LAST words should have special weight, and I feel the responsibility of being called upon to speak in this the last hour of our Conference. There is one word, entirely in the spirit of our meaning, which I would cite at the beginning — ''That in all things He might have the pre-eminence." You remember the words in that passage in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, perhaps the most sublime in the entire Word of God, bringing before us the accumulated glories of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this should characterize not only our meeting tonight, but it should be the life aim of every Christian, "That in all things He should have the pre-eminence."
I turn back for a moment upon some of the words I spoke this afternoon with reference to the recognition of His Lordship, not only in our lives but with our lips; and I trust I may say without danger of offending or wounding anyone of my brethren present, that it seems to me we are greatly remiss and largely to blame on this subject. The characteristic testimony of the Church of the present dispensation is that Christ is Lord. Is there an unconverted sinner here who seeks to have life, here is the word that God gives you, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:9)." You remember the kindred word in the 3rd verse of the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians —" No man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost." And it is my experience that while of course any lips can frame these words—a parrot in its cage can be taught to say them — the man who is not a Christian is almost sure to betray himself by this; he may speak of Him with every sort of paraphrase, but he will say never "Lord Jesus." I never heard an unconverted man use the words spontaneously. I repeat, it is the characteristic testimony of our time. We have in the Epistle of Peter, "Sanctify Christ in your hearts as Lord" (1 Peter 3:15) - not as Saviour (our selfishness would lead us to do that); not as king, for that is a wider thought; we, in our dispensation, know nothing of Him as King, unless we first know Him as Lord - sanctify Him as Lord. Here again is a text that I would take for the Convention that is to be held here next week. You will find it in the 2nd chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians — "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him." There is no Christianity beyond that. Keswick Conventions have nothing to teach you higher than that. The realisation of that is the life of Christ on earth; and there is no higher life for the Christian than thus living out the life of Christ." As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him."
We can not afford to be indifferent as to the recognition of our Lord Jesus Christ. Is it not a fact that the world around us knows nothing of His Lordship? Is it not a fact that irreverence is eating the very heart out of our Christianity? And even in Conferences and revival meetings you will find people who know nothing of His Lordship: and I make bold to say that as a consequence you will find some who have come to doubt even His resurrection from the dead. Let us be eager to own His Lordship.
But I want to deal with this on a wider ground tonight, and with reference to the great purposes of God, not merely for the days we live in, but from the beginning down through the ages, and right on to the end. What has been the great struggle, the great controversy, between God and the fallen creation? Turn with me to a striking passage in the Gospel of John, 8th chapter and the 44th verse. How unlike the altruism that we are told is the very highest development of Christianity! "How shocking," the Altruist will exclaim, "to call these devout pious people, the leaders of the Jews, children of the Devil!" But here are the words, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will to do. He was a liar from the beginning. and abode not in the truth, because there was no truth in him." Now what is the meaning of "a murderer from the beginning?" Does it mean that he was a murderer from the time that he became a murderer? A more unmeaning statement there could not be. To say that he was a murderer from the beginning of his existence is blasphemy against God. He was made perfect, the noblest creature I believe that ever came from the Creator's hand. What then is the " beginning?" Look what follows. He abode not in the truth. What truth? Was it that he told lies? Respectable people do not tell lies; and why should a perfect creature do so? T here is something more in it than this. "When he speaketh a lie" - or more literally, - "When he speaketh the lie, he speaketh of his own." For, mark the words, "He is a liar and the father of it." What meaning is there in that to us? The father of the lie. What lie? Now you get a glimpse at what this thought is, "From the beginning." God's great purpose, not only in redemption; but back behind redemption, in creation, and right on to the new creation - God's great purpose is the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. And when at "the beginning" - we know not when, but before ever Adam lived on earth, before the human race appeared upon the scene - God shadowed forth His great revelation of the One who was to be the first-born in all creation, this it was that seems to have rankled in the heart of that peerless creature, and from the very "beginning " of the revelation of Christ he became a murderer. And "the lie" relates to Christ. The devil is the father of it, for "he abode not in the truth." What truth? "I am the truth (John 14:6)" - it is the great revelation of Christ. He apostatised there, and from that point it was, and not from the serpent's temptation in Eden, not from the death of our first parents, that began the great controversy between God and Satan, which culminated in the Cross of Calvary.
Satan's great purpose "from the beginning" has been to drag Him down. When He first appeared as a babe in Bethlehem, Satan prompted Herod to put all the infants to death in order that he might destroy Him. Through the course of His ministry on earth, not a hand was ever laid on that Blessed One, except in loving service or in reverent homage, until that awful hour when God withdrew, when God gave Him up - that hour of which He said, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness (Luke 22:53)." But Satan had tried by blandishments to lure Him from the path of dependent obedience. He had offered Him, not as a vulgar boast, but in the full recognition of what he was, the sovereignty of all this scene of earthly glory. Speaking of the kingdoms of the world, he said, "All these things and the glory of them are mine; and to whomsoever I will I give them (Luke 4:6-7)." Do homage to me and I will give you all this glory. Now, once again, He comes face to face with him in the garden, and by wicked hands - for Satan is behind the scene - He is taken. He might have prayed to the Father and He would have sent legions of angels to deliver Him (Matthew 26:53); but that was not the purpose of God. Him of whom it was said, "by whom the words were made," who was the express image of the Divine Person, for whom are all things, who upholds all things by the word of His power (Colossians 1:15-18) - we find dragged down to die the death of a malefactor; spat upon, buffeted, mocked with every indignity, and treated with all the hate of hearts inspired of Satan, and then at last gibbeted upon the Cross. There was Satan's triumph; there was the crowning achievement of this "murderer from the beginning." And now we see Him carried to the grave. But, He breaks the bonds of death, and is called to the right hand of God. "He has made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36)." He has given Him these glories, and it is ours thus to confess Him. All down the ages this great purpose of God is being slowly unfolded - this great conflict still goes on. Satan's effort is to drag Him down, and God's purpose is to exalt Him, and to bring Him to that place where at last every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).
In these days when He is gathering out the Church which is the body, it is ours to confess Him and rejoice in him as Lord. And when we speak of His coming, is it merely that we may escape what seems the natural, crisis of our life on earth, the deathbed and the grave, and pass into that scene, like Elijah, "with death untasted, and the grave unknown"? Is this the thought we have with regard to the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, or is it an earnest longing to hasten the fulfilment of this great purpose of God? Has this the place in your hearts that it ought to have? As you look at what is going on round about you in the world, do you realise that you have a part in the accomplishment of this, that you are working either for God's purpose, or against it, with regard to all these movements that characterize our times?
Do yon imagine after the words that I have spoken tonight that I can question for a moment that there is to be a personal Anti-Christ? Sacerdotalism and a false Christianity? There is no person that hates them more than I do. Priestcraft in every developement of it, I abhor. But this is only preparing the way for the great impersonation of evil which is coming. God became incarnate; He found a man to fulfil all His will, and He has given Him His throne and all His power and glory. Satan also shall become incarnate, and he too will find a man to do all his will. "And to him," we read, "the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority (Revelation 13:2)." When that day comes there will be persecution indeed. There are dark places of the earth where God's saints know what it is to be persecuted; but fancy Christians in this 19th century in Christian England talking of persecution! Drawing-room persecution! Tea gown and slippers persecution! A little ridicule; a passing sneer! There are worldly people who suffer more in the meanness of their struggles to get into society than we do as Christians for the name of Christ. This is not persecution. But the day is coming when the worship of God will be put down with an iron hand; when to confess His name will mean once again to be dragged to prison, to judgment, and to death. Then the awful purpose of Satan in his blind hate against the Lord will be displayed in a final effort, and the result will be persecution the like of which there never has been on earth, and, thank God, there never shall be in all the days that are to follow.
But the purpose shall triumph, evil shall be put down, and the Lord Jesus shall be exalted. Upon His head shall be the many diadems. Now, I repeat, it is for us in our little place, that seems as we look at it with the dim light of our own hopes and our unworthy appreciation of it, so poor, so mean, so little, to let in the light of God, and to realise that albeit we are but as puppets upon the stage, we are filling our part in the unfolding of this great purpose. It is for us to give Him this place in our heart and in our lives.
As to the testimony of our lips, it is hard to resist the conviction that Christians constantly speak of Him as "Jesus" out of sheer indolence, and because it is shorter and easier, and costs less breath than to say the Lord Jesus. When I hear people talk thus about Jesus, I am sometimes inclined to ask, what Jesus do you mean? Do you not think that in view of the great facts of the world around us, and of the great purpose that God is working out, it is fitting that we should give Him this title always, even in our secret prayers? Is not this in keeping with the exhortation to "sanctify Him as Lord in our hearts?" And not with our lips only but in our lives; and not merely when we come to these conferences, and on Sundays, but in our business, even in the busy hours of the busiest day, to remember that we are His, and that He is Lord. Do not let us have our Christianity separate from our life, but remember it is our life. If we are in a place where we cannot serve Him in our daily vocations, let us give up that place whatever it may be, although, our doing so shall bring us to poverty. Leave that to Him, remembering that He is Lord. And in view of the coming Conference and the truth that characterizes it, remember that the recognition of His Lordship is the secret of all success, and of a true attainment in the Christian life. The blessing is to be gained, not by struggling to be something you are not, but by the realisation of what you are; it is simply by faith to enter into what God has given you, what God has made you in Christ. To Him be the glory for ever and ever, Amen. I close with the words I began with, "That in all things He might have the pre-eminence."