. In Palestine they were in the habit of carrying a club for this purpose. In other words, what comforts the one who has to pass through the valley is the Shepherd's power to direct and to protect.

P. V. W. All that the rod in the hand of Moses meant to the people of Israel (see Exodus 15:16; 17:5) Christ Jesus is to us now, He who opened the sea for our deliverance from a worse bondage than Israel 's. The staff occupies a large place in Scripture, and is a symbol of support and strength. For us, Christ is the reality of what the staff implies, to sustain the Christian through this life. Every other staff, every other confidence fails. Christ is the true Priest—not encompassed with infirmities as Aaron—Who can carry His people through the whole journey to the end. He is God's wisdom and resource for us, in all circumstances and in all things.

 

The Triumph of Faith: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (v. 5).

Q. How does the Lord prepare a table for us?

A. J. P. The allusion is to the work of the Shepherd in finding out suitable pasture, and taking care that the sheep are secure from attack by serpents and wild beasts, the natural enemies of the flock. Surely it refers to the ministry of the Lord to His people, giving them the sense of His love and care so that it should be as a feast to their souls, and that in a hostile world like this.

P. V. W. The table is the place where the children sit down in their Father's presence and company to enjoy His prepared bounties.

W. B. D. There is not only the Shepherd's abundant provision for His own, but His VINDICATION of them. Surrounded by enemies who watch in order to see what it costs to be a Christian, and by reproaching us (if we give them cause) to malign our precious Lord, He anoints our head with oil, causing us ever to rejoice; and He makes our cup of blessing always to overflow.

A. F. P. The table prepared in the presence of enemies seems to indicate that He has made communion possible in spite of all the powers of evil. His being superior to all enemies is, I think, emphasized rather than the thought of the table.

H. S. Many of the sheep may never have to take the way of the valley, but even so, they will have enemies to face, and in the presence of the enemy the Lord can uphold His people. We have a Shepherd who can provide for, and sustain, His sheep in spite of all that man can do.

Q. What thought is conveyed to the mind by the anointing of the head with oil?

A. F. P. It suggests friendship, for did not Christ complain that Simon did not show this mark of friendship to him? (Luke 7:46). The oil may well remind us that only the Spirit of God can make such friendship a possibility. The result is that the soul is more than satisfied, and there is the overflow.

W. B. D. For a practical illustration of this in real life, read Philippians 4. Then let us each look in the mirror and ask if there we see a present day sample of it.

J. T. M. The Lord, spreading a table for us, makes us to feast. Then comes “the oil of gladness” that makes the face shine, joy. Then you have the overflowing cap.

A. F. P. The cup, I judge, simply indicates the soul's capacity, but surely the fullness to over-flowing is the thought brought before us rather than the cup itself. The blessing is more than the soul can contain and runs over in worship to God, and in telling of His grace out of a full heart to those around.

 

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6).

H. S. With such a Shepherd, what other conclusion can we reach? The Lord goes before, the sheep follow after, and goodness and mercy bring up the rear. How blessed that goodness and mercy should follow behind, just where they are wanted, for there are weak, and sick, and lame sheep, which lag behind and follow afar off. Goodness and mercy will pick them up. If we cannot count upon the tender mercies of one another, this at least we know, the goodness and mercy of the Lord will follow us all the days of our life.

A. F. P. This last verse is the language of a heart fully persuaded of the never-failing supply of God's goodness and mercy every step of earth's journey, and of glory in the life to come.

Q. What is meant by “the house of the Lord”?

P. V. W. No doubt the Psalmist was thinking of an earthly kingdom and city, with God's dwelling-place and throne in the midst thereof out of which should proceed law and authority, and light and blessing for all the earth. But the hope of the Christian is above even this glory and blessedness.

Remark. For the Christian, “the house of the Lord” is the Father's house.

J. T. M. The Psalm that begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd” would not be complete if it did not close with “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The one is the consequence of the other; they go together; they are twin statements.

W. B. D. Faith always looks forward, and we have THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH over difficulties without and failure within, as the believer exclaims, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” HALLELUJAH!

W. V. B. What a Companion is Jesus! Food for my heart; Refreshment for my spirit; Restorer of my soul when I have wandered in a bypath; with me through the valley of the shadow of death; filling my cup to overflowing; His goodness and mercy following me every day, and I am going to dwell throughout all eternity with Him. HALLELUJAH!

H. S. This is the glorious end of a great beginning. For what can be greater, in this poor world, than to go through it with the Lord Himself for your Shepherd? And if He is indeed my Shepherd, it must follow that not only will He lead me through this wilderness, but will bring me at last into the glory where He Himself has gone.

Salvation is Needed by All

 

A fine-steamer is ploughing the billowy ocean. Suddenly, from stem to stern, the cry of “Man overboard!” is heard. That poor fellow, vainly struggling in the water, needs salvation.

A house is on fire. In the top story is a helpless invalid; the flames have cut off every way of escape; her piteous cry is heard. That girl needs salvation.

If you are still without Christ, you are hastening on to judgment. The dark clouds of doom are before you. Your sins are on you, and

YOU NEED SALVATION.

If you have found this out, make no mistake about it. “ Salvation is of the Lord

These five words of solemn import came from the lips of one who, in his dire distress, found out that he could by no means help himself. “Salvation is of the Lord,” he cried, and as soon as his eye turned to the only One who could save, salvation was accomplished for him.

Remember this, church-going professor, it does not say salvation is in your sacrament-taking and psalm-singing, in your alms-giving and prayer-saying; these can never save. “Salvation is of the Lord.” You are shut up to Him alone. For we read, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). You are shut up to Christ.

In His love He has procured salvation for the lost and hell-deserving. It is the sinner that needs the Saviour; the guilty alone find mercy. If you will but own your need, you may claim Jesus as yours. He came to seek and to save

THAT WHICH WAS LOST.

“When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” ( Rom. 5:6). Take the sinner's place and accept the sinner's Saviour now.

Samuel Called, Cleansed and Clothed

Notes of an address to Children

 

Here are three things, dear children, that took place in the history of Samuel of which I wish to speak to you tonight. They are these. He was CALLED CLEANSED, AND CLOTHED.

In 1 Samuel 3 you will find the account of God's call to him.

He was a little fellow, whose father and mother were God's children, but though he lived with Eli in God's house, he “did not yet know the Lord.” That was strange, was it not? And yet I know something stranger still. There are many of my young friends here tonight, and they have lived longer than Samuel, and Jesus has called them many a time, but they do not yet know Him as their Saviour.

Now God, who loves children, did not wish Samuel to grow up without knowing Him. So one night, when Eli had gone to bed and all was quiet, and little Samuel was just going off to sleep, he heard someone call “Samuel! Samuel!”

“That's Eli,” he thought, and so up he jumped and ran to him; but it was not Eli who had called. God was speaking to him. Now this took place three times, and Samuel had not yet answered the Lord, who called him; but Eli knew it must be the Lord, and told Samuel how to answer. Then the Lord called again.

Now listen to Samuel's reply when once more the voice was heard, “Speak,” he says, “for Thy servant heareth.” He was now ready to hear what God had to say to him. Children, it may be God has called you many a time, and He wants you to listen to His voice. Do not turn away from Him, for He wants to tell you of the blessing He has for you.

You will remember how the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God .” Well, that same blessed Saviour is still calling the little ones. He wants to have them in His own home, where there is nothing but brightness and joy, and you are among the ones He wants. Have you answered to His call?

I was preaching a little while ago, and while speaking repeated that sweet name “ Jesus ” three times. When I had finished, a little girl of five years looked up into my face and said, with tears in her eyes, “I did like to hear you say, ‘Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!'” There was one who had heard His call, and learned to love His name. I trust you all will do so.

“But,” you say, “I am a sinner, and God is holy—how can I be made fit for Him and for His home above?” Yes; that is a question that needs to be answered. Over the pearly portals of God's eternal home are these words, “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth.” Now your sins are defiling, and before you can be made fit to spend your eternity with Jesus in the Father's house you must be cleansed from them. How can that be done?

Let us turn to 1 Samuel 1:25. I read there these words, “And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.” Blood had to be shed for Samuel so that be might be before God.

Thus we see that Samuel was not only CALLED, but CLEANSED. Before God could call any of us, blood had to be shed, not the blood of a bullock, but the blood of Jesus. And all need to be cleansed by His precious blood. There is no salvation apart from it. Nothing else can take away your sins.

Your mother can take the soap and water and wash the dirt off your face and off your clothes, but no one can ever wash your soul from sin. It is only the blood of Jesus which can do that.

I do pray every one of you to come to my precious Saviour and to trust Him. He died to save such as you.

Now in chapter 2 verse 19 we read that Samuel's mother used to bring him a little coat every year, so that be was not only called and cleansed ; but he was also clothed . I am sure he would be very pleased with his new coat every year.

If you come to Jesus you will be clothed with a robe that will never get old or worn out, so that you will never need a new one. When people believe on the Lord Jesus, God puts the best robe upon them. Do you remember bow Adam and Eve tried to make coverings for themselves? But that would not do for God. If we are to have clothes that will suit the presence of God, He Himself must give them to us, and this He does to all who believe on His Son.

Saved or Lost

 

SAVED, yes, saved eternally. Pardoned, though guilty; blessed, though hell-deserving. Ring out, ye bells of heaven. Sing aloud your hallelujahs, all ye saints. 'Tis another soul plucked as a brand from the burning Enfolded in the arms of everlasting love. SAVED, yes, saved eternally.

SAVED to dwell in the sun-light of the blissful presence of the One who died, and to shine in the Father's glory-home for the praise of His grace.

What does it mean? This: that the cleansing blood which was shed over 1800 years ago has lost none of its power. And a sinner, foul with the stains of unnumbered sans, has proved its cleansing virtue. There is joy in heaven, and there is joy in the soul of the one just passed from death unto life.

But you, my reader, if still unsaved, are a stranger to this joy. Oh! hapless one, in spite of all the warnings you have had, and in spite of all God's long-suffering and tender mercy, you are still unblessed.

Soon, very soon, it may have to be said of you, “He is lost, without hope of recovery; gone, never to return; sunk, never to rise; the soul of the Christ-rejecter has passed into eternity.” Shall we hush the bitter wail, lest the ears of the polite be offended? Shall we drop the curtain, lest some be horrified?

Nay! for the sake of deathless souls who are hurrying on to the same doom, we must declare the truth. The funeral rites are over, the earth has closed over the mouldering dust, but the soul of the Christless, what of it? LOST, yes, lost eternally; TORMENTED, aye, beyond power of words to tell.

We may not hush the truth. The lurid flame knows no quenching. Hell opens to our gaze. The damned are there. Unsaved reader, to this doom you are hastening. Flee to Christ. Flee now; delay not. The blood can shelter thy soul. Make haste, make haste.

Shorn Locks

 

A very pretty story appeared in Scattered Seed recently which ran as follows. A bonny little fellow had golden curls clustering round his head, and these were the pride of a fond mother. One day this little boy determined to make himself like other boys, so, securing a pair of scissors and finding a quiet corner hidden from his mother's vigilant eye, he cut through the golden locks until not one of them remained. The family in order to punish him agreed to pretend not to know him, so that when he spoke to his father at dinner-time, his father asked, “Who is this strange boy?” And his brother said that he did not know him, and his mother turned her head away. At first the wee culprit thought this was a very funny joke, but as it continued, his face grew long and serious, and at length he burst into tears and cried, “Well, if you don't know me, God does, and I wish some of you did.”

That was the story. Now let me give it an application. Shorn locks! And a very changed appearance! Are we reminded of anything by these? Well, yes, there was Samson, poor Samson! He dallied with temptation and his locks were shorn and he was made to grind in the mills of the enemies of God, an object of mockery to the scorners and of grief to the faithful. Poor Samson! But that took place three thousand years ago. We must come nearer home than that. Does anyone know a Christian who through cowardice, or fear of being thought singular, has made himself like his work-mates or associates who do not know the Lord, and who in consequence has lost the beauty of his Nazariteship, the brightness of his early love for his Saviour?

There is a moving lament in an Old Testament Book. It runs thus, “Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphires; their visage is blacker than coal; they are not known in the streets; their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick

What a change! Beauty, freshness, youth gone; zeal, devotion to the Lord, and joy in Him all lost, and instead distortion, drought, and moral and spiritual death. Such is the divinely inspired description of the backslider. Notice, “they are not known in the street.” No longer do people say of such an one, “Well, if ever there was a Christian, he is one.” Some perhaps say scornfully, “There's a Christian for you!” Those who once rejoiced in that early promise now pass the backslider by with averted eyes and sorrowful hearts; he is no longer known for the bright Christian he once was.

Do we know such an one, any of us? Or do we know any one who is on the road to such open backsliding, one who is a backslider in heart? Let us pause and think.

Ah, my friend, backslider, there's a grief in your heart, and your sighing is more real than your singing. Sometimes you are indignant that the Christians, your friends of other days, do not know you as once they did, but your conscience tell you that they are right. You are not known—not known! Stay, there is One who knows you still, One who never forgets, the One who said, “I know my sheep.”

“I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from Me,” said the Lord of old, when His people went far from Him: and again “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals.” Yes, the Lord does not forget, and He wants you to remember. He says, “But call to remembrance the former days,” and, ”Remember from whence thou art fallen.” You may take up the cry of the little boy of our story and say, “The Lord knows me.” Thank God He does, and with words of love He would draw you from your backslidings and make you sing as of old. He will fill you with self-distrust and with confidence in Himself, and turn your very backsliding into your blessing. Let it be so without delay.

Some Blessings in John 1

 

It is the light that SEARCHES the inward parts of the sinner's heart and exposes the sins and the sin that are there. And that light is Christ. He was “ the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world ” (v. 9).

The sinner whose heart is searched cries out for one to SAVE him, and there is but One who can do that. He is “ the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world ” (v. 29).

The sinner who is searched and saved becomes the cherished possession of His Saviour, and that there might be no doubt about it he is SEALED by the Holy Ghost. “ The same is He that baptiseth with the Holy Ghost ” (v. 33).

Nothing will SATISFY the heart of the one who is searched, saved and sealed, but the company of his Saviour. The question which springs from the heart to the lips is, “ Master, where dwellest Thou? ” and He answers, “ Come and see ” (vv. 38-39).

The one who is searched, saved, sealed and satisfied delights to SERVE the One who has blessed him. and he does it spontaneously and successfully constrained by the love that surpasses knowledge. “ One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, He first findeth his own brother Simon . . . and he brought him to Jesus ” (vv. 40-42).

Thus does He, who created the worlds, bless us. He became flesh in order to do it, and He dwelt among men to reveal the love that was in His heart. He delights to draw men out of the darkness of their ignorance and sin into the light of the love of God. He delights to lift and remove the burden of sin from their souls and bring them to rest and rejoice with Him in His own dwelling place, His Father's love; having given them the Holy Spirit to be the power and the capacity to enjoy that love. And He delights to see them go forth to serve Him, the Holy Spirit being the power for this, Christ Himself being the satisfying centre from which they go, to bring back to Him weary, needy sinners.

Let no Christian stop short of any of these steps in blessing; he will spoil his life if he does; he will lose the fullness of the blessing that may be his, and he will rob his Saviour of His full delight in him. The fact is that the Lord will be satisfied with nothing less than the complete possession of every life that He has redeemed, and He has this in those whom He has searched, saved, satisfied, and whom He can trust with His service.

Some Disciples of the Lord

 

The disciples of the Lord of whom mention is made in John's Gospel do not appear there in their official capacity as apostles, as in the earlier Gospels. We have no account in it of their being chosen as Apostles, or being sent out to preach during the life, of the Lord with them. They are there rather as individuals in whom the Lord wrought, and so illustrate for us His grace and its results.

It is generally believed that the unnamed disciple who with Andrew followed the Lord in chapter 1, was John , the writer of the Gospel, and in him the choicest results of grace are seen. He is introduced to us as following the Lord without a command to do so, and the last sight we have of him in the Gospel reveals him as still following without being told. Between this first and this last appearance he is “the disciple whom Jesus loved;” he leaned his head upon Jesus' breast at the Last Supper, and he stood by the cross.

There are other interesting features of the work of grace in his soul, recorded in the Gospel, but these will suffice to show how real his contact with the Lord was, and how deep was the work of grace in him. He represents the chiefest work that the Lord is doing in souls in this present Christian period. What moved him first was John the Baptist's exclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God!” This is the basis of everything. No sinner could come into relationship with the Lord apart from this. He is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for our sins—wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. But it was not only the great work, that He had come to do, that arrested John and Andrew, but Himself who had come to do the work. We all have to learn, what we are sure John learnt truly and well, that we not only need a great sacrifice for the salvation of our souls, but a great and living Saviour for the satisfaction of our hearts, and that having died for us He has the right to command and control us. He is our Lord.

This is illustrated in these two men who followed the Lord without a command or invitation from Him; they were attracted. He took their hearts captive and the inevitable result of that was that their feet followed Him. Where the heart is there the feet will be. This was the secret of John's after life. He sought the Lord's company, and answered truly to the Lord's challenge “What seek ye?” “Master, where dwellest Thou?” That simply meant:—I want to be with Thee. And from that time onward he allowed no rival to the Lord in His affections, and consequently he was well qualified to say, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

In the company of the Lord he learnt not only His love to himself, that he had a place in the Lord's heart and was the disciple whom Jesus loved, but he could trust Him; he could lean upon His breast in the most trying and darkened hour, with the result that he could stand by the cross bearing the reproach of Christ. Of all the disciples we feel that John, probably the youngest of them all, and not more than a youth, yielded the greatest pleasure to the heart of the Lord. In John we see appreciation of the Lord's love and communion with Him.

Andrew's contact with the Lord brings out another side of the Christian life. He was the successful servant. Attracted equally with John, that day spent with the Lord filled him with desire that others should know Him too, and so every time we read of him in the gospel he is bringing someone to Jesus. “He first findeth his own brother Simon.” Could anything be better than that? There must have been an earnestness about him that arrested his more robust and perhaps more worldly brother. And with what conviction and certainty he speaks “We have found the Messiah.” “And he brought him to Jesus.” He had found a new centre for his life, God's centre, and to that all-sufficient and all-satisfying centre he must bring others.

So in chapter 6, when the multitudes were likely to faint for want of food and Philip had no solution for the difficulty. Andrew brought the lad with the barley loaves and fishes to Jesus; and though he seemed to falter somewhat, probably because his brethren regarded him pityingly because of his apparent folly, he was the one who put the lad's supply of food within the reach of the almighty, creative hands of the Lord.

Again in chapter 12, when the Greeks desired to see Jesus, Philip was in a quandary, which was strange seeing the Lord was so accessible. He had to seek Andrew's help, and Andrew and he tell Jesus. Happy is that servant of the Lord who has found such heart satisfaction in the Lord that He becomes the Centre of his service and his Object in it; the man who can truly say, “We have found.” That is the sort of service that is acceptable to the Lord.

Simon Peter belongs to this same period of grace, and illustrates for us what the Lord can do with the most unlikely material. He who was by nature a profane and erratic man was transformed by the word and work of the Lord into a stone for the spiritual house that God is building, in which He is worshipped. He was made a stable witness for His Lord before the world, and an example of grace to the whole flock of God.

These three seem to cover the whole work that the Lord is doing in souls in these days; and illustrate Christian worship, work and witness as a result of following the Lord.

The Beginning of Miracles

 

John alone of the four Evangelists tells us that Jesus was present at a marriage feast. He also tells us, and he alone, that He stood with bereaved and sorrowing women at a closed grave. The marriage is the brightest day of a man's life, its true beginning, the closed grave is the darkest day, the end of all its hopes and joys, and Jesus was at both.

It was given to John alone to tell us so. This is remarkable for John is the one who shows us the Lord in His divine glory. He was Jesus of Nazareth truly, the despised and rejected of men, from the most despised of all the towns of Galilee . Philip speaks of Him by this Name in chapter 1, and it was the Name that Pilate gave Him when he wrote the writing for the cross. But Jesus of Nazareth was the Word without a beginning, and the Word was God. Is God interested in the joys and sorrows of men then? Yes, He is. “The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him;” and we believe that these two incidents are recorded for us in John's Gospel, in order that we might be impressed with this great fact.

It was at the marriage that He performed His first miracle and at the grave He performed His greatest. Our subject is the former. There He began to manifest His glory, the first ray of it shone in the darkness and penetrated the minds and hearts of His chosen disciples and they believed on Him. Of this incident it has very beautifully been said, “Here He tolled for the first time the great bell of the universe, that summoned men to listen to His sermon.”

It was a humble feast to which He went. These friends of His were poor in circumstances and lowly in heart. Only such would have asked Him to share their joy, and only to such would He have gone. The rich and ruling who had their mansions in Jerusalem did not want Him, and “men full of meat” had their own wine and plenty of it, and wanted none of His, but may we not conclude that these humble Galileans had a felt but unspoken need in their hearts when they bade Him to their marriage?

“The mother of Jesus was there, ” and her character comes out in the incident; she was observant and compassionate. Things were not going well and she sensed it. There was a great lack at that feast, and the young people were beginning to be embarrassed, and she realized it, and for their sakes she speaks to the Lord. It is more than likely that she had often turned to Him in her own need, now she speaks to Him of others' need. “They have no wine.” Or may it be that she had waited long for Him to manifest Himself, and vindicate Himself and her, and had begun to chafe at the long and apparently useless delay?

We may be sure that His rebuke was ministered with great tenderness, and in such a way that she would not be humiliated in the presence of others. But it was not for her to direct Him, and she had still to learn that He had to be about His “Father's business” and to wait His Father's time and His Father's word; and she had to learn to wait also. “Mine hour is not yet come” was a mysterious word; it runs through this Gospel, and we cannot in this paper search out its meaning; it reached far beyond that marriage feast, but it did not mean that He would not intervene for the present need.

I notice that there is a reference from this saying to Isaiah 30:18 in the “Scofield Bible.” “Therefore will the Lord wait that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted that He may have mercy upon you. . . blessed are all they that wait for Him.” He waits for the right moment to bless, and happy are those that wait for Him. He will not move before His time and He cannot be behind it, and when He moves not only does He bless, but in blessing He is exalted; His glory shines forth as in our story. And that passage reminds me of another word in the same prophecy. I will quote it as it is given in Darby's New Translation, “Never have men heard, nor perceived by the ear, nor hath eye seen a God beside Thee, who acteth for him that waiteth for Him ” (Isa. 64:4). We see how He acted at the marriage feast and we may stake our everlasting well-being upon the fact that He is the same today. He still acts for him that waits for Him.

Six water-pots were there, the witnesses to an external and unprofitable purifying. Yet the water-pots were as empty as the wine bottles; but He was there, the Creator, full of love and pity for His needy creatures, to supply the lack and more beside. He only looked for a willing obedience to His word; then He would work, and these servants, who must have been impressed by His mother's words, were most admirable in their obedience. “Fill the water-pots, ” He said, “And they filled them up to the brim.” “Draw out now and bear it to the Governor of the feast, ” He said, “And they bare it.” No doubts nor questions entered their minds. It was enough that He commanded, and they obeyed with enthusiasm. This willing and unquestioning obedience is an indispensable condition for blessing. How often He would have filled us with all joy and peace in believing, but we did not trust Him enough to simply obey His word.

Obedience results in intelligence. The governor of the feast did not know from whence this good wine had come, nor did the bridegroom, “ but the servants which drew the water knew .” But if this governor did not know from whence the good wine had come, he knew the ways of men and the character of the world. “Every man, ” said he, “at the beginning doth set forth the good wine: And when men have well drunk, then that which is worse.” It is even so, “the grass withereth and the flower fadeth.” Such is man: with what hope he begins and with what disappointment he ends. How doleful are the words, “then that which is worse.” Alas for those who have no resources nor hopes outside, their own plans and schemes, that are bounded by the world and its lusts that pass away.

“But thou hast kept the good wine until now.” Yes, He gives the good wine that never fails and of which those who drink do not tire. How wonderfully, how bountifully He gives.

“Light that groweth not pale with day's decrease;

Love that never can fail when life shall cease;

Joy no trial can mar,

Hope that shineth afar,

Faith serene as a star

And Christ's own peace.”

Of this miracle it has been said, “The quality and greatness of the gift were worthy of God; and we see the generosity all the more clearly when we remember that this bountiful Creator had a little while before refused to create bread to save Himself from the pangs of hunger.”

Deep lessons and illuminating dispensational truths are hidden in the story and will yield themselves to the searching heart, but we must not miss that that lies on the surface. We are taught by it that the Lord is interested in the lives of His creatures and He will give His presence to them in their bright days and dark days if they desire Him and will ask Him. We are taught also that the brightest of God's gifts beneath the sun fails, for even the best is marred by sin, but that the Lord has come to bring in a new life and a new joy that cannot fail, to give to all who are obedient to Him joy unspeakable and full of glory, and this is the beginning of miracles . If this is the beginning , what shall the end of His gracious wonders be?

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

Lifts 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 glory prove?

What the unmingled fullness of His love?

What hallelujahs will His presence raise?

What but one loud eternal burst of praise?”

In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

The Cross of Christ

 

As the children of Jacob had to date their beginning as a nation in relationship with God from the Passover night when the lamb was sacrificed for them, so must we in our thoughts continually go back to the Cross of Calvary where Christ, our Passover, was slain for us. We could have had no existence as the children of God, or members of the body of Christ, apart from that cross of sacrifice. There could have been no assembly at all to gather together, and we should have remained for ever the children of wrath, if Jesus had not died. But now we live, and the life that is given to us is eternal life; but we owe it all to the death of our Saviour. We are to be gathered soon, the whole multitude of God's children, into heaven's cloudless joy; but then, as now, we shall date our knowledge of God from the cross, and we shall discover our origin there, and like the sound of many waters our grateful praises shall roll upward, and for ever, to the Lamb that was slain.

Consider Him coming forth from His eternal glory, from the glory which He had with the Father before the world was made: see Him take the place as a Man amongst men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: follow His footsteps along that road upon which no human eye smiled, for it was neither approved nor understood by men — that pathway that “led only to the cross”!

What great purpose was it that set His face as a flint in that way of sorrow? It was the Father's will, and what was that will? It was that we might live; that He might gather His saints together as His assembly now, and have us as His “many sons” in glory hereafter, all conformed to the image of His dear Son, that He might be the Firstborn amongst many brethren. And nothing less than the cross could make this possible; His incarnation amid the lowly surrounding of Bethlehem 's manger was not enough: His life of service and sorrow amid the need and misery of men was not enough: His prayers, His works, His tears were not enough. His agony and sweat of blood in the shades of Gethsemane were not enough; all these had their part in the unfolding of the heart of God, and in the making known of His own deep perfections; but if guilty men were to be pardoned, if dead sinners were to live, if He was to build His assembly, if heaven was to be filled with “a multitude of sons”, Jesus must die. For “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit”.

It was death as the judgment of God that He endured, the penalty of sin. Two things met at the cross — our sins, and the judgment of God. Our sins — not as we see them and measure them, but as God knew them and saw them in their exceeding sinfulness, and those sins were laid on Jesus, nay, more, He, the Sinless One, was made sin for us, made sin that in His own sinless Person He might bear to the uttermost the judgment of God against sin, and herein lay His sufferings, unmeasured and immeasurable. It was this that made Him say in the garden, “If it be possible let this cup pass from Me”, and upon the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?”

Little wonder then that we make the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ our boast and glory, strange that we should ever forget it. How great was the love that moved Him to endure the cross! Love that each of us can take to himself as his very own, and say, “The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me ”. He loved His assembly and gave Himself for it.

The Deliverer

 

There lies the helpless cripple, around him a mass of suffering humanity, but none worse than he; for thirty-eight years he had suffered, and through all those years no thrill of strength had stirred his palsied limbs. The doctors must have pronounced his case hopeless, and yet with a strange persistence he hoped, an example of the saying, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” But his hope was not in a doctor's skill, but in the pool by the side of which he lay.

It was a strange pool, a large reservoir inside the walls of the city of Jerusalem near the sheep market gate, and it was known as Bethesda , which means the house of mercy. It was well named, for at a certain season an angel from heaven appeared and stirred the waters, then whoever stepped down first into the water was made whole, no matter what his plague might be.

What a scramble there would be at every season, and what disappointment, and amongst the disappointed ones was our cripple. How many times during those years he had fallen back in his misery we do not know, but at last he seemed to be reduced to despair. Did he think that Jesus was but a passing stranger interested in his helplessness when He asked him, “ Wilt thou be made whole? ” If He had been only that, such a question would have been a mockery; but, because of who He was, two things transpired: first, the confession of the man's despair; then the mercy of the Lord that met him there.

Yes, the man had lost all hope, and the Lord's question does not seem to have pleased him over-much, for it did seem from the man's point of view, an unnecessary one, “Sir,” he answers. “ I have no man , when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool; but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:7). My own efforts have all proved vain, and there is not a man who cares a straw for me. As he lay in his helplessness his language might well have been: “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). “ I have no man. ”

Does not this man's sad case illustrate that of many, whose struggles after holiness and good have been long and earnest but in vain? The bitter cry of their souls is “I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would that do I not: but what I hate, that do I” (Rom. 7:14-15). The lesson must be learned that there is no strength for good in the life that is paralysed by sin, and that every hope of overcoming this condition of continual defeat is a vain hope. Aye, but it is just here that the crisis is reached, for man's extremity is God's opportunity.

When the paralytic of John 5 confessed that all his hopes were dashed, and that he had no resources either in himself or in any other man, and that the blessing of the pool was not for him because it was out of his reach then the Lord spoke and His word was a delivering word, “Jesus saith unto Him, Rise, take up thy bed and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked; and on the same day was the sabbath.” Christ superseded the pool; His word did for the helpless cripple what neither angel nor man could do. He was a delivered man, and he had had a grateful heart, which he does not seem to have had, he would have cried, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and he would have followed Him and clung to Him.

I heard of an East Central African negro, who summed up this story in two sentences. They were these. The impotent man said to Jesus, “ I have no man ,” and Jesus answered “ I am your Man . ” And not only had this negro the art of going to the very kernel of the matter, but he must have learnt the wonderful and soul emancipating truth, that all life, virtue, power, blessing and deliverance for men lie in Christ, and that it is when the groaning, struggling soul ceases all his efforts and cries out, “Who shall deliver me?” that deliverance comes.

Deliverance from the power of sin does not come by efforts to keep the law. The weakness of our fleshly nature is not strengthened to do good by resolutions and vows. What has your spiritual history been, my reader? Have you to say:

“Oh the regret, the struggle and the failing!

Oh the days desolates and useless years!

Vows in the night, so fierce and unavailing!

Stings of my shame and passion of my tears!

“Oh thou poor soul, enwrapped in such a sinning,

Bound and in the shameful body of thy death!”

—there is hope for you. Lift up your eves from self and sinning to Him who died for you, bearing the judgment, and has been raised up from the dead. He is your Man, your Deliverer. If you have believed on Him, He is not only your Saviour but the Source of your power, and you have been joined to Him to bring forth fruit unto God. You have come under a new headship, you are in Christ, and a new life may work in you now. Not Paul only, but you also may say, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). He is your Man: His Spirit dwells in you; and through Him that loves you, you may be more than a conqueror.

The Education of Thomas

 

Thomas Didymus was not a voluble man like his friend Simon Peter, he was a man of few words, but when he did speak it was to the point, revealing the sort of man he was. Only John records his words, and we may be sure that the Holy Spirit who inspired him to write his Gospel had a purpose in that.

It seems to me that the disciples were thoroughly bewildered when that point of their association with the Lord was reached which is recorded in John 11. They had seen Him subdue a great storm and overthrow the power of devils and even break the power of death, but, when it was a question of men and their attempt to murder Him, He had not used any power, but simply escaped out of their hands and retired beyond Jordan . They felt that He was safe there and they were safe with Him. And when He proposed to return to Juda they looked upon it as a very foolish thing to do, and asked in surprise, “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee; and goest Thou thither again?”

When it was evident that they could not turn Him from His purpose? Thomas spoke out and said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” It looks as though some of them were holding back, but not he. He had cast in his lot with his Master and would share His fortunes in life and in death, whatever others might do. He had a mind of his own, and it was made up; but it was a dull mind, a pessimistic mind, and he saw nothing before his Lord at that time but death. He had affection for Him, there can be no doubt about that, but faith and spiritual intelligence were greatly lacking. Anyhow, he would die with his Lord; he meant that, though when the fury of hell began to rage he fled like the rest of them.

In chapter 14 he speaks again. It would appear as though the bewilderment of the disciples had grown. The Lord was telling them of preparing a place for them, not on earth, not in Jerusalem , but in the Father's house. That to them was an unknown place and a long way off, and yet the Lord says, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” Thomas with, it would seem, some impatience exclaims, “Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?” His dullness gave the Lord the opportunity of uttering one of His most important words, but there can be no doubt that at that time Thomas showed himself incapable of receiving such spiritual thoughts.

Why was he not with the rest of his brethren on the Resurrection day—that glorious first day of the week? We cannot say, unless it was that his dull and pessimistic mind had so mastered him that he had forsaken their company and gone off alone somewhere to weep and mourn, so that Mary Magdalene could not find him to give to him the Lord's message. Yet his brethren found him during the week that followed, and there were ten of them, and everyone of the ten said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But did that move Thomas? Not at all. No faith, no hope stirred in his heart. Listen to the man; he says, “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe ” (20:25). Why, he was a materialist; his dullness had descended into stubborn unbelief; his brethren were a band of visionaries, but not he. He would believe nothing that he could not see and feel.

Oh! the tender pity and grace of our Lord. On that second first day of the week the disciples were again together, and the dismal, disputing Thomas with them, and for his sake, it would seem, the Lord appeared to them that day. I can imagine Thomas, shrinking behind his brethren at the sight of Him; drawing away with wonder and fear. But looking upon him with pity, and stretching out His hands to him in entreaty, He said to him, “Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless but believing.”

There might have been none others there for twice did the Lord address him by name. He discovered that the very thoughts of his heart were all known by his Lord. The unbelief that was so dishonouring to Him, sinful unbelief, He knew, and yet those wounds in His incorruptible body were the mute though eloquent witnesses to the fact that He whom Thomas had seen crucified had taken His life again. The scales fell from his eyes, his heart cast off its unbelief, the glory of the only begotten Son burst upon his astonished soul, and falling prostrate before Him he cried, “ MY LORD AND MY GOD

It was not enthusiastic Peter, it was not John who leaned upon the Lord's bosom, who first gave voice to that which is the faith of all who have believed, but Thomas, dull, calculating, materialistic Thomas; he it was who was convinced by what he saw, and the truth of the opening of the Gospel was confessed at the end of it by the lips of the last man of the twelve from whom we might have expected it.

Happy Thomas, yet happier are those who have not seen yet have believed. Believed what? That the One who bears in His body the wounds that He sustained upon the cross of Golgotha is none other than the Eternal Word by whom all things were made, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Fellowship of God's Son

 

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

 

There is a great deal of exercise as to Christian fellowship, and surely it is much to be desired, for we have all been called into one fellowship, and that fellowship is the fellowship of God's Son. The epistle that brings it before us is the second of Paul's epistles as given to us in the Word. In Romans we are set right with God, and following on that there should come this exercise as to Christian fellowship, in which we are set right with one another. First, the basis of everything laid in righteousness that is Roman's, and then each one of us brought upon that righteous basis to be together in holy, happy fellowship, according to the truth. It is well for us to consider this very full verse at the opening of this epistle which speaks to us of Christian fellowship. We are told it is the fellowship of God's Son. We cannot understand its character unless we consider and understand Him, for it takes it character from Him, God's Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. This fellowship could not be in those Old Testament days, for God's Son had not been revealed, and men, even men of God, broke down and failed, there were none of them who could found a fellowship according to God's mind. We often turn back and think of them, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon—all of them broke down somewhere. God could form no fellowship out of what they were. But when God's Son came there was a Person here who was altogether for God, who never broke down.

There has been one Person here who entered His life of responsibility in dependence upon God, and in absolute obedience to him. He never turned aside one hair's breadth from the will of God, and always, in every word He spoke, in every thought He thought, and in every act He did He was delightful to the heart of God, His Father. Blessed for us, indeed, to contemplate Him, who was found in absolute and full concert with the Father's heart. Communion between Himself and His Father was continuous. He was fragrant in all His ways. He was always in harmony with heaven. As we consider Him, the path of light He trod, how blessed, how wonderful it is to us! We are conscious of failure and break-down, but what a comfort, what a joy, to turn back and contemplate Him and be able to say, The Father has found His fullest delight in a Man, here on earth. I know He was more than Man. That is not the side I am speaking of today. He was here as the full revelation of God, and He could not have been that if He had not been God. He came forth as the Son to make manifest in the darkness what God is. That was one side: it is the other side I would dwell upon. He was here as a Man before God, fulfilling the will of God in all His ways. In Him the Father's will was done on earth, and if we would know what man is according to the thought of God, if we would see what God's intention for man is, we must look at that blessed Man and study Him, and as we study Him, we know what pleases God.

But our Lord was alone on this earth. He said. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone. In His lifetime He trod a solitary path. Nobody walked that path with Him—He had to tread it alone. Nobody shared His delight in His Father's will. There was no one to enter into His feelings. Nor could there be, unless He imparted His own life to them. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” He went into death that we might live in His life, and that God might call us into His fellowship, that He might put us together before Him, where His Son that we might be brought into concert with Him where He is in heaven, and might tread the path that He trod where He is not now. He died and rose again that He might gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad, and found a fellowship, the life and power and principles of which, are heavenly and not of the world. What could be greater than this? It is usual for men to desire to rise into some sphere or circle above that in which they were born, and if a man is made a peer of the realm he thinks it a great honour; if he is invited to Court, or called into fellowship with royalty, he is elated. But what is this into which we are called? It is not the fellowship of the noble, or the fellowship with royalty. We are lifted above men as we know them, and above angels also, up into the fellowship of God's Son. And the fellowship will not be understood unless we understand Him.

We cannot enter into it in its power and blessedness unless we come under His influence. So often do we make it ecclesiastical and thereby spoil it, and hedge it round with our rules and regulations, and limit it to our poor notions of what it is. It is not our fellowship, but the fellowship of God's Son, and in that, the first thought is of relationship. We are brought into that blessed relationship He stands in, and the first thought in that relationship is love. The Father loveth the Son, and the Son responds to the love without reserve. That we should all most readily accept. But is there not another thought in it? You get it illustrated in the way Paul speaks of Timothy. He spoke of Timothy as “my son, Timothy,” and then you remember he said of him, “As a son with a father he has laboured with me in the Gospel.” Timothy was in full accord with Paul, there was oneness of mind and thought. It is a great day in a man's life when he can change the style of his business. Up to a certain point it has been David Cameron. Then the day arrives when he describes the firm as “David Cameron & Son.” He has some one of one mind with himself, some one in concert with himself. Some one who will take counsel with himself, who will carry out his thoughts and rightly-represent him when he is absent, not as a servant, but as a son. It seems to me the thought comes in in connection with God's Son. Such He was when here upon earth, and it is God's purpose that that should be continued here, and He has called us to be in the continuation of that, so that here on earth now, there should be something in full accord with the mind of God. Grace has wrought in us with this end in view, and we have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. But we must come under subjection to Him. He must direct us, and He is Jesus Christ, our Lord, unless we are subject to Him, of course, we are going our own way—each doing what he thinks right, and there will be no unity or fellowship, but if we know what it is to be subject to the Lord, each one of us, then everything becomes simple. It is instructive, in this epistle to the Corinthians, to see how the Lordship of Christ is pressed. We have the Lord's table in chapter 10, we have the Lord's Supper in chapter 11, we have the Lord as the one Administrator in the twelfth, and the fourteenth closes with words something like this, “It any man among you thinketh himself to be spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things we write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” We must all own His Lordship. But how may we know where and how He will direct its? We get it in the Word, the things written therein are the commandments of the Lord. We have also spiritual sensibilities. It is a very blessed thing that, having received the Spirit and the divine nature, we have spiritual sensibilities, and these are developed by the Spirit who dwells in us, and they answer to the Word of the Lord, and when we hear the Word these spiritual sensibilities, if we are in a good spiritual state, and not carnal like the Corinthians, answer to the Word, and blessed indeed it is, when we find ourselves desiring, not only to hear the Word, but to do it. But we must be subject to the Lord Christ, as the One raised up from the dead and exalted, and now the great Administrator, the One in the place of authority, the One to whom we have bowed, the One whom we own as our Lord, and from whom we may draw all the grace and guidance we need in this fellowship which is His.

These first three chapters of 1 Corinthians are helpful. In chapter 1 towards the end, we get the basis upon which we stand and are kept in this blessed fellowship to which God has called us. You get the cross of Christ brought before us. The cross of Christ in that character of it that removes all that that cannot be built in and fitted in to this fellowship The cross is the condemnation and removal of the material that won't do for God. So we find no flesh should glory in His presence. Flesh brings in discord, for its root principle is self-exaltation, it glories in its own distinction and powers, every man against another. It does not give glory to God, it wants it all for itself. But we are to glory in the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ is that in which we see the power and wisdom of God, and by the cross God has brought to an end the wisdom of the wise and everything in which men can boast. One way in which the flesh showed itself at Corinth was in the formation of parties and the boasting in leaders, and this is a subtle snare, more destructive to fellowship than what is flagrant and gross.

We must glory in the Lord, then, with one heart and voice, we show what fellowship is. And that we might glory in Him, we are told what He is made unto us God has made Him to be to us who are in and are of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Everything we need is in Christ. Blessed things these are, they cover everything we need as before God. The cross of Christ is the basis of it all. It brings us together onto common ground. Suppose the most learned man in the land comes into this fellowship, he comes in in the same way as the most illiterate man, and the cross is the end of all he can boast in as of the flesh. And he gets something better than he could bring. We are now in something greater and better and more glorious than the best man has got. It is the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and He is the Administrator to us of what God is as well as the pattern to us as to what the fellowship is.

Then the power comes out in chapter 2. The Spirit has been given, and in connection with the Spirit of God we have the subject matter of our fellowship—the Spirit of God has come to show unto us the things of God, these things are not understood by the natural man. The natural man understandeth not the things of God. He cannot enter into this fellowship. That is why we have so much Modernism today. It is the natural man boastfully claiming that he can find out the things of God. Man thinks he can by searching find out God. He won't receive God's revelation to him. He won't take the place of a little child: He won't acknowledge that if he is to know God, God must reveal Himself.

It is not here man's mind investigating, he has his own sphere in which he may pursue his investigations, but in the sphere of God's things there must be revelation, and the Spirit of God reveals to us what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and what has never entered into the heart of man. But these things, the things that God hath prepared for those that love Him, He reveals them to us by His Spirit, for “the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” And the power of the fellowship, and the intelligence by which we understand the substance of it, is in the Spirit of God, the cross of Christ is the basis of it—the death of that blessed Person, the Son of God, who laid down His life for us, that is the basis, the intelligence and the power of it is the Holy Spirit

When we come to chapter 3 we find it is all for God. Ye are God's building, ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's temple. Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. What a blessed thing to know the Son of God was here and He was all for God! What joy, what delight, what wealth for God in that blessed life! And the devil was determined to get rid of it, and he worked upon men, until in a frenzy of passion they took that blessed Person and put Him to shame and crucified Him, and at last He lay in the silent tomb. Did the devil think he had got rid of what pleased God, and that He would never again have anything of that sort on earth? Did the devil think he had banished from this world everything for God? 1 Corinthians 3 shows us there is a continuation of that blessed life in which everything was for God, now, and you and I, beloved saints of God, are brought into this fellowship that God might have His delight in us. Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. In His wisdom, God having baffled all the force of the devil, and all the subtlety and the wisdom of the devil, has something on earth in which He can find His delight—the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. A spiritual condition is necessary on our part if we are to live and act together in fellowship, as partners together in the things of God. He would put us in concert one with another, but we cannot be in concert one with another unless we are in concert with God, and we cannot be in concert with God unless we are subject to the Lord. His mind must control us. As we are put into concert with the Lord we shall be in concert one with another, and not only will God's heart be delighted, but we shall know the power and the blessedness and the joy of the fellowship into which we have been called.

We look on Christendom and see numberless fellowships and much failure, and we are apt to get discouraged, to have the heart taken out of us, and say, Well, is it any use any longer seeking to walk in fellowship according to the truth? But we have this for our confidence and encouragement that God is faithful. We may have failed; we may have broken down, and with shame of face we have to confess that breakdown is everywhere, but God is faithful, and, beloved saints of God, the God of Pentecost, the God that Paul knew, the God of the Ephesian epistle, is the God who abides today in His mighty resources, and those resources are in Jesus Christ, our Lord Himself, and we may turn to Him and find His resources to be enough for us. He has not abandoned His present purpose for us, and we should not abandon it either.

The Lord grant that we may be content to learn of Him, God's Son, and be subject to Him, Jesus Christ our Lord, and then we shall walk together in happy fellowship.

The Full Assurance of Salvation

 

Is it possible for a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ to have full assurance of salvation?

It is and there are at least three reasons why doubts and fears as to this should be for ever banished from the mind of one who truly believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. They are (1) The greatness of the Saviour, (2) His resurrection from the dead, and (3) The testimony of God in His Word.

 

(1) THE GREATNESS OF THE SAVIOUR.

If an angel, even the greatest of them, had come to save sinners, we might well have had doubts as to the results, for an angel is but a creature and could not have measured the infinite demands of God's justice in order to satisfy them nor could we have been sure that his power would be sufficient to overthrow the dominion of the devil and death, in order to set sinners free from them. But God did not send an angel, He sent His Son. “Herein is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God knew the greatness of the work, and He sent the only One who was able to do it; so that we may joy. If the Son of God has taken up our cause we may fear no more, for He will carry it through to a successful issue. He cannot fail, and if He is my Saviour my salvation is eternal.

Think of the greatness of this Person. It is written of Him: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3). He is the almighty and eternal Word, the Creator of worlds. It was He who became flesh and “dwelt among us,” (v. 14), and to Him John the Baptist pointed saying, “Behold the Lamb of God” (v. 29). He only could tell the greatness of our sin against God and expiate it. He only could know to the full the demands of God's justice and satisfy them. He only could grapple with the power of death and overthrow it. All this He has done. To His Name be eternal praise!

How glorious is the light that breaks upon the soul when the greatness of the Saviour dawns upon it. Hope sure and certain drives dark despair from out the heart and fills it with gratitude and praise! Yes, we may have full assurance of salvation because of the greatness of the Saviour.

 

(2) GOD HAS RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD.

The Scripture says: “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17), so that the resurrection of Christ becomes a question of vital importance to us. If God has not raised Christ from the dead, it means that He has failed in His mission to earth. Sin has proved itself stronger than He; the work too great for Him; the judgment of God heavier than He could bear. If He has not been raised from the dead the devil has triumphed, and there is no Saviour. We are yet in our sins, with nothing before us but a hopeless and woeful eternity. But Christ is risen . God has raised Him, and His resurrection is the proof that God has been glorified, and His righteousness vindicated, sin has been atoned for, the work of redemption accomplished, Satan defeated, and that salvation—full, free and eternal—has been secured for guilty men.

The resurrection of Jesus is God's seal upon His finished work; His divine and immutable attestation of the absolute perfection and atoning value of His sacrifice. That work was done for us, ungodly sinners, for “Christ died for the ungodly.” He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” ( Rom. 4:5-5:1). We may have full assurance of salvation because our Substitute is now clear of all the judgment which was ours, having borne it for us. “ God hath raised Him from the dead ”

 

(3) THE INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD.

In the Word of God we have reliable authority upon which to base our confidence. What it states must abide eternally true; it is as stable and unchanging as the throne of God. In the Word of God we have the testimony of God as to the greatness of Christ and the completeness of His work. He tells us that it was for sinners that Jesus died, and we believe it because He says it. He tells us that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin, and we believe it because He says it. He tells us that Christ is risen from the dead and that through His name the forgiveness of sins is preached to men, and we believe it because He says it.

But God also tells that “By Him [Christ Jesus] all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:39), and we must believe this also because God says it. If we can say that we receive God's testimony to Christ and His work, and that He is our only hope and trust, we are amongst the “all who believe,” and God declares that they “are justified from all things,” and we may have full assurance as to this because God says it.

“The Glory of God and Jesus”

 

“ But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God ” (Acts 7:55).

“The glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”, and a man upon earth full of the Holy Ghost, unafraid of that glory and in living union with the Man exalted there — this was the revelation of an entirely new order of things, a heavenly order of things, which can only be known on earth by the Holy Ghost who has come from that glory. Let us diligently seek to understand this — and it is only by the teaching of the Holy Ghost that we can understand it — then we shall understand Paul's gospel and “the mystery” of it (see Eph. 6:19; Col. 1:25-27).

The truth of the assembly, the body of Christ upon earth, really commences with this that Stephen saw. His eyes were turned away from the world; he probably never was held by the gross things in it, but he had had his part in the religious side of it; but now we see him separated from it, the temple, the priests, the learned leaders of the Jewish system, all have faded from his view; even an earthly kingdom with the divine Messiah at its head is surpassed and entirely eclipsed by that which now enthrals him — the glory of God, and a Man at the right hand of God. This wonderful revelation is the more arresting in that the Man who could stand at God's right hand, in the presence of that glory before which the highest angels fall prostrate with covered faces, was the One whom the world had judged to be only worthy of a malefactor's cross, but it is not that which we wish to emphasize here. It is the fact of the glory of God and Man being in absolute consonance. We know that that Man was “Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever” ( Rom. 9:5), but that is not the point of this passage. The Lord is spoken of by His personal human name. It was JESUS whom Stephen saw, the One who was born in the manger at Bethlehem , who died upon the cross of Calvary , who was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, and who had ascended bodily to that glory. He was and is for ever absolutely agreeable to that glory, nay, altogether necessary to it, and that this might be known the heavens were opened, and Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, saw by the power of the Spirit that to which he had to bear witness ere he died, and that which was to be the beginning and body of all Paul's ministry. The glory of God has found a Man; apart from this the purpose of the glory in regard to men could never have been fulfilled, and itself must have remained hidden from the universe for ever. That Man is Jesus, who loved us and died for our sins, and consequently we cannot be indifferent to this great fact. Our hearts are glad because of what this means for our Saviour; we have often considered Him as the despised and rejected of men, “the shame of the cross and Jesus” we often think of together, but now it is “the glory of God and Jesus”; we cannot but be glad and rejoice as we consider this.

This is only one side of the new order of things which here comes to light, and yet we must dwell further upon it, for everything takes character from it. We must not confine our thoughts of the glory of God to the place of exaltation into which Jesus has gone, that is described as “the right hand of God”; there is much more in the expression than the thought of locality. It is the shining out of what God is in His very nature. The expression has its own special significance. Moses desired to see the glory of God, but the time had not then come for it, though God gave to His servant a partial revelation of it, proclaiming His name as merciful and gracious.

These two qualities are an integral part of that glory, as the prominent place that they occupy in the Epistle to the Ephesians proves; but the glory of God — the full display of His nature and ways — could not be revealed until He had a Man in whom it could shine forth and who could maintain it in all its radiance, undimmed and untarnished by any failure for ever. That God has secured this now is proved beyond doubt by the fact that He has thrown open the heavens and shown to us “the glory of God and Jesus”.

The other side of this new order is more surprising and, perhaps, more difficult to grasp, but just as real and true. It is that the Holy Ghost has come down from the exalted Man, our Lord, bringing with Him the full knowledge of the glory of God, for He is the Spirit of that glory, and that He now indwells believers on the earth and unites them in a vital union with Christ who is exalted at the right hand of God. Stephen is a pattern of this, for he was not only a witness to what his divinely-anointed eyes beheld, but he became descriptive of Christ in the midst of the most adverse circumstances. It was not in the fact that his face shone like an angel's that he was descriptive of Christ, for the glory of an angel is not the glory of God, and his face shone in this manner before he looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus; but it was in that most wonderful grace that made him pray with his last breath, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”. Thus was the life of Jesus made manifest in his mortal flesh. But this could not have been had he not been a member of the body of Christ, and he could not have been that had not the Holy Spirit come from Christ to make him so. What else but Christ, morally, could the Holy Ghost bring from heaven? Nothing. What other business has He but the displacement of self and the forming of Christ in the lives of those whom He indwells? None. And Stephen is the pattern of it. In him we see a man upon earth brought into perfect accord with the glory of God, and this not only in the fact that the glory of God and Jesus filled his eyes objectively, but that the life of Jesus was formed in Him subjectively, and manifested itself practically in the very world out of which Jesus had been cast.

Stephen may have been an amiable man or the reverse, it matters not; what he may have been naturally had no place here; he was full of the Holy Ghost, and Stephen was displaced and Christ shone out. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Beholding the glory of the Lord he was transfigured into the same image.

But the Holy Spirit who filled Stephen did not dwell exclusively in him. He dwelt in Stephen because he was a member of the body of Christ on earth, and every believer in the exalted Lord Jesus is equally a member of the body of Christ; and, consequently, the Holy Ghost dwells in each and all. And the body is to be descriptive of Christ. This is the great theme of the Epistle to the Colossians, and to this end we who “were sometime alienated and enemies in our minds by wicked works, now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present us holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (Col. 1:21-22), i.e., in the presence of that glory we are as Christ is, for we are part of Him, and He is in us as His members, and consequently we are to be as He is in the place where He is not. Nothing in which men can boast or contribute can help the body of Christ. The best that man can produce belongs to the world that is passing away, for the glory of man is as the flower of the field. But the assembly, which is His body, has its origin in and takes its character from the glory of God; the Man who is entirely agreeable to that glory is its Head and life; and the Holy Ghost who has come from that glory is its unwearied power. And we are looking for the glorious day when the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church will be finished, and when it, as the holy city, shall descend out of heaven from God, having the glory of God (Rev. 21:10-11). That which she will be then, when her light shines forth like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal, is being formed in her now by the Holy Ghost. She is being fashioned according to the glory of God and the Man who is at the right hand of God, and while failure proclaims itself wherever the eye turns in that which professes the name of Christ on earth, there is no failure in this work of the Spirit; and there shall yet be displayed to the universe the triumph of God in His counsels of blessing, and He shall have glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

The Honour That Comes From God

 

When a man is raised to the peerage by the King, we may be sure that he has shown his fitness for the honour by some distinguished public service, and also that he has the means to maintain the dignity of the title . A chimney sweep might be a most honourable man, but if he were made a peer of the realm he would be the butt of a thousand jests. It could not be done. His lack of means and general unfitness for that position would make it impossible.

God bestows high honour upon men. There are people in this world who have received from Him “the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:5), and they can rejoice in those moving words, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). And nobody will question the fact that the honour that God bestows must be greater than any that the greatest of Kings can give, for God's gifts are for ever.

But who are they, to whom they are given? Not to “many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (1 Cor. 1:26). There have been some from these exalted ranks, but they have been the first and most ready to own that they had no claim at all to such distinction. There is a grand song in the Old Testament composed and sung by a Spirit-inspired woman, who knew something about the ways and grace of God, which answers the question. She sang, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Sam. 2:8). Mary, the mother of our Lord, had learnt the same great truth, when she said, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree ” (Luke 1:52). This is God's way and it magnifies His grace, it is such as these that He blesses.

But if God takes up those that have neither claim nor fitness for the exalted place and relationship in which He puts them, is He indifferent as to how they conduct themselves in it? Most certainly not. If the King scattered his distinctions with a lavish hand upon unworthy men, if would bring him as “the fountain of honour” into contempt, the throne itself would be discredited, and the peerage become a laughing stock. We are sure that God cannot be less careful about the conduct of those whom He exalts than the King; their lives and ways must be consistent with their relationship to God.

Wonderful words are addressed to them as to this. Here are a few of them: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1, N.Tr.). “Adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Tit. 2:10). “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:14-16). “Ye are a chosen generation a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light ” (1 Pet. 2:9).

The consideration of such words as these raises the question at once, How can it be done? And we answer, There must be both fitness and means, and God gives both. Those upon whom the honour of sonship has been bestowed can give “thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). Exceeding great and precious promises have been given to them by which they become “ partakers of the divine nature ” (2 Pet. 1:4). They are born of God, “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). And along with the new inward life and nature which God has imparted to all His children, there is that which answers to the robes that peers of the realm wear on state occasions which indicate their rank. God's honoured ones have a glory in which they stand before Him—they have received both robe and coronet. Paul said, “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). And to every child of God Christ is made, “Wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). It all might be summed up in those full and happy terms, “In Christ” and “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” or in the Lord's own words to His Father, “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them” (John 17:22).

Now this glory in which God's sons are enrobed, which the world does not yet see is not like the insignia of a viscount or earl, that can be put on or off as the King commands. It is part of their very constitution, and as vital as the new life that they have received; it is an inseparable part of it, and with the life forms the suitability they possess for the exalted place that is theirs.

But what of the means necessary for the maintenance of a life consistent with the dignity of sonship? These too are given to us. Peter said, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3), and Paul said, “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son unto your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). And we remember the Lord's own words to Paul, His suffering servant, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

There are then divine power and divine grace, which are more than enough to lift every child of God above weakness within, and to enable them in spite of foe without to be more than conquerors through Him that loveth us. And they may take full advantage of these by the Holy Spirit that dwells within them. “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8) is the Lord's own promise, and again, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive” (John 7:37-39).

It is right that we should consider these great truths. There is this great dignity of sons bestowed, and a suitability in keeping with the dignity and means to support it are supplied from God's own fullness. that we might not bring dishonour upon the Name of Him who has bestowed this honour upon us.

The Indwelling of the Holy Ghost

 

If you searched the New Testament you could not find a more arresting challenge than that made in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” The challenge is addressed to those who are said, in verse 11, to have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God; and it comes to all such down to this day. Let us consider this amazing fact of the indwelling Spirit, and discover the why and the wherefore of it.

In the first chapter of our Bibles we are told of the creation of man and the reason for it. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The US is the Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are admitted to the divine counsel and plan, and from it we learn that man was to be created to be the visible representative of God in the world; for that is what “image” means; and for this he was to be like God in character, for without this there could be no effective representation.

The great adversary, Satan, looked on God's work with envy and determined to spoil His plan and to rob Him of His divinely formed and well-loved creature, so that He might not be represented at all, and it seemed as though he succeeded beyond all his expectations. It seemed so easy; first a question as to God's Word; then a bold denial of its truth, and the suggestion that God was not as good as He pretended to be, and the work was done. The woman and then the man hearkened to the tempter; they disobeyed the God they knew, and obeyed the devil they did not know, and fell. They became lost to God, alienated from His life and purpose.

As fallen sinners they became the parents of the human race of whom God had to say, “There is none righteous, no, not one . . . there is none that doeth good, no, not one . . . there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10, 12, 22, 23). It will do us no harm to face the situation once more, and learn how terrible and complete the fall was. We learn from Romans 5 that we were “without strength, ” “ungodly, ” “sinners, ” “enemies, ” and from Ephesians 2, “children of disobedience, ” “dead in sins, ” “having no hope and without God in the world.”

The situation seemed hopeless and the triumph of the enemy complete, but then there came into activity all the resources of the blessed Trinity, and nothing less would have availed.

The FATHER is shown to be the Source from whence all blessing flows FOR men.

The SON became a Man that He might bring the blessing TO men.

The HOLY GHOST has come down from the Father and the Son to make the blessing good IN men.

Of the Father we read, “We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14). The Son came in complete obedience to the will of the Father to redeem men from the power of sin and Satan's dominion. There are some wonderful words of His as to this, “The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep . . . therefore doth My Father love Me because I lay down My life that I might take it again . . . This commandment have I received of My Father” (John 10:11, 17, 18); and again, “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do, Arise let us go hence” (John 14:31).

But the Father would have sent the Son in vain, and the Son would have come and died and rose again for naught as far as men were concerned, if the Holy Ghost had not come to give an answer in the hearts of men to the grace of the Father and the Son. His work is as essential to the carrying out of the divine purpose as is that of the Father and the Son. The glorious Persons of the Trinity are one in purpose and equal in glory. There could have been no Christianity, not one of us would have been a Christian, apart from the Spirit. He it was that convicted us of our sinful, lost condition; it was by Him through the Word that we were born again. He showed us that Jesus the Lord was our only hope and Saviour, that only through His blood could we have redemption; and when we believed the Gospel He sealed us as God's property.

The first effect of His indwelling was the shedding of the love of God “abroad in our hearts” ( Rom. 5:5), and following that we could be called “them that love God” (Rom. 8:28). What a mighty change is that from the time when our minds were enmity against God.

Now we see how God has wrought to give effect to His original purpose that man should be, in His own image and after His likeness. We read of Jesus that He was the Image of the invisible God when He was here, and the Spirit dwells in us to fashion us after Him. He produces in us likeness to Christ, and brings forth in us fruits of His indwelling, such as were seen in Christ in all their perfection. These are, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [self-control]” (Gal. 5:22-23). As these things are manifested in the Spirit's power, God is glorified, and the devil is defeated in his determination that God's image should not be seen in any of us; we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us.

Nor is that all, God's purpose is that we should be wholly “conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).

Now the challenge comes afresh to us. Do we not know that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, that God Himself dwells in us?—with the great end in view that we might truly represent Him before men, being like Him in character and ways. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of .a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16).

If we see that in the first instance this is a question between God and the devil; that God has not given up His original purpose in regard to us, and that the devil is as determined as ever he was to frustrate: that purpose; and if we realize that God has not only loved us and bought us with a great price, thus setting us righteously free from Satan's domination, but has sent His Spirit into our hearts that in and through us He might make manifest His triumph, then we shall earnestly seek that His will may prevail and that He may be glorified in our bodies, and that we may truly be in His image and after His likeness, while we wait for the consummation of all His thoughts towards us.

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

 

When Paul exclaimed, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift,” he was thinking of the Son of God given to suffering and death for our sakes. The greatness of it overwhelmed him, and he could find no word in any language that could describe it and the love that was behind it—it is unspeakable—God's unspeakable gift! We have not got Paul's large capacity for appreciating the great divine facts of our faith, and our hearts are not as big as his was, yet I am sure that we have often been amazed as we have considered such a verse as John 3:16. May we wonder at it more and more; for, as we wonder, we worship and grow. But what next? “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.” That means that after He has given “the unspeakable gift” we need not be surprised at anything else He gives. Yet there is another gift which is also overwhelming in its greatness, God has given to us His Spirit. I do not care to put the Holy Spirit among the “all things” of Romans 8:32. It is a unique gift; it stands alone, it is incomparable from whatever point we view it.

The gift of the only-begotten Son for us reveals God's wonderful love, the gift of His Spirit to us reveals that same love from another side. We understand His compassion and desire to save us by the first gift; we realize His desire that we should draw near to Him and respond to His love by the second. I remember being greatly helped by a remark by a servant of God as to this. He said “I would not give you my spirit even if I could. Why? Because you would know too much about me if I did.” But God has given to us His Spirit because He wants us to know all that is possible about Him—He wants us to know Him intimately. I had not looked at it like that before, and it drew me nearer to God, for I realized better how great His desire was that I should know Him, not theoretically, not doctrinally merely, but experimentally, as I should know a friend by being in his company and having intimate talks with him.

Most certainly the more we know God the more we shall love Him. And the better we understand His communications to us in His word the fuller will our worship be. We can only understand them by His Spirit. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:14, 10).

The gift of the Holy Spirit is many-sided, and the side that I wish to press is that He has come to take charge of us and lead us to our eternal destiny—the glory of God. When God delivered Israel from Egypt the Angel of His presence went with them on their pilgrim journey to Canaan, and Michael, the first prince of celestial hosts, watched over them during their exile in Babylon, but now we have that which is more wonderful, for we are in a closer relation to God than ever Israel was, and our destiny is greater than theirs. We are sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus, and we are travelling to the glory, there to be conformed to the image of God's Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Because of the dignity of the relationship and the greatness of the destiny, no angel would serve as our guide and “paraclete,” no less a person than the Holy Ghost, who is one with the Father and the Son in the Godhead, could be capable of the great office.

We do not fully understand the infirmities within us or the foes that beset us in our homeward journey, yet we do feel them and often we groan because of them; they bend our knees before God and compel us to pray to Him, and yet how inadequate our prayers seem to be. But the Spirit of God, who dwells in us and knows every thing about us and all that there is against us, takes upon Himself the burden of our needs and He makes intercession for us “ with groanings which cannot be uttered ” (Rom. 8:26). This is a most amazing word. We could never have conceived it, and would not have believed it if it had not been written; but there it is, thank God, and should fill us with thanksgiving and adoration.

We groan sometimes when our feelings are too intense for words and articulation fails us; but this is not our groaning; it is the groaning of the Spirit of God; and the groans are of such a sort that no utterance can be found for them. Pardon me if I say again that it is wonderful—wonderful! We have an Intercessor on earth, He dwells within us and He knows our deepest needs, all the weakness within and all the difficulties without, and He knows what the will of God is concerning us and intercedes according to that good and acceptable and perfect will. He occupies Himself continually with us and intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.

Look at that mother on her knees before God; she is making intercession for her only boy who works and lives in the great city; she thinks of his dangers, of the temptations and sins of the city and as she prays for him words fail her and she can only groan, her groans ascend to the ears of God; and the stronger her love the deeper the groans: it is love that causes the groaning . Infinite love lies behind the Spirit's groaning, the love of God, full of compassion and tender pity; love that was first shown in the death of Christ for us; love that was not exhausted there but continues to serve us, for the love of Father and Son and Holy Ghost is a threefold cord that shall never be broken.

The intercession of the Holy Ghost shall not fail: it shall receive an answer from heaven every day, and finally, full and complete in the glory. The multitude of God's sons, for whom the Spirit intercedes, shall stand at last within the Father's house beyond the reach of need and harm for ever. In that eternal triumph of God the glory of the work of redemption, wrought out by Christ amid the hours of agony on the cross, will be fully displayed; and the work of the Spirit within the saints, making good within them every thought of God about them, will be completed, so that, fashioned after the glorious image of God's Son, they shall find their joy in the Father's presence who is the source of all.

What confidence of heart and quietness of spirit, what joy and adoration should these things produce within us! May we by the grace of God be more under the power of them.

The Invariable God

James 1

 

James, the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, is reckoned the most austere of all the New Testament writers, and certainly he is most sternly unsparing in his denunciation of sin and folly; but how attractively he presents God to us in the first chapter of his Epistle, “Do not err, my beloved brethren, ” he says. Let nothing deceive you as to this; don't look around or within for good, for the world and the devil and temptation are around, and lust is within, but LOOK UP. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.”

In looking up we shall not be disappointed, for the gifts are good and the giving is perfect; the gift and the giving are one. We have known men who have given gifts, but have done so grudgingly, and with such ill grace, that the gift has turned to gall; but not thus are these heavenly gifts. With them the giving exceeds in blessedness the gifts themselves, if that is possible. “God . . . giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (v. 5). His manner of giving enhances the blessedness of the gift, and reveals His own perfect graciousness.

And these gifts are not only from above like the sunshine and the rain, so that we look up for them, but they are from the Father of lights ; they are personal gifts from a personal God to intelligent persons. And He is the Father of lights. We cannot do without lights, and all lights proceed from God.

Most certainly those in the physical universe proceeded from Him, for “God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years . . . He made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth” (Gen. 1:14-17). We see the wisdom and kindness of our faithful Creator in these lights above us and we enjoy them and give thanks for them. Life would be impossible without them; they bring order, and method and variety and guidance into our lives and he who would live well and long must not ignore “the signs and seasons and days and years” for which these lights were made. The shipmaster steers his vessel with safety if he can take his bearings by the lights in the heavens; many a gallant ship has been lost because steered by dead reckoning. Those lights proceeded from God to guide the mariner over tempestuous seas.

Those physical lights are a parable to us. They speak clearly, for “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Ps. 19:4). They not only proclaim God's power and wisdom, but they remind us that we need more than physical light, we need the knowledge of Him who made the lights and set them in the heavens. This light also proceeds from God. He is the Father of it. All else is darkness. The lie proceeded from the devil in Eden and has blinded the minds of men—“The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (1 Cor. 4:4), says the sure Word of God; and if we enquire as to what that same Word says about the emanations from men's minds—their philosophies and schemes—we learn that there is no light in them, as they vainly suppose, but that their understanding is darkened, that they are “alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18).

“Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the suns” but the sweetest and most blessed light of all is the light of the knowledge of God. And He, “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” (2 Cor. 4:6). God has sent forth His light and His truth. They came into the world in the Person of His beloved Son. Thanks be unto God for this good and perfect, and unspeakable gift.

But more, with God who is the Father of lights there is “ no variableness, neither shadow of turning .” These, I understand, are astronomical allusions. With the heavenly bodies that give us light, there are parallaxes; they appear to change their position when viewed from different points; they act and react upon one another, and as they turn they cast shadows one on another; hence the eclipses. But with God there is nothing of this kind, with Him there is no “parallax.” From whatever point we observe Him He is the same, and nothing that He has created can move Him from His purpose or cast an obscuring shadow upon Him. The works of His hands shall wax old as doth a garment, but He changes not. We turn from all created light to Him as we hasten to the city that has “no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23).

And we have been begotten of Him of His own supreme, unchangeable will by the word of truth, the living and ever-abiding word, which is as unchanging as Himself, that we might be like Him and it—a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. He would have us to be a sample, a pattern of what He would have all His intelligent creatures to be. Not fickle, wavering, unstable, changeable, traitorous, like sinful man, the children of disobedience, as we once all were, but steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, taking our character from Him who has begotten us, and bearing His features, “being imitators of God as dear children.”

We surely desire it, but how can it be? If we are begotten of God by the word of truth we have the nature that not only desires this God-likeness, but is capable of producing it—but how? Does not verse 5 of our chapter answer the question, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him .” And God being what He is, and His word being the word of truth, there is no room for doubt as to this, “It shall be given him;” so we continue, “ Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering .” Why should he waver since God is the unwavering God, and His word the word of truth? “ For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed .” And it is plain that such a man does not please God, for “ Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing from the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways

It is the knowledge of the invariable God, who has created great gifts for our good and gives them with unstinted grace, but who is greater than all He gives, and who proposes to be our Guide through the intricacies of life and to give wisdom and power for the right way, that will enable us to endure temptation and preserve us from the variable ways of men, and to be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, that in the end we may receive “the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him (v. 12).

The Knowledge of Salvation

 

In studying such a subject as salvation it is helpful to begin with the first mention or illustration of it in Scripture because the earliest references to any subject often contain the key to it. Noah is the first man with whom salvation is connected in the Bible. He “prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7).

He doubtless stands as a type of Israel who will pass through the great tribulation and enter into blessing on the other side of it, when “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26), but his case would prove that while he was in process of being saved he possessed the knowledge of being safe. His salvation was not full and complete until he stood by his altar of sacrifice with the bow arched in the heavens above his head, nor will ours be until we are like Christ in the glory of God, yet he knew God, his Saviour, whose word he had heard, believed and obeyed, and whose hand had shut him into the ark before the flood of great waters destroyed the world, and he would have no fear. The point I would stress is that he was safe and he knew it, for if God has spoken, faith counts it as good as though it were already done. And so abiding in the ark and believing God, he was a confident and a saved man.

I should use this story of the salvation of Noah to illustrate our place as being justified in Christ . Noah was accounted righteous and shut into the ark by God, as we are justified and safe in Christ; and we read, “Being now justified by His blood we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9). It may be said that that looks on to the future, and so it does, but we have the assurance that it shall be, for being justified by His blood we are cleared from everything that the wrath could have to say to. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” ( Rom. 8:1).

The case of Joseph and his brethren comes next. Joseph was the great saviour of Old Testament days, one of the chiefest of the types of our Lord Jesus. The name given to him by Pharaoh, when he exalted him to be lord of all Egypt, carries the meaning of “the Saviour” and in revealing himself to his brethren he laboured to assure them that God had raised him up to save them “God sent me. . . to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Gen. 45:7). By the wisdom given to him of God he became the source and centre of salvation to the whole world. At once Acts 4:12 comes to the mind. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

It is important, I think to associate salvation with the Lord Himself. We have it in present and enjoyed possession when we have Him. This is surely taught in the words of Simeon as he held the infant Jesus is his arms and said, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” And again in the Lord's words to Zaccheus, “This day is salvation come to this house.” He was there and He was salvation. I advise young Christians to spell salvation “H.I.M.” and not “I.T.” It was only as the brethren of Joseph were dependent on him and were attached to him in Egypt that they enjoyed the salvation that he had secured for them. They doubted him and so were not fully happy, but when they poured out their fears to him, he assured them that he was their salvation. He was in the place of God to save much people alive.

Thus does the New Testament present our Lord to us He has been raised up from among the dead and made both LORD and Christ, and the grace of God that bringeth salvation is all stored up in Him, whether that salvation be considered as future or present. We have been concerned about the future, but thank God, we now know Jesus as our Deliverer from the wrath to come. That matter concerns us no longer except to bless and adore Him for giving us peace and assurance about it all. But the present is a totally different matter, we need salvation every day, and if we are concerned about this, as we ought to be, our Lord is the answer to all our fears. “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

This is the testimony that the Word of God bears to Him for our encouragement, but we have His own words also, often quoted, but of no use to us unless proved in practical, daily experience, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The corn in Joseph's store houses was sufficient for his brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for us, and thus we are “saved by His life” now, as we shall be “saved from wrath through Him” ( Rom. 5:9-10). But on our side we must “cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart.” Then shall we sing,

“No fear of foes prevailing

I triumph, Lord, in Thee.

O, Jesus, Friend unfailing,

How dear art Thou to me.”

The case of Israel pursued by Pharaoh follows. They had to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord; but when the mighty work was done and their enemies were all covered by the mighty sea and they stood on the wilderness side of it, they sang, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and He is become my salvation” (Ex. 15:2). They were a saved people and in that hour of glorious triumph they knew it, and long after Moses in his farewell song to them said, “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord , the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!” (Deut. 33:29).

There is a great thrill in this beautiful type. God had claimed these people as His, and He undertook to save them from all their foes and bring them to Himself. Let us only realize the teaching of this and we shall have no more fears, for no longer have we to measure our strength and match it against the foe. We stand still and let God do the fighting, and we sing, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Yes, if we know the Saviour who once suffered for sins, “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, ” we are saved and we know it, for God “hath saved us, called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9), and we have this salvation in “our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We have the knowledge of salvation by the remission of our sins.

“The Law of Liberty ”

 

“The law of liberty” sounds almost like a contradiction of terms, and James, “the Just” is not the man to whom at first thought we should have gone to learn the secret of a life of liberty. With his bridle for the tongue and denunciation of so many things that men look upon as desirable, we should have been more inclined to expect restraint and bondage from his ministry. Yet he it is that talks of liberty, and this law of liberty he pronounces to be perfect; it is freedom from all irksome fetters; a royal law according to the Scriptures. This surely calls for enquiry.

The context in which the expression occurs is instructive. He tells us that if a man hears the Word and does not do it, he is like a man who beholds his natural face in a mirror and straightway forgets what manner of man he is. That is to say, he gets nothing more than a cursory glance of his inward condition and never really knows himself. It may be that the passing glimpse angers him, and because he is not honest and does not want to know the truth about himself he turns from it to forget. In one of the very interesting annual reports of the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society, there is a story of a Mohammedan who bought a Bible from one of their agents. After a little while he brought it back saying he did not want it: he did not like it. “Why?” asked the agent. “It kicks me” was the answer. Many are like that, they listen to ministry or read the word, and since, as in a mirror, they see themselves for what they really are, they are ashamed. It hurts them: they do not care to face the truth and make haste to forget it. This is a prevalent and serious evil.

It was doubtless the law of Moses that James had in mind, for that does most definitely expose what a man is; but if that were all it did, there would be nothing attractive in it and it would be impossible for any man to look earnestly and steadily into it; for that is the meaning of the word that he uses. It is the same word which is used to describe John attitude when he stooped down and gazed into the empty sepulchre of the Lord. One can understand the concentration of his gaze, and the surprise and wonder of it, for he saw something in that sepulchre that he never expected to see. And this, it seems to me, is suggested in the way James speaks of looking into the perfect law of liberty.

The fact is, eyes are needed, new eyes in a renewed heart, if we are to look steadfastly into this law and find in it not a curse but a blessing, not bondage but a life of liberty. We have spoken of God as the Father of lights (see separate article) but of what use are lights to us if we have eyes that see not? James had spoken of the double-minded man, and the Lord spoke of the single eve; that sort of eye the double-minded man does not possess, he has the evil eye that cannot endure the light, but turns from it and forgets. The single eye is God-given, and it looks with wonder into the law. “Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Ps. 119:18), is the prayer of a man who has the single eye. He is filed with surprise as these wondrous things unfold themselves to him. But what are these wondrous things? Not the corruption of his own heart; that is not wondrous, but God's character and will, and His desire that men should draw near to Him, and know and respond to the love that is in His heart for them.

James knew as well as Paul that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). He had agreed with and confirmed Peter's moving appeal to the legal brethren at Jerusalem , “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). He could write of “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” which faith teaches that “ye are not under law but under grace.” So that we may be sure that he was not turning the disciples from the gospel to the law as a means of blessing and liberty; it was not the demands of the law or its awful sanctions that were in his mind when he talked of looking into it but the beauty and the blessedness of it as he had seen them filled out in the life of our Lord Jesus. He was, we believe, the brother of our Lord and must have had extraordinary opportunities of noting that life. He probably, like the rest of the family, misunderstood it, at the time, for it was a mystery to all those whose eyes were not opened by the Spirit, but afterwards he would recall it; it would all be brought to his remembrances. He would think of Him as the blessed Man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord: and in His law doth He meditate day and night” (Ps. 1:2), and who always found the will of God, “good and acceptable and perfect;” and he desired that the Christians to whom he wrote should look into the same law and walk in the same steps.

It would be impossible for any man to delight in the will of one whom he did not know and love, and if God were only known in the lightning and thunder and darkness of Sinai we could not delight in His will. But see how James, who had looked into the law of liberty, describes Him. “He giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not” (1:5). He is the unchanging One from whom every good and perfect gift comes (1:17). He evidently cares for the fatherless and widows in their affliction (1:27), He giveth grace to the humble (4:6), He draws nigh to them that draw nigh to Him (4:8). He is “very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (v. 11). All these features are plainly seen in the law, but how livingly were they expressed in the Lord Jesus. We see them in all their perfection in Him.

It is the true knowledge of God that leads to a life of liberty. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” No man is free who believes the lie as to God's character, or does his own will instead of God's; but those of whom it can be said “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” (1:18), they love Him and find the life of liberty in happy subjection to His will, and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them, for they walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. It puts us in no bondage to do what we delight to do. And if we delight in the law of God after the inward man and have the power of the Spirit of God enabling us to do His will, that is liberty indeed. It is liberty to do what new nature within delights to do and in doing it we are blessed indeed.

The Little Negro's Prayer

 

We had been preaching the gospel in the town of Kingston , in Jamaica .

After we had left the hall, and were on our way home, a little negro boy, about eleven years old, named Felix, touched me on the arm, and said, while the tears ran down his cheeks, “Oh, sir, do speak to me; my soul does feel so unsaved!”

“Poor little fellow!” I replied; “we will tell the Lord Jesus about it,” And there on the stones of the street we knelt together to ask the Lord Jesus, who died for such sinners, to save him.

The little negro boy sobbed out, “Lord Jesus, save my soul!” and I doubt not his prayer was answered. He trusted in the Lord Jesus, and though his skin was black, his soul was made white in the precious blood of Jesus. Oh, what a Saviour Jesus is!

I would ask some of my little, white-skinned readers, Have your sins been washed away yet? As God looks down upon you, does He see your heart all covered with black sins? or do you stand before Him made white as snow by the precious blood?

Oh, my dear, unsaved young reader, pray the little negro's prayer today! Say, “Lord Jesus, save my soul!” then those sins, that will keep you out of heaven if not taken away, will all be forgiven and forgotten, blotted out of God's book for ever, and you, and every one else who has trusted the Saviour, will be with Him for all eternity to sing His praises. Little Felix, the negro boy, will be there. Will you meet him

The Lord's Care

 

“ How can the Lord Jesus Christ think of me, and care for me, and listen to my prayers and answer them, when He has so many millions to think of at the same time? I cannot understand it, and it troubles me a great deal

So wrote a true, but weak, believer to me not long ago. My reply was “I am like you in one respect. I cannot understand how the Lord can do it. It completely baffles my understanding. But I believe it and so, unlike you, I am untroubled.”

I was invited to tea with a dear old man and his wife in Scotland . In the course of our conversation I asked him as to the size of their family. He could not remember, and turned to his wife for help. “How many children have we, dear?” he asked.

“Surely you have not forgotten,” she replied, “we have thirteen.” And she knew the names of them all and the names of their wives or husbands and of more than forty grandchildren. She was as interested in each as though there were only one.

“I cannot understand how she did it” says the mother whose whole heart and life is wrapped up in one solitary child. Quite so: but the mother's heart expands as her family grows, and there is room in it for them all.

And who shall set a limit to the heart of the Lord? Every one of His sheep has a place within it. He calls His own sheep by name, He tells us. He knows them, not in the mass, but individually, so that each of them can say “He is my Shepherd; the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. ”

Fear not, Christian, for—

“His watchful eye shall keep

Thy pilgrim soul among

The millions of God's sheep.”

And no detail of your life is too small for His notice. When He told His disciples that the hairs of their heads were numbered, He meant it. And if you will have it that His language was figurative, be it so. But it simply means that those details of your life that are too insignificant for your notice do not escape His.

The Lord's Chief Interest

 

How perplexed those eleven men in Jerusalem must have been on that first day of the week, when it began to dawn upon them their crucified Master had risen up from among the dead. At first they would not believe it, the report that the women brought was a pack of idle tales, hallucinations of distraught women; and yet it did seem as though the impossible had become fact, for Peter and John had seen the empty tomb with their own eyes. What had happened? and if He was alive, where was He? and what would He do?

Thomas might say, “I don't believe a word of it,” and go off to nurse his disappointed hopes and broken heart in moody solitude.

And Andrew, “He'll go to the temple and convince and confound the high priest and all our rulers. He will vindicate Himself and His words, but what of us?”

And Simon the Zealot, “He'll discard us, of course, but He'll strike terror into Pilate's heart and claim the kingdom.”

And Philip, “He'll ask His Father and He will give Him the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost part of the earth for His inheritance. Oh, why were we so cowardly?”

And James, “Perhaps He'll forgive us. He was always so patient. We don't deserve it, but there is a hope. Why did we doubt?”

But where is Simon? For three times he denied that he had ever known Him, and then fell to cursing and swearing worse than ever he used to do before the Master called him.

So they might talk together, until they reach the upper room, perhaps the same in which their Lord had kept the passover with them. What memories are theirs, and within those closed doors they sadly discuss the situation. Then comes a rattling at the door, and Simon, impetuous Simon, bursts in among them, saying, “I have seen the Lord, He has appeared unto me.” That of course convinced them. “The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared unto Simon.” The witness of the women was true.

But why should He appear to a few weak women and to Simon, who had been more cowardly than they all? Ah! light began to dawn upon them. It was just like Him. He had not changed; the weakest and the worst were always His first thought. They are rather shy of Simon and inclined to hold him at a distance, for he had fallen so low, and after all his boasting too, but the Lord had spoken to him, and if the Lord had spoken to Simon they all might hope. It would be a wonderful forgiveness, but it would be just like Him.

While they thus speak Jesus Himself stands in the midst, and that they might have no doubt that it is He, He shows them His hands and His side. Then they had all been wrong in their ideas of Him, He had not confronted the high priest and vindicated His Name, He had not confounded the Roman judge, He had not claimed the kingdom and the crown, or even asked His Father for His inheritance. Why? Because those fickle, foolish men were more to Him than self-vindication, more to Him than kingdoms and crowns, more than glory and inheritance. Second only to His Father's love and approbation were those men in His estimation; they were His chief interest. His Father had given them to Him, and He had given Himself for them. And now in resurrection life He had come to claim them, for their faithlessness had not changed His love. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). But He did not love them more than He loves you and me; it gives Him just as much joy to manifest Himself to us as it did to manifest Himself to theme. They were a sample company—the beginning of His church, and He loves the church and He gave Himself for it. We are part of that church, and have our part in His never-changing love.

We must notice that it was when they were gathered together to talk of Him that Jesus stood in the midst of them. He cared for them each apart from one another. He had proved this by looking after Mary in her sorrow, and Simon in his despair, and Cleopas in his doubts; but to gather them together was His great purpose, and now that they were together He would not, He could not, withhold His presence. He could not stay away from them. They were glad when they saw the Lord, but His was the greater joy.

And so it is today. “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20), are His own words. They are familiar words, but they must not lose their appeal to us. How eagerly we ought to seek the company of those who love Him and delight to talk of Him, not for their sakes only, but for His, because He will meet us there. Love delights in the company of the loved ones. His love can be satisfied with nothing less than that.

Of course, He was supreme in the midst. His love, greater than all theirs combined, gave Him the supreme place there; and the great redemption work that He had done, to have them as His own without a rival claim, gave Him that place; and greater than all, He was supreme because of whom He is. When we gather together unto His Name, it is the Son of God who meets us there. To meet Him, to own His supremacy over us and all His own, to hear Him and to worship Him is our chief privilege and our greatest joy, if we are right with Him, if we have not left our first love

“Then were the disciples glad, when they saw THE LORD” (John 20:20). His own had not received Him, the world that He created had not known Him, He was cut off and had nothing, but now He had a circle where His will and word were everything; and His disciples were glad to have it so. That circle has widened out until it has included us. May we be as ready to yield to Him His sovereign place in the midst of His saints—His own circle and chief interest—as were those men on that first day of the week.

The Lord's Supper (3)

Notes of an Address on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 

The Lord's Supper, which is the one feast of the assembly of God, stamps upon that assembly a wonderful character, and marks it out as being in complete contrast to the world while still in it. If we have learnt in any measure the meaning of it we are greatly favoured of God; if we have not learnt its meaning we do not understand the blessedness and character of the assembly at all. We cannot consider it too often; it is an inexhaustible theme, and that because it presents our Lord to us in the fidelity and invincibility of His love. The occasion of its institution emphasizes this; it was on . . .

 

The Same Night In Which He Was Betrayed

This is arresting, and we must pause and consider why the supper is identified with this blackest of all black nights. Had Paul been left to his own wisdom to give an account of the institution of the supper he would most probably have connected it, as we should have done, with the crucifixion. He would have said, “It was on the night before the crucifixion that the Lord took bread.” But that was not the way in which he received it from the Lord, nor was he so inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it.

It was on the night of the betrayal. The betrayal is the background that throws into bright relief the love that moved the Lord to give to us the supper that we might have it until He comes as a memorial of His death for us. The betrayal was very definitely in the Lord's thoughts; how keenly He felt it we must surely feel, as reverently we consider Him in that solemn hour. “One of you shall betray Me,” He said to them (Matt. 26:21). “One of you that eateth with Me shall betray Me” (Mark 14:18). Then in Luke 22:21, after they had partaken of the supper, His words are recorded, “The hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me at the table.” And here in 1 Corinthians though now in the glory of God, the Lord does not forget this; it was on “the same night in which He was betrayed” that He took bread and gave thanks. There was base treachery in the inner circle and this caused Him the deepest pain. Jerusalem He loved, but it had never professed to love Him. It had always despised Him, proudly asking, “Who is this?” When His love took Him to it to spend laborious days in the midst of it, it offered Him no welcome, or rest, or home. It left Him friendless on its streets, with no place to lay His head unless He sought it on the Mount of Olives . He felt this, and only His touching lament and tears can tell us how keenly He felt it. But in this inner circle He surely could find consolation and rest! These disciples of His, the “ you ” to whom He loved to speak, they surely would be faithful to Him; for one and all of them had protested oft and again their love to Him! No, He cannot rest even here, for having gathered them together He says, “ one of you shall betray Me.” Treachery within was a hundred-fold worse than hatred without, and this treachery was well calculated to discourage and destroy a less than perfect love. But He rose up above it all and in connection with it all He instituted the supper which was to be to all His own, as long as ever they needed it, a memorial of His love that no failure on their part could destroy.

I am sure that none who are truly and vitally the Lord's could do what Judas did; he was a child of the devil, and the devil was in him; nevertheless he was in that circle, he was one of the “you,” and he had received the same tender consideration at the Lord's hands. He had been in that best of all company, and had had the best of training and circumstances, but this only brought out the worst that was in him, and proved that the flesh is incorrigibly bad. And the flesh in Judas was no worse than the flesh in Peter and John, and you and me, and the lesson that his treachery should teach us is that we can have no confidence in the flesh. Then in what and whom may we place our confidence? In instituting the supper the Lord replies, “You may trust in Me.” For the supper tells us of love that carried Him unto death for us.

“What love with His can vie?” “One of you shall betray me,” said the Lord, and the disciple whom Jesus loved seemed to enter into the full meaning of it all, for he reclined upon Jesus' bosom. It was as though He said, “Lord, I cannot trust my heart, or depend upon my love to you, but I can trust Your heart and I can find perfect rest in the love that beats in Your bosom for me.” And the supper invites us, and encourages us to act as he acted, so that we also may call ourselves “the disciple whom Jesus loves.” The love of Christ is not measured by our response to it, it does not change as ours changes, but it will continue in all its strength “till He come.” What a resting place is His bosom! What solace and joy His love yields! and that it might be ever fresh before us the supper has been given to us; and that we might clearly see that it is not a love dependent upon our faithfulness it was instituted on the night of the betrayal — the same night.

This should give us confidence in gathering together to partake of it, and should teach us that the joy of the feast springs altogether from what He is in the greatness of His love, and that our fitness and title to partake of the feast rests upon the value of His death which we recall in it.

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

 

He Gave Thanks Unto God

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

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

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

 

He Brake The Bread

Having given thanks, thus giving God the first place, He brake the bread and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is My body given for you, this do in remembrance of me.” It was to keep powerfully before them His own personal love to them, and in partaking of this broken bread the assembly responds to that love and shows its devotion to Him. I speak of it, when it is done, not as a matter of form but with hearts moved by His love to grateful adoration. In this again the assembly stands out in contrast to the world; it is a company devoted to Christ whom the world despised and slew. I know of no better illustration of it than that of Joseph of Arimathea. The Lord hung dead upon the cross; all the world had followed its princes in crucifying Him; then stepped forth Joseph and identified himself with that dead and dishonoured body. It was as though he said, “The world hates Him but I love Him; the world has slain Him but I claim His body even though it metes out the same treatment to me.” So we, when we partake of that broken bread, identify ourselves with the dead body of Christ, for as far as the world knows and cares He is still dead; the world's last act against Him was to rend His side. We know that He lives in resurrection life and power; but we recall Him as He was, and identify ourselves with His death.

His body was given for us. His love led Him to sacrifice Himself on our behalf; it is upon this that we dwell, and dwelling upon it our souls are bound the closer to Him. The cup also He gave to them, for the two elements complete the symbol of the Lord's death — His body given and His blood shed “ for you ;” “ in remembrance of Me. ” Here is His love, here is our response to it.

 

We Are One Bread And One Body

In partaking of the supper the assembly declares itself to be one body, for all partake of one bread. There is unity in the assembly, and only there. It is a unity of life formed by the Holy Ghost, and by His power it will be maintained until the assembly appears in glory without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Here also the assembly stands out in contrast to the world. There is no unity in the world, it is characterized by sin and discord and disintegration. One class in it may combine to defend itself against another class, but there is no vital unity, no true cohesion. This can only be found in the assembly, for it is still true that “There is one body and one Spirit.” Outwardly we do not see this unity. The flesh and the devil have wrought sad havoc in the ranks of those who are one in Christ; and the cliques and sects and parties, which are our great shame, deny this blessed and indissoluble unity in practice, yet the unity exists in spite of all the outward denial of it, and it is well to dwell on this side and to hold fast to this truth that “we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” This is part of that faith once for all delivered to the saints, and we are called upon to earnestly contend for it.

 

“Till He Come”

We show the Lord's death by eating the bread and drinking the cup “till He come.” We announce the fact that He has died in the world and that we hold to Him who has died. It is said that after James II was driven from the British throne, at royal banquets when the toast “The King” was honoured, his secret adherents drew their glasses across the finger bowls, meaning by that act “we drink to the king across the water.” What they did by stealth we do openly — “we drink to the King across the water” to Christ our earth-rejected Lord; we are identified with the death of Christ, and though men may be indifferent, angels behold us in this act of responsive love, and learn that Christ has not died in vain.

We link His death with His coming again and that coming again is our hope and joy. The assembly is a community awaiting the return of the absent Lord , the heavenly Bridegroom. Here again she stands out in contrast to the world, for that which is to her “that blessed hope,” is that which will fill the world with alarm; that which will be the consummation of all our hopes will be the overthrow of all its schemes and the blasting of all its ambitions.

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

May these things be seen more definitely and practically by us all for His Name's sake.

 

The Lord's Twofold Claim on You

Mark 10:17-22; John 6:66-69; 60-63; 20:26-28; 14:1-3

 

May the Lord deeply impress upon our souls that solemn line of things that has been before us; that we may, from this time forward, as never before, be rendering to God that which is God's. As long as Adam did that in the garden, he was blessed; and all was well. But he refused God's claim—God who had made Himself known in His goodness as the Creator to him, and when he refused God's claim and listened to the devil whom he did not know, and who had never done him any good, then instead of the blessing came the curse, and instead of life came death, and as every man has followed in that foolish, self-willed way, death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Every man born into this world, except Christ, the Holy One of God, refused the claim of God and was a sinner.

When God created man, stamping upon him His own image, He did it with a great purpose in view. His delights were with the sons of men and He had great things in store for them, but it seemed as though His purpose was to be frustrated since man, having refused God's claim, had ruined himself and was found lying under the power of death, a poor, disobedient, self-willed dupe of God's arch enemy. What was to be done? God was not baffled, He had eternal life for men who had brought themselves, by their sins, under the power of death. Something greater than they had lost by their folly—But how was that life to be reached? How was that life to be secured? The story is a wonderful one. From Godhead's fullest glory came our Lord. The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father was found here in the manger at Bethlehem , a little babe. That blessed Person had come to show us the will of God; He had come to tread the path that our feet should tread; and He had come to be eternal life to us. There it was, the will of God manifest in Him; no other will moved Him, but God's will, and there is God's claim upheld by Him, for in Him was eternal life for us; everything that God could desire in Him; everything that we could need in Him—the only begotten, full of grace and truth. He showed forth the path of God's will. That is one reason why He said to men “Follow Me.” The path of life is the path of God's will, and if we would tread that path of life we must see it in Him and follow Him. But there is another point of view from which we may look at this word of the Lord, “Follow Me.” It was the Divine claim. He claimed the men whom He thus addressed. He was here in lowliness and meekness, going down even to the death of the cross, yet He was, notwithstanding, God over all. His feet trod the narrow, filthy streets of those Eastern cities, yet they were the feet of God. He was the Creator of all things; in His own blessed Person He was God over all, and so He had a right to every one of His creatures, and He put in His claim. And in Him God claims men, and all who own the claim have eternal life. He said to the rich young ruler, “Follow Me.” Own My rightful claim upon you and eternal life shall be yours. This man had got many things which other people covet. He had a good reputation; he had riches; all that which made life comfortable and made something of him, but there was evidently in his soul a sense of need. “What lack I yet?” he said, as Matthew's Gospel records. “Good Master,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He felt there was something out of the range of sight and sense, that his earthly goods did not supply. Up to that time he had been moving in a circle of which he himself was the centre, a material sphere, and it had not satisfied him fully, but there was a sense in his soul that outside of that sphere there was something that he had not grasped, there was eternal life, if only he could add that to what he already possessed he would have nothing more to wish for. So he says, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord first of all put before him the Commandments, God's will as the Creator, for His creatures upon the earth, which, if they kept them, would be life to them. Every one of us has failed in that just as this young man had failed, although he didn't know it. Having failed on that road another was opened up to him. “Go,” says the Lord to him, “and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor.” Oh that tested him. I have no doubt the Lord laid bare that which was at the root of what held that young man to the sphere in which he lived—self was his centre; riches were his idol. The Lord did not say that to others; He said it to him. Yet, has it no application to us? There are people who imagine that their riches, or something that they possess naturally, will be of use to the Lord, and if they brought these things and threw them into His cause, how greatly that cause would be advantaged. The Lord does not ask for those things. He does no want them; it is YOU He is wanting. He could give to you a hundred-fold more of all those things if that would be good for you. It isn't that that He is seeking; it isn't what you possess that He wants, it is YOU. Beloved friends, the Lord would put in His claim in regard to every one of us. Above father and mother, wife, husband, or children, His claim must stand; it must be first, uncompromised, absolute. And in making that claim He declares that He is God, for none but God has sovereign and absolute right over us. It is you He wants. He says, “I want you for Myself, and you need Me for yourself.”

“Come,” He said to the young man, “follow Me!” There is wonderful music in that word “COME” The wooing note enters into it and the Lord is saying to us tonight, “COME.” A crisis was reached in the life of this rich young ruler, a crisis I believe has been reached in the lives of some of us here. And the Lord is saying to us “COME.” “You have filled your life with other things; and you have not been satisfied; you believed in Me long ago, but I haven't got you yet; you have trusted Me as Saviour, but I have not possessed you yet, and I have a right to you. Come.” Thus He would talk with us. His words are easily understood. Isn't it a blessed thing that the greatest Divine verities are presented to us in words that children can understand. Why, that babe of a few months knows what you mean when you say, Come. If you stretch your hands out to it, and put the meaning of the word into your tone and smile, it knows what you mean, and will respond if it can trust you. To us the Lord stretches out His hands, and He says, “Come, come, follow Me”—HIMSELF. The engrossing Object of the heart, the Pattern, Guide, Leader—displacing self and every other claim. If we withhold ourselves from Him, it matters little what else we yield to Him, we are withholding from Him that which is His, and our lives are not righteous lives. Once, our whole lives were lived without reference to Him. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. And it was just there that we came face to face with the infinite, the unspeakable love of God.” The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” All that self-pleasing, that denial of the Divine claim, all that doing of our own will instead of God's, brought the blessed Son of God into the place of shame and death.

The young ruler reached this crisis in his life, and he refused the Lord's claim. He made his decision. He turned back again into darkness from the light to which he had come. He returned again to that circle of which he himself was the centre; away from the One who had rightly claimed to be his Centre. “He went away grieved for he had great possessions.” We may be sure that the heart of the Lord was grieved. Oh, who can tell the grief that filled the heart of the Lord as He saw that young man choose earthly wealth to eternal life, and himself and his own will rather than Christ and the claims of God. How, beloved Christians, shall we treat this claim of the Lord? We have Gospel meetings in which we earnestly desire to bring sinners to decision for Christ—shall not this meeting take somewhat of that character in regard to us? What shall the answer be to this claim; this Divine claim on the part of the Lord?

What sort of path was it that the Lord trod? It was a path of rejection; He had to go into death. That comes out in chapter 6 of John's Gospel in a very definite way. The will of God is declared in that chapter. “This is the will of God,” says the Lord Jesus in answer to those people's questions, “that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” The will of God and eternal life are inseparable, to refuse God's will is to tread the way of death. Then He presents Himself as the bread that had come clown from heaven. It is not only that He has a Divine claim upon us, that He needs us because we belong to Him, but He is indispensible to us . Scotland is the land of cakes, and great is their variety, but you can do without them, but not without bread; bread is a necessity. You can do without dainties, but you must have bread, it is fundamental, and the Lord says, “I am the Bread of life,” an absolute necessity to life. He presents Himself like that. Do we know Him as the One who is absolutely indispensable to us. The One, blessed be His name, on the other hand, who is all-sufficient—but do we know Him as indispensable to life itself. How was He as the bread of life to be appropriated by us, who, when we saw Him, desired Him not? He changes the figure, and He speaks of His flesh and His blood. He had to die. The One who came from heaven had to go into death, and He went into death that He might communicate life to us; yes, to us, who had forfeited life because we had refused the claim of God, because we had refused the will of God and done our own, He came down into death for us, to die our death; to suffer our judgment, that He might communicate to its that which was the will of God for us, eternal life, a life that sin and death can neither spoil nor touch. And He says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you,” but the one that eateth the flesh of the Son of Man, and drinketh His blood, hath eternal life.”

It was a hard saying to these Jews that gathered about Him and to some who professed to be His disciples. It is a hard saying today—it was never a harder saying than it is today. You find a great number of His professed disciples here in Edinburgh who find it a hard saying. They don't like the death of Christ as the way of life and blessing, they would like Christ without a cross; they would like a Gospel without blood. They will not own that death lies upon them because they are sinners, and can only be lifted by the death of the One who never sinned. They are saying what the Jews said to Him when He hung upon the cross—“Come down and we will believe on you”—leave that cross behind; leave the suffering behind; be silent as to sin and its judgment, abandon the cross, we will believe on you. We know that if He had come down from the cross, it would be no use believing on Him. What use would He have been to us if those hands He stretches out to us were not nail-pierced hands? Apart from the cross He would have been our Judge, He could not have said “Come” to any one of us. There is no Gospel without the blood. We come to the cross; we come to His death, we eat the flesh and we drink the blood of the Son of man, and we find life through His death. But what can that mean? Well, that which we eat becomes part of us; we appropriate and assimilate it; it is something that cannot be taken from us. Somebody may break into your house and steal some precious possessions that you have locked up in a very strong safe; that which you prize most and which you are keeping in the greatest security, as you think, may be taken from you but nobody can take from you that which you have eaten; that has become part of yourself, that is in you, and nobody can take it from you. But how do we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man? It is by faith and in love that we do it. What does the death of Jesus convey to you dear Christian? Of course, it means that by His precious blood those sins of deepest dye have been washed as white as snow before God; all the guilt of your life-time has been obliterated. Blessed be His name! It means He bore the judgment for you. But why did He do it? He came to do the will of God; He manifested His love of the Father by going to that cross—and at the same time He showed out the love of God to us. But more, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.” That was why He did it. Feed upon that—let that become the food of your soul, and you will realize that His claim upon you presses from another point. He has the right to put in His claim because He is God, but He has got the right that love gives, and the greatest verity that God has brought to light in His universe is this, that self-sacrificing love has got an absolute right to the loved object . That is demonstrated in the only instance of Solomon's wisdom that is given to us—the mother and the child. You remember the story. Two women claimed one living child, one wanted it because it was her own , she loved it, the other wanted it out of envy and spite. “Bring a sword and divide it,” said the king. “No,” cried the true mother, “do not destroy it. I will sacrifice myself, and all my feelings for its sake, I will suffer, but it must live.” “Give it to her,” said the king, “the love that would suffer for it has the right to it.” And all the power of the king's throne was behind the decision to give effect to it. And this is a great truth for us today. Self-sacrificing love has got an absolute right to the loved object. You see self-sacrificing love in the cross of Christ, and He who sacrificed Himself there has got a right to you and me.

The rich young ruler turned away from Him; all these professed disciples had turned away from Him, they couldn't bear the hard saying; and then He turned to the twelve and said: “Will ye also go away?” And Peter, speaking for the rest of them says, “Lord to whom shall we go?” Who is there beside Thee?—“Whom have we Lord, but Thee, soul thirst to satisfy?” To whom shall we go? “Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Holy One of God.” They had watched the One in whom God's will was manifested; the One who was life and health to them; the One whose words were the words of eternal life, and they wanted none but Himself. Happy men!

But if we follow Him as they did to where will He lead us? He said to these people who were turning away front Him, who were cavilling at His words: “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” He was rejected here below; the world wouldn't have Him; and He said, “The Son of Man is going back to the place from whence He came.” He has gone up there; He is not rejected up there; He has been received and enthroned up there, and the question is, beloved Christians, are our hearts in the world that rejected Him, or in heaven that has received Him? Is He our treasure in that brighter sphere? The young ruler refused to have treasure in heaven, because he would not let self go and the world go. We are not going to be as foolish as he was. Our hearts surely have followed Christ where He has gone. He is enthroned in brightest glory; soon everything will be put under His feet; soon every will opposed to God's will be broken and crushed, but not yet. “Not yet do we see all things put under Him.” This is the “not yet” time, but in the “not yet” time, what have we? A cross here—a treasure there! A cross here—Christ there, and our hearts separated to Him, bound up to Him there. We have not seen Him, but we know Him and love Him, and gladly own His claims over us, surely, as Thomas did. The Lord said to Thomas—Thomas with the materialistic, unbelieving heart; Thomas that would believe nothing he couldn't feel or taste or see—“Come, Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.” When Thomas saw the wounds, the wounds that in His love His Lord had suffered for him, he prostrated himself before Him and cried, “My Lord and my God!” Could he ever claim himself for himself again? If we come to that point can we claim ourselves for ourselves? When we come to that point, must there not be this complete surrender this yielding of ourselves to Him. The One who was wounded unto death because of His love to us is our Lord and our God. Here we see His two-fold claim upon us, and we cannot deny Him. If the glory of His Person, and the greatness of His love, dawns upon our souls, we shall be with Thomas, at His blessed feet, saying, “My Lord, and my God!”

What is the end of the road upon which He leads us? “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.” When we turn our backs upon the earth, heaven is prepared for us. If we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the end of the journey, “In My Father's house are many mansions.” The normal Christian's life is to share His rejection here, and that is the place to which He will bring us. He says, don't think that there in heaven there is no room for you; don't think there is only room for Me there. There is room for you there. If that had not been so, I would not have asked you to follow Me. If I had not had something infinitely better to offer you than the earth can give you, I would never have said to you, “Follow Me”. I ask you to follow Me because in My Father's house are many mansion. There is a place there for you, and I love you so much I will not send an angel for you, I will not send a servant, I will come Myself. Nobody shall receive you into that place that I have prepared for you but I Myself. That is the destiny, that is the goal, that is the end to which He is leading; to that place He will bring all who have owned His Divine claim. He says, Follow Me; own My claim; I am all that you need; everything is in Me that is lacking in you—Come! come! follow Me!

May those words, pressing upon us as they do the Divine claim, be in our hearts in such power tonight, that every one of its may respond and say, “Lord, by Thy grace, that is the path for me; I fully own Thy Divine claim over me, and the claim that love that passes knowledge has given Thee!

The Lord grant that it may be so for His name's sake.

The Name of it . . . Marah

 

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

 

It was not in Egypt that the people of Israel had to taste the bitter waters. There they groaned in a bitter bondage, which typifies what a man suffers from the tyranny of the devil before he knows the delivering power of the Lord.

Nor was it on the memorable passover night. Then they ate bitter herbs with the lamb roast with fire, which typifies the sorrow of heart and repentance which we feel when first we realise that the Lamb of God suffered for us, and that our sins were the cause of all His anguish.

The bitter waters were in the wilderness; the sons of Israel came to them after their enemies had been swallowed up, and when they had sung their exultant song to the Lord who had set them free, and when they thought they had said “good-bye” to trouble for ever. Then it was that they came to Marah, and the waters were bitter. This was an exceedingly strange experience, and it certainly needs to be explained, and the more so since it typifies an experience that every ransomed soul must pass through.

Saul of Tarsus came to the bitter waters when with overflowing heart he preached to the Jews that Jesus was the Son of God, and found that they hated him for it and went about to kill him; and that the only way of escape was to be let down in a basket over the wall of the city, an unlooked-for and humiliating experience for this zealous convert.

A Mohammedan priest, of whom I heard, tasted the bitter waters when, having found a living and all-sufficient Saviour in the Lord Jesus, he confessed His Name to his fellow priests, and they struck him with their fists and spat in his face. A bitter trial, this, for a proud Mohammedan who had been trained to resent every insult.

A little High school girl of fourteen, whom I know well, came suddenly on these same waters of Marah when, on the day after she had owned the Lord as her Saviour, her school-mates mocked at her, and refused to allow her to join them at tennis, and left her to travel home alone, a solitary and distressful figure.

But the waters were made sweet for Saul of Tarsus when he realised that it was for Christ's sake that he suffered; when he could say, “I am crucified with Christ . . . the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). And the waters were made sweet for that Mohammedan priest as, during his great trial, a sense of what Christ had suffered for him so filled his soul, that he said afterwards, “When I thought of what my Lord had suffered for me, great joy filled my heart because I was counted worthy to suffer for Him, and I said, ‘If such joy is mine when merely smitten and spit upon, how great must be the joy, O Lord, of dying for Thee.'” And the waters were made sweet for my little High school friend in her isolation and rejection when she began to sing to herself,

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

The centre of hatred, the object of scorn?

Exposed to derision and shame on the tree,

Enduring such anguish, oh, who can it be?

Alone on dark Calvary , by faith, I can see,

My blessed Redeemer is dying for me.”

It is sometimes supposed that those who turn to the Lord will thenceforth have no difficulties or troubles. But it is not so; indeed for that very reason troubles often thicken about them. It is because they belong to Christ that they are opposed, despised and flouted, and find that the world which once courted them can now do without them, that it prefers, in fact, their room to their company. Where they would wish to be loved the most, there they get the most hatred; and before those with whom they would stand well, they are humiliated. The hopes and ambitions which they cherished before they knew the Lord are now checked, and they find that the will of God often leads them right athwart the desires of nature. These are trying experiences; they are the waters of Marah, and so bitter are they that we could not drink them at all, and we should but murmur and be discontented were there not the tree at hand to cast into them.

The tree cut down and cast into the water tells us of Christ who came into the world and went into death. It was love for us that led Him to do it, and the knowledge of this sweetens every bitter draught. As we consider this love it constrains us, and we get a new motive and object in life: Christ instead of self. We judge that if He died for us and we live in consequence of His death, then we should no longer live unto self but unto Him who died for us and rose again.

But He not only died for us, but we died with Him , and if so, what does it matter if we are scorned and humbled and cast out? What better can we expect here where Jesus suffered? And if through these things we decrease and Christ increases, we have cause for rejoicing, and His love is the solace for all. We would like to please ourselves, but God in His care for us prevents this in some way or other in order that we may take His way instead of our own. We may and often do strongly resent this; it is a bitter experience to be held up in some pleasant path of our own choosing and turned into one from which we would naturally shrink, but when we remember that even Christ pleased not Himself, that He went even to the death of the cross in obedience to the will of God, it changes everything. The waters become sweet to our taste, and we rejoice to be subject to God and prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

But we must drink the waters; these things must not be mere doctrines to be discussed, but must become our soul's experience, for that is what drinking signifies. As the bitter experience is real and we have felt it in our very souls, so must the sweetness and solace of Christ's love be real, and the blessedness of the will of God. Let us be satisfied with nothing less than this.

This turning of the waters of Marah into sweetness was made the occasion of “a statute and an ordinance” to Israel, which I understand to mean, that God would by it teach them that He would turn the bitterest trials of the wilderness into sweetness and blessing to them as they clave unto Him, and that these trials would be a test as to whether God and His will were more to them than their own will and ease. And we must learn the same lesson. If we have come under the leadership of the Lord Jesus and He is now our Hope, the world has become a desert where many trials abound; and by these we shall be tested, and the tests will prove us as to whether God is everything to us. But there He will also prove to us His unfailing resources in Christ for all our need.

“In the desert He will teach thee

What the God that thou hast found,

Tender, patient, powerful, holy,

All His grace shall there abound.”

Then we shall judge of what God is, not by the trial but by the death of Christ, the gift of God's love, which sweetens every trial; for we judge that since God has given to us such a matchless proof of His love, every bit of tribulation must be a proof of that same love and permitted by it for our soul's good.

“The Old Text Again”

 

One night I had a dream. In it a friend and I were visiting some Yorkshire villages, giving away Gospel tracts and talking to the folk about the great Saviour. A group of women sat round the door of one of the cottages, gossiping in the sunshine. We gave them each a book and they asked what we were after. In telling them I quoted the familiar words, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The words were no sooner out of my mouth than one of those women, in her Yorkshire dialect, said, “T'owd text agean”—The old text again—and she laughed in her contempt of it, and all the other women joined in her merriment, and I awoke with their scornful laughter ringing in my ears.

It was only a dream, but it saddened me, for I knew well that that is how thousands are treating the greatest thing in heaven and earth—the love of God to sinful men as it was declared in the death of Jesus. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (John 4:10).

Yes, that great love is treated as beneath their notice, and the light in the face of Jesus shines in vain for them, they see no glory in the cross. “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 1:5; 3, 19).

Yet, thousands have seen the glory in the face of Jesus, and I am one of them. “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.” And every one that comes to Him is thus enlightened.

Have you been enlightened, or are you still walking in darkness? What about the great terminus, the end of life's journey?

The Patience of Job

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Person of the Lord

 

The Gospel of Luke reveals the Lord to us in His holy manhood. We see Him there the Man Christ Jesus. Thus it has been taught, and we believe rightly. The whole character of the Gospel bears witness to this. Yet it is instructive and we must take notice of it, that titles are given to Him in the very beginning of it that warn us that though Man, He is different to every other man that ever came into the world. He is the Son of Man, and the Seed of the woman, most certainly, but He is also the Son of God. And we question whether any other Gospel is more emphatic than Luke's as to the divine titles of the Lord. Let us consider some of these.

Said the angel to Mary, “Thou shalt . . . bring forth a Son, and shalt call His Name JESUS” (1:31). He was the true Son of His mother; He came into the world “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), but, added the angel, “He . . . shall be called the Son of the Highest .” No wonder that Mary enquired as to how such a thing could be. The answer was, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy Thing which shall be born of thee shalt be called the Son of God ” (1:35).

When Elizabeth welcomed Mary to her home she greeted her by the surprising title of “the mother of MY LORD” (1:43). What was it that made her address her young kinswoman like that? We are not told that she had heard of the angel's visit to Mary, then how did she know what lay before her? The answer is that she “was filled with the Holy Ghost” (v. 41), and she spoke by divine inspiration.

Her husband Zacharias, also, was filled with the Holy Ghost and he addressed his child John saying, “And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of THE LORD to prepare His ways” (v. 76).

To the shepherds who watched their flocks by night the angel announced, “Unto you is born . . . a Saviour, which is CHRIST THE LORD” (2:11). And to Simeon, the Holy Ghost revealed that “he should not see death before he had seen the LORD'S CHRIST” (2:26). By the same Spirit he came into the Temple, and he took the Child Jesus into his arms and blessed God and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen THY SALVATION” (2:29-30).

The first words that are recorded for us from His own lips, when Mary spoke of Joseph and herself as, “Thy father and I” were, “Wist ye not that I must be about MY FATHER'S BUSINESS” (2:49).

But when angels, spirit-filled women, and pious men, had borne witness to Him, the heavens were opened and the Father spoke from the excellent glory, and said, THOU ART MY BELOVED SON, IN THEE I AM WELL PLEASED” (3:22).

“The Rest of our Time”

 

Let this expression, “the rest of our time,” come home to every one of us in its full force. How long it may be, none can say. It may be years, or months, or weeks or days. It may be brought to a sudden close any day by the coming of the Lord, which is our blessed hope; but, whether long or short, this is all the time we shall have in which to live either in the lusts of men, or in the will of God. Peter puts these two spheres in sharp contrast in one sentence (1 Pet. 4:2). Let me set them out clearly before our eyes that we may seriously consider them.

One sphere means death, the other life, and every soul that has been born again by the word of God will gladly agree with that word through Peter, that “the time past of our life may suffice us” to have lived in the sphere of death (v. 3), that “the rest of our time” may be lived to the will of God. But let us see what was necessary before this can be possible. Great moral questions had first to be faced and settled. Questions of justice, of holiness and truth, of our broken responsibilities and the judgment of God.

 

 

THE REST OF OUR TIME IN

 

 

 

THE LUSTS

OF MEN

OR

THE WILL

OF GOD

 

It was evident that when God created man He had a great purpose in view. The very way in which He made him, and the life and powers with which He endowed him, and that remarkable word in the divine counsels, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness” prove this. It was not God's intention that this creature of His hand and counsel should become a prey to evil and perish from His sight. In man's creation, God's nature and character were involved; the glory of His throne and the joy of His heart were linked up with man.

But man fell—possibly the first day; and how terrible was his fall! Not only was the tempter listened to, and man succumbed in the temptation, but in so doing, with open eyes , man became a traitor to his God:—for Adam was not deceived; he knew what he did; he went over to the enemy, carrying with him all the powers with which be had been endowed; and his race in this alienated state has used them against God. So complete is this alienation from the life of God, that the children of Adam, man in his natural state, love the circle of death, and hate the circle of life! Man in his natural state cannot please God; “for the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” ( Rom. 8:7-8). “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19).

What an appalling plight we, as natural men, were in!—prisoners in the circle of death, with heavy penalties against us because of our sins. We were as one lying under a death sentence for grievous offence against the laws of the land. There is no release for him without outraging the justice that imprisoned and sentenced him; there is only one door by which he can pass out of that captivity—the door of DEATH. Thus men are held in captivity to sin, and held by their lusts in this circle of death, blind to this awful position, and to the fact that after this comes judgment. There we all were!

And there was no help from any creature; nor could man release himself and regain his former innocence, or make restitution to the outraged Majesty of heaven. Satan neither would nor could release him, but by the captivity of his dupes might menace the very throne of God. Holy angels could not help, for knowing only holiness they could but condemn the transgressor. If God Himself did not intervene there was no hope.

Himself, then, must intervene, for the stability of His throne was challenged and His rectitude impugned. But what can He do? If He is indulgent to His creatures and passes by their sins, He is not a God of holiness; if He judges the sinner according to inexorable justice, His purpose of blessing must fail, and if that happened, could He still be God? May it not be that Satan reasoned thus, and exulted in the thought that he had placed God upon the horns of an awful dilemma? What will God do? How shall He bring men who hate Him and love their sins, to hate their sins and worship Him? How shall He bring them out of the circle of death and place them in the circle of life, and be consistent with His holy character? Out of the inexhaustible treasures of His eternal wisdom and power He could fill the heavens with countless suns, but this question belonged to another realm, it could not be solved by an act of power, or dismissed by a word. Justice and love, truth and mercy, had all to be considered. God must be Himself; He must display what He is in regard to the apparent overthrow of all His plans for man. Can He find a via media? Men may compromise, but God cannot; every one of His attributes must stand to the full height of their eternal perfection; His justice must be fully vindicated; truth must be upheld; how then shall love's sweet voice be heard? How shall the heart of God which moved in all His purposes for man's blessing and His own glory have its way? Every intelligence in the universe awaited the revelation of God's way; for on the success of it depended His glory, the overthrow of all evil, and the blessing and peace of every creature subject to Him.

1 Peter 3:18 gives the answer: “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” Christ, the only begotten Son of God, the eternal occupant of the Father's bosom, is He who undertook this wondrous work. A word then reaches us from the counsels of heaven: it is the Son who speaks, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God; a body hast Thou prepared Me.” And, sent by the Father, He is the evidence to the universe of God's love to man.

He came into humanity, into the circle of disobedience and death where men were. In true humanity He moved amongst sinful men—the holy One in spirit, soul and body; just as holy in His manhood as He was in His divine glory; just as holy in the manger, in childhood, in ministry, and on the cross of Calvary as He was when He sat upon the throne of glory and made the worlds. This holy One of God came into the circle of death to open, by His dying, a way out of it for us, and bring us to God.

The will of God, which He came to do, carried Him into the sufferings of Calvary . He suffered at the hands of men, but the sufferings that this passage speaks of were not from men. “ He suffered for man's sin .” Men could not inflict these sufferings; it was the Lord Jehovah that bruised Him when He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. A darkness that no eye of man could pierce enshrouded the cross, for the woe of the Sin-bearer no heart of man could fathom, when from that impenetrable pall came the cry, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI!” From the depths out of which the forsaken One cried, we learn the righteously opened way for us to pass out of death into life. There, upon the cross, where His soul was made an offering for sin, God's love to man was proclaimed in the gift of His Son, that justice and truth might be upheld and that the purpose of God in this to us might come into full effect, in absolute consistency with His holiness. Having suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, His death opened the way out of the circle of death into the circle of life—a way by which men may pass out of the bondage of lust into the liberty of grace to do the will of God. Again I use the circles as setting before our eyes the way out of the one into the other.

 

 

 

 

THE LUSTS

OF MEN

THE DEATH OF CHRIST

THE WILL

OF GOD

 

 

 

 

It is faith that carries us along that wonderful way, enabling us to turn our backs upon the lusts of men, and eagerly seek the will of God.

But let us note the fact that DEATH is the only door out of the one circle into the other. This great fact is pressed upon us in the truth of baptism, which is death in figure. “Know ye not that as many of us as were baptized unto Jesus Christ were baptized unto his death ? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto death” ( Rom. 6:2-3). It is this connection that an apparently difficult passage in Peter's epistle is made more difficult to many by being torn from its context to support mistaken thoughts. From its use as an illustration, and so of secondary importance, it has been exaggerated to the primary position, and the subject obscured by it.

It is clear that in Noah's day the whole world lived in the lusts of men, as in a circle of death upon which judgment was to fall, and out of which God desired to bring all who would harken to His voice. God's offer was to carry them through the flood in the ark, while the storm would surge about the ark which sheltered them; it was a figure of Christ's death. The Spirit of Christ preached this way of deliverance to men through Noah. Noah and his household escaped by this way out of the sphere of death into the sphere of life. Our baptism answers to this. In it we acknowledge that the judgment of God lies upon man; that the only way out from under it is through death, and in baptism we identify ourselves with the death of Christ. We acknowledge that death is our place, but rejoice that in the risen Christ we come into the circle of life. We reckon ourselves to be dead to the lusts of men and alive in Christ unto the will of God. In the resurrection of Christ we obtain a good or purged conscience, for all our liabilities have been met by the blood of Jesus. When we consider the way that God has taken for our deliverance, can we be indifferent to His will? When we see that Jesus suffered for us that He might bring us to God, can we any longer live unto the lusts of men? Do not our hearts answer, “The time past of our lives must suffice” for that.

We have received a new life and nature, and power for the sphere of life into which God has brought us. Through death we have been brought into the circle of life, in association with Christ, in peace with God, while we wait in hope of the glory with Him.

How wonderful are God's ways; how unsearchable His wisdom! He has brought us to Himself in Christ after He had made expiation for sin, so that His ways in righteousness and love have been declared before all intelligences in heaven and earth; the devil has been silenced; his schemes of evil are exposed, and every created intelligence will be compelled to acknowledge the excellence and glory of God's resources in His Son, and bow the knee to Him. Thus, He will fulfil every purpose of His love and find His full delight in the sons of men who shall be brought to Him in full conformity to His own Son, as the First-born among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Even now His triumph over Satan is so great that we who know His love gladly turn away from the lusts of men to live the rest of our time in the flesh to the will of God.

The Result of Having Christ as our Shepherd

 

“ I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever ” (Psalm 23:6).

“Come, come, David,” we may almost hear some of our friends say, “is it not very presumptuous on your part to speak with such certainty about the future? Would it not be evidence of a more lowly state of mind if you said, ‘Well, I hope, in spite of all my shortcomings, that the Lord will be merciful to me at the last and give me a place just inside His door forever.'

But whatever may be thought of the statement, there it stands, without qualification and without recall. And there it must stand, for the words were not the expression of a pious opinion but were inspired in David's heart and mouth by the Holy Spirit. And if we consider them in their setting we shall see that to change them would be to spoil the beauty of this best loved portion of Old Testament Scripture. “The Lord is my Shepherd” is the opening sentence of the Psalm; and that opening admits of no other conclusion but this: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” It must be so, for can the Lord who is my Shepherd leave His sheep to perish on the way? Must He not for the love He bears them, and for the honour of His Name, and the integrity of His Word, lead them safely, even through the valley of the shadow of death, to this glorious goal? He must, or we can trust His work no more. Yes, if the Lord is my Shepherd, I will for a certainty dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. These are twin statements. A Psalm beginning with the one would be incomplete if it did not close with the other, and every soul that can truly use the first may use the last with the same glorious certainty as David did.

A shepherd is a keeper of sheep, not a loser of them. And if we may say “The Lord is my Shepherd, my Keeper,” He is also the good Shepherd, and we may draw from that word every meaning which it is capable of yielding, yet not exhaust all that can be said of Him. He is no hireling who flees when the wolf comes, but the Good Shepherd who stakes His all, yea, gives His life, in the defence of and for the salvation of His sheep. So good is He; so loved are they! He is good in the sense of being capable also. If He were constantly losing His sheep, He would not be a good keeper of sheep. He could not in this case be said to be a keeper of sheep at all, but a loser of them, and then where would His glory be?

He has declared His intention to hold securely and for ever every sheep of His. He has said, “They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” Can His intention fail? Nay; His word cannot be broken, for He is the eternal God. He has met the foes that threatened the sheep, He has broken their power for ever.

He Satan's power laid low;

Made sin, sin's reign o'erthrew;

Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,

And death by dying slew.

And it is the hand that conquered these mighty powers, the hand of omnipotence, that holds the sheep secure forever.

But further, He said: “My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” This is the hand of everlasting love . Then He added, “I and My Father are one.” Almighty power and everlasting love are one, and they must be divorced before a sheep of Christ's can perish. The Father and the Son are one, and that eternal unity must be dissolved before the feeblest lamb of Christ's flock can be lost. How secure in this double grip are all those who can say, “The Lord is my Shepherd!” They may add with glad certainty, as David did, the assured result of this blessed fact: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The Seven Words

 

Notes of an address at Leeds , 1937 on Luke 23:32-34, 39-43; John 19:25-27; Matthew 27:46; John 19:28-30; Luke 23:46.

 

You will recall the words of the aged Simeon as he took the Child Jesus in his arms; said he, “Behold this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The Cross of Christ is the test, by it are laid bare the thoughts of all hearts; but most of all His own thoughts, His deep feelings were revealed there. We learn what they were by the Seven Words that came from His lips.

I want us to consider the Lord Jesus as He was hanging upon a felon's cross. What a place for the Lord of glory! What a place for the Prince of life! Yet there He was, and for that He had come forth from the Father for that He had left His throne in the glory, and come into the world. And yet as we view His life among men we might well have expected something different. He went about doing good, He was the Servant of their needs His heart was ever moved with compassion for their sorrows; He healed them, He blessed their children He wept for them Surely universal acclamation, an undisputed throne and the crown of His people's affection were His just due; but instead, He was crowned with thorns, spit upon, buffeted, derided, execrated and nailed to the cross. Behold that multitude shouting and jostling there, a high festival for them is the crucifixion of the Nazarene. They have put Him to the utmost suffering and shame that their hell-inspired hatred could devise but they are not satisfied they gather round to mock at His sorrows; they make His weakness their jest. “Himself He cannot save” they cry. “Come down from the cross, and we will believe.2 Wave after wave of that raging hatred broke over Him, the hearts of men were exposed to their very core in that awful hour; but then it was that He spoke. Above the noise of the tempest His voice rises to His Father in prayer. “ Father ,” He cries, “ forgive them, for they know not what they do. ” That was His answer, the triumph of divine love over human hate.

He might have prayed another prayer. He might have asked for twelve legions of angels from His Father, and they would have stood between Him and the hosts of men and devils; but He did not; if He had done, it would have meant damnation for that multitude and for you and me; and He came to save, not to damn. He looked upon that mass of men and beyond them down all the generations to follow and prayed for forgiveness for them, and because of that prayer, repentance and remission of sins are preached in His Name among all nations.

His first word expressed His will for the world of sinners in His second He made known His will for every individual sinner that trusts himself to Him. We know not what it was that first arrested the thief at His side but the Spirit of God had opened his eyes to see and his heart to believe and his mouth to confess He owned his sinfulness and his just desert and confessed the truth as to the Person of the Lord His eyes pierced the surrounding gloom and saw the glory of the coming Kingdom. “Lord,” he said, “remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” He claimed the Lord's exclusive attention, as though he and the Lord alone existed in that hour. Was that presumptuous? Nay, it was faith; faith that was answered at once by the grace of the Lord, “ Verily, I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise . ” And what a “thee” he was; a polluted wretch unfit to live on earth. How could he be in Paradise ? One thing is certain, if the Lord said, “Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise ,” He would make him fit. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.”

On that day no two people on earth loved Him more than His mother and John, and there they stood together by the cross. His sufferings and their love to Him had drawn them there. And Jesus said to Mary, “ Woman, behold thy Son ,” and to John “ Behold thy mother .” That most surely meant, “You love Me, love one another.” And that disciple took her to his own home that very day, and there they dwelt together in love and unity. In this third word He has expressed His will for all those who love Him, and should not this move our hearts profoundly? He has said to us, “Love one another, as I have loved you,” and in this same Gospel we read that He died to gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad. Can we think of the cross and quarrel? Can we treat any of His loved ones with indifference as we stand by His cross? His death is the revelation of His love to every one of them, and shall not we love them also? Those outstretched arms embrace the whole of God's family, and He says to us, “Behold My mother and My brethren!”

“ My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? ” What mortal mind can understand that cry, or mortal words explain it? It is the central cry of the seven, and rightly so, for upon its deep mysterious meaning there depends all the glory of God and our salvation. Why was it? The Lord Himself answers the question. “But Thou art holy” (Ps. 22:3). But was not Jesus holy? Yes, He was as holy in His perfect Manhood as in the Godhead glory; just as holy in His own Person when He hung upon that cross as when He created the angels. Then why was He forsaken? I answer for myself—It was for me. That which we were, He was made. Sin, which is eternally and infinitely abhorrent to God, He became, that God's love might reach us in absolute righteousness. The inflexibility of God's justice and the greatness of His love were revealed when that cry broke forth from the darkness and woe of Calvary . He was forsaken that we might be saved. Oh may we ever be preserved from thinking superficial thoughts of our salvation! I admit the mystery of that cry. No creature mind will ever fathom the depths of it. Father, Son and Holy Ghost alone understand it; but throughout eternity it will be the wonder of our hearts and the theme of our song. Jesus our Saviour, who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

For the first time the Lord speaks of His physical sufferings. His strength was dried up like a potsherd, and His tongue cave to His jaws. Then broke forth His cry, “ I thirst .” Did not ten thousand angels answer that cry and gird themselves to serve their suffering Lord and, breaking through the hosts of foes that beset Him, refresh His fevered mouth with better water than that of Bethlehem's spring? No. There was no answer to that cry from heaven. And what of men? Will they relent? They have watched Him in His agony: will compassion wake up within their hearts at last? “They gave Me gall for My meat and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” No there was no succour from men for Him. Man's answer to the Lord's deepest need was vinegar, the sourest thing that nature can produce. But there was more than physical thirst behind that cry. Why was He there at all? Why should He suffer? Because He thirsted for the love of men. And the challenge comes to every one of us this night. What shall be our answer to His thirst? Shall we pour out to Him the love of our hearts undivided, hearts that have been won by His great love? “The Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” What shall the answer be to that? The world still gives Him vinegar. Oh, Christians, let us hasten to His feet and give Him the rich pure wine of our love!

Now we are emerging into the light. Now we reach the triumph; for from His lips there breaks the triumphant cry, “ It is finished .” Every word as to His suffering fulfilled. He had yet to bow His head in death and His side had to be pierced, but in anticipation of that He could cry, “It is finished.” We rest upon a finished work. We have many reasons for perfect peace of heart in regard to our relations with God, and this is not the least of them; the work of redemption has been finished by the Son of God, who only could have undertaken it. He has not failed. We glory in redemption accomplished. God is glorified; the devil is defeated; we are saved

His first word was “Father.” His last word is “Father”; and between the two the darkness and tempest. “ Father into Thy hands I commend My spirit .” It is only in Luke's gospel that this cry is recorded, the Gospel that gives His first recorded words, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” That business was finished now, not a jot of it left undone, and in the serenity and calm of that knowledge He commends His spirit to His Father and bows His head in death.

What shall our answer be to love so amazing, so divine? What but to yield ourselves up to Him, and, constrained by that love, live henceforth not unto ourselves but unto Him who died and rose again.

“Love so amazing, so divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

The Source of Peace and Energy

 

“ Princes also did sit and speak against me; but Thy servant did meditate on Thy statutes ” (Psalm 119:23).

“ I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart ” (Psalm 119:32).

The Psalmist desired that his way might be directed by God's statutes (v. 5): he desired that it might be cleansed from every sin and inconsistency by His word (v. 9) and that he might not at any time wander from the commandments of God (v. 10), and he was sure that only God by His Word could preserve him from this, so he sought Him with His whole heart. Yet for all that he was a misunderstood man, not by those who were poor and humble, but by the princes of his people. Notice how he puts it: “ princes did SIT .” While he walked and laboured they sat and watched him. They did not sit in the learner's seat, but on the judge's bench, and from thence they spake against him. Well, that is easy, even if it be presumptuous work. It requires no spiritual power to sit and speak against others, no God-given purpose, no earnest prayer, no diligent study of the Word, though all these are needed if a man is to walk in the way of God's commandments.

Now while these princes sat in the judgment seat they were neglecting their God-appointed work. He had called them to bring their offerings to Him, as we read in Numbers 7; and to dig the wells for the refreshment of the people, as we read in Numbers 21:18. God had given to them this two-fold ministry—offering to God, and refreshing the people; but these princes had forgotten their high and holy calling and were spending their time speaking against a man whose heart was set upon the ways of God.

But the Psalmist was a wise man, made wise by the Word that he loved, and though he felt the hard words that were spoken against him, and felt them keenly, he did not retaliate, he does not seem to have thought it worth his while to defend himself. He turned to God and His word. He says “ But THY SERVANT did meditate in THY STATUTES. ” Wise man, he knew the source of hope and comfort and peace. It was the word that had caused him to hope (v. 49), and that same word was his comfort in his affliction (v. 50). We are reminded of a beautiful New Testament word, “That we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” ( Rom. 15:4).

It is a great stay to the soul of a man when he can look up into the face of God and say, “I am Thy servant;” he will be ready then to serve all, even the weakest of saints, and the weaker and more ignorant they are the more keen will he be to serve them; he will be ready to serve all men, yet be the servant of none. God's thoughts and will for His servants are revealed in His word and there alone, hence the Psalmist says, “Thy servant did meditate in Thy statutes.” What peace that meditation would give him, what poise to his soul! How it would lift him above the irritation that this criticism would otherwise have caused him! How it would help him to adjust his ways not to the opinions of his self-appointed judges, but to the will of God whose servant he was!

His meditation in the word of God revived his soul and made him eager not to walk in God's way only but to run in it. “I will RUN in the way of Thy commandments,” he says. Now God's commandments are not grievous, yet not many seem eager to run in the way of them, and many who do desire stumble and fail, and seem to lack the spiritual power and energy necessary. The Psalmist had discovered the secret of this zeal and energy. “ I will run ,” he says, “ when Thou shalt have enlarged my heart .” No man can run in the way of God's commandments if his heart is narrowed and his spiritual affections cramped. The Christians at Corinth made a sad mess of their testimony and made no progress in the heavenly race because they were straightened by their worldliness and party strife, they had but a feeble apprehension of the fullness of the love wherewith God loved them, and the breadth and greatness of His interests on earth.

“ Be ye enlarged ” urged the Apostle. “I will run in the way of Thy commandments,” said the Psalmist, “when Thou shalt have enlarged my heart.” Fetters that bind the feet drop off when the heart is enlarged. Think of the words, “Strengthened with all might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19).

The traditions of men and their rules and regulations and standards of conduct chill and narrow the heart; it is this love that passeth knowledge, love that never faileth, that enlarges the heart, and the man with the enlarged heart will run, he cannot help it, and he will run in the way of the commandments of the Lord. “ And this is His commandment that ye should believe on the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and LOVE ONE ANOTHER, as He gave us commandment ” (1 John 3).

The Sufficiency of Christ Triumphant for the Entire Need of His Body on Earth

 

J.N.Darby has beautifully written, “ Christ never fails, and there cannot be a want in Christ's church without there being an answer to it in Christ's heart Yes, and how blessed, how full of comfort it is to know that His heart not only discerns and feels and responds to every want, but that His love is not an impotent love, but that He has triumphed over the whole power of the enemy in order to meet the needs of His church from His exalted seat of glory! This comes out in Ephesians 4.

“ But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 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) ” (Eph. 4:7-10).

He once stood a Man upon earth, come down from Godhead's fullest glory to deliver men from the bondage of a great foe. He met for Himself first of all all the subtlety and power of that foe, for He had to be tested Himself. How could He deliver others unless He were able to stand free Himself. In the wilderness He was tempted, and triumphed, and Satan left Him for a little season. Having failed to bring Him beneath his yoke by his wiles and allurements he returned and confronted Him with all the terrors of darkness and death in Gethsemane . How little we understand that conflict which caused the sweat of blood to fall from His sacred brow to the earth! We can only stand by and wonder, but our wonder deepens to adoration as we hear Him say to His Father. “O my Father, if this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done. ”

Thus He proved Himself to be invincible before the whole force of the enemy, but thus far He stood alone, and He had become Man to deliver men from Satan's captivity, and to do this He had to descend into the lower parts of the earth, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone.” He had to go into judgment and death; to meet the great oppressor in his own stronghold and there destroy his power, as David tracked the lion to his lair that had robbed his flock of a lamb; and this He has done, that “through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver those who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14). Now He has ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all things. He has travelled in His conquering might from the lowest spot in death to the highest point in glory, having made Himself master over the whole dominion of darkness, the captivity in which men had been held captive. So could He say to John, “I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen; and have the keys of death and hell .” It is as Man that He has gone up; His exaltation from the side we are viewing it is in virtue of an accomplished redemption and the overthrow of Satan's power. He glorified God His Father; and as Man He fought for men and His triumph has been gained for men, the deliverance is for them, little though they care about it; and the announcement of it is sent out to them by the evangelists that the exalted Christ has given to them, though we have sadly to ask, “Who hath believed our report?” Sad it is that men love their captivity rather than the glorious liberty into which He can bring them.

But if men at large despise the gifts He has given for their blessing, and spurn the blessing which might be theirs through belief of the truth, nevertheless the great purpose of God for this present moment is being carried out, and the gifts are enumerated, “ and He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers ” (Eph. 4:11). They are given for the building up, the blessing, and the completion of His body. They are given, “ for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ ” (Eph. 4:12).

The apostles and prophets are those who laid the foundation. They abide for us in the Scriptures which contain the inspired words. The evangelists, pastors and teachers still abide. How solemn yet how blessed the position of any and all who are such! How needful that they should be in close contact and communion with the Head of the body so that their communications to the saints who form it may be from Himself to His members. The purpose is, says J.N.D., that “the assembly, and each one of the members of Christ, should be filled with the thoughts and the riches of a well-known Christ, instead of being tossed to and fro by all sorts of doctrines brought forward by the enemy to deceive souls.”

Yet while there are special gifts, every member of the body has his own special gift, for, “ unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. ”

Christendom has spoiled everything, and few now look only to the Head for the giving of gifts for the needed ministry to the saints; few indeed recognize Christ as the One all-sufficient Head of His assembly. The majority walk by sight and must have some visible authority to which to turn, and whether this be pontifical, episcopal, presidential, congressional, or what not, it is all in principle the same, and correspondingly the loss is great.

Oh that there might be an awakening on the part of the saints of God, who are the body of Christ, as to the complete adequacy of Christ to maintain His own assembly; there would follow the abandonment of every human organization that has grown up in Christendom; the turning away from every worldly device for the furtherance of God's work; tradition would cease to enthral, precedent would no longer guide, but Christ would be all. What power and blessing and liberty would be the result for all who did this. Their part would be the one that Peter found when he left the boat to walk on the water to go to Jesus. “ If it be Thou, ” all he wished to be assured of. Then he stepped forth out of everything to which a man might cling, to learn that none but Christ to whom he stepped forth could maintain him, but that He was altogether competent to go forth unto Him, He cannot fail us; evangelists, pastors and teachers may fail, every member may fail in the exercise of that gift that Christ has given to them, but Christ the Head abideth the same. Times and circumstances change, hence we cannot act upon precedents, or rely upon tradition; we have no need to, for the power and wisdom and care of the Head is equal to all changes, and every crisis; His Name, His word, His grace, His direction are all we need.

“When human cisterns all are dry,
Thy fullness is the same;
May we with this be satisfied
And glory in Thy name.”

No good in creatures can be found,
All, all is found in Thee,
We must have all things and abound
Through Thy sufficiency.”

Does not the heart stir at the thought of being a means of supply from the living Head to ones fellow-members! To have a part in the nourishing and increase of the body, to its development to the full likeness of Christ! What a favour, what a high honour is this! This is brought within the reach of the feeblest member of this wonderful body; and if these few pages, put together in fear and trembling, and many prayers, result in any being stirred up in these things to fulfil those functions which are proper to them as being members of this body, then will those who have laboured be abundantly compensated, for in this the Lord will be glorified and His saints truly edified.

The Supremacy of Christ in the Assembly

 

If the saints of God are to be gathered together, according to the thoughts and will of God, it must be by the truth and power of God. The truth is in Christ and the power is in the Holy Ghost, and apart from these there is no assembly of God at all.

No one will deny that the truth and power of God are unchanged, and are as able to gather the saints together now as in the first century of the Christian era, and it will be readily admitted by every thoughtful person that to knowingly introduce or be satisfied with any substitute for them is to despise them, and Christendom abounds with such substitutes. This must be displeasing to God, and while He is wonderfully patient with our ignorance, He cannot sanction or give His support to anything but that which is from Himself. God will only stand by that which He formed at the beginning, and if we are to have His approval and support, we must come back to that, and every truly exercised Christian will say, “I want nothing except that”.

When God formed His assembly at the beginning, and gathered His saints together into “the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord”, He was not experimenting, as some seem to think, but He was displaying, in what He did, His manifold wisdom. His truth, sufficient for His saints until the end, was fully revealed, and this abides; men may have departed from it, believing in their folly that they can improve upon it; His blood-bought saints may be indifferent to it, or be satisfied to go on in ignorance of it, but God does not change His truth because of this. It abides the same, and any who seek in lowliness of mind to carry out His thoughts, will most assuredly have His approval and support.

We propose then to consider the character of the gatherings together of the assembly as they are set before us in the Word. 1 Corinthians is the Epistle to which we naturally turn, and the 9th verse of chapter 1 sets very definitely before us the character of our fellowship together. “God is faithful, by whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.

The assembly at Corinth, when gathered together, was not a voluntary gathering of believers, each claiming his right to be there because he was a member of the same body, much less was it a free assembly in which every one had a right to take part in ministering according as his impulses led him. There were those at Corinth who took this view of the matter, and these are corrected by the apostle, especially in chapter 14. The assembly is supposed to bear this character by many today, but their conception of what the assembly is, is very far from the truth. Nor was it a gathering together of a select, or selected company of believers, who had attained to a certain standard of knowledge, or who saw eye to eye as to certain lines of truth, or followed certain leaders, or adopted certain systems of teaching. That sort of thing began to show itself in that assembly, but it was most sternly rebuked in this inspired Epistle. There are those who would make it this today, and who have gone so far as to say that it is necessary now for us to choose our company. The former is the introduction of the principles of democracy into the assembly, and is a challenge to the truth of the assembly. The latter is Pharisaical and sectarian in the extreme, and if possible is more destructive of the truth than the other. The former tends to lawlessness and disorder, and the latter to pride and bondage.

No one has any rights in the assembly but Christ; that is fundamental to the truth of the assembly, and of every gathering having an assembly character. Where it is not acknowledged the assembly is not. It is our purpose in this paper to press upon our readers that the assembly is Christ's own circle, the sphere in which He is to be supreme, and where His rights are to be maintained. It has been formed on earth by the Holy Ghost for this very purpose. Every loyal heart will acquiesce in this, and rejoice that such a circle has been formed on earth, and desire to be intelligently in it, and the more so because when Christ came into this world His every right was refused. The princes of this world, we are told in this very Epistle, crucified the Lord of Glory. Let that title, given to Him here, come before us in all its greatness, and we shall begin to realize the dignity of the assembly of which through grace we form a part, and the necessity of ever yielding to the Lord His rightful place in it.

Our minds are carried back, as we consider this title, to Isaiah 6, where the prophet saw they Lord sitting upon the Throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. There the sphere that bore His Name was filled with His glory, and the seraphim stood before Him, with covered faces and feet, and cried one to another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts”. It is this same Person of whom John speaks in the 12th chapter of his Gospel, when he sadly records the fact that when the Lord of Glory came to His own, they had neither eyes to see Him, nor ears to hear Him, nor hearts to understand or appreciate His person or mission.

As we consider His personal greatness, and acknowledge that every sphere in the universe should be subject to Him, and yet see how completely He was refused by men, how His every right was denied, it must be a cause for joy to us, that now He has a circle upon the earth in which His rights are acknowledged and His name revered.

He has been raised from the dead, and on the resurrection day He gathered together the company of His disciples whom He loved and who loved Him, and stood in the midst of them, showing to their enraptured eyes His hands and His side, which had been wounded to death for them. There we have a pattern of the assembly when gathered together. Was there one in that circle that would have talked of his own rights on that memorable evening? Would they not gladly and unitedly acknowledge His rights who was their Lord indeed, and His alone? “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord

When the assembly is gathered it is a circle formed upon earth in which Christ's supremacy must abide unchallenged, or it loses its character and ceases to be for His pleasure. It is a circle where Christ is all and in all, and the Holy Ghost dwells in that circle to maintain in it the rights of Christ. We read that no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost, and that we believe means that all who thus call Him Lord are subject to Him. We must remark here, that the Lord is not spoken of as Lord of the assembly, which is His body, but as Head to it: the Epistles to Ephesus and Colosse unfold this side of the truth. But that He is Lord in the assembly when it is gathered together is as plain as can be in this 1st Epistle to Corinth . His Lordship is the most prominent truth in the Epistle, as will be easily seen by tracing out the number of times in it that this title is given to Him.

From what sorrow and disaster would the saints of God have been saved if they had remembered that the things that are written in this Epistle “ are the commandments of the Lord ” (1 Cor. 14:37) and had been subject to these commandments. Has anyone else a right to command in the assemblies of His saints? Certainly not! If it is His circle, He only has rights there, and the place of every one whose privilege it is to be there is that of subjection to Him. What blessing, what continuous streams of blessing would flow to the saints if His supremacy were owned by all, for He exercises His authority in perfect love. He, the one perfect, all-wise Administrator, administers the fullness of God for the blessing of His own when they are gathered together in His name.

Those who are called and gathered into this fellowship are a sanctified company. They are “sanctified in Christ Jesus”, as 1 Corinthians 1:2 tells us; and Hebrews 2:11 confirms this. There we read, “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren”; and though in Corinthians, saints are not viewed as the brethren of Christ, nor is the Lord presented as Lord in Hebrews 2; yet what is interesting is that there He stands in the midst of those that are sanctified, and here in the Corinthian Epistle it is the sanctified ones who come together in His name; in the midst of them He is. These sanctified ones are not left to choose their own company, they are each chosen and called of God. The sovereign call of God sets aside the will of men.

These are the two things we desire to specially bring to the consideration of our readers: (1) That the assembly is Christ's own circle, and that this should be owned gladly and practically when it is gathered together; (2) That it is composed of those who are sanctified in Him, that is, set apart for His pleasure, to be at His disposal, separated to Him. All true believers are called to this — they are all saints by calling, and sanctified in Christ Jesus; and they call on the name of the Lord, that is, they own His Lordship. God grant that it may be done in greater reality.

It is not difficult to discern where these great truths are operative in the soul; the marks are lowliness of mind and subduedness of spirit. Alas! we have suffered much from just the opposite. We have known men professedly acting in the name of the Lord, set aside His commandments, and act in His sphere not according to His Word, but according to their own wisdom, which is folly; we have heard them talk of principles and seen them apply them to the hurt and scattering of the saints. We have to confess how little the truth has been in power anywhere; how often it has been held in terms, and how little it has been carried out in practice.

An important question and one that exercises many is, whether it is possible now to act upon the truth as it is presented in this 1st Epistle to Corinth ? In some quarters it is definitely denied that we can: that since it is impossible now to gather the whole assembly together in any place, it is presumption for any to endeavour to act upon the full truth as to assembly gathering. We believe that to take that ground is to haul down the colours and surrender the fort. Jude's Epistle was written for days of widespread apostasy, and in it we are exhorted to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints”, and surely that includes the whole faith, in which 1 Corinthians has its part. Paul's 2nd Epistle to Timothy was written to help us in these very days in which we live, and there Timothy is told to hand that which he had learned from Paul to faithful men, who would be able to teach others also; surely the truth given in 1 Corinthians had its place in that which Timothy had learned from Paul; and if anything that Paul taught, as having received it from the Lord, has come down to us, it has been committed to us that we might hold it fast as the testimony of the Lord, practise it, and pass it on to others. They are not faithful men who faint and surrender the truth or any part of it because of difficulties, and innumerable difficulties will beset us if we are determined to be faithful men; but in this good fight we shall be only the successors of Paul, and the grace in Christ Jesus that strengthened him to this end will be at our disposal.

 

“When ye are gathered together”

Three times in the Corinthian Epistle we read of the saints there being gathered together:

1. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together” (1 Cor. 5:4).

2. “When ye come together therefore into one place” (1 Cor. 11:20).

3. “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place” (1 Cor. 14:23).

It is impossible to gather the whole assembly in any place together now, and this being so it would be nothing less than presumption for any company of Christians to claim to be the assembly of God in any place; yet it is still possible for even ‘two or three' to gather together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as they do so, being subject to the truth, their gatherings will have assembly character.

The first of these three gatherings together is special, and most solemn. At Corinth , it was the calling together of the assembly in order to clear the Name of the Lord from complicity with evil. It was for the maintenance of the holiness of His name . It ought not to be difficult to see the necessity of this at the beginning, and it is surely as necessary today. The fellowship to which God called His saints at the beginning was a holy fellowship, for God is holy, and it originated with Him, and we can form no new fellowship; to do so would be to ignore that which was from the beginning; subjection to the Lord carries us back to that. Our Lord's Name is holy, for He is “the holy and the true”. The Spirit of God who has formed the assembly and by whose power it only can exist is the Holy Spirit; and the faith which we are to hold together is “our most holy faith”, so designated for days of apostasy such as these are. Hence evil must be judged and put away, for even Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Our sin and evil were judged in the Person of our Substitute at the cross, not that we might think lightly of sin and evil, and tolerate it in ourselves and each other, but that we might accept that judgment of it, and be henceforward righteously and practically free from it, keeping the feast with sincerity and truth.

In such matters as these zeal has often outrun knowledge, and care is needed that in them the Word is the guide, and the only guide. Tradition, precedents, policy, and all those things that have so large a place in the ways of men, should have no place here; “the commandments of the Lord” alone are to lead us.

It should be clear that, if a wicked person is “put away from among yourselves”, for any to hold to such a person, is to be a partaker of his wickedness. Suppose one is rightly rejected for evil conduct, or for the denial of the truth as to Christ, which is more serious a thousandfold, though not so considered by the majority of Christians — it should be clear to all, that any who persisted in expressing fellowship with such an one must be one with him, and so one with his evil deeds. 2 John tells us that this is so, and surely all ought to see this; and moreover, those who hold to one who is rightly rejected must share his rejection. Fellowship would have no force otherwise. There can be no neutrality, no compromise in such matters as these. All who desire to be consistent with the fellowship into which God has called all His saints, must be zealous as to this; there must be a coming together for this purpose when necessity calls, or the character of the Lord is ignored, and the truth of assembly gathering gone; and the only way, where there is indifference to the presence of evil, is separation, after due patience and grace, for any who would still “ Call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:19-22).

The second of these gatherings of the assembly (chap. 11) brings out the love of the heart of the Lord . So much has been written on the Lord's supper, and as we hope to take it up in detail, if the Lord will, in a future paper, we refrain from comments here.

The third of these gatherings is not the least important, for it was designed to promote the edification of the saints, and this surely is imperative if they are to fulfil the will of the Lord; in it comes out the wisdom of the mind of the Lord . The difference between the gathering together of the assembly in chapter 14 and that for the Lord's Supper in chapter 11 is that in the latter the assembly ministers to the Lord, and in the former the Lord ministers to His assembly by the Spirit through His servants, and we are not prepared to say which is the more important of the two, for assuredly both are indispensable to the joy and glory of the Lord, and for the edification and joy of His saints. The two are interdependent upon each other, they are the normal gatherings together of the assembly. It is evident that at Corinth this gathering was greatly abused. Unspiritual men thought more of the display of their own powers than of the edification of the saints and the honour of God's Name, hence there is given this long chapter of reproof and instruction. When the Lord was on earth He maintained in all His ways the honour of God's holy Name, and those same ways yielded a constant stream of blessing to those who came to Him. His assembly should be descriptive of Him. Those who are gathered in His Name should bear His character, consequently there should be these two things constantly maintained — the honour of God's Name and the blessing, not only of those who form part of the gathering, but even of the unbeliever who comes in (vv. 24-25).

Let it be noted that though the carnality of the Corinthians turned these gatherings into profitless and disorderly meetings, the remedy was not their abandonment. Instead, the Apostle instructs them as to what became them when so gathered, and we should do well to carefully and prayerfully consider these “commandments of the Lord”.

Gatherings together of the saints of God according to instructions given in this 14th chapter have largely ceased. They come together today for the Lord's Supper, for prayer, for the reading of the Scriptures regularly, but not for meetings of this sort. It is true that there is no meeting more capable of being abused than this; ought it then to be abandoned and something else that man can control substituted in its place? Is it not as incumbent upon us to come together in this way and for this purpose, as it is to come together for other assembly purposes? Is the Lord still the one Lord? Is His Word enough for our guidance still?

But where such gatherings are held, there is often great disappointment in them. A correspondent, who is no mean judge as to things spiritual, writes: —

“If we go to a large meeting [of this kind] we find much time taken up by men who lack spiritual substance. I was at — . The chief feature was the unseemly haste of men whom God never intended to speak. . . The general subject was ‘power'. One almost heard the creaking windlass as with aching back the waterman raised the driblet of water from Jacob's well. Scripture presents the artesian well. What a contrast!”

That such a report should be possible is deeply humiliating, and should cause general exercise of heart. The reason for such a state of things is, we believe, lack of faith in the Lord and of subjection to Him. If saints when gathered together were conscious of their interdependence one upon the other, of the importance of true ministry, and of the indispensability of the Lord for this, there would be more waiting upon Him. Better by far to wait upon Him for one hour and have half an hour devoted to profitable ministry than “one continuous stream of orations all day. Prayer non est and the ministry fourth rate”, as our correspondent describes another meeting of this sort.

What a different story would be told if there were more of that which marked the saints of God in Malachi's day — the fear of the Lord ; if saints gathered together in the sense that they were gathered by God's call, and that the Lord was in the midst of them, that they were not there to act as they pleased, but that they were in Christ's own circle in which He directs by the Spirit as to what pleases Him. This is a matter about which much prayer is needed, and self judgment and confession of failure. We urge upon our readers the necessity of a revival in our souls of the sense of what the assembly is to Christ; what it must be to Him to have His saints gathered together in His Name so that He can manifest Himself to them. We believe that this will only be through much exercise of heart and waiting upon the Lord, and, above all, the keeping of His commandments, by which we prove our love to Him who is our Lord.

Is it not an evidence of lack of faith in the Lord that such gatherings are now only held on special occasions, if they are held at all, and when large numbers are able to come together? Is it not evident that this was one of the usual regular gatherings of the assembly locally, and consequently held as often, at least, as the gathering together for the Supper of the Lord?

We ask these questions that exercise in regard them may be produced.

The Way of Deliverance

 

We were talking together, a young Christian and I, and he was telling of his spiritual experiences, of his struggles after holiness of life, and of all his terrible failures and disappointments. He had been plumbing the depths of the iniquity within him, and had come to his wits' end. His past life and his present condition overwhelmed him and he finished the recital of it all with what sounded like a despairing cry, “ I tell you, its terrible, AWFUL, HORRIBLE! ”

“Yes,” I said, “and you have not discovered yet all the evil that is in you, but at the same time it is wonderful, AMAZING, MAGNIFICENT! ”

“What is?” he asked.

“ The grace that much more abounds where sin abounds . You,” I said, “have looked down long enough, you have searched within yourself for good and found only evil. Now look up ; cease to be occupied with the corrupting cancer of your own evil nature, and turn your thoughts to our Lord Jesus Christ. All the evil that has been giving you so much trouble was fully judged and condemned when God's own Son came in the likeness of sinful flesh and made His great sacrifice for sin on the cross. And now the grace of God has reached you, and He has saved you, though He knew the worst about you, knew more than ever you will find out. And He has His way of deliverance for you from it all through our Lord Jesus Christ. Consider Him and you will begin to seek for the grace that is in Him.

“It is wonderful, amazing, magnificent!”

So we talked together, and at last, with the clouds lifting, my young friend left me.

A few days afterwards he wrote: “Yes, it is wonderful, amazing, magnificent; and everything is changed for me now, for I see JESUS who tasted death for me crowned with glory and honour.”

This is indeed the way of deliverance, and the way in which we are maintained in liberty from sin's power. For a greater power than sin reaches down to us from our exalted Saviour and is effectual towards us and in us as we look in complete dependence to Him.

“Them That Love God”

 

“ Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD THY GOD with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might ” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

“ And we know That all things work together for good to THEM THAT LOVE GOD, to them who are the called according to His purpose ” (Romans 8:28).

“ As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for THEM THAT LOVE HIM. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God ” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

There are no contradictions between God's words in the Old Testament and in the New. His critics and those who hate His Holy Book say there are, but they are wrong, and are as blind as bats in the summer sunshine as far as these things go: they do not understand the things of God. But there are others who are not enemies who are puzzled when they consider the contrast between law and grace, and they ask, Can it be the same God who gave the law in the Old Testament who has revealed His grace in the New? Yes, the very same.

God is the Creator, and Revelation 4:11 tells us that He made all things for His own pleasure, and Man is amongst these things, the chiefest and the best of His work in this lower creation. Great pains did God take with this creation when He made him in His own image and likeness, and He made him for His own pleasure, for “His delights were with the sons of men.” But how could He find pleasure in anyone who did not love Him? That were impossible, and when man listened to the devil's lie, he ceased to love God, whatever he may have done before, and he hid away from God for fear of Him. We do not hide from those we love, neither do we love those whose presence fills us with fear.

What was God to do? It was right that He should tell man what was right. And nothing else than this could be right, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart. ” Every reasonable person will acknowledge that if God be God, and our Creator, we owe this at least to Him that we love Him and honour Him as God. Then for His own glory and for the good of man it was right that God should give to man this command.

But does not the command reveal a stern and uncompromising Judge, hence One from whom we must shrink? No, we think not; on the contrary it reveals surely that there was a yearning in the heart of God that was not satisfied. Would He have commanded men to love Him if He had not loved them?

If He had hated men and found pleasure in their misery and destruction as the devil does, would He have talked of love at all? No, He would not. From the darkness and clouds of Sinai there breaks forth light, and a yearning note of love is heard amid the thunderings there. God wants the love of the people; He commands them to love Him because nothing else could be right, but He wants their love because nothing else can satisfy Him.

But the law produced no response in the hearts of men; they loved themselves and hated God, and so do all to this very day who have not been born again. “ Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be ” (Rom. 8:7). Then what was God to do? Having given a command, He must see to it that the command is fulfilled, or the devil would laugh Him to scorn and gloat over His defeat. Further, if no men ever do love God His nature in regard to them will remain unsatisfied, and that must not be. What then must He do? Can He find a way? Yes. He can and He has, and the New Testament reveals to us His way.

We cannot love a person whom we do not know and men did not know God, hence it was necessary that He should take steps to make Himself known to them. He has done it and that in the only possible way. He has sent His Son. 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). “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), for “God is love.”

How wonderful is God's way. The Son, co-equal with the Father in eternal Deity, has become a Man to reveal to us what God is , and so dispel our darkness and ignorance as to Him—and He could not have done this if He were not God— and to redeem us from Satan's power and death and all iniquity—and He could not have done it if He had not become a Man. It is a wonderful story! The advance has been from God's own side. His love has broken through all the barriers. Our suspicion and hatred of Him has not prevented Him from pouring forth His love in a stream of light through His beloved Son. We have much to marvel at. We do not marvel that we must be born again, when we realize our own sinfulness, but we do marvel when we behold the Son of God lifted up upon a cross that we might have a new life which is eternal life.

Yes, there are two great necessities. The first is that we must be born again, the second is that the Son of Man must be lifted up. He MUST! for otherwise the love of God would have remained unsatisfied for ever, for the only way in which it could find expression to sinful men was by the lifting up of His beloved Son—the Son of Man: only in this way could it be effectual in winning the hearts of men. If there were to be those who could be called “them that love God,” then His love had first to reach them and this was the only way. “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), and “In this was manifested the love of God toward us because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).

God has triumphed, His great love has gained the victory and now He can speak in His word of “them that love God.” Happy indeed are all these. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them. The law that God gave at Sinai has not fallen to the ground as a useless thing, but God is vindicated in having given it. What a wonderful change has been accomplished in us! Once we were enmity against God and alienated from His life, now we are brought nigh to Him and rejoice in Him through our Lord Jesus Christ; and it is our persuasion and boast that nothing can separate us from His love.

But we love God, in this is His triumph and the devil's defeat, and what will God do for us? We may be assured that no weapon forged against us by the devil, who has lost us and who hates us, can prosper, for all things work together for good to them that love God. His eye watches us and all our circumstances with the keenness of love, and come weal or woe, good or ill, as we speak, tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword, God will make them all bend to His will and blend for our blessing. What confidence this gives! God surrounds us, North, South, East, West. Above, Below, wherever we turn, God is for us,

“God is round about me,

And can I be dismayed”

Oh! that we understood it better, then would we greet every new circumstance as a friend, and wait keenly interested to discover how God in His minute and personal care for us will turn it to our good.

“Working together, ” it is a wonderful thought. Here are a thousand threads, but see, they are working together into a beautiful fabric. How is that accomplished? Every thread is part of the designer's scheme, every thread is controlled by the weaver and they work together to one end. So every thing, all things, have their part in God's bright design for them that love Him. Here we rest in our present trials and though we groan we do not grumble, nay, “we glory in tribulation” and give thanks and in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.

So much for the present. What of the future? “It is written, Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Well, that is just what we should expect from God. His is a love that knows no limit, and it can act without restraint for His resources are as limitless as His love. Oh, it is wonderful to be loved by Him, but see how He appreciates those who respond to His love and love Him in return.

The highest imaginations of man fail here, his range is limited and he cannot soar beyond the desires of His own heart, but here we are brought to the lavishment of God's heart, and we learn that He will satisfy His love in beholding us, enjoy what He has prepared for us. He reveals these things to us now by His Spirit: We have entered into a community of life with God, a life of love, and that life is eternal life and as we rejoice in it, in the knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ, His sent One, by His Spirit that is given unto us, we realize that God had nothing but blessing in His heart for man when He commanded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.”

This One Thing

 

“ This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus ” (Philippians 3:13-14).

 

Thus spake the pattern saint of God, energized by the Holy Ghost that in him God's thoughts for His saints, throughout this present period, might be expressed; he outlines the true path and experience of the Christian upon earth. This ONE THING of which he writes should be the all-absorbing purpose of the CHRISTIAN MAN. It is God's pleasure for us; it should seize upon our souls, forcing into impotence, and out of our lives, every other object that might distract our thoughts from it.

There are not two kinds of Christian life, “the higher life” and the lower, for nothing could be higher than this, and anything lower is not the Christian life. We may feel and confess how little we have come under the power of that which can subdue everything in us to the pursuit of this one object, yet nothing short of this is full and true Christian life on earth. Nor may we plead that it is beyond us, for this was the life of a man of like passions with ourselves, who before Christ laid siege to and captured his soul was moved by as boundless an ambition as any living man today. But from the moment that the light above the brightness of the sun shone upon him, and he heard that incomparable voice saying “I am Jesus,” one thing only controlled him, and that one thing was to reach the glory of God, where the excellency of Jesus his Lord was rightly appreciated. He had found Him to be infinitely brighter and better than the brightest and the best that the earth could offer, and he made the great renunciation and counted everything in which a mortal man could boast as dung for the excellent knowledge of Christ. Henceforward he wanted nothing else. Of him in this connection J. N. D. wrote: “In Christ, who had appeared to him on the way to Damascus , he had seen divine righteousness for man and divine glory in Man. He had seen a glorified Christ, who acknowledged the poor, feeble members of His assembly as part of Himself. He would have nothing else. The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord had eclipsed everything. The stars as well as the darkness of night disappear before the sun. The righteousness of the law, the righteousness of Paul, all that distinguished him among men, disappeared before the righteousness of God and the glory of Christ.

It was a thorough change in his whole moral being. His gain was now loss to him. Christ was become all. It was not evil which disappeared—everything that belonged to Paul as advantage to the flesh disappeared. It was another who was now precious to him. What a deep and radical change in the whole moral being of man when he ceases to be the centre of his own importance, and Another worthy of being so becomes the centre of his moral existence!—a divine Person, a Man who had glorified God, a Man in whom the glory of God shone out; in whom His righteousness was realized, His love, His tender mercy, perfectly revealed towards men and known by men.”

How encouraging it is for us to know the Lord Jesus is unchanged in His glory since that day when He so fully captured the heart of Paul. The excellencies that so powerfully affected the Apostle shine undimmed in Him in spite of the lapse of centuries, and though we may not have attained to his knowledge of Christ, and may feel that our purpose of heart is very faltering when contrasted with his persistency, yet Christ is there, the prize for us on high, as worthy of our adoration. and devotion and service as ever He has been. We may walk by the same rule and be undivided in affection and purpose of heart even as Paul was.

We may be sure, however, that the devil will seek to thwart and hinder such a purpose, and if we are to be kept true to Christ, as the needle to the pole, we shall need careful, prayerful, watchful living—this will alone suffice.

We must beware of becoming self-important, esteeming ourselves better than others. This is always a serious check to any advance in the pursuit of this “one thing.” What is the antidote and the unfailing preventative? “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” He is set before us as our pattern (chap. 2).

We also have to watch against settling down to easy self-gratification, minding earthly things, making our bellies our God, glorying in that which should be our shame. How may we be preserved from this deadly snare? Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour (chap 3). Heaven is our destiny, and pilgrim feet must not lag along the road to it; we must forget the things which are behind, reach forth to those things where Christ sits at God's right hand.

Another danger is in being too much engrossed with the ways and means of livelihood—food, clothing, shelter—of forgetting our high destiny and God's good pleasure for us, in the dreary drudge of “making a living.” Let us ever remember that it is written, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (chap. 4). We have God for our need, therefore we are to “be careful for nothing; but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,” our requests are to be made known unto God. Thus will the heart be free to pursue its God-given object undistractedly, having CHRIST FOR OUR PATTERN, HEAVEN FOR OUR DESTINY, GOD FOR ALL OUR NEED.

“Thou Art . . . Thou Shalt Be”

 

Certainly Simon Peter would never forget his introduction to the Lord Jesus as recorded in John 1. It is not difficult to visualize him coming in his eagerness with his more prosaic brother, full of questions, but suddenly arrested and silenced by the dignity and power of the Lord. Of course it was right and fitting that the Lord should speak first and that, as far as we know, Simon had no answer to His words. No wonder he had no answer, the words of the Lord were so strange, and of such authority and so final that question and doubt were out of place. Simon had never been spoken to in such a way before.

“Thou art Simon”—then the Lord knew him, and what he was, though they had never met before. “Thou shalt be”—then He was able also to foretell the future. Who could do these two things but God? Years afterwards Simon had to confess to the Lord, “Thou knowest all things.” His first experience of that was at this first interview. And who had the right to change his name?—but He who had the right to claim him altogether, and had the power to change his whole character and destiny.

“Thou art Simon the son of Jona”—that was what he was by natural birth. “Thou shalt be called Cephas”—that is what he was to be as born of God. “Thou art—.” What was he? Well, certainly he was excitable, mercurial, and in all probability fickle, “Thou shalt be called Cephas—.” What was that? A stone, stable, settled, immoveable. “Thou art—.” What was he? Profane, a swearer, inclined to quickness of speech and even lying. “Thou shalt be—.” What? A stone for God's spiritual house, having part in God's holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. What a change!

Who could bring all this about? Only the One in whom was divine creative power, the Saviour and life-giver, and Simon had come into contact with Him, never to be the same again for ever. I should call that designation. At that first interview the Lord revealed His ultimate purpose to Simon and designated him to his great destiny.

There can be little doubt that the second interview is that recorded in Mark 1. “Now as He walked by the Sea of Galilee , he saw Simon and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” Simon was no loiterer but a hard working man; the living of his family which included his mother-in-law depended upon his labours. I do not think that a lazy man would have had much peace in his home. But now a greater claim than that of his family confronts him. The One who had given him a new name claims him and commands him.

What shall he do? I am sure that he did not understand the full significance of the call, but he did not hesitate. He admitted the claim and abandoned all that his living depended upon and followed the Lord But who is He whose claim is thus paramount, that must come before wife and children and home and self? God alone has that right. In this second interview the divine authority of the Lord appears, and I should call it submission . Simon bowed to the rights of the Lord over him.

The third interview seems to be that given in Luke 5. Simon is back at his boat. That may be a little difficult to understand, but it seems to have needed this third interview to wholly separate him from his former life, and it had its place in the gracious ways of the Lord with him. Simon had owned the Lord's claim over him and consequently He had a right to all that Simon possessed, and now He appropriates his boat and makes it His pulpit from which to teach the people. When he had finished His discourse, He showed that He would be no man's debtor, and just as when Simon followed Him at first, He healed his mother-in-law, which was a great compensation and blessing, so now He gives to Simon such a catch of fish as he had never even dreamed of taking. It was a divine intervention and Simon felt and acknowledged that he was in the presence of the Lord, the Creator. There is no doubt as to that, and the effect of it is such, that he falls down before Him, and cries, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

I have often pondered those words and wondered what Simon's thoughts really were. Of course he did not want the Lord to go away, yet he felt his unfitness for His presence. I have wondered if at that time he remembered the Lord's first words to him, and feeling that they meant something very great, and realizing his utter sinfulness, and perhaps his neglect of the Lord's earlier call, he means, “It is no use, Lord, I am so sinful such impossible material, you can make nothing of me, leave me to myself.” It may be so, and if Simon was anything like me and you, such a thought must at some time have passed through his mind.

“And Jesus said unto Simon. Fear not.” That means, “It is not what you are Simon, but what I am; not what you can be to Me, but what I can be to you; not your efforts, but my grace.” He added, “From henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Let a man but own the truth as to himself, and the Lord does the rest. No wonder Peter wrote afterwards of the true grace of God. I should call this third interview conviction and commission . From this time Peter became the constant companion of the Lord and the chief spokesman for his brethren.

The Lord's service on earth was now nearing its end. He had done great works among the people, and spoken gracious words to them, and the time had come for a response if there was to be any. So the Lord asked His disciples what men were saying about Him, as recorded in Matthew 16. They were saying many things, but none of them right. These disciples of His, they too had to be tested and so the challenge comes to them, “But whom say ye that I am?” And Simon Peter—the Peter in him was beginning to show itself—“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Certainly Simon had advanced in true knowledge, but it was not his own intelligence, nor was it by sitting at the feet of the doctors of the law. The Father in heaven had taken him in hand and had revealed the truth as to His beloved Son to him. What wonderful grace is this; and it is just as true of everyone of us, who has believed and owned the truth as to the Lord Jesus, that the Father has enlightened us: it is His work.

What joy must have been in the heart of the Lord as He answered Simon, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter.” No longer, thou shalt be, but “thou art Peter.” The truth was in his soul as light and substance, he was established in it by the Father's teaching and grace; he was attached to the Lord in his resurrection title, and was soon to take his place as a living stone that had come to the living Stone, chosen of God and precious. This incident in Matthew's Gospel is revelation. It is the Father's answer to the Lord's choice; His seal upon the Lord's words, at His first interview with Simon—“Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.”

John gives divine choice; Mark, divine authority; Luke, divine grace; Matthew, divine teaching.

 

Simon Peter was the only one of the twelve to whom the Lord gave a new name as indicative of his future, and no doubt Satan made a special note of that, and watched him more than any of the other disciples. But he does not seem to have found an opening with him until the Father gave him that wonderful revelation as to who His beloved Son was, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona,” said the Lord, “and I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter.” “Yes,” Satan seems to answer, “we will see about that!”

Was Peter puffed up because of this great distinction bestowed on him? It would seem so, for otherwise Satan would have had no advantage. We remember it was when Paul had received great revelations from heaven that he needed a thorn in the flesh lest he should be exalted above measure. And Satan took a hand in that, for the thorn was Satan's messenger to buffet him. Simon Peter was elated; he was neither watchful nor sober. We can almost feel the sob that broke from him as be remembered it, and wrote to his younger brethren, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

The cross was before the Lord. He could not build His church until He had passed through the sorrows and suffering of death, and overthrown its power in resurrection, and of these sufferings He spoke. And “Peter took Him, and rebuked Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee.” Simon did not know that it was Satan who put that thought in his mind and made him blurt it out, but so it was. The man who had uttered God's revelation actually became within an hour the mouthpiece of Satan. And if Simon, so highly favoured, fell so soon through unwatchfulness and pride of heart, what need there is for us to be sober and vigilant. We realize, as we consider it, the need of the exhortation that he gives us.

The Lord knew from whence the attack came and exposed it. He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” The latter half of that saying was probably for Peter very specially. He had not learnt then that the way, the only way, of glory to God and blessing for men was by the suffering of the cross. He learnt it, afterwards, so that his Epistles are full of the necessity and the glory of suffering. Mark tells us that it was when the Lord “looked on His disciples” that He rebuked Peter. What a look of love and pity that must have been! How could they be saved if He did not suffer? He was going to the cross for them and for us. He looked upon them, and upon us in our need and died for them and us, that He might yet look upon us in His Father's House, made fit by His blood and grace for that glorious place. With what self-judgment of himself and adoration for the Lord must Simon have considered it all afterwards! How thankful he must have been that the Lord was strong where he was weak, and wise and watchful where he was foolish and off his guard.

But Satan would not accept defeat at one rebuff. It seemed as though a special conflict was to be waged for the soul of Simon; the Lord who had chosen him on the one hand and Satan the adversary on the other; and Simon, alas, playing into Satan's hands. He was a boastful man, and seems to have paid no heed to the warnings of his Lord. Self-confidence was his undoing, and would have been his damnation if the Lord had not been greater than Satan. We have often sat in thought in the Supper Chamber and wondered that Simon was so little affected by the Lord's words to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32). What a mercy it was for Peter, and is for us, that the Lord is always ahead of the devil: no matter how often the devil has got ahead of the failing saints, he has never yet forestalled the Lord. If Simon had been a wise man and not so full of what Simon was able to do, he would have cast himself at the feet of the Lord, and cried, “Preserve me, O Lord, for in Thee do I put my trust.” But instead he answered, “Lord, I am ready.”—If the devil ever laughs, he must have laughed then—“I am ready to go with Thee both into prison, and to death.”

The sad sequel is well-known. To show how strong and brave he was, he drew a sword to defend the Lord against His foes in the garden, and after striking one blow, fled away panic-stricken, and afterwards denied that ever he knew the Lord, with oaths and curses. What now? “Thou art . . . thou shalt be!” Did it not look as though all the Lord's teaching and training had been in vain, and the “thou shalt be” was as far off as ever, and a thing utterly unattainable, since Simon apparently still remained what he was, impossible material? “ And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter ” (Luke 22:61). Think of that, and at such a time! “ And Peter went out and wept bitterly .” Think of that!

All that the Lord had warned His disciples of had come to pass, and what days of darkness those must have been. The long night when He was in the hands of His enemies, buffeted, spit upon, scourged, and the more terrible day that followed when He was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles and crucified, and then that day—a sabbath day—in which He lay in the rock-hewn tomb! Who can tell the agony of darkness that those men and women endured, and Simon most and worst of all. But the first day of the week came at last and all was changed!

The women were the first at that tomb and what joy met them there. The tomb was empty, the Lord was risen, and He had not forgotten them. He was not there, but He had delegated a servant of His, a young man, not girded for conflict but clothed in a long white garment, and He had instructed him to say to the women “Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7). The Lord knew the men He had chosen. He knew that Peter would hold aloof from his brethren, miserable and conscience-stricken, and He knew too, that they would hold him aloof because of his terrible fall, and so he was specially named. The Lord had not given him up, nor will He ever give up one of “His own.” Every thought of His heart for them will be infallibly fulfilled.

But Peter would need more than a message delivered through an angel and the women; everyone who has ever known what it is to backslide from the Lord will understand how keenly he would long to have a personal interview with the Lord. Nothing would satisfy him but that, and those of us who have learnt the tenderness of the Lord's love, for even the most failing of His saints will know that nothing would satisfy the Lord's heart but that. And so it turned out. The Lord knew where Peter wept out his repentance and He appeared unto him. It filled the other disciples with wonder. His resurrection was a wonder—a joyful wonder. So they came together saying, “The Lord is risen indeed.” But just as wonderful—“ He hath appeared unto Simon

The two wonders will be joined together for ever—His greatness and His grace. We know not which to glory in the most, so we will still bind them together. He is great enough to meet the greatest foe that could assail us from outside and His grace is equal to the greatest failure that could arise inside. “The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared unto Simon.”

 

We are not told where Simon went when he fled from the High Priest's kitchen, after his thrice repeated denial of the Lord, but we may imagine the state of his mind. All the hopes of what he might have been, that had been raised in his heart by the Lord's first words to him, would now be thoroughly dashed. His case was hopeless. And after three and a half years! And three times too! Why had he not fled when the cock crew the first time? That cock-crowing he would never forget! “Thou art”—yes, he knew that now only too well: he was indeed Simon—unreliable, fickle, boastful yet a coward, and a denier of his Lord when He needed him most. “ Thou shalt be .” Never! That was no longer possible; all that had disappeared as a bright dream at this terrible awakening of the dreamer, leaving bitter disappointment behind, and deepening the darkness of his soul. He had meant to fight, but the power of the devil had been too great for him: he was beaten. “ Thou art .” Yes.

“I am battered and broken, and weary and out of heart;

. . . I am I.—

What wouldst Thou make of me?”

And yet, the Lord had “turned and looked upon Peter.” Would he ever forget that look? Never! As he bowed himself in the fierce agony of his repentance, that look would be a memory more vivid than the cock-crowing, a ray of light in his darkness, for it was a look not of anger, nor even of reproach but of tenderest pity. Judas had gone out and hanged himself, should he do the same? No, the devil could not drive him so far; he was preserved through that awful soul struggle by the Lord's intercession and by that look.

The fact is that Simon was to be the outstanding witness to the triumph of patient, persevering grace. He was to be the vessel chosen of God to write of the true grace of God in which every Christian stands; and of this he had to write, not only as inspired by the Holy Spirit, but out of his own experience. His words were to be infallible words because Holy-Ghost-given, but he was to be able to say as he wrote them, I know the truth of them in my soul's history. Hence it was that Simon had to learn his need of grace by his sin, and the greatness of the grace, that he needed, in that look that revealed the love that would not let him go.

And he was the first of His eleven disciples that the Lord sought out on the resurrection day—not that the Lord loved him more than the others, He did not, but Simon's was the greatest need—poor broken-hearted, conscience-stricken Simon, and the greatest need received the first attentions. We are not told what took place at that interview; it probably could not be told; it is enough for us to know that the Lord appeared to Simon, and at that interview so restored and strengthened his faith, and set his heart so completely at rest, that he was able to join his brethren in the evening of the day, when the Lord stood in the midst of them. “Thou shalt be” was taken up in resurrection, and Peter's eyes were turned away from his terrible past, for it was all forgiven, to the goal of the Lord's purpose for him.

This most wonderful grace was not shown to Peter to make us think little of his sin or of our own, but to show us that where sin abounded grace did much more abound, and to show us that His grace will never fail; our whole hope lies not in what we are or can do but in what our Lord is.

Now grace first chooses its object, and in so doing shows its sovereignty ; then it declares the destiny of the chosen one, showing its fore-knowledge ; then it sets to work to bring the object of its choice into full conformity with the great destiny, and in doing this it brings to light its inexhaustible resources . It looks for no merit in its object, and does not use any material that it finds in it; it acts from itself, and brings forth its own riches of wisdom and patience and power. And this was the lesson that Simon had to learn, that he might teach it to us. He had to learn that Simon was not to be trusted, but that nothing could turn grace from its purpose. He had to learn that nothing could change the feelings of the Lord to him, not even his own base conduct. Having loved His own which were in the world He loved them to the end, and not “one of them is lost,” and Simon was one of these, chosen, designated and kept for the day of glory.

And you are one of these, young believer—“His own.” What comfort, what encouragement this gives. Yet it may be you are discouraged, sorely discouraged. You have glimpsed the “thou shalt be” and it has stirred the holiest emotions of your soul, but the “thou art” has cast you down, and brought you almost to despair.

“Oh, the regret, the struggle and the failing!

Oh, the days desolate and useless years!

Vows in the night so fierce and unavailing

Stings of my shame and passion of my tears!”

Do you realize in your soul's deep exercise that the Lord looks upon you with the same tenderness with which He looked on Peter. And that He has prayed for you as effectually as He prayed for him? Do you know that He knew all you are before He called you? “Thou art” was as truly known to Him about you as it was about Simon, and yet He chose you in His sovereign grace, and designated you to a glorious destiny, and His grace will bring you into full conformity with His purpose for you. Be confident of this very thing, that good work He hath begun in you He will complete, and grace begun shall end in glory.

How great is our Lord! He has risen up above the power of death and ever liveth to make intercession for us; how gracious He is, no failure on our part can change Him. He appeared unto Simon , and in the same wonderful grace He desires always to show Himself to you and to me.

 

It was right that Simon and his brethren should be in Galilee , for the Lord had told them that He would meet them there. But for a wise purpose, which I think unfolds as the story is told, He had kept them waiting. This waiting time was the testing time, and Simon, the old Simon, could not stand the test: he did not like to be kept waiting.

Years before, he and his brother and the sons of Zebedee had forsaken their nets at the word of their Lord, but someone had taken care of them and carefully stored them away, and perhaps while rummaging about on an idle day. Simon had discovered them and the love of his old calling came strong upon him. Then there was his wife and may be several healthy children, and his mother-in-law—certainly there was his mother-in-law, who possibly had never agreed to his giving up his lucrative toil and following a penniless Master—they must live, he could not see them wanting bread: and the Lord had not appeared as they had hoped. Out with the nets. “I go a fishing.” Ah, Simon, “Thou art Simon!” His brethren were caught in the same mood, and seven of them launched their boat and spread their sails and cast their nets, “ and that night they caught nothing

I do not suppose that they had lost their old skill with the nets, or that the fish were less numerous than before. I think we must recognise the fact that the Lord was behind the scenes, the Lord of land and sea. We read “on this wise showed He Himself to them,” and this night of useless toil was a necessary background for this showing. He controls the circumstances of His chosen servants, and He controlled the fish that night. He had not given up Simon, even though Simon seemed to have abandoned his commission and drifted bark to his old life. “Thou shalt be” was still the Lord 's purpose for him and in the journey from “Thou art” to “thou shalt be” he had to learn wholly to trust his Lord.

“ But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore .” Who can tell the compassion with which He looked upon those seven men, and Simon in particular. He had died for them to make them His own, and His purpose was to change them all from their native instability and distrust of God, into men who would face foes and death for His sake and never doubt Him again. So His voice sounded over the water. “Children.” It was a term of endearment, such as He might have used to a band of irresponsible lads. “Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him. No. And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.” If His servants needed food, He had but to speak the word and the fish of the sea hastened to obey their Creator, and this was the truth that the Lord would teach these men.

“That disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, it is the Lord .” Who else could act and speak like that! Who else could mingle infinite compassion and almighty power in the same voice but He? “It is the Lord.” They had to learn the meaning of that great title, and we need to understand it too. Neither Simon nor we can be what He would make us unless we come under His Lordship, His authority, His administration. It is as our Lord that He moulds us to His gracious will, and on our part that surely means subjection to Him.

It is good to see Simon Peter's eagerness to reach the presence of his Lord; he was a forgiven man, and “blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered.” It is the grace that forgives that bows the heart in grateful adoration at the Lord's feet. Simon had been forgiven much and “to whom much is forgiven the same loveth much.” And there is good hope for the man who eagerly seeks and truly loves the presence of the Lord, for it is in His presence that the transforming work goes on.

Every detail in the record is deeply interesting and instructive. The Lord was showing Himself to His disciples, and they would never forget the way He did it. He had gathered the charcoal and lit a fire for them, for the night winds had been cold on the lake. He had gathered fish and bread and prepared their breakfast, for the night's cold had sharpened their appetites: He banished all their fear of Him by His tender words “Come and dine” and made them perfectly at home by waiting on them. He was their servant. It is as clear as can be that He wanted them to understand that death and resurrection had not changed Him. He had said to them on the night before His crucifixion, “I am among you as he that serveth.” Many times He had been up before them and prepared their breakfast; He was still their servant. Considering them, anticipating their needs and providing abundantly for them. The whole town of Tiberias would benefit by that morning's great catch for those one hundred and fifty-three great fishes would be duly distributed, but they, His brethren, His disciples, feasted with Him and were served by Him. Thus He showed Himself to them, and the record of it is given that we might believe, and blessed is he that has not seen yet has believed.

So when they had dined, their needs all graciously and fully met, “Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?” The Lord called him by his own natural name. He seemed to go back to the very beginning to show Simon that what he was naturally was no fit material for what he was to be. It was Simon's confidence in himself that had been the cause of all the trouble, that was the root that had to be dragged into the light and discerned and judged. Simon, the son of Jonas, had boasted that though all forsook the Lord he would stand by Him, and Simon, the son of Jonas, had thrice denied that he ever knew Him. For his own sake, for his brethren's sake, and for ours, the Lord did spare him. Three times the sharp knife probed right down to the spring of evil within him, but the hand that used the knife was moved by a heart that loved too well to allow His servant to continue in a false way, and He knew well how to heal the wound. Simon reached the full judgment of himself when he cried “Lord, Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love Thee.” How good it is that we have to do with One who knows all things.

Simon's commission was publicly restored to him and confirmed. The Lord could trust the man who at last distrusted himself: He could trust him with that which is most precious to Him on earth. His lambs and His sheep—His flock, for which He gave His life. And the Lord assured him that His purpose for him would not fail, and that his own desires should be realized. He would honour his Lord and be honoured himself with a martyr's death. Yet he needed that word. “Follow Me.” Only as he travelled with the Lord would he be safe; only in his Master's company, and dependent upon Him, would he be preserved from Simon the son of Jonas. And what was true in him is true for us.

“With foes and snares around us

And lusts and fears within

The grace that sought and found us

Alone can keep us clean.”

 

The restoration of Simon Peter to full communion with his Master, and the renewal and extension of his commission, is full of instruction, and opens up a view of the Lord that appeals to the heart. Simon had to learn that what he was—“thou art”—could only hinder the Lord and mar whatever service he could do for Him. His confidence in himself had to be broken, and be delivered from Simon. So strong was his belief in himself that there was only one way by which this could be effected, and that was by a great and surprising fall. So Satan's desire to have him and sift him was granted, and he did the sifting thoroughly.

Never could he have had a greater hope of frustrating the Lord's intentions than when he took Simon in hand, but the intercession of the Lord was ahead of him, and more powerful to preserve the faith of Simon than Satan's efforts to destroy it. Let us be greatly encouraged as we consider it, for the Lord's love and care for us are not less than they were for Simon. The result of Satan's activities was that the chaff of Simon's self-confidence disappeared and the wheat of his faith remained; yet what faith remained must have been feeble, and he a broken and discouraged man. Nothing could avail for him and strengthen his faith, so that the “thou shalt be” might become a reality, and that he might be Cephas—a rock, but fresh revelations of the Lord to his soul.

How wonderful was the Lord's way with him. He was his first thought on the resurrection morning, and the only one of the disciples to be distinguished by name. When the women arrived at the grave of the Lord they found a young man sitting there in white garments—an angel from heaven. He was waiting for them to give them a special message. “Go your way,” said he, “and tell His disciples and Peter .” We are sure that Simon felt that he had forfeited all right to be called a disciple and in this it is probable that his brethren agreed with him, but he was still Peter . On this glorious resurrection morning, it was not his failure but the Lord's purpose that rang out in the angel's words. But what could be the full meaning of the angel's words? What did he know about Peter? Angels are but messengers, that is what “angel” means; they do not act on their own initiative, they obey the commands of the Lord. Then He must have instructed this young man in white to distinguish Peter in this way. Most certainly, and the message must have been to him like the first flush of dawn after a long and dreary night.

The angels of the Lord care for the disciples of the Lord, they are evidently interested in them by name, in Simon and in you and me. I have no doubt that they marvel at the love of their Lord for such as we are, and are amazed that we should ever turn from Him to other things, and backslide, which, alas, we are so prone to do. Great lessons they must also learn of His grace as He heals the backsliding and restores the penitent to the joy of His salvation. The master of a great house may have thoughts and interests of which his servants know nothing, but if a child of the house is dangerously ill, or has strayed away from home, then if they are true servants and the master a true master they are all deeply concerned. So I believe it is with the Lord and His angels, they are affected by the Lord's interest in His own.

The message of the angel and Lord's own secret interview with Simon had restored his confidence in the Lord; he knew that he was forgiven, his sin had been blotted out, but something more was needed. The word speaks of forgiveness on confession, but it also speaks of His “being faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Simon's self-confidence was unrighteousness, the root of his failure, and with this the Lord had to deal. It was His words that brought about this cleansing.

The Lord did not speak of Simon's denial, that was a closed chapter, closed by the Lord and never to be opened by Him again, but He did scratch into the very depths of his heart. The thrice repeated question, “Lovest thou Me” was needed, and Peter, brought at last to the end of his boasting and to a true judgment of himself, finds relief in the Lord's omniscience and grace. “Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.”

“Lovest thou Me” was the supreme question for Simon, and is for us all. Whatever else there may be, if this is wanting, all is wrong. “I have against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” were the Lord's stern words to a church that in all outward respects seemed to be a pattern to others. “Remember . . . and repent.” His love is a precious love: He can brook no rival. “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also , he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 1:6). It was really self-love that had been Simon's undoing. What a splendid man he had been in his own eyes; what devotion to his Lord, with courage surpassing all his brethren! But now all that lay in the dust, and Simon would have nothing hidden, he was consciously in the presence of Omniscience and cast himself wholly on the Lord.

And now the “thou shalt be” comes fully into view; the Lord can trust him. He can trust him with that for which He had laid down His life, so precious is it to Him, His one flock . Peter's commission is extended and increased in its responsibility and privilege as the Lord says to him, “Feed My lambs,” “Tend My sheep,” “Feed My sheep” (or little sheep, a term of endearment). How well, in dependence upon his Lord, Peter carried out this commission: we have only to read his Epistles in the light of this most moving interview to realize that he never forgot it, that it was ever in his mind.

But the Lord had another honour to bestow on His restored disciple, who had sincerely wished to die for his Lord; that desire should be realized. He had failed when he had attempted to follow the Lord in the energy of his own will; but when thoroughly conscious of his own incompetence to do or to be, he should both do and be, and he should die for the Lord, not for the glory of Peter, but for the glory of God.

These things are written of Simon Peter for our learning; they, are written to teach us that not in our own strength and self-sufficiency can we arrive at the Lord's purpose for us, but by distrust of self and dependence on the Lord and by the constraint of His love alone.

“Thou Art . . . Thou Shalt Be”

 

Certainly Simon Peter would never forget his introduction to the Lord Jesus as recorded in John 1. It is not difficult to visualize him coming in his eagerness with his more prosaic brother, full of questions, but suddenly arrested and silenced by the dignity and power of the Lord. Of course it was right and fitting that the Lord should speak first and that, as far as we know, Simon had no answer to His words. No wonder he had no answer, the words of the Lord were so strange, and of such authority and so final that question and doubt were out of place. Simon had never been spoken to in such a way before.

“Thou art Simon”—then the Lord knew him, and what he was, though they had never met before. “Thou shalt be”—then He was able also to foretell the future. Who could do these two things but God? Years afterwards Simon had to confess to the Lord, “Thou knowest all things.” His first experience of that was at this first interview. And who had the right to change his name?—but He who had the right to claim him altogether, and had the power to change his whole character and destiny.

“Thou art Simon the son of Jona”—that was what he was by natural birth. “Thou shalt be called Cephas”—that is what he was to be as born of God. “Thou art—.” What was he? Well, certainly he was excitable, mercurial, and in all probability fickle, “Thou shalt be called Cephas—.” What was that? A stone, stable, settled, immoveable. “Thou art—.” What was he? Profane, a swearer, inclined to quickness of speech and even lying. “Thou shalt be—.” What? A stone for God's spiritual house, having part in God's holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. What a change!

Who could bring all this about? Only the One in whom was divine creative power, the Saviour and life-giver, and Simon had come into contact with Him, never to be the same again for ever. I should call that designation. At that first interview the Lord revealed His ultimate purpose to Simon and designated him to his great destiny.

There can be little doubt that the second interview is that recorded in Mark 1. “Now as He walked by the Sea of Galilee , he saw Simon and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” Simon was no loiterer but a hard working man; the living of his family which included his mother-in-law depended upon his labours. I do not think that a lazy man would have had much peace in his home. But now a greater claim than that of his family confronts him. The One who had given him a new name claims him and commands him.

What shall he do? I am sure that he did not understand the full significance of the call, but he did not hesitate. He admitted the claim and abandoned all that his living depended upon and followed the Lord But who is He whose claim is thus paramount, that must come before wife and children and home and self? God alone has that right. In this second interview the divine authority of the Lord appears, and I should call it submission . Simon bowed to the rights of the Lord over him.

The third interview seems to be that given in Luke 5. Simon is back at his boat. That may be a little difficult to understand, but it seems to have needed this third interview to wholly separate him from his former life, and it had its place in the gracious ways of the Lord with him. Simon had owned the Lord's claim over him and consequently He had a right to all that Simon possessed, and now He appropriates his boat and makes it His pulpit from which to teach the people. When he had finished His discourse, He showed that He would be no man's debtor, and just as when Simon followed Him at first, He healed his mother-in-law, which was a great compensation and blessing, so now He gives to Simon such a catch of fish as he had never even dreamed of taking. It was a divine intervention and Simon felt and acknowledged that he was in the presence of the Lord, the Creator. There is no doubt as to that, and the effect of it is such, that he falls down before Him, and cries, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

I have often pondered those words and wondered what Simon's thoughts really were. Of course he did not want the Lord to go away, yet he felt his unfitness for His presence. I have wondered if at that time he remembered the Lord's first words to him, and feeling that they meant something very great, and realizing his utter sinfulness, and perhaps his neglect of the Lord's earlier call, he means, “It is no use, Lord, I am so sinful such impossible material, you can make nothing of me, leave me to myself.” It may be so, and if Simon was anything like me and you, such a thought must at some time have passed through his mind.

“And Jesus said unto Simon. Fear not.” That means, “It is not what you are Simon, but what I am; not what you can be to Me, but what I can be to you; not your efforts, but my grace.” He added, “From henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Let a man but own the truth as to himself, and the Lord does the rest. No wonder Peter wrote afterwards of the true grace of God. I should call this third interview conviction and commission . From this time Peter became the constant companion of the Lord and the chief spokesman for his brethren.

The Lord's service on earth was now nearing its end. He had done great works among the people, and spoken gracious words to them, and the time had come for a response if there was to be any. So the Lord asked His disciples what men were saying about Him, as recorded in Matthew 16. They were saying many things, but none of them right. These disciples of His, they too had to be tested and so the challenge comes to them, “But whom say ye that I am?” And Simon Peter—the Peter in him was beginning to show itself—“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Certainly Simon had advanced in true knowledge, but it was not his own intelligence, nor was it by sitting at the feet of the doctors of the law. The Father in heaven had taken him in hand and had revealed the truth as to His beloved Son to him. What wonderful grace is this; and it is just as true of everyone of us, who has believed and owned the truth as to the Lord Jesus, that the Father has enlightened us: it is His work.

What joy must have been in the heart of the Lord as He answered Simon, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter.” No longer, thou shalt be, but “thou art Peter.” The truth was in his soul as light and substance, he was established in it by the Father's teaching and grace; he was attached to the Lord in his resurrection title, and was soon to take his place as a living stone that had come to the living Stone, chosen of God and precious. This incident in Matthew's Gospel is revelation. It is the Father's answer to the Lord's choice; His seal upon the Lord's words, at His first interview with Simon—“Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.”

John gives divine choice; Mark, divine authority; Luke, divine grace; Matthew, divine teaching.

 

Simon Peter was the only one of the twelve to whom the Lord gave a new name as indicative of his future, and no doubt Satan made a special note of that, and watched him more than any of the other disciples. But he does not seem to have found an opening with him until the Father gave him that wonderful revelation as to who His beloved Son was, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona,” said the Lord, “and I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter.” “Yes,” Satan seems to answer, “we will see about that!”

Was Peter puffed up because of this great distinction bestowed on him? It would seem so, for otherwise Satan would have had no advantage. We remember it was when Paul had received great revelations from heaven that he needed a thorn in the flesh lest he should be exalted above measure. And Satan took a hand in that, for the thorn was Satan's messenger to buffet him. Simon Peter was elated; he was neither watchful nor sober. We can almost feel the sob that broke from him as be remembered it, and wrote to his younger brethren, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

The cross was before the Lord. He could not build His church until He had passed through the sorrows and suffering of death, and overthrown its power in resurrection, and of these sufferings He spoke. And “Peter took Him, and rebuked Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee.” Simon did not know that it was Satan who put that thought in his mind and made him blurt it out, but so it was. The man who had uttered God's revelation actually became within an hour the mouthpiece of Satan. And if Simon, so highly favoured, fell so soon through unwatchfulness and pride of heart, what need there is for us to be sober and vigilant. We realize, as we consider it, the need of the exhortation that he gives us.

The Lord knew from whence the attack came and exposed it. He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” The latter half of that saying was probably for Peter very specially. He had not learnt then that the way, the only way, of glory to God and blessing for men was by the suffering of the cross. He learnt it, afterwards, so that his Epistles are full of the necessity and the glory of suffering. Mark tells us that it was when the Lord “looked on His disciples” that He rebuked Peter. What a look of love and pity that must have been! How could they be saved if He did not suffer? He was going to the cross for them and for us. He looked upon them, and upon us in our need and died for them and us, that He might yet look upon us in His Father's House, made fit by His blood and grace for that glorious place. With what self-judgment of himself and adoration for the Lord must Simon have considered it all afterwards! How thankful he must have been that the Lord was strong where he was weak, and wise and watchful where he was foolish and off his guard.

But Satan would not accept defeat at one rebuff. It seemed as though a special conflict was to be waged for the soul of Simon; the Lord who had chosen him on the one hand and Satan the adversary on the other; and Simon, alas, playing into Satan's hands. He was a boastful man, and seems to have paid no heed to the warnings of his Lord. Self-confidence was his undoing, and would have been his damnation if the Lord had not been greater than Satan. We have often sat in thought in the Supper Chamber and wondered that Simon was so little affected by the Lord's words to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32). What a mercy it was for Peter, and is for us, that the Lord is always ahead of the devil: no matter how often the devil has got ahead of the failing saints, he has never yet forestalled the Lord. If Simon had been a wise man and not so full of what Simon was able to do, he would have cast himself at the feet of the Lord, and cried, “Preserve me, O Lord, for in Thee do I put my trust.” But instead he answered, “Lord, I am ready.”—If the devil ever laughs, he must have laughed then—“I am ready to go with Thee both into prison, and to death.”

The sad sequel is well-known. To show how strong and brave he was, he drew a sword to defend the Lord against His foes in the garden, and after striking one blow, fled away panic-stricken, and afterwards denied that ever he knew the Lord, with oaths and curses. What now? “Thou art . . . thou shalt be!” Did it not look as though all the Lord's teaching and training had been in vain, and the “thou shalt be” was as far off as ever, and a thing utterly unattainable, since Simon apparently still remained what he was, impossible material? “ And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter ” (Luke 22:61). Think of that, and at such a time! “ And Peter went out and wept bitterly .” Think of that!

All that the Lord had warned His disciples of had come to pass, and what days of darkness those must have been. The long night when He was in the hands of His enemies, buffeted, spit upon, scourged, and the more terrible day that followed when He was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles and crucified, and then that day—a sabbath day—in which He lay in the rock-hewn tomb! Who can tell the agony of darkness that those men and women endured, and Simon most and worst of all. But the first day of the week came at last and all was changed!

The women were the first at that tomb and what joy met them there. The tomb was empty, the Lord was risen, and He had not forgotten them. He was not there, but He had delegated a servant of His, a young man, not girded for conflict but clothed in a long white garment, and He had instructed him to say to the women “Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7). The Lord knew the men He had chosen. He knew that Peter would hold aloof from his brethren, miserable and conscience-stricken, and He knew too, that they would hold him aloof because of his terrible fall, and so he was specially named. The Lord had not given him up, nor will He ever give up one of “His own.” Every thought of His heart for them will be infallibly fulfilled.

But Peter would need more than a message delivered through an angel and the women; everyone who has ever known what it is to backslide from the Lord will understand how keenly he would long to have a personal interview with the Lord. Nothing would satisfy him but that, and those of us who have learnt the tenderness of the Lord's love, for even the most failing of His saints will know that nothing would satisfy the Lord's heart but that. And so it turned out. The Lord knew where Peter wept out his repentance and He appeared unto him. It filled the other disciples with wonder. His resurrection was a wonder—a joyful wonder. So they came together saying, “The Lord is risen indeed.” But just as wonderful—“ He hath appeared unto Simon

The two wonders will be joined together for ever—His greatness and His grace. We know not which to glory in the most, so we will still bind them together. He is great enough to meet the greatest foe that could assail us from outside and His grace is equal to the greatest failure that could arise inside. “The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared unto Simon.”

 

We are not told where Simon went when he fled from the High Priest's kitchen, after his thrice repeated denial of the Lord, but we may imagine the state of his mind. All the hopes of what he might have been, that had been raised in his heart by the Lord's first words to him, would now be thoroughly dashed. His case was hopeless. And after three and a half years! And three times too! Why had he not fled when the cock crew the first time? That cock-crowing he would never forget! “Thou art”—yes, he knew that now only too well: he was indeed Simon—unreliable, fickle, boastful yet a coward, and a denier of his Lord when He needed him most. “ Thou shalt be .” Never! That was no longer possible; all that had disappeared as a bright dream at this terrible awakening of the dreamer, leaving bitter disappointment behind, and deepening the darkness of his soul. He had meant to fight, but the power of the devil had been too great for him: he was beaten. “ Thou art .” Yes.

“I am battered and broken, and weary and out of heart;

. . . I am I.—

What wouldst Thou make of me?”

And yet, the Lord had “turned and looked upon Peter.” Would he ever forget that look? Never! As he bowed himself in the fierce agony of his repentance, that look would be a memory more vivid than the cock-crowing, a ray of light in his darkness, for it was a look not of anger, nor even of reproach but of tenderest pity. Judas had gone out and hanged himself, should he do the same? No, the devil could not drive him so far; he was preserved through that awful soul struggle by the Lord's intercession and by that look.

The fact is that Simon was to be the outstanding witness to the triumph of patient, persevering grace. He was to be the vessel chosen of God to write of the true grace of God in which every Christian stands; and of this he had to write, not only as inspired by the Holy Spirit, but out of his own experience. His words were to be infallible words because Holy-Ghost-given, but he was to be able to say as he wrote them, I know the truth of them in my soul's history. Hence it was that Simon had to learn his need of grace by his sin, and the greatness of the grace, that he needed, in that look that revealed the love that would not let him go.

And he was the first of His eleven disciples that the Lord sought out on the resurrection day—not that the Lord loved him more than the others, He did not, but Simon's was the greatest need—poor broken-hearted, conscience-stricken Simon, and the greatest need received the first attentions. We are not told what took place at that interview; it probably could not be told; it is enough for us to know that the Lord appeared to Simon, and at that interview so restored and strengthened his faith, and set his heart so completely at rest, that he was able to join his brethren in the evening of the day, when the Lord stood in the midst of them. “Thou shalt be” was taken up in resurrection, and Peter's eyes were turned away from his terrible past, for it was all forgiven, to the goal of the Lord's purpose for him.

This most wonderful grace was not shown to Peter to make us think little of his sin or of our own, but to show us that where sin abounded grace did much more abound, and to show us that His grace will never fail; our whole hope lies not in what we are or can do but in what our Lord is.

Now grace first chooses its object, and in so doing shows its sovereignty ; then it declares the destiny of the chosen one, showing its fore-knowledge ; then it sets to work to bring the object of its choice into full conformity with the great destiny, and in doing this it brings to light its inexhaustible resources . It looks for no merit in its object, and does not use any material that it finds in it; it acts from itself, and brings forth its own riches of wisdom and patience and power. And this was the lesson that Simon had to learn, that he might teach it to us. He had to learn that Simon was not to be trusted, but that nothing could turn grace from its purpose. He had to learn that nothing could change the feelings of the Lord to him, not even his own base conduct. Having loved His own which were in the world He loved them to the end, and not “one of them is lost,” and Simon was one of these, chosen, designated and kept for the day of glory.

And you are one of these, young believer—“His own.” What comfort, what encouragement this gives. Yet it may be you are discouraged, sorely discouraged. You have glimpsed the “thou shalt be” and it has stirred the holiest emotions of your soul, but the “thou art” has cast you down, and brought you almost to despair.

“Oh, the regret, the struggle and the failing!

Oh, the days desolate and useless years!

Vows in the night so fierce and unavailing

Stings of my shame and passion of my tears!”

Do you realize in your soul's deep exercise that the Lord looks upon you with the same tenderness with which He looked on Peter. And that He has prayed for you as effectually as He prayed for him? Do you know that He knew all you are before He called you? “Thou art” was as truly known to Him about you as it was about Simon, and yet He chose you in His sovereign grace, and designated you to a glorious destiny, and His grace will bring you into full conformity with His purpose for you. Be confident of this very thing, that good work He hath begun in you He will complete, and grace begun shall end in glory.

How great is our Lord! He has risen up above the power of death and ever liveth to make intercession for us; how gracious He is, no failure on our part can change Him. He appeared unto Simon , and in the same wonderful grace He desires always to show Himself to you and to me.

 

It was right that Simon and his brethren should be in Galilee , for the Lord had told them that He would meet them there. But for a wise purpose, which I think unfolds as the story is told, He had kept them waiting. This waiting time was the testing time, and Simon, the old Simon, could not stand the test: he did not like to be kept waiting.

Years before, he and his brother and the sons of Zebedee had forsaken their nets at the word of their Lord, but someone had taken care of them and carefully stored them away, and perhaps while rummaging about on an idle day. Simon had discovered them and the love of his old calling came strong upon him. Then there was his wife and may be several healthy children, and his mother-in-law—certainly there was his mother-in-law, who possibly had never agreed to his giving up his lucrative toil and following a penniless Master—they must live, he could not see them wanting bread: and the Lord had not appeared as they had hoped. Out with the nets. “I go a fishing.” Ah, Simon, “Thou art Simon!” His brethren were caught in the same mood, and seven of them launched their boat and spread their sails and cast their nets, “ and that night they caught nothing

I do not suppose that they had lost their old skill with the nets, or that the fish were less numerous than before. I think we must recognise the fact that the Lord was behind the scenes, the Lord of land and sea. We read “on this wise showed He Himself to them,” and this night of useless toil was a necessary background for this showing. He controls the circumstances of His chosen servants, and He controlled the fish that night. He had not given up Simon, even though Simon seemed to have abandoned his commission and drifted bark to his old life. “Thou shalt be” was still the Lord 's purpose for him and in the journey from “Thou art” to “thou shalt be” he had to learn wholly to trust his Lord.

“ But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore .” Who can tell the compassion with which He looked upon those seven men, and Simon in particular. He had died for them to make them His own, and His purpose was to change them all from their native instability and distrust of God, into men who would face foes and death for His sake and never doubt Him again. So His voice sounded over the water. “Children.” It was a term of endearment, such as He might have used to a band of irresponsible lads. “Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him. No. And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.” If His servants needed food, He had but to speak the word and the fish of the sea hastened to obey their Creator, and this was the truth that the Lord would teach these men.

“That disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, it is the Lord .” Who else could act and speak like that! Who else could mingle infinite compassion and almighty power in the same voice but He? “It is the Lord.” They had to learn the meaning of that great title, and we need to understand it too. Neither Simon nor we can be what He would make us unless we come under His Lordship, His authority, His administration. It is as our Lord that He moulds us to His gracious will, and on our part that surely means subjection to Him.

It is good to see Simon Peter's eagerness to reach the presence of his Lord; he was a forgiven man, and “blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered.” It is the grace that forgives that bows the heart in grateful adoration at the Lord's feet. Simon had been forgiven much and “to whom much is forgiven the same loveth much.” And there is good hope for the man who eagerly seeks and truly loves the presence of the Lord, for it is in His presence that the transforming work goes on.

Every detail in the record is deeply interesting and instructive. The Lord was showing Himself to His disciples, and they would never forget the way He did it. He had gathered the charcoal and lit a fire for them, for the night winds had been cold on the lake. He had gathered fish and bread and prepared their breakfast, for the night's cold had sharpened their appetites: He banished all their fear of Him by His tender words “Come and dine” and made them perfectly at home by waiting on them. He was their servant. It is as clear as can be that He wanted them to understand that death and resurrection had not changed Him. He had said to them on the night before His crucifixion, “I am among you as he that serveth.” Many times He had been up before them and prepared their breakfast; He was still their servant. Considering them, anticipating their needs and providing abundantly for them. The whole town of Tiberias would benefit by that morning's great catch for those one hundred and fifty-three great fishes would be duly distributed, but they, His brethren, His disciples, feasted with Him and were served by Him. Thus He showed Himself to them, and the record of it is given that we might believe, and blessed is he that has not seen yet has believed.

So when they had dined, their needs all graciously and fully met, “Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?” The Lord called him by his own natural name. He seemed to go back to the very beginning to show Simon that what he was naturally was no fit material for what he was to be. It was Simon's confidence in himself that had been the cause of all the trouble, that was the root that had to be dragged into the light and discerned and judged. Simon, the son of Jonas, had boasted that though all forsook the Lord he would stand by Him, and Simon, the son of Jonas, had thrice denied that he ever knew Him. For his own sake, for his brethren's sake, and for ours, the Lord did spare him. Three times the sharp knife probed right down to the spring of evil within him, but the hand that used the knife was moved by a heart that loved too well to allow His servant to continue in a false way, and He knew well how to heal the wound. Simon reached the full judgment of himself when he cried “Lord, Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love Thee.” How good it is that we have to do with One who knows all things.

Simon's commission was publicly restored to him and confirmed. The Lord could trust the man who at last distrusted himself: He could trust him with that which is most precious to Him on earth. His lambs and His sheep—His flock, for which He gave His life. And the Lord assured him that His purpose for him would not fail, and that his own desires should be realized. He would honour his Lord and be honoured himself with a martyr's death. Yet he needed that word. “Follow Me.” Only as he travelled with the Lord would he be safe; only in his Master's company, and dependent upon Him, would he be preserved from Simon the son of Jonas. And what was true in him is true for us.

“With foes and snares around us

And lusts and fears within

The grace that sought and found us

Alone can keep us clean.”

 

The restoration of Simon Peter to full communion with his Master, and the renewal and extension of his commission, is full of instruction, and opens up a view of the Lord that appeals to the heart. Simon had to learn that what he was—“thou art”—could only hinder the Lord and mar whatever service he could do for Him. His confidence in himself had to be broken, and be delivered from Simon. So strong was his belief in himself that there was only one way by which this could be effected, and that was by a great and surprising fall. So Satan's desire to have him and sift him was granted, and he did the sifting thoroughly.

Never could he have had a greater hope of frustrating the Lord's intentions than when he took Simon in hand, but the intercession of the Lord was ahead of him, and more powerful to preserve the faith of Simon than Satan's efforts to destroy it. Let us be greatly encouraged as we consider it, for the Lord's love and care for us are not less than they were for Simon. The result of Satan's activities was that the chaff of Simon's self-confidence disappeared and the wheat of his faith remained; yet what faith remained must have been feeble, and he a broken and discouraged man. Nothing could avail for him and strengthen his faith, so that the “thou shalt be” might become a reality, and that he might be Cephas—a rock, but fresh revelations of the Lord to his soul.

How wonderful was the Lord's way with him. He was his first thought on the resurrection morning, and the only one of the disciples to be distinguished by name. When the women arrived at the grave of the Lord they found a young man sitting there in white garments—an angel from heaven. He was waiting for them to give them a special message. “Go your way,” said he, “and tell His disciples and Peter .” We are sure that Simon felt that he had forfeited all right to be called a disciple and in this it is probable that his brethren agreed with him, but he was still Peter . On this glorious resurrection morning, it was not his failure but the Lord's purpose that rang out in the angel's words. But what could be the full meaning of the angel's words? What did he know about Peter? Angels are but messengers, that is what “angel” means; they do not act on their own initiative, they obey the commands of the Lord. Then He must have instructed this young man in white to distinguish Peter in this way. Most certainly, and the message must have been to him like the first flush of dawn after a long and dreary night.

The angels of the Lord care for the disciples of the Lord, they are evidently interested in them by name, in Simon and in you and me. I have no doubt that they marvel at the love of their Lord for such as we are, and are amazed that we should ever turn from Him to other things, and backslide, which, alas, we are so prone to do. Great lessons they must also learn of His grace as He heals the backsliding and restores the penitent to the joy of His salvation. The master of a great house may have thoughts and interests of which his servants know nothing, but if a child of the house is dangerously ill, or has strayed away from home, then if they are true servants and the master a true master they are all deeply concerned. So I believe it is with the Lord and His angels, they are affected by the Lord's interest in His own.

The message of the angel and Lord's own secret interview with Simon had restored his confidence in the Lord; he knew that he was forgiven, his sin had been blotted out, but something more was needed. The word speaks of forgiveness on confession, but it also speaks of His “being faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Simon's self-confidence was unrighteousness, the root of his failure, and with this the Lord had to deal. It was His words that brought about this cleansing.

The Lord did not speak of Simon's denial, that was a closed chapter, closed by the Lord and never to be opened by Him again, but He did scratch into the very depths of his heart. The thrice repeated question, “Lovest thou Me” was needed, and Peter, brought at last to the end of his boasting and to a true judgment of himself, finds relief in the Lord's omniscience and grace. “Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.”

“Lovest thou Me” was the supreme question for Simon, and is for us all. Whatever else there may be, if this is wanting, all is wrong. “I have against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” were the Lord's stern words to a church that in all outward respects seemed to be a pattern to others. “Remember . . . and repent.” His love is a precious love: He can brook no rival. “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also , he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 1:6). It was really self-love that had been Simon's undoing. What a splendid man he had been in his own eyes; what devotion to his Lord, with courage surpassing all his brethren! But now all that lay in the dust, and Simon would have nothing hidden, he was consciously in the presence of Omniscience and cast himself wholly on the Lord.

And now the “thou shalt be” comes fully into view; the Lord can trust him. He can trust him with that for which He had laid down His life, so precious is it to Him, His one flock . Peter's commission is extended and increased in its responsibility and privilege as the Lord says to him, “Feed My lambs,” “Tend My sheep,” “Feed My sheep” (or little sheep, a term of endearment). How well, in dependence upon his Lord, Peter carried out this commission: we have only to read his Epistles in the light of this most moving interview to realize that he never forgot it, that it was ever in his mind.

But the Lord had another honour to bestow on His restored disciple, who had sincerely wished to die for his Lord; that desire should be realized. He had failed when he had attempted to follow the Lord in the energy of his own will; but when thoroughly conscious of his own incompetence to do or to be, he should both do and be, and he should die for the Lord, not for the glory of Peter, but for the glory of God.

These things are written of Simon Peter for our learning; they, are written to teach us that not in our own strength and self-sufficiency can we arrive at the Lord's purpose for us, but by distrust of self and dependence on the Lord and by the constraint of His love alone.

Two “Alls”

 

“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 11:23). Here is a rule without an exception.

With one sweeping statement God levels all to a common platform. The religious and the irreligious, the noble and those of meaner birth, profligate and psalm-singing professor, prince and pauper, from the president in his palace to the convict in the prison, from the monarch on his throne to the menial in the kitchen, none are exempted from

THE “ALL” OF SIN.”

I do not stop to ask how far you have come short, my reader, for that some are more deeply dyed in sins than others is most true.

But sins all have got, and you amongst the rest, and, having sinned, you have also come short of the glory of God.

Have you really found this out?

Isaiah the prophet had, when he said, “WOE is ME” (Isa. 6:5).

Job, the perfect and upright, confessed, “BEHOLD, I AM VILE” (Job 40:4).

Peter had to acknowledge—“I AM A SINFUL MAN” (Luke 5:8).

And Saul of Tarsus, the religious zealot, headed the list when he exclaimed, Of sinners, “I AM CHIEF” (1 Tim. 1:15).

I met a man the other day, in a small village in the backwoods of Canada , who told me that for years he had thought himself good enough for God.

One day he tried to recall all the good deeds he had ever done to assure himself that he had really merited God's favour; but to his dismay, though he thought, and thought, and thought, no good deeds could he remember. But his sins in black array crowded to his memory, and he found out, for the first time in his life, that he was a guilty, helpless sinner before God.

Sooner or later you will make the same discovery, friend; either now in God's day of grace, while the precious blood has cleansing power, or hereafter before the great white throne, when there will be nought but condemnation and the burning lake for you. But, thank God, though the first “all” places you without a doubt as a sinner before God, there is a second which is full of blessing—

THE “ALL” OF SALVATION.

It is this—“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Here is the only remedy, the God-provided one. You could bring no price to God by which to purchase exemption from wrath, for sins must meet with righteous judgment.

If this fall upon you it means an eternal hell.

Yet no salvation could be procured until this judgment was borne. It is evident then you could not procure redemption. “How then can a sinner be saved?” you ask.

Calvary answers that question. There I see the problem solved. The holy, spotless Lamb of God bears the judgment due to sinners.

Wrath which would have sunk us into the eternal gloom and woe of the pit fell upon Him there, and on that cross Jesus rendered satisfaction to all God's righteous claims; and having borne the judgment, and bowed His head in death, the blood flowed from His spear-riven side.

That blood can cleanse. It is no use for you to seek remission of sins in any other way, for God says, “WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD IS NO REMISSION” (Heb. 9:22).

The work is done, the blood is shed, and faith in that wondrous work and precious blood will save you.

Yea, were all the transgressions from Adam's sin downwards laid at your charge, the blood would have power to cleanse EVEN YOU!

Cease then, friend, to seek salvation by other means, “For there is NONE OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN AMONG MEN, WHEREBY WE MUST BE SAVED” (Acts 4:12).

Talk not of your doings; for Jesus said, “IT IS FINISHED”.

Be not so presumptuous as to imagine that your best is fit for God, for He says, “THERE IS NONE THAT DOETH GOOD” (Rom. 3:12), and “ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES ARE AS FILTHY RAGS” (Isa. 64:6).

That is God's estimate of your righteousnesses. You may give them another name, and proudly speak of them as good works, but God is the Judge in this matter. It is at His bar you have to stand, and let Him be true, and every man a liar.

No, your righteousnesses are worse than naught. It is “TO HIM THAT WORKETH NOT, BUT BELIEVETH ON HIM THAT JUSTIFIETH THE UNGODLY, HIS FAITH IS COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS” ( Rom. 4:5).

Then be no longer amongst that company who, “being ignorant of GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS, and going about to establish THEIR OWN righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3); but come as a poor, guilty, helpless sinner, trusting in Jesus alone, and be assured that “by Him all that believe are justified from ALL things” (Acts 13:39).

May this full, free, and eternal justification be yours.

What Do You Think of it?

 

Princess Alice, the greatly beloved daughter of Queen Victoria, and great aunt to our King, was married to the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt. She had nursed her husband and daughters, the youngest of whom had died, through the then greatly dreaded diphtheria, when her only son was stricken. Though worn out by nursing, she insisted upon taking full charge of the suffering lad. One day, when the fever was at its height, he stretched his hands out to her and said, “Kiss me, mother,” and she, breaking through the restraints of prudence, pressed upon his parched lips the kiss of a mother's love. That kiss cost her her life. And the heart of the world was moved when the story was told.

Jesus came to put the kiss of God's love upon sinful men, and it cost Him His life. “God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” ( Rom. 5:8). But who cares anything about that? Prince Ernest Louis would have been an unnatural and hard-hearted son if he ever forgot that kiss of love that cost his royal mother her life, but what of the love of God made manifest in the death of His well beloved Son? What do men think of that? What do you think of it?

 

What Occupies Our Thoughts?

Philippians 4

 

“My head, ” said one of the most famous men in English literature, “is like a tavern in which a company of low punch-drinkers have taken up the room that might have been filled with lords drinking burgundy.” It was an arresting saying and many of us may have to confess that our heads are not unlike that. Having the flesh within us and the world around us it is easy for us to become carnal and worldly in our thoughts, and our characters and ways cannot be better than our thoughts, for the Scripture says of man, “As he thinketh in his heart so is he” (Prov. 23:7). If it is so with us, what a dishonour it is to God who has made us His children, and what a loss of present joy and blessing it is to us. The importance of our thinking cannot be exaggerated, everything indeed, whether of joy to ourselves, testimony to others, or glory to God, depends upon it. The Epistle to the Philippians was one of the last written by the Apostle Paul, probably the very last written to a church. It is a beautiful epistle, full of Christ, and of the wonderful effect that the knowledge of Him has in the lives of men upon earth. Paul wrote this farewell letter to that church that he loved so well that they might understand all this better, and we know that he was moved and inspired by the Holy Ghost to do this. He closes the Epistle with a series of exhortations, and the last of these is certainly not the least important. It comes down to us with all its force, and only as we heed it can we be kept from slipping away from our steadfastness and joy in the Lord.

“Finally, brethren, ” he says, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ” We feel as we read this list of exalted things that our heads will not be like a tavern of low punch-drinkers if they fill our thoughts, but where are they to be found? We must have guidance if we are to get on the track of them. And Paul does not leave us to our own imaginations as to what they are, but continues, “Those things, which ye have both learned and received, and heard, and seen in me, do.” In a former chapter he had written, “For me to live is Christ.” So that these things that controlled Paul's mind and came out in his speech and deeds when he was at Philippi, whether by the river-side, in the house of Lydia, in the inner dungeon, the jailer's house or in the assembly, are all enfolded and disclosed in Christ.

But the heart lies at the back of the mind and that which we love most occupies our thoughts most. The low punch-drinkers love their punch, the sensual man thinks sensually because he loves sensuality, and the man who loves the Lord Jesus thinks of Him, and consequently, speaks of Him and he becomes like Him in his ways. It was so with Paul, and we are to be like him. I need not say that we love and rejoice in the Lord as we realize His love to us. But this exhortation as to thinking is necessary or it would not be given. We shall have to set our minds with purpose to it, and fill them up with Christ, or the “low punch-drinkers” will fill them, for none of our minds can be a vacuum.

There is a present result of this right thinking. So Paul writes further, “THE GOD OF PEACE SHALL BE WITH YOU.” Not only shall we be able to hold converse with the very aristocracy of God's kingdom of peace, but the God of peace Himself will he with us. This is truly wonderful. We know of course that God ever found His delight in His beloved Son. He said so twice in the hearing of men when the Lord Jesus was on earth, but this word declares that He finds His delight in those who delight in Him also; if our minds are filled with the beauties and glories of Christ God will give us His company. It will be His joy to do so. We know that when we may choose our company, we go to those whom we love and in whom we can find our pleasure and with whom we have things in common. It is so with God Himself. He delights in the company of those who delight in Christ; and what a dignity this puts upon them, they are truly peers in His kingdom of peace and can drink with Him and one another the wine of His joy in Christ, for Christ is the “wine which cheereth God and man” (Jud. 9:13).

There will be no peace in that tavern that is filled with low punch-drinkers, and there will be no peace in the hearts and minds of those who are earthly, worldly, sensual; but if we have Christ as our portion and are rejoicing in Him, the Lord, alway, their will there be peace indeed within us and holy communion with the God of peace. And this will be to us a foretaste of heaven, and we shall be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, ” among whom we shall “shine as lights in the world holding forth the word of life” (chap. 2:15-16).

“Whither Goest Thou?”

 

“Whither goest thou?” is the challenge that I wish to ring in your ears, my reader, as you march onward across the sands of time.

The question is pointed and personal, I know; but it is also one of the utmost importance, for you are most assuredly passing on to some great terminus. You have commenced to travel upon a road which shall have an end somewhere. But where ?

God's word speaks of two places only. The one is the home of the Father, the Lamb's bright glory, where the blood-washed shall rest in the blissful presence of their thrice-worthy Saviour throughout eternity. The other is the burning lake, which is the eternal prison of demons, and will be the dark, everlasting abode of all Christ-rejecters.

To one of these two destinations you are hastening. And again I challenge you, “Whither goest thou?”

“Is it heaven or hell for you?” I recently asked a young fellow, at the close of a gospel meeting.

“I don't know,” he replied; and the smile of indifference upon his face showed he little cared.

There are thousands like this. They are sharp and shrewd as far as matters connected with this life are concerned, yet their everlasting weal or woe costs them no anxiety.

If you are a salvation-neglecter you are amongst the number. “Give them warning from Me,” God has said to His servants, and I take this opportunity of so doing.

Friend, beware! Tomorrow may find you launched into eternity; and if Christless, it must be an eternity of hell's fire and hell's woes.

“I have sold my soul to the devil for a straw” was the cry of a young fellow, as he passed from a Christ-rejecting course here into a Christless eternity.

“They talk to me of crowns and of glory, but I bid them cease. It is Himself I shall be with—Himself!” were the dying words of an aged servant of God. Will you weigh the difference between these two, my reader, and consider

YOUR LATTER END?

Be no more amongst that company who are going post-haste to perdition.

Turn to the Lord Jesus now. Flee to His open arms. His blood can cleanse from sin. His blood can secure eternal redemption for you. His blood is the sinner's only title to glory. Accept Christ now. Present peace and a bright hope will then be yours.

Who Glories in Tribulation?

 

“ 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, which is given unto us ” (Romans 5:3-5).

Who glories in tribulation? Most of would us would run miles to escape it; yet if we know the grace in which we stand, and if the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us, and if we know the end to be secured by the tribulation, we shall glory in it. The One who loves us has supreme control of all things; and if so, what then? Well, we reason, if He permits tribulation it must be for our good and blessing and in view of what is to come. Therefore we will go through it with Him.

R.C.Trench in his “Study of Words” has a very interesting explanation of the word tribulation. He says, “The word is derived from the Latin ‘tribulum', which was the threshing instrument or roller whereby the husbandmen separated the corn from the husks; and the ‘tribulatio' in its primary significance was the act of separation. But some Latin writer of the Christian church appropriated the word and image for the setting forth of a higher truth; sorrow, distress and adversity being the appointed means for separating in men of whatever in them is light, trivial and poor from the solid and the true; the chaff from the wheat.”

No figure could be more striking and nothing could be more encouraging for us than the thought that tribulation is to get rid of the chaff that is in us that the wheat may remain. It is evidently necessary, and we need not fear. We shall not be the losers in any way for we are assured that if we are in God's hands, “yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth” (Amos 9:9).

Tribulation tests the metal of the soul, it does more, it tempers it, as steel is tempered, and it works endurance in us, and “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him” (Jas. 1:12).

Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. As we endure in tribulation we come to an experimental knowledge of ourselves, and of God's way with us, and in subjection to His holy will we have the compensating grace that He pours into our souls. Moreover we begin to see the end He has in view. We are not like Job was, for he, poor man, went through his tribulation without knowing the “why” of it; but we, who have heard of his patience, have also seen the end of the Lord. He has not kept us in ignorance as to our destiny. He has predestined us to be “conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).

Tribulation purges the soul from earthly-mindedness; and unseen, eternal things become more real to us; hope becomes strong. Our hope will not disappoint us, for we know the love that has promised and prepared the glory yet to come. We are assured of this by the indwelling Spirit, who is the Earnest of the glory, and who makes the love of God real to us now in the midst of tribulation.

Really hope lies behind this rejoicing in tribulation: the ultimate, the goal, becomes great before our eyes and we measure the immediate in the light of it. It was this that Paul meant when he wrote, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). If the hope that faith awakens in the heart were not in a man he could not rejoice in tribulation; to be in tribulation without hope would be a miserable experience. Faith and hope and love go together and they grow and develop in the soul as we go through tribulation with God.

This hope that makes not ashamed and carries the Christian triumphantly through all his tribulation is not like the “hope that springs eternal in the human breast” and that withers and perishes at the breath of death; it is directed towards God and His Word, it is sure and certain, with a sure anchorage. The word has taken on the meaning of uncertainty in human language, for as likely as not, the best hopes in this life end in disappointment. But the Christian hope is something guaranteed to him by the immutable Word of God, which he does not yet possess. He is a child of God, an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ Jesus, and the heirs must come into the inheritance; meanwhile, he knows that all things—every stroke of the tribulum—works together in God's ways with him for good. Just as surely as he will be conformed to the image of God's Son, so now all these things, while he waits for that glorious consummation, are working to a moral conformity to Christ now, they are removing the chaff that the pure grain may abide. Or to use the figure from the sculptor's studio, “As the stone wastes the image appears.”

Let us dwell more upon the coming glories, and sing about them more, and turn the attention of our brethren in the Lord towards them, and more continually “look sunward, and with faces golden, speak to each other softly of our hope.”

Words of Life and Peace

 

God's ways of teaching and saving men are very varied and always deeply interesting. They often illustrate the truth of the scripture, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8).

The other day we met a Christian in whom we became much interested. He told us the story of his conversion to God, which we here record, hoping it may help some reader of Simple Testimony. He had been a prominent player for some years in one of the leading football clubs in the country, of which club be eventually became captain. This meant, of course, that he was very much mixed up with the world—a regular sportsman, and, sad to say, he was also a careless, God-forgetting, sinful man.

But he proved how unsatisfying all these things were. His success in the football field gave him no happiness, and he became very miserable and dejected, for he was learning little by little that he was far from God—a lost sinner. His wife, who was a Christian, prayed earnestly for his conversion, and God heard and answered her prayers. One Sunday night he consented to go with her to a gospel service in his native town. They arrived early, and to while away the time my friend took up a Bible lying in front of him.

The book fell open at the fifth chapter of John, and his eye rested on the twenty-fourth verse. These are the words:—

“ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not came into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life

These wonderful words arrested his attention. He read them again, and gradually the light pierced through the g1oom, his misery gave place to relief and joy, and before even that service began he was able to turn to his wife at his side and say, “ I'm a saved man .” And so he was, thank God! Since that day he has witnessed for the One whose voice he had heard, and for the God who sent His beloved Son into this world to save sinners.

But you may say, “How was it possible for him to get the blessing through that verse? and how did it come about?” Such questions I am not prepared to answer. All I know is that it did come about, and he found peace and joy and salvation and everlasting life there and then through that verse.

It may be, dear reader, that you are in darkness and doubt, longing for the blessing that my friend got. Possibly the verse that was used in blessing to him will meet your need also. Look at it again and pray to God that its glorious light may dispel the thick darkness that hovers over your soul, so that you may be able to say, “ I'm saved ,” and then give God the praise. Here are the precious words once more; read them carefully, accept them simply, for they are the imperishable words of the God who cannot lie.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation: but is passed from death unto life.”

“Ye Are Not Your Own”

 

“Ye are not your own”; let us never forget this. The purchase price has been paid, and the Holy Ghost has taken possession of those whom God has purchased, for “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” Not our souls only, but body, soul, and spirit are His henceforward and forever.

Had you purchased a house and agreed to take possession of it at a certain date, you would think it strange if the old owner still remained in it, and insisted upon occupying some of the rooms. Would you not point out to him the unreasonableness and unrighteousness of such a course? Yet how often we are found acting somewhat after that fashion. We say, “Yes, Lord, we are Thine!” but we do not yield ourselves to Him, and we like to use our bodies for our own selfish ends. Ponder well the unrighteousness of this, and let us hold it as our sacred privilege to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, that He may be glorified in our body.

Your Body

 

“ 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 ” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

It is an arresting thought that we are not our own; that we do not belong to ourselves but to God. We never did belong to ourselves, for in the days when we knew not God we were servants, or slaves, of sin (Rom. 6:17). It is possible that we thought that we were pleasing ourselves, but that was merely one of the devil's delusions; in reality we had yielded ourselves to a power that held us in an all-controlling bondage. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34).

As the slaves of sin we needed redemption, and God has redeemed us. His great love made Him desire to have us as His own, and that same great love moved Him to pay a great price for us, for we “ ARE bought with a price .” That price was the precious blood of Christ. Nothing less than this would do. The gold for which men crave and labour and the gems that fascinate the eyes of women could avail nothing in this matter, nor could any other price be found in heaven above or in earth beneath but this— the precious blood of Christ.

“Yes, for me, the base, the guilty,

Flowed that living flood;

I, an enemy, am ransomed

By that precious blood.

Silent at Thy feet I lie

Lost in love's immensity.”

If God has paid this price for us we belong to Him by a righteous and inalienable title, and to Him it is right that we should yield ourselves. How could we even think of holding back from Him that which is His at so great a cost?

But that is not the end of the story; there is more to tell. God has not only bought us with a great price, but He has taken possession of that which He has purchased ; and He has done this in an altogether inconceivable way. He has sent down the Holy Spirit to make our bodies His abode.

Let us illustrate. Here are two men, and they are both on the look out for property. The first purchases a house and immediately advertises, “This house to let.” Not so the other; he has set his heart upon a desirable dwelling and he pays the needful price in order that he might take possession of it and dwell in it himself. Now, if we were to judge by the conduct of some who profess to belong to the Lord we should conclude that, like the first man of our illustration, God had purchased them in order to let them out to other tenants, for the world and the flesh seem to occupy the best apartments in their lives and God and His will have little place, and their conduct is a denial of the truth. God has chosen, purchased, and possesses us in order to dwell in us Himself. Intensely solemn and yet blessed thought, God dwells in us; for the Holy Ghost is God!

This great fact was urged upon the saints of God at Corinth in order to show them that not their souls only, but their bodies also were God's, and being His they were to be held sacred for His use. They were not to be devoted to the gratification of the carnal appetites, but were to be at God's disposal and to be used for His glory. And this truth is needed today even as it was then. May we realize more deeply the importance and dignity of our bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Ghost, so that we may seek grace to use them aright for Him to whom they belong.

Your Rope's Not Long Enough

 

A preacher was holding an open-air meeting, in the course of which he exhorted his hearers to do good and be good; he spoke of Jesus as a pattern, and advised them to follow in His steps if they would be saved. A poor woman bearing unmistakably upon her features the marks of sin, listened attentively for some time, and then suddenly interrupted the preacher by crying, “Nay, mister, your rope's not long enough for the likes of us.”

Here was a case that the preacher's doctrine would not help; his rope would not reach her, and she felt it. Well, better throw no rope at all to a drowning man than mock him by throwing one that is too short, and the rope of salvation by works is far too short to save sinners. Nay! it is no rope at all.

But this woman may have been much worse than others? Outwardly no doubt she was; but do not forget that God has said, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22-23). And all being sinners, all need salvation. Oh! that each unconverted reader might discover that he or she is sinking in a sea of sin, and must be overwhelmed by the waves of judgment for ever, unless salvation comes to them.

How eagerly would they then cry out for a rope both long enough and strong enough to save them. And can such be found? Yes; verily God Himself has provided such an One. He gave His own Son to die not as a martyr or an example to men, but as the Substitute for sinners. His death was sacrificial, meeting God's righteous claims, and enabling Him to be just, and yet the Justifier of all who believe in Jesus.

Here is perfect salvation for all—all need it; none are too bad for it. God proclaims the blessing world-wide—it is for whosoever will take it. “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” ( Rom. 4:5). “[He] was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 4:25; 5:1). Cease from your own merits; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Then you will rejoice in the wondrous words of the Saviour, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Believe now.

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