The Grace and Glory of the Cross
Isaiah 6:9-13; John 12:35-41; Rom. 3:19.
In Romans 3 we have the common state of all mankind Godward, but in Isaiah 6 we have God’s judgment when the light has shone, and men have shut the eyes of their heart against that light. Terrible was the blindness of the Jew in Isaiah’s days, more terrible still his mind and heart when Christ came. The Jew, when the Son of God came, was first in crucifying the Lord of glory; the Roman governor would not have done it but for his fear of man. In John 12 we learn that the people refused His word, and therefore were, in judgment, given up to blindness.
In Acts 17 we find that when Paul, that especially fitted servant of God, was sent to Athens, the chief place in the world for earthly wisdom, the voice of the prince of darkness by his true disciples was, “What will this babbler say?”
Has the world grown better since then? There are better weapons of destruction, and inventions of every kind, but man has only gone forward in evil and farther from God, and is therefore more ready than ever to welcome the Man of Sin. All the cavillings of the wise of this world, and of religious men, against the truth, are only a fulfilling of the Scriptures; the Scriptures would be falsified without these cavillers and blasphemers.
The state of the child of Adam is especially seen in Romans 3:19; his mouth is shut as touching any reason for finding fault with God; but his very guiltiness blinds him. Because man has shut out God from his heart, and set up his own will in God’s place, the state of every child of Adam is one of blind subjection to the power of darkness. Satan is called the god of this world. Why? Because he can govern? No; he can do nothing save as God wills: but in man’s heart he is enthroned in the place of God. What is the fruit of this? Man is ignorant of God’s holiness, and of his own guiltiness. He has a conscience that can never die, and it demands some religion. What then? Satan becomes the teacher, God is shut out, and man has a religion of his own. If you try all the religions of man in any part of the world you will find them made up of two lies of Satan. First, some remnant of goodness in man; second, some mercy with God that will dishonour His justice. These two are the warp and woof of the whole garment. There are only two religions: Satan’s and God’s; but I will not call God’s a religion. Man is so the tool and slave—the willing, self-consecrated slave—of the devil, that he cannot rise above Satan’s religion.
God’s truth and God’s Spirit reveal man’s state before God. “The carnal mind is enmity against God,” was said by the Spirit through Paul, but what was the judgment of God ages before, “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Man’s religion never judges thoughts to be actions; but God’s Word does, and in the great day the natural man will have to give account of thoughts of the heart as deeds of iniquity. This should produce pity in our hearts, not only for the drunkard, but for the Pharisee who is going on the clean side of the broad road to everlasting destruction.
Now if this be what the Word of God tells about man’s state, what about God’s mercy? The natural man goes to- sleep on the brink of hell; that is the meaning of the word, “the whole world lieth in the wicked one”—lulled to sleep by him, with a hope of mercy that is contrary to justice.
Turn to Matthew 26:39—“And He went a little further.” Who is the He? The world’s Creator come in the flesh. Three times in Matthew and also in Mark we read, “Not as I will.” In Luke 22:43 we read of an angel; but no tidings were brought by the angel that He could be spared. No! the angel was sent to strengthen Him. What do we read if Ave turn again to Romans 3:26? “To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just and the Justifies of him that believeth in Jesus.” Is there any mercy here that treads under foot God’s justice? God’s two great truths are the perfect opposites to the two great lies of the devil. Some’ goodness in man is the devil’s lie; no goodness in man, not a jot or tittle of it is God’s truth. Mercy dishonouring God’s justice is Satan’s second lie; whereas God’s truth is, God’s sword of justice sparing not His Son. In Genesis 22 all was yielded by Abraham that could be; when the knife was in the hand, all was offered; therefore the knife in the hand of the father was enough. But God’s only Son could not be spared, for God could not save one child of Adam without the death of His Son.
Godly men have spoken about God’s choosing this way out of others. I affirm, with reverence, that God had no choice. Choice to save us or leave us like the sinning angels He had; but if He would reconcile man to Himself, He had but one way. These truths are very simple, very clear; yet how unsearchably deep, how infinitely glorious, how holy and sanctifying they are! But they hang together, just as the devil’s lies hang together.
We never can think ill enough of what we were, and we never can think well enough of the grace and glory of the Cross of Christ. Let us, beloved, take heed that we grieve not the Spirit, so that He may reveal a little more each day, and that every sunset may see us a little more humble than when the sun rose; that is life, and life worth living.
Let us now turn to Hebrews 9:13. The sin-atoning, life-giving death of the Son of God upon the cross is what is always meant by “the blood of Christ.” The figure is taken from the type of the priest’s sacrificing knife plunged into the vitals. In the case of the Lord the shedding of the blood did not actually take place till after death, for we should not speak of shedding of blood in connection with the wounds in the hands and feet. The “blood of Christ” is explained by the sword of God’s justice in Zechariah 13. The secret of all walking with God is apprehending what the one atoning sacrifice of the Son of God was to Him, the Father, and the conscience accepting the atoning sacrifice as God accepts it. If I do that I break the power of every sin; there is not a single evil that I have not under foot. But have I no conflict? Oh yes, I do not expect to cease from the warfare until I put off this body. I must bring down sanctification from above.
With regard to justification—Does a sinner know himself a poor sinner? Is he willing to take his place among the beggars on the dunghill? Then God will lift him up by the forgiveness of his sins. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” All such are in a common state of justification before God, as safe from condemnation as the blessed Son of God with whom they are one; but as to sanctification, they have a warfare, and what is the secret of power to overcome? “In the blood is the life.” Let me deal from day to day with the Sacrifice, as God’s justice deals with it, and I have power over sin. I resist the devil, and he flees from me. We, the children of God, have more power over the devil now, than was put forth by the Lord in the days of His flesh. After the forty days’ temptation in the wilderness it is said the devil left Him for a season—not fled from Him. In Gethsemane we hear the blessed One saying, “This is your hour and the power of darkness”; but when on the cross He said, “It is finished.” He had a title to take His throne, and now the power of the risen Lord against Satan is more gloriously put forth in my weakness than it was put forth in the days of His flesh.
But, beloved, what are we, the children of God, called to? Turn to Philippians 2, “He emptied Himself”—not of His Godhead, but—of a state to which He will never return, the state in which He was not a servant. Satan by creation was God’s servant, and was only happy as he served; but by disobedience he became for ever degraded and miserable, having hell in himself: on the other hand the Son of God took the servant’s place, never to leave it—see Rev. 22:3: “The throne of God and of the Lamb.” Why will there then be no curse? Christ will ever conjoin in Himself equality with God and subjection to God; He will always be the Lamb. The great and proper business, therefore, of every child of God now is to show the mind of Christ.
If this were accepted by each one, as becomes us, there would be a conversion of the whole church. We should net be found in any earthly place of glory; ours would be the great business of representing Christ to God, Christ to the world, and Christ to each other. Let us bring this mind into all the daily duties and circumstances of life; then, sorrowful we may be, yea must be, but happy we shall always be. “Let every one abide in the same calling wherein he was called”; let him make no self-willed change or choice, but make the best of his actual circumstances: where God found him, there make the best for God.
Read Ephesians 2:6-9, and 1:8-14. Our expectation is that of those raised up with Christ. I take the purchased possession to mean the new creation, that is the final hope of the children of God., the new creation which will be worthy of the last Adam. What will this world be to us, if that be kept before the soul? Only a field for serving God and showing the mind of Christ. The world to come is our property and inheritance.
Let us take heed, beloved, that we are no party to the ruin of those around us by our unlikeness to Christ. In Romans 11:20, 21, we have both promise and warning; let us take heed to the warning, “Be not high-minded, but fear.” Christendom is full of this high-mindedness; but let us be found walking in holy trembling, compassed around, as we are, with the powers of darkness, and having within us our own evil hearts. Let us walk with God and not be grieving the Spirit, so shall we become day by day a little humbler; then shall we truly live to purpose, for we shall live unto Him who died for us and rose again.
Self-Will And Sovereign Grace.
In Psalm 90 we have the name “Lord”—that is, the God of sovereign grace; also the name “Jehovah,” which means “The I Am that I Am.” The unchangeableness of God in His grace is the burden of the Psalm, which is manifestly prophetical. The Spirit of God by David tells out the heart of His people Israel when that time shall come of which the Scriptures are so full—“They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10).
Verse 13 is a quotation from Deuteronomy 32:36. Moses forewarns of judgment for their disobedience, and, when that is spent, the Lord will fulfil this word. God’s promise in Deuteronomy 32:36 is here turned into a prayer. God delights to be reminded of His own promises in Christ, and they are all of them the property of the people of God. Happy should we be if we were all now like unto what Israel will be by and by, as seen in this Psalm.
In verse 8 we read, “Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.” What is the meaning of secret sins? It means that the guilt of the sins that our consciences do not discern and our hearts do not feel is naked and open before God. One great mark of the poor sinner (and every poor sinner cannot fail to be a saved sinner) is this: he does not look around to compare himself with his neighbours, but, forgetting all the judgment of his fellow-creature, he sees himself in the eye and holiness of God to be from head to foot a leper.
The carnal mind being at enmity with God is at constant war with God in every word and thought. Wherein lies the enmity? In self-will. Every child of Adam in every thought of his heart is at. variance with God, and every such thought in the eye of God’s holiness is a sins; hence that language in Genesis 6:5, “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually.” Before the flood, violence filled the earth; that violence was only a branch—the heart is the great root of evil. If men go on the clean side of the broad road to everlasting perdition they make God a liar; but if they truly confess their sins, the blood of Christ cleanseth them from all sin. That blood, which is as precious to God as Christ Himself, God has accepted; and Christ having presented the sacrifice of His own death to God, the sinner that trusts in Him is justified and accepted as Christ Himself is.
Note the marvellous work of God in Israel when this Psalm is graven upon their hearts. I often find my faith confirmed by looking to what God will do for that people; they who were chief in enmity against Him will be chief in their obedience to Him. They here ask for much more than, the forgiveness of sins; they ask the very best that God has to give; and so they take the sure way to get things of smaller value. They pray, “Make us glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us, and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.” The words, “beauty of the Lord,” are more than once mentioned in the Scriptures. What do they mean? Nothing less than the manifestation of the mind and ways of Christ, and the unfolding of what God’s Spirit would have us understand by those words in Isaiah 52:14, “His visage was so marred more than any man.” The beauty of the Lord comes out of the depth of His sorrows, and they as much as say, “Let us be filled with the Spirit, and let us so walk in Christ that all the surrounding nations may see the beauty of the Lord upon us.” And so it will come to pass that there will be elect ones from among Gentile nations, wholly one with Israel, by God making Israel His ambassadors throughout the earth, according to Isaiah 66:18-20, when the full blessing of the prophet Joel will be fulfilled in them, of which Acts 2 is only an earnest.
The Jews now are a covetous nation; then they will be the heavenly opposite, fulfilling the book of Proverbs and the Song of Solomon—the dutiful son making glad the Father’s heart, and the “spouse leaning on the arm of her Beloved”; and the Lord will be able to say of them, “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes.” I do not wish to rob you of these books, but let us look at the glorious things which God will do for Israel, as in these books foretold, and let us take heart concerning both the Church of God and the unbelieving world around us; and if we open, the mouth wide, God will fill it.
At the end of the next coming time, the unbelieving world will rise in deliberate, furious enmity against God and His people—that people filled with the Spirit of Christ—and so make manifest that the judgment of the “great white throne” is a judgment to which the obstinate rebellion of man has driven the justice of God. In the judgment of wrath on Satan and his angels the equity of God will likewise be made manifest. Oh, that we did duly consider all that the Spirit of God would teach us out of the Scriptures, of what we ourselves have been redeemed from—the everlasting wrath awaiting the world—to increase our gratitude to God, and to move our hearts to pity and prayer for our unbelieving fellow-creatures around us!
Treasures of Grace.
It is to be observed, and to be borne in solemn remembrance, that one intent of this chapter is to show that sin must be measured by the holiness of God, and not by damage done by man to his neighbour. Man’s will is always in opposition to the will of God. Thus we read: “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” A man may be most amiable, most commendable, and full of good works, as between himself and his neighbour, but the root of all within is enmity against God. We know this is written in our Bibles, and more or less on our hearts; but how deep is it there? In Gen. 6:5, 6, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” Has man been growing better since? On the contrary, man has been advancing in wickedness and in opposition to God. To go back a little, I would say that word has come true, “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (Job 5:13). God takes Satan in his own devices.
Observe in this third chapter of Genesis, verses 9-12, that a guilty conscience and pride caused Adam not to think of confession; enmity with God, and despair, made him, as far as he dared to do it, cast the blame upon God. And what of the woman? “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Why no confession? Because they were shut up both in pride and condemnation; their conscience shut out all possibility of salvation. But how the Sovereign Grace of God here shines out! He does not cast them into punishment, nor does He ask any confession from Satan. Oh, no! But His word is, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” God’s justice visited our Surety, Christ, so that now it can be said that He is “just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” No earthly sovereign has a title to his glory and dominion that can be compared with ours to heavenly glory! As between our guiltiness and God’s justice, not a crust of bread, nor a drop of water, do we deserve; but, as between us and our Surety, Christ, we have a title that is one with His to eternal glory, and are raised far above the highest angels as one with the Son of God.
The everlasting harvest to be reaped by the wicked from seed sown in this life is a matter that greatly concerns the family of God. Satan has been taking advantage of the wisdom of this world, misleading even saints, and, without their suspecting it, diminishing their love, their thankfulness to God for their own redemption. In order to deal aright with this solemn truth, left us begin with those mighty creatures of God that were brought into being before the world was made—that is, the angels of God. Turn to 2 Peter 2:4: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” “Chains.” God’s hand made the chains and creatures cannot break them. Jude 6: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Observe that God never provided for those mighty creatures a Mediator, a Redeemer; but we find wicked spirits in the days of Christ’s flesh saying, “Art Thou come to torment us before the time? “In the book of Revelation we read: “Satan is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” More and more is Satan prevailing to blind man, and there is a steady advance in his power over an unbelieving world that welcomes his lies, which will end in this, that when the “everlasting punishment “is nearest, men will be saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? “Then sudden destruction shall come, and, what the Apostle of the Gentiles could say, everyone of us should be able to say, “I am pure from the blood of all men”; and again, “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” Satan’s title, “The god of this world,” means that men have set God aside, and have put up Satan in His place.
From the time that God said to Satan that the woman’s seed should bruise the serpent’s head, and clothed our first parents with skins (their fig leaves were not carried out of Paradise) telling of Christ, the Lamb of God, their righteousness, the revelation of Christ has been growing. It was a marvellous advance when it was said before the destruction of Sodom, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” Abraham was dealt with as a friend by the Son of God appearing to him in human form; it was as much as to say, I can’t destroy Sodom without bringing Abraham into My counsel. Then we remember His dealings with Moses at Mount Sinai, after Israel had sinned in making the golden calf. What a marvellous condescension of grace! The living God puts Himself into the hands of His friend, as much as to say, “Unless you ‘let Me alone’ I can’t destroy this people.” If we go on to John 11:5, we read, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus,” that is, He loved as a friend; but what says He, in chapter 17, of the love of the Father to us? “Thou hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.” We should bear in mind that obligation to God is measured by revelation. Now, where is He that said on the cross, “It is finished”? What has he done for us? He has fulfilled His promise of sending the Comforter. Reverently would we say that no operation of the Godhead could be without the co-operation of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Through the Spirit He became the Son of Man, and “through the Eternal Spirit” He “offered Himself without spot to God.” Thus has He obtained the title to become the Melchisedec Priest at the right hand of God, and the anointing He has we share, and the state of the Church of God, if that were believed, would declare it. We should all naturally flow together, and our heart and conscience ought to agree with the fulness of the revelation given to us.
Supposing the family of God did but remember that the ungodly world has rejected Christ, and that in this land they have corrupted the Gospel, setting Christ aside, and yet are calling God their Father, what manner of spirit would foe; ours who are saved from Satan’s power, to be God’s witnesses in the midst of it? “Among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” Are we considering wherefore we are saved, and wherefore we are left in this world? Is it to be first seeking the things of the world, or seeking first the Kingdom, of God and His righteousness, as those who have the promise of everything needful in this life —all that He in His wisdom accounts good?
God Revealing Himself.
How is it that we have no record of the creation of angels, or of the revolt of Satan and his fallen spirits? Because the great intent of God is to reveal Himself in Christ; and the mention of angels, elect, and fallen, comes in by the way. In Gen. 1 and 2 we have more than the record of creation, we have in type the new creation. In Gen. 2:20-24, with Eph. 5, we see what in that creation was the chief purpose of God. God’s great intent in the six days’ work was to set up in Adam a type of Christ as the last Adam, and in the woman taken out of him, a type of the Church of God, whose life is taken out of the wounded side of the last Adam. It is well worthy to be remembered, that while the creation needs God, God needs not the creation. Suppose there had been no creation, no man or earth in being, there must have been an infinite blessedness and glory in God Himself, Father, Son, and Spirit, All-sufficient and Self-sufficing. The only Self-sufficing Being is God, the only Being that has a right to a will of His own. Man, takes God’s place. The whole life of the natural man is one of self-will. The child of Adam takes to himseilf that which belongs only to God—“Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?”
How glorious is it that God, taking occasion by man’s low estate, gives us by the life-giving death of His Son—us self-murdered, self-degraded ones—life eternal! Self-degraded we are, lower than the ox or the ass, but raised by God higher than the holy angels. These, though in the sovereign pleasure of God they were preserved from sin, were never made children, but are attendants on God’s children. I know they are twice called sons of God in Job, but this is in contrast with the rebel Satan. They have a right to be in heavenly places, as ministers to us, but no right to say, “Abba, Father.” The vilest of the human race are taken up, and, through the death of Christ, taught to say, “Abba, Father.” All the family of God, from Adam downwards, are equally children, though before the manifestation of Christ they were not taught “Abba.” There is a marvellous advance in the privileges of believers contained in that great word “henceforth,” of John 15:15. God in His own nature is self-sufficing; but having stooped to raise us by the cross of His Son, no father upon earth ever had such delight in the affections of his children, as God has in ours. In Prov. 30 we have mention of the horseleech which cries, “Give, give.” We are too much like that, always thinking of getting from God more than of giving to Him. What! we poor ones give to God? No, but we rich ones; the fulness of Christ is all ours. Every one of us ought to be a giver, to make it the business of his life to give pleasure to God.
While the first man was blameless, God, revealed to him as his Maker, was enough; there was no guilt, and no need of redemption, Adam was at once a worshipper of God; he did not learn to be so, but it was as natural to him as to breathe. Now that we are out of paradise we need more than God the Creator, we need God the Redeemer. Such a complete revelation of God we have in Christ crucified, the brightness of the Father’s glory (Heb. 1:3). Sun, moon, and stars, tell a little about His glory; the cross tells the whole. Consider that this one Book contains a full and complete revelation of Christ. It is the only book that does or can lay open the heart of man, and it lays open the heart of God. The Spirit of God has been given to dwell in us, and He is the Teacher of all that are willing to learn—not of the self-willed. He does not undertake to teach them that have will and wisdom of their own. But if I live to do the will of God, not only is the Spirit my Teacher, but, if I love to learn, He unspeakably more delights to teach. If we—I mean the whole family of God—were not selfish there would be no sects or divisions, but we should be one, as Israel will be in a future day. Israel, when filled with the Spirit, will be the subject, loving spouse of the Song, and then will be fulfilled Zeph. 3:17, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.”
Every child of God ought to make his Father glad. Every one of us, in his own place, outward condition and circumstances, his own advance in years and in the journey of life, has peculiar opportunities of pleasing God from day to day. Men are taken up with doing good to creatures, instead of pleasing God; but that is the very way to miss the mark: while reforming the drunkard they let all kinds of evil come into their own hearts and ways. But if my meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work; if this be the main business of the child of God, it matters not what or where he is, he will be a preacher of Christ, not perhaps by gift and office, but by example in daily life the best of preachers, and in the day of the Lord it will be abundantly manifested that no such one has lived in vain.
The New Creation
Romans 8 and 12
One thing to be especially observed in this epistle is the mention in chapter 4 of the words borrowed from Psalm 32. The Spirit of God by the apostle opens up this forgiveness—non-imputation of sin. Oh that we did all consider the word “justified “—it is a marvellous word! But how does that come to pass? In verse 3 we read, “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”; and in chapter 5, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” The word “justified” shows that we have, in the very righteousness of God, a title to eternal life and glory. Do the people of God consider this, and do they in living faith call it to mind? Does it not lie at the root of all walking with God, and behaving as we should in this present world? For to be justified is (1) to be cleared of all blame, and (2) to be presented as we should be in the eye of God.
This is far above all natural thoughts, and it is totally contrary to the religious man, for it cuts to pieces all his own religion; and does it not as much abase me as comfort me? For how came I by it? God’s own Son bearing my sin brings me to nothing as the creature and the sinner, whilst it raises me above the highest angel of God. Ought this not to be from day to day the bread of my inner man? I have been more than seventy years reading the Bible, and to-day it is more new and glorious than ever. All God’s angels count it joy and honour to wait upon us. They do not appear before God in union with Christ. We, on the other hand, are made as near as it is possible for God to make us. What manner of persons, then, ought we to be? And what manner of hearts should be ours towards the God of all grace? Is it not very beautiful in this chapter to mark the Spirit’s love? Christ having through the Spirit offered up Himself, now that Spirit not only quickens us, but reveals to our hearts Christ already glorified. What a joy it is to the Spirit of God to do this!
The Spirit groans for the same event that creation groans for—the new creation—and whereas the first creation was worthy of the first man taken out of the earth, the new creation will be worthy of the last Adam. The glory of it we cannot tell, but we are heirs of it, and nothing can affect our title. Is it not so, that if we all thought highly enough of ourselves we should all behave aright? We never can think ill enough of ourselves unless we think well enough. It is through redemption we learn to think thus; to be truly lowly before God we need to know how near we are and how dear we are to God.
The Spirit was in perfect fellowship with the Lord in His groaning at the grave of Lazarus. The Spirit sees in us two things—what we shall be in the new creation and what we are now. Our groan is for the new creation, whether we have any pain or not. It is very lovely to see the Holy Spirit longing on our behalf for that time; the love of the Spirit is so manifest in this, as well as His sympathy and fellowship.
The blessed Lord in His rule of all creatures is every day and hour moving onwards and ordering all things to that end, and if I have a mind in fellowship with Christ I shall be looking on to the new creation, and I shall have a mind always to say, “Thy will be done.” That is holiness. This will help us, not to indifference about the things of God, but with a tender spirit to behold the family of God as joint-heirs with Christ, and to care for others even if they care not for us.
Now may we cast a glance at chap. 12:1—“I beseech you.” Did Moses at Mount Sinai beseech Israel? He not only did not, but could not. And what does the apostle beseech us to be doing? “To present your bodies a living sacrifice.” Then I am not to be my own at all? The reason why the apostle says this is, he will have the whole man for Christ. We not only “belong to our God and Father by creation, we are bought—a very far higher title.
God calls our struggle against self-will a victory. If He sees me not making any peace with it He is well pleased with me. God, who prepared a body for Christ on our account, now asks a body from us in return. He has given all He can give; what ought we to give in return? Our true happiness in this world hangs upon our pleasing God. We can never present the flesh as a sacrifice to God, but the body is purchased, and if we use the members for any other purpose we are prostituting what belongs to Him. “He is the Father of mercies,” and as such full of pitiful-ness, and when He sees us unfeignedly desiring to please Him He is well pleased with our little.
There is also in this chapter an admonition to us to remember that each of us is a member of a body. Angels were never bound up in that way; they lost nothing by the fall of those who fell. We are bound up as members one of another, and therefore the grace in my brother or sister is my property and my joy, and the fault in my brother or sister is my fault. Is not that the right way to look at it? It is well for us to remember that evil which has become a custom is, in the judgment of the common conscience, no evil at all. It is hard for us to sea in God’s light the things which the Church of God practise from day to day. How much we need the affections of Christ for all the family of God! We now have opportunities for pleasing God that we shall not have in the new creation. There are often complaints in the world that workmen well skilled are out of employment; but in the Church of God there ought not to be any out of employ.
Two Sons And Two States
Luke 15 and 16
The two sons represent the whole house of Israel. In Exodus 4:22 we read: “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even My firstborn.” The title “son” has misled even many godly persons to speak of them as both regenerate. This greatly mars the interpretation. They represent the two classes of the people—“the elder son” showing us the proud Pharisees, and “the younger son” the publicans and sinners. In this we have the key to the whole three parables in this chapter. Nationally, Israel is God’s son, and never to be cast off. In speaking of “the unjust steward” the Lord pursues the business of rebuking the Pharisee. According to Romans 9:4, God had entrusted them with the law, but they had wasted His goods, and proved themselves unfaithful. The state of the Jew is here set forth by the lost sheep and the lost piece of silver; then more fully in the third parable, and in the way of perfect heavenly revelation, God’s dealings with such as were called out from those who rejected and crucified the Lord. The great intent is to show the riches of grace toward the called-out ones, and the righteous judgment of God against those who proudly reject Him. How precious to God are the elect! “Thine they were; and Thou gavest them Me.” Is it not true that a thing of small worth given by one we love becomes of great value? This is set forth by the lost sheep, and the pains taken to pursue and get it back; so also the lost piece of silver.
Is it dwelt upon sufficiently by the family of God that the holy angels have joy in our salvation, in our regeneration, and in God’s raising us above them? The whole company of the angels have life by creation, but we have a life derived from the crucified, slain Lamb, and are created anew in Christ Jesus. If we better understood what we are made to God in Christ we should better understand why the holy angels delight in ministering to us.
Christ came in the fulness of time for not only had the wickedness of man been made manifest, but also the state of the Jews had never been so wicked as then. They were puffed up, in the midst of all their guiltiness, by the pride of self-righteousness. When, in their own esteem, they were at their best, in God’s sight they were at their worst.
The poor worldlings, and even many Christians, are talking of the world getting better; but what saith the Scripture? “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” On looking round we see men self-destroyed, yet God saves such, as we learn from this chapter; but if men reject the truth they are given up to receive error.
What wickedness there is in the words of the elder son—“Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends”—and in his turning his back upon his father! God is shut out. And his saying, “I never at any time transgressed thy commandment,” shows that the conscience of the Jew had been thus trained by Satan instead of accepting the judgment of God. “The carnal mind is enmity against God”; man accepts the devil’s lie, and as much as says, “Will God punish a sinner with everlasting wrath?” If God could not spare His Son, how could He possibly spare the sinner that could not make any atonement? God could not justly forgive without His own Son bearing our sin.
In the end of chapter 16 the two distinct states of men after death are set forth. The younger son is now the saved sinner, but is pictured by Lazarus, full of sores, to furnish another illustration of the state of soul which, by the Spirit of God, such were made to feel. But “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill.” This is as he is seen by the eye of God, and also in his own eyes as taught by the Spirit. It is remarkable that the rich man always calls Abraham father, but Abraham only once calls him son. The silence of Scripture, how loudly it speaks! It is as much as to say, “I know thee by natural birth to be one of my family, but spiritually I disown thee.” We, the redeemed, will not only have joy immediately from Christ, but we shall joy and delight in each other’s joy. The opposite of this is an awful truth—those who have been confederates in enmity are seen to be companions in punishment.
God’s Purpose In Redemption
Remarks on Proverbs 8.
This chapter reminds us of John 17:5, “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” Also of John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I find in reading it that love shines forth before me, and I say to myself, “God is love.” Before the world was He set up His own Son to be what He now is: as we read in verse 22, “in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.” Does not this agree with, “In the beginning was the Word,” and with 2 Thess. 2:13, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation”? Does it not tell that the chief purpose in the mind of God (when as yet there was not any creature in being) was the setting up of Christ to be the Head of all things, which we know He has now actually become? The creation of angels and men—even the whole creation—is like the spokes of a wheel; it is upon Christ as the axle that everything hangs. It was the purpose of God to reveal Himself in Christ; not only to glorify Himself, but to provide Himself in Christ with objects of affection, in which He could delight, and in which He could rest. Does not this agree with Eph. 1:5: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to Himself? “And is not the force of that of His own choice, for His own delight? In verse 6 it is, “To the praise of the glory of His grace;” but before mention is made of glory, we read “to Himself.” If we look thus at God as purposing to delight Himself in Christ, and in His children in Christ, does it not follow that He is Love, and that the one demand upon us is, “My Son, give Me thine heart? “It is not only for our comfort, but chiefly for God’s delight and joy.
Some speak as if God’s chief design was the salvation of the lost. That is, indeed, a glorious design; but instead of its being the chief end, it is but a step towards it; that end being the revelation of God’s glory. As truly as an obedient son gives joy to his father whom he loves and reveres, and in whose counsel he delights, so truly is that child not only the glory but the joy of his father. And thus it is that we, walking humbly with God, give joy to God; and should it not be the chief business of our hearts to consider what we can give to God, rather than what we can get from Him?
What could we as creatures give God? We were the children of wrath—dust and ashes; and we are still, as touching the flesh, dust and ashes. But we are not now loved as enemies—we were loved when we were enemies—but now we are loved as children, and our obedience and our delight in God are a delight to God; and if I delight in God it is not possible to envy any man:. There is an exhortation which puts one’s faith to the test: “My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine; yea, my reins shall rejoice when thy lips speak right things” (Prov. 23:15, 16). Lest any should question whether this is spoken to us, turn to Prov. 3:11, 12: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction; for whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth,” and compare Heb. 12:5: “Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of Him,.” If any one had any question as to Proverbs being for the children of God, surely this would answer it.
In the 9th chapter we read, “Wisdom hath builded heir house;… she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.” In the “killing” and the “wine,” we are doubtless reminded of the cross—“Christ crucified.” Then the title “Wisdom” is very precious—it has much the same significance as the title “Word,” in the beginning of John’s Gospel. The force of the title the Word” is that unless God had revealed Himself in Christ, His works could never perfectly reveal Him, though there is enough, by God’s works in creation, to show man his obligation, and to leave him without excuse.
If a man had not speech he could not tell out his heart, and hence the tongue is called the glory of a man: “Awake up, my glory.” Every revelation of God by other means than by Christ, is as nothing in comparison with that which would have remained unrepealed. Christ is the Word of God; by Him He tells out His bosom secrets. “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” Now we have all that God can possibly reveal of Himself. “God is light,” and “God is love.” And if He be love, how precious to Him must be the affection of His children) towards Him, and how grievous to Him must be the lack of affection.
If God unfolds His heart in Christ, then how reasonable the demand, “My Son, give Me thine heart! “and ought it not to be our chief business every day to obey the command, or rather to fulfil the wish, “My son, give Me thine heart!” God as a Father has everything in Christ that He delights in John 17:23, “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou has sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.” It is not merely with love akin to the love wherewith God the Father has loved Christ; there is no difference between the love He bears to Christ, and the love He bears to us. Not only is it a matter of faith to believe this, but it is the highest obedience to believe it.
We were children of Adam, but now we are children of God. Strictly speaking, Adam before his fall had no fellowship with God, though he had such a knowledge of God as was necessary for his blessing as a creature. Nor, indeed, if we apprehend it, is it possible for God to have fellowship with any creature as a creature; but He must have fellowship with us as sons; and if we be one with His Son, He must dwell in us. We are not only made to sit together in heavenly places for the security of our salvation, but for the communion of love. Our affections should be there, because God, as it were, looks for us to be there in affection, “together with Christ”; not only in point of security of salvation, but in the Spirit’s fellowship: “Builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
The Holy One Bearing Our Sins
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto Me and heard My cry.” Every word of this psalm breathes out the soul of the Lord Jesus, and speaks to God and to us of His perfections. In verse 8 we see holiness, perfect holiness, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.” In His case no allowance for imperfections could be made, and, blessed be His name! none was needed. In Him there was no law in the members warring against the law of the mind; there was nothing in the Son of God come in the flesh that did not give perpetual, unspeakable delight to God who sent Him. And it was He alone—the Son of God, the Word of God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all things therein—that could become Surety of the everlasting covenant (Heb. 7:22). It is as such that He speaks in this psalm, saying “Mine iniquities” (v. 12), for as Surety He made our iniquities His own.
The difference between His confession and ours is unspeakable. In Psalm 51 David, going to the root of the matter, speaks of himself as utterly evil, incurably evil; but when the Son of God speaks, even though as Surety, He says “Mine iniquities,” He can only as to Himself personally speak of holiness— perfect, immutable holiness—the spring of everything that can please God. Then again, we are forgiven our sin on confession, for sin cannot be truly confessed without being instantly forgiven and cleansed away. But Christ could have no forgiveness, and He needed no cleansing. He could only be justified by full payment of the debt, and on that ground He can justify others.
The only death Christ could die was the death of atonement. That death He died, and now He lives at the right hand of God, and is the source of life and power to His people—all being due to His cross. The sinner dies a death of enmity to God; Christ died a death of infinite love to God. The sinner dies a death of despair; Christ died with the sure hope of resurrection. The sinner’s death is no death of atonement, hence deeper and deeper must he sink. The death of the Son of God was the full revelation of all the perfections of God; it is therefore the perfect rest of God, and the perfect rest of faith.
And now, beloved, what is the song—the “new song”? “He hath put a new song into My mouth, even praise unto our God.” We sing acceptably to God, and our song is more acceptable to God than to our own ear. Why? Because Christ is the chief theme. Let us observe the contrast between “our God” and “Mine iniquities.” Our transgressions became His, and as they have been for ever removed from Him, so they are for ever removed from us, by His one sacrifice. And now, being raised out of the depths, He sings the new song, the melody of which takes hold of and possesses the heart of God. In this song we can join, and all through the sorrows of the cross. Therefore no song can ever be so joyous or so solemn as ours.
The Glory Of Christ’s Obedience
Psalm 91:14-16; John 18:4-8; 19:30.
Beloved, by and by the justice of God must make an end of the season of God’s long-suffering towards His enemies. Every moment that long-suffering is exercised through the atoning death of God’s Son; and when justice shall be administered, by whose hand shall it be executed, and who shall be the judge? The once-judged One. And what is to be the rule of that justice which will at once be rigorous, admirable, and wise? The rule and measure by which the Son of God was judged is to be that by which He will Himself judge, and this will be the never-ending death of the enemies of God—a death from within them, a death of enmity against God, a death wherein conscience shall perfectly justify the sentence against them. It will be an execution of death, without God and without hope. They will be raised to be dealt with in justice.
From that death we have been by death for ever redeemed. But by what death? By a death in which was manifested infinite love on the part of the dying One—God’s Son, the world’s Creator, come in the flesh. His was a death always bearing with it a title to resurrection—“Because He hath set His love upon me, therefore will I deliver Him.” It was a life-giving death, a death wherein was fulfilled that word—“I have declared Thy name.” And when the blessed Lord said, in John 19:30, “It is finished,” the great intent of the words which filled His heart was, “I have perfectly declared Thy name.” The glory of the Son’s obedience is seen in every step of His life, and preeminently in the death of the cross, and far transcends creation glory. God the Father’s name is declared, God the Father’s love is satisfied, and “therefore doth My Father love Me” is fulfilled.
While God executed His righteous judgment upon His Son He did so not in the character of Father, but in the character of sin-avenging Judge; yet while the sword was in the hand of the sin-avenging Judge all the heart and love of the Father delighted and rested in that Son, and in the deed of that Son. And if it was said to Abraham, “Take now thy son,” thine only son, thine Isaac, thy joy, “whom thou lovest”—if that was true when they went up the mount together, oh, was it not as much, true when they came down from the mount after the weapon of slaughter had been in the father’s hand? What yearnings there must have been in the father’s heart towards him who had been laid on the altar, had been bound to the altar, and who in purpose was slain! So do we see our heavenly Father’s delight in the Son, whom He smote and slew, in the character of sin-avenging Judge—smiting, bruising, shutting out all mercy in the cup which He gave that Son to drink. At the same time we see the perfect trust of the Son in the Father, according to those words in John 16:32, “I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.”
Beloved in Christ, never was there such a fulfilling of such a promise as, “There shall no evil befall thee”—never such a fulfilling of a promise by the seemingly perfect breach of it. But He trusted, and the sustaining of His faith was the fulfilling of the word, “I will be with Him.” “The Father is with Me,” He said. Put that side by side with “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Let us never forget, beloved, the one or the other—the wrath and anger of offended justice spent upon Christ, and the Father’s love at the same time delighting in the Son; the Son forsaken, and at the same time trusting in the Father, even when uttering those words in Psalm 22. Infinite justice and infinite love together wrought the work on mount Calvary. Eternity will never finish the unfolding of the sufferings of the Son of God on the cross. The suffering on the Son’s part was the expression of perfect faith in Him at whose hand He suffered. In comparison with His sufferings there can be no other.
We shall never bear the curse, because He has borne it. We can never be forsaken, since He was forsaken for us. We may forsake Him,, but He never forsakes us. And if His rod smite us, it is as those raised up together with Christ, and as being under the discipline of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And let us remember that while our trials are never to be compared to the trial of Christ on the cross, yet are we to be admonished by two great things that we see there. One is, that when God is excellently keeping His promise, He will often begin by a seeming breach of it; the other is, that we are to seize the occasion, for trusting the love, the faithfulness, the wisdom which we see in the cross. We are to trust Him as doing us no evil, nor suffering any to befall us. Whatever be the occasion of the trial—be it personal, be it in the Church of God, or in the state of the world around us, whatever it may be—let us take heed to this one thing, to keep Christ before us, and to copy His example in trusting the hand that bruised Him, trusting the love that did not spare Him, and trusting the wisdom that led Him out of death into the glory which He now has and shall for ever have.
What Christ Is To God
Hebrews 10:19; Ephesians 2:11-22.
I take these two portions in order to bring specially before us what Christ is to God. Let us ask, What makes heaven full of fragrance at this moment? Whence came it? Who brought it into heaven? The answer is, The Son of God by the fragrance of His atoning sacrifice has filled the holiest of all. Now, I would ask a question—Is this the first thought of the morning? Is this the thought wrapped up in the heart, and in faith carried through the day? It is a question for old and young whereby to test the state of the soul. We are never fit for things below until we bring fitness down from above, not fit to handle matters of the family, or the church, or the house of business. And why not? Because we get a heart for God within the veil, and it is only as God in Christ is with us in all our occupations that they are of any account with God as to acceptance and blessing. Blessed be God, I look forward with joy, though with solemn conscience, to the day of Christ. I know that the judgment to which the natural man is subject I have passed through in Christy and now., because the iron fetters are struck off, the golden chains of God’s eternal love are around me; and I love my chains. If you ask what is the single eye, I answer, It is an eye that looks steadily on to’ the day of Christ, “having boldness to enter into the holiest.” This it not what is commonly called a privilege; it is a right, but a right that carries with it obligation. Every child of God is bound to be a constant worshipper within the veil. He has not a right of access now and then; he has a right of acceptance always, and no license in point of spirit and conscience to leave that place of worship at all. Let us see to it that our consciences are kept within the veil. Ten thousand questions would vanish away were the conscience thus true to our Priesthood—our real Priesthood as one with Christ.
Let me just say a word upon Ephesians. I cannot but affirm what many will accept: what perhaps some will be startled with; but let them consider what I say. I affirm that, commonly, amongst the true, heaven-born children of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemption are regarded much more with respect to the advantage brought thereby to the creature than the glory and joy thereby brought to God. If we have been turning things upside down! may we let our former things be accounted as nought, and broken in pieces. Ephesians 1:4—“That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”—means that we should become fit objects upon which in Christ, and as one with Christ, the love of God can find its everlasting rest. If we look at ourselves as sinners, or if we look at ourselves as mere creatures, what are we? As creatures, we are things of the dust; as sinners, worse than nothing. But, as God’s children, our life is derived from the crucified Son of God, whose atoning sacrifice is life, and the nourishment of life, as He says, “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him.” There is not only life, but communion. That life is worthy of God’s delight. Let us never forget what we were; but it is a common mistake for God’s people to have such an undistinguishing conscience! that they do not separate what they were from what they are.
Let us watch and judge ourselves, let us be dealing with all the workings of the flesh aright. Let us remember that every striving of the flesh would send us to hell but for the blood of Christ. We do well to lay to heart that God has no reason for anything He does but in Himself; and He will never fail to make it manifest that what He does can be done by no one but by the Son of His love. Let us lay this to heart and let us copy our God in respect to Christ. He found His rest in Him; let us do likewise. All our desires would then be fulfilled for labourers in the harvest, for let us remember that if the Church of God were all worshippers within the veil, we should have the listening ear to the speaking Lord, and He would never say, “Whom shall I send?” without receiving the answer from the proper, fitting person, “Here am I, send me.” It is as much my duty to go when I hear His voice as not to go if He is silent. After Pentecost there is no such word as “the labourers are few.” It is our reproach that such should be the case. If we were living in the energy of the Spirit, we should always be carrying the Gospel to needy ones.
Turn to Eph. 2:16-19. If in fellowship with Christ the Priest, and Christ the Head over all things unto His Church, which is His body—if in fellowship with Him we work, and in fellowship with God our Father we find our rest in Christ, we shall never fail to embrace in our affections all the Church of God. You remember that after the taking of Jericho there was the charge, “Israel hath sinned.” Then came the enquiry, and the lot fell upon the covetous man. He was stoned, and Israel gained by the death of the malefactor. But in the Body of Christ every member is necessary. The Body has need of the Head, the Head has need of the Body. But there is a vast difference. The members often forget their need of the Head, and rely on strength and wisdom of their own: the Head never fails to embrace all the members as the gift of God the Father. Our affections should be the very counterpart of the affections of Christ and of God towards the whole Church. What then? Of necessity we should have the bowels of Christ towards the whole world. But that is not all. We cannot have the affections that please God towards the unregenerate if we have not God’s affections towards His own Church. If it were so, we should never be discouraged, for, though tempted to discouragement, we should overcome the temptation. We ought never to be discouraged in the church, because we shall find our recompense in God, and in labouring in the Gospel we should never be faint or weary, because the love of God will always be our rest and recompense whatever the behaviour of men.
In Timothy the exhortation, “Fight the good fight of faith,” was addressed to one who was in a special office in the Lord’s House, but in Ephesians 6 the word to the soldier is to the whole body. In Timothy it is addressed to us all indirectly, but here immediately, “Put on the whole armour of God.” What is the matter of contention? It is not for eternal life—that we have. When Joshua entered the land he had a title to it; but for possession and the fruits of the land he contended with the seven nations. We do not contend in order to be members of Christ, but we contend for obedience according to our calling. Communion is the fruit of obedience and gives joy to God, and the obedient one will receive the crown by and by at the judgment seat of Christ.
“We Have A Great High-Priest.”
In Hebrews 5 we are reminded that He who is the Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec offered up prayers and supplications not only in Gethsemane, but “in the days of His flesh.” In Psalm 22:2 we read, “O my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” We are assured that the Lord Jesus could not but pray, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me”; and in Gethsemane we have a special example of His sorrow of expectation; but this expectation filled His heart all along, though it grew as the hour approached. Psalm 88:15 shows this: “I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up.” How immovable was the love, how immovable the justice of God! If it were possible to remit sin without vengeance being taken, we can be sure that was the time, when the Son of God made such supplication as “If it be possible.” The cross shuts out any “if “after that. Hope lay in resurrection.
How glorious are the two words “justified” (in Romans) and “sanctified” (in Hebrews). Am I the guilty one? I am justified by faith in Christ Jesus. Am I the unclean one? I am sanctified by the blood of the Son, of God. My title is not only to life eternal, but to all that God gives in His Son because I am joint-heir with Him; my title is one and the same with that of Christ Himself. Let us, therefore, not be as the “babes” spoken of at the end of Hebrews 5, but let us enter fully into the encouragement given at the end of Hebrews 4. The apostle writes, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered.” Why? They are plain as the noonday sun; but “ye are dull of hearing.” Let us take heed not to need this rebuke, but to obey the commandment, “Come boldly unto the throne of grace.” Let us come, telling out all the heart; and let us remember that Christ delights to show side by side the greatness of His cross and the tenderness of it. Let us go through and through into all the little things of our daily life and course of service, and make them matters of faith and then we shall find that we shall not err and stumble even in very great matters.
How glorious a thing it is to rejoice1 in the truth of chapter 4:13, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight”! If we look at the natural man—at his picture as given in his first father —we see that when he became guilty the voice of the Lord in the cool of the day was to him no inviting voice; he could not “come boldly,” but fled and hid. Now, though all the family of the human race are equally guilty, Satan has taught them, to be more crafty than Adam. He was stubborn, full of pride, and full of terror at once; but he did not tell lies; he uttered no lies to God. Afterwards, a more practised sinner said, in reply to the question, “Where is Abel thy brother?” “I know not.” As the first man, guilty and fearful, fled from God, so do the whole race of men every day of their lives, but they cover it up with a cloak of religiousness, and say their prayers. The blasphemer, who says, “There is no God,” and the Pharisee, are twin-brothers. But as children of God we possess a great High Priest. Oh, let us remember the difference between “there is” and “we have”!
Let us, then, use aright what we have. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest that has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” It is strictly, “through the heavens”; i.e., the heavens that are under sentence of dissolution. He has passed through these; but thei heaven that is worthy of Christ, and alone worthy to be called heaven, is God the Father’s house, where He displays the brightness of His glory. God our Father seeks us and our worship there. The joy He has in Christ is the joy He has in us, and in our hearts’ true affection. If we seek to be true worshippers of God our Father, we shall put all our matters as they now are into the hands of Christ; and whether we have to do with the Church of God or aught else, we shall begin and end with pleasing God in Christ. We have no business on earth that is not summed up in pleasing God. Our highest success, which we are bound to attain every day, is the doing the will of God. We are not bound to make the crooked straight in the Church or in the world; but we are bound to please God, according to present opportunities or trials, present sorrows or joys, in little matters and in great, in things of time and in things of eternity. Let me hold fast this, and I shall go on in any service committed to me, and never be discouraged, but shall get great gain, and great strength, though as touching the “outward man” I may be weaker and weaker.
The Meek And Lowly One
Let us remember, beloved, that we walk in the midst of men in this land who are far more guilty than the men of Sodom. We need hearts full of hopeful affection, full of sympathy with Christ. Why is not the judgment executed now that was executed upon Sodom? It is because of Christ’s presence on high that judgment is delayed and long-suffering displayed. I desire to bring this before our thoughts and hearts, that the meek One in the days of His flesh, when He uttered those lovely words, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls,” had not as yet sunk down to those lowest depths of self-abasement which He reached on the cross, when He uttered the words that begin Psalm 22. He is the meek and lowly One still, and as, in one sense, faith is past when sight comes, that state of faith has ceased to the Lord. But all that our eye sees tries faith, and is contrary to it. Faith means ceasing from the creature and trusting only in the living God. In the old covenant proud man would accept the terms and meet the demands— “All that the law saith we will do’.” On the other hand, we have said, “Nothing the law saith can we do.” But standing in the everlasting covenant of the eternal God, we shall always be trusting, and shall always be secure. In Hebrews 5:7-9 we read that He who had nothing to unlearn, yet “learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect”—that is, fitted to be the priest—“He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” He learned obedience, and His faith grew with the demands upon that faith; and now, in the glory at the right hand of God, He is the meek and lowly One still, and His meekness has passed through the fire of the cross. May we learn lowliness of Him in His life 00 earth and in His glory.
Our Use Of The Word Of God.
The precious promise of our Lord regarding the Comforter, “He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you,” is fulfilled to us through another promise, “He shall guide you into all truth”; to which we must add, “Thy Word is truth.”
The solemn, obligation of all God’s children is to deal with all God’s truth. In order to please God fully—after that blessed pattern, “I do always the things that please Him”—the believer must have respect to all the will of God as in His Word revealed; and each one should seek to have this testimony. We rightly pray, “Search me, O God”; but if the prayer is to be answered, it must be by our being searched through the Word.
God’s Word is a whole, its parts being in perfect harmony with one another. If we deal with the whole Scripture, we shall find all that is needed for the vigour and comeliness of the new man. And the same Word which will strengthen and mould the new man, will certainly be killing the old man.
Let us examine ourselves, old and young, teachers and hearers. Do we deal with all the Word of God, as before God, desiring, longing, thirsting that it may do its work upon the new man, and especially upon the old? We are always in great danger, when we read for comfort, of stopping short of being searched by the Word in our hearts and consciences. The Word is often compared to light, and this is one of the titles of our Lord. But what is needed besides the light when the sun is risen? The faculty of sight, and the opened eye. As it is said of the Lord, “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” so has the Word of God all fulness for our need; all the light we require for perfectly pleasing God is to be found in the Scriptures. Supposing there were faith’s full, unreserved, constant obedience in the hearts of God’s children, then we should just as naturally see the light of God in the Word, as our outward eye discerns the light of the sun. All sin and divisions (those most unnatural things in the children of God) would vanish away before the Word of truth like mists before the sun.
Every child of God is accountable for using aright the time that God gives for the reading of the Word, and while we cannot be called to give the account which the unregenerate man will have to give, inasmuch as we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, we yet have to give account of the things done in the body, as God’s children and Christ’s members. Shall we not have to render an account for these two inestimable gifts—God’s Word, and the Comforter, the Teacher?
The iron chains of guilt and curse are for ever gone, and the golden chains of love are upon us; let us ever be found wearing them. While we make it our business to be serving God—not according to our imagination, but according to His mind—we shall find it more easy to please God than to satisfy the cravings of our hearts. Our perfection consists in pressing on; but there must be no league with the Canaanites, no reserves in our obedience. The test must always be the written Word.
If we walk in the Spirit, we cannot do the works of the flesh, as does the natural man (Gal. 5:16); and this walking in the Spirit should be all the day. We are to judge ourselves by the example of Christ, and by the commandments of Christ, in the closet, in the family, and in our callings. The performance of one duty will help another. But if I fail in seeking God in the closet, my prayer afterward may be only like the cry of distress; it will receive an answer from a pitiful Father, but it will not be communion.
Let everything that God says in the Word be dear to my heart, and then the outpourings of my heart will be music in the ear of God. Whatever be the outward calling, let our walk be in the Spirit, as those whose ear, hand, and foot bear the marks of atonement and the Spirit’s unction. So soon as the heart of anyone is made up to this, he will discover his own imperfection, and be driven to the atoning blood; but he will have the comfort of the Spirit, and prove that nothing in the world, the Church, or the family, can come in between his heart and fellowship with God in Christ.
The Wisdom Of This World
Whatever these so-called men of science may find out—and very admirable things do they discover, very marvellous—put all their discoveries together, set them by the side of the mystery of God’s love, His mind, His counsels, His holy name as in Christ revealed, all is but nothing, and these wise men are but grubs in the old creation. It is God’s new-born “babes, nourished up with the unimingled milk of the Word, that have the enlarged understanding; these men of science, the narrow and the strait. Of them it is true, “In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow “(Eccles. 1:18); but be that increaseth knowledge of Christ increaseth joy and peace, and every precious fruit of the Spirit of God. Moreover, when the conscience is purged by the blood of Christ, the eyes of the heart are enlightened to see God in every work of His hand, from the greatest to the least. The firmament above, and earth and sea, to the pure in heart are ever telling forth the glory of God the Creator, and the grace of God the Redeemer (Ps. 19:1-14).
The Two Books
In the eleventh of Hebrews, and the beginning of the twelfth, the records of the deeds of faith are given, and the Spirit of God commences with, “The worlds were framed by the Word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The world, in the pride of wisdom, seeks to rise from nature up to nature’s God; but so debased is man, that he can never truly apprehend the Creator until his conscience is cleansed by the blood of the Redeemer. One of the most precious attainments for a believer is, to maintain a conscience void of offence toward God and man. And then to him the book of Creation will be full of the voice of God, as his Father. Even among saints there is little understanding of man’s accountability to God, apart from the revelation of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” The savages that hear the Gospel are accountable for it. But had they no opportunity of hearing it, they would “be accountable to hear the voices that day and night sound in their ear—the works of God. Man made himself a sinner, and is therefore accountable. Although it is most true, that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” yet it is not until the fifth of Romans that we have the mention of Adam; but first of all (in chapter 3) each child of Adam is brought in guilty before God. And, beloved, it would be a mighty help to us, in caring to send out the Gospel, if we understood the accountability of mankind apart from the Gospel. We should not only be diligent to read the book of Nature, that tells us of the Creator, but we should enter into this by Him, for whom and by whom all things were created. And then, beloved, how blessed to be able thus to make the outward Bible and the written Bible continually tell the same tale. Everywhere the book of Creation is open to us; it speaks to us in a still small voice. I read Psalm 19 for the sake of pointing out the voice which this double book gives—the one the outward book of Creation, and the other the written page of Scripture. Jonathan had to break his father’s commandment in order to get his eyes enlightened, but “the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring for ever.” The effect of this double book on every divinely-taught reader is, to make him cry out about his sin, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults”; and also, “Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins”—outward sins of action—“let them not have dominion over me.”
In the Epistle to the Ephesians God’s delight is seen in chapter 1:4—“That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”; and Christ’s delight is seen in chapter 5:27—“That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish.” In chapter 1:12 we read, “to the praise of His glory”; but in verse 5, “to Himself.” Glory is a servant to love. All that God can give us is a token of something higher, namely, the love of His heart.
In chapter 2:10 the apostle says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Being His workmanship, we desire to be less than nothing in our own sight. God delights to make the best and highest uses of us if we are only fit to be used. Here among men there are golden vessels, clean and of exquisite workmanship, yet unused and only for ornament; but there is no such thing in the house of God; there all clean vessels are used. The same vessel may be put to different uses, as Paul when in prison was put to use in one way, and Paul when preaching, in another way. If a vessel be but clean, used it must be, and that for honourable purposes. Let us not only bear in mind how we were made nigh—by a life derived from the Son of God, the remembrance of which will help to bring us low —but let us see how high we are in God’s sight. “We are His workmanship.” How pleasant then must we be to God! The wonder of wonders is Christ offered up; yet we are beautiful to the eye of God and of angels as one with Christ. If I verily believe this I cannot be otherwise than well-pleasing to God, as created anew in Christ Jesus. What then will my great business be? First, to have God’s thoughts in my heart, as we see in Psalm 139:17, “How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” We are so one with Christ in God’s thought and affection that His thoughts should always be as music to us.
Our prayer should be according to Eph. 3, as well as according to Eph. 1. The knowledge of the greatness of the power that is toward us should lead us to seek to know the greatness of the love that is bestowed on us. We are only at home in the Father’s house, and as to our place on earth we are always abroad, wherever we may be. This needs to be understood by anyone who has a desire to labour in another land. If the affections of Christ possess us we shall always find a field of labour at hand; everywhere we shall find room, for the mind of Christ to reveal itself. If we know one another as Christ commends us to God, the very look and greeting which we give one another will be a sweet savour of Christ. “We are His workmanship.” If we were more humble we should say ten times, How worthy we are in Christ, to one mention of our own unworthiness. If like Isaiah, in chapter 6, our lips are cleansed and our consciences purged, we shall say most humbly, readily, and quickly, “Send me.” We shall begin and end with pleasing God, regardless of the question of numbers, whether we go to the thousands or the few. The “good works” in which we are to walk are “ordained “of God. David received his anointing to be king when he kept his father’s sheep, and it was all one to him whether he bore cheeses to the camp or kept the sheep at home. He was taken up with pleasing God. If we realise this it will take many difficulties out of our path.
Kept Amid Temptations
1 Peter 1.
The word “precious” is remarkably used by the apostle in this epistle, but the chief use is here, “precious blood”—only the Spirit of God can tell how precious. Having learnt to utterly condemn ourselves, we trust only in the life-giving blood of Christ, and glory in the Cross, as did the apostle Paul. It is remarkable that in writing to those who were by natural birth the seed of Abraham, but through persecutions by their unbelieving brethren, were cast out and deprived of everything they naturally held dear, the apostle begins with joy. Not first with condoling, but singing, so that he as good as said, You have lost everything as Jews, but gained everything as God’s children, being “begotten to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” We can apprehend something of the meaning of this word “precious,” but to comprehend it we shall have an eternity to grow deeper and deeper in the knowledge of it.
Then mark the words in verse 5—“who are kept.” One glorious point of difference between the Old Covenant and the New is that the Old had no surety. As soon as Moses had given his message to Israel, they, being ignorant of themselves, said, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” And how did they do it? By worshipping the golden calf: and from that day to this we see their continued disobedience. They were ready to crucify the Lord, and then they rejected the testimony of the Spirit, and they will go on to receive and set up Anti-christ, until they are made to bow and own Jesus as the crucified Son of God.
Suppose that on a stormy night anyone saw a naked candle in an open square, and that candle not blown out, but steadily burning, would he keep the secret to himself? Ah no, it would be published abroad in the papers. I don’t know how many farthing candles are in this room! How is it we are kept? Under the New Covenant God’s power takes occasion by our weakness, and against the power of the Devil, to keep us; our being kept day by day is a perfect miracle: let us magnify together the preserving power of God. The work of God the Father, Son and Spirit in creation is great, but which was the greater? Creating sun, moon, and stars, or the quickening one child of Adam from death to life? His glory in creation is as nothing compared to His glory in saving us. Miracles we are. Every saved one owes life to the world’s Creator. When Israel was brought out of Egypt Moses sprinkled them with the blood of bulls and goats; that sanctified them outwardly. But we have been sprinkled in conscience by the blood of the world’s Creator.
In verse 6 the apostle speaks of “manifold temptations.” Job’s three friend’s concluded that it was not possible for God to deal with a righteous man as He dealt with Job. Had they seen the truth of his case, they would have reasoned thus, “Ah, Job: God has put great honour upon you in thus putting you into the furnace.” But their calling him a hypocrite was the filling up of his cup, hence his “manifold temptations” and he came out of the furnace as gold refined.
We have all proved something of trial in our cup to make it good medicine; in verse 7 Peter goes on to the wiping away all tears. Our present behaviour, in patience and faith, in the trial, will be to our praise in the day of the Lord. Could we have the praise without the trial? It came to pass after Abraham’s fifty years’ experience that God did try him, and the end of the proof was this, “Now I know that thou fearest God.” So that, whether the trial be great or little, we have to watch against any allowance of an anxious thought, which is the child of unbelief; to feel and to be sorrowful is one thing, but to be unbelieving is quite another. The best way to kill the serpent is to crush the egg: it is a great matter for the child of God to learn that no circumstances of trial can possibly justify an anxious thought. The whole of Hebrews 11 is written to show the guiltiness of unbelief and the great honour God puts upon faith. Should there be anyone in this room without trial, we had better stop our reading and pray for such an one. A brother was asked—“What becomes of stagnant water?” The answer was: “It breeds corruption.” We all need some trial of faith. We may have little trials for which we need faith, and if we deal aright with God about them, we shall be prepared for the greater ones, and be found ready to give thanks for them. “Giving thanks always for all things,” is like pulling the string of a shower bath; countless are the blessings He will pour out upon us.
The Cross is the complete revelation of God in all His perfections. “He that spared not His own Son”—after this, the least spark of unbelief we should tread under foot; we should consider that our opportunity for trusting God in the dark will be over when we are gone to be with the Lord. If we were caught up to the third heaven could we find a better reason for trusting God? Free from temptations we should be, but we should have no better reason for trusting God there than we have here. Is it not a favour from God that we have these opportunities here for fully trusting Him, whereas in our unregenerate state Satan taught us nothing but distrust. Now if in my weakness I entirely trust in Christ’s power, the adversary must flee. “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you”—that is, if I rest fully upon Christ, I don’t look to the adversary, but to Christ. We little think what power is ours, if only we are kept weak and humble: it is our strength that hinders the power of God.
Let us, beloved, make the most of our opportunities. The time is very short that is allotted to any one of us. In order to trust Him fully about earthly things, I must trust Him fully about things eternal. Whereas the worldling makes his greatest things small by shutting out God, we make our little things great by our communion with Christ, and we are to watch every day against allowing little things to ruffle the temper, and so max our countenances; whereas our countenances should speak of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). If in the little things that try us through the day we are kept in peace within, it will be seen in our faces and shine out in all our ways. Oh, the advantage we have above the saints who lived before Pentecost! the full noonday light is ours: therefore our obligations are according to the revelations we have received. We ought not merely to look at Abraham and admire him for his faith and trust in God; we ought rather to outstrip him. Supposing that instead of the Ethiopian eunuch coming to Jerusalem after Pentecost, he had come up to worship in the days of Isaiah, and had asked him the meaning of his 53rd chapter, could Isaiah have explained it? No; “they saw them, afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth”—if we do not confess ourselves as those did in Hebrews 11, if we build our nests down here, surely their strangership puts us to shame.
In the case of God’s servant Daniel, we find that when he wept over the sins and sorrows of his people, the angel Gabriel was sent with God’s message to him saying, “Thou art greatly beloved.” What is the meaning of “greatly beloved”? It is more than being God’s child. It is rather that he was in affection a pleasant child to God. Let me learn, therefore, that whatever be my trial, if I am one with God in the matter, I please Him. Holy angels delight to see us obedient, and no father so delights in the affections of his children, as God our Father does in ours, “My son, if thine heart be wise, My heart shall rejoice, even Mine. Yea, My reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things” (Prov. 23:15, 16). If we keep the heart, we control the tongue—“for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” That leads us on to the second chapter of this epistle; let me beware of how I speak of others, and especially when dealing with their faults: if it be not done in the bowels of Christ, I am guilty of evil speaking.
The Life Of Trust
Psalms 16 and 17.
Oh the fulness of the word of God! Oh the unsearchable riches in these two psalms! “Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust” (Ps. 16:1). Man as created was a worshipper; to be, and to worship, happened both at the same time, but he was every moment dependent upon God. He had no need to find out God, although He was but scantily revealed. We, on the other hand, through sin, need all the fulness of God in Christ, in whom it dwelled bodily.
“Thou art my Lord,” my Sovereign Lord (v. 2), “my portion” (v. 5). Adam knew nothing of the fulness of such fellowship. Oh, how blessed it is to put in contrast the two men—the man made out of the earth and the Son of God who took upon Him the form of a servant—the only one who could ever do that. Satan could have had glory as a servant, so also could Adam; yet both failed. But the Son of God took upon Him the form of a servant, and in obedience went down to the lowest depths, which we can never fathom.
In verse 1 the Lord gives us what characterised His whole life—“In Thee do I put my trust.” “I live by the Father” was His word in John 6:57, and in chap. 10:15-17, He said, “I lay down my life”; not the life which Adam possessed, but the life which He had in the bosom of the Father. The death must be estimated by the life.
Faith is almighty with God, because He so delights in it. Do we like to be trusted? Let our delight in the confidence which others place in us, teach us to learn of Christ, whose all-sufficient plea before God was, “In Thee do I put my trust.” Whatever be my failing, let me deal truthfully with God and confess it; but let me put far from me that worst of all evils, the limiting of God, who is the God of all grace. When David’s men lost their wives and children at Ziklag, they spake of stoning him, but David went at once to God, and the answer came with a double portion of blessing. After confession is made, God must honour faith which does not limit His grace.
In Rev. 4:6-8, we have a wondrous picture of the living ones with eyes before, behind, and within. Jesus had all these, looking back at the glory, forward to the cross, and inward. “My reins also instruct me in the night season,” He says in v. 7, and in v. 11 He looked beyond the cross to “fulness of joy,” and “pleasures for evermore.”
In Psalm 17:15, we learn to say, “I shall be satisfied”—satisfied when, having Thy likeness, I shall be capable of enjoying Thy presence. Jehovah Elohim had all joy in Himself, Father, Son, and Spirit. But the Father having deigned to extend the fulness of that joy by the giving up of His Son, He now seeks the fellowship of His redeemed sons and daughters. But, in order to please God, I must in my thoughts entirely separate the first Adam from the Last Adam, the Second Man. Let us also remember that no tender-hearted earthly parent is so easily pleased as is our Father in heaven by His children’s trust. What a pattern the Lord Jesus presents to us in this, beloved, and as we exercise ourselves to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man, the more shall we hear the voice of God, not as the voice of thunder, but as the still small voice from off the mercy-seat. If the Lord has to stand at our door knocking, knocking, we ought to think more of His loss than our own; and let us bear in mind that since it has pleased God in His grace to make us His own., He needs us as His children. Christ also needs His brethren, His members, and will not obtain His full satisfaction till He receives us unto Himself.
Walking By Faith
It is a great matter for every disciple of Christ to settle in his heart that he is called to walk by faith, and not by sight. To come to this conclusion, and nothing less, is prudence. The world knows nothing of faith; all its courses are the fruit of this thought: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” His must be a course of folly whose life is a life of unbelief; but ours is to be a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Has God made provision, for the life of faith to which He calls us? He never makes a claim on us without reason. The revelation He has given us of Himself is His claim, and His provision for us is, that He has done His utmost and His best in Christ.
Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” Christ was but dimly revealed to Moses; but God “has provided some better thing for us,” and has revealed to us in fulness that same Christ whom Moses dimly beheld.
The examples of faith in Hebrews 11 are not given to us to admire only, or even to copy, but to excel. God lays us under this obligation because He has given us a revelation of His Son. There is no wisdom but that of living by faith on things unseen. Whether we are engaged in the closet with God’s Word and prayer, or in the work of our hands, our wisdom is to walk by faith and not by sight.
The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light, but we should seek that this might not be true of us. The saved should be the wise, the happy, the holy; and we have provision for this to the full in Christ, if we do not give way to self-will. Christ is as willing to save us from all that would harm us as He is to save a sinner from hell. His Word is, “Come unto Me … and I will give you rest”—rest from anxious forebodings, from the wounds of offended pride or thwarted self-will.
Remember that the fulness of Christ is all ours, and that faith has a right to all that fulness. In Heb. 5:9 we read that Christ was “made perfect”; that is, perfectly fitted to be the Priest for us, the Aaron and Melchisedec. He has presented His one perfect atoning sacrifice, and perfection excludes repetition. Angels cannot claim brotherhood with Him, but He is not ashamed to call us “brethren,” and He is perfect in sympathy. He feels for us more than we can feel for ourselves. The apple of the eye is tender, but the heart of Christ is much more tender. Our treasure in Him is complete, infinite, and eternal.
Remarks on Psalm 26.
The whole burden of this Psalm is “integrity.” Beloved, one of the highest and richest blessings from God is to have what the Scripture means by “integrity.” It is indispensable to our growth in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, and to the careful maintenance of peace of soul—indispensable to our dealing in true and living faith with our daily trials and matters. But let me say, beloved, that what God means by integrity is not what the word generally implies; nor, alas! alas! is it the integrity that very commonly contents the consciences of God’s children. Oh, if God’s people did but wake up to this—that God reckons nothing to be integrity that will not bear the test of His Word! For the most part, the world is quite content if its dull, blind conscience does not rebuke, does not condemn; and, as conscience sinks in the man, in the family, in the nation, so that man, that family, that nation, may hold on the path to certain ruin, and yet be as quiet as if walking in ways pleasing to God. When once the devil succeeds in leading to the undervaluing of God’s Word, and we have little of it sounded in the ears of the people, depend upon it, God will smite the people. They will care nothing about the acknowledgment of God in public or in private; then there will be an end of this great empire. But, alas! the grievous neglect of this treasure of treasures by the people of God is too common. They are dealing with God’s Word as they would not deal with a bag of copper! Their consciences become adapted to custom, and do not rise above the level of what is the universal practice. Hence many of the things which Christians are zealous of will be but ill commended at the judgment-seat of Christ. Oh! my dear friends, when the Psalmist speaks about “integrity,” he means “integrity” as judged by God, according to God’s Word.
Beloved, this is a peculiarly precious portion of the Word of God. I call it the Psalm of heavenly integrity. “Examine me.” You will observe it is very like the fourth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self; for I know nothing by [i.e., against] myself; yet am I not hereby justified.” That is to say, my conscience, instructed by the Word of God, testifies to my integrity; but I do not rest in that, I will say, “He that judgeth me is the Lord,” and, while I am thankful for the testimony of a good conscience, I seek to have it rectified more perfectly by the Word of God. This is what Paul means when he says, “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and men.” “I will wash my hands in innocency” is an allusion to the brazen laver and its pure waters; and it is good to remember that Aaron and his sons were not only to wash their hands, but they were to wash and to worship. Just as the Psalmist, so the apostle exercises himself. He knows how true it is that none cam understand his errors; and if we are truly walking with God as our Father—justly, blamelessly walking—then this will be a mark of it. God judges me not according to the law of Moses, but as a Father in Christ. God marks my walk. I have made Christ my best robe, to answer the demand of His justice, so as to cover all my sins and guilt. He earn see what I cannot see; and I say, “Examine me for what I do not now see.” There is no cleansing of the sin of ignorance without blood; and there is no sin of a child of God but would cast him into hell, did not the blood of Christ prevent. What a blessing it would be if God’s children everywhere sought to rectify their consciences by the Word of God! Now, note the 11th and 12th verses. No child of God ever grew in grace without exercising himself to have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men; and there was never a child of God, that did so exercise himself, who did not grow in grace.
As in Psalm 25, so here, the Psalmist has respect to all God’s people—the whole congregation: “My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the Lord.” No one can be wrapped up in himself or in his own service; the heart gains by a custom of fellowship that thinks much of other servants of Christ. Their service for God is my service, their joy my joy, their honour my honour, and their blessing my blessing—whether it be teaching in the Sunday-school or any other service. Oh! beloved, let us think with tender hearts of all in like manner serving. Are we endeavouring to preach the Gospel of Christ? Let us remember all our fellow-servants. Do we hear of their winning souls? Let us thank God, and then we shall have abundance of comfort from God in our own service; we shall be assisted in it, we shall be a savour of Christ to God; and as to success, the Spirit of God will take care of that, and we shall not lack it. Beloved, let us seek in our daily occupation to maintain a good conscience before God, and then the very trials of our outward occupation will help on our growth in grace, and increase our delight in God on the first day of the week. It is because of doing things to ourselves, and not to the Lord that service does not help our faith and increase our joy. We bear cur burdens ourselves, and they become too heavy for us.
On Pleasing God.
The great pattern of perfectly pleasing God is our Lord Jesus Christ (John 8:20). In Matt 3:16, 17, Christ, having come up out of the waters, was in type what He now is at the right hand of God. What a joy, and rest, and comfort it is to think that God, whom we call Father, has had One upon this earth who has perfectly pleased Him! Does it not become each one of us to begin above with God the Father resting in Christ? And while we are considering that, do we not share something of that rest? The eye of God the Father was upon Christ step by step, reading every thought of His heart, and hearing every word from His lips, and everything from Him went up as a sweet savour to God.
Before we consider how far we please God, we must begin with Christ, the Priest at the right hand of God, and what we are in Him, and be on the watch lest we get under the law. Our conscience should always begin with “It is finished.” We begin where the law ended, and now His acceptance and ours are one. Supposing the adversary did not hide that from the saints, there would be at once a flowing together of all the family of God. A truly spiritual conscience will first consider that God’s eye is always upon Christ, and never looks at my disobedience but in Christ, and then with the eye of a Father—” the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” He is unspeakably more pitiful to me than I am to myself; and if I am endeavouring to please Him, He is more readily pleased than I am myself.
God sees holy angels through Christ, but not in Christ. Sonship belongs to regeneration. They are servants, and it is high promotion for them to serve Christ and His members. We ought to remember, too, that they are witnesses to our obedience or disobedience; therefore the words in 1 Tim. 5:21: “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels.”
Our pleasing the Father hangs upon our obedience to that Father. Our conscience looks directly upon our inward state: the eye of God never does that, but always upon Christ, but He leaves us to see our failures and judge them, and if we do so He won’t see them. He makes room for His approval of my obedience, which He could not if I were under the law. If I have the assurance that God is pleased with me, although my circumstances may be full of trial, it makes me walk upon the waters. I ought to be dealing with Him according to Ps. 19:12: “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” Here we have the steps of one truly led by the Spirit of holiness and the Spirit of liberty—first by the Word, and next by the conscience. This is the language of a soul that entirely pleases God, a soul within the vail where the holiness of God is revealed to the conscience as through the atoning sacrifice, which is the very perfume of the presence of God. The children of God ought to have the Epistle to the Hebrews graven deeper and deeper on the heart and conscience, and the more closely we follow God the more fully we see our imperfections.
How precious is the Spirit’s testimony concerning Enoch in Heb. 11:5, that “before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” I have often made offer of £1000 if anyone will prove from this chapter in Hebrews that Abraham denied his wife. That there is no reference to it is only to be accounted for in one way. He comes in after the Great High Priest at the right hand of God. I would bring to your remembrance what God says of David in 1 Kings 14:7, 8. How can you explain this without Hebrews, and Christ the Great High Priest? It is very similar to “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob; neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” (Num. 23:21).
Is it possible for any natural man ever to have penned such words about David? This is a sample of how God deals with those who truly judge their sin; and it is written as a great principle of God’s dealing with His children, for through the Great High Priest, as one with Him, we have a title to forgiveness according to 1 John 1. And all my confessions, all my repentance now, will be to my praise in the day of the Lord. It won’t be possible for me to forget my debt. If it were, away would go my gratitude. Let me now make no league with the Canaanites, nor with those in the valleys—the enemies within; if you make no league with them God is well pleased with you.
The ladder to climb up to the communion of the Epistle to the Ephesians, I always say, is the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Thoughts On Holiness.
Holiness is likeness to God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the great pattern, of holiness, and we can only attain it by being imitators of Him.
There may be a lack of holiness and yet great uprightness in outward walk, but holiness shines forth in the life just in the measure in which Christ dwells in the heart. Mistakes often arise from our confounding what is naturally right, with what is pleasing to God. The judgment of the natural conscience must not be trusted, for it may greatly deceive us, and we always need the sure Word of God. The flesh at its best is but a tiger in chains, and the law of Moses must not be confounded with the law of Christ. Holiness can only be ours through the blood of Christ, for “in the blood is the life.”
If we find our rest where God finds His—even in Christ—we shall never be disturbed or at a loss, and never be at the mercy of circumstances. We shall rather prove the fulfilment of the Word, “The peace of God which passeth all understanding shall garrison your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
We often hear of practical holiness. But was not Mary at the feet of Jesus, for that time at least, a more practical person than Martha? It is a false holiness which does not begin and end with pleasing God.
Let us always seek to distinguish between emotion and affection. Affection toward God is a peaceful stream, clear as crystal, enabling the soul to endure, and to persevere. Emotion is a more occasional thing, and may be the fruit of special circumstances, as we read in the Acts, “The disciples were filled with joy.” Our blessed Lord Himself, both on the mount and in the garden, had emotions that were not ordinary, but His affection flowed on in unbroken strength, and continuance. Affection, not emotion, is the true test of sanctification.
We all need special help from God for special seasons, but this may surely be left to the sovereignty of Him who knows our need.
The “whosoever” of John 3:16 is most precious but let us go on to the “whatsoever” of chapter 15— “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you”; then the “whatsoever ye shall ask” (v. 16) will be ours also.
If the command in Rom. 6:11 be obeyed—“Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”—it will ensure a holy, blameless walk in the sight of God and man. If I fulfil my relationship to God in Christ, I shall never do or say an unworthy thing. Entering into my oneness with Christ, my affections must necessarily run in the same channel as His. Strong and true affection to Him will not let me rest if one of His precepts be transgressed; but mere natural uprightness will give me no such exercise of heart. If we walk with God we shall always say, “The good that I would I do not,” even though our walk be unblameable before our fellow-men. Our thoughts will be occupied with Christ; it is Christ that died—that is, once for all; “who also maketh intercession for us”—that is continually.
Let us be on our guard against lowering the standard of holiness. “The law is spiritual; but I am carnal.” Yet we can say “I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” even as the Son of God said, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God”; but He needed no allowance to be made for imperfection. By God, by men, by devils, He was called “The Holy One of God.”
If I cannot see my own imperfection I must fail to be perfectly pleasing to God; and any believer who thinks he has reached a state of perfection is under a sad delusion.
If we walk in the light as God is in the light, we shall see imperfections which the grosser conscience of one not walking in the light, cannot discern; but we shall know that God does not see them, for He sees us in Christ.
Yielding Ourselves To God
This psalm naturally follows, and is the fruit of, the sixty-second. We remember, “He only is my rock… The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.” And Psalm 63 begins, “O God, thou art my God!” But without further examining it, let us just take it as the psalm of the rightful king, anointed, but persecuted by the king then on the throne. Let us for a moment consider it as the heart utterance of the son of Jesse, suffering at the hand of Saul. Beloved, taken thus, will it not help us in fully yielding ourselves to Him to whom we belong? You observe that with all his persecutions David sees the future as the thing present. Beloved, let us see ourselves in glory with Christ, and we cannot but behave ourselves aright. “Whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
Our great business is seen in verse 5, “My mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.” Our business is not so much to get from God as to give to God. We have received so much that He expects us to be givers, especially of praise. And while we give thanks for benefits bestowed, for His precious consideration of us in smallest as well as greatest matters, let us remember that what God chiefly delights in is our praising Him because of His ways in grace by Christ. This is the chief sacrifice, and is an indication that we have indeed given ourselves unto God, as Christ gave Himself for us unto God, who sent Him.
The Intent Of Romans 7
Instead of treading underfoot the justice of God in saving souls, Christ magnifies the law and makes it honourable. In 6:11—“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin”—we have a command, the neglect of which should affect our consciences as truly as if we had been guilty of stealing. In so far as we do not obey it we slip away from Christ, and put ourselves under the law. To be Surety He must be in Himself guiltless; but being Surety He must by imputation be guilty. As Aaron carried the sweet incense into the holiest (Lev. 16:12), so Christ carried into heaven the very fragrance that fills the heaven of heavens. We are to “reckon ourselves to have died” in our Surety, and to be alive unto God through and with Jesus Christ our Lord— in both states we are to reckon ourselves to be with Him—and we are to regard ourselves as worshippers with Christ enwrapped in that cloud of incense. All the seventh of Romans is so framed as to keep us where the sixth chapter has set us. The one intent of the whole chapter is to keep us on the ground of grace, and from going back to the law.
Right Affections Towards All The Family Of God
Ezra 10:2; John 17:8, 12, 16.
Beloved, we have been entreating God to give us right affections towards all the family of God, affections that please God. We never can regard others aright unless we first regard ourselves aright; and for this we have need to understand better what we were, and also what we now are according to the eternal counsel of God. We must have God’s affections, and understand with the understanding of faith in order to be able to persevere in our affection towards the family of God.
I only remind you of what you all know, that we need to watch our own hearts lest there be some affection which is not like God’s. We are apt to look at ourselves only in regard to our salvation from the pollution of sin, its guilt, and condemnation and ruin; but we are little apt to consider that we are not only saved from sinnership, but also from mere creatureship. Creatures we ever must be; but let us remember that we now stand in Christ, and not only accepted, but loved in Christ, and worthy of all God’s love. No creature can be that, simply considered as a creature. Be he holy or unholy, it is the same. The sinner, the sinning creature, angel or man, is worthy of wrath; but the upright creature, simply as a creature, is never worthy of God’s love. On the other hand, we are infinitely worthy in the Son of God; and as He is loved, so are we—“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.”
I am bold to say that it lay in God’s counsel to will our salvation or not; but if He would have us in Christ His love must be upon us even as it is on His Son. Now if I look on every child of God, whoever he may be, remembering that he is saved from creatureship as well as from sinnership, the Spirit of God claiming him, and possessing him for ever for the rest and joy of God the Father, it is impossible for me so to look without embracing him as God the Father does. This is the great secret of our love to one another.
I see the world’s declension, and, oh, let us seek better and better to see it, and more powerfully deal with it! But, my beloved brethren, we shall never have right affections towards the world if they are not first right towards the saints of God; and if we have right affections towards the saints we cannot fail to have right ones towards the world, and our behaviour will be right too.
Just turn a moment to Jeremiah 9:1, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears!” Now look at verse 23, and mark that there is no mention here of the sin of the drunkard, or of the whoremonger, or of the idolater; there is no mention of aught that the natural conscience condemns; but there is mention of the chief sins that are now in favour in the hearts and minds of God’s children— sins which make the Church of God the sport of the harlot, and the jest of the Philistine. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches.” It was man’s wisdom that rent the church of God at Corinth, and it meets with high approval now, as earthly power and glory also do. God’s saints are contending for the highest place, running the race with the world for earthly honours; and the love of money is a root of all evil. Ah! there would be no poor members of Christ in the workhouse if the love of money were rooted out. These are the great sins of the day—the pride of wisdom, the pride of power, the pride of wealth; and in chap. 7:4 we read of another, the pride of religion, “The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these.” Oh, beloved, let these things not be nourished in our hearts, but let them be seen as God our Father sees them, as Christ saw them in the days of His flesh! What then? “There is hope in Israel “touching our difficulties; and all our dangers of dividing those who are in the body, and hold Christ the Head, are gone.
If it be asked, How shall the lost sinner be saved? have you any answer? If I look at God’s justice, or at God’s law, I have no answer. On the contrary, I have Scripture for me to say there is none. “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die”; and, “Cursed be; every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” But there is an answer, and but one possible answer; it is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But how is it possible that the Church of God can ever keep the unity of the Spirit? The answer is easy. Cease from those things which grieve the Spirit of God. Has God less delight in saving us from the hands of Satan? Surely not. There is “hope in Israel” touching these things. But let us remember that God has provided no armour for the back; therefore, let us trust, and we shall see what God will do for us.
Progress In Divine Love
In the first Epistle of John, Christ as the risen and ascended One fills up that discourse of His in John’s Gospel, which is contained in chapters 14-17. In the Gospel we have Christ speaking to us in the days of His flesh; in the Epistle He speaks through the apostle from the bosom of the Father. In John 15:14 we find the path to the communion of His love wherein to walk in the fulness of the friendship of our God: “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
When God is most a Father He is most a Sovereign, and these commandments of Christ are surely our highest authority. The obedience of love aims far higher than the law as given from Sinai. Love has an iron will. Love is the only term or condition of communion, and cannot be dispensed with. Christ’s love is always the same. Suppose any member of Christ be found like Lot in Sodom, His love toward such is the same, but the communion is not; for His love cannot then go out in bosom friendship.
The fairest things of the flesh are the greatest enemies of faith. You may put down drunkenness, and unseat covetousness, which is far worse, but “philosophy and vain deceit,” of which we read in Col. 2, are worse than both; and to meet them we need heavenly wisdom. The crucified Son of God is made unto us wisdom, because He unlocks the bosom secrets of the Father. If we are to learn and to be imitators, we cannot follow afar off. Imitators must follow closely. If I am an imitator of God and of Christ, it is not possible for me to imitate anyone else. Follow saints only as they follow Christ. “Be followers of me,” said Paul, and every servant of Christ ought to be able to say the same. Let us beware of our tendency to copy the faults rather than the excellences of one another. All the excellences of Elijah’s character were in Elisha. A double portion was given, that is, plenitude for his ministry. How was this? He kept his eye on God.
The longing of Christ to have us is according to His love in dying for us. We shall as far exceed holy angels in capacity as we do in. relationship. The “body of humiliation” is to be “fashioned like unto His glorious body.” When we have the fulness of our capacities we shall have the whole book of His Glory unfolded to us.
Now is the time when our Lord is preparing the work “without,” and making it fit for Himself: then He will build His house (Prov. 24:27). “In due time Christ died” (Rom 5). “Why not before?” man asks. God took time. Infinite wisdom could not suffer it to take place before, and so also “in due season we shall reap if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). There will then be a due winding up of the things of God. There is a reaping time now, but it is only an earnest.
The present course that God is taking with the world is in order to justify His way by and by. God will not be content with being righteous in His own eyes, or in the eyes of the holy angels; He must have a testimony even from His enemies (Ps. 31:17, 18; Jude 14, 15). Every hypocritical prayer, every irreverent work, every scoffer’s gibe and jest about Him must be brought out. God will convince all that are ungodly of their ungodly deeds and their hard speeches, and the sinner will be made to give a testimony to the equity of God, and the equity of his everlasting destruction. God takes time as to sending His Son again. Meanwhile, if self-wisdom and self-will do not hinder and unfit us, it is natural for God to pour into us His love in Christ. Let us be so guided by the Word, that we may know how to represent Christ fitly before all with whom we have to do.
Members One Of Another
This is God’s code of laws for His redeemed people. The wise men of the land have their laws and statutes innumerable. This code comprehends all the possible laws of the King of glory. Let me first, for your profit, read the whole; then let me put forth some things which have been upon my heart, which flow from the great truths that we have been dealing with.
Beloved, we have been endeavouring in our meetings to help one another to high thoughts of what we are to God in Christ. We have been endeavouring to bear in mind what we were, and what we are through God’s grace. I doubt not but that all hearts have had the truth impressed upon them (it was there before, but it has been engraven deeper) that we are precious, to God. We cannot think with too much self-abasement of what we were; and we cannot think too highly of what we are in Christ. The more lowly we are, the truer will be our gratitude to God. What I was I see in the light of the redeeming death, the sin-bearing, curse-enduring death of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ; and the fruit of redemption is love to God, “because He first loved us.” Redemption is the channel of love and wisdom whereby God makes Himself known, and He pours out His love by the Spirit into our hearts. We are God’s children by new creation; and as the Son of God is infinitely worthy of God’s love, so we as one in Christ are infinitely worthy of that love in Christ. That is what distinguishes us from the world. But let us carefully bear in mind that there is no distinction in John 17 between branch and branch, between member and member. But “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Be it Demas or Paul, they are alike partakers of God’s love; and being God’s children), are joint-heirs with Christ, and members one of another. Do we not very often hear God’s children say, “God can do very well without us”? No, He cannot. Oh, no! To say so is to do grievous wrong to Christ. He neither can nor will do without us, and He is always on the watch to use us, because we are His members. But our business is to be well-pleasing children, chiefly for God’s delight; and if we be so minded, we shall be fitted to be used for God in the profiting of others, be they the saints or the world.
So bound up are we in the bundle of life with the Son of God, that each of us is a vessel which God by His Spirit takes up for His use in the new creation. As members one of another we are always called upon to have thoughts of love in fellowship with Christ’s heart towards all His members, and therefore in fellowship with the Father, by the Spirit.
Beloved, when that breach amongst God’s angels happened, and God cast down the angels that sinned, no preserved angel was a loser thereby. The life of the one was not bound up with the other; the happiness of the one did not depend on the obedience of the other. They could not but approve the act of justice when God cast down the offending ones into hell. But it is true of Christ that, as the Head, He cannot do without His members, any more than as the Bridegroom He can do without His spouse. Now if we are pleasing to God we are sure of success when we take God’s way. One great hindrance is that we are tempted to wish we were what God has root made us. I would say that every child of God is required by God’s love as well as by God’s justice and wisdom to be true to himself. If I desire fully to please God, let me ask that He would teach me perfectly what is my place in the body, and then let me seek to do my part, whatever it may be.
Let me say again that, in the spiritual creation, every child of God is, in one sense, what he was as God’s creature by nature. Take Saul of Tarsus for example. When born again he was the same man that formerly breathed out threatenings against the disciples of the Lord. Who made him breathe out these threatenings? The prince of darkness, by working upon him through his religion. Remember that as touching the righteousness in the law he was blameless. I have no doubt but he obtained dominion over all the lusts of the flesh, over all the evils that the natural conscience could possibly condemn; but the great engine in the hands of the devil was his conscience and his religion. Natural conscience may guide aright as between man and man, but between the soul and God it will always go wrong. As God’s creature Paul was the very same man when he wrote, “Most gladly will I spend and be spent, though the more abundantly I love you the less I be loved.” He who was once under the dominion of pride and unbelief, the power of Satan working self-exaltation in him, was now under the dominion of Christ by the Spirit—his conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ, his heart filled with the love of God in Christ, the power of Christ strengthening him, the Spirit of God dwelling in him; and he walked in the fear of God and the comfort of the Spirit; yet he was the very same man, considered apart from the moving spring of action—the Spirit of God. Everyone of us has been baptised by the Spirit of God into the body of Christ, and occupies the place in the body in which God has placed him. Let me know the place, let me fill the place. What then? If I do, this will be the result: My thoughts will run in the channel of Christ the Head. I shall always be considering the welfare of others, and I shall always have the joy of pleasing God, shall have the testimony of God’s Spirit that I please Him. I shall never do anything but that which shall be to the profit of my brother, and I shall never be a stumbling-block to the world.
Rejoicing And Mourning
Nehemiah 8:9, 10; 9:1.
In the glorious revelation of God’s counsels in Ephesians, we learn that God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love; that is, in the blamelessness of resurrection; and that God’s purpose is to put all things under Christ as the head of the new creation, that God may be all in all. Does He not therefore make a claim upon us to take part with Him now? These are the worst times that the sun has ever shone upon, because the truth is being corrupted; and those who are quickened by God’s grace and Spirit, those who are redeemed and called, even they are taking more part with the world than with God, and approving rather the ways of human wisdom than the Scriptures of truth. Oh, let us seek to see and judge of everything as God sees and judges.
Now if I do not take part with God, and with the Spirit of God, where am I? And what is my state? My knees are weak, and my hands hang down; and I shall be ready to say, “Take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers”; but if I take part with God, then I shall say, “These are the best of times.” Taking part with Him who is the Head of the new creation, I shall see that the guilt of sin must begin and end with the creature; but I shall also see that God is working out His own purposes by the risen Lord, and I shall make melody in my heart to the Lord.
In Nehemiah 8 we read, “The joy of the Lord is your strength…mourn not nor weep”; and then, in chap. 9, we find the remnant assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and with earth upon them. The truth taught is, that we are never fit to mourn unless we begin with rejoicing. First, we are to eat the fat and drink the sweet, and neither to mourn nor weep, for the joy of the Lord is our strength. Then let our mourning be in perfect fellowship with God. And what will be the fruit of it? We shall have right thoughts towards the poor, foolish, distracted Church of God; we shall know what to say, and what not to say, because we shall be taking part with God and with Christ.
Let us remember, beloved, the joy of our blessed Lord, as seen in Psalm 21:6, “Thou hast made Him most blessed for ever: Thou hast made Him exceeding glad with Thy countenance.” Why this gladness? According to Prov. 8 He said, “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was… Then I was with Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before; Him.” But when He said, “Glorify Thou me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was,” He also said, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.” He now has a joy which, before He came in the days of His flesh, He had not—the joy of having glorified the Father’s name. Beloved, we are sent into the world to do the like. “As Thou has sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” This is true, not of a few only, but of every child of God, of every member of Christ; and as we know it, so shall we be making melody in our hearts to the Lord. And in that heavenly joy—springing out of the death of the cross, the life-giving death of the Son of God—we shall be fitted to do and bear anything, small or great, that God may put in our way.
All God’s Children Are Sent Ones
2 Cor. 4:10; Heb. 12:1, 2; John 17:15-20; Isa. 6:8.
Beloved, how needful it is for every child of God to be on the watch that be forget not in what character the eye of God his Father sees him in this world. Have we not all need to examine ourselves and see whether the settled mind in us, wrought by the Spirit of God, is this, that we regard ourselves in everything, and at all times, as the sent ones of the Lord Jesus Christ, even as He was Himself the sent One of the Father? God cannot possibly see us in the world in any other character. And we need also to remember that out of the brief sojourn of Christ here on earth, thirty years were spent in doing what would be accounted in the eyes of the world as nothing. But everything He did was great, because He did it by the Spirit; even the bread He ate, and the water He drank, were partaken of in communion with the Father; and all His thoughts were full of God’s love to Him, and His love to God. While we care for what we are pleased to call missionary work, must we not begin with each child of God (a sent one by the Lord Jesus) according to those words in John 17, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world”—that is, before the appointed time —“but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” And everything is evil—not in the eyes of the natural man, nor in the eyes of Moses, nor in the eyes of disciples in the days of Christ’s flesh, but everything is so to us as raised with Christ, and taught by the Spirit—if it be out of character with God’s thoughts of us. Now, beloved, let us bear in mind that whereas Christ ever walked in perfect faith, and made every little thing great, because He did it to the Father, we make little things great, not because of what we are, but because we do them in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by faith in His name. And we cannot possibly be engaged in little things unless self-will make us little people.
I would bring before you the very precious example and the very great faith, of our Lord Jesus in Psalm 16. Verse 1 really gives us the whole course of perfect faith of our blessed Lord, “Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust.” Then verse 8 is, “I have set Jehovah always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” The wonder of our Lord’s faith and hope is, that the death of the cross is not made mention of. “My heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth.” Oh, what a name for the tongue, “My glory”! Let our hearts be full of Christ, and our tongues will be a glory. “Moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope.” The heart of Christ was set on the fulness of joy before Him. What a perfect pattern of faith therefore we have before us! It is our highest obligation to count ourselves as having died and risen with Christ, and as living by Him and with Him to God. Now if we have death behind us, under foot, as our servant (“all things are yours … life or death”), what manner of persons ought we to be, to do our part as missionaries from the heaven of heavens, sent down, every one of us, into this strange land? We do not often hear of a man being a missionary on his own estate; but that was the case with the Son of God. In that very land that belonged to Him He was a stranger, a pilgrim, and a missionary. Beloved, the world is ours, and we ought to be missionaries on our own estate; and it is indispensable to us to know that God never regards us in any other character; not as Adam’s children, but as His own children by the operation of His Spirit, and the atoning blood of His Son, according to His purpose before the world was.
Beloved, let our eyes be opened indeed to the necessity of having a loving heart for all men; but we must begin where God has been pleased to put us—in a foreign country; we must begin by doing our part here, if we are to be fit to go to Asia, Africa, or elsewhere. Now if we have the truth and faith and cleansing of Isaiah 6, we shall surely hear the still small voice saying, “Whom shall I send? and who will go for us?” We are never to rest without a testimony in our hearts by the Spirit that we are pleasing God. And to please Him is to walk in the Spirit. This will not make us sluggish but diligent. We shall not talk of courage, but be as lions; but first as doves and lambs. Further, I would say, if we are to be sent only and fully of God, we should always crave for fellowship and fellow-helpers. And God will give them. You remember the words, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul.” The Holy Ghost never said, “Separate me Barnabas from Saul.” Sad breach that! But turn to Acts 16. Paul neither would nor could do without fellowship. “A certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, who was well reported of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium: him would Paul have to go forth with him.” And the whole epistle to the Philippians is not merely one of service, but it is one of service in the spirit of fellowship. And let us entreat that God would give us hearts so furnished by the Spirit, that there might be abundant fellowship here; and that brethren going to other lands might never go single-handed. Wherever there is a heart that is a counterpart—as it ought to be—of the heart of Christ, there will be a craving for fellowship; and God will not suffer that craving to go unsatisfied. Whatever the trials of those who go forth—and they will be troubled, afflicted, and tempted to discouragement; yet they will never give way to it, so long as they have this mind—“My judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.”
Looking For The Lord’s Coming.
In looking for the coming of our Lord, it does not become us to think of it merely as putting an end to our sorrows; for that would bespeak little communion with God. We should rather think of it as fulfilling God’s pleasure and unfolding what His counsels have planned. The fragrance of the highest heaven was brought up by Christ from His death. As the result of His Cross all God’s dealing with the world and with Satan will be one great matter, and will fully please Him. God’s bruising of His Son will be the joy and delight of the world to come.
Paul says, “In due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6); and Peter says, “Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). Let us give thanks every day that we are left on earth. The true secret of never being disappointed or weary is to begin where Jesus began—with God the Father. “I do always those things that please Him.” The pattern of the mind of Christ is to be seen in the apostle’s words regarding his own nation. Paul says not to God, as Moses did, “Blot me out of Thy book” (Exod. 32:32). Paul had learnt better, having had the Son of God so fully revealed to him, and says in effect, in Romans 9, “I could endure any wrath, any curse, if my people might be saved.” His love to Israel arose from his love to God, and from his delight in Christ as doing God’s will. The higher and deeper our reverence for God becomes, the more shall we be content that God, as the Potter, should do as He pleases with the clay, and the more will our affection to our fellow-men, and particularly to our kindred, be nourished. See how Paul dwells on the sovereignty of God’s will, even regarding his own nation, in Romans 9; and yet in Romans 10 his “heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved,” and he then delights to dwell on the fulness and freeness of the Gospel. The Jews were continually plotting against Paul’s life, but his love burned all the stronger towards them. We must learn to rise above all other springs of action to God Himself; then we shall always find occasion for praise and service. Let the heart be able to say, “Hath not the Potter power over the clay?” and we shall them pray for the work of the Lord far and near; but let us not forget a well of Sychar ministry. Christ’s heart is especially seen in John’s Gospel. The majesty of the “I Am” comes out in the other Gospels, but not His tenderness, as when He says to the solitary sinner, “Give me to drink.” May His love continually fill our hearts, and may we be ready to begin with small matters!
David Numbering The People
2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21.
Two thoughts come up before me as I read these portions of God’s Word: (1) We are not, as saints, called to be in the high places of this world as matter of duty, and if believers seek them they act out of character, and only weave a net for their own feet; and (2), We now have that great teacher of lowliness, the Cross of Christ, and the “Great High Priest” at God’s right hand “able to succour the tempted.” In the New Testament we have no record of saints as kings or judges; but we are to be subject to and to pray for them, and not to speak evil of them.
How solemn is this record! David had penned the 51st Psalm, and had also gone through all the sorrows that came by the hand of Absalom. After that time of repentance and self-judgment we should have thought it was not possible for David to have acted thus; but in pride of heart he did what the great nations of the world do, and think they are quite right in doing. The sin of a nation is oftentimes corrected by the foolishness of its king.
How singular that that wicked murderer Joab should have had light, whilst the king’s eyes were blinded. Joab was a man singularly enlightened, but, like Balaam, he was never a poor sinner. As a man, he was always faithful to David until he thought David’s end as king was come; then he would have set up Adonijah.
Moses numbered the people twice to show the faithfulness of God, but David would have it done against God, and without the atonement money. A child of God out of fellowship with God may do what a worldling would shrink from doing; Satan never could have moved David to number Israel had not David given him room to do it. If we fall into “the snare of the devil,” we shall come into “the condemnation of the devil.”
How precious it is to see in David a readiness to discover his sin; his heart smote him, and he said, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done”; and how it shows his deep acquaintance with God when he says, “Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord.” From early days he had been wont to deal very closely with God, and now, after years have rolled away, and he has become the greatest king in all the world, we find him still the same at heart. How thankful we ought to be that we are not in David’s temptation! But compare him with Nebuchadnezzar. He had a warning against pride, but how did he treat it? At the end of twelve months we find him saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” And how solemn was the judgment! but he knew not David’s God. When the judgment came upon David, it brought him into communion with God.
As regards moral condition and character, David always dealt truly with God; hence the record we have of him in 1 Kings 14:7, 8, “Thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes.” How true are the words, “If we judge ourselves we shall not be judged! “He made a thorough work of his repentance, that went on and grew deep. God judges His people by the general tenor and character of their life, and not by an isolated action. Now observe that as David honoured God, so God honoured David in His public answer by fire from heaven (1 Chron. 21:26). What a sample is this of the fulfilment of the words, “Them that honour me, I will honour.” It is impossible that I can judge myself for any wrong done without the Lord honouring my repentance. When David says, “Let Thine hand be upon me,” it reminds us of the prayer of Moses, “Blot me out of Thy Book”; but in neither case could it be accepted; there can only be one Mediator. One fruit of David’s repentance is that, when natural strength is gone he is twice the man of God within, and he puts down the rebellion of Adonijah by the word of his mouth. When weakest he is strongest.
In 1 Chronicles 28:2 we see David’s heart God-ward and also towards the people. As a king he might have sat down, but the old man stood, and he said, “Hear me, my brethren, my people”—not my people, my brethren. All the honours that could be bestowed were his, for God promised that he would make Christ of David’s seed. Another of the honours put upon him was his penning the book of Psalms, and he also had the pattern of the Temple. When we see David in the glory, shall we not tell him what blessings we have received through the book of Psalms? He, with us, will then know more of their fulfilment.
The discipline under which our flesh writhes is our preservation. As I look back over my long life, those dealings of God that were bitterest at the time are, in the remembrance and understanding of His dealings, the sweetest. If the Church of God saw the sin of self-will and pride, and were truly humbled before God, as was David in his day, lowliness and love would be the fruit. How much greater is our sin, seeing that we have the manifestation of lowliness and love in the Cross of Christ, and the Spirit of God indwelling us. One practical lesson to be learned from this record is, that sin unjudged by us must bring judgment from God; but sin judged and confessed makes way for honour from God.
2 Chronicles 17, 18, 19, 20.
It has always been in my mind that the story of Jehoshaphat both encourages and also solemnly warns. How solemn, after the prosperity according to chapter 17, to find him not pursuing the course that was right! For if he had been dealing aright with the Scriptures which they then had—the boots of Moses, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and many of the Psalms, a very large revelation of God—if, after having swept the land of idols, he had gone on diligently searching the Scriptures, he would have been preserved from striking hands with wicked Ahab.
One great lesson from this story is, that we ought to be trying our ways by the Scriptures. He began in the Spirit and ended in the flesh, but, considering the time in which he lived and the temptation to which he was exposed, Jehoshaphat was a marvellous man of grace.
Then, also, we see this, and it is a vast advantage to see it, that God never will or can forego the claim He has upon our conscience for obedience. I have always had sorrow in reading the account of this man of God; it is full of warning against resting in any obedience we have attained to. The whole family of God stop at a certain point, and do not search and try their ways, and so are overcome. How much easier it is for the fly to get into the spider’s web than out of it! Psalm 26 should have been a guide to Jehoshaphat. He sincerely feared the Lord, but did not search into the Word, for had he, it would have been impossible for him to be in fellowship with Ahab. His eye was not single, and therefore his body was not full of light.
Then how solemn is the story of his son! Jehoshaphat’s affinity with Ahab encouraged his son to marry Ahab’s daughter, and the fruit of this was that he murdered all his brethren. Let us remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6:17: “Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” Let your fellowship with God be such that you may not be defiled with a touch of the dead.
But the eye of God never passes over anything that is good in His child, which we are apt to do. The commandment is, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” In Philippians 3:15 there is a promise to those, and those only, who do not rest content with any measure of obedience. The mark of the perfect man is a keen eye for his own imperfection, and, if we have this, any of our ways not pleasing to God will be revealed to us. The great pattern Psalm of self-knowledge and heavenly integrity is the 119th. How instructive are the first eight verses! the very path that Jehoshaphat should have pursued. This is the diligence that ought to have been in him; but what shall we say of the Church of God in the present day? Christ the Great High Priest and our Leader in worship is not generally considered, and if the hearts of most of God’s people were examined, the Epistle to the Hebrews would not be found there. Then there is the code of laws in Romans 12. If our ways were tried by them would they stand the test? We ought to have as tender a conscience about the body of Christ as we have quickness of feeling if a grain of dust gets into the eye. One fruit of the diligence in Psalm 119 is love to the Word (v. 97). Then how does this Psalm end? With a depth of self-knowledge, which leads not to exalting myself above others, but to my taking the lowest place.