Apostasy: "Thou Hast Left Thy First Love"

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
There can be no doubt, that there is a particular work, which the Lord has in view, at any particular period of the Church's -history, when He is acting in any power. It becomes, therefore, a matter of particular interest, to know what is the particular truth, which the Lord has in view at a given time, because thus, with increased intelligence, we become fellow-workers with Him. As illustrations of the fact, I might adduce, I believe, the presentation of the original and entire corruption of man in Augustine's time, as opposed to Pelagianism, justification in Luther's, the necessity of Regeneration in the time of the Wesleys, etc.
With regard to ourselves and the Lord's special work now, it is clear that it is an internal one. The Lord's promise was, that previous to his actual return the cry should go forth again, "Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye forth to meet him." That cry was to act upon themselves. "Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps." What then the Lord has awakened our attention to now, is the solemn fact that all have slumbered, wise and foolish together, whilst the Bridegroom has tarried; in fact, the complete apostasy, and departure of the professing Church from the truth and position once delivered to the, saints. We find that we have been enveloped in corruption, the question is how to escape that corruption.
It is not merely corning out of corrupt bodies, though that is necessary, we must come out of every body that is gathered on false principles, else we never can have even a fair start: still, if we carry with us the seeds of the corruption, unheeded and unjudged, the result will be the same again, only worse, by reason of our increased light, responsibility, and profession.
If we would get then the Lord's watchword now, I believe it is, " To Him that overcometh" (and that is within), and if we would know what it is that is to be overcome, I believe it is indicated in that word, " Thou East left thy first love." To suppose that we have not to overcome even within, because we have taken a position of separation, even if it were separation sevenfold, would only entirely betray us, and perhaps plunge us in the I. same corruption. If we then search from the word of God, what are the causes and principles of corruption, what the preservative, I believe we shall find them singularly simple. Resting in present attainment, I believe we shall find the whole, that is, the general secret of it. Look at Israel, and how distinctly do we find it traced! In Deut. 32, after all the marvelous grace of-" He found him... in a waste howling wilderness, he led him about... made him to suck honey out of the rock; butter of kine... and the pure blood of the grape"-how comes in the corruption? He rests self-complacently in the goodness of God to him, instead of resting on, and walking-with God himself, as a present thing, " Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness;" and, as a natural consequence, " he forsook God, which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation." That whole song is of the last importance; it is, I think, God's anatomy of man's corruption. We get, I think, the same account of the process, and God's pain at this leaving of the first love in Jer. 2:22Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. (Jeremiah 2:2). "Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase. Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me?" etc. He reminds them of the desert land he led them through (v. 7) "I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof, and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination." "They have forsaken the fountain of living waters (v. 13), and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." The same is traced with full distinctness in Ezek. 16 "Thy father was an Amorite thy mother a Hittite.... I passed by, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood,... and said, Live,... I have caused thee to multiply,... thy breasts are fashioned.... thou roast decked with gold, thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God. But thou DIDST TRUST in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot BECAUSE OF thy renown; " and so forth. In our Lord's time, there He found them. " Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our Father."
Turn now to the Gentile (Rom. 11). Its snare would be, " Be not high-minded." In Rev. 2 we get Christ's own delineation of the corruption. Every evil which you get in Thyatira, Sardis, or Laodicea, has, I believe, its germ in that simple word at Ephesus, "Thou hast left thy first love," amidst all the height, to which the Ephesian Epistle evidently shows God had brought them, and Christ's address bears witness too (ver. 2, 3).
Surely, then, these things are written before us with a pencil of light; and it must be of no slight importance to the saint to take heed to them. If we would get the preservative, " Christ's love" supplies one, and Phil. Ili. 13, another aspect;-" Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things that are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded " (i.e. perfect in not being perfect, but aiming at it). This, therefore, should be our spring, kept simple and fresh to the
"The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead (or perhaps "all died," i.e., all believers died in, or with Him): and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again." This, I say, should be our motive, simple and fresh to the end. And then, as the Apostle says, "forgetting those things which are behind." When this is not the case, when the soul rests in attainments made, it becomes self-satisfied: it rests in the knowledge, perhaps, previously heaped up, which, like the manna, only breeds worms, and becomes corrupt, for want of being gathered day by day. And I would remark that all knowledge of truth gathered beyond our present communion, is not only not a blessing, but an injury. We can place no limit to the extent to which the Lord may teach and lead us on, but when once knowledge becomes an object to me apart from the Lord Himself, I may as well, and better, be employed about some other object. The hardest conscience of all often to deal with and arouse, is that which knows everything. You can tell them nothing new. Their previous knowledge without communion, is like a foil put upon " the sword of the Spirit," it makes it dull, ineffectual. Further, the being thus laden with vain knowledge, makes the saint restless, like an overloaded stomach, that does not know what is the matter with it. He has no longer an appetite for simple things. He must have something new and overpowering, or some- thing to meet his particular taste. Well does the wise man say, " The full soul loatheth the honey-comb, whilst to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet." Oftentimes he mistakes this restlessness, and dissatisfaction for spirituality, not knowing that the complaint is in himself, he is not at the right point for satisfaction (John 6:3535And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)), and therefore dissatisfied with everything and every one.
May we not well look to our own hearts; how is it with our hearts as to this? Are we as simple and fresh as we once were? The example of Ephesus is full to the point. May we then, cultivate that simple taste, cherishing, loving, and receiving all that is of God, be it weak or strong (for one may err either way, Ex. 23:3-63Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause. 4If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. 5If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him. 6Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause. (Exodus 23:3‑6)). Let us love the whole word of God, not forming to ourselves particular tastes, and choosing particular parts, for "all Scripture is given by inspiration, and is profitable for doctrine... that the Man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished;" neither having particular tastes in the saints we select for intercourse-this leads to a coterie and self-righteousness, and one-sided Christian character: further, the doing diligently what we have to do of worldly calling, the doing diligently whatsoever God enables us to do in any way of spiritual service, not critically discussing about gifts; for real ability from God is gift.
" Preach the word," says Paul to Timothy, " reprove, rebuke (2 Tim. 3), do the work of an Evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" for the love of Christ, for the work of Christ? Do we take as much delight in His word, for its or His own sake, not for mere knowledge? Surely there ought to be an appetite about this-" as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may feed thereupon, and grow "-and, in connection with that, putting away evil from our hearts, for it is impossible to grow without that; " laying aside all Malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings" (1 Peter 2).
I have endeavored to show then, that the root of all apostasy and corruption (and we know not to what length that may go the more has been the knowledge, joy, and devotedness, the deeper it sinks when corrupted), is to be found in resting in present attainment, instead of being kept freshly in the love of Christ.
Nothing is more healthful to one's own soul than the carefully bearing forth of the Gospel, publicly or privately. Distaste for that is a bad sign indeed. " He that watereth others, shall be watered himself." Finally, acknowledging the poorness of our endeavors, and the hopelessness of the ruin, which we still seek in grace to overcome, holding forth the word of life-to wait for that which alone will put all right. That "blessed hope, and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."
And if our poor hearts at all feel that we have slipped back, and fallen under the power of this corruption, O how blessedly still does Christ meet us. " I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed." To Him be glory!