Alliances and Confederations

Table of Contents

1. Alliances and Confederations*
2. The Knowledge of God and Fellowship With Christ

Alliances and Confederations*

" Associate yourselves, O ye peoples, and ye shall be broken in pieces.. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught, speak the word and it shall not stand... Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of Hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear... And He shall be for a sanctuary."-Is. 8:9-14.
Few things can be more important, or distressing in a certain sense, than the widely accepted proposal of the world's reformation by means of the mental and moral cultivation of mankind, as opposed to God's redemption by the blood of His Son.
It is nothing short of this (as an object) which is being attempted through existing institutions, whether established by voluntary efforts, as formerly; or, as now, by legislative enactments and governmental patronage, for they alike contemplate man as a member of this creation.
In addition to these establishments may be discovered, upon a higher level, the religious organizations and co-operative societies of the day, which embrace other objects, it is true, but still recognize man as a citizen of the world.
Even Christian associations, so-called, which rise upon this graduated scale and leave their own mark, stop entirely short of " a new creature in Christ," and "I, crucified to the world." By all such combinations of state-policy and social enterprise, it is hoped and confidently stated by the world's leaders, that the political and natural rights of men will soon be recognized; and that the suffrage may be universally extended, when its populations have been fitted by these educational schemes for its exercise, and all be then led forward, in one encouraging effort of getting good and doing good to the world, where they are.
As a fair consequence, the governments of Europe and the States, may, in their turn, as well expect by some gigantic effort to rise up out of their iron and clay formations and develop themselves in brass or silver, and, by thus working backward, endeavor to reach " the head of gold" (Dan. 2.).
The melancholy interest which one naturally feels about these movements and expectations is deepened, because they are seen to be unscriptural and futile when judged in the light of the word of God. On this account it is that feelings of another kind lay hold on those who remember they were once upon this treadmill for themselves; and thus, the one great absorbing desire now is, the: deliverance of such as are still hard at work in the Egyptian house of bondage.
Another fact weighs heavily upon the spirit of the emancipated ones, namely, that these combined efforts, in all their gigantic forces, are proof of alienation of mind from God, and to the way by which He invites and beseeches men to be reconciled to Himself, by the death of His Son. There is a fellowship which God has thus formed with believers in Christ, and into which in grace He calls; but this is not our present subject.
A confederacy of continental nations, in this our century, sought to reach a " Holy alliance " for themselves (many will remember it) as a ground of universal peace, and this was vauntingly declared to have been formed, but no sooner celebrated by the nations comprised in that alliance, than unholy violated. It has long since passed away from its expected longevity, into the pages of disappointed history. This failure gave place to a further and last attempt to reach a commonwealth of peace and' prosperity by " the balance of power " amongst " the ten toes" of Daniel's prophetic image; but this was a rope of sand, and, following upon "The Holy alliance," only threw each of the ‘great powers into warlike attitude for aggression or self-defense. Nothing else could follow these last abortive efforts to form an international brotherhood but the existing armaments, with 'their ironclads and turret-ships, in a proud defiance of one nation against another, in connection with all the innumerable rifles and chassepots of the ever-training armies which they embrace, in view of a coming and extended war.
But to proceed. It is not intended in this paper to say anything more upon true Christian fellowship, " which is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ," on the part of those who, in matchless grace, have been brought " out of darkness into His marvelous light," as it is not its subject. The fact has been already stated; we have now to examine its counterfeits.
Enough has been said of associations, unions, and mutual alliance societies, in their multiplications and varieties, to prove that fellowship in itself is the common want of the world.
An instructed Christian, judging by the light of God's word, must sooner or later admit that the need and call for these formations among men is but the avowal (unintentional it may be) of " the fall," by which mankind has shut itself up to its own inventions, and in wilfulness and wickedness broken loose from God. (cf. Is. 1:11). These are but their own sorry productions, alas, and the fruit of their poor resources, when left to themselves like Cain, who went out from the presence of God, to take his place as a " fugitive and vagabond in the earth." He had reduced himself to himself, and to make terms of agreement with his neighbor, if haply he could, where the old dragon and Satan held his power and seat: I only refer so far back to show, that the primary and common drift, or, to speak morally, the fact of the fall and of original sin, was likewise a falling away from God; and threw man upon his fellow in guilt for sympathy, and in a common confession of departure, if not too far sunk, or else, in sinful confederation, to war against the righteous judgment of God which he could not escape.
But leaving this original ground, and its demands and supplies, we may look into other varieties of modern times, and the forms and fashion's, religious or otherwise, with which we are unavoidably familiar.
Still God acted on behalf of men; He had not forsaken the world, and, by the introduction of Judaism as a grand system of legislation and of external worship, established with them on the earth, He founded a theocracy which was intended as the center of outward peace and prosperity for Israel and the surrounding nations. This enabled the Jehovah of that favored people to lead them into the land of Canaan, and dwell with them according to His promises. The patterns and forms which He gave out in grace (when the true knowledge of God was lost by mankind at large) and by which He opened a way between Himself and Israel for conditional blessing, had been finished and set up in the tabernacle of Moses; and again, with further developments and aids, in the temple and throne of Solomon.
It is very needful and precious to us to bear in mind the facts we are now tracing-that God would neither leave Himself without witness, as to communion and intercourse with His people on earth, nor suffer mankind unrebuked to perish in their alienation of mind and confederacy of will against Him by the formation of their own fellowships as they attempted at Babel. Nevertheless, it is sad to remember, that whatever God in love gave for the true knowledge of Himself in communion with patriarchs or the nation, must most surely turn against them governmentally if not used for His glory in their midst, and become a new measure for their correction in righteous judgment.
Nor is this all: for Satan, the enemy of God and man, catches up anything and everything which has once had the sanction of divine authority; but has been forfeited and spoiled by transgression and abuse. Nothing will suit Satan so well as that which no longer suits God. Whatever is thus put aside as no longer suitable for " the sanctuary of God," becomes the choicest material for the devil's mint and coinage; else, how could he get the whole world at last to worship the beast and his image, and to say, " Who is like unto the beast?" These corruptions of what once came from God, and their forfeiture on the part of those to whose hands they were committed, added to the awful fact that Satan delights to turn them into capital and make these forfeits his new material of currency, bring us on to the consideration of the ecclesiastical and religious fellowships in our own day.
These take their character necessarily from Christianity, and likewise from Christ and the church, mingled it is true with the previous forms and ritualism of judaistic observances. Let us bear in mind that the devil has lastly corrupted Christianity too, and added their to the ill-gotten stores, with which he is trading largely throughout Christendom and the world. As regards Christianity and the professing church likewise (this last, and which should have been the highest, witness of truth on the earth), the Son of man has said, when walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, " I will spue thee out of my mouth;" and so the Apocalypse reveals " the woman as sitting upon a scarlet colored beast." The thing which Christ rejects is, in Satan's hands, become the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth. The heavens, so to speak, have thus emptied on the earth all they had to give in the way of recovering grace, if the hands were competent to retain, or appreciate and use, the means; but alas, all that was bestowed on the ground of man's responsibility to God has dropped out and been forfeited, only to put increasing power into the grasp of Satan. The huge confederacy he has in this way formed against God and Christ, and the alliance he has thus made between mankind and himself, and their fellowships and agreements one with another, is " the mystery of iniquity " in the Revelation, by which the failure of all inward and public testimony closes in judgment upon the world.
Historically and prophetically we may thus look at the origin of these human fellowships and their 'final character and form, under the energetic and guiding enmity of Satan, " the god of this world," and " the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience " (2 Cor. 4: 4; Eph. 2:2).
When this system of confederated greatness and pride has reached its height, then it is that God refuses and judges it, " for in one hour is she made desolate. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her" (Rev. 18).
Inside, however, and in a measure distinct from the world's fellowships, are those ecclesiastical and religious ones, which are accepted mainly by consciences exercised upon " the good and evil," but not knowing, or refusing, the Christ of God, and Him who has called His people " unto the fellowship of His Son " (1 Cor. 1.).
It is obvious that all external and governmental systems, constituted by regal authority and conducted by parliamentary legislation, would not meet the uneasiness of such consciences upon another and the far deeper question of sin and holiness in the presence of God, much less settle it. Nor was the best thing at Rome which Christendom presented, or its Eastern and Western churches more satisfactory on account of their contradictory creeds and dogmas. The dissatisfaction therefore which arose from a semi-political system, such as Popery on the one hand, with its indulgences and penances, and the uncertainty which national churches produced on the other, reduced the keeping of one's conscience (where there was any) to one's self, and what became individual, or else left an opening as to means and appliances for anything and everything which in time might appear more promising.
Two great systems, however, sprang out of this general dissatisfaction, and have become established-one is the Conventual, and the other the Sacramental, system-and both offer, in their respective ways, to restore man to this broken fellowship with God. Merely social and political unions and their nationalities were declined, on the weighty discovery that God was in question, rather than man and his neighbor.
The Conventual system embraced a religious life within walls to meet this emergency, and separated its votaries from the world by being enclosed out of its sight. The Sacramental system connected itself with a contemplative life, fastings and prayers, hours spent in church, on high days and festivals, but not the confessional and oratory, as with the Conventual.
In either, the body must be all but ignored by fasting or penances, when required to bring it under, that the soul might be kept free from all worldly thought, or affection and desire. Under these restrictions and impositions upon the body, it is supposed the soul would rise into such a state of ecstasy, and perhaps beatitude, as to reach the full manifestation of Christian perfection.
Besides these Conventual and Sacramental systems of to-day, there is yet the Evangelistic movement, and the adoption of the Mosaic law, as " a rule of life," by which the body and its members are sought to be controlled and brought into subjection, in order to possess a fellowship of uncertain character, indeed not beyond the seventh of Romans as to experience, and forced to accept "O wretched man that I am!" as the proper state and condition of this so-called Christian. There are off-shoots of this Evangelistic system which claim from its advocates a self-surrender to God, and a putting the will on His side, accompanied by such a consecration of all the powers and faculties of nature, and the body, as would lead to a " higher Christian life," etc., instead of (a full redemption being known) present union with a risen glorified Christ, maintained by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
It is remarkable, that in all these ecclesiastical and evangelistic movements the human body seems to be viewed and dealt with as the one thing in the way, and the main hindrance to the recovery of a lost fellowship with God: and on this account Conventualism, with its severer measures of penance and privation, or Sacramentalism, with its ritualistic observances, offers to carry the soul beyond the contaminations of the body.
The Monastic system, with its continental pilgrimages and new order of " the Sacred Heart," might have been added to these; but these so-called pilgrimages are properly speaking " excursions by railways " and connected with hotel accommodations and refreshments, under which the body escapes the impositions and privations formerly practiced for its mortification. It is merely passed through the genuflexions and continuous adorations due to the Virgin, alternated by the counting of beads, and the daily lessons and hourly duties of "sisters of mercy," by which it is sought to bring the body back to its original virtues in " holy communion."
Still it is the human body, and a fallen nature, that occupies each and all of these systems, however they may vary in the choice of means for its subjugation, or its voluntary surrender to God, or its fuller consecration to His service.
One of the last of these pilgrimages was to Parai-le-Monial, and " the Sacred Heart," and this (as may be remembered) was arranged for from London, through France, with a well-known excursionist company by return tickets, under the sanction of Rome, and the blessing of the Pope.
In the great outside confederations of the world, and the alliances between man and man, led on by the wiles of the devil, it is quite otherwise, for the body is at a high premium, As might he supposed, man and all his physical energies are taxed to the utmost, in order to their development and display, for Satan knows " that his time is short."
Fire and water, which in an earlier age were viewed chiefly as destructive elements, have now become allied, and by their generative power, are the necessary and hourly appliances for transit and gain. The millions who are thus whirled along in express trains over the globe, still needed a rapidity better suited for the transmission of their overtaxed thoughts and words, and these are flashed along the wires to the world's end, upon poles which support them in the air, or else by sub-marine cables across the channels and the seas. Man has become a cosmopolite, and is a wonder to himself by his inventions and appliances. Or else a fancied, but necessary, brotherhood in misfortune has sprung up, by which he becomes co-operative and international in his largest ideas and undertakings-but without God and without Christ!
And now, what is the result of all these and other fellowships in the church and in the world? Rationalistic, and infidel theories, in opposition to the word of God, abound, and are the palpable but plain answer, as given by philosophers and men of science, who rule the day, and are themselves ruled by " the spit-it of the age." Indifferentism and immorality would number up the rest of the outsiders-such as take things as they come, till their " soul is required " of them, or the impending judgment overtakes them, when " the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven....... in flaming fire taking vengeance, etc. (2 Thes. 1.).
In conclusion, it is obvious that all these systems, religious or otherwise, have still got man in hand as a moral being, and are seeking how to educate him in his generation, so as to develop what is good; or else by confession and penance, or sacraments and prayers, to curb what is bad—for it is the devil's interest to keep up this deceit. It is only at the cross that such matters can be made plain for those who are simple enough to see the end of the first man in the death of Christ. As, regards men and the world, the cross witnesses to the rupture of the last tie. " God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself," but the rejection and crucifixion of the Son of His love was the open refusal either to accept His mediation or to suffer His presence in their midst on such a footing. What fellowship can there be with God, in the face of that cross, which is the standing proof of the outburst of the world's enmity against Him and His love, when they nailed Jesus thereon? And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas." So Pilate " released unto them 'hint that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will" (Luke 23.).
The words of our Lord may fitly close this bird's-eye view of existing alliances and ripening confederations: " I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive " (John 5.).
Barabbas instead of Jesus; the dragon instead of God; the antichrist instead of Christ; the false prophet instead of the true one; the beast instead of the Lamb slain; are become the authorities and names by which the devil is suffered to wind up this world's history, and by which he fatally plunges those who are " led captive by him at his will " into the last scenes of the apocalyptic judgments of God. The earth clears itself, by such means, of those who have corrupted it, whether by Satanic or human energies; yet only that hell may open its mouth to receive them. The earth thus cleanses itself from its pollutions by destroying them that destroyed it, " and the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever " (Rev. 20.).
What an unspeakable comfort for our souls, and what a mercy, that we can turn away from the consideration of such fellowships as these, and their issues (and invite others to do so) to speak of another which God has formed for all who are Christ's, and into which He leads us by the Holy Ghost.

The Knowledge of God and Fellowship With Christ

(Sequel to “Alliances and Confederations.")
When we examine the word of God as to the nature and character of true Christian knowledge and of our fellowship with Christ, one is astonished to see upon what it is based, and by what means it is to be held and maintained. Even this feeling is deepened as we inquire further, what must be its wonderful subjects, and when, or how, to be accomplished and realized by us, in the light where God dwells. Nor must we forget the fact that this knowledge and fellowship come in upon the proved insufficiency of that mode of intercourse, which nevertheless shone out brightly in one and another with whom God walked upon the earth, before the flood and since, and to whom He gave testimony that they pleased Him.
Whatever the grace and the goodness were on God's part, in such intimacies with the patriarchs, or afterward with the prophets and kings and the nation of Israel, still, the ruin and the groaning of creation were so identified with sin and death on man's side as to offer no fit materials for real fellowship with God, either in the righteousness of His ways, or, much less, in the holiness of His own nature.
Besides all this, there lay things in the mind of God which creation and the creature could not bring to light, so that another ground for lasting and true communion with Himself was wanted for their display. This has been formed, in the wisdom of God, by sending forth His beloved Son into the world, and by an accomplished redemption through the cross of Christ (available for everyone, but only really known and enjoyed by those who take their true place before God as lost sinners and believe the record He has given of His Son), which has met all such existing deficiencies and antagonisms, and removed them. And not only so, but that same work, in death and resurrection, has brought believers to the Father as " new creatures," in present and everlasting favor, through the Son of His love. The foundation of Christian fellowship is thus based upon our redemption to God by the blood of Christ, and is formed by the accession of our Lord Jesus to the right hand of God, in His declared worthiness to become 'the Center and Depository of all the purposes of God, and worthy of all honor and glory, as having now carried them out and made them true in Himself. The Second Man in heaven, exalted above all principalities and powers, and Head over all things to the church, must needs have been established there for Himself, according to the counsels of God, and in His own righteous title, before a fellowship with the Father and the Son could he revealed, or we be called into the participation of it by grace.
Christian fellowship, whether in its objects or subjects, lies, therefore, outside this old creation, though announced and designed for those who are yet amongst its ruins It exists in the glorified Son of man, in the place where He now sits as Head and " Beginning of the creation of God." Another revelation of and from God was thus required to make Him known in the Son, and has been since introduced by the Holy Ghost, according to the promise of the Father, come down as the Glorifier of Christ, the Center of God's counsels, and, moreover, as the Witness to us that we are united to Him, who has there become our life in glory. Born of God, created anew in Christ, quickened, raised, and seated together in Him in the heavenly places, are some of the necessary changes needful on our part for this fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost, too, as the Spirit of sonship, has come down to dwell in us, the Witness that we have not only this life in Christ, but are brought into the relationship of children with the Father " Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba " (Gal. 4.). This is very blessed for us, because realized in the consciousness of life—divine life—known and understood in this relationship with God, and vital in our hearts, as enjoyed in the Father's delight in us. We are one in this with His beloved Son, and the Holy Ghost produces in us the new-born feelings and affections which respond to love like His. " We dwell in God, and God in us."
In the earlier account of the communications of this life, we may recall how Jesus said to Nicodemus, respecting fellowship in the earthly things, " Ye must be born again," to see or enter into " the kingdom of God." Beyond this, and when the time was come—not merely for the heavenly things to be told out, but for the hidden mystery Of Christ and the church, and the secret purposes of God to be brought to light, and made known to us in the ascended Son of Man—how could such communion be maintained on our part, except under the anointing of the Holy Ghost? God might, and did, in times past make His ways known to Moses, and His acts unto the children of Israel, for these were earthly, and therefore mainly governmental, or dispensational, in their accomplishments. But something worthy of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ remained " hidden in God," till the Son of the bosom came forth in His marvelous ministries to make it manifest, first in His own person, and then to lay the foundations of these counsels in present grace for us by His cross. It is the coming glory that must fully tell out the secret and display the manner of the Father's love to us, by our being caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to see Him, to be like Him, and to be with Him where He is. Moreover, this eternal life, which was with the Father, was manifested to us, and has been seen, and heard, and handled, when " the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us." This is the life which has been imparted to us, that we might be competent to understand the things which are freely given to us of God. We have also the " mind of Christ." Our body, too, is the " temple of the Holy Ghost," which we have of God, and by this Spirit we are anointed for present fellowship with the Father in unclouded peace, and sealed unto the day of redemption. How true it is, not only to faith, but in our knowledge of ourselves, that " if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new; and all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ."
Thus this eternal life is in the Son, and those who are united to Him, " who is our life," are all one in this communion of life, and are spiritually made one, as having the mind of Christ and the unction of the Spirit. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost constitute this divine fellowship, in their own Person and Godhead, but in a well known relation to us in love; and it is in this, by grace and redemption and our new creation, we are called and comprehended, as brought to God, in the Son of His bosom. "Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." This object and comprehensive purpose was thus stated in John 17: " This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and, Jesus Christ, whom Thou halt sent." It is into this circle we are introduced, in the light; and that so really, that the Spirit who writes of it, and establishes us in this communion, declares these as our realities (summarily by John), and says, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ"; and " these things write we unto you, that your joy may befall." Blessed portion for us, as known in and by the Holy Ghost!
These Scriptures, and such considerations, may determine our first inquiry, viz., upon what Christian communion is based; and, likewise, with whom and by what means it is held. There yet remains the question in what this fellowship consists? and collaterally, in what respects does it differ from God's testimony to Himself in this Adam creation, and likewise from His intercourse with Abraham as " the father of many nations," or with David, " the man after God's own heart," and the royal promises of the throne and kingdom in Jerusalem? These inquiries are of the deepest interest, as opening out the ways of God to men on the earth, and are profitable to us as displaying "the manifold wisdom of God," from first to last, so much of which remains yet to be accomplished in " the times and the seasons which," as Jesus said on His departure, " the Father hath put in His own power."
The earliest lessons by which God gave forth this knowledge of Himself to His creatures was by the six days' work of creation, and the responsibility of mankind consisted in glorifying Him as God, in the light and consciousness of His providential care and goodness, " filling their hearts with food and gladness." Indeed, Paul's epistle to the Romans opens by the testimony it bears to these facts as the basis of such intercourse, viz.,
that " the invisible things of God were clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead." But man changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of corruptible man and four-footed beasts, so that the ground and material for this intimacy were alike lost.
, Creation had, nevertheless, its wonders, past finding out, and its deeper mysteries, which were hidden in God. The great external world, or " the heavens and the earth,' manifested the former; but, the inclosure out of it, as in Gen. 2., contained the latter. In the beginning " God created the heavens and the earth.... and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," this is Gen. 1.; but in the midst of this creation " the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there Ile put the man whom He had formed." " Great things past finding out, and wonders without number," in the heavens above and in the earth beneath, as Job said, still occupy the faculties of men, as material for speculation or for scientific research and for theories by which they become great. Would that they were convicted in conscience by this abiding external testimony to " the power and Godhead," as that very knowledge from which they have departed, and on account of which sin they will be judged. Such have not yet even glimpsed, much less walked with Him in the other and deeper mysteries of " the garden," so as to find out the kernel that lay inside this great outer shell. Creation "has its mines for silver and its place for gold, where they fine it; iron is also taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone;" but Jehovah employed these afterward, when He wrought in gold and silver and precious stones, and in purple and scarlet and fine twined linen, to give forth to His people His intentions about heavenly things, and their better sacrifices, which, in due time, opened out " the new and living way into the holiest."
There lay hidden, however, in the counsels and purposes of God, a secret undisclosed, a mystery of which the garden that " the Lord God planted" was to be the special depository. Adana was only a "figure of Him that was to come," and of whom it is written, " the Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." This hidden One, and the yet undisclosed mystery of Christ and the church, the Bride, the Lamb's wife, were now to be brought forward and put into shape and form. It was in the planted garden of Gen. 2., where God wrought with the man, in the midst of creation, that He displayed this masterpiece. It was there." the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of His ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man made He a woman, and brought her unto the man."
Creation may have, and does hold, its secrets and wonders under the power and Godhead, but the garden contained this " mystery," hidden in God Himself from everlasting, and now set up (in time) upon the earth. Nor will this be fully taken out of mystery till Christ comes a second time and the shout bids us rise up to meet Him; then to be manifested eternally in the new heavens and the new earth, to which the visible heavens and earth, which are now, become in this view merely provisional and introductory.
These formations and foundations for the true knowledge of God and of Christ's glory, and this mystery of Christ and the church, which will be for the full manifestation of His wisdom and power, from everlasting to everlasting, have been thus introduced in " the planted garden," and embodied in a way and manner with which we are familiar, through scenes in our every-day life " Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh." The comment and application of this by the Holy Ghost, when the time came to make this " one flesh," a matter of revelation and testimony by Paul, recurs with freshness and power to our souls: " This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." It is passing into its completion in us, by the quickening power of the Holy Ghost-we, who are members of His body, who are of His flesh and of His bones, and have been baptized by one Spirit into this unity. That which was from everlasting, before ever the world was-that which was set up in Eden, when God rested from all the world. which He had made—has now ceased to be in mystery, through this work of the Holy Ghost in uniting us to Christ as Head.
It is in this innermost circle of His own delights that we find our place and portion, who are by grace and adoption brought into this oneness with Christ, the exalted Head over all things to the church, which is His body, " the fullness of Him who filleth all in all." Our fellowship is thus established with the Father and the Son by the Holy Ghost, and Christian communion is properly 'comprehended in this, and in the mystery of Christ and of God and the church. Before the fall, and before sin entered into the world or Satan tempted Eve, we are taught by these Paradisaical symbols what the grand result is to which God is working for His glory. The first in pattern, and the first in An unfallen creation, but the last to be made manifest is the Bride of the Lamb, when the glory of God descends out of heaven, and the new Jerusalem is seen to come down as a Bride, adorned for her husband. Indeed, we may ask, how could this world, when sin had entered into it, and death passed upon all men because that all had sinned, possibly supply even a type of our great mystery, and that mystery " Christ and the church," His body and His Bride?
This may serve in outline as a reply to the inquiry, in what Christian fellowship properly consists. It exists in that which the Father's love kept hidden in Himself, for the Son of His bosom, till "the fullness of the time was come " for Him to send " forth His Son, made of a woman," to accomplish all that was given Him to do for the glory of God in the heavens above and the earth beneath, and to make an atonement for sin by the sacrifice of Himself. " Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone (were the words of Jesus at that hour); but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." It was out of this deep sleep, for three days and three nights in "the belly of the earth," and out of the side of Him who lay there, that the woman, the Bride, was formed: " He loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."
Christian fellowship consists with Christ in "all things that the Father hath," as well as in the glory which the Father has given the Son; and beyond this, in a personal communion and present enjoyment of that love wherewith He is loved-a love which is in itself greater and more blessed than all that such love can bestow. Still the Father's love to His Son will and must display itself for its own delight and Christ's glory, and to magnify likewise His person, as well as to make great His names and titles, in this world, where He has been disowned, and before angels and principalities and powers in the heavenly places, who waited upon Him in the days. of His humiliation. It is into all this coming scene of joy and blessing that we are introduced as "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," whatever the height and depth of the purposed glory may be. We are to be with Him, even when, "in the dispensation of the fullness of times, He will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him, in whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated that we should be to the praise of His glory." This is the church's portion, and marks the difference between Christ and Christian fellowship, from the intercourse by which the knowledge of God, as Almighty and Jehovah, was maintained with the patriarchs and the people of Israel, under Moses and Joshua, or David and Solomon and the prophets.
Another difference is that all their blessings were given out in promises, and under covenant to a Seed, for the restitution of all things in the earthly places. Let it be observed that if, as we have seen, " the garden " contained more precious deposits and mysteries within its sacred inclosure than the great external creation possessed, even before the fall of Adam, its lord and head, it yet remained for God in grace to come forth into this groaning creation and proclaim Himself as above the ruins of sin, and Satan's power, and the penalty of death which even He had inflicted upon the sinner. He who alone could make such a path for Himself did so, and brought in His reserves in the way of promise and covenant to a Seed, because original blessing in Adam was forfeited, and be cause sin had entered in and man was driven out, It was in this character, too, that He trod the path of " the burning hush " with His redeemed people, after the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished; and in all things God has been, and is still, so manifesting Himself. By the six days' work of creation the invisible things were and are seen, even His eternal power and Godhead; and by the seventh-day rest He discovered Himself yet further. The garden enclosed the image of Him that was to come, and the yet undisclosed mystery of His deep sleep, and then the woman pointing to the far off marriage of the Lamb. "God brought her to the man."
The blessing was thus first secured for Christ and the church by what "the Lord God planted' and made, and brought and united to Adam in Paradise, as it lay with Himself, in counsel, before the fall. Besides this, the declaration of judgment against sin was afterward made to Satan, the liar and murderer from the beginning," that the Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head-It is here we find the fullness of present and eternal blessing grouped together for ultimate and everlasting glory, and the curse upon the devil pronounced, till the bottomless pit opens its mouth for him, and finally the lake of fire. What a way God has made for the knowledge of Himself in the midst of ruins like these!
The reserves of God are only to be summed up. in the Seed of the woman and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The faith of God's elect finds its relief and resource in this promised Seed, the last Adam. The path of one and another, as recorded in Heb. 11., passed out of the great external creation and its groanings (in hope) as they saw Christ's day, and were glad. The " better thing," which God has reserved "for us," for which they wait, and all creation too, connects them with the hidden purposes of the garden in measure, and is become their safe and sufficient guarantee of unforfeited blessing, that they too may gather up their best and brightest hopes in the Seed of the woman. Promises and covenants and prophecies of varying character and extent are scattered all along by God on the pathway of the forlorn and destitute. Good things to come are assured to faith in the midst of increasing evil and corruption, even after it repented God that He had made man upon the earth, and He had destroyed it with a flood. Israel will be brought into this knowledge of God hereafter, through their fellowship with Christ, as the Messiah of this once " cast off people:" " For they shall all know me," etc. Blessings and promises and covenants abound further, as we follow Noah out of the ark, and are confirmed by " the bow in the cloud " to him, and to his seed, and to every living creature. If we trace the pathway of God Almighty with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, through the book of Genesis, it is hut to see that God has given out to them afresh all created blessing, of " the heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breast and of the womb, unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills." Nor is the record of God in His ways with His people only by promises of future blessing, for the book of Exodus is replete with deliverances and victories over oppressors, and from cruel bondage and the iron furnace. The " I AM " came down into their midst and gave forth the knowledge of Himself in the person of Moses and Aaron, as the Jehovah of Israel, and went along with them " to find out a resting-place " for Himself and His people.
If it be wonderful to see God thus giving over again the natural blessings of the heavens and the earth, which were originally connected with Adam, and putting all under sure promise and covenant to the Seed, how much more marvelous is it to see Him exalted at the right hand of God, and to know now this Second man there and who He is! The "appointed Heir" has been born of the woman, and, as the true Seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has come into the world with an indisputable title to all covenanted and promised blessing. Still more wondrous will it be when, as the Son of man and Seed of David, the Word made flesh, He shall come " a second time," to take every promise out of promise into fulfillment, and every covenant, from first to last, out of covenant into manifested blessing. He has yet to do this.
Besides all this was God's desire that the Israel whom He loved should make Him a sanctuary and a tabernacle, according to the pattern shown to Moses in the mount of God, that He might dwell amongst them, and accompany them by the pillar of cloud or of fire, by day and night. To these were added in the book of Leviticus sacrificial types, and a knowledge of God in external relations, by means of "a ritual," to be observed in their daily, monthly and yearly offerings. Only one person could be trusted with patterns which were to express these thoughts of God, or show the manner in which He was to be worshipped as became Him who dwelt in the Holy of Holies, and yet in grace had to do with a people in their sins. Only two persons, and those endowed by the Spirit of God " in all cunning workmanship," were authorized to construct these vessels and put them into their splendid forms of glory and beautiful significance, and this they did.
Here, again, we may ask, who could He be that in due time was to take everything in the sanctuary and tabernacle out of figure. and form, and embody them in Himself? Who could He be, and what is His name, but Him who, " when He cometh into the world, saith, sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared Me." He who " taketh away the first, that he may establish the second," declares that He has taken all out of shadow into substance and divine reality, for Himself and for His own, and for God.
The outside world, replete with with all its promises and covenants, the nation with its tabernacle and sanctuary, accompanied by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, all pointed on to the coming One who did but cast all these shadows before Him.
Add yet to these, other and more gorgeous displays of God's thoughts given to David and carried out by Solomon, for " the temple of Jehovah's rest " in Jerusalem, with the royalties of the throne and the glory of the coming kingdom, and we shall see who He is that required the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in the Holy Land to pre-figure Him, in such sort as that eyes of flesh and blood might catch a glimpse of Him, and human thoughts become familiar with Him. With what joy did they say, " We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write."
Beyond the Pentateuch and the Chronicles of the Kings lie the long line of the prophets and their prophecies, which spread out over the millennial earth and the populations of the world. And who is to carry prophecy out into all its fulfillments, both in the heavens above and the earth beneath, so that not " a jot or tittle shall fail," but Him who has already gathered types and patterns, promises and covenants, around Himself, to illustrate the glory of His person who required them all, in order to form the basis and supply the material of an abiding fellowship with God, and to demonstrate that " in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
Before He comes forth from heaven in His own glory and the glory of His Father and the glory of His holy angels, He has left the bright witness behind Him, at the mount of His transfiguration, that all natural and national blessings were His by birthright as well as by righteous title, as Son: of Abraham and Son of David. The Holy Ghost adds His witness to this, by Per " For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His Majesty, for He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the Shekinah, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.' "
He has, moreover, left an undeniable witness on Mount Calvary, the mount of His crucifixion, that every sacrificial type has been taken up and fulfilled in His sufferings and death, and confirmed by His resurrection. It was on Mount Calvary He cried out of the darkness, " Eli, Eli, lama Sabachtani." He who was greater than all that represented Him, and who said, " Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," hung upon the cross and gave up the ghost. All was done that was given Him to do, up to the glory of God in the Holiest; and, " behold the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent," as the only but all sufficient answer on the part of God the Father, and of creation to its Deliverer, that a new and living way was opened into the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus. All that He undertook has been carried out to perfection below, and confirmed for unfailing blessing by His ascension "to the right hand of the majesty on high."
God is left free, in His own unsullied holiness, to act for His own glory; all hindrances have been taken out of the way, and nothing before Him to judge, except the enemies of Christ and the wicked, who refuse the outlet of the cross as the open door into fellowship with God the Father in present and eternal blessing.
It belongs to God, now, to make manifest the further knowledge of Himself in the heavens above and the earth o beneath by a visible Christ, when He brings in the new character and measure of glory which is due to the Last Adam, as a reward of the travail of His soul. What a consideration is this for the Father's love, and with what delight will He open out the glories of the Son in the ages to come! No longer hindered by the unworthiness and incapacity of the creature, but having the worthiness of Him for His only rule who said, " Glorify thy Son that thy Son also may glorify thee," what must the blessing and the blessedness be, when the Lamb once slain is the governing Object for the display. of the Father's love, as well as of His wisdom and power; and we, by grace, partakers in His joy, one with Christ, and introduced by Him into this fellowship.
The difference between the Old Testament and the New, or between the nation and the church, or between Judaism and Christianity is that in the former God could only give out His intentions of blessing till the incarnation of Christ took these all into possession in His person, and made them yea and amen in Himself and to the joint-heirs by His death and resurrection. Christianity is Christ known in fulfillment, the Holy Ghost in present testimony and witness, and God glorified in accomplishment.
Another difference in the ways of God is this, that originally He made a responsible man in creation the starting point and a typical center of His actings, whereas the Son of man, the last Adam in glory above, the beginning of the New Creation of God, is now become the glorified Head, the eternal Center and Source of unfailing bliss and joy. In the new order of the Apocalypse, the holy Jerusalem is seen descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God; whereas in the old order of Genesis, everything was committed to Adam in responsibility, and was to issue from man to God, and failed when tested on that ascending scale.
Hut to return from these considerations of earthly blessing for " the future earthly people " in earthly places, to our own proper Christian fellowship with Christ, where He now is in the heavenlies.
They and we are alike in this, that we wait for the respective manifestation of blessing and glory to each, in full result because Christ has " sat down " on the Father's throne. The hour of these manifestations of accomplished purpose belongs to. God, and waits upon His will to open out who has the times and seasons in His own hand. He will gather out the church first, and complete the body of Christ, as the Bride, the Lamb's wife, and translate her into the heavens, where we take our places as sons likewise in the Father's house. The intentions of God, which were given out in mystery from the garden which the Lord God planted. in Eden, are the secret things which we carry. along with us, over and above all the external ways of God to Moses, and His dispensational acts to the children of Israel, and even His present government of the world and the Gentiles, without hesitation or reserve. We have another calling and destiny, beyond the great outside world or the elect nation taken out from the nations in its midst; we are not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.
It is important to see that nothing in the way of mystery, or promise, or covenant, remains unfulfilled in the person of Christ, through His work upon the cross, in our redemption and His own resurrection, for the glory of God the Father. Moreover, the Holy Ghost has come down to dwell with us, as the witness and seal of this great fact. The Son of man has been in the heavens for the last eighteen hundred years in no less a character than the Glorifier of the Father, and as " the Forerunner" of His people, there to appear in the presence of God for us. His new and present work of priestly intercession for us is near its end. How close all must be now upon fulfillment, and on His coming forth as the Melchisedec, " King of righteousness, King of peace," to bless His willing nation, and the twelve tribes of Israel in Emanuel's land, after the manifestation of God's power has taken up the church to be with Christ, and in glorifying us with His Son.
What was once hidden in God from before the foundation of the world, has been set up in the garden in figure, taken out of figure by the appearing of Jesus Christ the Son and Heir, and made yea and amen in Himself, and for the Church by His death and resurrection. His entrance into heaven itself, where He sits on the right hand of God, is witnessed unto its by the Holy Ghost sent down from above as the Glorifier of Christ Jesus, " the Lord of lords, and the King of kings." What remains, but that the last great action of God should draw aside the heavens which conceal the hidden One, as He aforetime rent the veil which concealed Himself, and bring out into manifestation and result by His coming and glorious appearing the world's deliverance, and the universal blessing for which the whole creation is yet waiting?
The Christ of God is Himself sitting on the Father's throne; the church on earth is waiting for the Lord's descent and the shout; the departed ones who are with Christ are waiting; creation is waiting in hope for the manifestation of the sons of God; Israel is waiting to be gathered from the four corners of the earth at the second coming of the Messiah, Jesus-Jehovah; the Gentiles wait for the appearing of the Root of Jesse, for Him that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, for Him in whom the Gentiles shall trust. It belongs to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to begin this new history of " manifestation of all in glory," by the " rising up" of Christ in heaven, where He now sits on the right hand of the throne of God. The expectation of the redeemed waits upon the Lord to come forth, and put into manifestation in the heavens, and upon the earth, the hidden counsels of the Father and the Son, as to the body and Bride of the Lamb, which were from everlasting, and to substantiate the promises, with their covenants to the fathers, of permanent peace and blessing on this earth: The moral power of such revelations as these, and especially when connected in the soul with the revolutions and judgments of God, which make room for their establishment in the heavens and upon the earth, is formative of the life and character and walk of the " man in Christ " now.
He has new ideas and other objects, which attach him to another order of things, of which the glorified " Son of man " is the Head and Center. He has other principles of action, which are supplied from " this knowledge of God," and find their strength and joy in " this fellowship with Christ; " and, practically, he is separated from this present evil world-his " citizenship is in heaven."
Such union on the one hand, and separation on the other, is but the proper fruit of Christianity by the indwelling Spirit, and marks those who walk with God. One and another of our apostles have written to us of these things, and lead the way, under their varied ministries. Peter would have us " pass the time of our sojourning here as obedient children, calling upon the Father," and exhorts us further, on the behavior suited to us, " wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless."
Paul, according to his anointing, carries us into " the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who bath been His counselor? or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and for Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen."
" And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands: saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped.' (Rev. 5:11-14.)