Bible Treasury: Volume 9

Table of Contents

1. All Things Are of God: Part 1
2. All Things Are of God: Part 2
3. The Archdeacon of Durham on Certain Religious Errors
4. On Atonement
5. Be Ye Steadfast, Immoveable. (1 Cor. 15:58.).
6. Bishop Strossmayer's Speech
7. The Blind Man and Lazarus
8. The Breaking of Bread
9. Mr. A. Moody Stuart on Brethren
10. The Call of the Bride
11. Christ Leading Into Relationship With the Father
12. Christ Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 8
13. Christ Tempted and Sympathizing
14. The Christian Hope Consistent With Events Revealed in Prophecy: Part 1
15. The Christian Hope Consistent With Events Revealed in Prophecy: Part 2
16. Christian Life in the Spirit
17. Difference Between Christianity and the Future Kingdom
18. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 1
19. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 10
20. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 2
21. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 3
22. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 4
23. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 5
24. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 6
25. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 7
26. Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 9
27. Queries and Answers on Church Matters
28. Queries and Answers on Church Matters
29. Queries and Answers on Church Matters
30. Cleansing and Deliverance
31. Coming of the Lord Prominent in All Epistles of the NT
32. Correspondence.
33. Correspondence: Character and Action of Laodicea
34. Correspondence: Matthew 27:5
35. Correspondence Rev. 7 (to the Editor of the Bible Treasury.)
36. Councils, Congress, and Social Science: Part 1
37. Councils, Congress, and Social Science: Part 2
38. The Counsels of God in Grace and Glory: Part 1
39. The Counsels of God in Grace and Glory: Part 2
40. On the Covering of the Holy Vessels
41. Daniel Mann
42. Daniel Mann Correspondence
43. David Dancing Before the Ark
44. Hints on the Day of Atonement
45. Dr. Bonar on Christ's Work: Correction, Part 1
46. Dr. Bonar on Christ's Work: Correction, Part 2
47. Thoughts on Ephesians 4
48. Thoughts on the Epistles to the Seven Churches Viewed Practically: Part 1
49. Thoughts on the Epistles to the Seven Churches Viewed Practically: Part 2
50. Thoughts on the Epistles to the Seven Churches Viewed Practically: Part 3
51. Erratum
52. Erratum
53. Notes on Ezekiel 1-3
54. Notes on Ezekiel 10-11
55. Notes on Ezekiel 12
56. Notes on Ezekiel 13
57. Notes on Ezekiel 14
58. Notes on Ezekiel 15
59. Notes on Ezekiel 16
60. Notes on Ezekiel 17
61. Notes on Ezekiel 18-19
62. Notes on Ezekiel 20:1-44
63. Notes on Ezekiel 20:45 and Ezekiel 21
64. Notes on Ezekiel 22
65. Notes on Ezekiel 23
66. Notes on Ezekiel 24
67. Notes on Ezekiel 25
68. Notes on Ezekiel 26
69. Notes on Ezekiel 27
70. Notes on Ezekiel 28
71. Notes on Ezekiel 29
72. Notes on Ezekiel 30
73. Notes on Ezekiel 31
74. Notes on Ezekiel 4-7
75. Notes on Ezekiel 8-9
76. Notes on Ezekiel: Introduction
77. Hints on the Feasts of Jehovah
78. Fragment: Baptism
79. Fragment: Greek
80. Fragment: The Cross
81. Fragment: The Heavens Opened
82. Fragments: 2 Corinthians 4:12
83. Fragments: Age of the Messiah
84. Fragments: Deuteronomy 31:25 and Acts 20:17, 29
85. Fragments Gathered Up: Death for the Believer
86. Fragments Gathered Up: Joel 2
87. Fragments Gathered Up: Judgment Proving State
88. Fragments Gathered Up: Psalm 40
89. Fragments Gathered Up: Psalm 68
90. Fragments Gathered Up: Psalm 72
91. Fragments Gathered Up: Psalm 77
92. Fragments Gathered Up: Redemption
93. Fragments Gathered Up: Time of the Gentiles
94. Fragments: Heretic
95. Fragments: Hindrance to Obedience
96. Fragments: Justification
97. Fragments: Morally Dead
98. Fragments: Romans 5:19
99. Fragments: Security of Salvation
100. Fragments: Sufferings for Christ
101. Fragments: Sure of Salvation
102. Fragments: The Flesh
103. Hints on Genesis 1-3
104. Hints on Genesis 10-14
105. Hints on Genesis 15-21
106. Hints on Genesis 22-50
107. Hints on Genesis 3-4
108. Hints on Genesis 3
109. Hints on Genesis 6-9
110. Helps and Hindrances to Worship
111. Letter on Mr. J.P.S.'s Holiness Through Faith
112. Imitators of God
113. In Christ and Christ in Us
114. Is Modern Christianity a Civilized Heathenism?
115. Notes on John 1:1-13
116. Notes on John 1:19-28
117. John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 10
118. Notes on John 1:35-45
119. Notes on John 1:46-52
120. Notes on John 2:1-11
121. Notes on John 2:12-22
122. Notes on John 2:23-25
123. Notes on John 3:1-10
124. Notes on John 3:11
125. Notes on John: Introduction
126. Characteristics of John's Testimony
127. Joshua and Caleb: Thoughts on the Book of Joshua, Part 1
128. Joshua and Caleb: Thoughts on the Book of Joshua, Part 2
129. A Letter on a Serious Question Connected With the Irish Education Measures of 1832.
130. Notes on Luke 18:35-43
131. Notes on Luke 19:1-27
132. Notes on Luke 19:28-48
133. Notes on Luke 20:1-40
134. Notes on Luke 20:41 and 21:1-4
135. Notes on Luke 21:5-38
136. Notes on Luke 22:1-34
137. Notes on Luke 22:35-71
138. Notes on Luke 23:1-38
139. Notes on Luke 23:39-54
140. Notes on Luke 24:1-27
141. Notes on Luke 24:28-53
142. Man Not Only Lost Life but God
143. Notes on Matthew 1-3
144. Notes on Matthew 10
145. Notes on Matthew 11
146. Notes on Matthew 12
147. Notes on Matthew 13:1-35
148. Notes on Matthew 13:36-58
149. Notes on Matthew 14
150. Notes on Matthew 15
151. Notes on Matthew 4
152. Notes on Matthew 5-7
153. Notes on Matthew 8
154. Notes on Matthew 9
155. Missionary Object Not to Hinder Acceptance of Truth
156. Modern Millenarianism
157. Notes on John 1:14 - 18
158. Notes on John 1:29-34
159. Peculiar Views
160. Brief Thoughts on Philippians 1
161. Brief Thoughts on Philippians 2
162. Brief Thoughts on Philippians 3
163. Brief Thoughts on Philippians 4
164. The Pope and the Scriptures
165. On Prayer
166. Prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21
167. Present Salvation
168. Printed
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170. Printed
171. Printed
172. Printed
173. Printed
174. Printed
175. Printed
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177. Printed
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184. Printed
185. Printing
186. Printing
187. Printing
188. Printing
189. Printing
190. Printing
191. Printing
192. Printing
193. Printing
194. Printing
195. Printing
196. The Prodigal With the Father
197. Elements of Prophecy: 2. Historical School
198. Elements of Prophecy: Chapter 1
199. New Translation Psalm 50
200. New Translation Psalm 51
201. New Translation Psalms 42-44
202. New Translation Psalms 45-47
203. New Translation Psalms 48
204. New Translation Psalms 49
205. New Translation Psalms 52-54
206. The Psalms: Book 2, Psalm 43
207. The Psalms: Book 2, Psalm 44
208. The Psalms: Book 2, Psalm 45
209. The Psalms: Book 2, Psalm 47
210. The Psalms: Book 2, Psalm 53
211. The Psalms: Book 2, Psalm 54
212. Published
213. Published
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220. Published
221. Published
222. Published
223. Published
224. Published
225. Published
226. Published
227. Recent Baptismal Agitation: Correction
228. Answer to X.Y. on Revelation 7
229. Answer to X.Y. on Revelation 7
230. A Thought on the Revelation
231. The Book of Revelation Compared with the Gospel of John
232. Review: A Scriptural Examination of Certain Articles in Religious Creeds. By John G. Marshall, Halifax (Nova Scotia): printed by William Macnab, 11, Prince Street; 1872.
233. Review: The True Theory of the Greek Aorist
234. The Robber Saved
235. Notes on Romans 11:1-10
236. Notes on Romans 11:11-24
237. Notes on Romans 11:25-26
238. Notes on Romans 12:1-8
239. Notes on Romans 12:9-21
240. Notes on Romans 13
241. Notes on Romans 14:1-12
242. Notes on Romans 14:13-23
243. Notes on Romans 15:1-13
244. Notes on Romans 15:14-33
245. Notes on Romans 16:1-16
246. Notes on Romans 16:17-27
247. Short Introduction to Romans
248. Hints on the Sacrifices in Leviticus: Chapters 1-3
249. Hints on the Sacrifices in Leviticus: Chapters 4-7
250. Scripture Queries and Answers
251. Scripture Queries and Answers
252. Scripture Queries and Answers.
253. Scripture Queries and Answers: Galatians 2:16
254. Scripture Queries and Answers: Remission of Sins
255. Scripture Query and Answer: Citation of Jeremiah or Zechariah?
256. Scripture Query and Answer: Partakers of the Divine Nature
257. Some Observations on the Scripture Lessons of the Board of Education: Part 1
258. Some Observations on the Scripture Lessons of the Board of Education: Part 2
259. The Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man
260. Hints on the Tabernacle
261. Thoughts on Rom. 6-8
262. Thoughts on Titus 2:9-15
263. To a Sister and a Brother in the Lord on Their Marriage
264. To Correspondents
265. To the Editor of "The Bible Treasury"
266. The Two Rich Men
267. What Is the Unity of the Church? (Duplicate): Part 1
268. What Is the Unity of the Church? (Duplicate): Part 2
269. What Is a Sect?
270. When the Son of Man Cometh Will He Find Faith
271. Worship in Spirit and in Truth
272. True Worshippers
273. X. Y. on Rev. 7

All Things Are of God: Part 1

(2 Cor. 5:18)
The coming in of Christ by incarnation laid the foundation for a new course of action between God and mankind, according to what Christ was in the glory of His person and the perfection of His ways and work. The objects too for which He came opened out in their accomplishment on earth two new centers of operation for God in grace and government; and these were at the mount of transfiguration by personal glory and righteousness, finally at the cross by His substitution for the guilty. On the mount of His transfiguration He shone resplendent in a light above the glory of the sun; and was invested with honor and majesty, when there came to Him such a voice from the excellent glory, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” He clad Himself with righteousness, as a cloak; and stood the accredited possessor of far more than man had ever received and forfeited. How different afterward was the garden of Gethsemane, where this same man of sorrows sweat as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground! Still more different was mount Calvary, when Jesus was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and His visage was more marred than any man's, and His form more than the sons of men. His majesty and kingly power were also denied Him, and the soldiers stripped Him and put on Him a scarlet robe, and platted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him saying, “Hail king of the Jews.”
But between Himself and mankind there yet lay outside all this the fierce wrath of God against sin; and into this deep suffering and woe He passed, when, as the sacrifice offered up to God without a spot, He was the substituted One, and cried, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”
This is what these two centers were to the Lord—on the mount of His transfiguration, the voice from the cloud claimed Him as worthy to receive honor and majesty—on the mount of His crucifixion, when under the judgment of God for our sins, and the sword awoke against the man who was Jehovah's fellow, He cried with a loud voice as the forsaken One and gave up the ghost. If these two mountains, in their varied characters, were all this to Christ; what must they have been as the new centers of operation between God in His holiness and sinners in their sins, and between the throne of God's righteous government and the world? They became indeed the great turning-points of another history, and got their answer from God in the rent veil which till then had concealed Him; and in the resurrection of the second man into the heavens which received Him. The glory of the Father took Him from the cross (the place of His own victory in divine counsels and foreknowledge) and from the sepulcher, where He overcame him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and He was carried up in the cloud crowned with glory and honor. The second Man has gone from the cross to the right hand of the throne of God and become the head of a new creation; nor is there any other but this representative man in the heavens where God is. A believer in Christ must therefore look out of himself to Christ, and if he would know the present truth about himself, “this truth is in Jesus.”
It is a wonderful thing (when understood) to see bow by the cross of Christ we pass out of our old relationship and standing in Adam with the penalties and consequences of sin which rested upon us as connected with the man who fell. Death has done this. By the death of the last Adam we are forever separated from the condemnation and judgment inflicted on the first. It is as wonderful to see how through the risen and exalted Son of man we pass into our new standing of acceptance and completeness before God, and enter upon our relationships as sons of the Father, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. The ascension of Christ has done this. By His exaltation we know ourselves made the righteousness of God in Him. Again, how blessed it is to be made conscious that the Holy Ghost has come down from the Father and the Son to dwell in us as the temples of the living God, and to make true in us that which is true of us in Christ. Only thus can such verities become our most familiar thoughts, our daily bread, and source of supply to us as new creatures in Christ. We are kept in this nearness to God by a power equal to that which quickened us and set us in these relationships with our glorified Head and Lord. How else can communion and enjoyment with the Father and the Son be maintained in us against all the contradictions of the flesh, the world, and the devil, unless the fact of our new creation can be displayed to faith in Christ at the right hand of God, as well as what we are by grace as in Him? An important scripture for the establishment of the Lord's people in the truth about themselves is shown in Eph. 4: “But ye have not so learned Christ, if so be that ye have heard him and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus; that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new man, which according to God is created in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
The Holy Ghost, true in His operations in us, cannot therefore accept the experiences we naturally have of ourselves, as ruined and in the flesh (before we heard or learned Christ) as the ground of that work which He is come down to carry on in us, as redeemed out of the Adam state in which we were by nature. The Holy Ghost testifies of Christ to us, and witnesses that “as Christ is, so are we in this world.” He therefore judges and keeps the sentence of death upon every motion in the flesh, which if followed out would make us unlike Christ. Working mightily in the inner man, He produces in us as new creatures the affections which are suited to the Father and the Son for the fellowship into which we are called. Moreover, the Spirit of God is true in divine operation to the work of Christ at the cross, keeping the old man in us under death, which was there judicially put to death in Christ, “knowing this that our old man has been crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
The motives also which are supplied to us for practical conduct, necessarily spring from the truth between God and ourselves, as to what we are by the death and resurrection of Christ, namely, How shall we that have died to sin, live any longer therein? And again, “Know ye not that so many as have been baptized unto Christ Jesus, have been baptized unto his death?” It is important to see that Christ is the rule of the Spirit's testimony to us and work in us, both as to life and death; and that Christ must therefore be the object and rule of our faith and intercourse with God. Equally important is it to get—our hearts and consciences assured that God Himself owns none other than Christ as the ground of His present and future actings towards us. It is evident that all steadfastness and growth in a believer in Christ, as regards himself and his intercourse with God, about sin and holiness, the flesh and the Spirit, grace and righteousness, heaven and hell, depend upon the person and work of Christ, as the established and unchangeable basis of all communion between us, as redeemed unto God, by the blood of His Son.
With a view of bringing these precious realities nearer to our souls, and ourselves more under their power, we may consider a little in detail, and perhaps in application, the blessed facts already stated. These are, that God is unalterably true to Christ and His work, that the truth about ourselves is now in Jesus and nowhere else, that the Holy Ghost both by testimony and operation in us is true to the person and work of Christ on earth and in heaven, and that we are called out in faith and in fad to be true to the truth, by learning Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life. Such are the gracious lessons which the Father's love has given us to know, as eternal realities between Himself and the children of His adopting grace. The soul that is not learning them in communion with God, under the anointing of the Spirit in the peace which passeth all understanding, must be thrown back from Christ upon self, and the bitter experiences of what the flesh is; and thus be tossed to and fro by its deficiencies one day, or the hope of attainment the next. Consequently there will be conflicts with evil and disappointment every day. Multitudes find busy occupation on this ground of self-seeking, making their being something the object instead of Christ. But building ourselves up in our most holy faith is building up one another in Christ; and to this we will now turn.
A great question upon the matter before us is, What do we understand by “as the truth is in Jesus?” One way of reply, and helpful as introductory, may be to ask what the truth was about us in Adam, by his fall. The first half of the epistle to the Romans is largely occupied with an answer to this question. Measured by the righteousness of God there was none righteous, no not one; measured by the glory of God all have sinned and come short of the glory of it. Further, “by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.” Thus judgment came upon all men to condemnation. Besides this, as children of Adam, chapter 7 speaks of the indwelling sin and imparted corruption; and as a consequence of these actual transgressions and guilt, so that our state as under condemnation and our alienation from God by nature are summed up in these words, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?”
(To be continued)

All Things Are of God: Part 2

(2 Cor. 5:18.)
Into the midst of this ruin and misery, this scene of God's dishonor and of Satan's triumph, Jesus came to glorify the Father, to deliver man, and to destroy the works of the devil. He who alone could work redemption such as the sinner needed endured the righteous judgments of God (which else were powerless to Him) by which to deliver us. He wrought by means of the penalties which God had inflicted upon men, and so wrought by them as to put away forever the offenses and sins, on account of which they had been pronounced. Prophecy had pointed to this wonder-working Redeemer, “Ο death, I will be thy plague; Ο grave, I will be thy destruction.” Consistently with this prophecy and after all that had been foretold was accomplished, He laid His right hand upon John in the Apocalypse, saying, “Fear not: I am the first and the last, I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and hell.” The penalties were endured by Him who could work out deliverance by nothing else. They were employed to glorify God, to put our sins away, and to defeat Satan who held them in his power. Penalties are now gone and sin is put away by the sacrifice of Himself, and God will finally cast death and hell into the lake of fire. When nothing further remained for Christ to do, and not till then, He said, “It is finished, and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.”
It is necessary to take this survey of the work of our blessed Lord, in order to pursue our inquiry, whether God is invariably true to Christ and His work on the cross, as the only rule of His action towards us. The last act of Christ in laying down His life, and the first new action of God in raising Him up from the dead, ought never to be separated in our souls any more than the last loud cry and God's answer by the rent veil. Otherwise we separate redemption and resurrection.
But before a believer can get happily into this position as one with Christ, it is of immense moment to see that God does more than rend the veil that hid Him from the earth and shut us out from heaven.
The place and relations of God, consequent upon the finished work of His Son, are as completely changed towards us, through redemption, as they were previous to the fall, when God walked with Adam in the garden of Eden, and after it when He drove out the man. So that our question is really twofold: not merely is God true to the work of Christ on the cross and at His right hand in heaven? but will God be true to Himself and His relations to the crucified Savior in death, and to the exalted Son of man in glory? After the resurrection of the second man what place can Adam have with God? Properly this ceases to be even a matter of inquiry, since God has made it the whole subject of a new revelation to us in the gospel of His grace, “All things are become new.” As truly also another history has commenced with man in the heavens, and between God the Father and His redeemed people on earth, concerning all His purposes and counsels, made yea and amen in righteous title by Him who has gone up to God. It is that same work, which has put away our sins and by which we are saved, that has glorified God; and on account of which the Christ who did it now sits on the right hand of the majesty in the heavens. Further, and as regards ourselves and the altered relations of God towards us, having accepted the blood of Christ as the propitiation for our sins, God correspondingly takes His place upon the mercy-seat and proclaims a gospel of salvation.
Having judged our transgressions on Christ, and divine righteousness having found its answer in the death of the substitute, God takes another place at the cross, no longer as a judge, but as “the just God and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” The One who was delivered for our offenses being raised from the dead, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. The cross has thus been the place of judgment, of blood-shedding, and of death. Christ has suffered, the just one for the unjust, to bring us to God. This is what the cross is to the believer, to Christ as the victim, to God the judge of all. Death is there where Christ bowed His head and gave up the ghost. Life is beyond it where Christ now is with God, crowned with glory and honor.
Is God true to these two centers—the cross below where Christ was, and the throne above where Christ is; and does He make these the unchanging rule of His actings towards us? Let us take our stand at the cross as believers, to see our sins and iniquities on Jesus; yea all that we were as in the flesh brought under the hand of God for judgment on Christ. By means of righteous condemnation on Him, the guiltless One, all that was against us has been brought down by death into the place of ashes, where all has been consumed by the fire of God's holiness and wrath. Can God deny Himself in what He condemned and judged upon Christ and reduced to ashes under divine wrath? Can He deny Christ in His sufferings, death, and atoning blood? Nay, His own glory was wrought out here by these means, and Satan overcome. What does He say to us, and what must He do for Christ but declare, “I am he that blotteth out your transgressions as a cloud, and your iniquities as a thick cloud?” God is true to the work of Christ and to His own judgment of sin and the flesh at the cross. All has been carried down to death, and by means of death left in the silence of the grave. Christ is risen out of it, and we in Him. Nothing else has gone up. The blood is before God, sprinkled in the holiest where He dwells, and a new and living way opened which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. The blood of Christ which shuts out all fear of judgment (since it is the abiding answer to judgment) has opened the heavens to us, and we come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. This is what God is towards us.
Again, will God be equally true to Himself, to Christ, and to believers, as regards life and righteousness and glory in the risen Christ on the throne? Surely, for it is He who says, “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” that in the enjoyment of this oneness with Christ we might glory in the Lord. It is God who has wrought this for us. It is He who made Christ to be sin for us, that has made us to be the righteousness of God in Him, and we are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. No, there is no other rule which God accepts as the ground of His actings towards us but what He has declared Christ to be at His right hand in glory. “God who hath commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.” Moreover, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
The unvarying testimony of the apostles in their epistles is to establish the saints before God in Christ. Peter writes to them as “scattered strangers,” and “obedient children,” but “begotten again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” Further, he says, “God hath raised up Christ from the dead and given him glory, that your faith and hope may be in God.” Indeed we may ask, “What could the Holy Ghost do by the apostles but glorify Christ, and in this way? Such is His present ministry, as Jesus declared of Him, “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak, and he shall show you things to come.” The passages already quoted show as to redemption, righteousness, and resurrection, that Christ is made of God all these to us, and that we have the full effects of them in Christ, proving that God has no other ground of acting towards us. Further, as regards life, Paul writing to the Colossians addresses them as associated with Christ. “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God,” and “when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Once more as respects “life,” the apostle writes to the Ephesians, “But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Nothing can be plainer than this, “that as He is, so are we in this world” Throughout John's epistles also the same blessed truth is insisted on.
Again, as to glory and the coming of the Lord, we shall find the same great fact holds good, which we have been examining as to our justification and redemption, both in life and righteousness. Indeed the coming of the Lord is the very point at which all is consummated. Then we drop forever the image of the earthy man and put on the image of the heavenly. Then we shall be presented faultless, before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Our Lord's own words are decisive: “If I go away, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also.” So John affirms: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” The consideration of facts like these, between ourselves and the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, cannot fail to bring our souls under the power of that blessed hope of the Lord's coming, and our rapture into the air to meet Him, which will in truth close up all between us and the earth that is earthy. “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain [unto the coming of the Lord] shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Lastly, another kind of proof and an equally important one may be found in the fact of the Spirit dwelling in us and the Spirit being with us as the Spirit of truth and the glorifier of Jesus. This “promise of the Father,” fulfilled at Pentecost by the descent of the Holy Ghost, is what our Lord referred to on the last day, the great day of the feast of tabernacles: “Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink:” and it is added, “This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given], because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” So also in the Galatians: “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” In either of these instances, how could such an unspeakable gift reach us as the indwelling Spirit, were it not that God has no other ground of action towards us than the worthiness of Christ? Observe, further, how truly God acts in us upon this truth: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” These scriptures are quoted to show that the Spirit not only testifies of Christ but dwells in us, because we are Christ's, owning us as bought with a price and working in us accordingly, that we may “glorify God in our body [and spirit which are God's].”
The title and claim over us, by sovereign grace and the Father's love, are thus complete upon all points, and founded upon the perfection of the finished work of Christ. “Sealed and indwelt by the Holy Ghost as we are, there is no room left for uncertainty, much less for misgivings and fears. On the contrary, the soul passes on into its own proper blessedness in Christ, as well as out of its own conscious wretchedness, as once connected with a body of sin and death, rejoicing in the liberty wherewith Christ has made it free. Once outside ourselves, we reach the power that has carried us out, and are free to take part with it against the flesh in ourselves that it has been against, and to use it in favor of what it has created and formed in us that is new. As was said at first, it is a wonderful thing to realize that “all things are of God,” that “old things are passed away, and all things are become new.” We are therefore among those in whom these great facts are to be manifested, by that mighty power of God, both now and hereafter.
In conclusion, it may be well to call attention to the contrast between this love of God, which is the spring and source of all the blessedness connected with our present and eternal relations, and the impotency of every existing institution and human organization, which only contemplate the improvement of man as he is and where he is: in other words, the difference between divine and human philanthropy is in question. And the difference is nothing less than this, that the kindness and love of God towards man has appeared, in that He has not spared His only begotten Son, but has given Him up for us all. By the ways and means which have occupied us in this paper, God has brought back man to Himself by nothing less than a self-sacrificing love, which gave the Son who is in His bosom.
Man can do nothing like this, even in his own circle—he has no such resources. Man has nothing better than himself and his schemes for his fellow, and is reduced therefore to confederacies, organizations, &c. These are all powerless as to conforming men even to the benevolence which has instituted them. The philanthropist cannot by these means create benevolence between man and his fellow, so that he should love his neighbor as himself, much less love God with all his heart and soul and strength. Mere institutions and their endowments do not even secure the attendance of those for whose benefit they were established, nor is it by church extension that the inhabitants of a country can be made true Christians. The best of these may perhaps embrace the idea of drawing man nearer to God, but the necessity of his being brought by substitution and sacrifice is yielded up: otherwise the scriptures and testimony to Christ would be prominent, and Christ Himself be everything.
But the love of God in sending forth His Son (the Man whom He had in reserve) has formed the way, by redemption through the blood of the slain Lamb, to make us new creatures in Christ and thus unite us by the Spirit to Himself as born of God—one in the Father and the Son. In the world's alienation from the love of God and its growing departure from truth and from light, under the delusion and sleight of Satan and of men, all things are of men. But where the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ has shined into the heart, all things are of God; who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Old things have passed away, and all things are become new. J. Ε. B.

The Archdeacon of Durham on Certain Religious Errors

Dear Brother,—
It is a pity that Archdeacon Perst should have entered the field with (to say no more) so little information on the points in question. Those who have provoked him, however zealous, seem to me rather ill-taught souls who, having hut a small spice of truth commonly seen among “Brethren,” are using it in ways which “Brethren” would deplore as decidedly as the Rector of Gateshead. The “The Evangelist” you have sent me is a sorry sample of Christian teaching.
But the Archdeacon, if he deemed it wise and right to censure these people at Gateshead, should not have ventured to speak of Christians elsewhere of whom he knows so little. He quotes extracts from the British and Foreign Evangelical Review, as unfounded in statement as can be, written (I presume) by an Irish Presbyterian Minister called Croskery. When a dozen or so of his charges were cited by Mr. Isaac Ashe in the Record some time ago, I gave them a distinct contradiction. Not a word more was heard of them then; one is sorry to see a respectable Christian repeating such things now. It is false that “Brethren” hide from the converted their convictions on ministry, the law, baptism, or any other truth. It is true that with the unconverted they adhere as exclusively as possible to the gospel of God's grace or His warnings for despisers. What but malice or ignorance could put an ill construction on that which is so plainly according to God?
As to the detailed charges Mr. P. makes, let me say in few words, that no brother known to me (and I know them well for nearly thirty years) holds sanctification in the sense which excludes personal and progressive holiness. We all insist on practical growth in this respect, but we also hold, what most now deny, absolute sanctification from the beginning of God's vital work in the believer. (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thess. 2, 3.) Probably the best refutation ever written of Wesley's “Christian Perfection” came from the pen of a brother. I do not believe one person in communion with us holds the perfectionism in flesh which is here imputed to us as a whole. Next, we should put away (as we have put away) anyone for denying the duty of confessing our sins to God. Again, I have myself written an exposition of the Lord's Prayer, in which it is expressly laid down that “forgive us our sins” belongs only to those who can truly say “Father;” as it is a question of His daily government with His children, not of the unrenewed who have never found remission of their sins by faith in Jesus. The prayer was for the disciples' use, before the Holy Ghost was given; afterward they were to ask the Father in Christ's name, as we do now. As to the law, I am not surprised at the want of knowledge displayed about both the scriptures and our views. Suffice it to say here that we abhor Antinomian license as heinous iniquity, and acknowledge our unqualified obligation to obey every word of God, more especially or distinctively to have our mind, walk, and worship, framed and governed by the New Testament or apostolic scriptures. But this does not warrant the assertion of the law as the Christian rule of life. On the contrary, scripture is explicit that by “them who are under the law” the Spirit intends the Jews (Rom. 3); as we are distinctly said to be “not under the law but under grace,” where the apostle is discussing Christian walk, and not justification. (Rom. 6) But we should denounce him who would disparage the law, which is good if a man use it lawfully: whether the Archdeacon does so may he doubted by those who will gravely compare 1 Tim. 1:9 with his use of it. Further, when he says that we exclude children, servants, and other unconverted persons from family prayer, he is confounding us with the Separatists or Walkerites, the very antipodes of “Brethren,” and is grossly deceived. So he is as to ministry: for we hold it to be a permanent and divine institution, though we deny the corruptions of it among Romanists and Anglicans as well as Dissenters. He combats a phantom; for nobody among us holds that all are teachers or preachers, or any save those whom the Lord gives and sends. At the same time Mr. P. is wrong to put ministry on the ground of common sense; for it really is a matter of faith, and, like every other Christian privilege, depends on the Holy Spirit who glorifies Christ. Again, as to baptism, it is enough to say that Mr. Perst is wholly in error in supposing that it is ever done among us as a sign of leaving a denomination for “Brethren.” We should all repudiate such an enormity with one heart and mind. Many among us baptize the children of believers; many not satisfied that christening of infants is scriptural have been baptized as an individual question (and this I have known in the English Establishment and elsewhere too). But all repudiate re-baptism. The pamphlet of which Mr. P. speaks emanates from a party opposed to us, unless I am greatly mistaken: certainly “Brethren” are in no way responsible for it. I purposely abstain from commenting on irrelevant matter; but the Archdeacon will own that I have joined issue fairly on the charges made. Ample disproof of them he will have already received in the form of tracts, &c. sent by book-post. There is but one course under such circumstances open to conscience and candor, not to speak of love.
Ever yours in Christ, W. K.
To A. M. P.

On Atonement

Atonement. The mere notion of dying under the bands of wicked men destroys all the glory of the cross. We read, Christ gave Himself, offered up Himself. Here we find the holy perfectness of His own soul in a way nothing else shows. What love! What devotedness! What giving Himself up to the Father's glory! (John 10:18; 14:30, 31.) You will say, How could this glorify the Father—to give up Himself to a cruel death and wrath? Because of your sins: they made it necessary. If love was to be shown you, it must be in this way. God's holiness must be maintained—the impossibility of allowing sin. Instead of you being taken away from before Him because of your sins, they were to be taken away in atonement, as they could not be allowed, that you might be in peace and know the God of love. (Rom. 5:8.)

Be Ye Steadfast, Immoveable. (1 Cor. 15:58.).

If our hearts are not close to Christ, we are apt to get weary in the way.
All is a vain show around us; but that which is inside abides, and is true, being the life of Christ. All else goes! When the heart gets hold of this fact, it becomes (as to things around) like one taken into a house to work for the day, who performs the duties well, but passes through, instead of living in the circumstances. To Israel the cloud came down, and they stayed; it lifted up, and on they went. It was all the same to them. Why? Because had they stayed when the cloud went on, they would not have had the Lord. One may be daily at the desk for fifty years, yet with Christ the desk is only the circumstance; it is the doing God's will, making manifest the savor of Christ, which is the simple and great thing. Whether I go or you go—I stay or you stay, may that one word be realized in each of us— “steadfast, immoveable!” In whatever sphere, as matter of providence, we may be found, let the divine life be manifested—Christ manifested. This abides, all else changes, but the life remains and abides forever, ay, forever.
Not a single thing in which we have served Christ shall be forgotten. Lazy alas! we all are in service, but all shall come out that is real, and what is real is Christ in us, and this only. The appearance now may be very little—not much even in a religious view, but what is real will abide. Our hearts clinging closely to Christ, we shall sustain one another in the body of Christ. The love of Christ shall hold the whole together, Christ being everything, and we content to be nothing, helping one another, praying one for the other. I ask not the prayers of the saints, I reckon on them. The Lord keep us going on in simplicity, fulfilling as the hireling our day, till Christ shall come; and then “shall every man have praise of God” — praise of God! Be that our object, and may God knit all our hearts together thoroughly and eternally.
J.N. D.

Bishop Strossmayer's Speech

To Correspondents
It seems right to say that Bishop Strossmayer wrote not long ago to the Français, repudiating the speech at the Vatican Council against papal infallibility attributed to him in many home as well as foreign publications. He declares that he never uttered anything derogatory to the Roman see. If one did not know the casuistry of worldly religion, this might seem decisive against the thought of such a speech from him; but it is likely that, if delivered at all, it may have been so highly seasoned by others as to afford an occasion of denying its genuineness when the dogma was passed, and the heat of opposition gone. It is hard to suppose that Bishop Strossmayer said nothing like it in the face of the general rumor.

The Blind Man and Lazarus

(John 9, 11.)
Objections have been raised to these accounts on the ground of their not being mentioned by the other evangelists, and John's writing long after.
But these miracles or signs were immediately in connection with the subject the Holy Ghost employed John to treat of. One was in demonstration of His Sonship in the direct way of power; and the other, of the light-giving power which accompanied the recognition of His mission, leading to the owning of Him as Son. Now I repeat here, what I have already said, that the Holy Ghost must have an object in writing such histories. He is not—could not be—a biographer, to write a life with circumstances which there was no divine reason for communicating. He was revealing Christ under various characters of glory, Son of God, Son of David, Son of man, Emmanuel.
Now let us examine whether there is not such a definite bearing of the two miracles referred to as is to be expected in a history given of God; whether they do not bear the stamp of a divine revelation of Jesus. From chapter 4 John's Gospel had systematically unfolded the new thing in contrast with Judaism. Spiritual worship of the Father instead of at Jerusalem or on Gerizim. (Chap, 4.) Life-giving power, instead of human strength using ordinances; judgment executed to secure Christ's glory in those who rejected Him: here He is the life-giving Son. (Chap. 5.) Next, He is the humbled Son of man instead of King Messiah in Israel, the spiritual food of faith while away, having come down from heaven and been crucified. (Chap, 6.) Then, the time for His glory before the world being not yet come, the Holy Ghost is to be given to believers, witnessing His heavenly glory as Son of man. (Chap, 7.) Then He is the light of the world in contrast with the Jaw; but His word is rejected (chap, 8.); as is the evidence of His works (chap, 9.), of which hereafter. He will at any rate have and save His sheep. (Chap, 10.) That closes the direct revelation of Christ in the gospel.
From chapter 9 we have the public testimony given by God to Him who was rejected—first, as Son of God, life-giving, resurrection-power, was His proper glory; and Lazarus is publicly raised. This sickness was not unto death, but for the glory of God, and that the Son of God should be glorified thereby. Hence all say, “If thou hadst been there, he had not died.” They knew His miraculous power of healing; but now, close to Jerusalem, the most public testimony possible is given to His life-giving power as Son of God. How truly this is in its place is seen by this, that after this we have His glory as Son of David publicly proclaimed by His entry into Jerusalem, and the time come for His glory as Son of man marked by the Greeks coming up: and then the Lord shows that to this the cross is necessary, and looks in spirit at the coming hour. Thus the peculiar bearing of this remarkable miracle is clearly seen—the public indication of Christ as Son of God who raises the dead.
Now Matthew is employed by the Holy Ghost to present Christ in another way—that of Emmanuel, Messiah. Hence the Spirit does not give what was specially used to prove another point; but He does give with much more detail the riding in as Jehovah, the King Messiah, with all that followed on it—in the judgment of Israel, chief priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians—every class, in a word, and the whole moral position of those who rejected Him; and then He shows from Psa. 110 that the Messiah ought to leave them, and to ascend up on high, because He was David's Lord as well as David's Son. That is He gives in greater detail what was suited to His subject. Again in the case of the blind man, the same considerations apply. “We have the contrast between the blind receiving sight from Him who is the true light of the world, and the judgment of those who set up to be lights, and that by the most ignorant believer who finds his place with the rejected Son of God. And mark the process. First, in the typical act, He puts clay on the man's eyes—a figure (I doubt not, from what the apostle says) of Christ come in the flesh. But this operation in itself produces no effect; but the moment he washes in Siloam (which, says the apostle, signifies “sent”), he sees. That is, the moment he, by the purifying word and Spirit, recognizes that Christ is the sent One, all is clear. In result, the poor man, the subject thus of the delivering power of Christ, honest of heart, bears witness to the power of which he had experienced the effect, knowing Jesus only as a prophet; but, having received in his heart the authority of His word and mission, he immediately receives Him as Son of God, and prostrates himself before Him. The rest are blinded; for the effect of His mission is, that they who see not might see, and they who see might be made blind.

The Breaking of Bread

Probably not a few readers have seen a tract entitled thus and a little more. The avowed object is to show that the phrase nowhere occurs in scripture to represent the Lord's supper.
The first remark I would make is that the writer deceives himself (or, more likely from its character, herself) in thinking that this identification is a peculiarity of “Brethren” so-called. So have all Christians hitherto thought, though some (nay, perhaps all, certainly the “Brethren") have taken in more than that institution of the Lord. Nobody denies that the phrase may and does apply to any meal; but ancients and moderns, catholics and protestants, no less than “Brethren,” have believed that it is emphatically appropriated in scripture to the eucharist. Nay, Romanists have constantly availed themselves of the acknowledged fact to argue hence for the denial of the cup to the laity; and the reformers were never tempted to cut away the ground of their adversaries by saying that the “breaking of bread” nowhere in scripture means the eucharist. Our author, or authoress, however, is no way daunted by standing alone.
My second remark is that 1 Cor. 10:16 shows beyond cavil that the phrase distinctly, but not exclusively, belongs to the Lord's supper. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” No doubt here the cup is also spoken of, and even before the breaking of the bread. But it would have been cumbrous, save in the original institution or in a doctrinal discussion such as we have here and in 1 Cor. 11:20-32, to have mentioned both parts of the supper. The Spirit, therefore, when alluding to the fact historically, was pleased with perfect wisdom to refer to it under one, and of course the former, of the two, that is, under the breaking of the bread rather than the cup.
And this is entirely confirmed by the usage. Take the very first instance in our only divinely inspired and authoritative history of the early church, Acts 2:42. As the converts of Pentecost persevered in the teaching and the fellowship of the apostles, so did they in the breaking of the bread and the prayers. Can any intelligent or even fair mind persuade itself that such an association admits of ordinary meals? That the Lord's supper should be joined with the prayers of the saints or the apostles is simple and suited; the proposed view is mere and self-evident grossness.
The same result appears from a consideration of the two closing verses of Acts 2. Breaking of bread in the house or at home is contradistinguished from being' constantly in the temple with one accord (where of course they could not celebrate the Lord's supper); but it is named, as distinct from both, that they used to partake of food with gladness and singleness of heart. No scholar who weighs the passage will dispute that, if τροφῆς “meat,” or rather food, referred to ἄρτον “bread” going just before, it must have been preceded by the Greek article, the absence of which is as decisive grammatically as I believe the bearing of the case to be for our instruction in our worship as well as daily life.
That Acts 20:7 points to the Lord's supper needs no further reasoning. The day and the assemblage for the purpose are plain enough for all who have hearts for Christ and that central feast of His own in remembrance of Himself and His dying love. It was just recently, but before this that the apostle had separated for the future the mixing up of a meal or an agape, with the Lord's supper, because of the disorder at Corinth. Did he himself sanction at Troas what he had just forbidden in an inspired Epistle?
These things being the facts and doctrine of scripture, it follows that the writer is in this opposed to the Lord, and most foolishly blames the Christians who are carrying out His mind in the matter. But it is false that “Brethren” separate from others for any such reason, but because saints in general have abandoned the ground of God's church gathered to the Lord's name and lapsed into corrupt Catholicism or denominational protestantism, in practical denial of the one body and one Spirit. Still nothing can be more unfounded than to sever the “breaking of bread” from the Lord's supper if we bow to scripture. It is also to lose the connection of its observance with the Lord's day, the standing and recurrent witness of our unity, as baptism once for all is of individual Christianity; both quite independent of officials, as we see in the Acts and 1 Cor. 11.

Mr. A. Moody Stuart on Brethren

Dear Brother, Visiting a Christian friend in the north of Ireland a short time ago, I glanced over the “Life of Elizabeth, last Duchess of Gordon,” and found in it a statement, which, one must presume, expresses views generally entertained among godly Presbyterians. The copy I saw was the fifth edition (1866): so that the representation there made has gone forth widely and long uncontradicted. As you well know, we are in the habit of letting most of these notices pass without a word, especially where their ignorance and coarseness suffice to refute their ill-will; as of Carson, Croskery, of D. Macintosh, and suchlike. But the piety and the character of Mr. M. Stuart, who has condescended to no improprieties of the kind, make it desirable to give him a distinct answer. We may be sure that he would not knowingly circulate what is unfounded.
I cite in full from pages 174, 175: “After her decease the charge of Plymouthism was brought against her Grace's memory. But 'there must be order in the church' was the expression of her own sentiments on that head; and while she had valued friends abroad belonging to the communion, there was not one of her associates in Scotland over whom the Plymouth doctrines had any influence. With the ‘Brethren' the good Duchess had nothing in common, save our common Christianity. Her brotherhood was not like theirs, first severing other churches and then their own. Their frequent enunciation, 'He's a good man, but I could not break bread with him,' was contrary to every thought and feeling of her heart; for there was no good man throughout the world, with whom she would not have been too happy to sit at the table of the Lord, only counting herself unworthy of the privilege. So with their other peculiarities. In her clear and strong views of the imputed righteousness of Christ she differed from such of them as deny it, and in her love for the Lord's prayer from those who reject it as legal; in her fervent admiration of nature she differed from others; in her firm belief in the perpetual obligation of the Ten Commandments, and of the Sabbath as one of them, in her appreciation of the inestimable privilege of infant baptism, and in her high value for the Christian ministry, she differed from them all.
“Her daily life at Huntly Lodge was a testimony against those doctrines which level all earthly distinctions; a constant witness to the scriptural institution and the attractive beauty of a regulated order in the world,” &c.
Certainly her ordinary way and Mr. M. S.'s biography should sufficiently protect the Duchess from reproach of sympathy with those who are styled Plymouthists by all who in practice sanction the present state of Christendom. Her grace was a Presbyterian larger-hearted than most, and with this we heartily sympathize. But one who found it so hard a struggle to cast in her lot with the Free-Church movement had certainly not learned to judge tradition enough to go farther.
But how strange the notion that “there must be order in the church” condemns the very Christians who have left the disorders of denominationalism, in order to walk, and to walk ecclesiastically too, in subjection to the Lord acting by His word and Spirit! To me it has been for more than a quarter of a century a matter of as much surprise as shame that our brethren who do not even pretend to own the sovereign action of the Spirit in the assembly can venture to use such a text as 1 Cor. 14:40 ("Let all things be done decently and in order") against the “Brethren” who alone are acting on it in the simplicity of faith. Why do they not blush to refer to God's order, which they never think of carrying out from Lord's day to Lord's day, which they cannot carry out as the Free, any more than as the Established, Church of Scotland? No intelligent believer can question what was the comely order laid down by apostolic authority. Far be it from us to covet tongues or external signs. They never were the best gifts; they do not, could not, suit the circumstances or moral state of a fallen church. Far from any of us then be the pretension to have all the early church had, or to be wistfully seeking for what, if it could be conceived to reappear, must, as things are, prove a snare.
But here we have the order of God's assembly for prayer, for singing, for thanksgiving, for prophesying; and if we are God's assembly, with what face stand any before the Lord who practice habitually a wholly different arrangement, founded on the directly antagonistic principle of one man's controlling action? Entirely do I believe in and value individual responsibility for preaching the gospel, or instructing disciples, as Paul did in the school of one Tyrannus. We have liberty, we are bound, to use our gifts for Christ. But the Christian assembly stands on another footing—the recognition of His presence therein who divides to each member of the body as He will. “For ye may all prophesy, that all may learn and all may be comforted.” That this is not practiced among Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, or others, is too well-known; but will they dare to say it is obsolete? Does the absence of a tongue, or of sign-gifts, annul all the chapter? If they say, Yes, why do such men or women talk about “order in the church,” when they thus blot out by their unbelief and willfulness the only order in it He ever established? If they say, No, why do they not seek grace and faith to practice His “order in the church?” This it is “Brethren” desire above all things to do: if they are feeble (as indeed they are), why do not those who think themselves strong and wise try to help them? Can they say that they do or even desire this? Can they deny their hostility to those who stand and suffer for God's order in the church? I humbly think the departed lady and her associates might have been all the better for adding to “our common Christianity” a little deference to the sole order God's word furnishes for the church.
But we are told that “her [the Duchess's] brotherhood was not like theirs, first severing other churches, and then their own.” Now is it not universally confessed by all intelligent men that the associations of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, are not churches or assemblies according to God's word, but rather such sects or divisions as we are warned to avoid? Is not this felt by those who form the Evangelical Alliance? The difference is that others stay in what they know to be unscriptural, “Brethren” not only own but on principle abandon it as wrong. Who are acting with most conscience toward God? And if evil doctrine broke out in the midst of “Brethren” worse than any they had left behind, were they not right and thoroughly consistent in putting away or abandoning those who would cleave to it? Even if Mr. M. S. had not faith to act thus, he ought not to refuse his sympathy to what is manifestly due to the Lord, unless indeed his predilections be with those who hold or make light of heterodoxy as to Christ, which I should be sorry to think. Certainly, if we departed from nationalism and dissent to fall back on the imperishable truth of God's assembly and on the Savior's presence with those gathered to His name, were we but two or three, it would have ill become us to have preferred our own ease and peace to His name when dishonored in our midst. Yet for refusing to be parties to union at His expense we are censured: will the Lord blame us for it? I am confident He will not. The blame of others is a light thing comparatively in our eyes; it may be serious another day for themselves.
“Their frequent enunciation, 'He is a good man, but I could not break bread with him'“ strikes me as a strange assertion; for in thirty years' intercourse and ministry in Great Britain, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, I have never heard such a thought once, even from the least enlightened brother. I do not say that Mr. M. S. has not encountered some such most mistaken and untoward speech, and often too; but I am assured that his acquaintance must have lain with persons wholly unworthy to represent” Brethren's” principles or practice, wherever this had been their language or feeling. It is their distinguishing feature that the table of the Lord is open to all who are His, where they are known to be walking as such; and this, as a matter, not of courtesy towards them, but of honoring Him in His members, according to the place they have in the assembly of God. Hence they might not only break bread but speak in worship or to edification, without the smallest violence to their conscience. On the other hand, where there was deliberate maintenance of, or indifference to, evil against Christ, no name, place or reputation would induce “Brethren” to receive such. We are not so far off then, as Mr. M. S. imagines. “Our common Christianity” goes farther than many think: only act on it, and you will find the hostility, not only of the world, but yet more of worldly Christians. With the same persons you would be the best Christians going if you believed all we believe and stayed where they are, theorizing, but dishonest, perhaps breaking broad in every form of disunion to show how much you value unity.
It is probably the same thing with “their other peculiarities.” Thus none of the “Brethren” accept the notion of inherent or infused righteousness as our justification before God; not one but holds that Christ is of God made to us righteousness, and hence that the Lord imputes righteousness to the believer apart from works. Hence we have no sympathy with the Arminian slur (be it J. Wesley's word or any other's) that “imputed righteousness is imputed nonsense.” But we do not therefore embrace the hypothesis that imputation means Christ's obedience of the law imputed to us. Scripture grounds it on Christ's obedience up to death—the death of the cross whereon sin was judged and God glorified about it; so that it is God's righteousness to set Christ in heaven and accept us in Him. And we too, having died with Christ, are thereby delivered from the flesh, the law, and the world, as the apostle elaborately shows; and thus, had we been the most zealous of Jews, we are no longer under law, having died to that wherein we were held and belonging to another, even to Him who is risen from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Again, while admitting that mistaken things have been said by many “Brethren,” I had never heard of one daring to say the Lord's prayer was legal, or to reject it as legal; nor could any right-minded soul among them yield to the Duchess in love for it. The question does not lie here at all; but whether the accomplishment of redemption did not lay a new basis for believers, when, as the Lord Himself told them, they should ask the Father in His name, and this by the Spirit given to them. Hitherto (He said, long after they had been taught the prayer) they had asked nothing in His name. To go on as before is disrespect both to Christ's work and to the presence of the Holy Ghost, ignoring and slighting Christ's own words.
Nor is it true that men of calm and holy judgment among “Brethren” disparage the beauty of nature. God forbid! Only it is possible that the Duchess made sight-seeing or the cultivation of flowers an object of her life, in a way which most of us feel to be beneath a Christian. (Compare 2 Cor. 5:15-17; Col. 3:1-4.)
As to the perpetual obligation of the Ten Commandments and of the Sabbath, there is a, radical difference: not that “Brethren” hold, as many did at the Reformation and since, that the law is abrogated, but that we, Christians, have died with Christ and are risen with Him and are hence on a ground to which the law never did and never can apply. Such is the doctrine of the New Testament (Rom. 6:15; 7:1-6; 10:1-6; 1 Cor. 15:56, 57; 2 Cor. 3; Gal. 2-5; 1 Tim. 1:9). Accordingly it teaches that we meet to remember Christ in His Supper on the first day, the resurrection or Lord's day, not on the seventh or sabbath day which beheld His grave. (Acts 20:7 Cor. 16; Rev. 1:10.) It is really sorrowful and humiliating to have to defend the simplest, most fundamental, truth thus lost sight of by well-meaning souls who are, as usual, stern and sharp and haughty against all who have learned a little beyond themselves.
Evidently neither the late Duchess nor Mr. M. S. understands this, the liberty wherewith Christ makes free; and their lack of acquaintance with it lies at the bottom of their inability to appreciate the position taken by “Brethren” as to righteousness and the law. Only such persons should take heed what they say or whereof they affirm, as the apostle admonishes.
Further, many more than Mr. M. S. will be astonished, I dare say, to hear that what he calls “the inestimable privilege of infant baptism” is appreciated by a great number of those who by their adversaries are styled Exclusives, Darbyites, and such-like nicknames.
One of these also, in speaking for all, long ago explained that we have the highest value for Christian ministry in every kind and measure, prizing nothing more than its freest exercise in responsibility to the Lord, and objecting to nothing but un-Christian ministry. It certainly does seem to us childish, if not presumptuous, to hear how these good people flatter themselves that they differ from us in their “high value for the Christian ministry.” They are sincere but under the merest illusion. Did the Duchess really differ from us in the principle? How came her biographer to make such assertions? The Scotch are believed to be a reading public. They ought then to have known better. For if their denominationalism sunders them from us, our writings are accessible enough and should be weighed before they write about what they so little understand.
It is well-known, that “Brethren “in general are utterly opposed to what is called radicalism; and that they were long ridiculed at first as a knot of high Tory gentlemen and ladies, unable to endure either the corruptions of Anglicanism or the vulgarity of dissent, and so establishing a sort of Madeira climate for their delicate lungs. Thus an infidel leader once wrote in one of the most respectable reviews of the Nonconformist party.
We may express some surprise too at the quarter whence such a charge emanates against us; for Scottish Presbyterians have been thought only less democratic than English Congregationalists, neither of them being equally considered remarkable for their loyalty or their lowness.
Finally, life at Huntly Lodge may have been worthy of all respect as opposed to levelers, and a fair specimen of a “regulated order in the world;” but for this very reason, on Mr. M. S.'s own showing, it could not be a real testimony to death with Christ from the rudiments of the world. It was an effort to live in the world aright, not the walk of those consciously risen with Christ and seeking the things above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
You are at liberty to use what I now write, for the correction of errors and the help of all who would know the truth.
Yours affectionately, To W. W., Edinburgh. W. K.

The Call of the Bride

The Substance Of a Lecture On Gen. 24
We live in a time when everything is questioned, at least everything that is of God; and, in reading this chapter to you this evening, I am glad to present the truth of God from that part of His word which, if it has been the object of especial attack, furnishes the simplest and plainest witness to the prescient wisdom and goodness of Him who wrote it for our instruction.
It would not be intelligent for any one to look for the revelation of the church of God here. There is no intimation of the union of Jew and Gentile in one body. But, when the mystery was revealed, those who bow to scripture can see how God had prepared its place and type, although its character was not yet revealed. Nor is this so merely in an isolated point, but there is a well-defined connection of truth clearly foreshewn in what precedes and follows. What a testimony then, if this be so, have we here to the absoluteness of inspiration! Some have looked at scripture as containing God's word, but not as itself His word. An actual sample from the middle of a book like the present will be found to bespeak God in every word.
The portion, to which I direct your attention now, commences with chapter 22. This is not an arbitrary beginning. The chapter is introduced thus: “And it came to pass after these things that God did tempt Abraham.” It is a new set of divine pictures of the truth. The father is asked to give up his son, “thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest"-an unheard of trial; to offer him for a burnt-offering on a mountain of Moriah. Under sentence of death the son rests till the third day; then, when the surrender was proved complete, and the hand stretched forth, and the knife to slay the son, the hand of the father is arrested, and a ram, caught by his horns in the thicket, is substituted. Thus did God provide Himself a lamb for a burnt-offering; for no type can reach up to the height or go down into the depth of the truth: God's Son is God's Lamb.
Perhaps there is no child of God who has not learned that we have here a shadow of the offering of His Son. This every soul that values scripture, and bows to the corresponding light of the New Testament, must acknowledge. But this is not all. The Holy Ghost confirms it by signatures, which show His hand and mind. The very order is instructive. Most, we know, are apt to be content with less. They see the love of God set forth in the sacrifice provided; they see the substitution of the ram answering to Him who died for our sins. And there they stop; but the New Testament does not. In Heb. 11 the apostle Paul gives us most distinctly another step, telling us that “Abraham offered up his only begotten, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called:' accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure.” That is, it is intimated that in Gen. 22 we have a shadow, not merely of the death, but also of the resurrection, of Christ.
But there is another allusion to this scene in the New Testament, to which we must turn for a little in the third place. It is found in the use the apostle makes of it in Gal. 3 He there lays the greatest stress on the one Seed as contrasted with many:-a use of Genesis which is often a great difficulty even to believers. They cannot doubt the statement made, yet feel that they do not understand it. They know that “seed” in all languages may mean many, just as much as one; and so they are conscious that the force of the passage escapes them. Paul must be right, they are assured: why, or what he means, they know not. When men raise difficulties, they are apt to go farther and judge the word which is beyond them.
They would do far better if they looked to God as well as into the word of His grace.
The point here I believe to be this: the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham out of heaven, and, after Isaac was taken from under the knife (the figure of death), Abraham is shown the ram, and offers it: and then the angel of Jehovah called a second time, and said, “By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” This sorely perplexes the hasty reader. How strange that the apostle should lay the greatest stress upon “one seed,” whereas the text seems to speak of very many! But read more, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Now we come to the point in Galatians.
There are two kinds of blessing before us; not only two measures but two orders of blessing. The blessing of a numerous seed comes first; and, here, where number is attached to the seed, the blessing is distinctively Jewish in character, down to possessing the gate of their enemies. By and by God will assuredly make this good; He means to bless as well as to deliver His earthly people; He will maintain the divine government of the world in Israel. He intends to make all good when Satan has made the worst of it. His purpose is to wrest out of the hand of the destroyer his seeming victory. And, when His people are brought down to the lowest, then will be God's opportunity. He will lift them up, and set them at the head of all earth's blessing and glory. The prophets are full of this; but the earliest book pledges it, and this in connection with the sacrifice of Isaac in the figure.
But there is more to be noticed, and more closely. The same apostle lays stress on the one Seed; and with the one Seed presents another character of blessing; and this is the emphasis in writing to the Galatians. The enemy was trying to make the believers in Galatia become Jews (of course in principle only, not in matter of fact), in order to ensure the blessing, insisting on circumcision for the purpose. Thus they were in danger of surrendering all that was most precious in Christianity. The apostle seeks to recall them, and that in this way; where the one Seed is spoken of (without reference to number, not the numerous seed), there is blessing to the Gentile promised, and to the Jew distinctively. This he applies to Christ risen, “and in thy seed [where there is nothing about the sand or the stars] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” It is not the gate of their enemies possessed by the Jews, but the Gentiles to be blessed; the former in relation to the numerous seed, the latter in relation to the one Seed. I repeat, this is the point of Gal. 3:16. Our blessing is not even with Christ Himself as Messiah here below, but with Him who was crucified and is risen from the dead. In short, it is a character of blessing altogether new on the other side of death, with the risen Lord Jesus, the “one Seed.” So we become Abraham's seed, not by being circumcised, which is on this side of death, but by faith in Him who died and is raised again. It is before God the complete blotting out of man in the flesh, and the introduction of a new man in the risen Christ, in whom there is neither Jew nor Gentile. And faith acts on what is before God.
There is also another thing which is an immense difficulty to many in this connection. Sarah dies in chapter 23. According to doctrine too common in Christendom, Sarah ought to be henceforth alive and vigorous. Such, lam persuaded, would have been the ordering of the type if man had arranged it, for such is the thought current in theology. But according to scripture Sarah dies; it is not Hagar, the old covenant after the flesh, but the mother of the Seed of promise, who then passes away. What is the meaning of this? If Gen. 22 have its clear illustration in the Lord's death and resurrection, and His purpose forthwith to bless the Gentiles in Christ with a totally different kind of blessing from that of Israel however true it also is to be in its season, what is the meaning of the death of Sarah at this point?
The Acts of the Apostles may make all quite plain. After the gift of the Holy Ghost the apostles presented the Lord Jesus to Israel as such, addressing them as “men of Israel,” and pledging the truth of God to the assurance that, if they only repented and received Him they had put to death on the cross who was now risen by the mighty power of God, all His promises would be made good to them. This is very particularly marked in Acts 3 “The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our father hath glorified his Son Jesus, whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses.” And again, “Those things which God before had shown by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye, therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
Is it not evident that here is the distinct proffer of God through His servant to make good all that was promised to Israel? But they refused. The consequence was, that His offer for the time entirely lapsed. Sarah dies. There is no more presentation of the covenant of promise. Thus it had been made in the close of Acts 3 “Ye are the children of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed; unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Such was the offer; but the offer was rejected, the consequence of which we see in no further presenting the word of the Lord after that sort, in no subsequent overture to Israel on any such ground. Sarah dies. It is not that Sarah is not to rise again; and, as surely as she is literally to rise again, so shall the covenant of grace re-appear, under the returning Son of man, for both houses of Israel.
What follows according to the Acts? An extraordinary apostle is called out, and fresh ground is taken; nay, it is too little to speak of the change so. The secret that was kept hid from ages and from generations is told out by a new and suited instrument. Saul of Tarsus becomes the characteristic witness not to the mother of the Seed of promise, not to the accomplishment of what God has pledged Himself from the first to make good to the line of Abraham; but a bride is to be called out from the world, formed and fashioned and got ready for the risen Bridegroom. The apostle Paul becomes the special and typical “minister of the church.” Thus do the Old and New Testaments perfectly tally together.
Just so in our next chapter, Gen. 24, follows a wholly new scene, in the most significant way corroborating what has been said; and this I shall endeavor to pursue as God has given it. “And Abraham was old and well stricken in age, and Jehovah had blessed Abraham in all things, and Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and I will make thee swear by Jehovah, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell, but thou shalt go into my country and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.”
The Canaanites, as every one moderately taught knows, were the future enemies of the chosen people, already in the land, Satan's instrument to exclude, if this were possible, or at least to oppose and corrupt, those who were called of God. They typify, according to Eph. 6, our foes, the world-rulers of this darkness, spiritual wickedness in heavenly places, with whom our conflict has to be maintained. Accordingly, it is, as all will admit, not from demons or fallen angels that God calls to the fellowship of His Son. It is from the world that sovereign grace is forming a bride for Christ.
This then is the charge of the father to his steward, servant over all that he had, “Thou shalt go unto my country and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.” The servant has his fears, at any rate he presents his difficulties. “Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou earnest?” And Abraham said unto him, “Beware thou, that thou bring not my son thither again. The Jehovah God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence. And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.” There is no one point more insisted on in the chapter than this: Isaac the risen son, is to remain exclusively in Canaan; on no account is he to leave it.
Let us compare him with others. Abraham had been called out from Mesopotamia himself, and thence had he brought his wife. Afterward, Jacob goes back from Canaan, and far away he marries Leah and Rachel, and thence returns. But, while the call of the new bride goes on to Mesopotamia, Isaac must remain in the place which is the well-known typo of heaven: at least, during that transaction, the bridegroom abides only in Canaan. The Son of the Father, while the bride is being called, has no relation with the world, and is seen exclusively in heaven at the right hand of God. And this is just as distinct as to Christ in the New Testament doctrine, as the injunction respecting Isaac is imperative throughout its type in Genesis. It is an infinite privilege to be blessed with Christ; to be blessed not only by Him but with Him, and not only with Him but with Him in heaven in the presence of God. But such is our blessing, who are in the place whence He has been ignominiously cast out; and our blessing is in Him now, while He is at the right hand of God.
Is not this the heavenly place of Christ which the Spirit of God shows Himself pressing with manifest care in the chapter just read? “Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me into this land; must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou earnest? And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou, that thou bring not my son thither again.” During the call of the church, Christ sustains no direct relationship with the earth; He is simply the glorified Head on high. Before this He had come to the earth; and it was here, and here only, although in Him lifted up from the earth on the cross, that God's mighty work of redemption could be accomplished by His Son, whom the Father spared not but gave for us all. Here man had sinned, and here sin must be judged; but it is in heaven, and only in heaven, that Christ is viewed in relation to the bride. It is from heaven that the Holy Ghost comes down; it is for the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven that the bride is destined, and it is while the risen Bridegroom is in heaven that she is in process of being formed here below, before He comes to receive the saints to Himself and present them above.
This settles many a grave question. And it is Christians particularly who trouble themselves about the matter; for others count it fanaticism and are not interested in it. Your association with Christ as the heavenly Head is, therefore, what Satan wants to frustrate; for if your strength and blessing depend on your seizing your true relationship to Christ and the reality of Christ's relationship to you, the effort of the foe is to sever all he can between Christ and the church; while the active working of God's Spirit is to put and keep the believer, and not only the individual but the church, in the living present consciousness of His and our relationship, for God is looking for conduct founded upon it. How then can the suited conduct be, unless you know the standing and relation on which it depends and from which it flows? The affection, and the intimate union, and the obedience which belong to the wife, are inseparable from her relationship. In another they would be most improper and the grossest sin. If the wife does not so walk, she utterly fails. But the known relationship is the ground of the duties that we owe.
In the midst of the then revealed scene which a Jew, perhaps some Christians, might regard merely as a domestic story, the Spirit of God has traced out the typical lineaments of our call and relationship to Christ, all-important to our souls now, the sweeter because one sees from Genesis how it was from early days before God; as indeed, we know from the New Testament, it was purposed in Christ before the world was. Here we see its shadow, and, what seems to me of high value, in relation to the system of promise on the one band and, above all, to the sacrifice of the Son of God on the other.
But we have to notice also other notable features that fill in the sketch, and befit such a scene. Let me again impress on you the great truth that even here we see the church is founded on the finished work of Christ, as an accomplished fact; yea, not only on death but also on resurrection. Here the Son is risen and stands in a new place altogether. In this place Christ is found under the representation of Isaac, received from the dead in a figure, who, keeping himself entirely to Canaan, is in the acknowledged and undeniable type of heaven. When we think of the previous history of Abraham, or of that which follows in the case of Jacob, Joseph, or any other, the solemn restriction of Isaac alone is the more remarkable. We see what a tendency there was for the family likeness to repeat itself throughout, from father to son. This makes it all the more striking as a fact; how much more where we see its full meaning in Christ as our heavenly Head and Bridegroom now! Isaac had that typical place all to himself. There was no one of the patriarchs so remarkably seen in Canaan from first to last, so emphatically there alone in relation to the call of Rebecca. If God would set forth a Bridegroom exclusively heavenly, how else could He do it so effectually? Isaac is on no pretext and for no end to quit Canaan, whatever the difficulties of bringing home the bride.
The Spirit of God, we already remarked, brings out the same truth openly to us in the Epistles of the New Testament, and in substance too in the later parts of John's Gospel where Christ is shown putting us in His own place above. Yet in the Old Testament Christ is often presented as the One who should reign over Israel, restored and blessed in their land; who should judge and rule all nations. And so without fail, He will, for Scripture cannot be broken; and, if the word of God could waver for the earth, who could trust it for heaven? The Psalms and Prophets are full of glowing visions of the day when the once humbled Messiah shall reign from sea to sea and bring the days of heaven on the earth; and hence the saints of old, though not without heavenly outlooks, as we know from Hebrews, regarded justly the earth as the future sphere of manifested blessing, though not of course the earth exclusively. Without doubt then Christ will ask, and Jehovah will give the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. But that day of asking and having them, and consequently of judgment on the quick (Psa. 2:8, 6), is in contrast with what is true now (John 17), when He asks not for the world as then but for ourselves while He is on high. It is the true Isaac thus imprinting a heavenly character on souls on the earth; giving them not merely that their destination should be heavenly by and by, but withal, even now, a heavenly stamp from and with Himself while they are here as consciously belonging to Him there.
The time too was come for this wondrous display of faith. The Lord Jesus had gone down to the depths of atonement. He had also been utterly rejected by the Jews, and God had now rejected them and the earth's direct blessing as such for the time; for this depends on their reception, which shall be to the world as life from the dead. Hence it is not on the earth which cast out the Righteous One, but in heaven that righteousness is seen now, where God has glorified the Holy One whom man despised and refused; and those who receive Him meanwhile are made God's righteousness in Him. Thus the actual grace of God is richer than any promises, for God never limited Himself to a promise. Could He indeed allow such a thought as that He, or His giving in grace, was exhaustible?
The grand fact for us, in the face of the devil who led the world to put Jesus to death, is that God has raised Him up from the dead after suffering for our sins, and set Him in heavenly glory, while He calls out from the world not only individuals to be blessed with Christ, but forms them by His Spirit into His assembly, one body, the body of Christ, whilst He is there and we are here. And, if you really have the Spirit of Christ now, that is your relationship. You are a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, spite of your thoughts or of that which men have told you. And, as is the Heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. If you believe in Him, be not afraid of confessing Him, nor doubt your blessedness, nor be ashamed of Him or it any way. What a sorrow to have to press this truth when the church should be living in the full joy of it! How sad that we have now to recall God's children to that which His grace gave them, to what is their own, but alas forgotten! God decides (it is not ours to choose) our relationship in Christ. I have heard one say, thinking it lowly too, “I dare not ask to be a son of God, I am content to be His servant.” Alas! it is real unbelief, not humility. For this does not mean measuring ourselves by ourselves or others, but seeing that Christ has suffered all, that God might bless accordingly, and bring us into relationships according to the work of redemption and the glory of Him who wrought it, in the fulfillment of the divine counsels for magnifying Him.
Is Christ, then, the “Heavenly” One now? “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” If there are heavenly ones, who are they? Not the angels. The good angels are not taken out of their position, and the bad angels are yet to be dealt with judicially. Grace acts to the full; and the last whom nature could suppose chosen are those to whom God vouchsafes the richest blessing. Such is the position of the Christian and the church, however little we may have done for His name. Our deliverance and our relationship are questions of Him and His work; not of those who reap the blessing through the grace of God. I do not say that you may not know your heavenly place individually, or with all saints, or your responsibility in both respects as God's temple. I do say you must seek to lay hold of your relationship before you can manifest the affection and the ways suitable to it. Who could expect the conduct of a son save from a child that knew his father?
It is precisely the same principle in the sphere of Christ and the church. The man, not the woman, determines her position and dignity according to his own. He was, He will be, on earth; but now He is in heaven, and so alone we know Him: yea, had we known Him otherwise, so only now. The relationship is established, and for us too in this blessed way, through the Christ who has baptized us into one body by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. The cross made it possible, having cleared away sin by the judgment of it once for all; not by forbearance, though there was a time when God did forbear as to it, but now in righteousness, for grace reigns through righteousness, sin having been judged, so judged as it never will be in hell, and as it never can be again. Faith bows to God, and receives through and with Christ this heavenly portion; believing on the Lord Jesus, we are united to Him. On high the suffering Man was given to the church, Head over all things. He must go through death first; for, “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but, if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” The word of God makes it perfectly certain that the Lord Jesus, only after redemption, became at the right hand of God the Head of His body, now in process of forming by the Spirit on earth. There was no such state of things when He was on the earth. In no respect was He our Head until He took His place on high; nor could the body be so much as begun till Christ was there as Head, to whom the Holy Ghost could unite us. For it is neither an awakened conscience nor even faith which unites, but the Spirit given to us over and above as believers. I repeat, that I believe as an individual; and this is of all moment, and of the greatest value for the soul of each. If conscience be unsettled, there cannot be the right flow of divine affection; and it was part of Gail's way and wisdom to leave no questions before we are united to Christ by the Spirit.
We must distinguish between the new birth and the baptism of the Spirit. As sinners we are quickened; as saints we have the Spirit given to us, whether as individuals or for union. Suppose a woman, the most obscure you could find, whose only name was of ill repute; but one of the noblest of the land, of the most exalted character and position, was pleased to make her the object of his love, and, more than that to give her his own name as his bride, what then? In an instant all is changed; no matter what she may have been before, all now depends on the new relationship, both for others, and especially for herself. No unbelief of believers puts that blessing off until we get to heaven; but, according to God's word (and this alone is binding), it is true of us here, though the practical power, enjoyment, and testimony is lost now if we believe it not. We are of Christ's body now. There is no such doctrine as becoming members of His body in heaven. Because it is a question of Christ and His work made known by the Spirit sent down, there is nothing too good for the church in the mind of God, who is glorifying Him and blessing us in Him. It is here too that we are called to suffer with Him. All saints had to suffer, and Christians especially, not only for righteousness but for Christ; and this people do not like.
Unbelief likes the safe middle way of good common sense; it is afraid of extremes because it slights Christ. It courts ease and honor now, and hopes to have forgiveness and acceptance above. This is not Christianity, but the revival of a semi-Judaism, which destroys the true relationship and testimony of the church. The truth may sometimes be presented crudely and with looseness, and Satan would thus make it ridiculous to the natural man and its form repulsive to a spiritual mind. This is to be deplored and should be owned, not justified by him who feels for God's glory. But we cannot pare down the truth, or make it palatable to the world or to the Christians who seek to walk with the world. Everything that is according to God must flow from faith; the faith of the saint (I say not of the soul in coming to God) is formed by its object, even Christ, now in glory, to whom the person is united and by whom he is more and more changed into His image, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, from glory to glory. Doubtless, till a man's soul has bowed to God in the sense of his own sinfulness, and has found redemption by the blood of Jesus, it is folly and wrong to talk of other and heavenly privileges. But, when all need of conscience before God is settled by faith, the Spirit seals the believer, who is made one with Christ in heaven.
It will be seen from Scripture, in fact, that without faith there is no union; but faith in itself never unites. There is no such idea as a person united to Christ in believing; but, when he believes, he is made one with Christ by the Holy Ghost, who has now condescended to take the place of serving the counsels of the Father for the glory of His beloved Son. As the Son became servant in doing God's will here below, so now the Spirit glorifies Christ in communion with the Father's mind and love. And this could only be when Christ went on high, after His finished work, and sent the Comforter to be in and with us forever.
One result we see beautifully depicted here is the spirit of faith in which the servant acts, and this showing itself in prayer according to the mind of God. “And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. And he said, Ο Jehovah God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink; and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master. And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.” Does not the case illustrate vividly “praying in the Holy Ghost “? It is prayer, not merely for this or that, but in the current of what is for the Son's glory and in the Father's purpose to bestow. It seems to be the liveliest anticipation in the Old Testament of asking the Father in Christ's name, by having whatever we thus ask. I speak of the spirit of the thing.
Is it then a casual circumstance that such passages should be found here? What a contrast with Jacob's vow in Gen. 28, or his cry of distress in Gen. 32! Indeed, it is not too much to say that there is not another chapter in Genesis where there is so much about prayer as here; and why? Is it not because now, during the call of the bride, the walking by faith is exemplified by Him who dwells and works in the Christian? Assuredly God looks for no less habits of dependence in those who bear the name of Christ. Of course at every time from the beginning of God's ways with man, all prayed who had faith; and we see it admirably in Abraham and others. But I appeal to every discerning mind whether we do not find such a type in this respect here, as we find nowhere else in the book.
There is another feature too; the Holy Ghost has come down in a way that never was made good before. As surely as the Son descended personally to the earth to take flesh, so the Holy Ghost came to abide in and with us now. He had come down to abide in the Son; He sealed, and without; blood, Him who was the Holy One of God. But how could we, sinners as we were, have His Spirit in us? How could we be the vessels of the Holy Spirit of God? Only in the power the perfect and perfecting sacrifice of Christ. After that, not before, the Holy Ghost came down to dwell in those who had been most wretched sinners; and He can dwell in us forever now, by virtue of the blood that cleanses us from all sin. Has this no voice to us, beloved brethren? A most solemn thing it is for all Christians. We need and should cultivate that spirit of faith and prayer which keeps us practically in the presence of God where flesh is judged, knowing that He hears us, and that we have the petitions we desire of Him.
But this is not the only thing here. The same servant, who represents the power of the Spirit acting in man now, shows also the wonderful faithfulness in which God not only guides him, but controls for him all circumstances: just as at the beginning of the chapter, it was not merely as Jehovah-God Abraham acknowledged Him, but as “the God of heaven and the God of the earth.” And so yet more should the Christian feel now, according to the infinite largeness of the revelations of His glory as the God and rather of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, in Eph. 4, He shows Himself to be above all and through all, as well as in us all. It is not only that we are brought into the utmost nearness by grace; but, despised as we may be and cast out for Christ's sake, we are, and should know that we are, as children in that intimacy which enables us to speak to Him who moves all things. Just as the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold (vers. 22, 30), so to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Compare Eph. 4:7-16.)
Again, the heart of the servant instantly turns to worship. “And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord. And he said, Blessed be the Jehovah God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth; I being in the way, Jehovah led me to the house of my master's brethren.” It was, no doubt, homage rather than worship in the proper Christian sense; that is, it was individual, not the praise of God's children or assembly. Still it is the figure of worship. Did it ever strike you that there is more about such homage or worship in this chapter than in all the other chapters of Genesis put together? Why should it be so? Can one doubt that it is because now God has made the way for true worshippers? According to truth, and according to love, God has now revealed Himself in Christ the Son. He is no longer groped after, if haply He may be found; but the God and Father of Christ has brought us to Himself, His Father and ours, His God and ours, having not only come down to us in Him here below, but brought us in Him, dead and risen and ascended, to be before Himself without a spot. How could we then but worship Him?
And so, as surely as souls enter into the place of the Christian and the church, worship in spirit and in truth flows forth. God is revealed in His grace, redemption is wrought, the veil is rent, and we are brought now as sons, and have God dwelling in us. The Spirit of God could not but lead the children of God to worship. The First Epistle to the Corinthians accordingly speaks to them of singing with the spirit, though we know what their state was; and in Ephesians and Colossians we hear of “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” This supposes a relationship which cannot but thus breathe itself out to God in praise and thanksgiving. How different from occupation with self, important as this alas 1 may be in its place and season. There is a right time for all things, and for general humiliation too; and a dangerous thing it is for a Christian not to judge himself and take a humbling review of his ways sometimes. But, whatever in us may call for self-judgment, let us never defraud our God and Father of His worship. Let us neither mar nor stint the praises of God and the Lamb. Therefore we find, “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.”
In our narrative, in full unison as far as the type could reach, we have the sense of God and His blessing filling the heart of Eliezer; and so the man bows his head and worships continually as God displays His grace. (Compare vers. 48, 52.)
Notice again the way in which the calling of the bride links itself with the coming of the Lord. The question is put to Rebekah, “Wilt thou go with this man?” Nature might plead to keep her a few days, at least ten. But she who had only heard and believed the report has her heart made up, like the Christian toward Christ; “whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not,” &c. Brother, mother, house, family, country, speak in vain. And the servant was true to his errand of love, to bring home the bride. It is the very pattern of the Spirit working in the new man and making Christ the all-absorbing object. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 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 which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The servant is undistracted—has but “one thing” to do. “Hinder me not,” he says, “seeing Jehovah hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.” Do any speak of “resignation” to depart? Is it only in His heart to bring us home? His love truly known makes a true love; as here, the simple answer of Rebekah is, “I will go.” The Spirit and the bride say but one thing: Come—come, Lord Jesus. Can you say this, beloved brethren? He is coming: wilt thou go? Isaac comes to meet her, and she who had left all behind is “gone out” to meet the bridegroom, veiling herself as not for others, but only for him. As the moment draws near, she realizes it increasingly in spirit.
May God Himself, by His own Spirit, fix upon us the truth of what Christ is to us! Unbelief is always trying to be what it is not; as believers, we never can exaggerate what grace has given us in Him: so blessed with Christ is every saint of God now, though as yet we have but the word and Spirit of God, and the flesh despises and resists both.
Search God's word and see how far your position consorts with the truth we have before us. A main object in the Epistles of the New Testament is to reveal that which this type shadows in the call of the bride who crosses the desert under the conduct of Eliezer for the bridegroom in Canaan, the church espoused to Christ.
All that people boast of value and esteem among men, all you may have thought in your system good and helpful, you will find in the light of God's word to be really but a hindrance to manifesting Christ -Christ our life. If an object on earth occupies you, it is clearly foreign to the Holy Ghost who is glorifying Christ. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” May you prove that your true business is now to bear testimony to Him as an earth-rejected, heavenly, and returning Christ! I leave this, which is God's truth, not the word of man, to work in your souls. Prove all you have heard about it; hold fast what is good.
On no occasion is the Christian free to forget his proper relationship, and it is as true of the assembly as of the individual. Is it so with you in both respects? If you know what it is to be heavenly in your affections and ways, you will not tolerate an earthly-minded denomination, and indeed a denomination as such, denies the body and bride of Christ as a present reality here below, which demands entire devotedness to Christ and continual waiting for His coming, not of the world, as He is not. A denomination is a voluntary society, or a system framed by worldly authority; neither of which can, in the nature of things, express, or even contemplate, the one body of Christ. If we are His, we are so by the Holy Ghost who made us one, as the objects of His love and for His glory, at the same time separating us from the world which crucified Him. “Believest thou this?” May our God bless His own truth for Christ's sake!

Christ Leading Into Relationship With the Father

John 13:36, 38; 14:1, 11
It is well to remember, and to have fresh upon the mind continually, that our God has said that His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways. It is important, not only because it prepares the soul to receive what His may present to it, but because it enables the soul greatly also to put aside all its own reasoning. I come into the presence of the living God with the full conviction upon my soul, for He has settled and announced, that His thoughts are not my thoughts, nor my ways His ways. Individually I am prepared, so to speak, to receive from Him whatever He may present, on the other hand to set aside all the difficulties and reasonings that may spring up out of this mind which He says is not like His mind.
If I look at the question of what it is, which through grace, He says, brings the sinner into the place of being able to say “My God,” if I think of the truth connected with that, I see an instance of this. That in which I was ruined is brought to light. Man by nature is never prepared for the cross of Christ, never prepared for the truth of God. “We are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Man is antagonistic to thoughts in which God is first; he refuses to believe that God is a Reconciler. When He comes to show that pre-eminence He has in having been first, it comes out in a way which sets man in utter defiance. “For he hath made him sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Man is lost sight of there.
There is another point in which I see this more strongly still, not in the position of a son being secured to me, but in the giving of privilege consequent on it.
“Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father,” (Gal. 4:6.) To my mind this is a great deal more difficult for the mind of man in anywise to get hold of simply and fully. There is no such difficulty in forgiveness. One can understand a creature going to God, and His providing something on which ground He could receive a sinner. The mind can understand it in measure. I may kick against it vigorously, for it puts one right into the dust. God has chosen, according to His character, according to His own ways, to do the things.
If I take the second thing, it is, “He has sent forth the Spirit of his Son” into the hearts of those who, He tells me, are sons. In the preceding chapter it is “Jesus Christ evidently set forth crucified.” Hence, it is “He hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Well now what is this? What am I to understand by it? When I come to look at the subject, I find I have to be taught the A, B, C, by God, and to be simply a receiver, upon the plain ground that it is the Son of God communicating His secret thoughts.
The only begotten Son of the Father! What kind of a relationship is His? All my thoughts of a father and a son are, so to speak, set aside. I understand “like as a father pitieth his children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him;” I understand this as I stoop down to my child. But here is the only-begotten Son. I cannot talk of Him being inferior in that relationship—One toward whom the relationship named would be expressed as it is in the relationship of a father toward his babe down here. I see I am brought into the relationship in which I am to call His Abba my Abba, and the very abode which by right and title belongs to Him is the very place, to which He is guiding me, and to which I shall shortly be brought, Adam and Eve could not understand it. The Father set forth His Son as the One in whom was all His delight, the One who was the perfect expression of everything in which His heart could rejoice, John shows me this. I see this in it: sonship, the only-begotten Son, the perfect expression of the Father, and I see that God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into my heart. I am to call His Father Abba. It is entirely new ground. It is not creature ground. It is ground I could not be set upon if He could not quicken me with the eternal life which He had with the Father before the world was.
It is very important to note it as one of the grand failures of believers now; we constantly begin with items connected with privileges, items that touch ourselves. When scripture presents privilege, it presents it in Himself, all perfect, and the work wrought out in Him in every way, and the relationship which He had with the Father, before the world was. We are in the relationship. This involves all the rest, and the burden and weight of all hangs on Himself.
Now in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, He just sets Himself as recognizing that the door had closed on Israel. He sets Himself with His disciples, the doors being shut. He knew that His hour was come. In love He is content to gird Himself. The great point brought out there is the consciousness which He had of being the object of the counsels of the Father. He knew all things were given into His hand. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hand, and that he was come from God, and went to God, he riseth from supper and laid aside his garments, and took a towel, and girded himself.” Perfect, every action!
No one could have taken His life away. He came forth from God, and He went to God. He deliberately set Himself to bring out truth connected with this doctrine, as the outflow of what was in His own mind.
First of all is the cleansing; then the coming out of a traitor present, which He knew. But there was no check in the glow of His thoughts, or of His love, in the purpose of His heart. There was weakness too on the part of the disciples. John was easily influenced, though he lay in the bosom of Jesus. Peter was uncommonly full of himself, full of thoughts of his competency to stand on Jewish ground.
The Lord brings out a little picture of all that was in man, as known to Himself, when He was about to bring out these thoughts of the Father's love, when He was about to show the relationships of sons with Abba. It comes out the more touchingly because He pronounces the most complete sentence on Peter—a good man, but full of what he meant to do. The Lord puts it all entirely aside. “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?” the Lord says to him. No wonder! He was offering Himself, He was not only ready to wash their feet. He had spoken of what He was about to suffer. “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” (Ver. 31.) He had that upon His soul at the time, and Peter puts in, “Well, I am the man that will lay down my life for you;” He cannot but express incredulity, ignoring all. “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice.”
Then, instantly, the Lord Jesus goes on, “Let not your hearts be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” What He had in His bosom at that time with regard to Peter, John, and the rest, could not be repressed. It was filled with the love the Father bore to those poor disciples, love that could not be taken aback and could not be stopped. Could the flow of what was in His mind be stopped by the rude impediment of a man saying, “I will lay down my life for you?” The man did not know what he was about, the Lord understood it all. Not a bit of light have you there, Peter: all you can do is to deny me. “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now.” As to Peter, and those thoughts of Christ, the state of his soul could not take Christ's thoughts in. He did not like anything of the sort. The Lord goes on “Let not your heart be troubled.” Everything is failing here, and the kingdom is going;
Israel is denying. I have taken you up on another ground altogether. You are associated in my heart with the Father; and this is the ground on which I am acting.
I may just remark here what to my own soul is somewhat peculiar. I find all the thoughts of the heart of the only-begotten Son of the Father toward this. He was going to give' them the stamp of sonship. His heart was flowing towards them. And He could pass on to that which was included in the love. He could show them that, if we are loved by the Father as sons, we are to be in the house of the Father. Which of those two things is greater? Surely the first. If I can say that the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is my Father, what can I want more? The gyves and the fetters of Egypt may be scarcely off my hands, I weary and footsore, going through the land; but the assurance of Abba's love will keep my soul above all circumstances of the way. We shall get into our true state when we get into the Father's house. If we could be there without the love of the Father beaming out upon us, it would be nothing. It would be nothing to be there as any chosen gem out of Israel, to see what the peculiarity of the Father's love would be, and not to have that love resting upon us. It is my Father's house. I shall come again, Peter. You will swear you do not know Me. I shall come again, and pick you up in the power of that love which will last, not only through your lifetime, but through all the dispensations in all its greatness.
I want to show you the sort of love that was in His heart. Now what was He about to do? If He had listened to them, to Peter, He would have taken another line. No! He had got His clue from fellowship with the Father's love and counsels. He knew what He was about. He saw the whole way from the beginning to the end. He knew all things that should come upon Him. To Peter He makes known here that he would curse and swear he did not know the Lord. When He comes back, He receives him and all to Himself. Such is the One who had the whole thing before His mind, and from whom we have to learn about this sonship, and how the Spirit works in us, crying, Abba, Father, the Spirit of the Son of God, by whom we call Him Abb.
The Lord soon goes on to the doctrine in the second and third verses. “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you... I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” Man is failing: everything has failed in man. Christ does not fail. And He has a place given Him.' Nor will He fail us in the least. However long it will be before, He will certainly come and bring us home at the appointed time.
There was something much dearer to His heart, one of the first lessons He had to teach them. We do not sufficiently rest upon the grand truth which is presented here of God, that He who thus came into the world is the revealer of the Father. “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” He was here in a simple quiet way, leading them upon the ground that made them confess their ignorance, and gave Him the opportunity of teaching them. “Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also, and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” The first thing that strikes me is this; His conduct here is just the illustration of His fellowship with the Father, and His competency of apprehending the Father's mind. He knew the Father. Talking to the poor woman at the well of Sychar, He could bring that home to her heart. He stops here, and turns round and back to that which would oblige them to express their ignorance. “Lord, we know not whither thou art going, and how can we know the way?” He just gave His own self as the answer, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me. From henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” I believe, to our own shame, we very often read that down and think very little about Him. It is not here as in Peter, “Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever.” It was what was directly addressed to them. “Ye who have followed me, who know the sort of person I am, who have seen my ways, who have heard my voice, who have witnessed my character: now everything I want to search you about the Father is presented in me.” It is like a child learning the character of the father perhaps in the little things of the nursery or the schoolroom, and showing the knowledge it has got. Let a mother not restrain a child, the child learns those ways. Let a father in the fear of God wisely restrain his child, and show love: when it is put into other circumstances, it has got its heart formed its affections trained, and, if you brought before it something of a different character, the child would not admit it. On the ground it knew circumstances? No! that is not my father. You brought me a lawyer's letter—no, that is not my father. I know my father well. Very severe he is at times, but full of patience. But I know that is not my father.
Now the Lord had been with them in all the Jewish circumstances. He had been with them at Jerusalem. They had seen His character, His ways. “I want to bring my father before you,” He is saying. Now do you know me? Oh! I do believe that the children of God at the present time have a little word to look at there in connection with themselves, whether or not they have taken the character presented by the blessed Lord, that flowed forth from Him; as He said He was the way, and the truth, and the life, as the true expression of the Father. “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also, and from henceforth ye know him and have seen him.” Perfect self-possession on the part of the Lord! What a complete purpose of His heart to vindicate the Father's marvelous grace in presenting in such a way a man as the expression of Himself!
He had sent that One to manifest Himself to them. Teaching enough there, if their hearts had been open to receive it! Whenever we come to know Abba, we are to read Him. We are to think of Him as Himself the revelation of His Father. They had seen Him, the perfect Son of the Father, walking among them, caring for them, keeping this ever before His mind—the revealing of the Father to their hearts. But they did not understand, and they gave Him another occasion for instruction. “Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, but the Father that dwelleth in me He doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works' sake.” I should suppose the “works” here are not what people take them for, but rather His whole bearing at the present time. “Whatever you see me do, that is of the Father.” What knowledge have you of me? “I am the way.” He showed it at the time of His own humiliation. He came upon the ground on which Israel was to show the fullness of the perfection that was in Him. He even turned to wipe the tear from the widow. He turned to feed the multitude. He ever kept His eye on the glory of God.
What has been the revelation to us in connection with the Father, and what followed afterward on the revelation of that blessed Son of God's love in His ways to Ηis disciples in respect of this? The whole question of sin has been settled by Him who knew no sin; and “because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, Abba, Father.” Has this led you into the Father's heart? Has it led you into the truth of what it is to be a son of His by adoption? “In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.” The blessed Son gone there is just the One through whom that truth is told out, still of all that love of Abba, of all this purpose of Abba. God shows us Him in the very highest glory, and tells us that our place is there with Him.
Now is there in your souls that love, the consciousness of that character of love, that is presented in the Lord Jesus Christ? I do believe it is an important thing to keep separate the fruits of the relationship and the security of the relationship. Am I a son? “Children of God by Christ Jesus.” What is the grand token of sonship now? Why that the only begotten Son is upon the throne—is there as man, the rock that was smitten; and because we are sons, God hath sent forth His Spirit into our hearts crying Abba, Father. If there were not a second believer in the world, but I have the Spirit of the Son of God, I am as much a son as if I were in the Father's house. And how is the love of Abba set upon me? In His Christ. I may walk carelessly and get into sorrow because of it, but the relationship never varies, and it is a relationship established by the presence of that blessed One upon the throne of God. He is gathering many sons unto glory, and I am a son, individually. Well, how is my heart?” How far does that fullness, that circle of love which goes forth because of the Father's delight in that only-begotten Son, engross my heart? I am a son of God, and I have nothing to do with any world, or any place that does not know these sons of God. Has He put me into the place of being a son, a son adopted, one who knows the certainty by the Spirit indwelling, knows Abba by the light that shone upon the Son here in humiliation, by His having given me the Spirit of adoption? Can I, beloved friends, take a place before you and say, if you look at my life nearly enough, you will see I am carrying out that Ρ Can you say, “Well, I know I am a son, and I have taken that place distinctly; if you know me well enough, you will know that I am practically a son?”
Brethren and sisters in the Lord, I ask you individually, do you take that place? You will find it will not do to have any neutral ground. You cannot stand upon earth and water. You must have this very ground, clear and defined—that you know you are, and that you are practically, sons of God. All the tide flowing in will wash away what is not thus secured by the Lord Jesus Christ. Can you say, “There was a Son down here, personally a Son: I am here to carry out His mind?” You will find that it cuts off a thousand things that you would do comfortably if you were only trying to be a good man here on earth, when you try to carry out His mind. He knew what He was about. He had no mind but that of a son of God down here.
Independently of Him, we could not say to His Father what He could say directly to His Father. It is made good to us in Himself. He is Son of God, heir of God. We are sons of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. It comes in thus—the place connected with the privilege. It is exceedingly important to bring in the place, for it detects the character of what we are carrying with us as we go along. What burden am I carrying with me now if Is it anything that will amalgamate with the in-heritance? Anything that will be a pleasant retrospect from the glory? Shall I look back and say, “Well, there I was, toiling and laboring. It was what came upon Him, the same in character. I did suffer with Him, and now I am reigning here. How pleasant it looks from the Father's house!” Or will it be this rather, “But, indeed, He did drag me up through the dying embers, like Lot in Sodom, and thus is my whole course all gone, practically wasted. It vexed me as I went along. I am positively angry when I think about myself.”
Today you have been acting as a son or a daughter, or you have not. You have been carrying out that mind that was in Christ Jesus, or you have not. He had objects that He loved. His heart brooded over those poor objects He had taken up. His heart was bearing in gentle patience all their stupidity; yet there was not a single thing in connection with the course of the Lord that was not of the Father. No one could put a finger on anything in that course, and say, “there was a bit of worldliness.”
Now it is a time of great profession, and therefore for complete separation. If you get back to the Gospels, it was a time when all was going to the sieve. Scribes and Pharisees and Herodians were there; one spiritual mind in the scene, that One was the touchstone of everything in that time. The separation took place: other ground was found for placing what He counted dear upon. What do you think of the present hour? Much more will a spiritual mind feel at such a moment that the crisis has come, and that there is no longer any time for shilly-shallying. Every principle is called into question at the present time. All the influences of the world are active. The power of Satan is at work, driving the vortex round; and people not knowing where they are drifting to.
“I am a son of God, I have the Father's heart open to me. The one thing on which the Son knows my mind is set is carrying out His mind down here.” “Well,” He says, “they will feel my mind some way or other,” “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn my hand upon the little ones.” (Zech. 13:7.) Whatever the state of things, the Father's hand will be turned upon the little ones. They must walk now in the comfort of it, if they are to find it in that day. Are you a son of God? Does He look down upon you with the affections of that; heart beaming upon you as a son? Yes, blessed be God! All your steps down here are the marks of your feet as you go along through this scene here below: are they the stoppings of the Father's children?
The relationship is all secured. It is not a question of whether I shall get into the Father's house, it is not a question of whether He will bring me there, conduct me up as Lot from Sodom, but am I walking as a son?
Are you, individually, walking in such a way that the Father's heart can find its satisfaction in? that the Son of God can look down upon you as those to whom the looking to Him for guidance is habitual? Behold, it is practice; it is the carrying out of God's mind in all the detail of your path down here.

Christ Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 8

(1 Peter 3:18-20.)
It is confessed by Dr. J. B. that the sense brought out is self-consistent and not incompatible with any of the facts or doctrines of revelation. He only complains of the mode of interpretation as liable to objections. 1 shall show however that, far from being really insurmountable, every one of these objections is destitute of weight. Flesh and spirit are opposed; though in the same case, it does not follow that they must have the same preposition supplied in English. This would not be necessary if the same Greek preposition (which is far stronger or more precise) accompanied each of the two opposed terms. Thus, in Rom. 4:25, two clauses stand in antithesis with one another; whence many have been allured to argue, like our author here, for a necessarily similar force of διά with each accusative. But this is an error. For the former clause means that our Lord Jesus was delivered because of our offenses; the second, that He was raised again on account of the justifying of us (that is, in order to it): for justifying cannot be severed from faith, as the very next verse shows. (Rom. 5:1.) Indeed the notion of justification before faith would introduce nothing but confusion and false doctrine, not to speak of the evil in practice which naturally results. The Authorized Version however has not rendered ill in giving “for” with both clauses, the English preposition “for” being as ambiguous as the corresponding Greek here.
Here similarly there is no necessity to vary the English by supplying in the flesh and by the Spirit, but, if there were, it was open to the translators to have done so. The relation of the dative is not so contracted or consequently so uniform as to demand the exactly same form of representing it. Besides we have to take into account the idiom of the English tongue, which does not by any means conform always to the Greek. The reader is already aware that “in” or “in respect of” may be given equally in both the clauses; but the translators might legitimately enough have given “in” and “by” as they have done. Hence the rendering which develops the objection is invalid. “In His human spirit,” if it were ever so proper in itself, would require the article ™ (as in the common text). But as the best MSS expunge it, so the sense resulting from its presence would have been really an insurmountable objection, as it is impossible to apply “quicken” to the spirit of Christ, any more than to His divine nature. But, as we have seen, if one translates the latter term “by the Spirit,” it is not correct to assume that we must translate the former “by the flesh.” The alleged necessity 18 just the mistake which falsifies the reasoning of many interpreters and has mystified more readers.
Strictness of parallelism is to my mind more common in the limited scope of human thought than in the word of God, who habitually, I believe, while thus comparing or contrasting, gives a further and varying side of truth in the fullness of divine wisdom. Hence the mere technicality of the schools is sure to err in interpreting scripture. It does not follow therefore that where we see two datives balanced against each other they must both be expressions, of element, agency, or instrument, though it may be wise to avoid a greater precision in the rendering than the inspired original itself carries. At the same time such a difference is not advocated in the present instance; but, as the authorized translators rightly enough elsewhere represent διά twice by an English “for,” so “in” or “in respect of” will be found to suit both here. Consequently there is no such difficulty connected with the version or with the interpretation already given as to weaken it, still less, as some easily frightened have supposed, to convince us that it is untenable. Nor does it become the believer to hesitate because the plain meaning of scripture seems to favor a view opposed to his prejudice, though he would do well to examine closely what is really at issue with known truth. For no lie is of the truth: all that is true must be consistent. Only we must beware of confounding our limited apprehensions with the truth in all its breadth and depth.
But let us follow the reasoning a little more. If we hold the rendering “in” on both sides, there can be no doubt that “put to death” in flesh yields a simple and excellent sense. But what of “quickened in the Spirit?” Is not this equally good and as clear as the other? Strange to say, the true and plain antithesis seems to have quite escaped Dr. B., who allows us only the alternatives of “in His spirit” (which would be quite wrong as we have often shown), or “in His divine nature,” which is an impossible version and if possible obviously absurd and false, as is admitted. But why not “in the Spirit” as presenting the manner of Christ's resurrection, characterized by the Spirit in contrast with the violent close of His life in flesh, in both cases the article being excluded by presenting each as a question of principle rather than of fact? On the other hand “put to death by the flesh” is intolerable, either as the human nature of our Lord or as mankind; but there is no need to understand either if we take “by the Spirit” to mean the Holy Ghost, which to my mind is assuredly the truth, only presented in character rather than as an objective personal agent, which is quite common in Greek, though not so easily expressed in our tongue or caught by the English reader.
Nor can I for one see anything unnatural, but rather great force and beauty, in pointing out that it was in virtue of the Spirit who thus wrought in His resurrection that Christ preached by Noah in the antediluvian world; for it was of the utmost importance for the Jews, who ever craved the visible in their thoughts of the Messiah and His kingdom, to learn that it is now as of old a question of a testimony in the Spirit to be believed or slighted, and surely to be followed by judgment, as then so now. Hence too the preference to the Spirit's mind of presenting their past example as “spirits in prison” rather than as men living in flesh, which however He does also involve in their antecedent moral condition in the world when “once” or heretofore disobedient.
Such an allusion here to Gen. 6:3 appears to my mind most apt and impressive, identifying Christ with Jehovah, as is often done in these epistles. It was natural in writing to Christians of the circumcision, and comforting them, in their sufferings and the contempt of their testimony, by the evidence given to the substantial sameness of its reception from the flood till the Lord returns in glory. This passage has in no way for its immediate object a description of the results of the Lord's atoning sufferings, bright as is the witness given to them, but rather to comfort the saints in their sufferings, apt to repine as Jews might at their trials ever since they believed in the Lord Jesus. The apostle explains to them the government of God in what He permits of sorrow to His own. Faithfulness does bring present blessing; but even if suffering come for righteousness' sake, is not the saint now blessed? It is better, if God will it so, to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing; because Christ also once suffered for sins, just for unjust, that He might bring us to God. Such is the way His suffering for our sins is introduced, not a harsh interpolation of His having in the Spirit that raised Him preached of old to the impenitent antediluvians put into a statement of His atonement, but undeniable encouragement to downcast saints to go on suffering for righteousness, since it was His once for all to suffer for sins: with this, not they, but He only has to do, and it is done with-a work despised by sneering Jews who felt not their sins nor their need of grace like His. But if put to death in flesh, He was quickened in the Spirit, in whose power He had already gone and preached to the imprisoned spirits, first disobedient when the long-suffering of God waited out in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight, souls were saved through the water. They must not wonder then if few were saved now; for this has ever been a favorite taunt of unbelief, as an absent Messiah who left His own suffering would be to an incredulous Jew. So far the analogy with the times before and at the deluge is plain. So is the use of the allusion that follows; for as men were there waited on in long-suffering, it is no otherwise now; and as they are kept for a worse judgment, so will it be with such as despise the gospel. On the other hand baptism is to the believer the sign of salvation by the death and resurrection of Christ; for as He died atoningly, so we when baptized are buried with Him in those waters of death; and as He rose, we through His resurrection have what a good conscience demands, even acceptance before God by His work who is gone into heaven and is on God's right hand, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him, which, though in-visible, is far beyond the throne of David on earth and the subjection of Gentile foes, as the Jews looked for.
And what is Dr. B.'s explanation? Truly the notable one, that “a consequence of our Lord's penal, vicarious, expiatory suffering, was that He (!) became spiritually alive (!!) and powerful in a sense, and to a degree, in which He was not previously; and in which, but for these sufferings, He never could have become full of life to be communicated to dead souls, mighty to save. He was there spiritually quickened.” No wonder that Dr. B. has few to follow him in his view, though it is no worse than most others. But to be “quickened” is not to be a “quickening Spirit,” though both be true of our Lord. Neither does John 5:26 speak of the Lord in resurrection but as a man here below, the servant of His Father's glory; nor does Matt. 28:18 speak of one either quickened or quickening, but invested with authority only as Son of man in heaven and on earth. And if this be violent as to Christ, not less so is the notion that by “the spirits in prison” are meant “spiritually captive men.” A strange phrase indeed, as the author allows; stranger still if possible, though Dr. B. sees nothing perplexing in the statement, “that they were aforetime disobedient in the days of Noah;” as if it meant that Christ preached to spiritually captive men who were hard to be convinced in former times, especially in Noah's day. But this is to pervert, not to expound. If Dr. B. had been a scholar and had examined the passage, he must have seen that the absence of the article before άπειθησασι arises from the disobedience being viewed as the ground why the spirits were in prison. There is no hint of an aggregate, some part of which had been disobedient in former times. In short the view is mistaken altogether; for, instead of employing “spirits in prison” as a phrase characteristic of men in all ages, Peter speaks there of a special class, disembodied and in custody or prison because they had been once on a time disobedient in the days of Noah: not a word about their being after Christ's resurrection turned to the wisdom of the just and delivered. These steps of departure from the text emboldened Dr. B. to go farther still and contrast the multitudes that heard and knew the joyful sound with the few saved in Noah's day. “Still is he going and preaching to the 'spirits in prison;' and though all have not obeyed, yet many already have obeyed, many are obeying, many more will yet obey;” and this is a comment on 1 Peter 3:19, 20, where one prime aim is to comfort the Christian Jews subject to the taunts of their enemies on their own fewness, as compared with the masses who reject the truth of the Gospel! The saved are few alas! now as in Noah's day. There is analogy, not contrast.
But this is not all. “This view of the subject has this additional advantage, that it preserves the connection of the passage both grammatical and logical.” We have seen enough of the grammar: let us see as to the “logic.” “The words of the apostle, thus explained, plainly bear on his great practical object. 'Be not afraid, be not ashamed of suffering in a good cause, in a right spirit.' No damage comes from well-doing, or from suffering in well-doing. Christ in suffering, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, suffered for well-doing.” “For well-doing!” does the author say? Happily little logic suffices to test this view of the context; for the scripture says here, in the most pointed terms of contradiction, that Christ suffered once for sins, not for well-doing.

Christ Tempted and Sympathizing

Some months since a neutral brother questioned the word “disappearance” in the above tract (p. 8 of the London ed., p. 10 in those of Manchester and of Glasgow.) Now an anonymous person calls it “blasphemy,” as if what was said imports that evil was in Christ's body some time or another!! He reasons that “disappearance from” means that the evil was in. It can only, in my opinion, be imagined to do so by an evil eye; for the sentence speaks of the moment of the immaculate conception. But if the evil, which was in the virgin's nature, “completely disappeared,” as far as the Babe was concerned, by that miraculous action of the Holy Spirit, the most perverse will cannot make the sentence say or mean that evil ever was in Christ's body. I am grieved to think that any one called a brother should like to make it so appear: why, God will manifest. If simple souls prefer for to “from,” the author has no objection. But the meaning of “from” as there used is self-evidently (not from having been in, but) from entering, the express contrary of implying that evil had been in a body which only then began to exist: as no doubt every intelligent, as well as every simple reader has understood till now. The desired misconstruction contradicts the distinct object and the uniform doctrine of the tract. It is for others to estimate the source, character, and aim of such an attack. The reader is requested to read the tract and judge for himself.

The Christian Hope Consistent With Events Revealed in Prophecy: Part 1

It is beyond controversy that the Lord Jesus set His disciples in the position of waiting for His return in glory, and that He attached the utmost value to the constancy their love in expecting Him habitually as their sure and proximate hope. “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.” (Luke 12:35, 36.)
Precisely the same principle reappears in what the Holy Ghost gave by the apostle from first to last. Thus in his earliest epistle: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:15-17.) Take a middle communication: “Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51, 52.) Take a later. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20, 21.) Take one of his latest: “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11-13.)
Nor is it otherwise with the last surviving apostle who closes the canon of scriptures: “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Rev. 3:11.) “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that heareth say, come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.... He which testifieth those things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:16, 17, 20.) Accordingly as Christ's coming they knew not how soon was the hope laid down uniformly in the Now Testament, so even skepticism owns that it was universally believed by the early Christians.
But time passed on, and faith became feeble, and hope deferred made the heart sick, and the taunts of incredulity, which looks not beyond appearances began to tell on souls that ceased to hold fast the grace and truth of Christ and thus gravitated toward the world out of which they had been called, not more surely to serve God than to wait for His Son from heaven; so in modern times many have been driven from this position by an improper use of the Lord's delay. They have been frightened by the adversary. They have shrunk from the world's unbelieving contempt founded on a very short and imperfect acquaintance with the word of God. Infidelity indeed is always superficial; and the children of God do not well to be thus moved. It matters not who the adversary may be, they should never yield the position regarding His word, nor allow themselves to be or seem ashamed of waiting for the Lord Jesus, which the New Testament shows was to have been given to and taken by the church of God, and that too, we must observe, in its brightest days, when the power of the Holy Ghost was ungrieved and the apostles who were the authoritative communicators of the mind of God still remained. It is under these circumstances we find the Christians of old habitually expecting the Son of God from heaven. Time passed on; the delay seemed long; and many a believer, judging from appearances which seemed to contradict their hope, gave up their constancy of expectation, giving way to their own reasonings and the influences around them. This is always unwise; it is worse, it is a sin, because it virtually arraigns God Himself, who maintains His authority now by His word. The day is coming when He will assert and vindicate it in power, when it will be no question of believing only, but those who dispute His authority and disobey His word will be judged. But now we are put to the test in a moral way by subjection to the written word of God.
At present I am undertaking to show that the simplest view is the truest, and that the lowly faithful cleaving to the words of the Lord Jesus will stand the severest test. In point of fact it is so constantly in divine things. For the church of God was never meant to be a school, still less to be confined to such as are of the highest form. The church forgets its commission when it affects to be a philosophical clique of disciples who flatter themselves that they at least are wise and intelligent. According to the mind of God it was intended to embrace every child of God walking as such. It was meant not merely to have them but to have them together—to have them as one; and in fact this miserable departure from the mind of God practically has given an immense impulse to unbelieving thoughts which slight and judge the word of God in respect to the ground, manner, measure and matter of our hope: for what indeed has been spared? Our subject, however, is the compatibility of the Christian hope with the revelation of events according to prophecy; and I must show that no events predicted by the Lord, or the holy apostles and prophets, in the slightest degree set aside that hope, for the two things are perfectly consistent. I shall show further that these predicted events do not even modify the hope, but that the hope governs them; the true outlook for the soul being Christ's coming and receiving us to Himself, not my death but His return. The prophetic intimations of events only fall into their proper place where that hope is kept firm.
The Jewish believers had long been accustomed to prophecy. We can understand this. They were an earthly people; and prophecy speaks of the earth, without opening heaven. He that came down from heaven as God, and went up again, not merely as God but as man, He it is who not only had the heavens opening on Him but by grace opened heaven for us. We belong to the opened heavens, because we belong to Christ who is there, on the footing of His work and not of His person only. For He came down in love and is gone up in righteousness, and this righteousness a justifying righteousness which gives us the very same title as Himself. Where this is understood, the difference between the Christian hope and prophecy is seen. Heaven is characteristically the place belonging to the Christian, as earth was to Israel. God promised the best place here below to them, as well as every conceivable blessing, suited to such a people. He promised to make them the most exalted nation on earth, not only blessed but a blessing. No faults of Israel can annul that promise in the long run. Certainly it is not yet fulfilled. As always, there is first the trial or responsibility of the creature, followed by sovereign grace on God's part. In Israel's past history, we have had the creature tried; the future will behold God's mercy (Rom. 11) accomplishing everything according to His word, and giving freely according to divine goodness.
On the other hand it is impossible for the earth to be a place of real joy and blessing except through Jesus and His redemption. For Israel were sinners like others, and if they are to be blessed, they must be saved, and there is no salvation but by Him who died and rose for us. But then there is more. The cross of the Lord Jesus is the fullest proof of Israel's iniquity and rebellion against God. Hence meanwhile God acts on it to open, by Him who is now gone into His presence on high, a new and living way into the holiest. This and more than this God had not promised to Israel or any other nation. He had never given away heavenly glory to any. He was free to bestow it on whom He would, and He now does give it to Christ and the church. Not that one doubts that the Old Testament saints looked for a heavenly city; and I am sure that they will have it. If they looked for a better country, they will be there. But heaven is no small place. It cannot be measured by so many miles like the earth. Heaven is immense, and there will be ample verge and various scenes for the display of God's glory. The saints of Old Testament and of New Testament will be there. There is room enough and to spare for all. In the New Testament it is we find God bringing out all the elements of truth contained in the Old, but withal He brings out far more. He had secrets, things never divulged in the course of the earlier dispensation; but now they are. And the reason is manifest. Till the Son of God actually came, it would not have been suitable to the glory of God to have revealed what was to be specially between Him and His Son. The Holy Ghost sent down from heaven loves to bring out what the disciples could not bear before His resurrection. But now that redemption is accomplished, all is fully out, and very particularly that broad and deep and essential distinction which will now be set out, as God enables me, between the prophecy of events and the heavenly hope which the Holy Ghost has given us—a hope which was announced by Jesus, but which was to be explained with needed fullness by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven when the disciples could bear it. The great difference is that, as prophecy treats of the earth, so also it deals with times and seasons, with peoples and nations, with tribes and tongues, whereas the heavenly hope is independent of all that. Are these tribes and peoples and tongues on high? Is it any question there in the presence of God of days and weeks and times and years? The difference between earth and heaven is thus easily seen. The Christian hope, as it is let into our hearts from heaven, so is it as completely different from any prospect connected with the earth as the light of heaven is from a lamp, which, however useful in the darkness of the world, is as nothing compared with the light of day.
Nor is the figure of the lamp compared with daylight a mere idea of mine, but expressly furnished in the word itself. The Apostle Peter points out the selfsame distinction by this very comparison. (2 Peter 1)
In writing to Christians, who were once Jews and who were therefore familiar with prophecy, he tells them that they did well to take heed to the prophetic word. Their being Christians did not set aside what they had from God before. The Old Testament is in no way or degree, either as a whole or in part, blotted out by the New, but on the contrary shines more brightly and is understood incomparably better, when by the Holy Spirit the New is apprehended. Force is thus given to the Old, which enables the Christian to comprehend beyond the Jew. Take again the professing Christian that contends for Jewish forms, as a priest, sacrifice, or sanctuary now. Does he understand them? Not in the least. So if you have ever talked with an intelligent Jew, say a Rabbi, on the Old Testament, you will have seen how utterly dark he is regarding his own scriptures; and the more intelligent he is, the more palpable his ignorance of all beyond letter or tradition; because the fact of his general intelligence proves that his state proceeds from want not of natural capacity but of divine light. No matter what his activity of mind or stores of reading may be, they only disclose the exceeding barrenness of the land. On the other hand the Old Testament is lighted up with a brilliancy unmistakably divine, and its meaning is unfolded in its depth and fullness, when one enters into the true place of the church of God through knowing Christ Himself. And never is the church discerned apart from Christ; and if He be not seen as Head, in vain men essay to preach up the church; for though Christ may be truly known and enjoyed by the soul without seeing the church, you cannot in any case apprehend the church of God without seeing His headship of it. Thus Romanists and Catholics of all sorts are apt to talk much about the church; but they use it as a shroud, as a dense covering from sight of the glory of the Lord Jesus. There you have utter darkness; and yet the church is of all things the most put forward in pretension. When the place of Christ and the church is really known, we begin to understand the Old Testament better, and every part becomes to us full of light instead of the cloud it once seemed. But those that are under its forms (christened I may say) do not understand the Old Testament, but only such as know Christ and our relationship to Him as Lord and Savior, Priest, and Head.
So it is in regard to the Christian hope also. When the heart is filled with it, one understands prophecy a great deal better than those who have only prophecy before them. The Christians that had been Jews were first slow to enter at all into the heavenly hope; and, when they were beginning to get a little better knowledge, the confusion of the two exposed them to the danger of letting prophecy slip without taking in the Christian hope. Such too is the state in which many Christians are at the present day. They understand neither; they have not got hold of the Christian hope, and they do not pretend to understand prophecy: perhaps indeed they think it cannot be understood at all. Probably the same persons would think it presumptuous to know their sins forgiven: seeing that they do not understand the gospel, it is hard to expect them to understand what is outside the soul. One could scarcely look for a soul to enter into the revelations of God in His word about other subjects so remote if they had not submitted to God's righteousness for their own souls. Once Christ is thus received, we begin to find what a key He is to unlock all the rest.
We see then that Peter, in writing to those Christian Jews, contrasts the heavenly hope with prophecy; the difference between them, which really involves and settles the compatibility of the two things, depends on this very distinction. Thus he says, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy” (or the prophetic word confirmed), “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light,” really a lamp, “that shineth in a dark place until the day dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts.” Here prophecy is compared to the lamp that shines in a squalid place; the heavenly hope to daylight with above all the person of Christ as the day star, for that He is thus referred to cannot, in my judgment, be questioned. You will observe it is not “till the day come,” “till the arrival of the day of the Lord é' or the like. It is “till the day dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts.” It is the heart getting hold of the heavenly hope; it is no more than a question of the heart. It is not the day arising as the sun of righteousness upon the world. It is the heart now having Christ as its constant hope, and so in the spirit and light of the day before it shines on the earth by and by. The apostle says that the lamp of prophecy is excellent until one has a better light, not the earthly lamp brighter, but a different kind of light, even that of day, and above all connected with the person of Christ, the day-star arising in the heart.
_(To be continued.)_

The Christian Hope Consistent With Events Revealed in Prophecy: Part 2

This contrast of the apostle gives us exactly the nature of the Christian hope, because it is not merely a great change anticipated for mankind and creation; still less is it the illusion of the world being made better. It is not evil judged, or righteousness triumphant, however great and excellent. We do expect both; but they belong to prophecy, not their hope. Prophecy shows Babylon is to be destroyed and Antichrist judged. It shows the Roman empire by and by reorganized, with a head over it, when the west gets weary of little powers, and wants to have a chief opposed to the great leader of the east. Alas! all are only for destruction. If these things take place (and I am persuaded that prophecy shows they will, and that events already transpiring are leading on to them), they have nothing to do with the Christian hope. In looking into prophecy, we find ourselves on the ground of measured times and seasons; but these have nothing to do with our waiting for Christ from heaven. What has His coming to receive us to Himself above to do with judgments? What has our entrance into the Father's house to do directly with changes on earth? When the Lord comes to translate the saints to those mansions, He does not rectify the earth, He takes Christians away to heaven; but this does not alter the face of the earth. Undoubtedly a vast change will come in due time, and we may see the order of events a little later on. But I now speak of the essential difference between the two; and I affirm that the Christian hope is essentially bound up with heaven, while prophecy is occupied with earthly judgment and subsequent blessing; for evil, being that which prevails on the earth, must be judged to bring in a better state. Man as such has no title to go up to heaven. It is a matter of pure grace; and it belongs to Christ to show us that grace, and a part of His grace is for Him to come and present us in the Father's house. We have no claim to be there. It is the Son of God who according to the efficacy of redemption and in His own love will take us away from the world to be with Himself. This is the heavenly hope.
But there is a great deal more than this in scripture, and it will be shown that the attempt to bring in the earthly events of prophecy before Christ comes for the rapture of the saints is a mere misapprehension of persons who, in my judgment, are but imperfectly acquainted with the word of God. More mature and profound study of the word only confirms the impression of new-born and spiritual souls that we should be constantly waiting for Christ. No doubt there are divine revelations about what is coming to pass in the world, and serious and radical changes they are; but they never interfere with the Christian's expectation of Christ from day to day. Quite distinct from them stands that heavenly hope, which they are not allowed in any part of the New Testament to overlay or even modify.
Let us look at a few scriptures; and, as our first instance, at Luke 12 There not only is the disciple put in the place of waiting for Christ, but the greatest possible stress is laid on this that there should arise nothing to prevent his constantly looking for the Lord to meet him in the air. In verses 35 and 36 we read, “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding; that, when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.” There is no hindrance here for the disciple, no revealed delay on the part of the Master. His return was to be an immediate hope. Indeed the thought of any interposed delay is what the Lord is here arming the heart against most sedulously. Not only does He insist on the time being unknown as a motive for always expecting Him, but also that the state of the heart should be such that nothing should hinder an immediate response to Christ when He comes again.
Turn we now to the Gospel of John. Here the Lord presents His coming as a question of His own love to have His own with Himself above, and not in the least as referring to men on the earth, or dependent on signs, changes, and events that must previously take place. In chapter 14 the Lord says “In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” It is clear that this is totally independent of any movements here below. It is the heavenly hope, and this in its greatest completeness, not placed in connection with any earthly circumstances whatever. We have nothing of its order in relation to other things, but simply its character. It is just a question of the love of the Son and of the Father. He was not to be like the Jewish Messiah an object of sight; He was going to be invisible. He had been here a man before their eyes; but He was going away, and as God was an object of faith, so should He be: in truth He was God, even as the Father and the Spirit. He tells them not to let His departure distress them, for He was going to do better for them than could possibly be if He remained here. To have abode as they on earth, or even to have established the kingdom as returning to it, would have been in connection with His Messiahship; but His going to heaven was based on redemption as well as on His Sonship. The one links with the Son of David, the other with His divine glory; the one is connected with earth, the other with the Father's house -no doubt that house in which the Savior is gone to prepare mansions for us in heaven; but heaven is not so contracted as some think; and all heaven is not the Father's house, which is where the Father shows His special love to the Son. Of it Jesus says that there “are many mansions,” not merely one for the Father and the Son, but ample room for His risen saints. “I go,” He says, “to prepare a place for you;” because it was for those who were altogether strangers to such companionship above, a totally new thing for a Jew as such to expect. The constant expectation of the people was power and blessing coming down to earth, not at all the hope of being taken from earth to heaven, to enjoy glory in communion with the glorified Son of Man.
Here be it observed that in my opinion those called premillennialists have often brought a great stigma on the truth, by representing the earth as the future scene of our blessedness. Indeed such an idea is not peculiar to premillennialists; many theologians, such as Dr. Chalmers for example, had the same poverty of thought. A renovated earth for the risen saints was the idea from some of the early Fathers down to our day: which to my mind is not only unscriptural but exceedingly low. The earth, no matter how blessed, will never be the meet abode for the risen and glorified. The heavens are high above the earth, not only in locality but in character; and it is in heavenly places that we are blessed, it is there we know our portion in Christ even now. It is not therefore the earth, however transmuted or metamorphosed it may be, that is to form the sphere of our glory and home with Christ. I admit there will be a blessed change in that day on the earth; but this will be for Israel and the nations or Gentiles; whereas we by becoming Christians have ceased to be either Jews or Gentiles. We have acquired our character from Christ, and have a blessing suited to Him on high. Until souls have a knowledge of this, they do not understand Christianity. The Christian is not merely a blessed man; for blessed then will be the Jews, and blessed even still the Gentiles. But the Christian is one taken out of all that belongs to him naturally and is put already by the power of the Spirit in a supernatural place. He knows it now by faith. It will be visible to all when the Lord comes. Accordingly, the Lord Jesus, who knew so well the Father's house, announces that He is coming for us and will bring us into the place He is preparing for us now: He will have us with Himself and as Himself.
This then is the Christian's heavenly hope. It is entirely independent of a revealed date or announced delay. The Lord never fixed nor disclosed it in His word; He made it entirely dependent on His grace to those He loves; as the Father has placed times and seasons in His own authority. On this the church has to depend; on this every Christian was meant to confide as he waits for Christ. The Christian knows Him whom he believes, that He may delay, and that His delay is salvation for those who otherwise must perish everlastingly. Though it may be keeping himself for a little out of His rest and glory with Christ, the Christian can delight that others also by the delay are going to be blessed of Christ. This is the definitely assigned reason for the delay which has nothing whatever to do with the judgments, &c, in the world of which prophecy treats. What have the seals, trumpets or vials to do with our joining Christ for heavenly glory? This last has no doubt to do with the secret counsels of the Father who is gathering out whom He pleases to make heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, but this has nothing to do with earthly revolutions.
If we look at the other Gospels we find many notable events predicted. We learn that the Jews, now scattered, are to be gathered once more; that their present misery is not all, for that they must pass through still deeper tribulation, but afterward be delivered and blessed by the Lord Jesus according to the promises made to the fathers. The apostles in the rest of the New Testament confirm this fully. Thus the epistle to the Romans, the grandest expose of fundamental Christian doctrine, most carefully shows that, however God may by the gospel meet sinners in indiscriminate grace, He has in no way forgotten His promises to His ancient people, His present heavenly purpose does not turn aside his intention of bringing the earth into the liberty of glory. The groaning creation shall yet rejoice under the second Man, when the day is come for the manifestation of the sons of God. Nor did the apostle withhold from men the solemn fact that God has appointed a day in which He is going to judge (not the dead only, as at the end of all, but the habitable earth in righteousness by the man He has appointed, even Jesus risen from among the dead. Preliminary judgments too must take place and mighty operations in. warning and testimony, which more or less fully are predicted in the prophetic word.
But here again I come to the very important question;-are these or any other public events revealed as occurring before the Lord comes to receive His heavenly saints? are they to take place at the same time? or do they occur after?
In dealing with these questions let us refer for a few moments to the Epistles to the Thessalonians, which are allowed to have been the first Paul wrote. They were written to young Christians that knew but little and that consequently were in no small danger of mistakes. In fact both epistles were written to correct misapprehension or error. What we find corrected in the first epistle was in regard to the dead saints; what was dealt with in the second touched rather the living saints. When the first epistle was written, the Thessalonian saints were so filled with the constant expectancy of the Lord's return for them that they were quite taken by surprise when some of their brethren fell asleep.' Could anything show more vividly how the early church were looking out day by day for Christ? They thought their deceased brethren must lose much at that blessed moment because they had fallen asleep before Christ came. Such is the evident meaning of their agitation. Others may try from their mistake in this detail to get rid of the truth; they held rightly in the main but many who speak flippantly of the Thessalonians are in a more dangerous case habitually than ever were the Thessalonian believers. The latter had imbibed the thought somehow that the Christians were not to die before Jesus came. Now the Lord had never said so, nor had the Holy Spirit through the apostle ever taught so. It was an entirely human inference. Now no inference is a matter of faith. It depends of course on our soundness in deducing consequences from premises, under which too a flaw may lurk. It is very important for us to remember that in divine things we should look for the direct testimony of God's word, at all events for a revealed principle to guide us. In this case the Thessalonians, having trusted their own minds, could not understand that any Christians should die before Christ's coming. So when this befell some of their number, they were grieved beyond measure. The apostle writes to disabuse their minds of error on this point. (1 Thess. 4:13, 14.) “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus [have fallen asleep through Jesus] will God bring with him.”
How strikingly different is the kind of comfort men habitually administer now! The thought they present to the bereaved (throughout Christendom) almost always is that their friends are gone to heaven. Nobody denies this in the case of deceased believers. They depart to be with Christ. They are not consigned to some place of detention in obscurity and seclusion from the Lord; they are imprisoned in no subterranean abode far from that heaven to which even here they belonged. Absent from the body they are at home with the Savior, which is far better. If it were only a poor robber before his death converted on the cross, he was that very day with Christ: such and so great and so immediate the efficacy of His blood. Is Paradise a garden of gloom, not of delights? Not even the earthly paradise of Adam in itself had a cloud; and is not the Paradise of God far brighter than where the first man was tempted by the devil? Error on this head I refer to, not only because it is pernicious but as showing how quickly the early church departed from the truth, for the notion here combated was, so far as the early Fathers speak, all but universal, and to this day the Greek and other ancient bodies are under similar illusions. They conceive that departed Christians are waiting in darkness till the resurrection, and therefore offer prayers on their behalf. They do not pray to them like the still more deluded Romanists; but they think their spirits are detained in that place of need till Christ comes.
It is plain however from the word of God that the deceased saints are with Christ, on the one hand, and on the other that, though with Him, their own state is imperfect till their bodies are raised. They only can enjoy the fullness of the glory God intends for them with Christ, and this not only in spirit but in body. There may be meanwhile all that the soul can take in, but it is not perfection till soul and body together share Christ in glory. Perfection will be when we are outwardly and inwardly and completely like Christ. So say the Scriptures, and they are always right. According to this was the comfort the apostle here gives the Thessalonian brethren. He points to the reunion at the coming of the Lord. How all is brought about we learn in the verses which follow(15-17). “For this we say unto you in the word of the Lord, that we the living that remain unto the coming of the Lord shall in nowise prevent"-it is here an old English word for precede— “those that have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with archangel's voice, and with trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we the living that remain shall be caught up together with them in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” If there be difference, the saints that may have fallen asleep come under the energy of the Lord's glory rather before the rest. But the truth is that in a moment both are to be caught up together. The Thessalonians were therefore troubling themselves without reason. They need not sorrow as the rest. It is right to feel grief for things as they are; and a miserable thing to treat sorrow, shame, death, sin, with indifference: the Lord when here sorrowed, as none else, never as those who have no hope. The truth brings in the Lord's coming and our resurrection to the richest comfort of the soul, instead of letting it harden and accustom itself to the consequences of the fall as inevitable. The second Man is looked to, instead of resignation to the miseries of the first.
On the face of it what can be clearer than that the moderns mistake in thinking that death is the Lord's coming to the Christian? Do you wonder that any should say so? It was only this morning I was reading the book of a Divinity Professor, and a believer too, which treated thus of the Lord's coming at death. Certainly it finds no countenance in scripture. What sort of doctrine is that? His presence will be deliverance from death for those that look for Him. It is the express comfort against death and grief about it. At death we each go to be with Christ; at His coming He will take us all to be with Himself. Such erroneous teaching ought to be met firmly; and, if any do not know better than to teach such things, it would be well if Christians did not listen, at least on such a theme. The worst is that it infects almost everything else unless it be the immutable truth of the Godhead and of Christ's person. They are only corrupting God's testimony by perverting the scriptures on the great province of our hope and prophecy too. The coming of the Lord Jesus is just the converse of the Christian's going to Him. The latter is but individual departure, the former is the glad moment when He will communicate His own joy to all that are His. The confounding of these two things is not only mischievous to the soul, but it also obscures the glory of the Lord Jesus. The Lord's coming is thus really in contrast with death; the consolation which grace vouchsafes in the sorrows we taste, the ultimate and only complete triumph of Christ over death in all its forms as far as the Christian is concerned. “Wherefore,” he says, “comfort one another with these words.”
In the next chapter the apostle enlarges on the day of the Lord. “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they,” that is, men generally on the earth not Christians, “shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” In the presence of the Lord, chapter iv., we saw only the saints concerned; but in the day of the Lord (chap, 5) we have the world involved. There is therefore an evident difference between them, though the presence of the Lord may go on in the day of the Lord and so include it. He will come to receive His own, taking them away from the earth to be with Himself on high; but the day of the Lord is His advent in judgment of man's pride and indifference, delusion and positive rebellion here below. When they shall say, peace and safety, sudden destruction soon follows. Accordingly nothing is said about taking up to heaven in chapter 5; nor is anything said about destruction in chapter 4. Who can fail to observe the propriety of all this? For it is simply a question of the testimony of scripture. Cannot the Lord come to take His own on high without showing Himself at that moment except to those for whom He comes? He who on the score of difficulty cavils against this takes a dangerous path. For no one denies that shortly after the Lord will display the saints with Himself. That will be His day, a time of bitter anguish, because it will be His dealing with the earth and man apostate here below. But the coming of the Lord to translate His own to heaven is a different order of things. I do not speak now of “the coming of the Son of Man” because this, being the express relation in which He judges, necessarily modifies His coming. When He is seen coming or present as Son of Man, it is in reference to the earth. But I do not go tonight beyond the broad features which most need.
In the second epistle there is quite another point of view. The Thessalonians had been meanwhile agitated by certain persons who told them that their then persecutions or other trials, for they seem to have been passing through sore tribulation, were the beginning of the day of the Lord—that it was not impending only, as is commonly said, but actually come. On this account they were greatly troubled and shaken, and Paul writes this fresh epistle to banish their fears and settle them in confidence of the hope once more. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming (or presence, for this is the meaning of the word) of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled.” Assuredly it was the excitement not of hope but of anxiety and terror. It is no picture of sanguine people in haste looking for Christ, but of souls alarmed by a false apprehension that the day of the Lord had actually set in. Do you object to my going in this farther than the English version warrants? That version represents the errorists to have said (and this too pretending every authority for it, even to a letter from the apostle) “that the day of Christ is at hand.” It is now pretty generally known that the true text and proper translation of the last clause is “that the day of the Lord is present.” I am old enough to remember the time when scarcely a single person in the world seemed to be aware of this; and now, I am thankful to say, there are only a few prejudiced men to dispute it. It can scarcely be doubted that the present revisers will alter the version here, and alter it for the better too. I was agreeably surprised to see an American divine among the first who bowed to the truth in this passage; and now nobody who can pretend to be well informed of the grounds for a sound judgment on it makes any question about it, unless it be a few individuals committed in earlier days to a strong prejudgment against it. The right reading too, I must add, as conceded now on all sides is not Χριστοῦ but Κυρίου, not “of Christ” but “of the Lord.” This being read, the true translation would be “as that the day of the Lord is present.”
Further no person can give a correct or intelligible meaning to the words as they stand in our version, at least without contradicting other scriptures. All existing interpretations founded on the common rendering betray the greatest possible perplexity or worse. Some years ago glancing over Professor Jowett's book on these epistles I could not but feel that every remark on the whole or on details displayed gross darkness. If he wrote with an unbelieving eye, without even using aright what knowledge of the language he possessed, it fares little better with men truer to inspiration. The false version had blinded all to its true sense.
Some of the interpreters too conceived the thought that the “letter as from us” referred to Paul's first epistle; but it is not so. A spurious letter is meant (not the apostle's at all), which taught that the day of the Lord was actually arrived—that day of trial and anguish and darkness, “that day” of divine dealing and destruction on earth. The rumor accordingly filled them with great uneasiness. They thought that the day of Jehovah or of judgment on the earth, for this is the idea, had already come. What does the apostle do? He recalls them to the Christian hope, saying “we beseech you, brethren, by (or, for the sake of) the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord has set in (or, is present).” Observe what a light this casts on the subject before us. He urges them by their bright hope not to be alarmed by the false alarm grounded on a pretension to prophetical authority. The day of the Lord belongs to prophecy; the Lord's coming to gather us together is the proper Christian hope. He urges them by this hope, about which they had been instructed in the previous epistle, not to be alarmed by the novel object of terror the enemy was foisting in.
Then the apostle gives no little information. He assures them that the day cannot come unless there be first the falling away, or apostasy, and the man of sin be revealed. He does not say these things must occur before Christ comes, but beyond doubt before the day. They are prophetic events and cannot transpire until certain revealed antecedents have run their course, but there is no epoch set for the coming of the Lord, which is designedly unrevealed so as to preserve the saints in the constant attitude of waiting for Lord. Certain signal changes among men and new dealings of God are notified in the prophetic word, but not the Lord's coming to receive us, that the Christian might and in order that he should be always expecting. We know that upon earth there may be many a revolution that will dash the fond anticipations of men; but our hope is certain, even One who has passed through death and will shortly come again for us, whose love and truth we can trust as thoroughly as His power. Our hope has nothing to do with the changeful history of mankind or the nations; it is bound up with the divine purpose of God in Christ for the heavens and the earth. Still we know there are to be such events. The revelation of these events however in no way interferes with the Christian hope, but on the contrary the Christian hope puts them off, so to speak; that is to say, it governs them, not they it. Hence the apostle says “that day shall not come unless there come (not “a” but) the falling away first.” He refers to the awful state of apostasy from all revelation when Christianity will be no longer publicly owned, when the Jews themselves shall once more return to idols and the worship of man as their Messiah and Jehovah, when not a nation on earth shall uphold the law or profess the truth of God.
What is more, I am persuaded that the dissolving process even now rapidly goes on, and that the yielding of some and the anxiety manifested by others of the various powers to get rid of our connection with Christianity is in the hands of the enemy a means for bringing about this apostasy. Not that their indifference to the authority of God in His truth will harm the church of God; whose happiness or hopes ought always to have been above the nations of the earth, centering only in Christ. Miserably has the full blessing long been blighted, and their testimony marred and ruined by mixing up with the world. Still if a nation once adopted the profession of Christianity, it is a serious thing when political motives, with a background of infidelity, induce the desire to abandon it. For no doubt the standard of the cross was once raised by those who would now blot out the public recognition of it. Before many years elapse there will be no such thing as an oath or any other sign in human affairs, which brings in God. Everything that would serve as a witness to what God says, requires, gives, or is to judge, will be put away. The great object the devil has in view, no matter what men who despise prophecy may think, is the apostasy, or open abandonment of all confession of Christ and the true God. Nor is this all. Besides the apostasy there will be the man of sin. In contrast with the man of righteousness, who is gone up to heaven, the man of sin will set himself up on earth, exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sits down in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. He will take the place of being God, not merely in the world but in His temple, not simply in earthly things but in what is peculiarly divine.
And even now among the most enlightened or at least pretentious and energetic nations of the earth, there are many, some of them professional divines, who believe that the day of Christianity is past, that the gospel is old and effete, on the point of waning away, as the first covenant was when the Epistle to the Hebrews was written. They believe that there was once the law, then the gospel; that both are now about to be numbered in the past, though not without influence on the future; still that as systems, the one as the other is bygone, the one about to give place to another and more glorious state, not by God's becoming man, but by man's becoming God. They believe that man as such is the fullest manifestation of God and that there is no being higher or better than the race. This they confess as the true advent and the real coming to reign and judge; when these rights are conceded, they imagine the results will be auspicious and bright beyond all conception for humanity. Germany (and I mention Germany because of its successful stride into power) is the great mover in all this glorification of man: France in a gross but petty way has been working to a similar issue; but the truth is that it will be exhibited throughout the west, not excepting the lands in which we dwell.
These dismal horrors are approaching. Some perhaps yet expect the gospel to prevail. Ο slow to believe the prophets! Who told them that the gospel ever was intended to convert the world? Rather was it sent to take man out of the world. We ought to have the most perfect confidence that the world will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea. But it will be brought about by divine power, by the Lord Jesus Himself. It will not be the fruit of man's efforts, but to the praise of the Savior in person. He alone who once suffered will deal effectually with the proud and God-defying lawlessness of which scripture we have seen, speaks, more than anything ever yet known; for the corruption of the best is always the worst. Judaism perverted was bad enough: but corrupted Christianity is incomparably worse. “The mystery of iniquity,” he goes on to say, “doth already work; only there is one who now letteth (or hindereth), until he be taken out of the way.” It is the Holy Spirit, who will not always control as now, but allow evil to take its course. This will be the removal of the hindrance spoken of here. “And then shall that lawless one be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness (or appearance) of his coming.”
The personal manifestation of the Lord's presence will effect this. As He will come to receive His own, so He will burst forth in visible judgment of the world. Not a word drops about the epiphany of His coming when He takes His own to heaven. It is not only His coming, but the appearing of it, when He deals with the lawless one. He comes to take His own first; after this He manifests His coming and destroys the lawless one.
Thus the Christian hope retains its unbroken and un-obscured power as the immediate object before the believer. There is nothing else to intercept the view, no previous events revealed which interpose between the heart or eye and the coming of the Lord. The Lord intended to keep the saints always looking for Him thus. How could the early church have waited for Him otherwise? Do you join with the infidel Gibbon in saying that the early church was wrong? Indeed it was what the apostles taught and wrote, who were as right as the moderns are wrong. Will you for your tradition make void God's inspired word? Clearly the only way to keep the church constantly expecting Christ was to reveal no events as coming between. Thus the sanctioned practice and the theory of the Christian's habitually looking for Christ are not only intelligible but in perfect harmony with the word of God, whose wisdom shines the more we examine and understand it. There was no mistake in apostolic teaching or in its legitimate fruits. The Thessalonians were in danger from confounding the events of prophecy with the hope; the moderns have fallen into the pit whence apostolic vigilance extricated our earlier brethren. If there are revealed events which must take place before Christ comes, then clearly we could not with intelligence be constantly expecting Him. If the inspired apostles were right in setting Christians to be ever looking out for Christ, those are wrong now who have slipped away from that hope. But God is recalling His saints to wait for Christ as of old, and they are thus waiting. Indeed I fully believe that the cry is going forth, “Behold the bridegroom! go ye out to meet him.”
Do you still affirm that there were necessary delays? It is not a little remarkable how our Lord's parables are so shaped as never to reveal anything really inconsistent with expecting Him always. As far as the parable teaches (and this is the point), it might be the same persons that went out first, then slept, finally on awaking went out again to meet Him, and went in to the marriage. Not that the Spirit said that He was necessarily coming in their lifetime. We can now see how room was left for His tarrying in fact. But the truth was so put that those Christians then, as at every time since, should be expecting Christ; and this because the Christian hope is independent of earthly events. Earthly events are distinctly predicted; but they are never said to be before the Lord's coming to remove us to the Father's house. When the Lord takes up His earthly people, He begins to deal with the earth, and then predicted changes have their place. There will be the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations during that interval. Doubtless there will be an immense work and its fruit after the Lord has removed to heaven those waiting to join Himself in the air, but those (save the martyrs) quickened during that interval will live in the bright days of the kingdom.
Nevertheless as heaven is higher than the earth, so is our hope incomparably beyond theirs. From ignorance of this and confusion many a Christian was stumbled by those who insisted that the risen saints dwell with · Christ on earth in the millennial reign. For who that has the sense of heavenly glory could give it up for all the blessings of the earth? On the other hand there is no small defect in the faith of such as think that God made the world to be forever as miserable a place as it is now or only a shade better. He has made known to us His purpose to wrest earth and mankind upon it out of the hands of the destroyer. He will assuredly purify it and bring it back to more than pristine beauty, and the race to joy and blessedness, entirely to the praise of Jesus. The man who suffered is the One who is glorified and is about to appear.
Had there been time now to have glanced at the visions of the Revelation, it would have been easy to confirm what is here advanced. But it appears to me wiser not to encumber minds with details. Quite enough has been said to prove the point before us, and a very important point it is. Nor do I doubt that you will find, as you study the New Testament, that a considerable part of scripture falls under one or other of these two heads. As with everything else in the Bible, the moment you possess the real clue to a truth of God, you have that which explains many a point that seemed, previously, obscure or difficult.

Christian Life in the Spirit

Phil. 2; 3
The whole of this epistle contains very little doctrine (doctrine being just alluded to in chapter 3); but it gives us, in a remarkable manner, the experience of a Christian life in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is full of blessing in that character-the life above seen down here in a man through the power of the Spirit of God. So much is this the case that the very word “sin” is not found in it. When he speaks of justification and righteousness, it is not in contrast with sin, but rather with human and legal righteousness. The flesh was there. At the very time Paul wrote the epistle he had got the thorn in the flesh to prevent it from acting; but we see in him one rising above the flesh and all hindrances, that Christ might be magnified in him. Whether to live or die, he did not know; he would have liked to be gone, but in love to the church he says, Better for you to remain; and so, counting upon Christ and knowing it is better, he knows he will remain. He knows how to abound and how to suffer need; he is pressing towards the mark for the prize-it is the only thing he has to do.
The graciousness of a Christian is in chapter 2, the energy in chapter 3, the absence of care in chapter iv.; but it is all by the power of the Spirit of God. It is well for us to lay it to heart. We are the epistle of Christ known and read of all men-an epistle written not in stone, but in the fleshy tables of the heart. We are set as Christians to be a letter of recommendation of Christ before the world. Yet it gives us the fullest and blessedest confidence towards God if we take that ground; for, if we are in the presence of the world for God, Christ is in the presence of God for us. His work has perfectly settled that question, and He is every moment appearing in the presence of God for us.
We are loved as He is loved. In every shape in which we can look at it, all is a fixed settled thing according to the counsels of God in grace; it is in a poor earthen vessel, but our relationship is settled, all that belonged to the old man cleared away, and all that belongs to Christ, the new Man, our positive portion. Not only are our debts paid, but we are to be conformed to the image of His Son, and He has obtained for us the glory which is His own. “The glory which thou hast given me I have given them.” He has given Himself on the cross to meet what we were, and He has obtained for us all that He has. This is the way Christ gives—not as the world. If the world gives, they have it not any longer; but Christ never gives in that way—never gives away, but brings us into all He has. If I light up one candle by another, I lose nothing of the first; and such is the way He gives. I speak of blessed principles. “My peace I give unto thee.... that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” “Thy words thou hast given me I have given them.... that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them.” He became a man on purpose to bring us as men into the same glory as Himself. That relationship we are brought into already. “I go to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.” If I look at righteousness and holiness, I am as He is; if at the Son, I am before the Father as a son; and, as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall bear the image of the heavenly.
The work that entitles us to this is absolutely and totally finished. The Spirit makes us first feel our need in order to our possessing it, but the work is finished. In order to get our path clear, we must see where He has brought us. I cannot expect anyone to behave as my child, if he is not my child; you must be in the place before you can have the conduct suited to that place, or be under the obligations which belong to it; and it is this last part I desire to look at a little to-night. “You hath He reconciled,” not brought half-way: as to relationship, brought into Christ. That is all. Through the work of the cross He put away our sins, and when He had done it, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. He finished the work which His Father gave Him to do; and in Hebrew the Spirit contrasts Christ's work with that work of the priests which was never finished, so that they never sat down.
We are perfect as pertaining to the conscience. A blunder often made is confounding perfection as to our state with perfection as to our conscience. When once we have understood the work of Christ, we are perfect as regards the conscience. If I look up to God, I can have no thought of His ever imputing sin to me again, or I could not have peace with God; and this is so true that it is said, if this work was not perfectly done, Christ must suffer again. But He cannot drink that dreadful cup again, the very thought of which made Him sweat great drops of blood. If there is any sin still to be put away (I speak now of believers), Christ must suffer again, and this can never be. God has set Him at His right hand as having finished the work:” I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do; now, Ο Father, glorify thou me.” He will deal with His enemies, no doubt, when He rises up in judgment; but, as to believers, He is sitting down because He has no more to do. I am not speaking now, of course, of the daily grace He ministers to them. It is settled, and settled with this double aspect that, the purpose of God being to bring us into the same glory as His Son, the work of Christ not only cleared away our guilt but obtained that glory for us. We have not got it yet; but the work which is our title to it is finished, though we have not yet the glory to which it is our title. We are anointed and sealed with the Spirit, and He is the earnest of our inheritance. We are to the praise of the glory of His grace, but not yet to the praise of His glory, which will be when He comes the second time to bring us into the glory which His work obtained for us when He came the first time. And our life stands between the two—the cross and the glory.
We are here in this world, beloved friends, in the midst of temptations, snares, and difficulties, everything around us tending to draw us away; but the power of God is in us. We know that we are sons of God, though the world knows us not. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; and every one that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” The practical effect of beholding the glory of God is to change us into the same image.
When Moses came down from the mountain, they were afraid to look in his face, because the law required what they had not to give; but now I see the glory which excels, the glory in Christ, which is infinitely brighter. But the glory in the face of Jesus Christ is the witness that all my sins are put away. That which shone in the face of Moses required what man ought to have been as a child of Adam, but it came to man who was a sinner. It required righteousness, and pronounced a curse if it was not there. Now I see it in the face of Him who bore my sins in His own body on the tree. The Christian sees the Man who died for his sins now in the glory as Man, a witness that the work is done, and a testimony to the place unto which He is bringing us; and, meanwhile, we have the testimony of the Holy Ghost that our souls may be perfectly clear as to this.
That is where the believer is set, resting in entire confidence upon the efficacy of the work of Christ, and, upon the other hand, waiting for God's Son from heaven, -converted for this: “Ye yourselves as men who wait for their Lord.” Standing here is perfect liberty, for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
And here we have the proper experience of a Christian as led by the Spirit of God. We have in chapter 3 a Christian as to his walk, Christ having laid hold of him for that; as in 2 Cor. 5: “He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing,” &c. He has wrought us for that, not only cleared our sins. He sees Christ in glory before him (Paul had really seen Him there), and that was what he was going to get. “This one thing I do.... I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” What he was doing was to win Christ. He had not yet obtained Him, or got into the glory; but it was the only thing he was doing in the world: his whole life was that.
In chapter 2, on the other hand, Christ is looked at, not as going up to glory, but as coming down to the cross; and here we see the graciousness of His character. By this our hearts and affections are won, and we are formed into the likeness of this graciousness. And thus we have the two great things that govern the Christian: the glory that is before him, and the grace that has been shown him.
One word as to verses 12, 13: “Not as in my presence only,” &c. Often this “fear and trembling” is used to cast a doubt upon our relations with God. Yet it is not this we have to fear about. But we are in the midst of temptations, everything around us, the power of Satan distracting and turning the heart from Christ; and he presses upon them that, now he is absent, they must take care. He had worked for them when he was with them, he had met the craft of the enemy in wisdom and apostolic power; but he was in prison when he wrote this. He says, “Therefore, now, you must fight for yourselves;” but this is in contrast with his fighting for them; and they were to do it, for it was God that worked in them. The contrast is between (not God and man working, but) Paul and the Philippians. God it was who did work in them, were Paul there; and, if they had lost Paul, God who wrought in them was still there.
But, then, what a solemn thing for us, beloved friends, if we have the sense of this, that we are left down here to make good our path to glory against Satan and all the difficulties of the way! It is enough to make us grave. A false step will throw me into the snares of Satan. I have to be serious; I have the promise of being kept, but I need to be serious.
I have spoken of the finished work, but there is another thing that exercises us: how far can we look at the flesh and say we have done with it? And this is where the practical difficulty comes, if you are in earnest and desiring to walk in fellowship with the Father and the Son. I ought never to walk after the flesh. The existence of the flesh does not give me a bad conscience, but if I allow it to act it does. Whenever I let even an evil thought in, communion is interrupted. It is not that the flesh is gone as a matter of fact; not that there is nothing in us which Satan can tempt, but there is power in us not to let it act. The flesh is not changed. The word is as plain as ever it can be as to what the flesh is. If left to itself, it becomes so bad that God had to destroy the world. Noah, saved out of the old world, gets drunk. The law is given, and the flesh is not subject to it. Christ comes in grace, and the flesh crucifies Him. The Holy Ghost is given, and the flesh lusts against it; and we get the case of one in the third heaven, and the flesh ready to puff him up. The flesh could not be mended, but he gets a thorn in it. But that is no reason why I should ever let it act; it never ought.
Scripture does not speak of our being conformed to Christ here; it says we are to walk as He walked. But the place of conformity to Christ is the glory, and “he that hath this hope in him purifieth himself;” that is to say, he is not pure, he has not attained. The place where I shall be like Christ is in glory. He has obtained it for me; and then, my eye looking upon Him by faith, I am changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit.
I find this the great truth which Scripture does give me: not only that Christ died for my sins, but that 1 died with Christ. In the epistle to the Romans, in the first part, you get all the sins dealt with, the great truth of Christ being substituted for us on the cross—bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, He is delivered for our offenses; and, in the subsequent part taken up, is the question, not of sins, but of sin—not the fruit, but the tree, and we are shown not to be in the flesh if the Spirit of Christ is in us.
I do not live by the life of Adam, but by the life of Christ; and this is where the total difference is for the Christian. But it is not only that I have a new life as quickened by Christ, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, nor that He has been crucified for me so that my guilt is removed, but I am crucified with Christ.
In Colossians we read, “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” —therefore dead in this world. This is God's declaration of our state as Christians. In Romans, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed.” “In that he died, he died unto sin.... wherefore reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God (not in Adam, but) through (or in) Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is faith's estimate of it, and this is where you find real deliverance and freedom from the bondage of sin. It is “no condemnation” not to them whose sins Christ bore, but “to them that are in Christ Jesus.” God condemned sin in the flesh: He did not forgive it, He condemned it. If I get the law, it condemns me; but Christ—does He condemn me? No; for He has taken the condemnation for me, and in Him God has condemned sin in the flesh, and I reckon myself dead because it was in death He did so. Christ's death is, as all that He has wrought, available to me; and therefore I reckon myself dead. In 2 Corinthians we get the carrying this out in practice; “Always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in your mortal bodies.” And then he speaks of the exercises which God sends for our good, to test this realization in us and make it effectual: “Alway delivered unto death,” &c. We all fail for want of watchfulness, but that is what our life ought to be.
Suppose I have got a man in my house who is always at mischief. I cannot turn him out, but if I lock him up he can do no harm; is not changed, but I am free in the house. If I leave the door open, he is at mischief again; but we are to keep him locked up, this is what we are called to do—what God calls us to do. The world will not have this; it will mend and improve man, cultivate the old man, as if it could produce good fruit, because it does not see how bad it is. The world would dig about it and dung it. That has been tried. God cuts it down and grafts us with Christ. This condemning and cutting down was in the cross of Christ; not, of course, that He had any sin, but as made sin for us; and I know, not only my sins cleared away, but I am crucified with Christ, and my life hid with Him in God.
And this is available for power, if I carry it about in my heart. Supposing we honestly held ourselves dead; can Satan tempt a dead man? But in order for this, it must not be putting one's armor on when the danger is there; but, living with Christ, my heart is full of Him.
Would a woman who had heard that her child was killed or hurt at the other end of the town be thinking of what she saw in the shop-windows as she ran toward him? No; she would have just enough sense to find her way. If your hearts were fixed like that on Christ, nine-tenths of the temptations that come upon you would be gone: you would be thinking of something else, and outward things would only bring out sweetness, as they did with Christ; for we are never tempted above that which we are able.
Saints, if in earnest, have got to realize not only the putting away of their sins, but also the having died with Christ; and this delivers from the power of sin.
We see in chapter iii. a Christian with one object: knowing Christ has laid hold of him for glory, and his heart is running after Christ. I am to have no other object, though I may have many things to do. He is “in all” as the power of life, and He is “all” as the object of that life. He is all and in all. (See Col. 3:12.) This is again summed up in the latter part of Gal. 2: “Not I, but Christ liveth in me;” and then the object: “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Then there is the sense of His perfect love: “Who loved me and gave himself for me.” The heart is fixed on Him, and follows hard after Him.
There is another thing—the spirit and character in which we walk down here; and this we see in Christ coming down. When I have got this blessed place, Christ my life, holy boldness, yea, to know we are sitting in Him in heavenly places, the place a Christian is called to (a wonderful thing, I grant) is to go out from God and be an epistle of Christ. I joy in God, have got the blessedness of what He is, and go on in communion with Him to show out His character in the world. This is in chapter 2.
Ought I to walk as Christ walked? Every Christian will own that: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Suppose my soul has tasted this perfect love, and it is well we should recollect it, God's love shed abroad in our hearts, and know, be conscious down here, that we are loved as Jesus was loved; for if I really know God as thus revealed in Christ, what do I believe about Him? What put it into God's heart to send Christ down here? He knew how He would be treated. Did the world? It would not have Him when He came. It was all in His own heart! Perfect love in His heart; the unsuggested origin of every blessing. What character did it take in Christ? Was it staying up in heaven and saying, “You behave well and come up here?” No! we all know that. But He who, in the form of God, in the very same glory, thought it no robbery to be equal with God (mark the contrast with the first Adam), made Himself of no reputation; and what brought this about? Purest love, love coming to serve.
For Christ took the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man. He emptied Himself of all the glory—the very opposite of the first Adam. Divine love came to serve; a new thing for God—the only new thing. And this is what I learn. I know this love, I know that I am made the righteousness of God in Him; so that I stand before Him, and then I come out from Him towards the world to bring out this blessed character. I have learned the love, and now I must come out and show it. “Be ye followers of God as dear children.” You are children: that is all settled. Now you go and give yourself as Christ did, in whom this' love is known—a sacrifice to God, and for us. The spirit of love is always lowliness, because it makes itself a servant. I get the grace that brought Christ down. It is very difficult for us to bow: I know that, beloved friends. He “went to another village.” There was perfect meekness; but it tries men—some more than others; but the moment perfect lovers seen, it comes and takes the lowest place to serve others. Paul endured all things for the elect's sake, that they might obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
And here I find what is entirely beyond law. Law tells me to love others as myself; grace tells me to give myself up entirely for my neighbor or for anybody. Did not God forgive you? You go and forgive your enemies. Is He kind to the unthankful and the evil? You go and be the same. It tests all the fibers of our hearts, all the pride and vanity and selfishness that are in us. You like doing your own will.
“He humbled himself and became obedient to death;” He goes so low down that He could go no lower; “even to the death of the cross.” But, then, “God hath highly exalted him.” He was the first grand example of “he that humbleth himself shall he exalted.”
Blessed be His name! He will never give up His service: it is the very thing He shows us, and in which He would that our hearts should see the perfection of His grace. It is what He is doing in John 13 He had been their servant down here, but now they might think that there was an end of His service. No. He says, I cannot stop with you, but I must have you with me: “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” He does a slave's work; and this is what He does now. We pick up dirt as we go—there is no excuse for it; but then is Christ up there, the Advocate with the Father. And, even in the time of glory, “He will gird himself and come forth and serve them;” He will be there to minister the blessing Himself. Our hearts want to learn the perfections of that love in which He came always down, down, till He could come no lower.
Are we willing to walk in that path? No one would deny we ought; but are we disposed to do it? Would our hearts he glad of the power of that grace which, holding the flesh as dead, can say, Here I am in the power of that love to walk as everybody's servant? We are to esteem others better than ourselves. If my heart is full of Christ, I judge myself for everything not like Christ: I judge the evil in myself because I see the blessedness in Christ. But what do I see in my brother? I see Christ in him. The effect of being full of Christ is to make me think little of self and much of my brother: there is no real difficulty about it if one is.
“Do all things without murmuring,” &c. If you take every single part of this passage, you will find it a statement of what Christ was here. He was blameless and harmless, the Son of God, without rebuke in the midst of this evil world; He was the light of the world, and He was the word of life.
If I reckon the flesh dead, only the life of Christ comes out; if only this came out, we should be a very wonderfully blessed kind of people! To him that hath shall more be given. If I yield myself to God as one alive from the dead, I have got fruit here unto holiness, as well as fullness of blessing hereafter.
I would ask you, beloved friends, do you purpose to be Christians? Are you willing to yield yourselves to God as not having one bit of will of your own? There is power in Christ, not to say “I am pure,” but, always having my eye on Him, to purify myself.

Difference Between Christianity and the Future Kingdom

Psa. 14 and Isa. 59, which the Apostle Paul quotes as proofs of sin in the Jews, both end with deliverance in Jerusalem by power. In Rom. 3 the sin is met by present justification through the blood of Jesus. What a testimony to the difference between Christianity and the future kingdom of Jehovah!

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 1

(1 Peter 3:18-20)
It may interest and I trust also profit the reader, if we not only examine this scripture but review the questions raised on it for ages. Here many a Christian finds perplexity, rejecting what does not fall in with the analogy of faith, yet unwilling to doubt what seems intimated by the letter of the word. He is ready to suspect himself of failure in spiritual intelligence and to question whether there might not be some unconscious insubjection of heart and mind to the perfect revelation of God, The chief at least of the speculations in which men of reputation have indulged in ancient and modern times will claim a notice, in the hope of satisfying the believer that human thoughts are ever worthless and that divine writ is clothed by the Spirit with self-evidencing light and power for all who have their hearts opened to the Lord and are self-judged in His sight. It will be seen too that the most exact criticism in the details of the clauses confirms the general scope derived from the context as a whole, and that grammatical precision points with equal force in the same direction. Thus from every point of view the truth comes out with a fullness of proofs proportioned to the closeness of our investigation, once we have the right object and aim of the passage clearly ascertained and held firmly before our eyes.
I. The true text is ὅτι καὶ Χριστὸς ἅπαξ περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἒπαθε, δίκαιος ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων, ἵνα ἡμᾶς προσαγάγη τῶ θεῶ, θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι, ἐν ὧ καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῆ πνεύμασι πορευθεὶς ἐκήρνξεν, ἀπειθήσασί ποτε ὅτε ἀπεξεδέχετο ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ μακροθυμία ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ, εἰς ἥν ὁλίγοι, τοῦτ' ἔστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί, διεσώθησαν δἰ ὕδατος. “Because Christ also once suffered for sins, just for unjust, that he might bring us to God, put to death in flesh but made alive in [the] Spirit, in which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison, disobedient on a time when the long-suffering of God was waiting in [the] days of Noah while an ark was being prepared, in which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.”
The connection and scope is evident. The apostle is exhorting the believers to a patient life of suffering so as to fill with shame those who vented their spite on their good behavior in Christ. Who could gainsay that it was better, did the will of God so will, to suffer while doing well than doing ill; and this because Christ also suffered (but He suffered once, once for all) for sins? This should be enough: we should suffer not for sins, but only for righteousness or for Christ's name sake. It was His to suffer for us, this once and forever, just for unjust persons (for such were we), that He might bring us to God. It is ours to suffer at times especially, but in principle always while in this present evil world. The καί connects Christ and us as suffering, but the contrast is as striking as it is morally suggestive. To understand with some περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν as a point of comparison between Him and us under such a junction is to miss the reasoning utterly, not to speak of failure in reverence towards the Savior in that work which stands far above all comparison. This ought to have been too plain to need further reproof from δίκαιος ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων, where His solitary and unapproachable place is set out. It was His alone thus to bring us near to God. The participles that follow tell us how this was done: “Put to death in flesh but made alive in [the] Spirit.”
But here a very important question arises. The article is certainly to be eliminated: what is the bearing of its absence on the meaning? If the articles were inserted, τῆ σαρκί, and τὦπν., these would be the contrast of the two parts of our Lord's being as man, the outer and the inner; were it τήν a. and το πν., it would be the utterly false thought that His Spirit as man was the object of quickening. The anarthrous form points to the character of the acts specified; but so far is it from denying the agency of the Holy Ghost in the quickening spoken of, that the presence of the article would be more consistent with Christ's Spirit as a man. No doubt, when it is intended to present the Holy Spirit objectively or extrinsically, the article is required (and, as far as I can mark the usages, the prep. ἐν or ὑπό); it is excluded where the manner of His action is meant. On the other hand, wherever the spirit either of Christ as man or of any other is to be expressed, the article is indispensable, as may be seen in Matt. 5:3; 26:41; 27:50; Mark 14:38; Luke 10:21; John 11:33; 13:21; 19:30; Acts 19:21; 20:22 Cor. 5:3, 5, &c. Again, the following cases without the article clearly mean the Holy Spirit, but as characterizing the action rather than specifying the person, though He must ever be a person: Matt. 22:43; John 3:5; 4:23, 24; Rom. 8:1, 4, 9, 13; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2, 15, 16, 18, 25; Eph. 2:22; 3:5; 5:18; 6:18; Col. 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Peter 4:6; Rev. 1:10; 4:2: 17:3; 21:10. The attentive reader of these instances will see that the turning-point is not the presence or absence of a preposition, as some scholars have thought. Words after a preposition follow the ordinary rules. Only, with prepositions capable of usage with a statement of manner, as κατά, ἐκ, ἐν, the anarthrous form is of course more common. Thus ἐν πμεύματι would mean in the power of the Spirit, the manner of being, or of being carried, built, justified, of blessing, preaching, or whatever else may be in question.
Hence the meaning here seems to be that Christ was put to death in respect of flesh, but quickened or made alive in respect of Spirit, in the power of which He went and preached to the spirits in prison. The ἐν ὧ falls in with the Holy Spirit still more as that wherein Christ acted in testimony. It is not said that He went to the prison and there preached to the spirits; but that in the power of the Spirit He went and preached to the spirits that are there. For that τοῖς ἐν φυλακῆ πνεύμασιν can signify “that are in prison” as naturally at least as that were there is certain: only the necessity of the context could really justify the latter sense. But if the context favor “that are,” it is the simple unforced bearing of the phrase. And that it does favor it is to me plain from ἁπειθήσασί ποτε ὅτε κ.τ.λ. which points to an antecedent time of guilt, the ground of their being now imprisoned.
It may be doubted then whether quickened “by the Spirit” best gives the meaning of the apostolic statement: for that would most naturally suppose the Spirit as an exterior agent. Still the anarthrous construction, as is certain from the numerous places cited, does not at all exclude the Holy Spirit: only it speaks of the manner of the quickening, not of the personal agent. But the thought of His power is conveyed by the phrase that follows ἐν ὧ, wherein Christ is said to have gone and preached, &c. Thereby it is pointedly contradistinguished from πορευθείς in verse 22, which is not qualified by ἐν ὧ or ἐν πνεύματι, but left in its strict sense of a personal change of locality to heaven. Thus it is excessively rash to say that the rendering of the English version here is wrong either grammatically or theologically, though it is more correct to cleave as closely as our language permits to the Greek style of expressing “Spirit” as the character rather than agent of the quickening of Christ, though agent too He was beyond doubt.
Bishop Middleton wrote with great force on the insertion of the article, but he was not equally successful in accounting for its omission. Prepositions he treated as exceptions to rule, and anarthrous cases like σαρκί, πνεύματι, as practically adverbial. Hence in our passage, he held the apostle to mean that “Christ was dead carnally but alive spiritually;” as indeed he thought would flow from τὧ πν. if the article had been authentic. (Doctrine of the Greek Art. p. 430, Rose's Ed., 1855.) The only difference is, he thought, that by retaining the article we destroy the form of the antithesis between a. and πν. But instances already given show how imperfect this able treatise is in requiring either the article or a preposition to accompany πν. in the genitive or dative in order to mean the Spirit of God. Rom. 8:13 to which he himself refers refutes his position; and here Dean Alford, who is so strong against “by the Spirit” in 1 Peter 3:18, translates the same word exactly in the way condemned: “but if by the Spirit ye slay the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” So, on Gal. 5:5, A. expressly remarks on πνεύματι “not' mente' [Fritz.] nor 'spiritually,' Middleton, al., but by the [Holy] Spirit, [reff.] as opposed to σ.” the very rendering he afterward treats as wrong grammatically and theologically. Again, on ver. 16 he particularly observes that πν without the article may and does here mean “by the Spirit” [i.e. of God]. His reason, probably after Winer or the like, is invalid; for it is not because it is a sort of proper name, but because it is employed characteristically. There is no need to multiply proofs against the comments on πν in 1 Peter 3:18—proofs equally at least against Middleton. Consequently Hammond, Pearson, Barrow, &c, the divines who denied the applicability of the passage to Christ's descent to hades, were not so far mistaken as thinks Dr. Ε. Η Browne, the present Bishop of Ely. They contend that the true meaning of the text is that our Lord by the Spirit in Noah preached to the antediluvians, who are now for their disobedience imprisoned in hell.
“This interpretation of the passage,” says the Bishop, “depends on the accuracy of the English version. That version reads in the eighteenth verse ‘quickened by the Spirit.' It is to be noted however that all the versions except one (the Ethiopic) seem to have understood it 'quickened in spirit:' and it is scarcely possible, upon any correct principles of interpretation, to give any other translation to the words. If therefore we follow the original, in preference to the English version, we must read the passage thus: ‘Christ suffered for us, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quick in His Spirit; by which (or in which) He went and preached (or proclaimed) to the spirits in safe keeping,' &c.” (An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, &c, 1868, pp. 94, 95.)
I confess to surprise at such a rendering as “quick in His Spirit” of ζωοποιηθεὶς τὧ πνεύματι. For, first, though there is an occasional looseness in the LXX, it is certain that the New Testament strictly and exclusively employs ζωογονέω for keeping alive, ζωοποιέω for making alive. Secondly, is it not singular to reason from a non-authentic word as the original? And the Bishop of Ely (see note p. 94) knows that the best critics reject the article before πν. If absent, it is impossible for πν to mean “in His Spirit.”
Besides, the resulting theology is as strange as the grammar; for he proceeds, “There is, it will be observed, a marked antithesis between ‘flesh' and 'spirit.' In Christ's Flesh or Body, He was put to death. Men were ‘able to kill the body,' but they could not kill His soul. He was therefore alive in His Soul, and in or by that He went to the souls who were in safe custody (ἐν φυλακῆ); His Body was dead, but His Spirit or Soul went to their spirits or souls. This is the natural interpretation of the passage; and if it ended here, it would contain no difficulty, and its sense would never have been doubted. It would have contained a simple assertion of our Lord's descent to the spirits of the dead.” To my mind such a sense must seem far below scripture. For what a poor inference that men could not kill Christ's soul! Why they could not kill the soul of the least of His saints, nay, nor of the most wretched of His enemies. Indeed “kill the soul” in any case is a singular phrase to use of any one, most of all to feel it worth while denying it in the case of our Lord Jesus. How different His language! “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” “He was therefore alive in His soul” is a feeble platitude for the issue of the clause, as surely as it supposes a wrong sense given to ζωοποιηθείς, not to speak of the confusion of the soul with the spirit in a way foreign to all exact speech. The interpretation therefore would be in every respect unnatural even if it ended here.
“When we follow, the gulf widens which severs truth from error. “But it is added that He not only went to the spirits in safekeeping, but that He went and preached to them. Hence it has been inferred that, if He preached, they had need of, and He offered to them, repentance. Hence the passage has appeared to savor of false doctrine, and hence its force has been explained away. But the word ‘preached,' or ‘proclaimed,' by no means necessarily infers that He preached either faith or repentance. Christ had just finished the work of salvation, had made an end of sin, and conquered hell. Even the angels seemed not to be fully enlightened, as to all the work of grace, which God performs for man. It is not likely then, that the souls of the departed patriarchs should have fully understood or known all that Christ had just accomplished for them. They indeed may have known, and no doubt did know, the great truth that redemption was to be wrought for all men by the suffering and death of the Messiah. But before the accomplishment of this great work, neither angels nor devils seem fully to have understood the mystery of it. If this be true, when the blessed Soul of our crucified Redeemer went among the souls of those whom He had just redeemed, what can be more probable than that He should have 'proclaimed' (έκήρυξεν) to them that their redemption had been fully effected, that Satan had been conquered, that the great sacrifice had been offered up? If angels joy over one sinner that repenteth; may we not suppose paradise filled with rapture when the Soul of Jesus came among the souls of His redeemed, Himself the herald (κήρνξ) of His own victory?”
It is certain, however, that the preaching of which the apostle here speaks was addressed neither to angels nor to devils nor yet to patriarchs, but expressly to those who did not hearken to it in the days of the divine longsuffering just before the deluge. The text itself therefore dissolves the airy fabric we have just seen; and proves that the preaching was addressed, like all other proclamations of the truth, to faith, but, as in this world constantly, met with unbelief and insubjection of heart in those who heard. Indeed in p. 96 Dr. B. confesses that the proof-text is not favorable to the point they would make it prove. “The only (?) difficulty, in this interpretation of this difficult passage, is in the fact that the preaching is specially said to have been addressed to those who had once been disobedient in the days of Noah. That many, who died in the flood, may yet have been saved from final damnation, seems highly probable, and has been the opinion of many learned divines. The flood was a great temporal judgment, and it follows not that 'all who perished in the flood are to perish everlastingly in the lake of fire.' But the real difficulty consists in the fact, that the proclamation of the finishing of the great work of salvation is represented by Peter as having been addressed to those antediluvian penitents (?), and no mention is made of the penitents of later ages, who are equally interested in the tidings.”
The really important thing for all to weigh is that this difficulty is created by the interpretation that Christ went in His soul and preached to the spirits in the separate state. The text itself speaks of His preaching to such as had been once disobedient in Noah's days. The only unforced inference is that these are in prison because of their disobedience of old, not that being in prison they obeyed Christ's preaching in hades. Nor is there the smallest hint that, having perished in that great temporal judgment, they were alleviated by any subsequent preaching of our Lord, but rather that they are kept waiting for a still more tremendous, because an eternal, judgment before the great white throne. They despised Noah the preacher of righteousness, but not without impunity, for the flood took them all away; but worse remains than the flood brought in upon the world of the ungodly. They are kept for judgment like such angels as sinned.
(To be continued)

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 10

(1 Peter 3:18-21.)
There is another work to be noticed before I bring this paper to a close, because it seeks to yoke our text with the general bearing of the unholy scheme of universalism. Not that there is anything intrinsically which calls for a notice, but that the work bears witness to the prevalence of infidel thought now put forth without a blush by professing ministers of Christ and spread far and wide by those regarded as respectable publishers. The usual guarantees of orthodoxy fast vanish away.
“That even as to the saints, the intermediate state between death and the resurrection will be one of progression I firmly believe, and on that point I shall have something more to say in my next sermon. But what of those who die in either utter ignorance of the truth as it is in Jesus or in conscious rejection of it? If ultimately all things are to be reconciled to God; if the kingdom of Christ is to eventuate in the restoration of all things, then it is evident in regard to those who are not saved from sin and brought to God in this life, there must be some provision for their rectification and restoration in an after state of existence. Let it be admitted that holy scripture does most clearly and distinctly teach that all things in heaven and earth are to be gathered up again into one in Christ, and that by Him everything is to be brought into subjection to God, that in His name everything is to bend and every tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father; let this be admitted, and I do not see how the inference can be escaped, that, even though there were no specific revelation on the point, there must be some provision hereafter for the reconciliation and restoration of those who in this life have not been reconciled and restored:” (Pages 135, 136.)
It need surprise none that in his next sermon Mr. S. has not one word to prove the alleged progression of saints in the intermediate state. “The life then (says he) of the sainted dead, we may believe, is one of blessed hope and holy expectation; and if, as before said, if be one also of nearer communion with God and Christ, we may believe it to be a life of progress and development,” &c. (Page 150.) But supposing we believe nothing of the sort without scripture, what has he to say? Nothing. The idea of growth then is wholly unwarranted by revelation, and contrary to every instinct of the believer, who weighs the force of what scripture does say of our sojourn here below as the place of growth, exercise, and testimony. I turn however to what is of even graver concern, the perversion of the scriptures which speak of reconciling and restoring all things, to draw a similar conclusion as to the impenitent and unbelieving in the teeth of the plainest and most solemn warnings of God. Every believer must feel the utter fallacy of such arguments.
Then, on the one hand, Col. 1 distinguishes between “you hath he reconciled” and reconciling of all things. But even so they are only the things on the earth and the things in the heavens; not a word about the things infernal, not to speak of persons who are nowhere before us in this reconciliation of all things. It is a question of the universe; not of men, but contradistinguished from the saints who are already and expressly said to be reconciled, whereas the reconciliation of all things is of course future.
On the other hand, when the Spirit of God treats the subjection of every creature to the Lord, infernal beings are just as distinctly added to those heavenly and earthly (Phil. 2), because the point there is the compulsory bowing of every knee and the confession of every tongue. Reconciliation is carefully avoided here; for judgment is just as certainly a means God the Father will use to enforce the honor of His Son on the unbelieving (John 5), as the gift of eternal life bows the heart of the believer now before His glory and His love.
Eph. 1 quite confirms this evident and important truth. For though we are there shown the mystery of God's will, according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself for the administration of the fullness of the times, to gather up together (or, head up) all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth; we see, first, that infernal things are quite left out of this blessed gathering under His headship; and, secondly, that the saints, or the church, do not form a part of all things, in heaven or earth, but are associated with Christ in His inheritance over them all. Compare not only verse 11 but also 22, and indeed scripture in general. It is the universe distinguished from those who reign with Christ over it all.
Thus the awful revelation of the unending punishment of the ungodly and unbelieving remains intact and unqualified; and the mischievous and wicked folly is exposed of such as would distort the disclosures of the regeneration of creation, or “restitution of all things” into a spurious hope for the final recovery of the lost. Not a hint of such expectations appears in scripture. The alleged passages refer to the inheritance or to the judgment, not to the heirs or to salvation. To the deliverance of the groaning creation of which Paul speaks in Rom. 8, the prophets bear witness, not one, not a single shred of the New Testament, to the reconciliation and restoration of those who in this life have not been reconciled and restored. With this falls all possibility of such inference.
But Mr. S. thinks that there is a sort of direct intimation in the passage before us, wherein Peter tells us how Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison. His short paraphrase however is quite wrong; and he only adds to the number of those he characterizes as trying to make the text mean almost anything but what it does mean, if taken in the simple literality of its words. I utterly deny for reasons already given that it means or speaks of a preaching to spirits in another state of existence. A superficial glance might infer so, not a careful or exact examination of what is said.
“Suffering death (says Mr. S., p. 138) as far as the flesh was concerned, his body being put to death upon the cross, but continuing to live in respect of his spirit, which did not die, but passed from the body on its dying, and descended into hell, that is, hades, the place of disembodied spirits, ‘in which also,' says the apostle, that is, in his spirit, ‘He went and preached to the spirits in prison.'“
Now this paraphrase is manifestly and hopelessly inaccurate. “Continuing to live” is a false rendering of ζωυποιηθείς, which is the less excusable as the Authorized Version in every hand gives the only correct translation. Again, “in respect of His Spirit” is ignorance or neglect of the true text, which has no article in the Greek; if “His Spirit” were meant, the idiom would require it. As it is, the Holy Spirit is intended, though this rather as a characteristic state than drawing attention to the person who so wrought in power. Compare Timothy 3:16, where, as here, it is hard in our language to avoid the article; but it is the Spirit that is meant, certainly not His spirit. Lastly, the interpretation of the clause is false; for as a whole it points to our Lord's resurrection, not to His spirit's passing from the body on His dying, to say nothing of foisting in here a descent into hell or hades, of which the passage says not a word, but “in which also” (that is, Spirit) He went and preached to the spirits in prison. That is, Christ in Spirit went and preached to them. Not a word intimates that the disembodied spirit of Christ went there; not a word that He went and preached in the prison, disembodied or not; not a word that, when preached to, they were spirits in prison. There would be precise phrases in the Greek tongue for expressing any of these ideas, which the paraphrase assumes; as they are not employed, the only fair and sound inference is that they were not meant, and that the paraphrase departs from the simple literality of the words, which I am quite content to take as they are, refusing every sense save that which flows from their precise grammatical import.
Nor is it allowable to Mr. S. to cite the late Dean Alford for what these words mean, for he expressly declares that they do not mean “universal restitution” (Mr. S.'s hypothesis), any more than the Romanist dream of purgatory. “It is not purgatory, it is not universal restitution; but it is one which throws blessed light on one of the darkest enigmas of the divine justice: the cases where the final doom seems infinitely out of proportion to the lapse which incurred it.” Did the Dean realize his own thought? In my opinion he did not; for the real difficulty to speculating benevolence is not God's visiting the antediluvian rejecters of Noah's preaching in the destruction of the deluge, but the everlasting punishment of all unbelievers. There is no darkening of divine justice in the former, any more than a ray of light cast on the latter in this passage. It is implied indeed that besides perishing by the deluge their spirits are kept shut up for the day of judgment; but I can hardly imagine that this is the “blessed light” Dean A. cherished in His lively and poetical mind. It is certain at least that he explicitly denies that the word means that universal restitution which Mr. S. would draw from them: what he himself inferred is left, purposely or not, in the utmost vagueness. So it is apt to be where we have not consciously the known truth of God. He even throws out the hint, of which Mr. S. does not fail to avail himself, consistently enough on the scheme of universalism; most inconsistently on Dean A.'s, if indeed he had anything definite before his mind. “And as we cannot say to what other cases this κήρυγμα may have applied, so it would be presumption in us to limit its occurrence or its efficacy. The reason of mentioning here these sinners, above other sinners, appears to be, their connection with the type of baptism which follows. If so, who shall say that the blessed act was confined to them?” (Com. in loco.) To me the real presumption seems the fancy of an efficacy which the context disproves, and the hinting at an enlargement of its occurrence without the smallest evidence. Undoubtedly that the Spirit of Christ preached to those spirits in prison was a “blessed act.” All we know of the result for those preached to is that they were “disobedient,” and suffered its consequences in being kept” shut up (as Dean Alford says) “in the place of the departed awaiting the final judgment:” a description which in no way suits the departed saints, who are with Christ in Paradise and come not into judgment. One may boldly say that the “blessed act” Dean A. fancies of our Lord's preaching in hades to the disembodied unbelievers of Noah's day not only was not repeated to any other class but has no warrant from scripture in the case reasoned on. It never once was a fact.
It is useless after these remarks to quote all the argument of Mr. S. in which he enlarges for his own purposes the words thus rashly flung out by the late Dean of Canterbury. But the reader will learn how things grow worse and worse in this line from his conclusion (p. 139): “Yet it is these notable sinners who are especially mentioned as having been preached to by Christ on his descent into hades. If to these, then surely to all, may we believe, was the announcement made,” &c.
Nor am I disposed to give the least weight to the reasoning Mr. S. reproduces from Professor Plumptre's sermon. It is absurd to argue, as he and some of the Fathers do, from Eph. 4:9, 10. Not a word connects the spirits of the departed with the lower parts of the earth. Nor is it the reverence of believers to God and His word to quit revelation for analogy and human reasons, whatever one may use for stopping the mouth of an infidel, if we can.
Once committed to the uncertain guesses of the mind, how can one avoid being tossed as waves and carried about by every wind of teaching? “May we not be permitted to indulge the thought (says Mr. S., p. 142) that as the Lord Jesus in his spirit went, in the interval between his death and resurrection and preached to the spirits in prison, so possibly this may form part of the blessed occupation of the saints in hades? They rest, indeed, we are told, from their labors, so far as weariness is connected with them, and yet their works do follow them. May it not be that the work in which they delighted here, that of winning souls, shall follow them there? If, it has been well observed [in Professor Plumptre's sermon, if the future is to be the development and continuation of the present, if we are not to pass from a life of ever varying relations with our fellow-men, each bringing with it opportunities for self-discipline and for serving God to an absolute isolation, may we not so get one step further and believe, as some did in the earliest ages of the church, and as others have thought of late, that those whose joy it has been in life to be fellow-workers with Christ, in leading many to righteousness, may continue to be fellow-workers there, and so share the life of angels in their work of services as in their ministries of praise? The manifestations of God's righteous judgment and of His changeless love may thus, using men and angels as His instruments, help to renew throughout His universe all who are capable of renewal!”
Thus sadly is it our lot to see in these last days a fallen but no longer slumbering Christendom, that the anile fables of early legend-mongers find ready acceptance among those who turn away their ears from the truth. The Holy Spirit has prepared us for these and all other aberrations. For as surely as the wise virgins have obeyed the midnight cry, “Behold, the bridegroom: go forth to meet him,” the foolish are going hither and thither to buy that “unction from the Holy One,” the lack of which no religious truth, no sentimental activity, can disguise from consciences still unpurged, from hearts which have never found rest in Christ the Lord. As we wait for new heavens and a new earth, may we be diligent to be found of Him in peace without spot and blameless, and account the long suffering of our Lord's salvation! Whether it be the Epistles of Peter or of Paul, the untaught and ill-established wrest them, as also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 2

(1 Peter 3:18.)
“It must be confessed,” continues Dr. B., “that this is a knot which cannot easily be untied. Yet should not this induce us to reject the literal and grammatical interpretation of the passage, and to fall back upon those forced glosses which have been coined in order to avoid, instead of fairly meeting and endeavoring to solve,” the acknowledged difficulty. To my conviction there is nothing to untie, where one cleaves to the strict language of the apostle and the real bearing of his argument. For he is exposing indirectly the Jewish unbelief which would have nothing but a Messiah visibly reigning in power and glory to the exaltation of the chosen people and the confusion of their enemies. The faith of the believing Christian Jews in Him, dead, risen, and gone to heaven, exposed them to the derision of their brethren after the flesh, who felt not their sins and cared not for the grace of God displayed in redemption by the blood of Jesus. He was preached, not present but rendering testimony by virtue of His Spirit. Hence the importance of pointing to His testimony by Noah, a testimony to man as such, like the gospel of Christ, for it was before the days of Israel or even Abraham, and the most striking epoch and even period of preaching to men in all the Old Testament.
This is entirely confirmed by Gen. 6:3, where Jehovah said,” My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh; yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” Then the ark was preparing, the space of God's long-suffering; and “the waters of Noah came,” and man was destroyed from the face of the earth. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man; for the days of the gospel are preeminently of testimony, as were those before the deluge, during which Noah prepared an ark to the saving of his house and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. But he was not a believer only, but a preacher of righteousness, more emphatically than we find it said of any other in Old Testament times. The preaching was in the power of the Spirit, and hence attributed to the Spirit of Christ, who is ever the active person in the Godhead, as is well-known in each visitation of man before the incarnation, preparing both the way and mind for it. Compare “the Spirit of Christ” which was in the prophets of old. (Ch. 1: 11.)
This then would encourage the believing Jews, as it might well admonish their despisers. It is a question of preaching to the world still in the Holy Spirit, not yet of the public reign and government of the Lord. So Christ wrought by the Spirit then; and so He does now. As the flood came on those heedless of the preaching of old, so it will be when He comes in judgment, for He is ready to judge the quick and dead. And if they taunt the believers with being so few compared with the masses that believe not, let them not forget that but eight souls were then saved through water; which figure now saves, baptism, on one side of it death, on the other resurrection, Christ having passed actually for us, as we also in spirit by faith having a good conscience before God through Him who is not only risen but at the right hand of God in heaven, where the highest and mightiest of creatures are subjected to Christ, who is therefore as full of assured security for His own as of irremediable ruin for all who slight the warning.
In this tracing of the links of the apostolic thought and word, I am greatly mistaken if the least strain is put on any part; as I believe the true text and the exact version have been already given. It is not so with those who have flattered themselves that they adhere most closely to the words of the apostle and their plain sense.
Thus when Bishop Middleton considers the true meaning to “be dead carnally, but alive spiritually,” almost every word is misrepresented; for, to bear such a translation, the sentence should have been θανὼν μὲν σαρκικῶς ζῶν δὲ πνευματικῶς, though I should call such a statement absurd and heterodox. I deny that we must or can render θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκι ξωοποιηθεις <50 πνεὐματι in any such fashion. Bishop Browne is as wrong in adopting such a. thought in the note to p. 911 as he is in giving “quick in His Spirit” in the text of p. 95, or in expounding it as Christ alive in His soul, in or by which He went to the souls ἐν φ. All this in my judgment is as loose in grammar, as in philosophy if they allude to this; as faulty also in theology, as it has not the least coherence with the context or scope of the apostle's reasoning.
If Peter too had meant to say that the soul of our Lord went to these other souls, he must have taken a most circuitous and unexampled mode of expressing it in employing the phrase ἐν ᾧ, referring to πνενματι just before. The statement, if not the interpretation, would be most unnatural. Taken as it stands for Christ's going and preaching in virtue of the Spirit by Noah to the rebellious antediluvians, it is in my judgment fully justified, were this necessary, by the Pauline phrase, καῖ ἐλθὼν εὐηγγελίσατο εἰρήνη ὑμῖν τοῖς μακρὰν καὶ εἰρήνην τοῖς ἐγγυς. The latter is even a stronger instance; for there is no explanatory reference to πνεύματι ἐν ᾧ. Further, it is not a natural interpretation to take τοπις ἐν φ. πν. as those who were, but who are, in prison, because of ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε ὕτε κ. τ. λ. following, which very simply attributes their being in custody to their disobedience of old. There is no need nor just ground for joining ποτέ with πορευθεὶς ἐκήρ. but with ἀπειθ. which marks off their unbelief at the preaching from the time when they were in prison. “We are thus shown, as plainly as words can, that we are reading of Christ preaching not in person but by virtue of the Spirit to those suffering the consequences of having been disobedient in the days of Noah.
Again, be it observed, the moral aim of this supposed preaching in the unseen world is as unsatisfactory as we have seen the grammar to be irregular and the doctrine strange. For it supposes a preaching confessedly without either faith or repentance as its end; and it selects, in what seems the most arbitrary way, out of all the departed souls those spirits imprisoned because of their heedlessness, when the long-suffering of God was awaiting in the days of Noah. To single out such willful sinners, as the objects to whom Christ in the under-world proclaimed His triumph and their fully effected redemption, seems to me a statement as foreign to scripture as-can be conceived, and equally ill adapted to impress their danger on such as now despise the preached word.
Bishop Horsley's Sermon on the passage, which is so warmly commended both in Bishop Middleton's Treatise and in Bishop Browne's Exposition, appears to my mind little worthy of confidence. Thus he affirms strongly that the English translation of ξ. δὲ πν., though “a true proposition, is certainly not the sense of the apostle's words. It is of great importance to remark, though it may seem a grammatical nicety, that the prepositions, in either branch of this clause, have been supplied by the translators and are not in the original. The words ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit,' in the original, stand without any preposition, in that case which, in the Greek language., without any preposition, is the case either of the cause or instrument by which—of the time when—of the place where—of the part in which—of the manner how—or of the respect in which, according to the exigence of the context; and to any one who will consider the original with critical accuracy it will be obvious, from the per-feet antithesis of these two clauses concerning flesh and spirit, that if the word ‘spirit' denote the active cause by which Christ was restored to life, which must be supposed by them who understand the word of the Holy Ghost, the word 'flesh' must equally denote the active cause by which He was put to death, which therefore must have been the flesh of His own body—an interpretation too manifestly absurd to be admitted. But if the word ‘flesh’ denote, as it most evidently does, the part in which death took effect upon Him, ‘spirit' must denote the part in which life was preserved in Him, that is, His own soul; and the word ‘quickened' is often applied to signify, not the resuscitation of life extinguished, but the preservation and continuance of life subsisting. (?) The exact rendering therefore of the apostle's words would be, ‘Being put to death in the flesh, but quick in the spirit,' that is, surviving in His soul the stroke of death which His body had sustained, ‘by which’ or rather ‘in which,' that is, in which surviving soul, 'he went and preached to the souls of men in prison or in safe keeping.'“
I have given this long extract which clearly puts this able divine's objections to the Authorized Version. Now, without committing myself to the defense of what is not quite correct, I have no hesitation in asserting that Horsley, by his own mistaken view, has diverged incomparably farther from the truth. We need not go beyond the bishop himself and the passage in debate where he gives a difference of shade to the two participles which are quite as much contrasted with each other as their complementary datives. According to his own principle therefore as the first means “put to death,” the other should be “made alive,” even if its uniform usage by inspired writers did not force one to the same conclusion. Why then did not H. carry out fairly and fully his own reasoning? Because it would have involved him in the result that Christ was not only put to death in the flesh but made alive in His own soul or spirit. The good bishop of course shrank from so portentous an inference, and was therefore driven to modify the antithesis, not in πνεύματι but in an unnatural and unfounded interpretation put on ξωοποιηθείς, which even Dean A. explodes, insisting justly on “brought to life,” instead of preserved alive.
The truth is that Horsley did not himself seize the exact force of σαρκί and πνεύματι, still less the difference produced by ἐν in the beginning of verse 20. Christ was put to death in (i.e. in respect to) flesh, as a living man here below; He was made alive in (i.e. in respect to) Spirit, as one henceforth living in the life of resurrection, characterized by the Spirit as the other by flesh, though of course not a spirit only but with a spiritual body. It is not His own spirit as man, which is far worse than the English Version here both grammatically and theologically. Grammatically it would demand τῷ πν., which is a reading unknown to the best copies and scouted by all competent critics; but, even if grammatically and” diplomatically legitimate, it would land us in the frightful heresy that Christ died not merely in flesh but in spirit, and had to be quickened in that of man which dies not even in the lost. Only the materialist conceives that spirit, if he allows of spirit, can die.
Further, if ζ. δὲ πν. refers to the resurrection of Christ, it is harshness itself and out of all reason to suppose Him back again in the separate state, in the verse following, where Horsley takes ἐν ᾧ to mean in which surviving soul He went and preached to the souls of men in prison. But understand it, as I believe ἐν means we should, that Christ also went iv πνεύματι, not now in character of Spirit, but in virtue of' the Spirit or in His power when He preached through Noah; and all is precise in grammar, correct in doctrine, clear in sense, and consistent with the context. When we are raised by and by, it will be διὰ τὸ ἐνοικοῦν αὐτοῦ πνεῦμα, because of His Spirit that dwelleth in us. It was not suitable to Christ so to speak of His resurrection. He was when put to death quickened πνεύματι, denoting the character of His life in resurrection (not merely the agent), ἐν ᾧ καί marking the Spirit's power in which, before He was thus put to death and raised, He went and preached to the spirits in prison, disobedient as they were once when, &c.
Who can wonder therefore that the Anglican divines in the 5th of Queen Elizabeth dropped the reference to this passage of Peter in Article iii. where they had inserted it in the 6th and 7th of King Edward the sixth? Nor need we with Bishop Horsley impute it to undue reliance on the opinion of Augustine (ep. 99 [164], Evodio), who was followed by some others of the fathers in rejecting the superstitious idea of Christ's preaching in Hades. The excellent Leighton at a later day was so far from seeing this to be the plain meaning of the passage, that he does not hesitate to say, “They that dream of the descent of Christ's soul into hell think this place sounds somewhat that way; but, being examined, it proves no way suitable, nor can by the strongest wresting be drawn to fit their purpose.”
On the other hand the figurative explanation of τοῖς ἐν φ.πνεὐμασιν is quite indefensible and uncalled for. The sense of sinners shut up in a prison of darkness while living on earth, whether in Noah's day or in apostolic times, whether of the Gentiles or of the Jews and Gentiles, must be rejected. Bishop Horsley however is as mistaken on his side when he avers that such passages as Isa. 49:9; 61:1, refer to the liberation of souls from Hades. Equally wrong is his idea that ποτέ joined with ἀπειθ. implies that the imprisoned souls were recovered from that disobedience and before their death had been brought to repentance and faith in the Redeemer to come. Contrariwise the scope is that, having once on a time disobeyed when God's long-suffering was waiting before the deluge, they are in prison. In virtue (or in the power) of the Spirit Christ went and preached to such, by a preacher of righteousness, no doubt; but it is styled His preaching to enhance the solemnity of what was then refused, as it was also in Peter's day. These spirits were in prison as having once been disobedient thus and then; and God will not be mocked now if Christ's preaching in the Spirit be rejected and He be despised in His servants. Where would be the force of the few, that is eight, souls who were saved through water, if the disobedient mass or any of them were saved none the less though outside the ark? It is certainly a suicidal citation which H. makes from the beginning of Rev. 20:13; for we know that the sea will have none to give up at that epoch but the unblessed and unholy, all the righteous dead having already been raised in the first resurrection. Nor is there the least reason from scripture to fancy that souls deceive themselves by false hopes and apprehensions after death, so that some should need above others the preaching of our Lord in Hades. It is nowhere said that thither He went and preached. The spirits are said to be in prison, and this, as having once on a time been disobedient; but it is not said or meant that there Christ went and preached to them.
It is no question then of discrediting clear assertions of holy writ on account of difficulties which may seem to the human mind to arise out of them, but of an interpretation which produces endless confusion, leads inevitably into false doctrine, and has no connection with the passage any more than with the general tenor of revealed truth elsewhere. To put such a notion, based on a bad reading, slighting the exactness of grammar, ignoring the nice distinctions of the phrases, and resulting in the most impotent conclusion spiritually; to put this on the same level “with the doctrines of atonement—of gratuitous redemption—of justification by faith without the works of the law—of sanctification by the influence of the Holy Spirit;” to say that, discrediting Christ's preaching in Hades, we must, on similar grounds, part at once with the hope of resurrection, is more worthy of a bold or weak special pleader than becoming a grave and godly minister of Christ. To urge that its great use is to confute the notion of death as a temporary extinction of the soul or of its sleep between death and resurrection is certainly not to claim much from so wonderful a fact, if a fact: whether scripture does not abundantly confute such dreary and mischievous dogmas of unbelief, without resorting to strange doctrine based on a hasty and superficial interpretation of 1 Peter 3:18-20, may safely be left to spiritual men who judge according to the word of God.
(To be continued.') —♦-

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 3

(1 Peter 3:18-20.)
(Continued from page 32.)
It is curious to see how an intrepid and strong-minded writer, such as Bishop Horsley unquestionably was, commits himself to untenable statements, once he leaves the lines of the Holy Spirit in scripture. “The apostle's assertion therefore” (says he) “is this that Christ went and preached to souls of men in prison. This invisible mansion of departed spirits, though certainly not a place of penal confinement to the good, is nevertheless in some respects a prison. It is a place of seclusion from the external-a place of unfinished happiness, consisting in rest, security, and hope, more than enjoyment. It is a place which the souls of men never would have entered, had not sin introduced death, and from which there is no exit by any natural means for those who once have entered. The deliverance of the saints from it is to be effected by our Lord's power. It is described in the old Latin language as a place enclosed within an impassable fence; and in the poetical parts of scripture it is represented as secured by gates of brass, which our Lord is to batter down, and barricaded with huge massive iron bars, which He is to cut in sunder. As a place of confinement therefore, though not of punishment, it may well be called a prison. The original word, however, in this text of the apostle imports not of necessity so much as this, but merely a place of safe keeping; for so this passage might be rendered with great exactness. 'He went and preached to the spirits in safe keeping.' And the invisible mansion of departed souls is to the righteous a place of safe keeping where they are preserved under the shadow of God's right hand, as their condition sometimes is described in scripture, till the season shall arrive for their advancement to their future glory; as the souls of the wicked, on the other hand, are reserved, in the other division of the same place, unto the judgment of the great day. Now, if Christ went and preached to souls of men thus in prison or in safe keeping, surely He went to the prison of those souls, or to the place of their custody; and what place that should be but the hell of the Apostle's Creed to which our Lord descended, I have not yet met with the critic that could explain.”
The careful reader will perceive, indeed any one when it is pointed out, the immediate departure from scriptural sense and accuracy. For the apostle does not assert “that Christ went and preached to souls of men in prison.” He speaks not of human souls generally but only of those characterized by disobedience of yore, when Noah the preacher of righteousness prepared an ark to the saving of his house. This makes all the difference possible; for there is no reference whatever to the invisible mansion of departed spirits as a whole, still less to the special place of seclusion for the good. These last are in fact excluded by the language and the thought of the apostle. His argument is against those who, as incredulous Jews were especially apt to do, made light of preaching Christ only present in Spirit, not reigning in power, and of the comparative fewness of those who professed to believe. His refutation of their taunts and proof of their extreme danger are grounded on the Lord's dealing with the men of Noah's day who similarly despised the divine warning, while those only were saved who heeded it. How few the latter, how many the former!
It is true indeed that “it is a place which the souls of men never would have entered, had not sin been introduced;” but what is this to the purpose? It applies on the side of good as of evil, of heaven as of hell; for sin, which lost living on the earth along with innocence furnished occasion for that infinite grace which gives the believer eternal life and heavenly glory in and with the Son of God, the last Adam. And if the actual condition of the departed be as regards the body incomplete, even so it is not correct to speak of our being at home with the Lord as “a place of unfinished happiness,” though the Lord Himself, the saints with Him, and those on earth are looking onward to the day of His and their manifested glory when the world shall know that the Father sent the Son, and loved us even as He loved Him; when He will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and are on earth, in Him in whom also we have obtained inheritance, being predestinated according to His purpose; when in virtue of the name of Jesus every knee shall bow of beings heavenly, earthly, and infernal, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to God the Father's glory.
Nowhere does scripture speak of “the deliverance of the saints from” this state of things, though surely it is of the Lord's grace and the divine virtue of life in Him, that He will raise their bodies and transform what was erst of humiliation into conformity to His body of glory, according to the working of power whereby He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. This no doubt is the full answer to the cry of the wretched though quickened man (in Rom. 7): “who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?” For it is our resurrection (Rom. 8:11) which will manifest the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is His resurrection which has even now given us life in the Spirit, freeing us from the law of sin and death. “We have for our souls what we shall know at His coming for our mortal bodies. But deliverance from a place of seclusion for our spirits, to be effected by our Lord's power, is a dream wholly opposed to the scriptural representation of the saints' enjoyment with Christ meanwhile. The apostle declares that to depart and be with Him even now and thus is very much better than remaining here, though doubtless there will be more for the body when He comes: for the soul there cannot be. Therefore, while earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven, he says that we are confident and willing rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord; that is, rather than abide here in the body absent from the Lord. Yet are we now, not shut up as were believers before redemption, but called to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.
Hence it is in vain to urge what the old Latin language describes, since it is quite opposed to the truth; and it is a mistake to cite the poetical parts of scripture which treat of the deliverance of God's people on earth. For “the gates of brass” and “the bars of iron” (Isa. 14:2) certainly refer to Babylon not to the presence of the Lord with whom are the spirits of departed saints. So Psa. 121:5, “Jehovah is thy shade upon thy right hand,” is expressly a prophetic song for Israel in the latter day, and in no way about those deceased; as Isa. 49:2 certainly has no such reference, the context plainly giving the transition from Israel to Christ. It is a distressing misrepresentation then to call His presence a place of confinement, though not of punishment, which “may well be called a prison.” Never does God's word so call it. The converted robber asked to be remembered when Christ comes in His kingdom (i.e. in the resurrection state and the day of glory for the earth), and the Lord gives him, as a nearer comfort and intrinsically the deepest joy, the assurance of being with Him that very day in paradise. It is grievous dishonor to Him and ignorance of scripture to slight such grace, even to the length of saying that it “may well be called a prison.” Certainly it will never be so called by one who appreciates either the blessedness of Christ's love or the honor the Father is now putting on the Son. The Father's house can only be called “a prison” by the darkest prejudice. It is where Christ is now, and where we shall be when Christ at His coming takes us to be with Him as the expression of His fullest love. The presence of the Lord on high is the very kernel of joy by grace, whether for the separate spirit after death or when we are all changed at His coming.
Feeling apparently that this is rather strong language (though many of the fathers knew no better through their ignorance of eternal life in Christ and of redemption), Bishop Horsley qualifies his defense, and affirms that the original word in the text of the apostle imports not so much as this, but merely a place of safe keeping. Now what are the facts of the usage of φυλακή? Primarily it means the act of watching; hence (2) the persons that watch or guard (as in Latin and English); (3) the time; the place, not only (4) where those watching are posted, but (5) where others are kept as in ward or prison. Such, with the moral application of taking heed and being on one's guard from keeping in ward, are the chief senses in which the word was employed by the Greeks. The New Testament has it once in the first sense (Luke 2:8), once in the second (Acts 12:10), five times in the third (Matt. 14:25; 24:43, Mark 6:48, Luke 2:8 twice), and forty times in the fifth sense, including not only 1 Peter 3:19, but Rev. 18:2, where it is in the Authorized Version translated “the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird,” all evidently equivalent to the meaning of “prison,” which is used even of Satan's place of temporary detention. Never elsewhere does the Holy Spirit use it in the more general signification of a mere “place of safe keeping.” Is there any special reason in our text why it should here be so rendered? The assigned ground of custody being the former disobedience of the spirits thus restrained, there ought to be no hesitation in accepting the English Version as fully justified, and rejecting that suggested as unexampled in New Testament usage and at issue with the context.
It is going beyond scripture then to affirm that “Christ went and preached to souls of men thus in prison or safe keeping,” and not at all sure that He went to the prison of those souls or to the place of their custody. It is quite sure that the apostle speaks only of the spirits in prison, disobedient once when the long-suffering of God waited in Noah's days, not to souls of men as a whole in the separate state. It is sure that Christ, in the power of the Spirit, went and preached to the former, but it is nowhere written that He went to the prison or place of custody of any souls whatever and preached there. The building and the ground-work of Bishop Horsley are alike unsubstantial; his handling of scripture careless, and his reasoning unsound. Such passages as Isa. 13:7; 49:9, have only to be examined with ordinary attention in order to satisfy any candid mind that it is a question of the deliverance of captives in this world, be it literal or figurative, and in no way of men after death.
If, as Bishop Browne holds, hades or paradise are two names applying to the same state, it would seem to follow that paradise must apply to the place of departed saints, and hades to their state as separate from the body. For 2 Cor. 12:2, 4, naturally connects paradise, not with heaven merely, but even with the third heaven, where the Lord is (cf. Luke 23:43); and Rev. 2:7 is decisive, that in this very paradise of God will the faithful have their future reward at Christ's coming, when risen from the dead or changed. It is an error therefore to think that it is another place, for the latter scripture certainly identifies the scene of the separate spirits of the saints with that of their future glorification. They are with the Lord now, as they will be when changed, and thus completely and forever with Him; but now as then in heaven. The ancients who denied this were as wrong as the moderns who popularly hold the soul's passing at once on its final reward with very little thought of the resurrection at Christ's second coming or of the kingdom.
But I may here add that the ancient versions are too loose to render any help worth naming. Without discussing now whether the Peschito does (as Bode and others assert) or does not use scheiul for the grave as well as hades, it is plain that “lived” in spirit is faulty for ζωοποιηθεις, and that to leave out “in [or in the power of] which,” substituting a mere connective particle “and” is far from the truth. “To the souls which were kept” may after a fashion represent τοῖς ἐν φ. πν., the addition of “in hades” or “scheiul” being unwarranted. There are other inaccuracies; but let this suffice. Par better here is the Philoxenian Syriac, which is thus rendered by White, “morte affectus quidem carne, vivificatus autem spiritu. In quo et spiritibus, qui in domo custodiae sunt, profectus praedicavit: Qui non obediverant aliquando, quum expectabat longanimitas Dei in diebus Noe” &c. The Arabic (Pol.) and the Vulgate alone give correctly the beginning of the verse, the Erpenian Arabic and the Aethiopic being as loose as the Peschito Syr. The Aeth. adds “holy” to “Spirit;” but it does not follow, as Bishop Middleton seems to think, that the other ancient versions did not understand exactly the same sense, though they very properly did not add the word “holy” so as to define their rendering more than the original text. The Coptic, according to Wilkins, is no better than the rest. This is his version— “mortuus quidem in carne, vivens autem in Spiritu. In hoc Spiritibus [S. sic] qui in carcere abut evangelizavit. Incredulis aliquando,” &c.
In every version and in every edition of the text, accurate or faulty, this at least stands out irrefragably that the spirits in question are nowhere represented as those of men who had already repented when on earth, but on the contrary as disobedient. This we have seen to be very far from the only difficulty in the way of the alleged preaching in hades; but it is at least felt and confessed by the stoutest champions of that interpretation. It is quite erroneous to assume that Peter speaks here of the proclamation of the finishing of the great work of salvation, still more to say that it was addressed to the penitents of antediluvian times, even if there were no question about the penitents of later ages who are equally interested in the tidings. The apostle uses not even εὐαγγελίζομαι (which, though expressive of glad tidings, admits of far greater latitude in scripture than the good news of the finished work of salvation) but κηρύσσω, a word equally applicable to express a public setting forth of righteousness and a warning of the destruction which must fall on the despiser. (Compare 2 Peter 2:5, “Noah a preacher of righteousness,” δικαιοσύνης κήρυκα.") The main difficulty then really is that the text speaks only of impenitent persons; the expounder only of penitents.
Whatever the rapture with which we may suppose paradise filled when the soul of Jesus came among the souls of His redeemed, it is certain that the passage of the apostle says not one word about it; and it would be no small difficulty to produce any other scripture which does reveal it. Here it is a question of the spirits in custody for their former disobedience in the days of Noah, while a very few in contrast with them were saved, used for the present comfort of saints taunted with their paucity by the masses who despised what was preached by the Spirit now as before the flood. Possibly no doubt some who then perished in the waters may not be doomed to perish everlastingly in the lake of fire; just as one at least preserved in the ark may not have been ordained to eternal life. But all this is only profitless speculation; and those who indulge in it lose sight of the grand and plain lessons of the apostle, whether for the comfort of the faithful or for the warning of unbelievers. Before the kingdom of God is established and displayed in power, the masses have ever been disobedient to the word, and believers a little flock; but be these ever so few, let those not forget the days wherein a world of impious men perished; and this too is not the worst, for their spirits are in ward (which is never said of the righteous), the Lord without doubt reserving them as unjust for judgment day to be punished.
(To be continued.)

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 4

(1 Peter 3:18-20.)
As much misconception exists respecting Calvin's sentiments, I will here state fully what he has written in his early and later works. It is at any rate an error to classify him, as did Dean Alford after Huther, with those who understand the passage of a literal descent of our Lord into hades; for Calvin nowhere commits himself to any such statement, though, as already pointed out, he applied the phrase in the creed to His sufferings on the cross, and he conceived the efficacy of that work sensibly and at once to reach the Old Testament saints. The reader need not for a moment suppose authority is attached to what may be quoted from the great leader of the reformed. The effect, I trust, will be only to prove the incontestable superiority of the divine word; the wise being weak where they depart from it, while it gives light to the simple.
The first allusion in order of time is in the Psychopannychia, published in 1534, when the author was but twenty-five years of age, a tract directed against the materialistic notion of Anabaptists and others, who would have the soul to sleep during its departure from the body before the resurrection. Some zealots were the more disposed to embrace this revolting and utterly unscriptural scheme; because, if true, it would decide against the Popish dreams of limbus patrum and in particular of purgatory. But Calvin's pious sobriety was proof against such a temptation even in the heats of controversy. This is his use of the text, as quoted from the third volume of his Tracts (Translation Soc. Ed. 1851, pp. 428,429)— “Not less evidently does the Apostle Peter show that after death the soul both exists and lives, when he says (1 Peter 3:19) that Christ preached to the spirits in prison, not merely forgiveness or salvation to the spirits of the righteous, but also confusion to the spirits of the wicked. For so I interpret the passage which has puzzled many minds; and I am confident that, under favorable auspices, I will make good my interpretation. For after he had spoken of the humiliation of the cross of Christ, and shown that all the righteous must be conformed to His image, he immediately thereafter, to prevent them from falling into despair, makes mention of the resurrection to teach them how their tribulations were to end. For he states that Christ did not fall under death, but subduing it came forth victorious. He indeed says in words, that He was ‘put to death in the flesh but quickened in the Spirit' (1 Peter 3:18), but just in the same sense in which Paul says that He suffered in the humiliation of the flesh, but was raised by the power of the Spirit. Now, in order that believers might understand that the power belongs to them also, he subjoins that Christ exerted this power in regard to others, and not only towards the living but also towards the dead; and moreover not only towards His servants but also towards unbelievers and the despisers of His grace.
“Let us understand, moreover, that the sentence is defective and wants one of its two members. Many examples of this occur in scripture, especially when as here several sentiments are comprehended in one clause. And let no one wonder that the holy patriarchs who waited for the redemption of Christ are shut up in prison. As they saw the light at a distance, under a cloud and shade (as those who saw the feeble light of dawn or twilight), and had as yet an exhibition of the divine blessing in which they rested, he gave the name of prison to their expectancy.
“The meaning of the apostle will therefore be that Christ in Spirit preached to those other spirits who were in prison-in other words, that the virtue of the redemption obtained by Christ appeared and was exhibited to the spirits of the dead. Now, there is a want of the other member which related to the pious who acknowledged and received this benefit; but it is complete in regard to unbelievers who received this announcement to their confusion. For when they saw but one redemption, from which they were excluded, what could they do but despair? I hear our opponents muttering, and saying that this is a gloss of my own invention, and that such authority does not bind them. I have no wish to bind them to my authority; I only ask them whether or not the spirits shut up in prison are spirits.”
In this handling of the text there is no great ability in tracing the apostle's scope or in developing the argument of the epistle, though the reasoning may be fair against the fancied sleep of the soul. But it is plain that Calvin then held that the power of the work of Christ when accomplished reached the departed spirits, just and unjust, not that He visited them in person. He confesses that the sentence does not express what he wishes it to comprehend; for the member relative to the pious is wanting, unbelievers only being spoken of, at least completely. The truth is that the only patriarchs in question were those preserved in the ark; yet they are contrasted with the disobedient whose spirits were in prison. The pious Noah and his house therefore are not wanting afterward, but so named as to refute the argument before us.
Not long after Calvin published his “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” in the second book of which (chap. xvi. § 9) we may see, if possible more clearly, how little he agreed with the class to which of late he has been assigned. After a severe but just reproof of those who like Bishop Horsley in modern times wrest Psa. 107:16 and Zech. 9:11 to an imaginary subterraneous limbus, treating such thoughts of Justin M., both the Cyrils, Ambrose, Jerome, Ac, as no better than a fable, he then proceeds:-
“And what need was there that the soul of Christ should descend thither to set them free? I readily own indeed that Christ illumined them by the power of His spirit, enabling them to recognize that the grace, of which they had only had a foretaste, was then displayed to the world. And probably to this may be applied the passage of Peter where he says that Christ went and preached to the spirits in a watch-tower (it is commonly rendered 'in prison'), 1 Peter 3:19. For the context also leads us to the conclusion that the faithful who had died before that time were partakers of the same grace as ourselves; because he dwells on the power of Christ's death in that He penetrated even to the dead, pious souls enjoying an immediate view of that visitation for which they had anxiously waited, whilst on the other hand the reprobate more clearly knew themselves shut out from all salvation. Though Peter does not speak very distinctly, it is not to be received that he absolutely confounds the righteous and the wicked; he only intimates that both alike had the death of Christ made known to them.”
It is a strange notion, adopted by Calvin first (it is to be hoped, without a single intelligent follower), that φυλακή here means a watch-tower, whence he supposed the saints to have been awaiting the Messiah. On this no remark is needed in addition to what has been made already, unless it he that the verse itself is as inexorably adverse to it as the general usage of the New Testament. For the spirits spoken of are those of men not only without the least hint of any subsequent obedience, but expressly said to be kept in ward because of former disobedience. The only reason for charging defect or indefiniteness on the passage is the singular fancy that the apostle meant to include the pious in these spirits without one word to justify it. As to the wicked the language of the apostle is confessed to be “complete.” The reverent reader of scripture will not fail to censure Calvin for adding to God's words, rather than Peter for taking away. In text or context there is no thought of making known Christ's death to believers and unbelievers, but very plainly does the apostle urge the danger of despising Christ's testimony by the Spirit, even before His kingdom came, and this drawn from the days of Noah, to which the Lord elsewhere compares the day when the Son of man shall be revealed. (Luke 17) Before the flood, as now, we see a time of testimony; but an awful blow fell on heedless man then, as there will again shortly from Him who is ready to judge quick and dead. If there is any reference in the context to the believers who died before Christ, it is to those saved in the ark, a figure of the salvation set forth in baptism by virtue of Christ's resurrection, while the spirits in prison were those of the men who perished in the deluge for their unbelief.
But here again we see how far it was from Calvin's mind that our Lord in His disembodied state did actually go to the place of detention of departed spirits and there preach; still farther that He thus preached salvation to those in that state who had refused to obey the voice of God when the judgment of the flood was hanging over them. The plain words of scripture here as elsewhere give no countenance to such strange doctrine, nor is it true that there is any dark enigma in the judgment either of men before the flood or of those the apostle warns here. It is neglect or unbelief of scripture to say that these are cases where the final doom seems at all out of proportion (I will not dwell on the impropriety of saying with the late Dean Alford “infinitely out of proportion") to the lapse which has incurred it. To speak or to think so is to dispute with God and contemn His most solemn revelation. If the antediluvians had a doom more awful than others before them, we have the divine assurance on the one hand of a special testimony to them, and on the other of their excessive corruption and violence. Most justly therefore did the Judge of all the earth send the flood which took them all away, save the man of faith who, warned of God of things not seen as yet and moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Granted that worse remains for all unbelievers than the flood; but not worse for antediluvians as such than for others; and for none so bad as for those who slight God's call to repent and believe since redemption, especially for such as bear, and bear falsely or with indifference, the name of the Lord. Who that beholds the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world can say that the doom of unbelievers is out of proportion to their guilt? He who can deliberately say it seems to me to have no real sense of man's evil or of God's infinite grace.
To allow that unbelievers, who perished at the flood or otherwise, are objects of a preaching of salvation in the disembodied state when Christ died or at other seasons, is to cast off not only the general testimony of Old Testament and New but very specially that dark background of eternal judgment and destruction which the gospel affirms with a precision unknown to the law. To found such a renewal of hope for deceased unbelievers on our text, and to hint at extending it indefinitely, seems to my mind presumption of the most perilous sort.
But there is a third passage from Calvin's writings of a later date which may furnish further matter for reflection as well as comparison with scripture. In his comment on the Epistle, published about the beginning of 1554, it will be observed for the third time that, far from admitting Christ's personal descent to hades as meant by the text, he seeks to explode any such application. “It has been a threadbare and common opinion that Christ's descent into hell is here stated; but the words mean no such thing. For there is no mention made of the soul of Christ but only that He went by the Spirit. But these are very different things, that Christ's soul went and that Christ preached by the power of His Spirit. Expressly therefore does Peter name the Spirit to take away the notion of what may be called a real presence."
Again, Calvin sets himself against the view advocated chiefly by Socinian commentators, but also by Grotius, Schottgen and others, who take the preaching as that of the apostles, by τοῖς ἐν φ. πν. understand either the Jews under law, or the Gentiles under Satan proves, or both together as bound with a common chain of sin, the allusion to Noah's time being no more than a sample or similitude. To this our commentator replies: “I allow indeed that Christ through the apostles went by His Spirit to those who were detained in the flesh; but this explanation is proved false by many considerations. First, Peter says that Christ went to ‘spirits,' by which he means souls separated from their bodies, for living men are nowhere called spirits. Secondly, what Peter repeats in chapter 4 does not admit of allegory. Therefore the words must be understood properly of the dead. Thirdly, it seems most absurd that Peter, speaking of the apostles, as though forgetting himself, should go off to the time of Noah. Certainly such a mode of discourse would be abrupt and unsuitable. This explanation then cannot stand.”
But there is no sparing the notion of many Fathers, now it would seem reviving, that dead unbelievers had a fresh offer of salvation and in fact were saved after the cross. “Moreover their madness who think that unbelievers in the coming of Christ were after His death free from their guilt needs no longer refutation; for it is the certain doctrine of scripture that we do not obtain salvation in Christ save by faith, and therefore for those who have been persistent in unbelief up to death there is no hope left.”
Then he gives his reason for rejecting the notion that prevails among the Greek and Latin Fathers— “Somewhat more probable is their assertion who say that the redemption procured by Christ availed the dead who in Noah's day had long been unbelievers, but repented a short time before they were drowned in the deluge. The idea therefore is that they suffered in the flesh the punishment due to their perverseness, yet that they were saved by Christ's grace from perishing forever. But this conjecture is weak; as besides it is inconsistent with the context, for Peter ascribes salvation only to the family of Noah, and assigns to ruin all who were outside the ark.”
But we must pay more heed to his own conclusion in its most mature form. “I therefore do not doubt but Peter says generally that a manifestation of Christ's grace was made to the godly spirits, and that they were thus endued with the vital power of the Spirit. “Wherefore there is no cause to fear that it will not reach to us. But it may be inquired why he puts in prison the souls of the godly after quitting their bodies. To my mind indeed φυλακή means rather a watchtower in which a watch is kept, or the very act of watching. For it is often so taken among the Greeks, and the sense would be excellent that godly souls were intent on the hope of the promised salvation as if they saw it afar off. Nor is it doubtful that the holy fathers in life as well as after death directed their thoughts to this object. But if anyone chooses to retain the word (prison), it will not be unsuitable; for as, while they lived, the law (according to Paul, Gal. 3:23) was a sort of strict custody in which they were kept, so after death they must have felt the anxious longing for Christ, because the spirit of liberty had not yet been fully given. Therefore their anxious expectation was a kind of prison.”
Here for the third and last time in his writings we see how Calvin repudiates the idea of Christ's actual descent into hades. He among the reformed held a view substantially similar to that of Durand among Romanists that Christ's preaching to the spirits was a visitation by the efficacy of His work, not by His presence among them. To call Abraham's bosom or paradise either a watchtower or a prison will not be accepted by sober believers as fair dealing with our Lord's intimation. To be “comforted” is no characteristic of imprisonment. Dean Alford's note on Luke 23 is not only exceptionable throughout, but its conclusion is refuted by 2 Cor. 12 and especially by Rev. 2:7, where beyond controversy paradise is the scene not merely of blessed spirits but of the perfection of glorified humanity in heaven. The effort of Calvin to reconcile the idea of a prison with spirits in heaven (as he at least believed) is vain; and the weakening if not change of the apostle's words is the evident and inevitable consequence. It differs little from the Romish dream of purgatory as stated in the Decrees and the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
It is not correct therefore to say that thus far the apostle's words seem to agree well with the fact itself—with the thread of the argument. “But what follows,” even be confesses, “is attended with some difficulty; for he does not mention the faithful here but only the unbelieving, by which the whole of the preceding exposition seems to be overturned.”
I do not agree with the ground of objection any more than the thoughts we have next, though believing that there is the strongest ground and that the reasoning given has no real force. “Some have been led by this reason to think that nothing else is said here than that the unbelievers who had formerly opposed and persecuted the godly found the Spirit of Christ a judge, as if Peter consoles the faithful with this argument that Christ even when dead punished them. But their error is disposed by what we shall see in the next chapter that the gospel was preached to the dead, that they might live according to God in the Spirit which peculiarly applies to the faithful. Moreover it is certain that he repeats there what he now says.” “Next they do not perceive that Peter meant them especially that as the power of the Spirit of Christ showed itself vivifying in Him and was known as such by the dead, so it will be toward us.”
The apostle seems to me correcting unbelieving notions natural to those who looked only for the Messiah reigning gloriously and delivering them from their enemies, and therefore despised the Spirit's action in preaching, and comparatively small results which yet appeared, nay the present sufferings and persecution of Christians. Peter brings in Christ's death but also His resurrection, and points to His dealing of old by the Spirit (not by a personal display in glory) where there was disobedience then as now, but to their spirits as in prison kept for judgment, besides the public fact in this world that far fewer than the Christians were saved in the ark. Further, it is gratuitous assumption to bring in here 1 Peter 4:6 which has to my mind a quite distinct bearing. Calvin's mistake is proved by 2 Peter 2:6, which does expressly treat of the same time and excludes all idea of the faithful by the declaration that God brought a flood on a world of ungodly persons. I believe accordingly that the apostle does certainly not repeat there what he now says, but speaks here of good news having been set before dead persons also, though of course the preaching to them was while they lived, with one or other of these two results, “in order that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, and live according to God in the Spirit.” For the Jews habitually were apt to lose sight of the judgment of the dead in their eagerness to put forward the judgment of the quick as to which the heathen were wholly ignorant.
“Let us see however (continues he) why he mentions only unbelievers; for he seems to say that Christ in Spirit appeared to those who were formerly disobedient. But I distinguish otherwise; that then also the pure servants of God were mixed up with unbelievers and were almost hidden by their multitude. Greek syntax (I confess) is at variance with this meaning; for Peter, if he meant this, ought to have used the genitive absolute. But because it was no new thing for the apostles to put one case instead of another, and we see Peter here heaping together many things confusedly, and no other suitable sense can be elicited, I have no hesitation in thus explaining an intricate passage; so that readers may understand that those called disobedient are different from those to whom the preaching was made. After then he said that Christ manifested Himself to the dead, he immediately adds, “when there were formerly disobedient men; by which he means that the holy fathers sustained no harm from being almost overwhelmed by the multitude of the ungodly.” To the rest of his remarks I make no objection as they seem sound and sensible: but it would not be easy to discover a match for the hardihood of the words just cited and the utter want of self-distrust in thinking and speaking as he does of an inspired man. The Greek construction, he admits, is adverse to the sense he would impose. This is enough for one who believes that the Holy Spirit perfectly guided Peter. Certainly the dative άπειθήσασιν is in agreement with the πνεύμασι just before, which demolishes the imaginary distinction of God's servants mixed up with the unbelieving. It is impossible to construe or even conceive the meaning Calvin would insist on without giving up the claim of the Epistle to be divinely inspired. Again, it is as false that the apostles elsewhere put one case instead of another, as that Peter here heaps anything confusedly together. The most suitable sense has been shown to be the strictest according to grammatical considerations. Calvin therefore would have been much wiser if he had hesitated about his own explanation, which in fact brings intricacy into a passage by no means obscure either in syntax or in scope. The Christian reader will want no further reasoning to assure him that the spirits in prison are no other than those of men once disobedient when the Spirit of Christ in Noah preached by him before the deluge. It is egregious to suppose that the Spirit was not only to strive with them, contrary to God's express admonition, after the term of a hundred and twenty years allotted in divine long-suffering, but even to save some or all after Christ died: a strange proof, it must be allowed, that the Lord knows how to deliver godly persons out of temptation and to reserve unjust men unto judgment-day to be punished.
(To be continued.')

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 5

(1 Peter 3:19.)
Having examined the statements of the Reformer most celebrated for his doctrine, we may now turn to the very different views of Bellarmine, the most famous of those who have written on the Romanist side, with the authoritative statements of the Council of Trent in their Decrees and Canons, and yet more fully in their Catechism. To the discussion of our text the Cardinal devotes the entire chapter xiii., book iv., of his third general controversy—that about Christ (Disput. R. Bellarmini Pol. Tom. I, pp. 176-178, Col. Agr. 1615). It may strike some as remarkable that the text is not cited by him to prove purgatory, but only the descent of Christ's soul to hell; and the more so as the proofs of purgatory from the New Testament are lamentably defective and manifestly forced. But this able controversalist justly avoided the passage as evidence for purgatory; for nothing would suit Romish ideas less than preaching, least of all Christ's preaching, to souls there. Wholly different is their scheme, which distinguishes purgatory from limbus patrum.
Purgatory according to Tridentine doctrine is a penal fire to satisfy for the remains of sin in the righteous, a place of punishment where justified souls in general suffer for a time before they go to heaven; for, as they teach, souls dying in mortal sin go to hell, while on the other hand martyrs and adults dying immediately after baptism go to heaven. Thus, in the first part, art. v. § iv.—vi. of the Catechism, they distinguish hell into (1) the place where the damned are forever punished, (2) the fire of purgatory where the souls of the pious suffer torture in expiation for a definite time, and (3) the receptacle in which the souls of saints before Christ's advent were received, and, exempt from any pain and sustained by the blessed hope of redemption, dwelt there in peace. It is true that this last statement does not cohere with the language of § 8 that the fathers were tortured in suspense while waiting for glory: but when was error really consistent? Again, in § 10 they confess that Old Testament saints, like those of the New, not only were in limbus as we have seen, that is, in the bosom of Abraham, but also might need the satisfaction of the ire of purgatory for their venial sins, and for whatever remained of the temporal punishment due for mortal sins though forgiven.
It is plain therefore that it is ignorance of their own doctrine or deceit for a Romanist to cite our text for purgatory. Their most authoritative teaching is that the apostle speaks of the place once occupied by the Old Testament saints before Christ came and took them to heaven. Limbus patrum is therefore without a tenant, and useless for any practical purpose now. Purgatory is far otherwise, according to their best instructed doctors; though why it should be styled “purgatory” does not clearly or satisfactorily appear, for there is only the endurance of penalty, and no real purging whatever. How opposed to the truth and grace of God! By Christ all that believe are justified from all things and have life, eternal life, in Him. They are dead with Christ from sin; crucified with Him, yet they live of a new life, not the first Adam life, but Christ living in them, dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Hence sin is not to reign in their mortal body. They are under not law but grace; and, living in the Spirit, they have to walk in the Spirit; but if one sin, we have an advocate with the Father, and the washing of water by the word is made good to us by the Spirit in answer to Christ's intercession when we are defiled in any way.
But Romanism ignores and destroys the entire groundwork of the gospel, and its privileges as applied now to the believer. They preach as if Christ was such an one as themselves; they reason as if His blood had no more efficacy than a bull's or a goat's; their thoughts of sin are as human as of the Savior and of His work. Of a real communication of life through faith, of a new and spiritual nature which the believer has in receiving Christ, they have no notion; for if they saw either life or redemption as scripture puts them, there could be no place for purgatory. There is a process of cleansing which goes on in the believer while he passes through this defiling world, that the practical state may correspond with the standing, with life in Christ and full remission of sins by His blood. But when the Christian departs from this life, he departs to be with Christ, and there is no need of cleansing more, as only the new and holy life remains, Romanism sets up the veil of Judaism again, undoing laboriously the infinite blessing of a known reconciliation with God founded on atonement, and consequently putting those who bear the Lord's name outside in the court, in darkness, doubt, and uncertainty. It is the unbelief of nature, usurping the place of the gospel, a mere round of rites which flatter the flesh and can never clear the conscience: and no wonder, because the true light which now shines is intercepted and the power of redemption is wholly denied. Hence it is really heathenism clothed with Jewish forms, a return of the Gentiles in Christendom to the weak and beggarly elements to which they desire to be again in bondage. It is the more guilty, because it is a going back to old darkness after God's revelation of Himself as a Savior in Christ, a churlish turning away from the feast of divine love and light where the Father imparts His joy in goodness, saving the worst and to the uttermost, let who will stay without and boast of their own ways to His dishonor.
But enough of the fabulous purgatory: our business is with B.'s explanation of our text. The first exposition noticed is that of Augustine, who applied it to the preaching of Noah by the Spirit of Christ to the men of that day. The chief defect in it is that the prison is held to be the mortal body, instead of seeing that έν φ. (“in prison") refers to their subsequent state when alone also they could be properly designated as πνεὐμασιν or “spirits.”
The Cardinal apologizes for refuting S. Augustine. No doubt it is awkward to such as start with the Vincentian canon of tradition, “quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus:” and the rather when the Father to be refuted is the greatest light of the Western church. It is pleaded however that A. himself confesses he had not understood the passage and asks for cause to be shown why it should refer to hell (or hades). As if the Father then not only permitted but himself desired it, B. proceeds to his task.
His first argument is the common opinion of the Fathers in opposition; Clement, Alex., Atban. Epiphan., and Cyril, Hilary, Ambrose, Ruffin, and Oec. being all alluded to as inferring hence Christ's descent to the spirits in hell. He also points to the occurrence of an alleged citation of Isaiah to a similar effect in Justin M. and Irenaeus. But we may reserve the views of the early ecclesiastical writers to a later moment when they will come fully before us.
The second objection is that Christ is said to have gone in spirit to preach to spirits. The spirit which is here distinguished against flesh seems as if it could not possibly mean anything else than the soul, says B. Not therefore in His divinity only but in His soul did the Lord go and preach to the spirits. Now this, if it were the real intimation, would have incomparably greater weight for the Christian than the opinions of the Fathers were they ever so unanimous. But it is precisely what I have shown the best authorities for the critically correct text of the epistle reject. If the article of the vulgarly received text before πνεύματι possessed any real weight of evidence, the phrase might well if not certainly convey the sense of Christ's spirit as man; but all the copies of value concur in the anarthrous form, which cannot bear the meaning for which B. contends. As the apostle wrote, it is the character of Christ's quickening when He rose from the dead. The Holy Spirit beyond a doubt was the agent; but this is presented in the shape of manner, and therefore the article is absent; whereas it must have been present if the intention had been to present the case as B. imagines. The more carefully the language is examined, the more certain it is that the soul of Christ cannot be here contemplated.
Again, Augustine had good ground to say that ζ. δὶ πν. could not apply to the soul of Christ; and B. tries in vain to answer by citing 1 Sam. 27:9; 2 Sam. 8:2; and Acts 7:19; for this is a confusion of ζωογονέω or ζωγρέω with ζωοποιέω. It is unfounded therefore to say that Peter meant that Christ's soul could not be slain, but remained alive in His triumphant work over hell. He really says and meant that Christ was brought to life; and all efforts to shake the truth will only confirm it before all competent judges. Our clever theologian is decidedly feeble in questions of a philological kind.
There is no force in the third argument, which is that the expression, “went and preached,” can properly apply to the soul, not to Christ's divinity. It is a question of what is called in 1 Peter 1:11 “the Spirit of Christ,” which certainly wrought in the prophets and among the rest in Noah, who is also formally styled “a preacher of righteousness” in the second epistle. There is no more reason why in this place πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυζεν should be a literal change of place in Christ personally, than ἐλθὼν εὐηγγελίσατο in Eph. 2:17. We are dealing with historical matter equally in both passages; but figure is excluded in neither; and in fact there is the strongest analogy between the figures employed by both. The one illustrates the other. There is a manifestly distinct precision of phrase where a literal going of Christ is intended, as in verse 22 where we read π. εἰς οὐρανὁν. It might have been safely inferred here if the apostle had written π. εἰς ᾄδου
It is granted that the fourth argument of the Cardinal lies fairly against a faulty detail in the view of Augustine; for we cannot by “spirits in prison” rightly understand living men. Such a description applies only to persons in their disembodied state. There is no ground however to suppose that the preaching was then and there more than in chapter iv. 6 where we are told that “to dead men also was the gospel preached,” but of course while they were alive, not after they died, as some strangely conceive, without the smallest warrant from the words employed, and contrary to the plain drift of universal scripture on this point elsewhere. It is not correct to suppose, as is often assumed, that Peter speaks here of the same persons as dead whom he had described in the context as the spirits in prison. He contemplates here not the generation that refused righteous warning before the flood, but such of the dead in times past as had the promises presented to them, with the effect of putting all under the responsibility of being judged as men in flesh, while those who heeded the word, being by grace quickened, lived according to God in spirit. The language of the apostle perfectly agrees with his own teaching throughout the epistle, as well as his immediately precedent warning of the Lord's readiness to judge quick and dead, no less than the witness in baptism to His saving grace. The notion of preaching after death is a strange doctrine, out of harmony with the context, and openly, irreconcilably, opposed to scripture in general. There is therefore no need here to adopt the Augustinian fancy of “dead” meaning dead in trespasses and sins, any more than to explain “the spirits in prison” of souls shut up in flesh and the darkness of ignorance as if in a prison. But that the men were dead when the glad tidings were announced to them is not what the apostle says; still less that it was Christ who preached thus, or that dead men spoken of in such broad terms are the same as those formerly disobedient when the long-suffering of God was awaiting in Noah's day. The exegesis which indulges in such assumptions as these seems justly open to the charge of having no longer any fixed rule. But thanks be to God! scripture refuses everything of the sort, and cannot be broken.
B.'s fifth objection is, that, if the passage be understood of the preaching in the days of Noah, it does not appear to what end that account is inserted here. For how hang together, that Christ was put to death in flesh, but quickened (or as he says remained alive) in spirit, and therefore God formerly preached to men by Noah? But if we understand it of the descent to hell, all is consistent. For Peter, wishing to show that Christ in suffering and death remained alive, proves it as to His soul, because at that time His soul went to hell and preached to the spirits shut up in prison. Now the fact on the contrary is that the reference to Noah's preaching is highly relevant to the purpose in hand. For the apostle is insisting on the certainty of divine government, whatever the long-suffering of God in bearing with men's hostility to His people and opposition to His testimony. His own people are called to walk with a good conscience in grace, suffering for righteousness, and for doing good, not ill. How touching the reason! Christ once suffered for sins: let this suffice. It was His grace to suffer thus to the full, His glory to suffer thus exclusively, just for unjust, in order that He might bring us to God. It is ours to suffer for good, for righteousness: never should it be for faults and sins: this was His work for us when unjust, in which He was put to death in flesh but quickened in Spirit.
The outer life of Jesus closed in suffering for our sins, the days of His flesh wherein He offered up both supplications and entreaties to Him who was able to save Him out of death, with strong crying and tears. His resurrection was no question of external display of power, but characteristically of the Spirit, and hence unseen and unknown by the world. This was of all things most strange to the Jewish mind, which associated with the Messiah the manifestation of an energy overwhelming to all adversaries. Never was such a victory over Satan even in his last stronghold of death as Christ's resurrection; but He was made alive in no such way as instantly to put down the Roman oppressor, and expel the old serpent, and exalt restored Israel, and humble the haughty Gentiles, and deliver all creation. All this and much more must yet be to the praise of the glory of divine grace; but He was quickened in Spirit. Doubtless divine energy of the highest kind wrought here, but it was distinctively in the Spirit; and hence He who was thus raised, though most truly a risen man, capable of eating and drinking, though needing no food, capable of being handled and felt, though equally able to pass through closed doors, to appear in another form, to vanish out of sight and to ascend to heaven, was seen only of chosen witnesses, not as by and by He will be by every eye.
In knowledge this ran so counter to ordinary Jewish expectation that the apostle reminds his readers of that which might help them to juster thoughts of God's ways before the day comes when judgment will silence all gainsayers. It was no new thing for the Spirit of Christ to testify. He, as we have already been told, He who in the prophets had pointed out beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow, preached in Noah's days. The patience of God in testimony sounded strange to the Jew. Yet there it was in the first book of the law: “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” —the very scripture which it would appear the apostle had before his mind's eye when inspired to write “in which [Spirit] he went and preached to the spirits in prison once disobedient when the longsuffering of God was waiting in Noah's days.” Now also as then it is a season of testimony and long-suffering before the judgment shall be executed at the appearing of Jesus. If the Spirit strove of old, surely it was not less now; if the work of God was wrought in the Spirit, proclaimed and received in the Spirit, not yet in a visible and indisputable power before which all the world must bow, it was just so in the most marked season of testimony before the most marked judgment on all mankind which the ancient oracles attest. Hence the exceeding appositeness of the allusion to Noah's days when the Spirit strove but would not always, for the flood was then at hand which must as it did surprise and take away those who stumbled at the word being disobedient. It was guilty then for the sons of Adam to slight the preaching: how much more so in the seed of Abraham now, who had before them that ancient warning, with an incomparably fuller testimony in the promises fulfilled though not yet manifested before the world!
The attentive student of scripture may thus see the admirable force and pertinence of πωεύματι ὲν ᾧ καῖ τ. ἐν φ. πν. πορ. ἐκήρ., especially as connected with the account given in Gen. 6 which the Holy Spirit here interweaves in the instruction for those addressed. There is no such statement as that Christ's Spirit was the subject, recipient, or vehicle of restored life, for this would require the article to convey such a sense; and were the article genuine and such a sense necessarily taught, it is hard to see how one who held to the text thence resulting could deny the monstrous inference that His spirit had previously died—at least, if the case connected had been the direct complement, not the indirect. It is also a manifest oversight to contend, as has been done, that the use of the word πνεὐμασιν, connecting έν ᾧ (πνεύματι) our Lord’s state with the state of those to whom He preached, is a crowning objection to the view here advocated; for it is certain that ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πν. describes the resurrection of Christ, not His separate state, and that the anarthrous form of πν. is decisive against the idea of its being His spirit as man, as is supposed in every form of the hypothesis that Christ descended to preach to separate spirits. No such connection then is in the passage: but attention is drawn to the character of Christ's resurrection as of the Spirit, bound up with His testimony and presence now known in Christianity instead of the visible power and glory of the kingdom which Israel looked for. The Spirit is emphatic as giving character to the quickening, not Sis spirit as the subject or vehicle of restored life; and then it is added that in virtue, or in the power, of this, έν ᾧ, He went and preached to the spirits in prison once on a time disobedient when the longsuffering of God was waiting in Noah's days, while an ark was in preparation. There was no external demonstration of divine power then, but a testimony of the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ; and all who despised it proved the value of the warning too late in their own destruction; and their spirits are imprisoned till the judgment of the dead declare afresh and forever the awful consequences of despising God's word. So it will assuredly be with all who, preoccupied with Messianic glory according to Jewish feeling, scorn the Spirit of Christ that now warns the world of coming judgment, and mock a presence of Christ which is only known in spirit.
Another point of analogy singled out from the tale of old and applied now is the fewness of those saved as meeting the taunts of those who looked for universal homage to the Messiah reigning and could not understand the hidden glory of One who believed in by a few bears with masses of unbelief till He comes in judgment.
But one can easily discern why all these analogies between the testimony in Noah and that under Christianity should escape the Cardinal, who finds more congenial aliment in the reveries of imagination as to the descent of Christ to hades than in the solemn and sober realities of a Christian's walk and witness, well nigh forgotten in Christendom. The dark source, whether Popish or Patristic, of Bishop Horsley's reasoning will not have escaped the reader. For he too, like Bellarmine, draws from this strikingly suggestive passage little more than the impotent conclusion that Christ remained alive in His passion and death! proved by His soul's descent and preaching to the spirits below. It is needless to expose the poverty of an interpretation which yields so wretched a harvest as compared with the rich and varied lessons flowing from the passage when understood in itself and in its connection with the Old Testament history alluded to.
Augustine had objected to the deduction of Christ's descent to hades, from this passage, (1) that consequently He would preach only to the unbelievers at the time of the flood; and (2) that, Abraham's bosom being distinct from hades, such a preaching would lead to the notion of converting the damned. Bellarmine (1) retorts with the question why Christ should be said to preach in Noah's days rather than in those of Abraham and other patriarchs or even of all other men, and (2) answers that the preaching of Christ in hell was not to convert infidels but only to announce great joy to pious souls in redemption now completed, Abraham's bosom being viewed as part of hades by Augustine himself like all other fathers. But the reader will have seen that B. is quite wrong and A. much more right as to both points. The text characterizes the imprisoned spirits as having been formerly disobedient without a trace of their subsequent repentance or piety, the announcement of great joy being a pure fiction for which the passage gives no warrant but rather as we read it plain intimations to the contrary. Not a word in scripture intimates that those on whom the flood came were believers but unbelievers, not a hint that they repented at last or that their souls were saved, though their bodies perished, let Jerome teach what he may. Their spirits are said to be in prison, in full contrast with Abraham's bosom or paradise; they are kept there for judgment like angels that sinned of old, with whom indeed the apostle classes them in the second chapter of his second epistle; and no wonder, for he characterizes them as a world of ungodly men. Are these then the pious souls to whom above all others the Lord descended to announce the great joy of His completed redemption? It will be observed by those who weigh God's word, apart from tradition, that not a thought appears in the passage of delivering the spirits from prison, any more than of translating them to heaven. This would be singular on the supposition of such a descent; for it is evident that, were the patristic idea true, it would be more in keeping with Christ's presence there to speak, not of preaching in hades, but of translating the saints thence gloriously as the fruit of His victory over Satan.
“Respondeo, primam objectionem posse retorqueri. Nam etiam non apparet ratio cur dicat Petrus Christum in diebus Noe praedicasse potius quam in diebus Abraham etaliorum patriarch-orum vel etiam aliorum omnium hominum. Dico praeterea, Christum praedicasse in inferno omnibus bonis spiritibus, sed nominatim fuisse expressos illos qui fuerunt in diebus Noe increduli, quia de illis erat majus dubium an essent salvi nec ne, cum puniti fuerint a Deo et submersi aquis diluvii. Indicat ergo his Petrus etiam ex illis ineredulis fuisse aliquos qui etiam in fine poenitentiam egerint, et licet quantum ad corpus perierinf, tamen quantum ad animam salvi faerint(quod etiam Hieronymus docet in quaestionibus Hebraicis in Genes, tractans illud cap. 6. Non permanebit spiritus mens in homine, &c). Ubi dicit Deum punivisse multos eorum temporaliter aquis diluvii, ne deberet cos punire in gehenna in aeternum. Et hunc etiam sensum videntur facere ilia verba cap. 4: Idea mortuis et praedicatum est evangelium, ut judicentur quidem secundum homines in carne, vivant autem secundum Deum spiritu; id est, ut secundum homines ex-terius judicentur carne, id est, damnati existimentur humano judicio, quia corpora eorum aquis necata fuerunt, tamen vivant spiritu secundum Deum, id est, animae eorum salvae sint apud Deum.
“Ad secundam dico, ipsnm Augustinum postea cognovisse sinum Abrahae fuisse in inferno, ut patet ex tractatu in Psal. 85 et lib. 20 de civ. Dei, ca. 15. que sententia est omnium patrum et totius ecclesiae. Dico igitur.praedicationem Christi in inferno non fuisse ad convertendos infideles, sed fuisse solum ad annun-ciationem gaudii magni piis animabus, quibus annunciavit completam esse redemptionem, ut intelligerent so jam indo liberandas et tempore suo etiam corpora rccepturas. Atque haec de expositione sancti Augustini quam refutavimus, sequuti mentem ejus, non verba.")
The remarks of Bellarmine on Beza's modification of the Augustinian view and on Calvin's ideas do not claim any special notice here, whatever is true in them having been already anticipated, I believe.

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 6

(1 Peter 3:18-20.)
We may now briefly consider the current of thought from days not long subsequent to those of the apostles. We shall see the various but constant aberration from the truth which characterized such as drew from our text an actual preaching of our Lord in the world of spirits. Doubtless it was no question of an isolated or casual misinterpretation of the scripture before us; but this rather sprang from the general ignorance even then pervading Christendom as to the full blessedness of our standing in Christ-ignorance found in the fathers as such, if possible more than in the popular theology of our own day or in the puritanism of the past. Lack of faith could not but expose men to crude guesses because of their uncertainty; especially as here where the first obvious view of the passage is not the sure, sound, and spiritual one which falls in with the contextual aim and the analogy of the faith elsewhere. Indeed our way of regarding any particular portion of revealed truth can scarcely be severed from our state generally; so much so that habitually an intelligent eye can see where we are by the judgment we form as to divine things wholly remote and apparently quite unconnected. Here for instance a soul established in the gospel and therefore feeling solemnly the fixed doom of the lost, as well as the blessedness of the saved now and evermore, is at once delivered from nine-tenths of the speculations about our Lord's preaching to the spirits of saints or sinners after their and His separation from the body. It is ordinarily thus: where we rest not in the grace and truth which came by Jesus, we are in danger from ordinances, fables, reasonings, or from a mixture of them all. Apostolic power and fidelity, Paul's above all, cut up by the root these workings of Satan's malice; but, when the apostles were gone, the evils previously judged found too ready an acceptance and gave birth to results more openly disastrous, and, if this could be, more decidedly opposed to the glory of the Lord.
1. The first I would produce is the allusion of Justin, the ecclesiastical writer, more blessed in his death of martyrdom than in his life of philosophy. It will illustrate the state of things at that time in more ways than one. Καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν λόγων τοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰερεμίου ὁηοίως ταῦτα περιέκοψαν Ἐμνήσθη ὁὲ κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἀπὸ(? ἅγιος) Ἰσπαἡλ τῶν νεκρὤν αὐτοῦ τῶν κεκοιμημένων εἰς γῆν χώματος, καὶ κατέβη πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἀναγγελίσασθαι αὐτοῖς τὸ σωτήριον αὐτοῦ. The common reading is retained in the modern edition of Otto, spite of the conjecture of Sylburg approved by Jebb, Thirlby, &c. But the emendation if correct makes no difference for our object. Here then we have a spurious text attributed to the prophet Jeremiah but evidently founded on the vulgar misapplication of 1 Peter 3:19, 4:6. Man however cannot add to scripture without clashing with revelation. Supposing we draw from the apostle a personal preaching of the Lord in the place of spirits, it is impossible to infer from the words of the New Testament an announcement of His salvation. The apostle where he may be thought to speak of such a descent tells us only of His preaching to imprisoned spirits once disobedient in the days of Noah; where he speaks of glad tidings to dead men, there is no hint of Christ's descent.
2. Irenaeus, the pious bishop of Lyons in the latter part of the second century, cites repeatedly this alleged text, under the name of Isaiah and of Jeremiah, as well as with no name attached to it (Adv. Haer. iii. c. 20, § 4; iv. c. 22, § 1). The notion that the Jews effaced such a verse from the Hebrew is baseless; especially as they have left other testimonies to Christ incomparably clearer and more at issue with their traditions. Even Massuet confesses this to be a knot beyond his power to untie, bound though he was to sustain, had it been possible, the credit of patristic traditions. “Vereor ut Justino primum, ac deinde Irenaeo fucum fecerit apocrypha quaepiam scriptura.” The unbiased reader will have no scruple in affirming what the Benedictine feared—that it is a mere apocryphal gloss, loosely imputed to a prophet, and a little expanding as it goes down; for Irenaeus adds (or at least the barbarous Latin version, which alone here represents his Greek) “ut salvaret eos” or “ad salvandum eos.” That is, He preached in Hades not merely to announce but to save. Irenaeus, strange to say, seems unusually attached to this pseudograph, for he cites it again in his book ¨4. c. 33, § 1. Only in § 12 of the same chapter the Latin translation gives the notable variation, “in terra limi.... uti erigeret,” with the addition named in both, though differently expressed. Lastly in his fifth book too he once more falls back on his prophet but recurs to the earlier form “in terra sepelitionis (so Feuardentius, &c, instead of the Erasmian reading, stipulationis),” though even so with some change, “extrahere eos et salvare eos.” Comment is scarce needed. “When a man quotes so loosely in the same work of no considerable extent, we should not be surprised if he were loose as to scripture and loose as to doctrine.
3. But there is no small descent when we turn next to Hermas, an author probably of the latter half of the same second century, who derived much of his reputation from the singular confusion which led many in early days to regard him as the Christian saluted in Rom. 16:14; for most probably (Muratori, Ant. Ital. med. aevi, 3. 853) he was brother of the Pius who was bishop of Rome after Hyginus died a.d. 157. Here too we have only a Latin version of the “Shepherd,” as even the recent discoveries of Tischendorf do not give us the Greek original beyond the fourth ἐντολή (i.e. mandatum or command) of the second book. 1 quote from the third book, and the sixteenth section of the ninth similitude (Cotelerii Patres Apost. I. 118, ed. 1698):
“Quoniam hi Apostoli et doctores, qui praedica-verunt nomen Eilii Dei, cum habentea fidem ejus et potestatem defuncti essent, praedicaverunt his qui ante obierunt, et ipsi dederunt eis illud signum. Descen-derunt igitur in aquam cum illis, et iterum ascen-derunt,” &c. Thus, Hermas is distinctly committed to the absurd doctrine that the apostles preached to the dead and baptized them. This is a further and a desperate step in superstition, and of course without a shred of support from scripture; but it seems to be the not unnatural complement of the notion that the Lord went down after death to preach in Hades to the spirits there. Is it not melancholy to think that such a production as this, immeasurably inferior in every point of view to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, though doubted by some and even declared apocryphal by certain synods, was extensively read in the public Christian assemblies, and was evidently incorporated with the scriptures in the Sinai MS, as Clement of Rome's epistles were in the Alexandrian copy?
4. Can we go down lower? Alas! not only so, but at the next step. Clement of Alexandria appears, under the reign of Severus and Caracalla, a speculative eclectic though a Christian presbyter. In the second book of his “Miscellanies” (Στρωμ. 379, ed. Sylburg, 1629) he quotes “the Shepherd” and applies the baptism carried on by the apostle after death, not (as Hermas appears to mean) only to the godly before redemption, but to heathen philosophers or moral men as well. In the sixth book (637 et seqq.) he recurs to a similar strain and yet more openly treats it as certain that our Lord descended to Hades for no other reason than to preach the gospel, and this that they might believe and be saved; that such as lived up-lightly, Jews or Greeks, even though imprisoned in Hades, on hearing His voice either in person or through the apostle were presently brought to conversion and faith; that there is the same dispensation below as on earth for souls to manifest their repentance or their unbelief. Thus the awful consequences of living and dying impenitent in this world are explained away by this Clementine notion of a further offer of salvation by Christ and the apostles after death, and this evidently to keep up the illusion of salvation for philosophers and moral men among the heathen.
5. None will wonder that the famous Origen outran his master, and that the philosopher Celsus provoked him into deplorable statements. Thus in the second book in reply (Opera I. 419, ed. De la Rue) he does not hesitate to say that the Lord in the separate state held converse with souls similarly separate from the body, converting to Himself of them such as would or such as He saw more suited for reasons known to Him. Again, in his fourth homily on Luke (I. 937), he says that John B. descended to hell and there preached the Lord's advent; and he seems to imply a similar work of Paul in his comment on Rom. 11:13 (4:35).
6. Cyril of Alexandria writes, if possible, more unguardedly in his homilies— “Hades spoiled of spirits;” yea of Christ (Hom. 6) “immediately spoiling all Hades, and opening the doors which admit of no escape to the spirits of those fallen asleep; and the devil then deserted and alone rose after the third day.”
7. In the same spirit wrote the author of a discourse on the ascension, falsely imputed to Chrysostom who really censures such thoughts as old wives' fables in his homily on Matt. 11:3, as Augustine classed the dream among heresies—the 79th in his list. I say nothing of the question raised by Gregory of Nazianzum (whether Christ saves in Hades all without exception or only such as believe, Orat. xii.), or of such romance-writers as Anastasius, who introduces Plato appearing to one asleep who used to abuse his doctrine, and pretending that he was one of the first to believe on Christ when He preached in Hades. Even a Roman Synod condemned one, a man of mark who taught thus in the year 745. Tertullian among the early Latins and Gregory of Nyssa are far enough from Romish doctrine either as to limbus patrum or as to purgatory; for they, like many others of the ancients, held all the saints before and after Christ to be waiting in Abraham's bosom, a region not heavenly yet higher than hell or hades, till the resurrection at Christ's coming. Let this suffice just now.
I feel it neither needful nor profitable to pursue the long dreary walk through the medieval desert, though even then souls were not wanting like our own Bede and Thomas Aquinas, with a long interval between, who adhered to the substantial truth in the Apostle's words as against the more prevalent superstition which had overgrown them.

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 7

(1 Peter 3:18-20.)
Coming down to the Reformation times, it may be of interest to mention that Luther naturally did not refrain from giving his mind on a scripture which had occupied so many and been perverted by not a few.
Dr. John Brown in his Expository Discourses on 1 Peter (i. 2-22), cites with mild censure some alleged remarks of the leading Reformer, as not meriting the eulogium he bestows on the “well-weighed words of the candid and learned Joachim Camerarius." If Luther really wrote that the apostle seems moved by horrible suffering so as to speak like a fanatic words which cannot up to this day be understood by us, he spoke with as little sense as reverence. Even of a fellow Christian or of an ordinary minister of the gospel, one ought thoroughly to understand that he is in error before pronouncing that he talks like a fanatic or almost so. But to confess that the words were not understood ought, to say the least, to have shielded an apostle from any censure: indeed to have made it impossible and thrown the blame on those who confessedly understood not the voice of inspiration. But I have searched in vain both his Latin (Tomm. i., iv., Jenae, 1556-8, folio), and his German (ten vols. folio, Altenburg, 1561-4) writings, without finding anything like the passage cited. What I do see in both Latin and German differs widely, and, if the citation be authentic, would go to prove very great inconsistency.
In the exposition of Peter's epistles given in the second volume of the great German collection he calls the passage (1 Peter 3:19-22) a “wonderful text,” but speaks with considerable hesitation. He will not resist those who infer from it that the Lord descended to Hades and preached to the spirits imprisoned there; but he seems disposed to think the meaning is rather that Christ risen and gone to heaven preaches to sinners spiritually while His servants preach the word to their ears-to sinners as unbelieving as those in the days of Noah, and thus embracing sinners of all times. He objects however to the change of a man's state before God after death. This is the substance of a rather diffuse comment in pages 451, 452.
The passage in the German writings, vol. 8 p. 660, answers to what appears in the Latin edition, vol. 4, pp. 638, 639: “Et Petrus hunc descensum videtur explicare cum dicit, &c. His Petrus clare dicit, non solum apparuisse Christum defunctis Patribus et Patriarchis, quorum sine dubio Christus aliquos cum resurgeret secum ad vitam aeternam excitavit, sed etiam aliquibus qui tempore Noao non crediderunt ac expectavcrunt patientiam Dei, hoc est, qui sperarunt Deum non sic duriter grassaturum in universam carnem, praedicasse, ut agnoscerent sibi per Christi sacrifieium peccata condouata esse.”
Hence it is evident that there is little harmony between the earlier and the later doctrine of Luther on this point, and that the later view does not seem to be an advance in truth, but rather approximates to what was taught afterward by the well-known Romanist divines, Suarez, Estius, &c, as well as by his own followers. The earlier view is what we find substantially taken up afterward by the Socinian party or such as too often seem swayed by their reasoning, as Grotius, Schöttgen, &c.
Francowitz (or Flacius Illyricus), famous for his hand in the “Centuriae Magdeburgenses” and other works which furthered the Reformation, held that our Lord descended to Hades to announce only the condemnation of the lost. It is plain however that, though less objectionable on exegetic grounds than that which supposes a declaration of deliverance to believers there (for Peter speaks only of spirits in prison once disobedient), this scheme is open to the defect equally fatal to both views, that the passage in debate speaks neither of believers nor of unbelievers as a whole in the separate state, but only of such as rejected the divine testimony in Noah's days. Not that there is any force in Wiesinger's or Alford's reasoning that such a “concio damnatoria” would jar in the midst of a passage intended to convey consolation and encouragement by the blessed consequences of Christ's sufferings. For, as we have seen, the context here as elsewhere consists really of as distinct and solemn warning to unbelief as of rich and solid comfort to faith. On the face of it the governing object is to meet those who might be over much tried and cast down under their sufferings for righteousness' sake. Hence the apostle brings in the Messiah not glorious but suffering once for sins, Just for unjust, that He might bring us to God: put to death in respect of flesh and quickened in respect of Spirit. Instead of even then restoring the kingdom to Israel there was only the testimony of His Spirit while He is exalted (not on earth or in Jerusalem, but) on high at God's right hand, angels and authorities and powers being subjected to Him, but not yet His enemies made a footstool for His feet. On the contrary there goes on here below His testimony by the Spirit; just as of old He went in the Spirit and preached when the antediluvians obeyed the word as the mass do now, and still fewer were those saved in the ark than the comparatively few baptized, who had now found that acceptance which is the demand of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is the long-suffering of God now as then, and the Lord will come to judge the quick as the deluge befell the despisers then, eternal judgment awaiting all the wicked by and by.
We have already seen Calvin was as little consistent as Luther. Thus in his Commentary on the first Epistle he maintains that Peter speaks of the manifestation of Christ's grace to godly spirits, and this expressly in the spirit that he might take away the notion of a real descent of Christ into Hades to preach, contrary to the representation of Dr. Huther followed by Alford, who twice over classes him with the advocates of a literal preaching there. On the other hand, in his Institutions, Calvin (like Erasmus a little before him, following Athanasius among the Greek fathers and Ambrose among the Latin) lays down that the preaching had for its objects both the good and the evil, the one for salvation and the other for damnation. But such an inference, while it may be reasoned out or imagined, none can gravely pretend to elicit from the words of the apostle as the revealed mind of the Spirit. But early or late, in this at least Luther and Calvin agree with Augustine (who was no less wavering and uncertain as to our text than themselves), that preaching the gospel for faith and repentance to spirits after death comes altogether too late, and is repugnant to the uniform tenor of scripture in its plainest, brightest, and most earnest appeals to the souls of men. It is a notion subversive of the first principles of truth, not to say of morality. Let me add that a fresh offer of salvation in the invisible world is not more contradictory to and contradicted by the awful warnings to unbelievers which accompany the gospel than destructive of one of the main lessons in the passage before us. For Peter is refuting the fond security of such as taunt the paucity of the household of faith in comparison with the multitudes of those who slighted the Christian and the suffering Christ, their foundation before God: and this by the instance of the days of Noah when the world perished save the few who found a divinely given and ordered shelter in the ark.
It would scarcely be for edification to pursue minutely the history of opinion to our own days, involving too as it would a frequent repetition of hardly anything more than old views and arguments under new names. Dr. J. Brown's exposition is perhaps the fullest contribution among moderns on the epistle, and therefore it may seem to claim examination; but there is extremely little to notice in the way of fresh thought, and his own judgment of the passage seems to my mind defective.
Commenting on the Authorized Version he says (168, 169), “the words flesh and spirit are plainly opposed to one another. The prepositions in and by are not in the original. The opposed words [σαρκὶπνεύματι] are in the same case; they stand plainly in the same relation respectively to the words rendered 'put to death' and 'quickened' [θανατωθείς, ζωοποι-ηθείς], and that relation should have been expressed in English by the same particle. If you give the rendering, ‘put to death in the flesh,' you must give the corresponding rendering, ‘quickened in the spirit,' which would bring out the sense, either 'quickened in His human spirit or soul,' a statement to which it is difficult to attach a distinct meaning; for the soul is not mortal; Christ's spirit did not die; and to continue alive is not the moaning of the original word; or “quickened in His divine nature,” a statement obviously absurd and false, as implying that He who is the life, the living One, can be quickened, either in the sense of restored from a state of death, or endowed with a larger measure of vitality. On the other hand, if you adopt the rendering of our translators in the second clause,' quickened by the Spirit,' then you must render in accordance with it the first clause, 'put to death by the flesh.' If by the Spirit you understand the divine nature of our Lord, by the flesh you must understand the human nature, which makes the expression an absurdity. On the other hand, if you understand by the Spirit the Holy Ghost, then by flesh you must understand ‘mankind,' put to death by men, but restored to life by God the Spirit. This interpretation, though giving a consistent and true sense, the sense so forcibly expressed in Peter's words to the Jews, ‘whom ye crucified; whom God raised from the dead,' is forbidden by the usage of the language. Then there can be no doubt that there does appear something very material in introducing our Lord in what is plainly a result of His atoning sufferings, as having in the Spirit, by which He was quickened after He had been put to death, gone many centuries before, in the antediluvian age, to preach to an ungodly world; and there is just as little doubt that the only meaning that the words will bear, without violence being done them, is, that it was when He had been put to death in the flesh, and quickened in the Spirit or by the Spirit, whatever that may mean, He went and preached; and that 'the spirits,' whoever they be, were ‘in prison,' whatever that may mean, when He preached to them.”
This is no unfair specimen of what one cannot but characterize as daubing with un-tempered mortar. It is but a balancing of probabilities or rather of improbabilities, and recalls the passage of Isaiah, who tells us of the judicial sleep poured out on Israel, so that the whole vision became to them like the words of a sealed book, which, if delivered to the learned man with the request to read it, elicits the reply, I cannot, for it is sealed; or, if delivered with the same request to the unlearned, he excuses himself as unable because of want of learning.

Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Prison: Part 9

(1 Peter 3:18-20.)
Dr. Bartle's book ("The scriptural doctrine of Hades") may be briefly noticed so far as it alludes to our text, which he pronounces most extraordinary, because, after all that has been written by ancients and moderns, and notwithstanding the learning and erudition expended on it, the passage is still involved in much obscurity. He himself proposes a solution, which, he tells us, differs entirely from the expositions of any of those who have hitherto written on the subject. (Page 63.) Now one of the tests of a true or a false explanation is whether the light shines thereby or the darkness abides. If any scripture is still involved in obscurity, there is the strongest presumption that its meaning is as yet unknown. Whether Dr. B.'s view be well founded remains to be shown. His denial that the paradise (to which the converted robber went with our Lord on the day of the crucifixion) is in heaven, seems rather an unhappy beginning. (Page 67.) Dr. B. reasons that the robber spoke to Jesus as supreme God, that the words “with me” are to be understood as referring exclusively to His divine character, and that therefore the meaning of the promise is, not that the spirit of the condemned malefactor was with the Spirit of Christ in heaven, but that he was with Jesus only as the Omnipresent God, according to Psa. 139:7-12. His frightful doctrine is, that, while the penitent thief quitted the earth in a forgiven state, and was therefore among the blessed, Christ, being a Substitute after the cross as well as on it, had still to suffer in the other world that measure of punishment, allotted by divine justice to sinful man. It denies the work finished by the offering up of His body. This is heresy. It separates the natures of Christ, no less than Christ and the robber in paradise. Touch His work or His person, and our best privileges are irremediably shaken. In this Dr. B. seems to touch both.
But, as to the passage itself, Dr. B. tells us that those who regard it as a statement of Christ's preaching by His Spirit in Noah seem to forget that He is represented to have effected it in His own person. (Page 90.) This however is not the fact. He is declared to have done it by the Spirit; as the Spirit of Christ, which was in the prophets, is declared by the same apostle in the same Epistle to have testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
Further, it has been already shown that the use of the preposition (ἐν ᾧ) is not immaterial, and that the anarthrous form (πν.) is perfectly correct. The quickening and the preaching therefore are not absolutely analogous, as he argues. It is not true that Christ is said by the apostle to have done anything whatever during His disembodied state; but, even if a personal action of Christ were here intended, it would seem most natural to place it after His resurrection, not during His disembodiment, for there can be no just doubt that “quickened by the Spirit” refers to resurrection. But Dr. B. himself owns that Christ's preaching to the spirits in the prison of hades involves very grave difficulties, arising from its apparent inconsistency with numerous declarations of the word of God. He maintains from Luke 16 the impossibility of an alterable condition in the next world for the departed righteous or wicked; and so far he is quite right. A great gulf is fixed, and there is no passing it from either side.
What then does Dr. B, propose? An amended translation. “Because Christ also once suffered for sins, a Just for unjust persons, in order that He might bring us to God, being put to death indeed in the body, but enlivened in the Spirit, in which Spirit He also went and cried aloud in prison, among those spirits who formerly believed not,” &c. (Page 89.) It is first to be observed that ζωοποιηθεὶς: means not “enlivened,” but “quickened,” as has been already shown with precision. Secondly, “cried aloud” is an impossible rendering of ἐκήρνξεν. The passage quoted from the Hecuba of Euripides (145) proves nothing of the sort. To invoke is not to “cry aloud” as a sufferer. In the very few classical instances where the word bears the peculiar meaning of invocation, κ. has an object which determines the sense, whereas here it is without one. But its New Testament meaning is to preach or publish; and the reason alleged for a variation here (that it is the only place in which it refers to one who was in a state of suffering) is a mere and unfounded assumption. There is no more real ground to deny an active subject here than anywhere else in the New Testament. It is not true that the apostle was in this clause concerned with the voluntary sufferings of Christ, any more than with the desire of the Savior to be delivered from those sufferings; for this slights the value of the conjunction “also” (ἐν ᾦ καί). The apostle states it as a distinct fact, and connects it with the Spirit's power by which He was quickened.
The attempt also to gather support from the supposed derivation of κηρύσσω from the Chaldaic וַרְּכ proves rather the contrary, for Dan. 5:29 in no way supports the notion of crying out in suffering. Nor is it true that the word ἐκήρνξεν should be followed by an objective case if the apostle had been desirous of impressing on our minds the definite notion of publishing the gospel; for if Mark 16:15 expresses the gospel, Mark 1:38 leaves it out, and yet who can doubt the meaning? So Mark 3:14, nay, even chapter 16:20—the very context to which Dr. B. appeals for the contrary. The rest of the New Testament would still more fully disprove the notion, but what we have referred to is surely enough.
But, again, it is to corrupt scripture, not to translate it, if one represent Peter as saying that He “cried aloud in prison among those spirits who formerly believed not.” It has been already pointed out in an earlier part of this paper, that the apostle says nothing about preaching in prison, but that Christ by (or in the power of) the Spirit preached to the spirits that are there, which is a wholly different proposition. For this leaves it to be decided by the context if not by other scriptures whether the preaching was there, or only the persons preached to were because they heeded not the preaching, as indeed the next clause of the verse lets us know is the truth. The Greek does not intimate that Christ cried aloud (oven if the word could bear this meaning) in prison; it tells us of the imprisoned spirits as those contemplated in Christ's κήρνξιω by the Spirit. To bear the desired meaning, ἐv φυλακῆ must have been put with ἐκήρυξεν, instead of being entrenched in its present position apart, as it is most firmly. Further, it is equally an error to suppose that the original text can possibly mean “among those spirits, &c.” Were the words ἐv φ. Μετὰ τῶν πνευμάτων, κ.τ.λ., there would be something answering to what is set out in his English: as it is, there is not even a distant resemblance. Again, the Greek does not say “who formerly believed not;” for this would require the article, the absence of which indicates that their former disobedience in Noah's day was the ground, occasion, or circumstance, antecedent to their being in prison.
Our readers will therefore gather that of all expositions Dr. B.'s is perhaps the least satisfactory, and, of all translations known to me, certainly the moat inexact. Many have failed in one phrase or another; Dr. B. in all that is of consequence to the right understanding of the passage, though clear enough in rejecting most of the counter-interpretations. For (1) it is impossible to sustain that “the spirits in prison” mean the blessed on high; (2) it is contrary to the tenor of scripture to allow of a preaching to the lost in hell; (3) it is a paltry view that no more is meant than the Gentiles in bondage to idolatry till they heard the gospel; (4) the notion of purgatory being intended here is quite untenable and inconsistent, for it is not Romish doctrine to have Christ preaching to souls there (at least for prospective grace), but to have masses now said and paid for on their behalf.
All who look into the passage must in fairness concede that the singling out of the spirits of the antediluvians (who perished for their rebellious indifference to Noah, preacher of righteousness as he was) for Christ to preach to them in person after His death is not only without the smallest support from general scripture teaching or any passage anywhere, but wears every appearance of caprice, being not only without moral motives but opposed to the most solemn considerations derivable from God's word. On the view that Peter means Christ's preaching by the Spirit in Noah to the men of his day, one can readily understand that those who were about to be visited by an unexampled destruction should have had a special warning; and that all this should be turned by the apostle to the present or future profit of those who hoar the gospel that is now preached. For Jews especially were disposed to slight anything short of open signs and displays of power, little thinking that, while not reigning as David's Son over Israel and their land, now too He in Spirit is preaching before He comes personally in judgment of the habitable earth, and that all who have despised His admonitions and fallen in such solemn dealings await what is still more awful at the close, that eternal judgment when the dead small and great shall stand before the throne and be judged according to their works by Him who, unseen and gone into heaven, is at God's right hand, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him, and Himself ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Queries and Answers on Church Matters

Q. 1. Have a few brothers, who stay at the weekly meeting for consultation, usually after the prayer meeting, power to act for the “assembly,” say in the matter of putting away, without distinctly calling a meeting of the “assembly?” And if a brother feels he cannot concur in a judgment thus arrived at, is he wrong in saying so at the Lord's table, in the event of such judgment being read there?
J. K.
A. I am aware that, when assemblies are small, and more rarely in larger ones, there is apt to be a want of due care in apprising the saints of a meeting for considering a case of discipline which seems to call for putting away. This ought not to be.
But if a “few brothers” remain at the close of a meeting of the assembly (either on Lord's day, or during the week), and if they be of one mind, the case might be so far clear (especially as many could be there if they pleased) as to warrant their bringing it at once before the assembly at the breaking of bread. Only, if they knew of an honest difference of judgment (for one does not take account of party men, relatives, &c.) among brethren, they ought to seek the Lord about it together; for discussion at such a time is most undesirable, as haste is always. They ought therefore in such a case to call a meeting, or at least announce at a general meeting (not at a reading or other meeting in a private house) that the saints are requested to stay for consideration of a case of discipline.
If there has been irregularity in this respect, a brother might rightly say so, taking care of the facts first, and of his own spirit in the way it is named to the saints, so as to avoid the hateful appearance of factious opposition, or of other uncomely conduct. But undoubtedly a formal judgment ought to be arrived at by the assembly, not by a few for it; and therefore it is still open even at the last moment to call for arrest of action if the case be not quite clear. The few may come to a sound judgment and be used of God to awaken all to the gravity of the case and the will of the Lord about it; but due means should be used that the assembly should hear before judgment is pronounced, so as to satisfy all, and give occasion for correcting those mistakes which are very possible in such a world as this. In a perfectly plain case to hear the facts is enough; and judgment might follow at once. Technical delay of judgment under such circumstances is unworthy of the church, though it may suit the world and the lawyers.

Queries and Answers on Church Matters

Q. 2. Is it requisite that the assembly as such should agree to the proposal of names for communion? or is it enough that they be proposed by two or three having the confidence of the rest? A. B.
A. There is no small danger for some of attaching too much importance to the mere proposal for communion. This really involves no more than the judgment of the individuals who propose: if they propose rashly, it is enough that the assembly refuse to receive those they propose—a wholesome but painful lesson for all concerned. The great point of importance is, not the proposal by a few individuals (which really and properly has nothing to do with the assembly; for in principle any brother is at liberty to propose whom he thinks fit), but the action of the assembly, who are all responsible, when a name is proposed, to satisfy themselves directly or through such visitors as they confide in, that the Lord has received those they accept after proposal. It is egregious to suppose that the assembly should propose as well as receive people; and to lay overmuch stress on the individuals who propose (however desirable that they be godly, and respected by all for spiritual competency) shows latent ministerialism. Exclusion and restoration answer, not to proposal, but to reception, and are all, save proposal, the act of the assembly, which in each case is bound to carry out what it believes to be the Lord's will in His word.
The grand thing is the assembly's acceptance or rejection of those proposed. To make too much of the proposers is to make too little of the assembly. If individuals propose carelessly, they should feel it as their fault. If the assembly receive carelessly, it is the assembly's fault (and it is vain to shift it thence on individuals); for to receive is their responsibility, not that of the proposers.

Queries and Answers on Church Matters

Q. 3. What Are the Grounds of Admission? What of Exclusion? and What Is Meant by the Unity of the Body?
H. D.
A. I know no ground of admission but the membership of Christ's body. Of course it is implied that the applicant affords no just occasion for exception either doctrinally or morally. Were there known evil in doctrine or practice, the clearest profession of the truth would only produce the deeper distrust. But a Christian, apart from such reasons, inconsistent with the godly confession of the Lord's name, is thoroughly admissible as such, hardly needs to be known. To demand ecclesiastical intelligence in the persons applying is not only without and against scripture, but a proof of lack of intelligence in those who seek for it in such circumstances. We ought not to look for spiritual understanding as to the church in those outside. Press for the confession of Christ, or the knowledge of redemption. All we could hope to find beyond the gospel is mere notions, till a soul is in the place which grace assigns it, till walking in communion. Those who are on church ground ought themselves to be intelligent as well as gracious; and if they are, they will assuredly help to smooth away difficulties for the ignorant, not increase them in the present snares and difficulties of Christendom, in a way the apostles did not when all was at the beginning clear and plain. If it be pleaded that such souls may still go backwards and forwards through ignorance of the evils of the world-church, denominationalism, &c.; the answer is that it is our duty, as far as we can, to instruct them within, not to create artificial and unwarranted barriers, or to keep them dangling without on one excuse or another which there is not honesty to avow, because it would be the avowal of sectarianism. But this largeness of heart, this yearning according to Christ over all that are His, this refusal to allow human rules expressed or understood to stand in the way of receiving in the Lord's name those He has called by grace, is as far as possible from the indifferentism which makes light of fundamental heterodoxy or defies the holy obligatory discipline of God's assembly.
There can hardly be too much care, both for the Lord's sake and Ηis assembly', not to say for the souls themselves, in ascertaining on the most trustworthy evidence that those who come forward are members of Christ, not merely quickened but possessed of the Spirit, so as to join in Christian worship and every other godly function. Acts 11:17.
To require more, not to accredit and act on that, is in my judgment a slight of the name of the Lord, and neither right nor wise. Honest ignorance we are bound to bear with, while seeking to teach the truth more perfectly; but we are yet more solemnly bound to purge out and keep from all that denies and dishonors Christ whether openly or by neutrality.
This suffices also as to grounds of exclusion, the principle and even details of which faith can find in the word of God. Originally all the church owned itself and acted as one. Those who so own and act now are seeking to walk in the unity of the body. For they take their stand for united action on the great truth that “there is one body and one Spirit,” seeing also that the Lord has provided a resource even for the present state of His saints scattered by inadequate or false, by loose or narrow, grounds of union. They accept the unity produced by the Spirit who baptizes all Christians into one body; and if they cannot convince all others that this is the only divine ground of church unity, they can at least act on it by grace themselves. Hence they seek diligently in the measure of their faith to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, while they would also maintain scriptural discipline among those who gather thus to the Lord's name. This is set aside by the Protestant theory of co-ordinate systems, though by none so distinctly as the Congregationalists; for they go so far as to make each congregation independent of every other on principle, whatever they may concede to courtesy—a fatal abuse of churches to deny the whole principle and practice of the church on earth.

Cleansing and Deliverance

As regards perfection, which is often a difficulty, the ground has been taken that, while the flesh never changes, which is perfectly true so far, yet supposing we sin, by referring to the blood of Christ, inasmuch as it cleanses, we are constantly thus perfectly clear. But this does not at all meet the point. Blood has to cleanse because we are not clean. What is wanted is not so much cleansing as power.
Now Christ's blood, though the ground of all blessing, connects itself directly with the conscience, with imputation, not with power; and to bring in the blood at once raises the question of the state of my conscience and the consciousness that I am unclean. They tell me there is power sufficient to put you in relationship with God, and then that you are there pure. Now, it requires earnest and honest attention to make the difference between deliverance from the power of sin and purity. Because, till we are delivered through a just sense of redemption, the sense of the presence of sin and of want of perfect purity connects itself with conscience and acceptance with God. Take Christians in general; and you will find they have a kind of feeling, though they would not like to say it, that they must sin. And quite true it is that, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; and, in fact, in many things we all offend.
But you will notice in 1 John 1, when it comes to sinning, the apostle puts this in the past tense, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.” Speaking of sin, it is the present tense, “we have no sin,” but of sinning in the past tense, “we have not sinned,” not “if we say we are not sinning;” and there is no such consequence to be drawn as that we must sin. “My grace,” said Christ, “is sufficient for thee, and my strength is made perfect in weakness;” and “God is faithful not to suffer us to be tempted above that we are able.” “I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me.”
Nor does the existence of the flesh give a bad conscience: else I should never have a good one, because the flesh is always there. Neither is it a question with me whether God can impute a sin to me as a believer, for Christ has borne them all; nor is it a question of past sins or future sins, inasmuch as for Christians now Christ never bore any but future sins, though past sins are necessarily what affect the conscience. But the question is, whether that kind of power comes in by which I am brought into a condition where sin is not operative. I never could say that it must operate, For God is faithful not to suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; and, if I bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, only His life will work in me. So that, if an idle thought is in my mind, I cannot excuse myself. Grace still acts in the advocacy of Christ; but I never can excuse myself for having ever allowed the flesh to act. Had I been faithful in closeness to Christ, the flesh would not have acted. Had I been occupied with Him, the evil would not have found place in my mind.
Here is a mother; she is told that her child has been run over at the railway; she is off directly. Does she think of the things in the street as she passes? Not she; on she runs. All those things which might have been an attraction to her if she had been unoccupied—a fine dress hung out, or a pretty picture—they none of them arrest her attention now: she does not see them. And so ninety-nine out of a hundred temptations never would be such to you, if Christ were in your mind. If we were full of Him, there would be no room for the idle thoughts with which Satan seeks to distract us by the world around us, if he cannot occupy us with them as an object.
And if we do fail, this is no question of putting away sin, and of blood; but it is a question of water, when Christ is an advocate pleading for us to restore our souls. In John 13 He did not put blood into the basin, but water. Now, if my feet did not pick up the dirt—and they ought not to do it—then I should not need that action in John 13; but they do, and the Spirit of God brings the water of the word to my conscience, and this is the value of the passage. I have defiled my feet, and then I get water and not blood. Water, as a figure, signifies always the application of the word by the power of the Holy Ghost. Christ has entitled us to heaven, but for our restoration He works in us by the word when it is needed, though it ought not to be.
The existence of the flesh does not stop communion, but the allowance of it does. In 1 John 1 fellowship or communion is the same word; and it is stopped by an idle thought: for the moment it is totally interrupted. God evidently cannot have communion with such.
But, further, in connection with this, Christ dying for our sins is quite distinct from our dying with Christ; it is a different thing entirely. We are called upon to recognize this and live in the power of it. If we are dead with Christ, then “reckon yourselves” so; only I add that this is not finding out that I have died at a particular moment, and am brought by faith into this state (though every truth is learned by faith), but the truth learned here is that I died in Christ's death. It is my Christian profession. Being baptized unto Christ, I am baptized unto His death, and, when the apostle bears about in His body the dying of the Lord Jesus, it is clearly not his own dying, but, as it states, the dying of Jesus. The thing I say is, Christ was the One who bore my sins, and so I get pardon; but I find no pardon for the evil nature. “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” But, when God did that, what happened? Christ died; then I am dead. If it had been myself personally under law, I should have had condemnation as well as death; but being crucified with Christ, condemnation is gone, and the death has come. If I apply it practically, and honestly say I am dead, how can Satan tempt a dead man? And how can you say a dead man has lusts and a bad will? It is not true. Yet this doctrine of purity in yourselves attained by faith, and that without the self-knowledge gained by exercise of heart under law as taught in Rom. 7, is very rife around us; and it is winning honest and sincere persons, through the craving for a deliverance they have not got.
It is stated that there is a purifying that makes us now like Christ here. But this is unscriptural. It is asked “Did you not when converted desire to be conformed to Christ?” But this is misleading people's souls; for I desire it now too. But what is taught in scripture is that, “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.” This is a very different story. If I am already purified, I do not want to purify myself. The conformity to Christ proposed in scripture is in glory. He was absolutely without sin here; if I say I have none, I deceive myself. I ought to walk as He walked, not allowing sin to stir in me; but it is there in the flesh.
The effect of the whole thought is to lower the standard of the Christian altogether. I want to be like Christ in glory, and I shall be; and, meanwhile, though the flesh is here, this in itself would not interrupt my communion; and I recognize fully that as a Christian I ought, not grieving the Holy Spirit of God, to live constantly in the unclouded sense of God's favor.
I dare say there may be Christians here who never have really comprehended what it is to be dead and risen with Christ. They cannot, as to their own souls, take this up. It is what the scripture calls being perfect; that is, not merely being forgiven the sins of the first Adam but having our place in the Second, and that in the power of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. “We shall be actually perfect when like Him in glory; never before, because this is our standard. But, if I have realized that I am in Him dead and risen with Him, as He is, so am I in this world—first, as to judgment, and then as to the power of life and state before God, recognizing the deadness of the old man for faith through Christ's death on the cross.
But the view I have referred to supposes that a person can by faith slip into a state of purity; just as by faith he knows his justification. Now, such are deceiving themselves, and that for this reason; you do not know yourselves yet, and you must. I repeat, what I have said elsewhere, that you do not get out of Rom. 7 in some shape, till you have got into it, and know not merely guilt, not merely that you have an evil flesh, but, what is harder to learn and more thoroughly humbling, that you have no power.
Suppose a person owed money, and I tell him it is all paid. If he believes I am a man of my word, no experience is needed; he is at ease and very glad to hear it. But suppose I say, You are dead to sin. This is not the payment of a debt, it is an absolute statement of your condition. The man might say, “What is the good of telling me that? why, I was in a passion this morning.” His experience contradicts me. Nor can you get out of the difficulty until you have come to the personal consciousness, the self-knowledge, which finds out that you cannot get the victory over sin. It is a terrible thing to see; but it is learning this, that I have no power, and not merely that I am guilty. “To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not;” and until you are brought to the conscience of “Ο wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” —I cannot succeed; sin is too strong for me, you are not brought to the point, where alone you get the deliverance. I may or may not have the knowledge of forgiveness. This modifies the form, but not the substance, of the experience. It is always essentially under law, that is, a claim upon us to be in a given state. But you say, “I must try.” “Very well,” I say, “Try away, try away.” Why? Because then he will learn that he cannot, and presently he will say, not, “How shall I do better?” but, “Who shall deliver me?” He is then in such a condition that another must take him out of it. He finds he is not only ungodly, but without strength; he has learned what he is, not merely what he has done; and then he finds Christ there in power, and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes him free from the law of sin and death. This is not a question of non-imputation nor of cleansing, but of making free. Then I find it settled in seeing the truth and ground of it in the cross of Christ, and not in my personal obtaining of purity at a given moment.
Another thing I would just add. I ask, Are you content to have died then, and not to have the least atom of will of your own, nor wish, nor desire? Is there nothing in your heart that you would like to hold back against God? This tests us. Have we so learned what the principle of will is, or do we want to keep a little bit of it? Our state ought always to be one of unhindered communion in the power of the Holy Ghost, without a cloud upon our spirits. But this is not really the state of things, and so it is power we want.

Coming of the Lord Prominent in All Epistles of the NT

There is not an epistle in the New Testament in which the coming of the Lord Jesus is not made the prominent object of the faith and hope of believers, for which they were to wait, and which characterizes distinctively those who should partake of His Salvation. Now the expectation of it is put out of view and depreciated” as much as possible


Dear Mr. Editor,
In your number for March there is a question from J. N. D. as to ναόν and ἱερόν, together with your answer. I do not think the matter of the least importance. Whatever was the fact, the chief priests and elders and Judas were wicked enough to do anything to accomplish the death of our blessed Lord; but seeing that the scribes and Pharisees would not go into the judgment hall, “lest they should be defiled,” (John 18:28) when they were, at the same time, crying out for the blood of Jesus, and seeing that they would not put the money, which Judas returned, into the treasury, “because it was the price of blood,” and would therefore defile it, it is hardly likely that they would admit Judas himself into the temple, ναόν, when they would not admit his money into the treasury. Surely blood was upon him, as well as on his money.
I should suppose therefore, that he came to the gate of the temple, and cast down the money to the priests inside—the more so, as it does not say that he went in; it says, “he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, see Matt. 27:3. Ἰούδας.... μεταμεληθεὶς ἔστρεψεν τὰ τριάκοντα ἀpγύpiα.... καὶ ῥιψας τὰ ἀργύρια ῤν τῷ ναῷ, ἀνεχώρησεν, &c, Casting the money down ἐv τῷ ναῷ—not; going in—and I further come to this conclusion from the contemptuous answer of the chief priests and elders τί πρὸς ἡμᾶς; σὺ ὄψη.
I believe that they were wicked enough to have allowed Judas to come into the temple, ναόν, to have secured the death of Jesus, just as they said “we have no king but Caesar;” but, having accomplished their purpose, they had done with their “defiled” tool, and would hardly have allowed him to come in then—on the contrary, dismiss him with the contemptuous words, “what is that to us? see thou to that.” So that I think that we have the text, and the probabilities against his going in. X. Y.

Correspondence: Character and Action of Laodicea

Dear Brother,—The character and action of Laodicea presses upon us on all sides. Our Lord tells us to watch. I feel it my duty to inform your readers who are interested in the distribution of tracts on the continent, that a mutilated version of “Daniel Mann” has been printed, and is sold at Paris (No. 409 of the “Publications Populaires") under the title of “un condamné à mort.” The names of the author, translator, and printer are suppressed, and the tract is sold for one penny, or less than half the price of the true verbatim translation, which is to be had from W. B. Horner, Manchester, as well as Beroud and Kaufmann, Geneva; and N. Caucanas, Alais, France. The translator of this mutilated edition has taken care to leave aside every passage which is calculated to reach the consciences of those who, to use a vulgar expression, endeavor to make the best of both worlds; and, in presenting his halfhearted gospel, deliberately takes his place amongst those who cry, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace,” who are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Those who have the real welfare of souls at heart must resent with a feeling of profound indignation and sorrow such a shameful distortion of another's work, turning the edge of the truth of God and playing into the hands of the enemy. All thought of the believer's union with a risen Christ, and of the holy walk of faith which flows from it, as well as of the two resurrections, has been carefully banished from this pseudo-French version, and some passages have been so handled as to be made to say the opposite of what was meant in the original. The entire matter of the tract is reduced more than one half. Pages 36 and 52 of the English tract (new edition, revised) have been left aside altogether.
Yours affectionately in the Lord, W. J. L.

Correspondence: Matthew 27:5

Judas' Casting Down the Money in the Temple (To the Editor of the Bible Treasury.)
Dear Mr. Editor,
Allow me to draw your attention to Matt. 27:5. The word employed is ναός, not ίερόv. What brought Judas in there? We can hardly suppose him to have been a priest. If not, his association and connection with the priests must have been very intimate to have him admitted there where only priests might come. There must have been an arranging of the wickedness sought to be accomplished which gave this intimacy and access to a place appropriated to the priests. I do not find ναός used for the general buildings of the temple. It may be found in a dictionary on account of this passage; but though I have no opportunity of consulting books where I write this, I do not think such a use of ναός is warranted. Can you throw any light upon it? The importance to me is as throwing light on the dealings between Judas Iscariot and the priests.
J. N. D.

Correspondence Rev. 7 (to the Editor of the Bible Treasury.)

Dear Mr. Editor, An interesting question arises out of Rev. 7 Let me clear the way a little before I put the question. I take for granted that the church has been taken up; I take for granted that chapter vii. is not a continuance of the historic sequence in Revelation, but rather an episode between the sixth and the seventh seal, in which God, in His loving kindness, lifts, as it were, the veil a little, to let us know that, when the sore judgments are about to Come, His own amongst both Israel and Gentile nations are safe. How could it be otherwise? “In the time of trouble, He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me.”
Israel and the Gentiles are the next point to clear up. I take then for granted that in verses 4-8 the twelve tribes mean the twelve tribes—Israel literal. I can neither understand those who say that they mean the “Israel of God” (meaning thereby the Christian church), nor can I feel that there is any weight in the references which they give in support of this opinion. I think that they are given under a misapprehension of Matt. 25:31-46, supposing this to be the last judgment; from not being aware that there will be a “new Jerusalem” earthly, and a “new Jerusalem” heavenly; and lastly, (which I mention last to attract notice, as I believe it to be the secret of the misinterpretation of the whole book of Revelation from chapter iv. 1, to xxii. 21,) that the church is in heaven when chapter vii. comes before us. I do not think that the expression “Israel of God” (see Alford, in loco) is ever used for the Gentile Christian church. Gal. 6:16, is adduced in proof of it. I will not now occupy your space in discussing the point further, than to say, that, even granting for a moment that this expression in Gal. 6 does mean the Christian church (which I do not admit), we cannot take one isolated expression against the weight of the universal testimony of Old and New Testaments against it. These say that Zion is Zion, Jerusalem is Jerusalem, and Israel, Israel.
But however this may be, in Rev. 7, it strikes me as impossible, for the plainest reasons, to use it in any such sense, as, in that case, verse 9, would be a mere needless repetition of chapter 20:4-8. Chapter 20:4-8, is Israel literal; chapter 10:9, the Gentiles; chapter 10:11, the church, as we have it always in this book represented by the twenty-four elders.
I take then for granted, first, that the church has been taken up; second, that verses 4-8 are the expression of God's providential care of the elect of Israel; third, verses 4-9, the same care of Gentiles (other than the risen saints) brought to the Lord by the ministry of restored and converted Israel(?) under the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in larger measure than on the day of Pentecost. I say, assuming these three several points—(though I do not see my way clear in the third except that chapter 10:9 are Gentiles,) I say, assuming these several points, does not all the above indicate that the time between the raising and taking up of the saints and the destruction of Antichrist and her host, must be larger than we (I at least) have generally supposed it to be? This chapter vii. is, in historic sequence, previous to chapter xix. Chapter 19 makes way for the millennium. Matt. 25:31-46 is the judgment of the nations (other than apostate Christendom) as to having received or rejected the testimony of Israel in behalf of the Lord Jesus.
I would ask then, when does the mission of converted Israelites to the Gentiles take place, and for how long carried on? I beg particularly to say, that I do not put this question as of any doctrinal importance, and think that every dear saint may be quite ignorant of the matter—or, having crossed his mind, he may not have come to any conclusion about it—or, having come to one, it may be contrary to one's own; I say this the rather, because I think it of very great importance that we should not make brethren offenders for any details of the kind, however interesting they may be. Yet still, at the same time, as a clear understanding of this matter would tend to clear up several points mentioned in that wonderful and blessed book, the Apocalypse, I should be glad of information on the subject. After the church has been taken up, and when Antichrist appears, I believe that the two tribes (previously restored but in unbelief, the temple built and city inhabited) will receive Him as Messiah, at the beginning of “the week,” that is, seven years. He will, in the course of the week, set up idolatry in the temple. The Jews spurning this, He will turn against them; the slaughter of Zachariah will take place to prevent their entire destruction, Messiah appears, delivers them, and destroys the host of Antichrist, consigning the leader to the lake of fire. During their seven years, I believe there will be Gentile believers and a Jewish godly remnant, many of whom will be martyred. I believe that, after Antichrist is consigned to the lake of fire, Israel, converted, will be the instrument of conversion to the nations. But when will “the great multitude which no man could number of all nations, kindred, peoples, end tongues “be brought to the Lord? The solution of this will clear up other matters to my mind, which I do not at present see clearly.
X. Y.

Councils, Congress, and Social Science: Part 1

The Ecumenical Council of Rome, and the late assumption of infallibility by the Pope, as the great ecclesiastical head of Christendom, and the vicar of Christ on earth, mark perhaps the highest point of pretension to which the civilized world has yet reached. Prophecy however shows a greater than this, when “the Antichrist sits in the temple of God, declaring that he is God” —whom the Lord shall destroy with the spirit of His mouth, and with the brightness of His coming. Upon this graduated scale (though much lower) is also marked the favorite scheme of modern ecclesiastics for a united Christendom by the fusion of its eastern and western churches, and the union of Patriarch, Pope, and Primate. Connected with this movement, the Pan-anglican Council of Protestantism held its session; and “the Eirenicon” of Dr. Pusey (like the dove sent forth out of Noah's ark) was let loose to see whether the waters of division were abated. The Evangelical Alliance still lends its hand as a connecting link with what is yet lower, and is almost become the next door neighbor to the Great Social Science Congress, with all its off-shoots and its monster meetings.
The International of Europe, and of America (which is the herculean progeny of these days), has a character of its own, and must be added to this catalog, in order to see the mighty machinery of all kinds which is so variously acting upon general society to produce the last formations, out of which the long expected universal prosperity is to spring!
In effect, and as the fruit of this wide-spread “knowledge of good and evil” by human attainment, the world's progress and the consolidation of its political and social systems are boldly affirmed as existing facts by the accepted organs of the times; and repeated as such in the familiar intercourse of daily life. All are thus encouraged to build with certainty, upon “the good time coming;” and as men -congratulate each other upon this hope, their only inquiry is, as to its near approach. It must seem strange, in such a state of eager expectation of the lest that can happen from these councils and congresses, to raise the question whether they are not the proof that man has long ago left the good behind him! and stranger still perhaps to have these flattering hopes dimmed by the conclusion of such an ancient as Solomon— “lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.” The issue is obviously an important and a grave one, which is thus raised between the wisest of men, and the wiser men of the nineteenth century! Has man by some disaster or other, lapsed from an original position and state, as “upright before God,” and irrecoverably forfeited that place? Is he thus in his own person a witness of what he has departed from? or, of “the uprightness” to which he fondly hopes he is advancing? Are all his “many inventions” proofs of what he has lost, and to be viewed as but so many clever expedients, by which he successfully meets the inconvenience, and reduces the misery, that attaches to his present condition? Is not man a creature, who has become fruitful in discoveries in order to mitigate his own wretchedness, and to relieve himself from the pressure of circumstances, which, had he not broken loose from God, could not have existed at all? “God made man upright;” but that he departed from this state, and sought out many inventions, is the real solution of most modern problems.
Adam's fall was no justification of Cain's “going out from the presence of the Lord,” and becoming an inventor of expedients, against the effects of his own independence, as “a fugitive and a vagabond.” Man had lost his uprightness—the image in which God had created him; but the Lord had not on that account forsaken the earth, or His creatures. “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” The book of Proverbs tells us that the delights of God “were with the sons of men,” rejoicing in the habitable parts of His earth.
Indeed the great proof that God did not leave man to himself and to the devil is historically given in the various books of Moses and the Chronicles, when a perfect system of political economy was introduced, and established by Jehovah in relation with the people of Israel. “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself,” and “ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation,” are the recorded facts of the way by which God delivered His people from the house of bondage, and established them under His protection, and in His favor.
Having called them out of Egypt, He took the whole charge of them upon Himself, and chose for them the land of Canaan, “a good land and a large, flowing with milk and honey,” the mountain of God's own inheritance, the place which, the Lord made for Himself to dwell in, the sanctuary which His own hands had established. They were His people, and He was their God; accordingly He called Moses up (where man never was before) and appointed him as their lawgiver and commander, charging him with ordinances, and statutes, and precepts, that Israel might be different in all other respects from the nations of the earth. They were thus separated by laws and ordinances from the rest of mankind, so that God might dwell among them, and walk with them, on their journey to the land which He had prepared. Nor were they only to be morally and politically different to all the nations of the earth, but by instruction as a religious people they were taught how the God of Israel was to be approached and worshipped. Moses was therefore established as a mediator, and Aaron consecrated as a great high priest, “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Their intercourse was based thus on the full recognition of who and what God was in His holiness; and what they were as in the flesh: still God could and did meet the people at the door of the tabernacle which He had erected, and talked with their mediator and them. Besides these personal relations, thus established on sacrifice, mediation, and priesthood, that man might “be upright before God” in conscience, on the footing of redemption, by the blood of another; they were cut off from all their own inventions— “if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone, for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.” Another of these early lessons was at their Exodus, “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” And Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. As to the tabernacle itself, Moses was admonished of God; “for see,” saith He, “that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.” Their education, day by day, was to own that their sufficiency was of God, who dwelt in their midst by the visible cloud, and the pillar of fire by night. Pharaoh and his captains and chariots at the Red Sea, Israel in the wilderness and the manna and the rock that followed them, Jordan, and the final possession of the land of Canaan, alike show that the right hand of the Lord triumphed gloriously. Their future was to be as bright as their past, uprightness of heart consisted then in their obedience; and prosperity was pledged to this uprightness by Him who was in their midst: “if ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them,” your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time, and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. Moreover as to conflict (if conflict came) it would only prove their God fought for them: “five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight, and your enemies shall fall before you.”
Besides these relations to their Jehovah, and to one another, and even to their enemies, there were intimacies which the Lord desired personally to cultivate with His people; and these were established by “the feasts of the Lord or holy convocations,” which were to be proclaimed in their seasons. “The first-fruits of all the increase” which God had given His people were to be brought to the Lord, even the hin of wine, and the oil, and the fine flour, for His delights were with His people, and He would share in all the good that He had given them. Nothing had been overlooked by Him that could contribute to their prosperity and blessing; even the land was to enjoy her sabbaths every seventh year, and the trumpet of jubilee on the fiftieth year proclaimed liberty through all the land unto the inhabitants thereof, “and ye shall return every man to his family, and to his possession.” These scriptures, and the whole of the Mosaic economy, show the desire of Jehovah to establish relations with His people, and prove how He cultivated in every possible way the acquaintance of the people with Himself. God had come down to man upon the earth to bless him in his basket and in his store, to take away all diseases from him, and to establish Israel in such outward prosperity and glory as His people, that all the nations of the world might acknowledge there was none other God than He.
This intercourse, which also contemplated man in all his capabilities as a moral and social being with his neighbor, was maintained by statutes and laws, which directed him how to behave to his fellow in the smallest matters. “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.” Legislation on the one hand, or limitation in obedience on the other, was equally out of the question; and he was “upright” before God, who allowed no will of his own to compromise himself in thorough compliance. Inventions were also out of place, and their inventors were troublers in those days. When God dwelt with men upon the earth, everything was by divine pattern, and executed in complete submission. If a man were required “to devise cunning works, or to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones to set them, and in carving of timber to work in all manner of workmanship,” it was Jehovah's care, and He provided such a one. “The Lord spake to Moses, See, I have called by name Bezaleel, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.” Moreover, “in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee,” the tabernacle, the ark, and the mercy-seat, &c. Beyond all that was merely moral, political, and social, in the circle where man lived with his fellow, the same loving hand led the Israelite as a worshipper, into the nobler exercises of his soul, with God Himself. Moses, Aaron, and his sons; Bezaleel, and Aholiab; had all fulfilled their parts, in “the tabernacle of witness,” in the wilderness, and in due time gave place to another' order of intercourse with Joshua, and the “ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth,” on their way over Jordan, into the rest which God had prepared for Himself, and His beloved people in Canaan. Here also in the days of Solomon, when Jerusalem the city of the great king was to have its gorgeous temple as the dwelling-place of Jehovah, all was by divine pattern, and when finished, the glory took possession of it (as it did with Moses and the tabernacle) so that the priests could not enter, and the Lord was at home, and in rest with His people whom He loved. Kingship in David and the throne of Israel in the reign of Solomon (the bright center, and light to all the surrounding countries) were added by God to all He had previously showered upon this favored people, and man was at his highest and best.
(To be continued.)

Councils, Congress, and Social Science: Part 2

(Continued from page 96.,)
It is a sorry thing to ask, What has become of this grand social system, this nation and its economy, this throne and its Solomon, the city and its prosperity, the temple and its glory, or the feasts of the Lord and the worshippers? It is a yet sadder lesson to learn, that the best and happiest that Jehovah in His infinite wisdom and grace could establish for men (where man is) has become an historical fact, and is behind him! Acquiescence in these ways and judgments of God ought to lead men to repent and turn to the present testimony which He now gives to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the new foundation on which His actings for His own glory and for man's blessing rest. To attempt to reconstruct a social system in this world, where it has already been established and failed through the incompetency of the people of God, is but sparks of man's own kindling! Solomon, in the consciousness of his endowments and resources, asked “What can the man do, that cometh after the king?” A yet weightier question occurs, in the face of what we are considering: What can any congress, or council, or confederation of men accomplish, after the illustrious names by whom God introduced His system of moral and political government, and social order, in the midst of His people Israel?
The prophet Habakkuk gives the counterpart of Solomon's proverb to us, and also the secret of man's present relation to God (in the gospel), when He says, “behold his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” Independence and self-will destroy uprightness in the soul, and lead to many inventions; whereas confession and self-judgment bring into a closer walk with God in the path which He opens to the faith of His people. Another prophesied in the days when the heart of Israel was lifted up, and they sought out inventions, “woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen because they are strong; but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord.” Now the Egyptians are men, and not God, and their horses flesh and not spirit. “When the Lord shall stretch out His hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down together.” The force and application of these quotations are obvious upon the supposed advancement of men by social science; and the progress of the world into light and blessing, by means of the fourth beast of Daniel and its ten horns, with the mouth that spoke great things. Do the modern leaders of this movement in the old and new world expect to do better than those men who were so eminently endowed by God, and with whom He wrought in counsel, and where He once dwelt? “Happy art thou, Ο Israel: who is like unto thee, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.” (Deut. 33:29.)
Have they any one like Moses, who was with the Lord forty days and forty nights, and did neither eat bread nor drink water? Who but him has ever been entrusted with two tables of testimony—the skin of whose face shone so bright that the children of Israel were afraid to come nigh him, the witness from God (and the link with God) upon the formation of Jehovah's delights with His people? Who but Aaron in his garments of glory and beauty, ever was authorized to enter within the veil into the holiest where God was upon the mercy-seat, to obtain by sacrifice and priesthood the remission of Israel's sins, year by year, on the great day of atonement? The same God, who brought in the light of His majesty and truth to the people in the face of Moses, provided for their failures through Aaron the great high priest, in order that the intercourse thus formed with Himself might be unbroken, even by their sins. But besides Moses with the tables on the mount, and Aaron in the sanctuary with the sweet incense and the blood, “king Solomon made a brazen scaffold of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, in temple times, and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven. He stood before the altar of the Lord, and said, Ο Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven nor in the earth; which keepest covenant and showest mercy unto thy servants that walk before thee with all their hearts.”
Mediation, priesthood, and kingship, were thus established between Jehovah and His beloved people, and became the channels through which this intimacy, and their social happiness were maintained. In the midst of all this kingdom glory, and closeness of communion with God, the greatest man was the lowliest. Though lifted up and magnified exceedingly, eclipsing all else as he sat upon the throne of Israel, he would not exalt himself, nor rest in the exaltation bestowed upon him; but bless and praise the God of his father David, who had fulfilled His promises. The Lord had done His best in outward prosperity and blessing for the king and the nation, by leading them into rest, and peace, and glory with Himself, in His own city Jerusalem; and there He rejoiced over them with joy and gladness! Solomon with the people are at their height as they ascribe all this blessing (come down to man, where man is) through the covenant which was made with the patriarchs and with David. “And on the three-and-twentieth day of the seventh month, he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the Lord had showed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people.” All bids fair to abide, when thus committed to the hands of the wisest and best of men; who, in the deepening sense of human insignificance, thus brought into contact with the majesty and faithfulness of Jehovah, asked, “but will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee: how much less this house which I have built!” In short, a theocracy was established, in the wisdom and goodness of God, which embraced the moral and social condition of mankind, both in their relations with their fellow men and with the Creator. We have seen how this form of government and worship was set up, and sought to be carried out in unbroken social intercourse, between God and His people in Immanuel's land; as a witness that He had neither left the earth, nor men in it, to their own inventions. “Three times in a year, shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty.”
Such was His identification with His people, and His own delight to dwell in their midst—to fill all hearts with gladness, and all hands with plenty. This throne and its king, this temple and its priests, this city and its rulers, the land and its inhabitants, are no more. Costly and perfect institutions, with their costlier services, and their codes of laws, political and religious, have likewise passed away. A theocracy, and an economy suited to it, are behind men; the mournful records that even such helps and encouragements as were introduced could not permanently lift man above himself. On the contrary, all these magnificent and remedial measures were dragged down to the low level upon which they found him and sought his deliverance and welfare. The psalmist of Israel affirms this. “They tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies;” when He heard this, He was wroth and greatly abhorred Israel, and delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand; He gave His people also unto the sword, and was wroth with his inheritance.” The ministry of all the prophets followed, by which they were besought to “forsake their inventions,” and the broken cisterns they had hewn which could hold no water, and to repent of their back-slidings in “uprightness of heart,” that God might forgive their iniquities. He likewise openly punished them, and drove them away out of His presence into Babylon; and brought them back in His mercy by the decree of Cyrus under Ezra and Nehemiah. Long time suffered He their transgressions, reasoning and saying, “Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will only revolt more and more; the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint: from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores.” The highest authoritative power under law, by Moses and a ministration of angels, had only proved the people incompetent to hold the blessing; for they brought themselves under its curses, and forfeited their relations to God, by their iniquity, so that He was compelled to be their Judge. The wisest and most able administration, by which this nation was to have been elevated above all the nations of the earth, collapsed, and only finds its record in the statute book of Deuteronomy, and the early chronicles of David and his greater son. The problem of human advancement, and a nation's progress as well as the world's prospects by moral means, has been long since brought out and solved, as we have seen. Moreover, that people are made a hissing and a byword before the eyes of the Gentiles to this day. The very best, the brightest, and the fairest that could be done for man, reached their perfection and concentrated themselves in blessing upon Solomon and the throne, as God's center of earthly prosperity and of unity between Himself and His creatures. At that same moment the responsibility of this illustrious king began, into whose hands all was entrusted, and, like Adam in the paradise of Eden, almost as soon forfeited. Does God repeat this problem—much less ask the learned, the wise, and the scientific to take it in hand in modern days? Will their present systems compare with His past and future? He has postponed this kind of social intercourse with men till the millennium is introduced, when other and heavenly agencies will be employed (at the coming of the Lord, and the outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel) by which His people shall be all righteous, and brought into final blessing in the land under their Messiah through the blood of the new covenant. The pioneers and guides of public opinion may well stop to consider what has been already done, and vanished away like a tale that is told. If they propose far less, and even compromise, yea sacrifice, the rights of God, that they may find their task easier, will He on that account surrender them? If men shut Him out of their schemes, will He consent to be shut out? If they say “let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us, he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision.” Who so fit as the wisest among men, and the central man in all that magnificent system, established between God and His people for His own and their delights, to declare, “lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions?” Who so competent as the sweet psalmist of Israel prophetically to say, “be wise now therefore Ο ye kings, be instructed ye judges of the earth, serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling, kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little?” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” “Ichabod” is indelibly written over the departed glory from the temple and the city of the great king, and Immanuel's land, which were once the bright witnesses of the yet brighter intimacy formed and tenderly cultivated between the Lord and His beloved people.
The writings of the Old Testament (which contain these records in full) would be merely historical, did they not likewise hold out to the faith of the nation a bright future, when He who scattered them into the four corners of the earth shall gather them together again; “for this is as the waters of Noah unto me.” “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall my covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee;” and this is God's order of blessing for the earth. If the wise men and rulers of the nations refuse to take warning from the history of God's favored people, but think themselves wiser than He—and the Gentiles better than the Jews—if they thus encourage one another—let them listen to the prophet Daniel, as to what is before them. “The fourth beast shall he the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall arise after them.... and he shall speak great words against the most High.... and think to change times and laws.... But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.” (Dan. 7:23-28.)
J, Ε. B.

The Counsels of God in Grace and Glory: Part 1

(Eph. 1:1-7.)
Part 1.
There are two ways in which we may look at man in relation to God: first, in responsibility; second, in the counsels of God.
It is important to know the full value of the work of Christ, and our present relationship. All duties and right affections flow from relationships; the Christian lives in those new relationships into which God has brought him. We find in this chapter our relationship to the Father as children (the individual relationship has the first place in Ephesians); then comes in the unfolding of the unity of the body of Christ.
God put man originally in a certain relationship with Himself in innocence; that relationship—the claim of it—must subsist. You cannot destroy God's title by human sin, but on man's side the relationship is gone and broken. Wickedness on one side does not destroy claim on the other.
As to the history of God's ways and dealings, man's responsibility has closed at the cross; it is not a time of probation now, though the individual is proved. In the same cross Christ perfectly glorified God Himself. We find the two things quite distinct: responsibility; and the intentions of God before any responsibility was in question. This epistle takes up the side of these counsels.
In Philippians we are looked at as running the race through the wilderness with our eye fixed on the glory. In Ephesians we are seen as brought completely to God, and sent out into the world to show God's character. In Romans you see the responsibility side simply, the sinfulness of man, what man is without law and “under law, and the justification of a sinner. The counsels of God are only just touched on in the verse, “For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Man is proved to be a sinner, the blood of Christ is that which cleanses us. There we get responsibility, as also justification-not in Ephesians: God has no need to justify the new creation.
In 2 Tim. 1:9 we see that what was before the world began is now made manifest. We have the same thing in Titus 1. This thought of God is very distinct.
In Genesis we begin with the responsible man. All depended on man's responsibility; but nothing could be more complete than his fall. He distrusted God and believed Satan. Distrust of God is the essence of all sin. There is no way back to innocence. We may get divine righteousness, and may be made partakers of His holiness: but we shall never have innocence again. Christ was “the seed of the woman.” All God's thoughts and counsels and plans were around the second Adam. Promises there were, and prophecies clearer and clearer; but what God was actually doing up to the cross was trying man on his responsibility.
Before the flood testimony was given; but there were no particular dealings of God. Then the world became so bad that God had to bring in the flood. When God begins again with Noah, he got drunk. The world subsequently went into idolatry.
Adam was the head of a fallen race, Abraham was the head and father of all that believe. When God had scattered the people of Babel, from among them He takes a people for Himself; then, having chosen Abraham, He gives him promises. The apostle in Galatians shows how the promises to Abraham could be neither disannulled nor added to. The law came in by the bye. There was not a question of righteousness to Abraham-no “if.” The law was the perfect measure of what man ought to be. Before ever Moses came down from the mount, the Israelites had made the golden calf. At last God says, “I have yet one Son,” one thing more that I can do. The husbandmen cast Him out of the vineyard and slew Him. Then the history of responsibility (not individual responsibility) was closed. Sin had been fully brought out. Man was lawless, then; when the law came, there was the transgression of the law; and when the blessed Lord in wondrous love and grace came into the world and went about doing good, they could not stand God's presence. “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” Stephen gives us the summary—prophets slain, the Just one killed, the law broken, the Holy Ghost resisted. “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Christ interceded for them on the cross, “They know not what they do,” and the Holy Ghost in answer to this says by Peter, “I wot that through ignorance ye did it.”
The history of Adam, the moral history, is closed; that is what we are. In all this we have God's history of man's responsibility. I find in the cross that I am in a condition which God must reject. Christ has come to be made sin, and a work has been done according to God's holy and righteous nature. If I look up to God now, I find no sin in His presence; I go there by the work of Christ, and God cannot see the sins. Not only has Christ died for my sins, but I have died with Him, I have done with the nature. First, I find the putting away of sins, and along with that I have died with Christ. Christ did much more than this at the cross. Sin was in the world, evil was rampant, Satan reigning, God's glory in the dust, the earth full of violence (whatever the signs of wisdom). It was not merely a question of my sins; but God was compromised in a sense. Christ then was Jehovah's lot.
Suppose God had cut off Adam and Eve, there would have been righteousness, but no love. Suppose He had spared every one, there would have been no righteousness. If I look at the cross, there is righteousness against sin-never such displayed before. And there I learn the perfect love of God. At the cross I see God perfectly glorified in a Man, His own blessed Son, but still a Man. There is a Man in the glory of God. Not only is there one man out of paradise, but another Man is in paradise. The work, by virtue of which He is sitting there, can never lose its value. Now the counsels of God can be brought out. If sin is cleared away, why should I be in the same glory as the Son of God? We do not get the one without the other; but nothing can be the result of that work on the cross less than the glory. There are two things: not merely are my sins cleared away, but I stand in the light as God is in the light, as He is. This we are in Christ; and we are to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” Now we are brought as Christ and like Christ. He is the “firstborn among many brethren.” “Tell my brethren that I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your God.” This is your present place. “Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.” But, says the Lord, “you need not wait till then: to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Oh! how the things of this world are dimmed by this that we are loved as Christ is loved. What a blessed place this is! Christ has taken all on Him as man, that we may be forever with Him. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places [a remarkable expression, in the best place, in contrast to Judaism] in Christ Jesus.” There is not one possible blessing into which Christ has entered as man that we are not brought into. Christ never gives away; He brings us into enjoyment with Himself: “not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” This is perfect love. Have you ever thought of God's thought about you, that you are “to be conformed to the image of His Son?” “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” This cannot fail. The Lord presses on our hearts that He brings us into association with Himself. “Then are the children free.” He “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” God gives us His own nature, “holy and blameless before him in love.” He puts us in this place answering perfectly to His nature, and with a nature to enjoy it. We are in Christ—this is God's thought. I get the place of a son with the Father. Servants would not do for Him; He takes us as sons. We are “accepted in the beloved:” “in Christ” would not do here. “I was daily his delight.” In this One, who was always God's eternal delight, we are accepted. Have you the thought of God's heart? Is the thought you have that you are loved as Christ is loved? Are you able to see God's heart as He has revealed it? Where shall I get what is in God's heart? Is it in my heart? If the angels want to know what love is, it is in us they see it. Is this the way you think of God? We soon find out what poor creatures we are. Quite true; but can you say, There is where God has set me? This is the very thing that makes us see our own utter nothingness. The reasonings of the Holy Ghost are always downward from God to us; the reasonings of conscience are always upward from us to God. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son: much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” The Holy Ghost reasons downward: is this the way we reason? If you are naughty, do you feel you are a naughty child? You cannot be a naughty child, sad as this may be, unless you are a child. If I am a child of God, I am bound to live like one. He expects children's affections, children's duties. Have you given up the first Adam entirely, and found your place in the second Adam, “accepted in the beloved?”

The Counsels of God in Grace and Glory: Part 2

(Eph. 1:7-14.) Part 2
I may remark that it is our positive place before God that lets us into the counsels of God. There is no real knowledge of these counsels except as we stand in our place before God. Knowledge that puffs up is always defective and sterile; it is a statue, not life. There is nothing really connected with it in the mind, when it puffs up. There is a certain place for the believer before God; into this the heart has to get. We are made partakers of the divine nature. Then all these thoughts and counsels of God come to be precious, not as knowledge, but as belonging to the glory of Christ. “I.....beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness.” Where our own souls are before God, according to God, of course there is fellowship and communion with God. Activity, of course, even right activity, tends to bring self in. Take Paul: there was danger of his being puffed up; and the Lord sent a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. When he came down from the third heaven into the ordinary activities of life, there was danger. The thorn was a hindrance to him in his ministry, that the power of Christ might be made manifest in him. The moment he finds what it was, he says, “I glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Christ chooses things that are weak that no flesh may glory in His presence.
Taking the general principle, if I enter into the knowledge of divine things, it must be along with God. Love is never puffed up; love likes to serve. I am thus blameless that I may have communion. We cannot have practically a more important truth than that all real divine knowledge is found by being in the presence of God; and whenever we are in the presence of God, there must be lowliness of heart and mind and spirit. God's presence is always a holy thing. There is no true knowledge, and no true communion unless the soul is in that state before Him. There is no more dangerous thing than a certain apprehension of divine things without the soul learning them with God, as we see in Balaam and in Heb. 6. Where you get all the wondrous things of Christianity poured on the mind and natural heart. This is dangerous even if there is life, and fatal if there is not. The revelation of the counsels of God is founded on knowledge of our place with God. The eye cannot bear light from God except so far as we are right with God. Having brought us into the blessed consciousness of this place, where we are at home with God, now He can unfold His counsels as to Christ Himself. Having brought us there in grace, He can trust our hearts with all His plans. There is no real divine knowledge of the counsels of God except so far as we are personally with Him. “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” He reveals to Abraham what He is going to do not with Abraham, but with Lot.
All flows from the soul being consciously in the place where it is set, in Christ. He can then trust us with the knowledge of His will: He can trust the sons of the family with the family affairs.
Christ was a true real man in this world: was He occupied with the interests of His family, or the interests of man? He was subject to His parents. There was in Him perfect obedience, perfect confidence, and—what is so hard for us—perfect waiting. He gave Himself for our sins; He says “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” This is not merely an outward thing. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Christ was a dying sacrifice; the Christian is to be a living sacrifice, this is to be the whole life of the Christian. We are set at liberty by the power of the life of Christ, and the Holy Ghost is in us, and then we yield ourselves to God. We cannot yield ourselves of ourselves; but the moment we are risen with Christ from the dead, we have the power of the Holy Ghost. Suppose a child is exceedingly anxious to go and see something, if his father desires him to go, there is an instance of perfect liberty and obedience also at the same time. It is a “law of liberty” to us; the new man having the mind of God, its delight is to do the will of God. We do not belong to anything in this world, but only to God. I have no duty that does not belong to a man who has died and is alive again. Blessed path of liberty it is, but a path of liberty to one who has no object but Christ! This is the Christian's place, entirely separated to God. If I am my own, I am a poor lost sinner (Christ never called Himself His own); we are bought with a price, and we belong to God. When in that case, He can open out to us all His wisdom and prudence; “we have the mind of Christ.”
Thus I first get Christ's own place; and this is exceedingly blessed, because it puts us into our place. Our calling is what we are towards God. Remember you do not get dispensed glory, until, as a first thing, you get to God. Christ offers Himself up to God; you have a life to God down here, and then a death to God, before you have the glory. Our relationship to God Himself comes before any acquaintance with the dispensed counsels of God. Responsibility and the counsels of God are distinct. I was a poor sinner: but I find, through the work of Christ, that all that was against me is gone. God's counsels and plans have nothing to do with man's responsibility. When man had come to the point of positive hatred against God, in killing Christ, then the counsels of God were brought out, the mystery hidden in God. All this plan and counsel of God were before ever the world was. Christ in His rejection does the work which is the foundation of everlasting righteousness. Everything that concerned the person of Christ was revealed before, but not the counsels of God. You may find the ascension, resurrection, gifts—all that concerns the person of Christ, but nothing of union with Him, of being members of His body, joint-heirs with Him: all these counsels were hidden. I was a poor sinner, I must have my responsibility met; but this does not say that I should be in the same glory as the Son of God. Not merely has He cleansed our sins, but He has glorified God. Man goes into the glory of God because Man (He was more than man of course) has perfectly glorified God. We are loved as Christ is loved: the world will know it when He appears. Ah! if we only saw where the Christian is placed! It is a terrible thing to see all this rest on the surface. Are you conscious that the Father loves you as He loves Jesus?
The “fullness of times” is spoken of here, not eternity; in eternity we find God all in all. “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ.” This is the thought and purpose of God that everything He has created He will bring under Christ's moral power as Man. He created all things, we read in Colossians. He is going to reconcile the state of things: we are reconciled. The place of the Christian is—absolutely reconciled to God in a world that is not reconciled at all. Everything in heaven and earth will be reconciled. If you want to go as Christians through the world, you must go as absolutely reconciled to God among things not reconciled. You have nothing to do with “things under the earth” here: in Philippians they bow at the name of Jesus. The scene He created He will perfectly restore. His first title is Creator; His second is Son—He is the heir of all things.
Actual creation is always referred to the Son and Spirit—God of course. Man is to be set over it all, set at the head of everything in the fullness of times. As we get into Christ's place in our calling, we get into Christ's place in our inheritance. Whatever He created as God, He inherits as man.
“By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified;” the work is complete and finished for His friends, and He is waiting till His enemies be made His footstool. When that comes, He leaves the Father's throne and takes His own. He who created all things is Son and heir of all things, and He inherits them as man. We are joint-heirs with Him. In the thoughts of God, His Son having become a man, we have become completely associated with Christ. He went alone through the earth, but the moment redemption was completed, He says, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren.” How thorough is this association! Christ became a man, and in perfect love He brings us to everything He has as man. If He takes everything in heaven and earth, we are joint-heirs with Him (as Eve was with Adam), members of His body. When Mary Magdalene comes to the grave, He says, “Tell my brethren that I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, to my God and your God.”
God's heart is set upon me. It is the fixedness of heart on an object, but besides that I have the confidence that He never takes His eye off me. We get divine love in the nature of God, and, besides that, love set on an object. “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” My inheritance is in Christ, because God has associated me with the Lord Jesus. See the way the apostle dwells on this word “in!”
If I have the love of Christ in my heart, can I look on a world that is under Satan's power, and not be a man of sorrows? We have joy through Christ, if you take that side. If a holy being is in a world of sin he must suffer; if a loving person is in a world of misery, he must suffer.
It is not that the glory is the highest thing, for it concerns self. At the transfiguration Moses and Elijah were in the same glory as Christ; but, more than that, a bright cloud overshadowed them—Jehovah was in the cloud; and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son.” When they went into the cloud, the disciples were frightened. The cloud was, so to speak, the Father's house.
This chapter invariably refers to God, His calling, His inheritance.
“That we should be to the praise of His glory who first trusted in Christ” —hoped before He appears. The world will get a portion under Him, but we a portion with Him. While we must be born of God, there is in the proper sense of the word no glad tidings in telling a man that he must be born again. The thing that is revealed is, that the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared; there is remission of sins and full salvation. Have you never been in God's presence? Were you fit to be there? The veil is rent: we are just as much in God's presence as if we were in heaven; we shall see it more clearly then. I have everlasting life, I have divine righteousness, because I am in Christ. I am brought into God's presence, and I am not there without being fit through the work on the cross. We have not got anything of the inheritance as yet, but we are sealed with the Holy Ghost. The blood of Christ having cleansed me from all sin, the Holy Ghost can take His place because I am clean. “Know ye not that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost?” What if the apostle were to write this to you? Being born again, I have life; when sealed, I have God dwelling in me. The Holy Ghost can take His place as a witness that in God's sight I am as white as snow. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, God dwelleth in him and he in God.” Oh! beloved, what a place the Christian is in! If you confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God is dwelling in you. How are you treating the divine guest? “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed.”
It is not merely quickening, which was from the beginning; but when there is life, the Holy Ghost becomes the seal. I do not want an earnest of God's love. He loved me so perfectly that He gave His Son for me. His is a love proved in the death of Christ, and known in present consciousness. The Holy Ghost is the earnest of the inheritance. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Do not you be looking into your heart to find if He is there. Imagine a child inquiring if he is a child! Look if you are walking up to that. “We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Do you believe in the truth that “Jesus is the Son of God?” “By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” But “they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again.”
The apostle's prayer here is to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that the saint might know what He has wrought, and will for them.
Do you believe that He has put you in the same place with God as He is in Himself? We are in Him, we shall be with Him and like Him, and He gives us the knowledge of it now.
Have your hearts gone back, when accepted, to look at this model? Have your hearts burned within you as you have seen Him, and talked with Him, and have you said “His path is mine?” Has it possessed your souls? This is a matter of daily diligence and conflict. The time will soon come when we shall say, of all that has not been Christ in our lives and ways, “That was all lost.”

On the Covering of the Holy Vessels

(Num. 4)
The character of the thing that was carried had a different effect in the display of its covering, according to the nature of what was covered. If I think of the ark, I shall have a certain character of display; if I think of the table, it will be another; and of the candlestick, another. When Israel set forth, the ark was, first, covered with the veil, that is, Christ Himself with the veil of His humanity; then came the badgers' skin, and, outside, the cloth of blue. That is the order: Christ's perfect humanity over the ark; then badgers' skins to protect it; and outside that the cloth of blue. The heavenly man comes out, the special character.
The badgers' skin was inside in this case, because Christ kept His perfection absolutely free of all evil, and so the heavenly came out manifestly. In us it is morally to be realized in the power of the Spirit of God.
There was of course no evil in Christ to come out, but as man here, the perfect (One). He uses, for instance, the word to baffle Satan—in that is the badgers' skin—just as I ought to keep Satan off through grace. Thus we need the badgers' skins outside in going through the wilderness.
Then came the table of show-bread, with a cloth of blue on it first, then the dishes, bread, &c, all covered with a scarlet cloth, and badgers' skins outside; the table itself—the gold or the divine part—covered with the blue, the heavenly; then the cloth of scarlet covers the twelve loaves. Scarlet is royalty, and twelve is connected, we were seeing, with administration on earth. The badgers' skins are outside, because it is a display in a human instrument.
The show-bread is the manifestation of the thing in man, but divine righteousness was under it, the gold. The scarlet will meet the result of that—royalty, though not seen yet; or, rather, scarlet is perhaps human glory, purple being proper royalty.
Next the candlestick was to be covered entirely with a cloth of blue, then with badgers' skins, and put on a bar. Here there is no scarlet; because it was the manifestation of the Spirit, and there is no royalty to come out in this.
There is on the golden altar a cloth of blue and badgers' skins outside, in the same way as the candlestick; that is, purely the heavenly character, the result of intercession, with the badgers' skins as protection.
On the brazen altar they spread a purple cloth and badgers' skins. The altar met the claim of earthly righteousness. Christ met our failure on it; but there is nothing heavenly in it. This was to meet us on earth. The purple, royalty, is with the altar.

Daniel Mann

Vinton, Iowa, U.S. of America, Dec. 28th, 1872.
Beloved Brothers, I notice, in your last number of “The Bible Treasury,” that excuse seems to be sought for the abridged French version of “Daniel Mann” even at the expense of truthfulness.
Last summer I received a copy of “L'Eglise Liber” containing an extract of the narrative. I was glad to see it, because it indicated more light among the religious systems of France than in those of the fields I am now laboring in, where the word of God, simply as such, finds little else beside total indifference if not haughty contempt. But, being where I am, I was not aware of any other use having been made of the narrative until I saw the warning given in your Magazine and in the “Messager Evangelique.” I could not therefore have expressed either approval or disapproval of it. Not yet having seen the tract I cannot speak save from what others who have read it say: from this I feel compelled in sorrow to repeat the warning already given. When God, in infinite grace, has furnished such a testimony of His mercy and power, I, having been called to pass through it, to see and hear it all, and in whoso heart it still lives in all its solemnity, feel ready to warn every one against meddling with it. And when I see people daring enough to strip the truth of its edge, I must conclude their spiritual condition is fearfully low.
Oh! dear brother, how all this makes one long for that day when the blessed Son of God shall be manifested, when men's eyes will no more be on “the generality of French readers,” self, popularity, &c, but on Him who is the way, the truth, the life! Could we all realize better the solemnity of “the judgment-seat of Christ” I dare say we would rather be burned alive than not savor Christ in all our ways. Your's most affectionately in our Lord, Paul J. Loizeaux.

Daniel Mann Correspondence

“Daniel Mann.''
From letters it appears that the author of the tract has expressed his approval of the abridged French form, though it was not asked or given before the thing was done.

David Dancing Before the Ark

(2 Sam. 6:12-23.)
This was a great day to David's heart; there was none like it. The day when he conquered Goliath was but a little thing compared with the entrance of the ark. Others danced in his honor then; he dances in honor of Jehovah now. This was just the secret of the joy.
But Michal understood it not. It was but vexation to her; for she thought of herself, and was offended with David and even insulted him, as far as petty pride could injure what was incomparably above itself. But David was just so much the more exalted before God as he honored and sanctified the Lord God of Hosts in his heart; and it is impossible to sanctify Him in the heart without its being manifest in the ways. It was so manifest in David and the power of it was so great that Saul's daughter was ashamed even of her own husband. And she reaped the due reward of her own foolishness and sin.
But as for David on the other hand nothing can be more lovely than his appreciation of God's glory. This was what was at the root of the matter. The ark was the most glorious display of God. It is the type of the manifestation of God in Christ, not merely in meeting us but in glorifying Himself. It was upon the ark that the blood was sprinkled perfectly—before it and upon it. It was the ark that contained the testimonies of stone written by the hand of God, which alone found a resting-place in Jesus Christ the Lord. Everybody else dishonored these testimonies of God: Jesus magnified them and made them honorable; Jesus turned them all to the glory of God. All was met in the ark of the covenant. This accordingly was what so distinguished David. We never find even Solomon with all his wisdom paying such heed to the ark of God. We find him occupied before the great altar: this had more appearance before men. People saw the altar; they had their senses moved by it; they knew that it met their need, and there most are apt to stop. But David saw what lay far within; for he looked upon what was unseen. David felt much more for God than for himself.
At the same time there is no way in which we are really so blest us when we can forget ourselves in the glory of God; and this was what distinguished king David. He had been somewhat troubled before when a man, Uzzah, was smitten for putting forth his hand to the ark and taking hold of it, after the oxen shook it, as if God's ark needed man's hand to hold it up.
God bore with the Philistines when they knew no better than to put the ark on a new cart: in fact it was their way of honoring it. And so with the kine that had conducted the ark long before from the land of the Philistines. God did not make so much of the mistakes of the Philistines: they did their best; they did not know the mind of God. But not so with Israel who had a knowledge of God that they did not possess. “Why bring they oxen to carry God's ark? It ought to have been carried by the redeemed servants of the Lord. They alone were called to identify themselves with the ark. It was their honor to be the servants of the ark of Jehovah. But Israel at this time were by no means up to the mark of the word of God. Hence with good enough intention they put the ark on oxen, and when one of them stumbled, Uzzah put forth his hand to sustain the ark. But the Lord put forth His hand against the presumptuous man who had deemed that the ark of God needed human power to hold it up. He that made heaven and earth could surely hold up His own ark from falling. Uzzah forgot this; and he shows us therefore the folly of our attempting to do God's work out of our own heads or thoughts. Never do we glorify God, we are never even safe, when we are not walking in obedience.
The judgment of God on Uzzah made a great impression on David. He was afraid of Jehovah; he called the place Perez-uzzah, because Jehovah had made a breach upon Uzzah; he was not in communion with God about it; he let in his own thoughts and feelings, which were wrong because they doubted God instead of censuring man. He ought to have taken God's side and have said that Uzzah was justly smitten. What greater wrong is there than to find fault with God? There is no good in us; all our good is in upholding the Lord, in listening to His voice and simply carrying out His will.

Hints on the Day of Atonement

(Lev. 16)
Aaron appears with a bullock for himself and for his house, and then with an offering for the people. Israel, strictly speaking, were represented by the goats. In the sacrifice for Aaron and his house together are the two parts of a sacrifice. When they are together, it is Christ taking our place. When Aaron is taken alone, there is no sacrifice for him. He shall put on the linen garments, and wash in water, and so put them on. He was to have a bullock for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering. The ram was always for consecration, or in case of desecration, which was the opposite of consecration.
The sin-offering is taken as a whole, the greater in-eluding the less; but the detail is wanted. The first idea is meeting God in His absolute holiness. It is Christ “made sin,” and we the righteousness of God according to that. As there is a danger of stopping short at the scape-goat, so there is the other danger too. Some do not use the scape-goat enough, others use it too much. Some preach more in connection with the necessity to go into the presence of God than of getting oneself the value of the scape goat. Preaching the scape-goat shows sins put away; preaching the bullock brings us to God.
There is a difference between presenting sins in the light of the law that way, and bowing souls by grace. I never come to God till I get the second part. One hears, “I am here in the world forgiven, and I am very glad of it;” you will sometimes, but not often, hear people say, “I am before God as white as snow in His presence.” Too often they take other ground altogether and say, “If I am to be saved, I am; and if I am to be damned, I am,” and so evade the real question; whether they honestly thought they were lost. If you really felt in your present state that you were going to be damned, you would not take it so quietly. The fact is, it is all dogma, and not conscience. Supposing I put the question and say, “Which are you now, saved or lost?” there is no “if” in that.
It is all substitution. I can say to all, “The blood is on the mercyseat,” but not “your sins are put away,” because I do not know that they are. And coming to detail, I can not only say, “come and welcome,” but, “God beseeches you to come, for the blood is on the mercyseat.” The scape-goat goes a step farther; for if the man does come, it says this, that “it is impossible for God ever to tell you about your sins again, for they are put all away.” I do preach this as truth generally; but scripture never says Christ has borne ',the sins of everybody’: you have lost certainty the moment you make that assertion.
I always say “our sins,” which scripture does say, and then they will take it for themselves. “Our sins” is strictly for believers. Paul is there (1 Cor. 15) preaching the gospel from his own point, as his experience. The word “our” 13 on purpose used vaguely there.
The meaning of Azazel is the scape-goat; it is the goat that carries away. There is no limit here. There is an atonement for the holy place, because of the un-cleanness of the children of Israel, and so on. And there was to be no man in the tabernacle while the high priest went in with the blood to the mercyseat. It is done all alone: the people were all looked at as having defiled the place.
First the place is cleansed as to all that referred to God who had been dishonored. This must be set right first, and Christ has by death perfectly done it. He has “passed through the heavens,” He descended and ascended that He might fill all things. This goes farther, but it refers to the going through.
God dwelleth in light that no man can approach unto. That is God's nature, it is true; but the heavens are all the things we look at as something under God. It is light inaccessible in itself; neither man nor angel can get there. “Above all heavens” is as in Ezekiel, where we see the cherubim and their surroundings; then the vault which expresses the heavens; and God at the top of all. He “humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth.”
And here, it is a question of defilement, not of guilt; it was unbearable to God; and no man goes in while he is then occupied, nor till he comes out. He first goes in with a censer full of burning coals off the altar; “and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense cover the mercyseat that he die not.” And Christ first goes in, in the grace of His person, which is before all the offerings; that is, when you take Himself before He begins any other part He goes in with sweet incense. It is all before the Lord; and this gives Himself as a person absolutely perfect, the person before the work. But when we take Aaron and his house, we must have the bullock: those who are connected with him need that; and then the blood of the bullock is taken and sprinkled on all the unclean places, all alone, until he comes out. But after having the incense in the most holy place, he sprinkles with his finger the blood on the mercyseat and before it. There are two ceremonies, one with the blood of the bullock, and one with the blood of the goat, consecutively; and then, in verse 18, the two are taken together.
“That he die not” is always connected with what is absolutely necessary. If it had been possible for a moment that. Christ had not been an absolutely sweet savor, then that must have been the result.
“The altar that is before the Lord,” verse 18, is the brazen altar, for it is described in this way. After the blood is sprinkled on the mercyseat, then atonement is made for the holy place, and then for the tabernacle of the congregation; then “he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it.” On the mercyseat God Himself was met. In fact that made it a mercyseat, for it was a throne of judgment but for that, but now it is a throne of government for, instead of a throne of judgment against.
After he has made atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation (which would include, I suppose, what was in it), then he is to go out to “the altar that is before the Lord.” The golden altar was put “before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercyseat that is over the testimony where I will meet with thee.” God met Moses for Himself there before the mercyseat, and He met Moses for the people at the door of the tabernacle, and therefore the blood of the red heifer was sprinkled outside in Num. 19 But the brazen altar was “before the Lord;” in Ex. 29:42 you have the words so used, and in verse 43, “there I will meet with the children of Israel.” In Num. 7:89 when Moses went into the tabernacle, he heard the voice of one speaking to him from off the mercyseat. This makes two meeting places clearly. The people had nothing to do with going inside. Moses went in and spoke with God, and put a veil on to come out and speak to the people. Moses went into the holiest of all whenever he liked, but he put his veil oft' to do so. Individually he went in and had no veil, and came out and put the veil on; but whether the glory on him died away in the wilderness is not said. The object of the Spirit of God was to give this character of the law, which is afterward contrasted with the gospel; and the veil is upon Israel still; but when it shall turn to the Lord the veil shall be taken away. It was only when Nadab and Abihu sinned, that Aaron was prevented from going into the holiest of all; and this chapter is the exceptional time once in the year with blood.
In reading verses 6 and 11, “which is for himself” and “make an atonement for himself and for his house;” it is for himself along with his sons, not alone.
In verse 20 “to reconcile” is the same word as “to make atonement for.” It is the act of the application of the blood here; it is the same idea as in Colossians “to reconcile all things unto himself.” The word “atonement” is brought clearly out in what is done in this chapter. “Make reconciliation for the sins of the people,” in Heb. 2, should be “make propitiation” for them; but in Rom. 5, where the word “atonement” is used, it ought to be reconciliation. “Blotted out” is used of transgressions and means to wipe them out.
Then Aaron was to bring the live goat and lay both his hands upon its head and confess all the transgressions of the people over it, and send it away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness, to a land not inhabited. That is the other part of sin-offering, substitution evidently just as in the blood on the mercyseat, God was met in His nature and character; so, in the scape goat, you have substitution for transgressions. Substitution does not include everything, not the full glorifying of God, I mean.
If substitution were for the whole world, it would save the whole world. Propitiation was dealing with God's nature and character. There are two things: blood brought to God in respect of God's character, and a scape-goat for the people's sake. One constantly sees two things in this way, a double figure for a whole. There is the wilderness and Canaan; there is Moses and Aaron; and these two are one Christ; God's nature is met and the sins put away. The first goat is called “Jehovah's lot,” the people's sins are confessed over the second; as Christ confesses the sins of His people on His own head as His own, and can call them “mine iniquities.”
I see what God is in blood on the mercyseat; but the moment you have substitution, and individual acts of transgression, you have a scape-goat.
Atonement occurs but once in the New Testament and there it should be (Rom. 5) reconciliation; and expiation occurs but once in the Bible (Num. 35:33), and that is in the margin, “no expiation for the land:” so we may drop that word. Propitiation is towards God. There is the holy and righteous character of God to be met; and that is propitiation. God is not changed by it; but being righteous and holy, this is responded to that His love might go out according to righteousness and holiness, and mercy and righteousness be consistent. Atonement is more when the blood is applied. Blood was sprinkled upon the altar, because sin was there, blood of atonement. It is the actual putting away of sin by the sprinkling of the blood. The idea is, a thing is in a state in which it cannot have to say to God, as here there are “the iniquities of the children of Israel among whom I dwell;” and that condition must be dealt with, you must have the blood where the sin has been, you must have it for God to be in relationship with such. The blood is brought in, and the thing sprinkled, and so the thing is put right. Here reconciliation is the same word.
In the two goats are the two aspects of what Christ did. The twofold view is most interesting; as in Christ the Apostle and High Priest, like Moses and Aaron. Atonement signifies life given and accepted as sacrifice for life forfeited; remission is the deliverance of those who appeal from the sentence of death, and thence it is the forgiveness of the sins that caused their condemnation.
“Atonement” is the greatest blunder in Rom. 5:11. We are said to be “reconciled” in verse 10. Then verse 11 speaks of “our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation,” not the atonement, which has nothing to do with our sins on our side; atonement is for God.
When I think of propitiation, I think more of the person propitiated and what is duo to him; reconciliation deals with circumstances too. It has nothing to do with our nature in the Old Testament. We have a nature that always likes to break the law; but we see what that is. When I say I have a nature that cannot be subject, I say, Here is a pretty business; and this all comes out in the New Testament. The remedy is that Christ has died, and whatever Christ did is mine, and I am dead.
Atonement is for guilt. When I look in the Old Testament, I see guilt and not a nature; that is the thing, and I do get the blood put upon the mercy-seat where God Himself sits, and when I know what His nature is I get the fact that here God's nature is met.
But nature, my nature, is not known under law to be dealt with. So, if David says, “Create in me a clean heart,” would he have spoken thus, if he had known that his heart in the flesh could not be made clean? Again, if Naaman was clean altogether, it is a figure for now. But then there was no flesh lusting against the Spirit, nor even the two natures contrary one to the other. With the new nature, I have the privilege of knowing that the old is dead. I have the new man and the old; but the old is condemned in death. “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh;” and I die daily, I am crucified with Christ.
The atonement is another thing; in it God's nature is met, and this is the point. I have nothing about man's nature; God's nature has been dishonored by sin, and He is there sitting with things before Him which He will not stand. This is the fact, and therefore I put the blood under His eye; that is, Christ has done it, and God says, “When I see the blood, I will pass over;” but sin is all taken in the lump, so to speak here. When we find nature and conflict with nature, it is a question of the Holy Ghost. This applies to nature only in the way that it applies to sin at large.
Sending to a land not inhabited means out of sight, remembrance, and everything. “To make an atonement with him” in verse 10 is said of the scape-goat. By the seven times sprinkling constant communion was secured, as well as God's nature met by the blood upon it. God was looked at as a holy God, if not understood.
Then, when Aaron comes back, he lays aside his linen garments, and takes his ordinary ones again; so Christ will come back from heaven in garments of glory and beauty.
It shows the absolute defilement of sins. The touch of the carcass of the sin-offering defiled; so, if a man walked over a grave, he was unclean, or if a man died in a tent, it was unclean; indeed it was very hard to avoid being unclean.
The scripture that made this question, whether Christ was a sin-bearer all His life, quite clear to me was, “he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” He must be proved all His life to know no sin, and then He can be made sin. To bear them in life makes atonement without blood, but “without shedding of blood is no remission.” Why should the Lord be saved from “that hour” if it had been going on all His life? And there is another thing if followed up; it takes a person back and unites him to Christ before He died, which is false. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,”

Dr. Bonar on Christ's Work: Correction, Part 1

Dear Mr. Editor,
Dr. Bonar's book was sent to me, I know not by whom, with some passages marked. I send you the notes I made in reading it, for that is all that which follows pretends to be, though reviewing the work. The importance of the doctrine in question will justify my taking it up.
“The altar is the only place of expiation, and it is death that is the wages of sin.” (Page 37.) “Justified by His blood is the apostolic declaration; and, as the result of this, saved from wrath through Him. Here we rest.... It is at and by the cross that God justifies the ungodly. By His stripes we are healed, and the symbol of the brazen serpent visibly declares this truth. It was the serpent when uplifted that healed the deadly bite.” (Page 38.) “Reconciled to God by the death of His Son, is another of the many testimonies to the value and efficacy of the cross.... The peace was made by the blood of the cross.... What can be more explicit than these three passages, which announce justification by the blood, reconciliation by the death, and peace by the blood of the cross?” (Page 39.) “This sweet savor came from the brazen altar, or altar of burnt-offering. It was the sweet odor of that sacrifice that ascended to God and that encompassed the worshipper, so that he was covered all over with this sacrificial fragrance, presenting him perfect before God, and making his own conscience feel that he was accepted as such, and treated as such.” (Page 40.) “In so far, then, as substitution is concerned we have to do with the cross alone.” (Page 41.) “The justifying fact—the death of Him whose name is Jehovah our righteousness.” (Page 79.) Compare also page 219.
Thus speaks Dr. Bonar, and justly and well as far as it goes. But who would have thought that these are the statements of a book, one main object of which is to prove that it is not so, but that Christ was a sin-bearer all His life, and our presentation perfect before God depended upon His sin-bearing all His life, and that He only finished that work upon the cross? “They who own the doctrine of Christ suffering for sin, the just for the unjust, will listen to those bitter cries (those uttered during His life), as to the very voice of the Substitute, and learn from them the completeness of the work of satisfaction, for the accomplishment of which He took our flesh, and lived our life, and died our death upon the tree. But the completeness of the substitution comes out more fully at the cross.... Then the work was done, 'It is finished.’” (Page 36.)
Now it is quite true that in the previous quotations, except the last and more important one from p. 79, Dr. B. is resisting justification by resurrection (an idea I never heard of till I saw it in this book, and which has no sense if speaking of the value of the thing in itself). But in his zeal against this imaginary enemy, he has, I hope with his true and better feelings of faith, declared that by the cross, and blood, and death of Christ only, we are justified and reconciled. The rest of his substitutory work is then only studied theology, not personal faith.
As to argument, Dr. B. so mixes up one truth with another, is guilty of such excessive carelessness, and exhibits such incapacity for seeing, not only what another says, but the force of what he says himself, and, I am afraid I must say, such ignorance of scripture on the subject, that it is difficult to deal with his reasonings. Christ's bearing our sins and our dying with Christ are confounded together; law and Christ's suffering life; accounting righteous or guilty is substitution; the actual transfer of guilt turns out to be only something available for everybody. But into these I will enter.
I regret to have to notice his book in such a way, for he pleads real and full atonement, and the need of it as against rationalists, and assurance of salvation, if not in the clearest way, yet so honestly and fully that I should regret sincerely anything that might weaken his arguments as to this. But he has so lowered the gospel, so hidden God's love in “courts of law,” though not denying it, so confounds propitiation and substitution, and so totally does away the real value of the latter by his missing altogether and falsifying its true character, that I feel it well to take it up and review his book. He has accepted, I see, the force of ἀνήνεγκ: so we may hope for acceptance of other truths; but he has not learned to be more careful in other statements. Let us see if a review of them may lead him on here too.
That Luther may have taken up imputing legal righteousness, as others did, may be all true. But though he admits doubts and distress come from law, that he never knew real deliverance from it his famous treatise on Galatians clearly proves, as other parts of his life and his death. But Dr. Bonar's “Luther's Rock, the righteousness of God,” is an unhappy blunder. He carefully excluded the word from his translation of the New Testament. He always puts, “the righteousness available before God,” Die Gerechtigkeit die vor Gott gilt: an unwarrantable and mischievous change, which destroys the whole nature and character of the scriptural statement. Luther was an eminent instrument of God in His work: we have all to be thankful for it. But the word of God is above all price.
Dr. B.'s style is full of effort, and tedious by repetition, and turgid, sometimes descending very low in the effort, as when he says, “Possessed of this preciousness (imputed still ours), we go into the heavenly market and buy what we need without stint. We get everything upon the credit of His name.... In His name we carry on all our transactions with God.” But my business is with doctrine, not with words. And it seems to me that the whole tone of the book falsifies, even where there is truth mixed up, the entire presentation of the gospel in scripture.
Besides making of substitution a false and inefficacious unreality, the bringing the questions into God's courts of law is an idea wholly foreign to the scriptures. That law has been established by faith—that Christ has magnified it and made it honorable—is most true; but scripture does not describe the gospel as bringing men into courts of law. There is a solemn bringing in of unrepentant sinners into a court of judgment hereafter (yea, all shall give an account of themselves), and there is a reconciling of persons now: Dr. B. speaks of neither. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. This is the very opposite of bringing them into courts of law. As such He was rejected, and the full sinfulness of man brought out. But it was mercy, not law, brought it” out, the rejection of One come not to judge but to save. With Israel some such figure might be used, He was in the way with them as an adverse party; but then the result was in government on earth and judgment. The nation was set aside (as it will be till it has paid the last farthing—and even then its restoration is sovereign grace), that the apostolic embassy of the gospel might go forth, still beseeching to be reconciled to God, and grace reign through righteousness. He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. God is revealed as reconciling the world, or as beseeching men to be reconciled, He having been made sin for us, not bringing them into His courts of law.
The notion that He of whom it is said, “who knew no sin,” is God as such, and that He was made sin in incarnation, which is Dr. Bonar's interpretation, is too monstrous and too offensive as well as absurd to need reply. God has made God, who as God did not know sin, to become sin by being a man: can any Christian taught of God receive such a thought? God does know sin perfectly: to apply it to His not knowing it in conscience is blasphemy; to affirm it of One who was in the likeness of sinful flesh is of vital importance. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” In Him is no sin. -Is God's making God become sin (vicariously of course I admit) any better? The Lord declares He comes to do God's will and that His law is in His heart. It was the Lamb, the spot less Lamb, the victim that was made sin. Nor does scripture speak of God or the Father making the Word become flesh. Jehovah prepared a body. Then He says, Lo I come, in the same willing and blessed love. It is an interpretation which outrages all spiritual intelligence. I should call it blasphemous, but that I am sure Dr. Bonar has no such intention. He is blind to the force of what he says; but it falsifies the whole force of God's coming into the world in grace, making Himself of no reputation (ἐλένωσεν ἑαυτόν), when the Word made flesh dwelt among us full of grace and truth. This for Dr. Bonar is only Christ, the law, and we, when willing to go too, brought into courts of law to judge about the case! Besides, if this took place in the life of Christ, why have ambassadors? If it referred to Christ's death and His then going away, it required others to announce it. The whole force of the passage in every aspect is set aside by this ruinous idea. It is miserable doctrine: and Dr. Bonar's mind does not rest on the reconciliation of the sinner (I may say not at all even in result; for it is only available to him: he is not reconciled). “Law and love must be reconciled.” (Page 4.) “The reconciliation God has accomplished;” and as man's consent is required, the reconciliation God has accomplished must be effected before that. Man did not consent to this way of reconciliation when accomplished, save in rejecting and crucifying Christ. “God has done it all and He has done it effectually and irreversibly.....He has done it by removing the whole case into His own courts of law.... God comes into court bringing man and man's whole case along with Him, that, upon righteous principles and in a legal way, the case may be settled at once in favor of man and in favor of God.” Now this not only gives a representation of this matter of which there is no trace in scripture, and falsifies the character of the gospel, but it is alike absurd and misleading. Who is judge of the court? Nor is this all. Man is brought into court; but, in reconciling law and love, no individual man at all is reconciled. It is the reconciliation, not of a sinner, but of law and love. Perhaps no man may accept it.
“The consent of parties to the acceptance of the basis is required in court.” (Page 6.) Now where was this reconciliation of law and love on the cross? Man was only accomplishing his sin there, yet there law and love were reconciled. When the whole thing is settled, man's consent is asked—to what? To a reconciliation already accomplished? God, we were told in page 5, has done it all; and He has done it effectually and irreversibly. Done what? “Reconciled law and love.” (Page 4.) But here there is no substitution, or any one reconciled: God has done it all before man has accepted anything. It is an accomplished thing, all done, finished, and yet no man reconciled; so that it is no reconciliation of persons at all. What was the principle of the work? “Transference of guilt, from one who could not bear the penalty without being eternally lost, to One who could bear it” (page 17), and again the transference of the wrath from the sinner to the representative (page 21); and so often. Now whose guilt was transferred? the wrath resting on what sinners was transferred to the representative?
Substitution is never spoken of in this vague way in scripture. All through, Dr. B, confounds propitiation and substitution. Substitution is one taking really the place of another; reconciling law and love has nothing to do with substitution. Was anything substituted for law or for love? Clearly not. They were both maintained and glorified. Were then everybody's sins transferred to Christ? If so, all are saved, or His having borne the wrath due to them is ineffectual and reversible. The whole argument of the book shows Dr. Bonar has confounded substitution which does suppose transference of guilt and crime from the guilty to another, a substitution of one person for another, as when a debt is paid (the illustration Dr. B. gives); while propitiation is to God ward. But one pas-sago will suffice to show this confusion. “God has introduced the principle of substitution into His courts.... presenting a divine surety as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are passed.” Here they are clearly treated as one and the same thing.
Now on the great day of atonement there was the Lord's lot and the people's lot. The blood of the Lord's lot was put on the mercy-seat. God's righteousness and love, and majesty and truth, all that He is, were perfectly glorified. Besides this, there was the scape-goat, both goats representing Christ in the same great sacrifice; but the high priest represented the people, and their sins were confessed on the head of the goat, and carried away, never to be found. Now here there was representation, transfer, substitution, and the work was effectual for those represented. In scripture all is simple and clear; and, though in the mere shadow only for the year, yet it was effectual and irreversible. Substitution is simple and intelligible; the sins were confessed on the head of the goat, the people's sins, and they were gone. But in Dr. Bonar's substitution the man may not consent, many also (we know) do not. Were their sins transferred to the Substitute and the wrath borne effectually and irreversibly, and yet they reject Christ and die in their sins? Dr. Bonar's substitution is no substitution at all, for nobody's sins were really borne, and no people really represented. Christ is a propitiation for the whole world; but this is the Lord's lot, the blood, in which God has been perfectly glorified in all He is, presented to God and accepted of Him. Now, says the Lord, is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; and if God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him. And so it was and is.
Propitiation is presenting to a holy God what the righteousness and holiness of that God necessarily claim, while infinite love has provided, and infinite love has offered, the spotless sacrifice.
Substitution is for people whom the substitute represents; it is one man or person substituted for another, and taking actually the consequences of the conduct or position of him whom he represents. I speak merely of the meaning of substitution, not of the value of the Substitute, as Dr. B. says. The propitiation refers to the holy righteous nature and glory of God (and Dr. Bonar cannot too earnestly insist on its necessity); substitution, to those whose place Christ has taken. He was substituted for them and took the consequence in sovereign grace; and they are saved. He cannot charge as a judge the sins which He has Himself borne and expiated on those for whom He Himself has already borne them.
But not only does Dr. Bonar confound these two great scripture truths, but a third with them, namely, our dying with Christ, which scripture applies to quite another purpose (see page 42). Probably Dr. Bonar has never learned to make the difference between sin and sins (so clear in the Epistle to the Romans, on which indeed its whole structure depends); one referring to actual guilt, what we have done; the other to our lost estate, what we are.
But at any rate, “The transference of our guilt to the divine Substitute, and the transference of that Substitute's righteousness or perfection to us, must stand or fall together.” (Page 29.) When then a man's guilt has been transferred to Christ, he becomes the righteousness of God. Yet the man may after all not consent and dies in his sins, though the righteousness of God is transferred to him. If it be said, man was represented in Christ, and He consented—consented to the transfer, then our consent is immaterial; and we are not brought into court, and saved all with no consent at all.
But now see the frail and inconsistent statement of Dr. Bonar. “The one man's offense rests upon all men to condemnation, so the one man's righteousness, as the counteraction or removal of this condemnation, is available and efficacious unto justification of life.” Now he has changed the passage.
“Rests upon” in the first clause is exactly the same expression in Greek as is “available” in the second. And why this? And still more, if transference of guilt involves transference of righteousness, how is it only “available?” If it be said, yes; but the substitution is not efficacious unless it be accepted"; then there was no real transference of guilt. If it is transferred and gone, and if He has suffered, it is irreversible. The truth is, it is a denial of real substitution, and substitution is confounded with propitiation. The whole teaching is confusion and darkness; for Dr. B. tells us that substitution is the transference of the penalty from him who had incurred it to one who had not. How is this available for any, if the penalty have not been transferred? If it have, why not effectual for all by a judicial process, a legal title?
But I will follow some of the details of Dr. Bonar on the subject, and we shall see the inconceivable carelessness as to scripture, and how little he seems to weigh anything he says. I can only account for it by excessive confidence in his own thoughts. Victory over our great enemy was not by substitution. The perfect work of Christ and His death gave Him a title to annul the power of Satan; but it was not as substituted for any one.
In all the other examples we shall find there is personal appropriation, not an available means in the air. The Lord accepted Abel and his offering. The typical victim was set between a known person and God. It was 'Abel's substitute,' but not something in the air available to some one who might accept it, in which case transference of penalty is an absurdity, as then the one to whom the penalty is due is relieved by its being transferred. Noah and Abraham are in the same case: only in Abraham's we have an example of the carelessness I speak of. There was no “consumption of Abraham's sacrifice by the divine fire” but quite a different thing, a burning lamp and a smoking furnace passed between the pieces—a well-known form of covenant engagement in Israel, and the covenant was of the land to Israel. If Dr. B. would seek excuse from a confusion with the sacrifice of Isaac, it is in vain. There we read, “Behold the fire and the wood, but where,” &c. In the passover those in the house were preserved. Dr. B.'s account of the sacrifices I cannot go into in detail: it would carry me too far; but there is the same inaccuracy. Remark only that, as to the burnt-offering, all is confusion. It is the perfection of the substitute presented in the room of our imperfections. A substitute for whom? If it was penalty transferred, whose penalty?
But what is more important, blood was shed, atonement was made. It is not merely that He loved God instead of us. That is not atonement by blood. No doubt the Substitute was perfect, but it was where He was made sin, glorifying God there. Imperfection is a strange word. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God. But why the perfection of the substitute only when Christ's bloodshedding is prefigured? For whom was He a substitute? In the meat-offering, save in the case of the extreme poor, there was no atonement. Nor is there a statement of God's feeding on it; in the peace-offering there is (Lev. 3:2), The meat-offering is much more the perfection of the substitute: in the burnt-offering there was a victim with blood-shedding.
In the sin and trespass-offerings we are told that sin-offerings were for unconscious sins—sins of ignorance; trespass-offerings, for conscious and willful sins. This is a mistake. All the trespass-offerings in chapter 5 are sins of ignorance unless verse 1. The only cases not of ignorance are wrongs done to a neigh-hour, when, besides the offering, be was to restore it and a fifth part more. All this shows how careless and superficial all the statements are.
As to the explanation of the drink-offering, I confess it is beyond me. Dr. B. connects it with the Lord's blood being drink indeed, why I know not; and my reader may remark how in all this the perfection” of the substitute is put for substitution? or what was the drink-offering a substitution? or how was it transferred penalty?
And now note the effect in the presentation of the gospel. It is not that precious blood is on the mercy seat, that God hath set Him forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood. It is this principle of substitution. “And as He [God] acts on it in receiving us; so does He invite us to act in coming to Him.” That is, the guilt of him who is invited has been transferred to the substitute, and so righteousness transferred to those guilty, so that it is not a sinner that is invited as such. Who can tell that to an unbelieving sinner in order to his coming to God? I must tell it evidently to every sinner, and every sinner is certainly saved, and righteousness is transferred to him. Christ was raised, according to Dr. Bonar, because that sinner had been justified by the cross; for so Dr. B. translates the passage. “It is this truth the gospel embodies, and it is this that we preach.” The belief of this gospel is eternal life; and yet it is only available. I repeat my question; was the guilt really transferred or not? Was Christ a substitute for every sinner to whom Dr. Bonar preaches, so that all his guilt was transferred to Christ? If so, he has already none; nay more, Christ's righteousness is transferred to him before I invite him, and it is effectual and irreversible.
In speaking of chapter iii. I feel the need of care not to offend when the solemn, deeply solemn subject, of the sufferings of the blessed Lord is before us. It is unpleasant to speak of the folly and contradictions of man's thoughts when what ought to move our inmost soul occupies us. But mischief and contradiction are there, the deep sense of wrath and of the curse is lost and trifled with, and man's rejection turned into God's forsaking and wrath, It is a medley which on such a subject offends—I am afraid I must say, disgusts. Sufferings in which we are called to follow Christ, and take a part, are confounded with that in which He was really a substitute, the perfection of Christ's obedience confounded with the part of bearing sin, because the being made sin took place in that in which the perfection of His obedience was accomplished.
(To be continued.)

Dr. Bonar on Christ's Work: Correction, Part 2

I have already noticed the contradictions which flow from Dr. B.'s reasoning against the dream of his own mind that some make the act of resurrection to have worth for justifying. Then he insists earnestly that the blood, the cross, death alone does, assuring us (41) that “so far as substitution is concerned we have to do with the cross only;” and this in a chapter which is written to prove that He entered our world as the substitute, that “His vicarious life began in the manger.... His sin-bearing had begun (pp. 26, 27), that He was circumcised and baptized as a substitute (pp. 29, 30); He was always the sinless One bearing our sins” (p. 32); that the Psalms in their confessions of sins are the distinctest proof of His work us the substitute, that is, during His life; that God's wrath and anger were then upon Him (p. 34), yet that the completeness of the substitution comes out more fully at the cross. There the whole burden pressed upon Him, and the wrath of God took hold upon Him (p. 34); yet He does not speak of the cross when He says, I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted, or when He says, Thy fierce wrath goeth over me, Thy terrors have cut me off (p. 32).
I have discussed all these Psalms fully elsewhere, and only state Dr. Bonar's self-contradictions here. But when a person says that Christ was a substitute and shed His blood when He was circumcised, it is difficult (when we think of the wrath of God against our sin, which made the blessed Savior sweat great drops of blood in only thinking of it beforehand and then drinking the cup we had filled for Him with our sins) to hinder oneself from expressing one's feelings at the cold and idle trifling. But we must speak of the general principle. Dr. B. makes His sufferings from man His being a substitute for us in bearing God's wrath. “For what can this poverty mean, this rejection by man, this outcast condition, but that the sin-bearing had begun?” (Page 27.) Now Christ's outcast place we may partake of with Him. If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him. His disciples were not of the world as He was not of the world. “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you.”
But what has all this to do with substitution? Was He born in a manger that we might be spared it? He was circumcised as the substitute, and this was “inexplicable” save on the supposition that even in infancy He was the vicarious One, not indeed bearing sin in the full sense and manner in which He bore it on the cross (for without death sin-bearing could not be consummated) but still bearing it in measure according to the condition of His gears (p. 29)! Only think: it leads to doubt whether Dr. B. has any serious idea of what sin deserves, or what the wrath and the curse really is, and that the wages of sin is death. Bearing sin in measure according to the condition of His years! But His sufferings from man are always distinguished from His drinking the cup. See Psa. 20; 21 Those bring wrath on man (if not repented of and blotted out); this is atonement and brings salvation. In Psa. 22 He appeals from man's violence and wrong to God, and there finds forsaking in the words He used, where He alone could express them; but then the result is all un-mingled blessing because it was atonement, deeper at first but extending waves till it reached the whole earth, and the seed to be born there. We are called on to suffer with Him, we read of filling up what was behind of the sufferings of Christ. Was atonement to be made-filled up-by any other? Circumcision in particular is not, in the Christian application of it, substitution; on the contrary, it is the putting off the body of the flesh, being dead to sin by Christ, not His bearing sin for us.
But the whole principle of a sin-bearing life is false. It is sin-bearing to no purpose; for without shedding of blood is no remission. He came to give His life a ransom for many; His taking it was not the ransom. Dr. Bonar now admits that ἀνήνεγκε refers to the cross. Where is ὐπήνεγκε used as to sins in His lifetime? He through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. But here we have the man, the spotless victim, offering Himself, not becoming it in incarnation: that was no offering Himself by the eternal Spirit. It is for bloodshedding to purify.
He offered Himself (Heb. 9:14), and so verse 28 where it is expressly said to be (ἅπαξ) once. So 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ once (ἅπαξ) suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh.” So Heb. 10:10, “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and so He perfected the sanctified by one offering. (Page 14.)
It is certain, that till after Gethsemane, the blessed Lord had not taken the cup to drink, for then He prays that if possible He might not drink it. The trouble of soul then so deeply felt, and in a measure in John 12, demonstrates not (as Dr. B. would allege) sin-bearing then, but exactly the contrary, anticipation of a coming hour of death, and being made a curse. In Gethsemane it is plain, but equally so in John 12. The coming up of the Greeks bringing before His blessed mind the title of Son of man brings into it at once the death needed in order that He should take it. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Is it not evident that it was a specific hour-the hour of His death which was before Him, when He must die that the corn of wheat might not remain alone?
Dr. B. tells us Christ bore our iniquities up to, and on, the cross; for the former, having given up ἀνήωεγκε, he quotes nothing. There is nothing to quote. His only proof is making the contradiction of sinners the same thing as the wrath of God, and the miserable contemptible use of circumcision and the like. He quotes Isa. 53, giving a new translation of some expressions, which seem to me unfounded, whoever is their author. Thus, verse 11, “he shall look upon,” &c, seems to me quite unwarranted, and הארי åùôð ìמòמ to be justly translated, He shall see of the travail of His soul-that is, of the fruit of it. The words עמל and מן are simply this. Nor do I believe that “answerable” is the sense of נענה in verse 7. The English translation is right in both. The latter is an effort to bring Christ as answerable for sin during His life, but an unjustifiable one. His bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows is applied to His healing-has nothing to do with righteousness. It shows He felt in His soul the burden of the sorrow He removed; and this is a most precious truth, as He groaned at the tomb of Lazarus when seeing the power of death on all around. But this is not bearing sin. Nor did He become sick to take away our sickness.
As I am on translations, I will add, that raised again “because of” our justification, is an evil mistake-evil as to doctrine, for it shuts out faith from justifying, and falsifies chapter v. 1. Men (why not all?) would be justified before believing at all, consequently not by faith. Further, it is not the force of the Greek. Had it been, because we were justified, it would most assuredly have been διὰ τὸ διαιωθῆναι, which only comes in chapter v. 1. “Having been justified by faith,” when faith is there. Δικαιωσις is the active doing of a thing, not the thing done, the noun derived from the second person of the passive perfect. The English translation is right. You may say “on account of our justifying.” Our justifying was the why of the act. Then, faith coming in, it is realized, and we are justified. Scripture does not know justification without faith, which this false translation asserts. But the whole doctrine of a sin-bearing life, from His birth up, is as false as it is mischievous.
There was an hour, the drinking of a cup, from which the blessed Lord sought if possible to be free, to be saved, the thought of which He went through in the deepest agony because it was sin-bearing, being made sin. Did this apply to His whole life? There He came in the divine freeness of His love. “Lo, I come to do thy will, Ο God.” But divine willingness, and human agony are not the same thing. Did He pray if possible to be spared being a man? He did that which He suffered at the cross. It is false in every aspect and feature of it.
Dr. Bonar tells us He was born the Savior. Of course He was. But this does not tell us that He was bearing Bin all His life. He came to deliver His people from their sins: what He went through to that end, and when, is not touched by that. He manifested the Father, and God in love to man in His life, a perfect man amongst them. He stood as man made sin before God on the cross, though a divine person, or He could not have done it. He may be said to be the substitute of His people personally at any time, but the substitute was when He bore their sins. He was God's Lamb always, but not the victim slain till the cross. How was redemption wrought? We have redemption through His blood. How is He set forth to be a propitiation? Through faith in His blood. What purges the conscience? The blood of Christ, who, mark, through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. That was clearly when He was a man. The question is not whether His obedience was perfect, even unto death, the last test of it; nor if we are made righteous by it; but whether He was bearing sin all His life, yet no wrath upon Him, no propitiation, no redemption, no remission obtained. All these are by blood-shedding. The testament had no force while the testator lived. The putting away of sin was by the sacrifice of Himself. He was once offered to bear the sins of many. What does this mean if He were the sin-bearer all His life? Indeed, the whole of Heb. 9 is to show the place this blood-shedding and bearing of sin once for all holds in the counsels of God, and makes the doctrine of a sin-bearing life worse than absurd. There was a sacrifice for sins which gives us boldness to enter into the holiest. A sin-bearing where there is no sacrifice is a sin-bearing which brings no remission to man, or glory to God.
The truth is, Christ never says, “My God” before the cross (always My Father), not even in Gethsemane. On the cross, in the hour of drinking the cup, He says, “My God;” after it (because now as man He is going to glory in righteousness, and has brought us there with Him), “my God and my Father,” for He is re-entered into the full enjoyment of sonship again, and has brought us there: surely never so the object of God's love as when drinking the cup, for He could say, “therefore doth my Father love me,” a word that belongs only to a divine person, but in His own soul tasting all its bitterness undiminished by any consolation, or it would not have been absolute and complete, yet showing His perfectness as to the state of His own heart in the words “my God.”
I have gone thus into the great general truth of where sin-bearing was. But I must show the carelessness and vagueness which baffles all hope of getting any serious doctrine from Dr. Bonar. His very theme in chapter 3 is “His vicariousness is co-extensive with the sins and wants of those whom He represents, and covers all the different periods, as well as the various circumstances, of their lives.” Now what is, I beseech my reader, vicariousness as to wants? Suffering being tempted in all things that He might be able to succor the tempted; that is blessedly true. But this is not transfer, that the other might escape. Supply for wants I can understand, but vicariousness as to wants is beyond me altogether; yet it is the real inlet into all the error. Substitution was said to be the transference of penalty, guilt, wrath, from one who could not bear the penalty to One who could. How does this apply to “wants"?
I will not dwell upon it, but John's baptism was so far from being a symbol of Christ's death that, so far as it would be received, Christ would not be put to death at all, but received by faith. Hence (Acts 19) those who had received it had to be baptized over again.
Resurrection does not justify us. Assuredly not. No man is justified till he believes; and Christ's blood-shedding, and death, and drinking the cup, is the sole meritorious cause. But we are accepted in the Beloved, our place and standing before God is in a risen Christ. If we are in Him at all, there is no other but a risen One; but we are in Him before God.
It is not the whole truth, that being justified by faith we have peace with God; but there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Probably Dr. Bonar has confounded this blessed truth, being ignorant of it, with being justified by resurrection. Of course some one may have said so, but it is the first time I ever heard of such a thought. Dr. B.'s interpretation of διὰ δικαίωσιν I have already spoken of, and do not hesitate to say it is unsound interpretation, and false doctrine leading to fatal errors. For we are then, clearly, justified without any faith at all.
There is another most mischievous statement (p. 11), “Without law sin is nothing.” “Until the law,” says the apostle, “sin was in the world.” And again, “they that have sinned without law.” “Sin by the commandment became exceeding sinful:” which it could not do, if it were not there already. “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” I know men have (for this grave Presbyterian error, which contradicts all Paul's teaching) the passage in the English translation, “Sin is the transgression of the law;” but this is merely a false translation founded on a doctrinal theory. The word ἀνομία is never so translated elsewhere, and transgression of law is παράβασις νόμου. Not only so, but the same word abverbially ἀόμως is translated sinning “without law” (Rom. 2:12) in contrast with sinning under law.
I need not return to Isa. 53 which is dwelt on in chapter 4. The sufferings referred to (p. 47) we are clearly called on to undergo with Christ. If they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more they of His household! if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also. Paul was the off-scouring of all things. There was no transfer, but the same enmity. If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him. His whole statement is mere blindness and delusion. The “scenes before the cross were while He was on His way to it” and during what He calls “his hour,” which till then He declared was not yet come. Now it was. Before that He had disposed of every heart as Emmanuel; so that His disciples lacked nothing. Now all was changed: He was reckoned among the transgressors. (Luke 23:35-37.) But though then taking, so to speak, the cup into His hand, which His Father had given Him to drink, we are simply certain from His own lips that He was not yet drinking it, for He prays it might pass without His doing so. But this was their hour, and the power of darkness.
The statement in page 581 hold to be highly objectionable; for after showing from scripture that He sits down consequent on offering a sacrifice for sins, Dr. B. says, “the first note of that gospel was sounded in the manger, the last from the throne above. How much is contained between?” Thus the sacrifice in its proper importance and place is dropped, coming in as an incident among many things, showing the system adopted, confounding God come in Christ to a world of sinners, and the man gone up on high in virtue of redemption accomplished. I know not to whom Dr. B. alludes as having done with the cross. They are not Christians. It is the eternal center, as to acts, of all moral glory. This is true, which from Dr. B.'s words he seems not to apprehend, that there is a difference between coming to the cross, as on this side of it, so to speak, and knowing it as meeting our wants, our sins, the way we must come; and looking at it when we have passed into God's presence through the veil, and are at peace in the holiest, looking at it on God's side, so to speak, and seeing bow God is glorified in it. For this last we must have peace by it. Indeed neither has its real place with Dr. B. The first is merely a judicial decree in a court of law, the second is not in his system at all.
I turn to chapter v. That grace reigns through righteousness is most sure, and that God is just in forgiving. But it is not righteousness that reigns; that will be in the age to come. Nor has Dr. Bonar any authority in scripture for the statements with which he begins. It is never said that God saves a sinner by righteousness. It falsifies the gospel, though God is righteous in saving him, and the believer is made the righteousness of God in Christ. The statements are unscriptural and mischievously so.
We have further the absurdity of the system in page 71; “The transference is complete and eternal from the moment that we receive the divine testimony to the righteousness of the Son of God; all the guilt that was on us passes over to Him, and all His righteousness passes over to us.” Was ever such utter nonsense? When I believe, my guilt passes over to Him—now in glory! It is astonishing that such a sentence did not awaken Dr. Bonar to the falseness of his whole system. My guilt transferred to Christ now in glory! One is led sometimes really to doubt whether he can know the truth at all. These are blunders which seem impossible for one who does, for whom this is the reality of faith. It shows what his substitution means. Further, the righteousness of the Son of God is language unknown to scripture, wholly foreign to it. That Christ is of God made unto us righteousness, I bless God for with my whole soul, and that we are made the righteousness of God in Him. But nothing of the statement of Dr. Bonar is in scripture, and the quotations of Deuteronomy and the Psalms have nothing to do with the matter. Let the reader consult them.
Dr, B. reads, Christ is the end (or fulfilling) of the law for righteousness, which is wholly unwarranted. Τέλος? is the end rather as concluding, or the object, just as “end” in the English, but it is not fulfilling. Will Dr. B. give a passage in scripture where τέλος? is so used? I notice these things because they belong to a great system of doctrine. Thus in this chapter we read, “Jehovah is satisfied, more than satisfied, with Christ's fulfilling the law which man had broken.” (Page 80.) Why then need Christ die, if Jehovah is more than satisfied? Righteousness comes by the law, and Christ is dead in vain. And it is expressly said in the life of the God-man. And no to that this was before the cross; it is transferred to me, so that I am partaker of, or identified with, this law-fulfilling-have perfectly fulfilled the law: all the law sentences against us are canceled. (Page 81.) What then did Christ die for?
The statement in chapter 6 is a positive falsifying of scripture. This everlasting righteousness (law-fulfilling) comes to us by believing, the fruit of which is peace with God. (Page 82.) Now the antecedent to this in scripture is exclusively, “He was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification.” “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” It is Dr. Bonar's scheme, but not scripture.
As to 2 Peter 1:1, we obtain like precious faith by the righteousness of God, not righteousness by faith. Obtaining precious faith by righteousness is, as Paul says, “after that faith came.” That is, God has been faithful to His promises and given us Christ. At any rate, faith coming by righteousness has nothing to do with righteousness coming by faith. Dr. Bonar's note is all a mistake. The Epistles of Peter are addressed to Jews-to the sojourners of the dispersion. The faith, like precious faith with Peter and those in Canaan, the dispersed believing Jews had received through the righteousness of God. It was not indeed Messiah Jewishly they had got, but precious faith. Still it was their God and Savior Jesus Christ.
But in this chapter we come to a point on which we must rest a moment. “The scriptural meaning of imputing,” we are told, “is that the things that He did not do were laid to His charge, and He was treated as if He had done them all; so the things that He did are put to our account, and we are treated by God as if we had done them all.” Now, where the principle of substitution enters, this is an important truth; but “imputed” is never so used in scripture. And Dr. B.'s quotations are a new proof that he really has no capacity to seize a statement of others, or to know what he means by his own. Look what a vague account he gives of Gen. 15:6. It was imputed to him for righteousness, that is, his faith, as the apostle himself explains it. Now what is there here that another had done which was put to his account? The statement is that his own faith was imputed to him for righteousness.
Gen. 31:15. Are we not counted of Him as strangers? Nothing done by another is put to account. They were treated or reckoned as such, just the meaning of the word. We are reckoned righteous: whether by something put to our account is another question. In the cited passage it was certainly not so.
Lev. 7:18. Not a word of transfer or putting another's work to account. In a certain case he got no credit for his offering.
Num. 18:27. Something reckoned or considered as having a certain value.
2 Sam. 19 It is holding him guilty for what he had done that he would deprecate, no transfer of anything.
Psa. 32:2. Nothing is put to account. The man is blessed whom the Lord does not reckon guilty. It is not said why.
Rom. 4:3, 5, we have had. The explanation of the construction put on the Greek is all nonsense. Counting him into righteousness (of “bringing him into” there is not a word) is worthy of all the rest. The English is quite right.
Rom. 4:6. “Imputeth righteousness” is just reckoning himself righteous.
Rom. 4:8 is just a proof that it does not mean what Dr. B. says. The Lord does not impute the sin, that is, reckon the man guilty of it. It is his own doing which is not imputed, not somebody else's doing which is.
It is useless to comment on the others. In none of them is there a hint of something done by another put to the account of him who did not do it. They are negatives; so that it is simply not reckoning to a man what he has done himself, or faith is reckoned as righteousness—the man's faith. The whole statement is a mere delusion, as the citations prove. Will Dr. Bonar only give us a passage in which justifying is by a righteousness legally transferred? A man's being righteous is his standing in the sight of God, not a quantum of righteousness transferred to his credit. Indeed the Greek word for this is different.
It is ἐλλογεῖται, not λογίζεται.
But the legal system taints every thought and apprehension of Dr. Bonar. The purpose of God before the foundation of the world, to conform us to the image of His Son, is lost. It is merely an infinite legal claim. God recognizes the claims of righteousness. (Page 100.) It is an exchange of judicial demands. (Page 101.) We can plead in our dealings with God the meritoriousness of an infinitely perfect life, the payment effected by an infinitely per-feet death. (Page 101.) So, from Bunyan, defending thee with the merits of His blood, and covering thee with His infinite righteousness from the wrath of God and the curse of the law. (Page 104.) The assumption of all our legal responsibilities by a divine substitution is that which brings deliverance, &c. (Page 105.) The second Man came as the righteous One to undo by His righteousness all that the first man as the unrighteous one had done by his unrighteousness.... yet such is the power of sin that it took thirty three years of righteousness to undo what one act of unrighteousness had done. (Page 105.) So God can accept Him, and the law recognize Him as entitled to blessing.
Can anything be more unlike scripture? The love of God, God commending His love to us, by Christ's dying while we were yet sinners, God so loving the world, all the activity of God's love, His seeking and saving what was lost, God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, the Father on the prodigal's neck, when in his rags a great way off, with no best robe upon him: all is lost. I admit, as fully, as earnestly as any can, the need of propitiation and substitution; but all true gospel, the grace of God that brings salvation, is lost in this unscriptural unchristian system. Law accepts where it is satisfied.
All Christ's sympathy, suffering to succor the tempted as merciful and faithful High Priest, is lost. No such thought is found in Dr. Bonar. It is the triumph of evil, or substitution. Righteousness did “retire from the scene” and is seen only now in Christ's sitting at the right hand of God. (See pages 98, 99.)
There are four reasons given in Heb. 2 for Christ's taking our nature, and suffering: God's glory (ver. 10), the destruction of Satan's power (ver. 14), to make propitiation for the sins of the people (ver. 17), to be able to succor them that are tempted. Not one enters into Dr. Bonar's gospel. Christ comes to meet the claims of the law; and that is all.
Faith is nothing but our consenting to be saved by another, Dr. B. tells us. (Page 109.) This is utterly wrong. Faith is setting to our seal that God is true in His testimony, and practically the reception of Christ, by the word, through the power of the Holy Ghost. “"When it pleased God,” says Paul, “to reveal his Son in me.” Page 111 shows that there is no real apprehension of what faith is. It is “human and cannot satisfy.” “God's pardoning, and justifying, and accepting, must be connected with the cross alone.” (Pages 118, 119.) Yet, just now it took thirty-three years to do it. Of an infused resurrection righteousness I know nothing, save as practical fruit of righteousness by Jesus Christ our life; but of being accepted in the Beloved I do, and that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And this connects our acceptance with death to sin, and deliverance from it by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which Christ's bearing our sins does not. This difference between the teaching of Romans to chapter v. 11, and from thence to the end of chapter viii., Dr. Bonar is wholly ignorant of.
What it is to be not in the flesh but in Christ, of the law's having power over a man as long as he lives, but that we are delivered from it, having died with Christ, the difference between Christ's dying for our sins, and our having died with Him, of His meeting our responsibilities by bearing our sins on the cross, and our being in Him and accepted in Him, now He is risen and glorified, inseparable from His being in us, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, sin in the flesh being condemned—of all this Dr. B. is wholly ignorant. Legal claims satisfied is all he knows; and of course he condemns and mistakes what he is ignorant of. It is striking to see (p. 121) how he speaks of Christ dying for us, and Christ being in us, but leaves out, as a thing totally unknown to him, our being in Him, And note again how in all this part (pp. 119-121) the whole of his statement of a sin-bearing life is utterly subverted, “All comes from the one work of the cross.” “It is death throughout.” This is not true of the meat-offering, but it sets aside all Dr. B.'s theory. Dr. B.'s anger against others has betrayed him into sad statements.
To deny that a risen Christ is our life may be fit for legalism, and a denial of all real spiritual life; but if there be a real gift of life, in whom and whence is it? This is terrible, our being in Christ left out, and Christ denied to be our life. And Dr. Bonar forgets the verse even as to justification, that, though justification is not by life in us, yet it characterizes justification, as it is written, by one offense towards all to condemnation, so by one righteousness [or act of righteousness] towards all to justification of life.”
The truth is the whole doctrine of acceptance in Christ forms no part of Dr. Bonar's scheme. But that our whole position and partaking of life too depends on resurrection, though surely the whole foundation is Christ's death (which is indeed what I must insist upon), is clear, and it is the real point in question. Dr. B., though inconsistently talking of its being solely death, bases it on Christ's previous life, as meeting legal claims. Scripture declares that, unless the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, and that it is in Christ risen that we have our place before God, knowing by the Comforter that we are in Him (and therefore there is no possible condemnation for us), that He is gone to our Father as to His Father, to our God as to His God. So Paul would not know Christ after the flesh, though life had.
The cross made the great turning-point and separation. In the law God put up a barrier round the mount of fire—was hidden behind the veil; there was no entrance into the holiest, the way not made manifest. As I have sometimes said, God did not come out, and man could not go in. Now God has come out in grace to man, and man has gone in righteousness to God, we are in Him there sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. He is our life, I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me—the risen Christ, or One not risen? Christ alive in the days of His flesh abode alone. “If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,” where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” “When Christ who is our life shall appear.” Here it is distinctively a risen Christ. Our life is Christ who is risen; we have been quickened together with Him, and raised up together.
Save in the vague words, brother, and sister, and mother, Christ never calls His disciples brethren until after His resurrection. Nor is being quickened by the Son the same thing as being raised with Him: for here He is looked at as a man, and we have part spiritually in resurrection with Him. Whence it is said in Col. 2, “having forgiven you all trespasses.” He bore our sins in coming down, and put them away, and then we are raised with Him. He has put us in the same place with Himself—His Father and our Father, His God and our God. Till redemption was accomplished, the corn of wheat abode alone. Dr. Bonar's system is not Christianity in grace to the sinner, God in Christ seeking the lost, and on the sinner's neck when the prodigal had not the best robe on; and the whole of Paul and John's teaching as to our place and life and acceptance in Christ he is wholly ignorant of. God, for him, is a righteous judge, and if we come by a legal satisfaction into court, He is satisfied because the law is. The Lord keep me from such a gospel, and such a gospel from the world.
Even when he speaks, as he must in quoting scripture, of being in Christ, it is an exchange of persons. It is a judicial verdict or sentence given in our favor. God seeks for us, and when at last He discovers us in our hiding-place, it is not me He finds, but Christ. We are partakers in law of all the results and fruits of His work, no identity with Christ literal or physical. (Pages 79, 80.) Jehovah is satisfied. Is this the gospel of the grace of God? God sought sinners. Is it not as if we found our way into Christ by our own consent, and then God found, discovered, us hidden there? And are we not really members of Christ, of His flesh, and of His bones? Are we not really living in Him, and He in us?
My conclusion is, that it is a deplorable heart-saddening book, almost leading one to doubt whether the author knows Christ and the gospel at all, and giving the certainty that the blessed gospel we have in scripture he certainly knows nothing about, at any rate not the gospel of the grace of God revealed in scripture. Such is my answer to whoever sent me the book.
J. N. D.

Thoughts on Ephesians 4

The first part of this chapter gives ecclesiastical, the second individual, godliness. In the previous chapter this connects itself with it, that we have not counsels of God simply, but the realization and verification of those counsels in Christ dwelling in the heart by faith.
First of all we see the thought in God before the foundation of the world, but now it has been brought out. God has brought these eternal counsels into actual realization, and that leads, of course, to actual walk. God has brought out now (as soon as ever Christ had laid the foundation for it by the cross) “one body and one Spirit.”
Though the vocation looks back at the counsels of God, it is brought into actuality in this world. It is a sorrow to the heart, and it ought to be a much deeper sorrow to us, comparing these thoughts of God and their realization. This is the revelation of God's thought in full blessedness, but we see how little in any sense saints have acted up to the mind of God.
This Epistle first gives us the thought of God without reference to how far it has been accomplished or not, the mind of God as it is; though in chapter 3 we have the actual realization of this in the power of the Spirit of God. Then comes the question of how far this is acted out. While Paul was there in the world, a continual struggle was going on; they were Judaizing—dragging down, but the standard was never lowered. You will never find that God lowers the standard, whatever the failure. He never can lower the standard; He may have and has long patience, but He cannot take a lower standard. There are two standards of judgment: one is what God set up at the first; the other is, are they prepared for Christ's coming? There must be the going back to what He gave at the first. Malachi takes the Israelites back to Horeb; “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel.” Surely He will accomplish His promises, but He never lowers the standard. There may be a degree of light possessed, or not possessed; He deals with this in grace, where there is light, more is given; but the standard is not lowered.
Paul unfolds the vocation, and then calls on us to walk worthy of it, in the first part of chapter 4. The necessary effect of being brought so close to God as we are is lowliness and meekness; how can it be otherwise? The greatness of the grace makes nothing of self. This is not easy. In Christ's life you see it plainly enough, in Philippians also. Then the effect of lowliness and meekness is to manifest the unity of the Spirit. “With lowliness and meekness,” that is what we ought to be: then the effect to others will be long-suffering; others may not be lowly and meek. Practically this brings God in and self is gone. The power of love walking with God brings in long-suffering to others. “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” As servants of Christ, and self being gone, we are looking at others. “Yea, and if I be offered [poured as a libation] upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.”
The mere fact of there being Jews and Gentiles in the church, and the constant tendency among the Jews to think little of the Gentiles, made this needed, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit,” not the unity of the body—God keeps that. Then it comes to be jealousy for Christ's glory. What comes from the Spirit is always one; why are we not all agreed? Because our own minds work; if we had only what we have learned from the scripture, we should be all the same. The body is one that cannot be kept by our endeavors. All this is the practical realization of what is in the purposes of God. If a man has the Spirit of Christ, he is a member of Christ. Jesus was the Christ on earth, but He was a Christ rejected: “Messiah shall be cut off, and shall have nothing.” Then a much larger scheme and purpose of God comes out. He that was the Messiah goes down to the lower parts of the earth"; the Creator goes below creation, and now He is above all creatures. Having done that, He delivers persons from Satan and makes them vessels of His power for building up those that are delivered. When “he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” You do not find miracles, tongues, signs of power here, but that which, as immutable and faithful Head, He gives for accomplishing His purpose.
If you take the state of things here, through the unfaithfulness of those to whom service was committed, “the wolf catcheth the sheep and scattereth them,” but he cannot touch the power of the Head. You may have everything upset, but everything works together for good; you never can touch that. If one was to think of the saints, but for this, he would break his heart.
“I stand in doubt of you.” “I have confidence in you through the Lord.” You cannot touch the power and faithfulness of the Head, nor confidence in the Head; though there is disorder all around.
“For the perfecting of the saints” —that is the object. The specific object of ministry is the perfecting of the saints. This never fails; and it is done in various ways. The Corinthians had all sorts of gifts, but they failed in walk. We find various differences among the saints. Individual perfecting is the direct object of Christ—that each individual should grow up to the standard of Christ. Then comes the increase of the body. The first object is, that my heart or your heart is to be up to the measure of Christ; consequent on that comes the increase of the body. It is wonderful if you take the sphere and scope there is here. Christ goes to the lower parts of the earth, then above all heavens; from thence comes ministry.
We now get what the truth is in Jesus. If we have learned Him ourselves, we get this putting off the old man, and putting on the new. This is stated as a fact in Colossians: “Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man.” The truth as it is in Jesus is the having put off the old man, and having put on the new.
There are two great elements of the Christian life: one is this putting off the old man and putting on the new; the other, that the Holy Ghost dwells in us. “Be ye therefore imitators of God as dear children.” Supposing this done, God's conduct is the rule and measure of mine. “Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” We are in the now creation, we have Christ. What is Christ? The manifestation of God. The truth of my state and condition, the truth in Christ is that I have put off the old man, and put on the new. Christ is our life: it is a new creation—created after God “in righteousness and true holiness,” not as innocent Adam. In Col. 3 it is expressed in another way, “the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” —that was not Adam's case at all. God is known. I have got now the divine nature fully revealed in Christ, in a man. We are created now after God; we have the knowledge of what God is, not of what man ought to be. If as a poor sinner I am brought to God, I know His love the very first instant; I know the righteousness and love of God. There is growth, of course. I have Christ instead of Adam. I have put off the old man, as nothing worth, and have put on the new. We have to contend with the old as an enemy. I own nothing but Christ for my life. The knowledge of good and evil has come in, and I cannot take any standard of it (now Christ has revealed Him) but God Himself.
God has made Himself known as Almighty, as Jehovah, and as Father. As Almighty, He said “Walk before me and he thou perfect;” as Jehovah, “Thou shalt be perfect with Jehovah thy God;” as Father, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
The second great principle is, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” The precious blood of Christ having been sprinkled upon us, the Holy Ghost dwells in us: this is of immense value to us. The new nature cannot reveal anything, the new nature has no power. What we see in Christ (there was power in Him of course) is dependence and obedience; these are the great leading traits of the new man. The Spirit of God reveals the things of Christ, encourages me, shows me His faithfulness, His love, and He is power in me. God is dwelling in me in power, giving me liberty, power, sonship, but at the same time the sense of God's presence. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” If He is grieved, the effect is that power is gone, and the conscience is bad; the Spirit then becomes a rebuker.
If the queen were in the house with a right-minded man, every one and thing would bow to her.
How our hearts cultivate things that are not of Christ! Whatever is not fit for His presence is not fit for my heart. How often things are allowed in the heart which make the heart unwilling (not at the bottom, of course) to let Christ back! It is to me a most striking expression of what the Christian is that he has put off the old man, and put on the new, and that, having the Holy Ghost dwelling in him, he is not to grieve the Holy Spirit. “Be ye imitators of God as dear children.” Grace has put us in the place distinctly; and this is the way we are to walk. He takes the two essential names of God (He has many attributes), love and light; both are that in which we have to say to God. However could I imitate God? you may say. But what do you think of Christ? Is He not God? and God just where we want Him? “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” Do you look at Christ and see what that light is. Christ is the pattern and model. If you wake up from the sleeping state of soul (sleep is for the time as bad as death), Christ will give you light. “Walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savor.” Christ gave Himself up entirely: the law never asked that; the law only said, “love your neighbor as yourself.” In a world of sin and sorrow there is another principle, the giving up of self for others; and I get another principle of Christ's love, it was “to God.” As a creature, if I love an unworthy object, my love is unworthy. Divine love does not want a worthy object. “For us,” “to God!” —if we reached that, we should get the right thing for Christians, the giving up of self and for a worthy object. What a picture of the Christian, the old man gone, the new man put on, the Holy Ghost in us, and Christ the pattern! Surely it is a blessed privilege and a truth. Christ's love went on as a divine source when everybody was against Him. Oh! what a calling, beloved brethren. If we are only babes in Christ, we may be consistent with what we have got. Where a person does walk in that way with God, the soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness in a dry and thirsty land.
If we let Christ practically out of our hearts, it costs a deal to bring Him back again.

Thoughts on the Epistles to the Seven Churches Viewed Practically: Part 1

There are three lights in which we may examine the epistles to the seven churches; namely, literal, prophetical, and practical.
Viewed literally, we learn what was the condition of these seven assemblies in the days of John the evangelist, and the special features which characterized each of them. The Nicolaitans had troubled both the assembly at Ephesus and that at Pergamos. Those falsely called Jews, that is, God's people on earth, but here declared by the Spirit to be of the synagogue of Satan, were met with at Smyrna and at Philadelphia. Persecution had raged at Pergamos, during which Antipas, Christ's faithful martyr, had sealed his testimony with his blood; and the devil by similar means was about to try the faithful in Smyrna. Doctrinal evil had gained a footing in the assembly in Pergamos, and was rampant in that in Thyatira; whilst deadness had crept over the assembly in Sardis, and lukewarmness characterized that in Laodicea. How soon had the light begun to burn dim, and how great was the triumph of the enemy, even before the last of the apostles had been removed from the earth! In Thyatira the bulk of the assembly, the angel in-eluded, had been seduced by the teaching of one called (symbolically one may believe) Jezebel; in Sardis a few only had kept their garments undefiled; and in Laodicea it was a question to which their subsequent conduct would furnish the answer whether any in that assembly had spiritual life in their soul.
Viewed prophetically, we trace in these epistles all outline, and the only one we have, of the church's history from the close of the apostolic age to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the air for His saints. For, though we do meet in them with notices of things which will happen after that epoch (chap. 2:26, 27; 3:3, 10), yet the history of such events must be sought for elsewhere; the epistles really closing with the time when (the saints having been caught up) Christendom will be left like a house without a tenant, a body without a soul, to be spewed out of Christ's mouth as a worthless, nauseous thing. Thus, what these epistles viewed prophetically are to the church, namely, the outline of its history to the close of its earthly sojourn, the parables of the kingdom are to the kingdom of God or of heaven, namely, the prophetic outline of the history of the kingdom during the absence on high of the King. But, whereas in the parables we learn what was to be from man's failure in, as well as God's thoughts about, the kingdom; in these epistles, whilst we behold the failure of that which has been entrusted to men, we learn also what the faithful are to do in the different conditions of failure which are portrayed, and hence their practical utility in a twofold way is brought out to us.
For prophecy it must be remembered, if rightly used, is most practical. Peter tells us of the practical value of the Old Testament predictions about the kingdom (2 Peter 1:19-21), and the Lord Himself has illustrated in the prophetic parable of the servants (Matt. 24:45-51) the danger to any teacher, who fails to remember what scripture tells us of His return. Again in the discourse with His disciples about the future of Jerusalem (Luke 21), by acquainting them with circumstances attending the city's downfall by the Romans, and His return in power, the disciples alive at either epoch would know how to act in the first case, and how to feel as the predicted signs shall come to pass, and which must herald His approach. (Ver. 8-28.)
But, besides this use of prophecy, we may view these seven epistles in another, a practical light, as affording instruction and profit for God's saints throughout the whole period between John's day and the Lord's return in the air. For, though addressed each one to the angel of the local assembly designated in the letter, the whole seven were to be made acquainted with the message sent to each. (Chap, 1:11.) Thus, whilst each assembly was acknowledged to be distinct from the other six, it was to be concerned with the letters written by the Lord's commands to the rest. Distinct assemblies indeed they were, each one responsible to Him, yet all parts of the one assembly on earth of which He is the living and glorified Head. So the address to be sent to each was to be communicated to them all. Nor were they to be confined to themselves in their day. People in Greece and Syria, as well as in Egypt and Italy, were to take heed to the things here declared, as we learn from the one exhortation common to them all, which applies as much to us as it did to every listener and reader in John's day, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

Thoughts on the Epistles to the Seven Churches Viewed Practically: Part 2

(Continued from page 222.)
To get then the full meaning of these epistles we must view them in all these lights, just as we view the rainbow as a whole if we want to have a clear conception of what it is like, though we can, if we wish it, direct our attention to any one of the seven different colors which the bow contains, if we desire to examine them separately. Did we then only study these epistles prophetically, we should not see the force of the personal allusions they contain, nor learn how soon corruption had pervaded the most of them, and whilst perhaps attempting to fix their application so viewed to the day in which we live, we should be in danger of passing over the first three as not applicable to the time in which our lot is cast. Again, if we regarded them only in their literal aspect, the references to the coming of the Lord (chap. 2:25, 3:3, 9, 10) would be difficult of explanation, whilst the order in which they are addressed, and the evident fact that the last four churches are regarded as in some degree synchronizing (that is, continuing together till the Lord come) would be a problem incapable of solution. The exhortation “To him that hath an ear,” &c, and the promise in each epistle addressed to the overcomer, witness of their individual and practical application, whilst the remembrance that they are to be viewed as well both literally and prophetically explains the reason of allusions to things then existing, as well as of the order in which these seven epistles are arranged. Accepting, then, the prophetical hearing of these epistles, so often pointed out, as correct, the object of the present paper is to view them practically in accordance with the exhortation quoted above, to “hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” For though addressed by the Lord to the angels, the Spirit by these epistles speaks to the churches.
The first things which meet us are the description of the One from whom the letters were sent, as well as the designation of those to whom they are addressed. The epistles of Peter, James, and Jude and those of Paul and John for the most part, bear on their title pages the name or description of the inspired writer. A man, a servant of God, and an apostle of Christ, addresses his fellows, brethren in the faith. But these seven epistles bear no such designation, though written by the apostle John; for he is here seen only as the amanuensis of one greater than himself, even the Son of man, the Lord Jesus Christ. These are epistles from Him, whom John had known upon earth, and the only epistles in the New Testament thus characterized. Paul and the rest wrote under the immediate guidance of the Holy Ghost, and their writings form part of the canon of scripture (2 Peter 3:16), the epistles being termed prophetic writings (Rom. 16:26, Greek); but here we have the Son of man, risen from the dead, addressing the angels of the seven churches, “These things saith he,” &c, being the formula met with in them all. And, as the sacred penmen described themselves in their epistles as servants of God, apostles of Christ, or simply as the elder (2 and 3 John), so does the Lord Jesus, in the beginning of each address appropriately designate Himself, using either terms which express His relation to the churches (chap. 2:1, 12, 18; 3:1), or terms personally descriptive of Himself. (Chap. 2:8; 3:7, 14.)
As we mark this feature, a characteristic met with in no other epistle of divine authority, namely, that the Lord Jesus here speaks directly, so must we acknowledge that the designation of the one to whom each is addressed is peculiar likewise, for the angel of the church is a term unknown elsewhere in the whole inspired volume. With epistles general, particular, and personal, we are familiar. These also are personal, but are addressed to one characterized by his work in the assembly, not by his official name. To the bishops and deacons at Philippi, as well as to all saints there, did Paul write from his prison in Rome. (Phil. 1:1.) The twelve tribes are addressed by James, the strangers of the dispersion were specially cared for by Peter, whilst the saints and faithful in Christ were taught by Paul and John and Jude. But in these seven epistles we have the angel always addressed, as responsible for what went on in the assembly. Elders, bishops, or deacons, are not once mentioned in them; and the term apostle is only introduced when speaking of those who had falsely arrogated to themselves that distinctive appellation. (Chap. 2:2) Remembering the prophetical bearing of these epistles we can understand this; for the Lord's care for “His people is here displayed, in view of a time when apostles, and those appointed to any office by them, would cease to exist upon earth. Ministry never will cease as long as the church is on earth, nor surely will the supply foil of those fitted to perform the services allotted in apostolic days to elders and deacons. Hence the Lord here writes to those called angels, the mystical representatives of the assemblies, and, as we learn from the epistles themselves, those, whether an individual or individuals, whom the Lord held responsible for the condition of that assembly with which the angel was locally connected.
Looking through these epistles we meet with nothing of church order, nor have we any fresh doctrinal revelation. The circumstances and form in which they were written would preclude both. For, as the church is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, when church order has to be treated of, an apostle is selected to be the mouth-piece of the Holy Ghost by virtue of his apostolate. And since to Paul, not to John, was it given to fulfill the word of God (Col. 1:25), it is from the former's writings alone that we learn anything about church order. Again, had fresh doctrinal revelations been made in these epistles, since they were written after the decease of Paul, Peter, James, and others of the apostles and prophets, it would have proved that all the truth needful for the edifying of the body had not been communicated in their day, in which case Paul could not have declared all the counsel of God (Acts 20:27), nor could Peter surely have written in the terms he did. (2 Peter 1:3.) In fact these epistles endorse the language of both Peter and Paul, as they call on those by them addressed to be faithful to the truth already received, not to expect anything more. (Chap. 2:25; 3:3.) Faithfulness in the time of declension and persecution is what the Lord here enjoins, and individual faithfulness He desires, if the majority around them have got wrong. And this is to be attained by keeping fast hold of what they have, or returning to that from which they have departed; whereas the reverse of faithfulness would be indicated by refusing to conform, whether in doctrine or practice, to that which had once been accepted amongst them. But though we meet not with rules for church order, we learn that when apostles, and elders, and deacons appointed by them, should cease to exist upon earth, there would be always in the different assemblies those, whom the Lord would hold responsible to care for the due order and welfare of His saints: a solemn fact surely. And though none can now lay claim to be obeyed on the ground of appointment to office, there were, there are, and there will be, those who should care for the local assemblies throughout the world, this responsibility never terminating till the Lord's rejection of Christendom by spewing it out of His mouth.
Of the eagle eye of an apostle, which could discern evil in the bud, and warn the saints against dangers by ordinary observers undetected, the church was soon to be bereft. Deprived of their personal superintendence the assemblies were not left to themselves; there was, and there is, One who walks in their midst. He did this in the days of John the apostle; He does so still. The Holy Ghost dwells in God's habitation on earth to direct and further the work among men, and the Son of man walks in the midst of the assemblies fully cognizant of all that goes on. How deeply interested must He be in the affairs of the church to walk in the midst of the golden candlesticks! How solemn for us to remember that it is the Son of man who thus walks! Golden candlesticks, or lamp-stands, He owns them to be the recognized vessels for the diffusion of light from God in the midst of the darkness around, though there was much in them of which He disapproved. But, as the church is the pillar find ground of the truth, so local assemblies are the divinely appointed vessels, from which in their different places the light should radiate. And the angels are called by the Lord Himself stars, to give light and to rule in the night-season the lampstands, the stars indicating the position and service of each, whilst both speak of the absence of the sun, and by consequence announce that the day has not yet dawned on this benighted, weary, sin-defiled world.
As a rule no promises are made to the angels; but Smyrna and Philadelphia are exceptions to this. To the representatives of these two assemblies promises are made. In the case of Smyrna it is the crown of life if faithful unto death; a mark of approval to be bestowed on those who endure temptation. (Rev. 2:10; James 1:12.) In the case of Philadelphia the promise speaks of homage to be paid by those who have disowned them, and preservation from the hour of trial about to come upon all the world to try them that dwell on the earth. Another feature in common have these two letters, being the only ones in which no failure of the angel had to be noticed. In the rest the Lord finds something, in the most a great deal, to blame: in these there was only that which needed encouragement. How intimately then is He acquainted with all that goes on in the different assemblies, as He warns and rebukes those who have failed, or encourages (for they were men in the flesh) those, who in spite of active persecution, or conscious weakness, were through grace holding on their way!
The fact of failure being noticed as the chronic state of most of the assemblies witnesses of the change that had crept over that which had been set up by the Lord Jesus on earth. But the fact that He shows it up, without at once rejecting that which bore His name down here, speaks to us of the long-suffering goodness and love of Him with whom we have to do. At first in all the freshness of spiritual youth, and by the Holy Ghost acting in and through Peter, the thin end of the wedge of corruption, inserted by the malice of the enemy, was effectually driven out (Acts 5); and, even as late as the time alluded to in Rev. 2:2 the angel at Ephesus had unmasked the hollow pretensions of those calling themselves apostles, and had proved them liars. But now failure had manifested itself very generally, till it had become the characteristic feature of the assemblies in which it had gained a footing. Of this the Lord speaks, to warn if they would be warned, and so be wise in time.
Reading these letters as descriptive of assemblies then established, we see how different conditions spiritually might co-exist. We learn too how varied can be the attempts of the enemy to corrupt assemblies with the view of effacing the testimony for God and for Christ from the world, as well as the Lord's discrimination evidenced in His dealings with each of them. To this let us now turn.
In His message to the angel of the assembly in Ephesus the Lord has to notice symptoms of decline, such as by ordinary eyes would not be observed. His position in relation to the seven stars, and His place in the seven golden candlesticks, tell of His concern with all that went on. The former He held in His right hand, and amongst the latter He walked. To all that there was of value in His eyes He gave full credit (ver. 2, 3) and there was a great deal. Works, labor, patience, refusal to bear with those who were evil, and the detection of false apostles-these tell us of the manifestations of the divine life which had been witnessed in that assembly. Endurance too unwearied, and that for Christ's sake, He speaks of. And, as real disciples of the Master, they hated the works of the Nicolaitanes. What then was wrong with them? What fault could be found with them? Men probably discerned none, but He who walked in the midst of the golden candlesticks puts His finger on the blot, and characterizes it in terms which might sound strange to others. “I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore, whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” Restoration to the former condition, and not anything new, was that which He asked of the angel. The activity of the assembly could not deceive the Son of man, nor could a continuance in their present course satisfy Him; so He bids the angel to remember whence he had fallen, and to repent. If not, the opportunity for testimony would be taken away from them, the lamp be removed out of its place. One may have to own, in rending this epistle, how far one has come short in estimating aright the evil of which the Lord complains, but we have it here written for our instruction. For whilst the angel is addressed, the responsibility of individuals is clearly set forth in the promise given to the overcomer, a promise just suited to the circumstances of the case. Vigor of spiritual life had characterized them once. He desired that it should do so again, and promises to the overcomer (i.e., the one who should exhibit it afresh), forever and ever to enjoy it by eating of the tree of life which would surely continually sustain it. This was the Lord's way of lifting souls out of their declining spiritual condition. To the overcomer He offers nothing for the present, for the principle of the walk of faith is to look forward to what will be enjoyed; but not in the circumstances in which we at present are. This acted on the worthies of old, and must act on those who would be overcomers. So the Lord speaks of “the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
This way of dealing with souls demands further consideration. What might have been passed over as a light matter was in His eyes a very grievous one. By leaving his first love the angel had fallen. “Remember from whence thou art fallen,” the Lord said to him. Every word here is important. He had fallen, and how great was the fall! This he was to call to remembrance, and repent and do the first works. If not, the Lord would visit them governmentally. Then to help souls in that condition He points them on to the future, and tells them what, if overcomers, He will give them. To point out only what is wrong will not help people to get right. The Lord here aimed at two things, the opening of the eye to see what needed correction, and the acting on the heart to make them overcomers. The former is done by pointing out the failure, the latter by occupying souls with His grace.
Turning to the epistle to the angel in Smyrna we learn that the Lord is fully acquainted with His people's condition. In the letters to the angels of the assemblies in Ephesus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea He commences with the words, “I know thy works.” In the epistles to the angels of the assemblies in Smyrna and in Pergamos these words should be omitted. The activity of the assembly in Ephesus we have seen that He knew: with the condition of that in Smyrna we learn that He was well acquainted. Tribulation and poverty had characterized them, tribulation would still be their lot. No change for the better does the Lord hold out, but their eyes are directed to another quarter, one beyond the horizon of this world. Death might await them for His sake, but the crown of life would be theirs, and whosoever overcame (i.e., by not loving his life) should not be hurt of the second death. Death is not the Christian's hope; but if called for Christ's sake to enter it, they were not to fear, for it was the First and the Last who thus addressed them, who became dead, and lived. Poor, despised, persecuted, and perhaps slain here, then to be decked with the crown of life forever and ever. Rich indeed would they be, distinguished in eternity for this, that life on earth had been esteemed as nothing in comparison with faithfulness to Him, who became dead and lived. How graciously does He minister to His suffering people as He reminds them of His path, and foretells for them their future!
But not only does He speak of the condition. He notices also the position, as He tells the angel of the assembly at Pergamos, “I know where thou dwellest, where Satan's seat is.” But, as the condition of the assembly in Smyrna was not to be altered, so neither was the position of that in Pergamos to be changed. How often are souls tempted to think, ‘If only my condition was improved, or my position amended, I should do better.' The Lord however wants us to glorify Him in the condition in which we are, and to be faithful in the position in which His providence has placed us, both of which He knows, as we learn from these two epistles. And here a fresh point comes out. Whilst personal soundness in the faith is essential, that can be no excuse for the allowance of evil within the assembly. Personally the angel was sound. “Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in the days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” This was commendation, both of what had been done, and of what was still done, The Lord's faith had not been denied in the days of persecution, His name the angel still held fast. But, through carelessness it may have been, holders of false doctrine were suffered among them, which led to immorality of walk, a connection, as of cause and effect, much closer than many, it may be, are apt to imagine. What might seem of little moment to the angel was a grievous matter in the eyes of Christ, and the orthodoxy of the angel could not shield him from blame, if such people were allowed to continue unchecked.
Is the teaching we here got commonly understood and accepted in our day? To be sound himself was not sufficient; he ought to have allowed no compromise with evil. Personal soundness, whilst allowing evil to be rife amongst them, was a state of matters with which the Lord could not rest satisfied; so the sharp two-edged sword out of His mouth (chap. i. 16), by and by to be used in judgment against the nations (chap. 19:15), must be wielded by Him against the evildoers, unless the angel repented. The effect of repentance would be the expulsion of the evil from amongst them. This is what the Lord desired, thus owning what God had set up on earth, the assembly qualified to deal with the evil. Authority to act they had, and, if they had exercised it, they would have found they had the power also; but failing to act themselves, the Lord must fight against the corrupters with the sword of His mouth. What a place then the assembly occupies, and what responsibility rests on it, as the witness for Christ, and the maintainer of His glory and truth upon earth! And observe, He did not tell the angel at Pergamos to assemble a general council, or even a provincial synod, before taking action in this matter.
A betters of the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication, had a footing in this assembly, as well as those who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. The former we meet with here for the first time, the latter had been mentioned in the epistle to the angel at Ephesus. There the angel had been of one mind with the Lord about their deeds, here the angel permitted the presence of those who held their doctrines. What attempts of the enemy to corrupt God's people do these charges against the angel attest! To destroy God's people Israel by drawing them into idolatry and its concomitant ways of uncleanness, had been Balaam's wicked device communicated to Balak. Here in Pergamos a similar plan was being pursued; but the Lord unmasked it. To eat things sacrificed to idols might seem to some a small matter. Believers at Corinth had been deceived in this way, till the apostle showed clearly what such conduct and association implied. Here the evil appears to have run to greater lengths, for the natural fruits of it had been developed. To meet this twofold evil the Lord then addresses the overcomer, and promises to give to him to cat of the hidden manna, and a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it.
The unfaithful were seeking to satisfy themselves on earth from unhallowed sources, the overcomers shall be fed in heaven by Christ Himself. The hidden manna, Christ, now on high, of which the golden pot of manna laid up in the sanctuary was typical, shall be their portion forever to feed on, who overcome the seduction of error akin to what Balaam introduced amongst Israel. Thus a portion, better than Israel on earth enjoyed, they shall have forever; even the hidden manna, the gift of Christ Himself. “With this the Lord couples the white stone, the mark of acquittal or approval, on which shall be written a new name, a secret of delight between the giver and receiver. What could Satan offer to compare with these blessings, all future, it is true, but the assured portion of each one who would stem the tide of such evils as were corrupting the assembly at Pergamos? To eat of things which God abhorred, and to give the rein to their fleshly lusts, were the snares by which Satan was at Pergamos ruining souls. To eat of that which is precious to God, and to have the sure token of Christ's approval forever, are what the Lord here offers to the overcomer. What desires for their everlasting welfare does the Lord's ministry here disclose!
In the assembly at Thyatira things were worse, and the faithful were accounted by the majority as familiar with the depths of Satan. All right thoughts of order were subverted. The doctrines of Balaam were bearing fruit; and what was worse, one who styled herself a prophetess, but is here called by the Lord Jezebel (a name indicative of her purpose as akin to that of Ahab's queen, who used her power and influence to corrupt God's saints), was in the height of her career, seduced His servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Nor did she stand alone in her wickedness. She had followers, called her children, who disseminated the corruption which she had introduced. Her influence and the extent of the corruption were seen in the fact of the angel being led away, as well as the majority of those who professed to be Christians. The Lord's estimate of matters appears from His address to the angel. Works, charity, service, faith, patience, all these He saw and owned; but the suffering Jezebel to teach was a very grievous thing. Hence, whilst He said to the angel at Pergamos, “I have a few things against thee,” here He says, “I have against thee,” for thus we should read the passage, omitting “a few things.” The omission is significant, as is that of any command to the angel to repent, a feature this epistle has in common only with those to the angels at Smyrna and Philadelphia, but for a very different reason.
The door of repentance was not indeed closed, as verse 22 bears witness, but the angel had become a vessel unfit for the master's use. (2 Tim. 2:20, 21.) What then was to be done? Were godly souls to acquiesce in the evil because it was general and widespread? Was constituted authority, as men speak, to be obeyed, and leaders followed, if they walked in a path which the Lord abhorred? Clearly not. What, then, were the faithful to do? The Lord tells them Himself. “That which ye have already, hold fast till I come.” Ceasing to address the angel He speaks direct to those still faithful, “the rest.” “Unto you I say, the rest who are in Thyatira,” for so it should be read. The sheep deserted by those who ought to have cared for them, the great Shepherd manifests afresh His care for the flock, and acts as the Bishop of their souls. In this way the proper action of individuals is indicated even when the leaders are perverted; and if it be but a remnant, “the rest,” they must be steadfast and hold fast what they have till the Lord come, for till then, as is elsewhere taught (1 Tim. 6:14), the servants are not relieved from their responsibility.
Their proper position pointed out, the Lord gives promises to them if they overcome, for nothing short of that will satisfy His heart. Characterizing things in the assembly at Thyatira by a true name, that one word Jezebel must have struck the faithful as shedding a full light on the real character of the evil from which they stood aloof. Who, that had a spark of right feeling about God's honor and His truth, could become a partaker of the sins and ways of one whom the Lord thus designates? The depths of Satan their enemies in the church accused “the rest” of being acquainted with; the teachings of a Jezebel, the Lord declared their enemies had listened to and imbibed. For the faithful it was as the day of small things, disowned and evil spoken of by those who professed to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ; for the majority at Thyatira had been perverted, and only a remnant remained steadfast. But by and by the Lord will publicly vindicate His own, and make all see who those are who could remain faithful and steadfast in the midst of such widespread corruption and such successful seduction. What no person on earth could offer, and what none but He can give; He here tells them shall be theirs. “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations, and he shall shepherd them with a rod of iron: as vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces, even as I received of my Father.” The difference of walking by faith or by sight is here very plainly illustrated. Worldly power might be brought in to corrupt the church and ensnare many; but power over the nations in government shall be the future portion of those faithful to Christ, to be received direct from His hand. For “I will give,” are His words in each of the first four epistles as well as in the last. (Chap. 2:7, 10, 17, 26, 28; 3:21.) But in this, the fourth epistle the Lord appears as the giver in a very solemn way. To His own will He give power over the nations, but to every one of them in Thyatira He will give according to their works. Jezebel, her children, the angel, and all seduced by her, as well as “the rest” must then have to do with Him. The power He received from His Father He will give of to His people, and He will not, He tells them, begin-"His reign until they are with Him. Of this the promise of the gift of the morning star assures them. But, just as the mention of the name of Jezebel must have thrown the light of divine illumination on the real character of things in Thyatira, so the mention of the morning star must have reminded them that the darkness of night still enwraps this world.
A question may here arise. Does this epistle sanction the continuance of God's people in that which is wrong, for there is no hint for them to leave the assembly? Other scriptures point out what the action of God's people should be with reference to evil in doctrine and practice (1 Cor. 5; Titus 3:10 John.) Here however we have the whole local assembly addressed, from which according to God's thoughts we can never get free, as long as we are in the place where it exists. For the assembly at Thyatira comprehended every soul in that city which professed to be a disciple of Christ. To separate from the church there would have been to un-Christianize themselves, which they could not do, though separation from evil is a positive Christian duty. This those termed by the Lord “the rest” had clearly done. They were apart from the evil, and because they kept aloof from participation in it, they received this token of His approval, whilst enduring the odium of those from whose ways and doctrines they dissented. A new church they did not attempt to form, nor could they, for there was but one in the place, however many might have been the houses in which the members of it met. To have attempted to form one would have manifested their want of intelligence about the church of God. To have acquiesced in the evil, because there was but one church which God owned, would have indicated ignorance as to the nature of God, and of that which should characterize His children.
(To be continued.')

Thoughts on the Epistles to the Seven Churches Viewed Practically: Part 3

(Continued from page 240.)
Another state of things in John's day the epistle to the angel of the assembly at Sardis discloses. The blinding influence of a Jezebel on the church, and the extent to which it could lead to departure from the faith, Thyatira exhibited, whilst the danger of resting in profession Sardis exemplified. How often have souls taken comfort to themselves from their connection with some body, as men speak, in their public profession of Christianity! To make a profession of Christianity, where it is real, is right—Christians should openly show themselves as such. The candle is not meant to be put under a bed or a bushel, but to give light. Our light ought to shine. But mere profession is not life, and man's estimate of us is not always in accord with Christ's; for, whilst man can see the actions, the Lord reads the heart. So He tells the angel “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead.” A correct estimate He had formed, and here expresses what it was. How startling probably this must have been to some, yet how gracious, telling the angel what He discerned whilst there was time to repent, instead of waiting to manifest it when the day of grace should be past. All that men could see, He saw and noticed; but, what man perceived not, He beheld. As the Son of God possessing judicial power He addressed the angel at Thyatira, as having the seven spirits of God and the seven stars He speaks to the angel at Sardis, and exhorts him to be watchful, lest the slumber of spiritual death should only be broken in upon by the execution of divine judgment. (Chap. 3:3.) “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain that are about to die,” was the work to which the angel should address himself; for the Lord adds, “I have not found thy works perfect [or complete] before my God.”
As man then He here comes before us, just as afterward in the epistle to the angel at Philadelphia He speaks in the same strain— “My God.” Here the mention of such a term would serve as a reminder that the Lord has known what is man's responsibility in connection with God. There the saints would be encouraged by the remembrance, that He, who addressed them, had learned what it was to be in the place of dependence upon earth. But, if He could speak of Himself as a man, all power and resources for men belonged to Him. He has the seven stars and the seven Spirits of God. The stars should shine in the darkness, and rule in the night, whilst all that the angel wanted for this the Lord could supply, for the seven Spirits of God are His as well as the seven stars. Thus presenting Himself He could tell what was lacking, and point out the remedy. This is of immense importance to us, whether viewed collectively or individually. The remedy was within their reach. No development of truth was required, nor was any further revelation vouchsafed. “Remember therefore how thou hast received, and heard, and hold fast, and repent.” The remembrance of what they had received and heard would open their eyes to the condition of deadness, which insensibly perhaps had crept over them; to bold fast would remind them of the standard they had once accepted, and then repentance, self-judgment with the action corresponding to it, would openly follow. How simple then was the remedy, and bow blessed though humbling the result!
Have we not at times need to be reminded of this, the divine way of dealing with souls? Is there not often a restlessness when first the consciousness of deadness comes home to us, and the thought rises up, that activity in some way or other should be aimed at and fostered? Yet here the Lord speaks not of fresh activity in works, but of repentance; for the state of the heart is that at which He looks, and this His people are to remember. The works of Sardis were not complete, because what they had received and heard had been forgotten. To this He recalls them, and obedience or the opposite to the admonition would be the test of the reality of their profession. Instructive then is the admonition, nor less so is the order in which it is conveyed. Repentance was to follow the remembrance of what had been received and heard, for the grace bestowed, and the truths taught, being remembered, their present state would be discerned, and this would lead them by grace to repentance. Thus does the Lord affirm the sufficiency of what had been once enjoyed and revealed, to recover their souls from the deadness into which they had fallen. But how graciously does He enter into their condition as He points them to the means by which to get out of it.
Then, before passing on to give promises to the overcomers, He notices those who had remained faithful amid such general unfaithfulness. “But thou hast a few names in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white for they are worthy.” Did the angel know who these were? The Lord certainly did, an evidence that truly He is the Shepherd. In the epistle to the angel of the church at Pergamos, and again to that at Thyatira, He had noticed classes (chap. 2:14, 15, 24); here He speaks of individuals, a few names. When He entered the fold of Israel as the Shepherd, He called His own sheep by name; here after His resurrection and ascension we learn that He knows by name each one, who on earth is faithful to Him. How comforting to His people to remember this! Little known, as probably these few were, and less thought of, where spiritual slumber prevailed so generally, the Lord tells the angel, and through him us, how He regards such, and of what in His eyes they are worthy. Thus the defilement connected with mere profession is marked. For apart from any connection with the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, or the uncleanness resulting from the doctrines of Balaam and the seductions of Jezebel, garments could and had been defiled, where a mere orthodox profession prevailed. But not only should those be in white who had kept their garments undefiled, but all who would now overcome should thus be clothed. Their names too (here individuality is again to be noticed) He will not blot out of the book of life, the register of all who profess to be Christians, but will confess them before His Father and before His angels. How suited was this promise to the condition of things in that assembly! The assembly at Sardis had a name as professors before men, the overcomers amongst them should have their names confessed by Christ openly before God.
In the assembly at Philadelphia both doctrine and practice had been cherished. “Thou hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Here we see what faithfulness can effect. A little strength they had, their capability for service was not great; but the absence of greater power was not allowed to be a plea for deadness, such as was in Sardis nor for the sufferance of a false teacher like Jezebel at Thyatira. Such being their state, the Lord introduces Himself, not as One clothed with judicial power as in the letters to the angels at Pergamos and Thyatira, but as the Holy One and the True, who possesses the key of David to open and to shut. To what He is those at Philadelphia had in measure been conformed. So faithful in the maintenance of doctrine, and exhibiting the fruits of it in their ways, the door of opportunity for service He here tells them that He will keep open for them, and no man shall shut it. Through grace having been faithful, God's ways in government they should prove. “What a man soweth that shall he also reap,” announces to us the unfailing principle of God's government. These had been faithful in their measure: so opportunity for further service should be secured to them. How often do believers prove the unfailing principles of God's government by suffering consequences, perhaps enduring, of some wrong action in past times! Here the converse, less often proved, is illustrated for our instruction by the keeping open the door for further service, for and by the Lord, which no man should shut.
The opportunity then to do service for Christ is something to be prized. The knowledge of forgiveness is not the end of man's salvation, for “we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.” Into this the Philadelphian Christians entered, and showed that they understood of what use, as alive in Christ, they were to be upon earth, and hence were to experience, as here expressed in a threefold way, the rich grace of Christ; in the door being kept open by Him, in His vindication of their title to be God's people before those who would deny it, and in their being kept by Christ out of the hour of tribulation, which shall come upon all the habitable world to try them that dwell upon the earth.
This last promise, based as it is on their having kept the word of Christ's patience, shows that saints in early days not only were taught about the hope of the church, but really held it fast. Paul's wish for the assembly at. Thessalonica (2 Thess. 3:5) was fulfilled in that of Philadelphia. (Ver. 10.) Commended then as they were so highly by the Lord, and enriched with such promises, might they relax their efforts, and abate their zeal? Man's evil heart led by Satan might say, Yes; the Lord however warns them against such a delusion. He could and did commend them; but, knowing man's heart and Satan's artifices, He adds the significant admonition; “I come quickly, hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown.” Then He ends the letter to the angel by acquainting him with the future position of the overcomer. “He that overcometh [for their service was still unfinished], will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and my new name.”
Possessed of little strength, but faithful to Christ's word and name, their service He does indeed prize, and their faithfulness He will reward. Pillars in the temple of His God they shall be, monuments of divine workmanship for all to behold, ever remaining where God dwells. And though disowned as God's people on earth, Christ will display them as God's, with the mark of heavenly citizenship written upon them, as well as His new name written by Himself in token that they belong to Him. What delight in the faithfulness of His people does the Lord take, since He will mark those who exhibit it as belonging to God and to Himself!
In the epistle to the angel of the assembly in Laodicea we have as dark a picture as that of the assembly at Philadelphia was bright. All in Philadelphia were faithful; of none in Laodicea could the Lord speak with approval, though He was fully acquainted with their works. At Philadelphia the saints were in some measure conformed to what He is, holy and true; what He is stood out in direct contrast to the assembly at Laodicea. “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God,” is the Lord's description of Himself, reminding the angel of His life of faithfulness as a man upon earth, and that He is the Head of a new race. The assembly at Laodicea had forgotten the one, and ignored the other. Lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, is the estimate He had formed of them, for indifference to Christ characterized them. What that is in His sight His rebuke shows us. “I would thou wert either cold or hot;” for something positive is better than indifference allied with profession. The assembly took the ground of Christianity before the world, but imagined they could get on without Christ, being rich as they said, having grown rich, and wanting nothing. Self-contained, as they thought, they had need of nothing, thereby belying their whole profession, for why should we profess Christianity, if we can get on without Christ? For the world to go on without Him seems intelligible enough, but for those, who outwardly bear His name, to blind their eyes to their true interests seems almost incredible; and so far had these gone, that the only place the Lord could occupy was one outside of them, standing at the door and knocking, if perchance any would open to Him, in whom is all fullness for His people.
The angel at Laodicea knew not the real condition of the assembly, and in this all there seem to have agreed with him. Unanimity there was amongst them. None there by their life protested against the fatal security in which they had enwrapped themselves, nor was the estimate of their state challenged, it would appear, by one uneasy soul. In this condition of matters, which had existed we learn not for how long, the Lord interposes. Sight, clothing, riches, all these they wanted; but all these He could give them. Apart from Him they had nothing, but from Him they could buy everything. To warn them of their danger, the Lord tells the angel what must take place if he did not repent; “I will spue thee out of my mouth;” but at the same time tells him what should be done to avert such dreadful and irreversible consequences. “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, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and eye salve to anoint [as we should here read] thine eyes that thou mayest see.” Gracious was all this both to warn and to counsel, but the Lord did not stop there; for explaining that the severity of His address was the effect of true love in Him (ver. 19), He acquainted them with His attitude and action, standing at the door and knocking, willing to bless even an individual, if only one would open to Him. What pains does He take to arouse souls.
When Israel rejected the Lord Jehovah, God declared His intention of returning to His place till they should acknowledge their offense, and seek His face, adding, “in their affliction they will seek me early.” (Hos. 5:15.) Reaping the fruit of their ways, they would be brought to seek Him, from whom they had departed. None could charge God with injustice in thus dealing with them, for they had clearly deserved it. Indeed the opportunity to repent being afforded them witnesses of His grace to Israel. But the Lord acts in Laodicea in a different manner; seeking to impress them with this, that, however in-different they had been to Him, He was not indifferent to their welfare. He wanted their hearts, He wanted to be with them if they would allow Him, and to have thorn with Him, if this could righteously be effected. His attitude, standing at the door, told of their indifference, but told also of His long-suffering towards them. His action, knocking fit the door, spoke of His desire to be with them. To have yielded to their entreaty would have been gracious, but to be the Entreater, and (may we not with reverence add).... importunate entreaties, was wonderfully gracious. This is the position He there took up, and immediate blessing was to be enjoyed by anyone who would yield to His entreaty.
“If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.” How significant is the little word “if” here; for the previous conduct of souls at Laodicea, for which the Lord rebukes them, afforded no ground for the conclusion that anyone would open the door. But what a way to gain hearts, if they could be gained! What a manner of overcoming indifference to Christ have we here set before us! To sup with Christ is surely a blessing to be highly prized. But what He puts in the foreground is His entrance to sup with anyone who would admit Him. For, by telling of His longing after them, and His desiring intercourse with any who would hearken and open to Him, He would, if there was life in any one soul in Laodicea, gain its confidence, and effectually dispel its indifference. In the Epistles to the first five churches we have no promise made to be fulfilled on earth; in that to Philadelphia there is a promise to be fulfilled as they are being caught up from earth; but in this last a promise is made to be enjoyed whilst here below, the presence of Christ in familiar blessed intercourse, He supping with anyone who would open the door, and such an one with Him. Add to this the promise here made to the overcomer of being with Christ on His throne; and we have set out before us a divine plan for attracting hearts to Christ, namely, by telling them of His desires after them, and wishes for them.
“What response there was to this appeal, or indeed to any of His directions in these Epistles, we do not learn, for the object surely was, not to be enabled to record results, but to portray what Christ was in John's day, and what He is still. His presence among the golden candlesticks is declared, and His ministry, by which He would act upon souls in the different circumstances with which they were surrounded, has been recorded for our instruction by the Holy Ghost. Thus the Lord's way of dealing with saints we are here made acquainted with, as well as His earnest desire and unwearied service for the true welfare of all who are called by His name. But, if we cannot learn the effect of this ministry on the souls addressed by the Spirit when John penned the letters, any placed now in similar circumstances, or whose spiritual condition corresponds to that of these described, may show by their own example how such ministry on Christ's part can effect the object desired. So “Wisdom may afresh be justified of her children.”


Page 136, column 1, line 8, for “not” read “went.”
Lately Published, in one Vol., price 5s., ELEVEN OCCASIONAL LECTURES by W. K.
London: W. H. Broom, 29, Paternoster Row.


In No. 197, p. 151, col. 1, for “Abram's” read “Adam's paradise.”

Notes on Ezekiel 1-3

The circumstances in which Ezekiel was called to prophesy were new and strange. It was not in Judah nor in Israel, but among the captives by the river Chebar. Hence Jehovah was pleased to accompany His word to him with peculiarly vivid marks. To him only in the Old Testament is it said that the heavens were opened, and he saw visions of God. (Ver. 1.) But the opening of the heavens was in judgment of Israel's iniquity, not yet to express the Father's delight in the Son on earth, still less for the Christian to behold the Son of man in heaven.
Nor is the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity without special reason. There had been ample space for those left behind in the land to repent of their vain hopes as well as of their rebelliousness and their idolatry. They had had the warning of their brethren removed from the land: had they laid it to heart? Zedekiah “did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of Jehovah. And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God; but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Jehovah God of Israel. Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much, after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of Jehovah which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Jehovah God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place; but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”
It was in view of a final and yet more completely desolating stroke that Ezekiel was raised up to bear testimony. “On the fifth of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity, the word of Jehovah came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of Jehovah was there upon him. And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire enfolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.” (Ver. 2-5.)
Had this been all, it had been much to rebuke the Jewish pride which counted God so bound to their race and land, that they never weighed His threat of the change in progress for Israel till it came. Alas! they realize it not till, this day, but, refusing to hear of His judgment of their sins, they would fain cheat themselves into the delusion that their dispersion is a mission to teach the Gentiles that God is the God of Israel rather than that He has for thousands of years refused to be called their God because of their idolatry crowned by the rejection of the Messiah and the gospel. A fresh storm-cloud of divine indignation was about to burst on Judea out of the north, that is, from Babylon.
But there is much more. “Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.” (Ver. 5.) there could be any doubt left on the mind of him who reads this account, chapter 10. distinctly shows that the living creatures are the cherubim. They are here, not two like the figures made out of the ends of the pure and beaten gold which formed the mercy-seat where God sat as on a throne, but four in relation (I presume) to the creature. The God of Israel, who dwelt between the cherubim on the ark, was in the midst of His people and approached by blood according to divine righteousness, which was guarded by the witness of His judicial authority. Ezekiel was given to behold His judgments in providence from without. He would judge His guilty people by Babylon as His instrument. Here therefore it is fire (ver. 5) which characterizes the display of His destructive judgment as the God of heaven.
It would be almost an endless genealogy, and certainly to little edification, if one set out in detail the strange misconception of these symbols which have prevailed among men both Jews and Christians. In the former this is not surprising; for the unbelief which wrought the evils which the prophet denounced still works the same stiff-necked opposition to the truth. “This generation” is not passed away, nor will it till all that is predicted be fulfilled. But Christians are far less excusable. Having the true light they ought to see; but they only see aright, as the eye is single. If Christ's glory had been before them, not the church's (that is, their own), they would have made room for His relation to others as well as to themselves. They need not deny the old, because they believe the new. Had the national judgment of Israel been seen at the beginning of the prophecy, and their restoration at the end, the ancient fathers and the modern divines could not have dreamed of interpreting the four cherubim as the evangelists, or as a description of Christ's redemption work, or of God's glory in the church, or as the four seasons of the year or the four quarters of the globe, or the four cardinal virtues or the four passions of the soul, or the four faculties of the mind, or whatever other conjectures men have indulged in. A more plausible but very imperfect view is that of Calvin who takes them as angels, and four in relation to the various questions of the world, each with four heads, angelic virtue being thus proved to reside in all, and God shown to work not only in man and other animals but throughout inanimate things. He takes it therefore as a vision of God's empire administered by angels everywhere, all creatures being so impelled as if joined with the angels and as if the angels comprehended within themselves all elements in all parts of the world.
As to the four cherubs then, they were composite figures. “And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings” were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.” (Ver. 6-9.) The likeness of a man was theirs, though each had four faces and four wings (ver. 6); but the feet were straight, the sole like that of a calf's foot, and the face of an ox answering to that of a cherub. (Ver. 7; compare also chap. 10: 14.) Activity, aptness in doing, seems represented by the hands of a man; swiftness of execution from above in the wings, without a moment's deviation from the object in hand, and with four sides so as to move in all directions. The intimation of verse 10 I take to be that in front the face of a man was seen, and that of an eagle behind, with a lion's face to the right and an ox's or steer's to the left. These compose the symbolical supports of the throne, being the heads of the creatures preserved in the ark from the flood; man setting forth intelligence, the lion strength, the ox patience or stability, and the eagle rapidity of execution, the attributes of God or the qualities of His judgments. “As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went every one straightforward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.” (Ver. 10-14.) They went forward and returned like a flash of lightning.
Nor do we hear only of wings, but of wheels also. “Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.” (Ver. 15-21.) It is the exact reverse of circumstances left to blind chance. Contrariwise, whatever the revolutions or changes among men, all is wittingly guided where it might be least expected. The instruments of the providential government, below the firmament or expanse, were completely in accord with what was above: and over this was the likeness of a throne; and above all the likeness of a man exercising executory judgment, though with the unfailing pledge of mercy to an evil world.
Thus the throne of God was no longer in Israel, but the God of heaven was pleased and about to use the Gentiles to do His will in punishing guilty Jerusalem. It is His throne from heaven, not yet His throne in heaven, as in Rev. 4 where we have no wheels, but six wings to each. The living creatures there are accordingly not cherubim only but seraphim, crying Holy, holy, holy, and the whole creation is taken up under His dispensational titles, save what is distinctively millennial. Hence they are not the mere basis of God's throne in judging the Jew, providentially through the Gentile, but associated and identified with the throne of Him who judges all according to His nature. The world comes under His dealings, though above all apostate Jews and Gentiles, all “that dwell on the earth.” The living creatures are in the circle of the throne and in its midst, no longer under it as in Ezekiel.
Hence we may easily understand that by the cherubim is set forth God's judicial executive, to whomsoever entrusted and in whatever circumstances displayed. There is a difference between that which was seen after man's fall, and when God called for the mercy-seat. So the sight vouchsafed to Ezekiel on earth was not the same as John beheld when in the Spirit he passed through the door opened in heaven. But in all there is the common principle, while each is modified exactly by divine wisdom according to the case and aim before Him, which we can learn only by the Spirit from His word which has for its object His various glory in Christ.
The Supreme who directed all was revealed in the appearance of a man and so in relation to men. His attributes here made known are governmental, and applied by instruments on earth according to a providence which overlooks nothing. There is no finer refutation of heathen darkness or of Jewish narrowness than this symbolical representation of the divine ways with Israel as seen in Chaldea. Yet is it all positive truth with the simple effect of manifesting the glory of God as He was then pleased to deal, and as He will when He undertakes the renewed blessing of repentant Israel to the joy of all the earth. How vain in that day will Israel feel to have been their unbelief throughout the day of grace when they rejected Jehovah-Messiah because He became man in accomplishment of Isa. 7, and in accordance with His appearance here who, unseen of the world but announced to deaf and blind Israel, lets the believer know that He guided the springs of every movement here below to His glory at the time when He ceased to own what He once designated “the throne of Jehovah” in Zion. Ear from governing in and by Israel, His judgment is seen to be directed against them by the Gentile as His servant, however unconsciously.
The new attitude is remarkably exemplified in another way by the title God gives to the prophet, fallen on his face, in chapter 2, and thenceforward. For when the voice spoke from the likeness of the glory of Jehovah, the words were, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. So was Daniel styled once (chap. 8: 17), but Ezekiel more than a hundred times. It is the title Jesus appropriated as the rejected Messiah who should suffer, be exalted, and return in glory as the Son of man. His servants have the same title, as identified with the glory of God who now declares Himself outside Israel and even judging them by the Gentiles.
Strengthened by the Spirit, the prophet receives his mission to the children of Israel, though, yea because, they had rejected God— “to rebellious Gentiles, Goyim [for such they really were in truth, no better than heathen morally and much worse in guilt], that have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have transgressed against me unto this very day. And the children are hard of face and stiff of heart. I send thee to them, and thou shalt say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear (for they are a rebellious house), shall yet know that a prophet hath been among them.” (Ver. 3-5.)
Therefore the prophet was commanded (ver. 6, 7) not to fear them, or their words, or their looks, however rebellious they might be, but the rather to speak Jehovah's words to them whether they might hear or forbear, for they were rebellious (or most rebellious).
Further, Ezekiel is cautioned himself not to be rebellious like them, but to open his mouth and eat what God gives him. (Ver. 8.) Thereon a hand was extended, and in it a roll of a book, which He spread before the prophet, written on the face and on the back, fully and flowing over; and there was written in it lamentations, mourning and woe. (Ver. 9,10.) Such was the character of his earlier testimony. We shall see how grace triumphs to God's glory in the end.
In chapter 3 this is followed up. The eaten roll proves sweet as honey. The prophet was sent to Israel, with the certainty that they would not hear, impudent and hard-hearted as they were, but confronted by the prophet with a forehead of adamant. (Ver. 1-9.) Receiving God's word in his heart, he was to go with a Thus saith Jehovah. (Ver. 10, 11.) Then the Spirit took him up with the noise of the glory accompanying, and after seven days among the captives at Tel-abib, the word came that Jehovah made him a watchman to Israel with the most solemn charge and responsibility to be faithful at his peril. It was no longer a question of the nation but of individual fidelity. (Ver. 12-21.) The chapter closes with a final command, when he sees the glory again on the plain as before by the Chebar. He was to be a prisoner in his house, with his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth, for they were rebellious. But God would also open his mouth with a solemn call to hear; but they were rebellious.

Notes on Ezekiel 10-11

The vision which follows completes the picture of judgment begun in chapters 8, 9. While it recalls that which the prophet first beheld among the captives at Chebar, it has certain modifications which one might expect from the fact that, as he sat with the elders of Judah before him, he was brought by the Spirit in the visions of God to Jerusalem, now in its day of visitation for its uncleanness of flesh and spirit, beginning with the sanctuary but taking cognizance of the city throughout, those only excepted who sighed and cried for all the abominations done in the midst. If it was a solemn sight for the captive prophet to see the glory of God in a heathen land, it was no less significant to see it arrayed in vengeance against the city whereon His eyes and His heart are perpetually.
“Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city. And he went in my sight. Now the cherubim stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.” (Ver. 1-3.) Thus from Him who is not even named, but who fills the throne above, came the command intimating consuming judgment for the city; and he who was commissioned to mark the righteous for exemption is now told to fill his hand with coals of fire from between the cherubim and to scatter them over Jerusalem. The cloud of Jehovah's presence was there; but it afforded no shelter, no direction now to the people who had abandoned all care for His will and preferred a calf or a dung-god to the Eternal of Israel. How changed from the day when Jehovah went before them, or filled the sanctuary!
“Then the glory of Jehovah went up from the cherub over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of Jehovah's glory. And the sound of the cherubim's wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh.” (Ver. 4, 5.) The glory was departing, not coming to dwell there. Jehovah is leaving the seat which He was pleased to choose—not forever indeed, for He has chosen it forever. But meanwhile He is morally driven away by the iniquities and apostacy of His own people. The prophecy of Ezekiel is as explicit that He will return and dwell there, never more to quit His home as long as the earth lasts, for His people will then enjoy the rest of God under Messiah and the new covenant. But as David was forced to say in his last words that his house was not so with God, in like manner does our prophet here tell in mysterious symbols the rupture of the ties between God and Israel through the solemn signs of their judgment. In every way did He make it conspicuous to the prophet, if peradventure they might hear and live, arrested by the strange sights and sounds he was given to recount from the Lord. Whatever He might do at other times, it was unmistakably Jehovah who directed the sweeping destruction of His own city and sanctuary. Thus the faith of the believer would be strengthened by the dealings which cleared the ground of every tree which He had not planted.
Next we have the execution of the command in the vision, that all might be rendered the more impressive and sure to such as flattered themselves that, whatever the sharp lessons and chastenings of Jehovah, it could not be that He would disown Israel, and that, whatever the temporary successes of the foe, the land and the city and the temple must prove an unfailing bulwark against permanent advantage over the chosen people. So readily does man forget the immutable principles of God's moral being and turn to his own ease and honor what God could only do for the maintenance of truth and righteousness to His own glory. “And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubim; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels. And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubim unto the fire that was between the cherubim, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out. And there appeared in the cherubim the form of a man's hand under their wings. And when I looked, behold, the four wheels by the cherubim, one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by another cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was as the color of a beryl stone. And as for their appearances, they four had one likeness, as if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides; they turned not as they went, but to the place whither the head looked they followed it; they turned not as they went. And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about, even the wheels that they four had. As for the wheels, it was cried unto them in my hearing, O wheel. And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. And the cherubim were lifted up. This is the living creature that I saw by the river of Chebar. And when the cherubim went, the wheels went by them: and when the cherubim lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also turned not from beside them. When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them.” (Ver. 6-17.) It is plain that, if the glory seen by the river Chebar returned, so emphatically identified in verses 15, 20, 22, it was but passingly and for the sad task both of sealing the judgment and of marking the abandonment of Israel as under the law and now apostate from God. The symbol of divine government in providence was there, but it took not its seat in the holiest. It stood at the threshold, and the court was full of the brightness of Jehovah's glory, but there was no entrance within. It was a judicial visitation, in obedience to His behests who from above controlled every movement. Wrath was gone out against Jerusalem. He it was who directed all, not the dumb idols which carried away the Gentiles, having mouths but they speak not, having eyes and hands and ears but they hear not nor see nor handle, as vain as those who trust in them against God in the heavens who hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.
There are some features of difference from the earliest manifestation. Not that there is any severance of the wheels from the cherubic figures, or the least divergence from common action, or in the end of their complicated movements. All pervading intelligence is yet more asserted of the whole body, backs, hands, wings, wheels. “As for the wheels it was called in my hearing, Galgal” [wheel, or roll, roll]. In verse 18 we see a move of the gravest significance: “Then the glory of Jehovah departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of Jehovah's house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubim. Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward.” (Ver. 18-22.) There might be a lingering over the east gate, but the glory was departing.
This is entirely confirmed by chapter 11 which completes this portion of the prophecy. In the vision of Jehovah Ezekiel is given to behold the excessive and scoffing presumption of the leaders in Jerusalem who counseled the king Zedekiah to his and their ruin in flat contradiction of Jehovah's message by Jeremiah, whose style and imagery they seem to have adopted to suit their own purpose.
“Moreover the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of Jehovah's house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people. Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city: which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh. Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, Ο son of man. And the Spirit of Jehovah fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith Jehovah; Thus have ye said, Ο house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them. Ye have multiplied your slain in this city, and ye have filled the streets thereof with the slain. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it, they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron: but I will bring you forth out of the midst of it, Ye have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you, saith the Lord Jehovah. And I will bring you out of the midst thereof, and deliver you into the hands of strangers, and will execute judgments among you. Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. This city shall not be your caldron, neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof; but I will judge you in the border of Israel: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah: for ye have not walked in my statutes, neither executed my judgments, but have done after the manners of the heathen that are round about you.” (Ver. 1-12.)
There appears no sufficient reason in the similarity of the number twenty-five for identifying the scoffers here described with the sun-worshippers between the porch and the altar of chapter viii. Here the leaders at least were princes of the people, not of the sanctuary or of the priests. As the previous scene set forth the religious apostacy, so this the audacity and infidelity of their civil chiefs, though in the door of the gate of Jehovah's house. They were the evil counselors who thwarted His word through the prophet to Zedekiah. Jeremiah exhorted the Jews in Jerusalem to submission under the king of Babylon, and the captives to build houses and plant gardens and raise up families in their exile, praying for the peace of the city, till the seventy years were accomplished and a remnant should return to Jerusalem. The false prophets predicted smooth things both at home and abroad, in every way fomenting rebellion under the color of patriotism and pretending Jehovah's name while encouraging to insubjection under His humbling hand.
Verse 3 is somewhat obscure and has given occasion to much difference of version and interpretation in detail, while the general truth seems plain enough. In the Septuagint it is taken interrogatively: “Have not the houses been newly built?” So nearly the Vulgate. Gesenius and Ewald follow in somewhat similar style: “Is it not near, the building of houses?” Rosenmuller, De Wette, and Young, on the contrary, take it thus: “It is not near to build houses;” that is, the time of peace for such work is far off, meaning that they were resolved to resist the Chaldeans to the last, spite of the prophet's warning. Luther and Diodati are substantially like the Authorized Bible; and so too the modern translation of Leeser as well as of Henderson.
Certain it is that they set themselves against the true prophets and even turned the figure of Jeremiah into derision by making it a phrase favorable to their own policy. Therefore the marked emphasis with which Ezekiel was called on to prophesy against them, the Spirit of Jehovah being said to fall upon him, with a renewed charge to speak in Jehovah's name, for their secrets were out in His light. And Jehovah after recounting their murderous doings retorts on them their proverb; only it was their slain that were the flesh and the city the caldron, while they themselves are told to get out, but not to escape, as they expected. Jehovah would bring on them the dreaded sword, and this outside the city to which they were so closely cleaving, for they should be delivered into the hand of strangers for judgment. Nay, Jehovah solemnly declares that He would judge them on the boundary of Israel, and they should know that He is Jehovah. Thus the city should not be to them for a caldron, nor they flesh in its midst, but judged by Jehovah at the borders, then forced to feel in whose statutes they had not walked, and whose judgments they had not executed, but rather acting according to those of the nations around.
Thereon, as Ezekiel prophesied, Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died (ver. 13, 14), which drew out the prophet into sorrow and intercession for the remnant. For the captive loved the men, scornful though they might be, who dwelt in Jerusalem. On this the word of Jehovah impresses on him that his brethren emphatically, the men of his relationship, “yea the whole house of Israel,” were objects of contempt to the haughty inhabitants of Jerusalem who assumed the most self-complacent airs because they were still in the city of solemnities, as against their brethren in captivity. (Ver. 15.) “Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh: that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 16-21.)
In a day of sin and ruin it is ever thus. Those who boast in antiquity and order and succession and rule as a lineal and exclusive possession are but ripening for divine judgment; while the most decried and despised are such as have the truth and blessing in circumstances of humiliation and weakness, as Jehovah here promised to be a little sanctuary to the scattered Jews in the countries whither they came; and that they should be gathered from the peoples and have the land given them; and this too with one heart and a new spirit, the heart of stone being supplanted by one of flesh in order to obedient ways and true recognition of and by God, while the obdurate idolaters should meet with the due reward of their deeds.
“Then did the cherubim lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of Jehovah went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.” (Ver. 22, 23.) Then there is a farther removal of the divine glory, not from the temple only but from Jerusalem. It went up from the midst of the city and stood on mount Olivet. “Then the Spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that Jehovah had showed me.” (Ver. 24, 25.) It reminds one of Matt. 28 where the risen Jesus is seen on a mountain of Galilee, giving His great commission to the disciples as to all the nations, without saying a word about His ascension to heaven. It is Jerusalem left aside indeed, a remnant sent out by the Lord resuming His Galilean place in resurrection, the beautiful pledge of His return spite of present rejection. The curtain drops over the Shechinah when it reaches Olivet, till we hear of its reappearance in the last chapters for the latter day. Compare also Zech. 14:4 with Acts 1:9-12.
The prophet brought back in Spirit, though all the while in his own home with the elders before him in bodily presence, declares the awful scenes he was given to behold: what consolation for the captives!

Notes on Ezekiel 12

After the introductory cluster of visions the prophet was given to impress on the people the certainty of the approaching and more complete downfall of all their hopes for the present; for to fond and vain expectations clung not only the haughty remnant in the land but even many of the captives on the Chebar.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not; for they are a rebellions house. Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee articles for removing, and remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place to another place in their sight: it may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house. Then shalt thou bring forth thine articles by day in their sight, as articles for removing: and thou shalt go forth at even in their sight, as they that go forth into captivity. Dig thou through the wall in their sight, and carry out thereby. In their sight shalt thou bear it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover thy face, that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel.” (Ver. 1-6.) It was a symbolical representation that the land should be swept once more with the besom of destruction, instead of the speedy return and deliverance for which the mass of the Jews looked spite of every divine assurance to the contrary.
Hence we see that Jehovah in a lively way would here fix on the conscience of the captives the folly of indulging in such dreams. For alas! they were rebellious, yea, the rebellious house. Moses had reproached them in his song as a perverse and crooked and very froward generation, children in whom was no faith; and David in the ascension psalm (68.) had characterized them as “the rebellious.” If Ezekiel hears and has to repeat the divine sentence to the same effect, it is no new thing, but rather the manifestation, when judgment was in course of execution, that the old evil was rampant, which neither the fresh vigor of youth had extirpated, nor their national prime and power. It was no mere rising, or bright spot, but an active, deep, and old plague of leprosy. “And I did so as I was commanded: I brought forth my articles by day, as articles for captivity, and in the even I digged through the wall with mine hand; I brought it forth in the twilight, and I bare it upon my shoulder in their sight.” (Ver. 7.)
The next message explains all plainly and fully. “And in the morning came the word of Jehovah unto me, saying, Son of man, hath not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said unto thee, What doest thou? Say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; This burden concerneth the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that are among them. Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity. And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in the twilight, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground with his eyes. My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare: and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there. And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them. And they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall scatter them among the nations, and disperse them in the countries. But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their abominations among the heathen whither they come; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 8-16.) It is assumed that an action, so strange on the prophet's part as preparing for departure by day and taking it muffled in the darkness of night, would arouse the Jews; and here was the answer he must give. The prince in Jerusalem, Zedekiah, and all the house of Israel there, were intended by this “burden” or “oracle.” And very strikingly were both this prediction and Jeremiah's fulfilled to the letter. Josephus says that the king fancying a contradiction made up his mind to believe neither. Certain it is that Zedekiah did not escape the Chaldeans, but was delivered into the hands of the Babylonian king, and spoke to him mouth to mouth, and his eyes beheld his eyes; equally certain that after being taken in a snare he was brought to Babylon, and yet did not see it though he died there. The covering of the prophet's face so that he should not see the ground was but a shadow of the stern reality. How solemn and humiliating for Jehovah's people to know that He is Jehovah by His desolating and dispersing judgments! Yet even this would He turn to account, leaving a few from this judgment to declare all their abominations among the heathen; for who could so gravely bear witness against idolatry as those that had thus suffered through yielding to the snare?
Next, Ezekiel was to be a representative man to the people of the land in partaking of bread and water with every token of alarm. “And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with trembling and with carefulness; and say unto the people of the land, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of the land of Israel; They shall eat their bread with carefulness, and drink their water with astonishment, that her land may be desolate from all that is therein, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 17-20.)
The chapter closes with messages which rebuke the incredulity of the people in the prophetic word, so common as to become proverbial. “And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, thus saith the Lord Jehovah; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am Jehovah: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, Ο rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord Jehovah. Again the word of Jehovah came to me saying, Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 21-28.) God would give in that day such an earnest of all that is coming that people could not for shame put all off to the end of days. “In your days, Ο rebellious house, I will say the word, and it shall be performed, saith the Lord Jehovah.” What a testimony to man's dislike of God in that be so readily swallows the enemy's bait that the time of fulfillment is far off! He does not like God's interference, whose kingdom in any full sense is intolerable. But what says the prophet Ezekiel? “None of my words shall be longer deferred: for I will speak a word, and it shall be performed, saith the Lord Jehovah.”

Notes on Ezekiel 13

The next chapter takes up the pretenders to the mind of Jehovah in Israel, the men and women who prophesied without divine warrant, instruments of the enemy and adversaries of His will to the ruin of His people. This was one of the most painful trials to the spirit then, as now to us in the church are false brethren and false prophets, whose aim is self, and whose means are flattering on one side, and on the other an overbearing style suited to those whom they wish to influence, ever seeking the depreciation and injury of such as maintain the truth in the Lord's name. Compare 2 Cor. 11.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of Jehovah; Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Ο Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of Jehovah. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying Jehovah saith: and Jehovah hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, Jehovah saith it; albeit I have not spoken? (Ver. 1-7.) To be a prophet out of one's own heart is to ensure judgment from God, who, however gracious and merciful, must needs be jealous of His majesty and truth, thus utterly misrepresented and profaned. What could be the end for themselves and such as followed them but destruction? They were like foxes in the ruins, full of craft and mischief. No wonder that there was no going up into the breaches nor making up a fence round the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of Jehovah; like those who desired at a later day to make a fair show in the flesh, and constrained the Gentiles to be circumcised, only lest themselves should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. Such persons feared not Jehovah nor had His secret but only falsehood and divination, seeing that they said “Jehovah saith” when they were not sent by Him, and yet they made men hope for the fulfillment of the word. Hence the solemn appeal by Ezekiel: “have ye not seen a false vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination? and ye say. Jehovah saith, when I have not spoken.”
Then follows the divine denunciation. “Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord Jehovah. And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah. Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar: say unto them which daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower: and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it. Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it? Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in my fury to consume it. So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with un-tempered mortar, and will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it; to wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 8-16.) What an awful thing it is when the enemies of God morally compel Him to be their enemy! Longsuffering and plenteous in mercy He is slow to wrath; but when patience continued longer would ruin His saints and compromise His own honor, war is proclaimed against those who thus hypocritically undermine His glory and thwart His holy will as to His people; and the anger of Jehovah is according to His majesty. He is against the prophets of vanity, and His hand upon them. “In the secret council of my people shall they not be, and in the register of the house of Israel shall they not be written, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel.” Their names should be blotted out as having forfeited their rights, a public dealing on the earth and not a question of eternal judgment, though it is equally clear that their portion then will be everlasting destruction. To make it a deprivation of church membership here and of communion of saints in heaven is to lose all just sense of the passage. Further, the character of sin is remembered in the punishment. Did the fake prophets soothe the national feeling of the Jews by promising a speedy return from exile? They themselves should never see the land from which they were, or were to be, expelled by the foe; and they should thus learn who and what was their Jehovah God with whose name they had trifled. He will not have His people led away to their ruin with impunity to the seducers, least of all hear the holy name of peace perverted to selfish mischief; as when a wall of defense is built, but only daubed with mortar that will not hold. What is it but a sham? It shall fall, is the word to builders. “An overflowing shower cometh, and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall, and a storm of wind shall rend.” So the prophets elsewhere set forth the future and last troubles of Israel, as in Psa. 83., Isa. 28; 29, Ezek. 38:22, Rev. 8; 16. To such a judgment Jehovah pledges Himself, so that every refuge of lies shall be rased and the misleaders and misled be destroyed with the awful conviction that it is God who is thus judging the false prophets and their vision of peaceless peace.
And not men only, but women too took their sad part in the moral havoc of Israel. Therefore the word of Jehovah: “Likewise, thou son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, which prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs upon the head of every stature to hunt souls! Will ye hunt the souls of my people, and will ye save the souls alive that come unto you? And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies?” (Ver. 17-19.) The influence of women has been great in this world for evil and for good; and as God has deigned to vouchsafe to some of them His best gifts, so we need not be surprised that Satan should employ those he can for ill. The particular form of evil here noticed is their pandering to the ears of their victims and thus catching souls in their toils for the most paltry objects in this life, morally slaying such as should not die and keeping alive such as should not live.
It is thus indeed that error ever acts. False doctrine emboldens the bad and seeks to alarm the good. So the world orders its religion. There may be curses and warnings, but they are powerless because explained away. Yet the rehearsal of them gives an appearance of hating iniquity and loving righteousness; and thus man walks in a vain show till in hell he lifts up his eyes, being in torments. On the other hand, grace is unpalatable to the world and seems a worse than heathenish tolerance of sin. Hence believers, who through love of ease and position go on with the world, never get the food their souls require as born of God, and thus pine in starvation and misery, abstaining in measure from the world's enjoyments and destitute of their proper Christian comfort, putting off avowedly till they reach heaven that communion of saints and worship of their God and Father which ought to characterize them on the earth.
“"Wherefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against your pillows, wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make them fly, and I will tear them from your arms, and will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to make them fly. Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand to be hunted; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” ("Ver. 20, 21.) It is in vain to oppose God: strange that men or women should hope for success in such warfare! The truth is that will blinds by the enemy's wiles, and they realize not that it is with God they are contending till the struggle ends in their own everlasting confusion, and in the exposure of their devices before such as they hoped to make their victims. “Because ye sadden with falsehood the heart of the righteous whom I have not saddened, and strengthen the hands of the wicked that he should not return from his wicked way that I should save his life.” ("Ver. 22.) God declares that the end of this their destruction fully is come, and withal deliverance to His people whom they had expected to delude. “Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 23.) Such is the constant knell of judgment on the enemies of Israel within and without. For sinners going on in their sins to know Jehovah is their doom under His mighty hand.

Notes on Ezekiel 14

The visit of the elders to the prophet becomes the occasion of a fresh revelation, though not in the form of a vision. As God was not deceived by their attitude of waiting to hear His word, so must not the prophet be moved from the stern and solemn duty imposed on him.
“Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face and cometh to the prophet; I Jehovah will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.” (Ver. 1-5.) The holy seed had defiled themselves, and their guides were more worthy of censure than any misled by their example. Whatever their appearance or pretension, they had “set up their idols in their heart.” It was no question of outward force or influence. The elders liked these abominations; they ran after idols with secret greediness, and they gratified their lust after false gods by placing the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face, in bold, open, deliberate rebellion against Jehovah. To come, then, under such circumstances, and professedly inquire into the mind of Jehovah, was but the shamelessness of the unjust. “Should I be inquired of at all by them?” To insult God by worshipping idols, and yet thus to come before His prophet, was too gross and obdurate, instead of any hopeful sign of repentance. The word for such is that Jehovah would answer him that comes according to the multitude of his idols. He is mighty and despises not any; but He will be no party to His own dishonor; and His judgments He makes salutary to those that fear Him. How else could He answer the rebellious elders but in a way to make His majesty felt? They sought an answer in curiosity; He would prove the worthlessness of their many idols, “that I may catch the house of Israel by their heart because they have become all of them estranged from me by their idols.” Elders and people they were gone from God who would deal with their heart—above them wherein they dealt proudly.
Then comes a still more explicit message to the house of Israel in verses 6-11, that they should repent and turn from their idols: otherwise Jehovah should answer such inquirers by Himself, and this by cutting them off, whether a deceived prophet or such as might seek to them. “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me: I Jehovah will answer him by myself: and I will set my face against that man, “and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I Jehovah have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him; that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 6-11.) Thus does God act judicially, showing Himself froward to a froward people, and sending those who lie to such as love a lie; that both may be punished together, and Israel may learn the needed lesson, and be His people as He their God.
In verse 12 begins another word of Jehovah to Ezekiel. “Son of man, if a land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their-righteousness, saith the Lord Jehovah.
“If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts: though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
“Or if I bring a sword upon that land and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it: though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
“Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: though Noah, Daniel and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.” (Ver. 13-20.)
The prophet hears the awful sentence that, when the last excess of evil brings any one of God's strokes of judgment on a land, the three saints, whose intercession appears at critical points of the divine history of man, could not avail to deliver save their own souls by their righteousness (for it is a question here of government in this world, not of grace for eternal life). If famine were inflicted, if wild beasts, if a sword, if a pestilence, not even Noah nor Daniel nor Job should save son or daughter beyond themselves. But what should it be when all four sore plagues are sent by God on Jerusalem? Who could screen the guilty people? “For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast? Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it. And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 21-23.)
Thus, whatever the love the prophet bore the people, whatever the sorrow with which he contemplated blow after blow that fell on them, be is brought at length heartily to acquiesce in the dealings of Jehovah, however sorely He judged; who never causes a needless tear, and causes mercy to rejoice over judgment.

Notes on Ezekiel 15

The next message from Jehovah assumes a sort of parabolic form, the application of which is rendered certain by the closing verses of this brief chapter.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it meet for any work? Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned?” (Ver. 1-5.)
There is doubtless a real and intended distinction between the different trees as employed symbolically in scripture. Three may be here briefly compared, and all of them trees valued for their fruit; the fig tree, the olive, and the vine. The fig tree is the only one which is applied exclusively to Israel; so much so, that one can scarcely fail to see in it the peculiar representative of that nation as distinguished from the Gentiles. Compare especially Matt. 24 with Luke 21; where we have in the first the fig tree alone, in the second, where Gentiles are introduced in accordance with the bearing of the Gospel, “the fig tree and all the trees.”
The olive, we may see in Rom. 11, embraces first the Jews as the natural branches of the tree of promise and testimony on earth growing out of the stock of Abraham; then, on their cutting off because of unbelief, the Gentiles grafted in contrary to nature as now; and lastly, through pure mercy, though in accordance with the promises, Israel to be grafted in again on their repentance, when the Gentile is cut off, and grace restores the chosen nation forever to their own olive tree.
The vine is more diversified in its application, taking in first Israel, who became empty, then the Lord with the disciples as the branches of Him the only true vine, and lastly the vine of the earth when Christendom abandons the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ, and at the end of the age divine judgment falls unsparingly.
The vine is of no value if it be not fruitful. Other trees, if they never bear or when they cease bearing, may be excellent for purposes of art or utility. But not so with the vine: if there be not fruit, it is only good to be burnt. And if useless before the fire touches it, what when both ends are devoured and the middle is burnt?
Just so, says the Spirit of God is it with the inhabitants of Jerusalem. As barren of fruit Godward, they are devoted as fuel for the fires of divine judgment. If the Jews failed to represent the one true God, if they falsified the testimony committed to their charge, if they were traitors to His name, what could Jehovah do but consume as enemies those who of all men had the gravest responsibility to obey His law? To wink at their moral turpitude and their abominable idolatry could not become the all-seeing God who was pleased to dwell there only among all the nations of the earth; and the time was not yet come to lay, in the death and resurrection of Christ, the foundation of a new creation which should neither fall nor pass away. The living God must therefore deal with His people according to the ground taken in covenant between Him and them; and hence the action here announced by the prophet. “Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I set my face against them. And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 6-8.)
How energetic is the assurance! Not only would Jehovah give the inhabitants of Jerusalem like the vine for fuel, but he would “set His face against them.” And what does not this portend to such as know His name and His necessary hatred of evil! As if it were not definite enough that Jehovah thus proclaims His settled antagonism, it is added that they shall go out from the fire, and the fire shall devour them. So indeed it was with the guilty city of the Great King. If the fire was left here, it was but to encounter the fire there. Escape there was none; for no real repentance followed, nor was God mocked. And He who had of old judged mankind as a whole, or in the narrowest circle of their guilt, must deal with yet more nicety of care in the case of His own elect people in their capital. Had they hearkened to Him and walked in His ways, He would have both subdued their enemies and satisfied themselves with all good things; but they would not hearken to Jehovah and chose them strange gods of the heathen. Thus Jehovah must either acquiesce in His own dishonor if He sustained Jerusalem in spite of its apostasy, or compel them to know that He is Jehovah when He set His face against them. Sorrowful alternative! As the first could not be, the latter was the only course merited by their iniquities—the only road open till Messiah came and, bearing their judgment, made it righteous for the mercies of God to begin afresh on grounds of sovereign grace. As things were then, the prophet could but announce “I will make the land desolate, because they have trespassed a trespass, saith the Lord Jehovah.”

Notes on Ezekiel 16

If in the preceding chapter the symbol of the fruitless vine destined only for the fire set forth the negative side of Jerusalem's condition with its sure consequences, Its positive iniquity is vividly represented in the allegory of our chapter. “Again the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations.” (Ver. 1, 2.)
As the chosen people were intended and bound to supplant the nations which the land spewed out because of their abominations, no figure can he conceived more cutting than that which represents the origin and nativity of Jerusalem to be of Canaan, with the Amorites for a father and the Hittite a mother. (Ver. 3.) It is of course moral, not historical: so Isaiah branded the rulers as “of Sodom,” and the people as “of Gomorrah.” Prom the earliest days we see how the two races specified by Ezekiel stood in the eyes of the fathers. (Gen. 15:16; 27:46.)
But scripture itself shows us that a base birth cannot bind to evil where God is drawn and leant on in the least. How was it here? A, wretched outcast void of the commonest care or pity, exposed in the field on the day when she was born. (Ver. 4, 5.) Then Jehovah passed by, and saw her polluted with her blood and said to her in her blood, Live; and this most emphatically. (Ver. 6) Under His fostering culture she grow up to womanhood, dressed and decked with the most splendid ornaments; and Jehovah entered into covenant with her and look her as His own. And she who was made thus cleansed and beautiful and adorned, prospered into a kingdom with a fame that went abroad on account of the splendor which Jehovah put on her. (Ver. 7-14.)
And what was the return? “But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown.” It is a sorrowful picture, and not more sad than true. The beauty of Jerusalem was for every passer by. (Ver. 15, 16.) “And of thy garments thou didst take and make for thyself high places with divers colors [or patches, as the expression of the prophet may mean, in contempt of the hangings the Jewish ladies wove for heathen gods and goddesses, Astarte in particular]. The idolatrous uncleanness of Jerusalem was beyond anything that had been or was to be. And it was marked by this, that all the countless favors of her divine husband (for such her Maker was to her) she squandered on the filthy idols of the heathen.
“Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them, and tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them. My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even sot it before them for a sweet savor: and thus it was, saith the Lord Jehovah. Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?” (Ver. 17-21.) There was this added to His aggrieved heart, that with all her abominations and her lewdness Jerusalem remembered not the days of her youth when she was naked and bare, polluted with her blood.
Jehovah then details the excessive impurity to which Jerusalem turned with unbridled lust, not only in admitting every uncleanness of idolatry that passed by, but in going and courting idolatrous intercourse with the strangers on every side and to the most distant Gentiles, to the shame even of their Philistine neighbours who were content with their own gods. (Ver. 23-29.)
It is a solemn yet certain truth that, when God's people depart from Him, they are apt to go farther astray than all others. Without the guardianship of Him whom they have slighted, they become especial sport of Satan and the most desired victim of his wiles, in order to compass by them the more effectually the dishonor of the living God, and if possible make a hopeless estrangement on His part. What a riddle is the moral history of the world and of man to all who see not the conflict between God and His enemy! Then Jerusalem was in question, now it is the Church; but it is ever the opposition of the devil to the Son of God, and universally in the especial arena, for the time being, of His glory.
“How weak [or, withered] is thine heart, saith the Lord, Jehovah, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman; in that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire; but as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom. And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms; and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary.” (Ver. 30-34.) This indeed was a tremendous aggravation of Jerusalem's guilt. They had nothing to gain; so blessed had they been of Jehovah. Others in their blind craving after goods they saw elsewhere might impute them to the gods of the hills or of the valleys, and so add idol to idol; but Jerusalem was inexcusable because she had nothing to desire from any one nation around, great or small, far or near. It was therefore lusting after false gods for mere lust; it was sinning her worst for the love of it, leaving the vilest strumpets excused comparatively with herself.
Jehovah thus summons the harlot Jerusalem to hear His sentence on their mad and insatiable wantonness. “Wherefore, Ο harlot, hear the word of Jehovah: thus saith the Lord Jehovah; because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them; behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness. And I will judge thee as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy. And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare. They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords. And they shall burn thine houses with fire, and execute judgment upon thee in the sight of many women: and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou also shalt give no hire any more. So will I make my fury toward thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet, and will he no more angry. Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord Jehovah: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations.” (Ver. 35-43)
As to “filthiness” in verse 36, it seems more than doubtful that such a version of נְחשֶׁת can be sustained.
It means copper or brass, and hence money or wealth, and appears to be an allusion to the unnatural way of Jerusalem in squandering all she had on her objects of idolatry. Such at any rate is the judgment of some of the best translators from the oldest of all, the Seventy, down to Mr. Isaac Leeser, the latest Jewish translator. It is supposed that the “filthiness” of the Authorized Version was derived from the idea of the poisonous incrustation of brass or copper; but this seems far-fetched and only justifiable if the context pointed to so figurative a notice and was incompatible with the more obvious sense. But this last I think even more appropriate and striking. God then threatens His guilty city with exposure before all her lovers and haters, and with such judgments as befit adultery, even abasement, desolation, stoning, cutting in pieces, and burning, till His fury ceases and His jealousy turns away, and she should not practice this wickedness with, or in addition to, all her abominations.
Then the prophet represents (ver. 44) Jehovah giving the proverb that suits such iniquity—as the mother, her daughter—re-applying the moral relationship of Jerusalem, not to the father of the faithful or other heirs of promise, but to the flagitious races of Canaan. “Thou art thy mother's daughter, that loatheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which loatheth their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite. And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways. As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done. Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.” (Ver. 45-52.) Jerusalem had exceeded not only Samaria her elder sister, but her younger sister Sodom. Jerusalem knew enough to judge them, but rushed with yet greater eagerness into greater abominations. Those when they knew God had not glorified Him as God, but thankless and vain gave Him up, and were themselves given up to false gods, and to vile affections, and to a reprobate mind. Yet even they were excusable compared with Jerusalem. “Be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.” How complete the change and profound the humiliation when the Jew feels and honestly confesses the truth as here pronounced by Jehovah! And so assuredly he yet will.
Alas! that repentance awaits a later day; but it will surely come, and Jerusalem long faithless will have her heart bowed before the incomparable faithfulness of Jehovah revealing Himself to her in Jesus whom she slew. That will be at the end of this age, when the predicted reversal of captivity is accomplished by grace. “And I will bring back again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them, in order that thou mayest bear thine own shame and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done when thou art a comfort to them. And thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate; and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate; and thou and thy daughters shall return to thy former estate. And thy sister Sodom was not a report in thy mouth in the day of thy pride, before thy wickedness was revealed, as at the time of the reproach of the daughters of Aram [or Syria] and all round about her, the daughters of the Philistines that taunted thee round about.” (Ver. 53-57.) It is a poor view of the prophecy to lower it to the restoration of the, Jews under Cyrus and to that participation in their fate which the races beyond the Dead Sea contiguous to Palestine then experienced. A greater and worse captivity was to follow under the fourth empire; but the reversal of their captivity awaits the bright day which will banish all sorrow from the earth for those who humble themselves before the returning and reigning Nazarene.
This is made still clearer by what follows. “Thou hast borne thyself, thy lewdness, and thy abominations, saith Jehovah. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I also will act toward thee as thou hast acted, who hast despised the oath, breaking the covenant. Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant. And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah: that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 58-63.) It is the final restoration of Jerusalem under the new covenant, expressly here as elsewhere designated an everlasting covenant and so in contrast with that of Sinai, under which restoration from guilt, above all from such unparalleled guilt, had been impossible. How painful to find wrong doctrine like that of Fairbairn and Havernick who confound the two covenants, maintaining their substantial sameness, however different in form; still more to see that the modern error is but the inheritance from the greatest expositor of the Reformation, as his came down from the Fathers! It is fundamental ignorance of grace thus to confound it with law; and the mention of Samaria and Sodom especially ought to have afforded a distinct guard against the error. For it is of the deepest interest to see that the most guilty of the cities before the law and after it are assured of restoration at the same time and on the same ground as Jerusalem. She will have them for sisters in that day, she who would not take up the name of one at least on her lips in the day of her pride and sin. But grace, God's grace, changes all for man, and changes man for all.

Notes on Ezekiel 17

We have here another of our prophet's most graphic illustrations of the actual position of things among the people of God, of the ruin impending because of the impiety of the king and this too in the oath of Jehovah with the Gentile chief, and finally of the kingdom of Messiah which, the lowest in its first presentation, is exalted of God in due time over all the earth. Thus, though we may trace no slight connection between the latter part and such predictions as those of Isa. 11; 53; Daniel 34, 35, 44, 45; Mic. 5; the prophecy has its own very distinct characteristics, as each of these prophecies also.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; and say, Thus hath said the Lord Jehovah, The great eagle, great of wings, long of pinion, which was rich in many colors, came unto Lebanon and took the highest branch of the cedar; he cropped the topmost of its young twigs, and brought it to the land of traffic; he set it in a city of merchants. And he took of the seed of the land, and put it in a field of seed; he placed it by great waters, he set it as a willow. And it sprouted, and became a spreading vine of low stature, the tendrils of which should turn towards him, and its roots be under him: so it became a vine and brought forth branches and sent out shoots.” (Ver. 1-6.)
The great eagle is none other than the king of Baby-Ion whom God in sovereign wisdom made head of the Gentile imperial system, after Israel's proved moral ruin and rebellion against Jehovah, Indeed another prophet had already employed a similar figure of Nebuchadnezzar. (Jer. 48:40; 49:22.) But here it is wrought into a complete allegory, for the cedar on Lebanon denotes royalty in Israel vested in the house of David, which was now for its sins in servitude to the head of the Gentiles. Jehoiakim is the king of Judah who is here described as the broken-off topmost bough, whom Nebuchadnezzar took away with himself to Babylon, then the most famous city of antiquity not only for grandeur but for commerce. (Isa. 13:19; 43:14.) Nor this only; for the conqueror set over Jerusalem another king, but from the seed of the land, not a stranger lord, but from the house of David, Mattaniah, uncle (“brother") of the exiled king, under the new name given by his Gentile master.
There Zedekiah might have flourished under the fealty due to the Babylonish king of kings. But the sole conditions under which God would have secured pence and a measure of prosperity was subjection to the Gentile empire, recognizing it as God's discipline of His people because of their incurable disobedience and of their kings. Zedekiah was as a willow, yet placed beside great waters. His safety lay in acquiescing as a faithful vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, humbling himself under the mighty hand of God; or according to the figure employed, a spreading vine of low stature, with branches, turned towards him who planted it, and its roots under him. Thus the vine might have produced not only branches and roots, but fruit.
Alas! it was not so, spite of ample prophetic warning and entreaty. The new king, as the people of old looked to Egypt for help—to the Egyptians who were, men, not God, and their horses flesh, not spirit; as of old to lust after the good things of Egypt—so now to get clear of the yoke of Babylon strove always, high or low, to the dishonor of God. So the prophet teaches us here. “And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage; and, behold, this vine did bend its roots toward him and shot forth its tendrils toward him, that he might water it from the terraces of its plantation. It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth blanches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine. Say thou, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Shall it prosper? shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? it shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof. Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east wind toucheth it? it shall wither in the furrows where it grew.” (Ver. 8-10.) Here the second great eagle is the king of Egypt, who sought the empire of the world and contended for it with Nebuchadnezzar. But God rules, and gave it to the king of Babylon. It was but providence as yet. The kingdom in the first Adam's hands had come to nothing. Israel, Judah, David's house, had utterly failed and only lived to bring fresh obloquy on His name of Jehovah who had chosen thorn. The day was not yet come for the Second man, the last Adam, true son of David and of man. Hence God provisionally left this universal supremacy in the hands of the basest of men for the deepest lesson to those who preferred their ways to the living God; and the birthplace of exaltation against the true God and of false gods became the scourge and prison of Israel in the persons of David's house and the people still left in their low state. But they, above all Zedekiah, whom most of all it became to know the will of God, sought the help of Egypt in the fond hope of gaining independence of Babylon. To turn thus toward Pharaoh was rejection of Jehovah, not merely of Nebuchadnezzar, and would entail their own destruction with no great effort on the part of their Chaldean master. A touch of that “east wind” would suffice to wither up the fruitless vine, to dry it up utterly in the beds or terraces where it grew.
“Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto mc, saying, Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him into Babylon; and hath taken of the king's seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land: that the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand. But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things, or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered? As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war, by casting up mounts, and building forts, to cut off many persons: seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head. And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will plead with him there for his trespass that he hath trespassed against me. And all his fugitives with all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I Jehovah have spoken it.” (Ver. 11-21.)
Here the case stands out in the light, the enigma is solved, and the parable has its interpretation appended to it by the Spirit. Jehovah arraigns the son of David then on the throne of perfidy against Himself as well as Nebuchadnezzar. He had violated his covenant with the Chaldeans, and this when sealed with the name of Jehovah. And had it come to this that the heathen Nebuchadnezzar's son had more respect for the oath of Jehovah than David's son, the king of Judah? Such conduct on the part of Zedekiah therefore in every point of view made it impossible for God to shield the guilty king and people more; and the less because they bore His name. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Judgment must begin at the house of God; for there they say they see, and therefore their sin remains. God will be sanctified in all that come nigh Him; and if sin be always sin, it is least excusable where His word is known and His name held up before men. Justly therefore was Zedekiah to be taken in the net of divine retribution, and to die disappointed in the help he trusted to have from Pharaoh and his great army in the hour of its greatest straits. His prisoner in Babylon, whose covenant he had broken: so bitterly was Jehovah's oath recompensed on his own head, when He pleaded with him for his trespass, and slew his fugitives, and scattered to every quarter those who remained, and thus proved the reality of His own outraged name.
But the chapter does not close without a far different prospect. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent: in the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I Jehovah have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I Jehovah have spoken and have done it.” (Ver. 22-24.)
It is Messiah in His kingdom, not suffering on earth nor coming from heaven, but the rightfully reigning king of Israel, and hence later on designated as David, the true Beloved under whose scepter the whole people will be once more re-united, never again to be divided by folly, never more to fall by idolatrous sin or any other.
This is in no way the mystery of the kingdom that we know now, in no way the day of rejection in grace for Him or His, but of power—judicial yet withal beneficent on earth. It is not the calling out of souls from the world to a glorified Christ on high, but the land and all the earth blessed under the reign of Him, who sets the sanctuary of Jehovah in the midst of Israel for evermore. Without denying that Zerubbabel might be a speedy but passing pledge of the great King and mighty reign of peace and blessing here foreshadowed, I cannot but regard it as a paltry answer and end to so glorious a promise. But ill as one may think of the Grotian interpretation, that of the ancients and moderns seems to me even more injurious and remote from the truth, whereby Israel's hopes are blotted out from God's mercy, and the church is lowered to an usurpation of their promises and earthly blessing and glory, instead of being maintained in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings now, as she looks for heavenly joy and glory in His love at His coming.

Notes on Ezekiel 18-19

These two chapters conclude the portion of the prophecy which follows up the introductory vision of the glory of God departing from Jerusalem after His providential use of Nebuchadnezzar. It consists of a moral judgment which proves the need of an external judgment, wherein they should know that He who speaks and acts is Jehovah.
“The word of Jehovah came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, and hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither have lifted up his eyes to the house of Israel,” &c. (Ver. 1-6.)
This is much to be weighed. At the captivity God acts on the murmuring of His people and ends any further governmental dealings on the ground of Ex. 34:6, 7. Henceforth He would take them on their own terms; and as they complained of the hardship of suffering for the delinquencies of their fathers, He would now give them their own deserts. It is evident that a sinner must suffer for sin; and if he challenge the justice of paying the penalty of a parent's evil, he cannot deny that he ought to be punished for his own. All were God's, alike the souls of fathers and of sons; and the sinner must die. There was no relief or escape on any such pretext.
The first case is a man himself just and doing judgment and justice, in relation to God, and to his neighbor, not only in refusing impurity and unrighteousness, but also in loving care of the distressed, refusing selfish advantage, abstaining from iniquity, and maintaining equity between man and man, withal, walking in the divine statutes: such an one shall surely live. (Ver. 5-9.)
But what if his son should be a housebreaker, a bloodshedder, or the like, should he live? “If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things, and that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbor's wife, hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall be then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.” (Ver. 10-13.). Such is the second.
Suppose a third case—a son warned by the wicked ways of his father. “Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, that hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbor's wife, neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, that hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgment's, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.” (Ver. 14-17.)
These are then briefly discussed and compared in versos 18-20. “As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity. Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” The wicked father must perish; the son warned by it shall live. There is thus the way clear for the maxim— “the soul that sinneth, it shall die;” neither the son suffering for his father's wrong nor the father for his son's, but each reaping as he had sown.
But new cases come before us in the following verses. Supposing the wicked to turn from all his sins, or the righteous from his righteousness, what then? Each must bear his own burden, of the Spirit reaping the blessed and suited results, of the flesh corresponding corruption. “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord Jehovah: and not that he should turn from his ways, and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” (Ver. 21-24.)
The mouth of Israel is closed. Their murmurs were but cavils. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? “Yet ye say, The way of Jehovah is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of Jehovah is not equal. Ο house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?” (Ver. 25-29.) It is apt ever to be thus. Those who arraign the ways of the Lord in mercy or judgment have never seen themselves in His light. How humbling for Israel or any that God should deign to justify His own dealings, or to bring home the conviction of our own sinfulness! “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord Jehovah. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, Ο house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord Jehovah: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” (Ver. 30-32.) It is a call to conscience, not the call of grace wherein God promises that He will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them, the truth of which will be self-loathing, true repentance, and fitness for future blessing. (Chap, 36) The comparison of the two chapters of the same prophet is highly and strikingly instructive, the misuse of ours as common as it is miserably opposed to the gospel. The Spirit is here overwhelming them with the conviction of their sin-fullness. The day is still future when God will plant Israel in their land, and bless them, born again, with every good thing on earth.
Chapter 19 is a lamentation for the princes, as the previous one demonstrated the peopled state, the soul's condition in all.
“Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel, and say, What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions. And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men. The nations also heard of him; he was taken in their pit, and they brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt.” (Ver. 1-4.) Such was the end of Jehoahaz or Shallum, son of Josiah, unrighteous son of a righteous father, who died in Egypt whither Pharaoh-nechoh carried him prisoner.
But it fared no better with others from others; for God was forgotten, and evil ways ended as evilly. “Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost, then she took another of her whelps and made him a young lion. And he went up and down among the lions, he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey and devoured men. And he knew their desolate places, and he laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fullness thereof, by the noise of his roaring. Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him; he was taken in their pit. And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into holds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.” (Ver. 5-9.) Jehoiachin felt the chains of Nebuchadnezzar, as did Zedekiah with greater pain and ignominy for indeed his guilt was great and bold against Jehovah. Hence the prophet could but bewail. “Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters. And she had strong rods for the scepters of them that bare rule, and her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches. But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the cast wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them. And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground. And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a scepter to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.” (Ver. 10-14.) It was not by weakness the chosen people or their princes fell; it was not by reason of strength that Egypt or Babylon prevailed. They turned from Jehovah to sin and must, as they do, serve the basest of the Gentiles in sorrow. The scepter centers in Shiloh, who will return in power, as surely as He was crucified in weakness.

Notes on Ezekiel 20:1-44

The new division opens with a full and solemn exposure of Israel's sin, not merely in the light of Jehovah's present estimate but of His ways with them in the past and in the future. Indeed we never adequately judge our actual condition unless we are thus subject to the mind and purpose of God; for as we must weigh where He placed us at the first, so He would have us look onward to His end if we would be wise according to Him, and thus the better feel how our state answers to either.
“And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of Jehovah and sat before me.” (Ver. 1.) It was a serious reckoning this which the prophet employed, but if humiliating to the people meanwhile (and this was no evil), it kept before faith the sure intervention of divine mercy when the chastening by Gentile hands had been told out in full score. Appearances bade fair for those who presented themselves from among the elders of Israel. They came to inquire of Jehovah; was not this faith? They sat before Ezekiel: was not this the reverent humility that honors Him in His servant?
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Are ye come to inquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I will not be inquired of by you. Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers.” (Ver. 2-4.) He who searches the reins and the heart saw that there was no exercise of conscience before Him; and why answer where there is only hollowness and hypocrisy? It was beneath Him to allow such trifling any more. “As I live, I will not let myself be inquired of longer by you.” At the same time He is pleased to justify His ways; and if the prophet would plead for them (or take them to task), he is directed to set their fathers' abominations before them. God thus goes to the fountain-head of the mischief, and the people must judge the evil not merely in its effects but in its spring.
The prophet then was to say to them, “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am Jehovah your God; in the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands: then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am Jehovah your God. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt.” (Ver. 5-9.) With what impressive reiteration Jehovah reminds His people of His oath, swearing, as He could by no greater, by Himself, and thus wishing to show more abundantly the immutability of His counsel! It is expressly of Israel that the apostle declares the gifts and calling of God are not subject to change of mind. For this very reason He judges and must judge their ways: else He would be compelled to sanction or excuse sin. As this never can be, He deals with the unfaithfulness of Israel, and this noticing it from the outset. Even then, spite of expostulations directed to each one, the abominations of their eyes and following of Egypt's idols drew out His anger, so that it became a question of letting it all out against them in that land. But mercy prevailed against judgment, and regard for His own name before the heathen.
“I therefore brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Jehovah that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them. But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.” (Ver. 10-14.) When out of Egypt, Israel was no better than when in it, yea, their evil became more evident and less excusable. For they were in the solitudes of the wilderness with Jehovah, yet they sought false gods; they had his statutes and ordinances, yet they walked not accordingly but despised them; they had His sabbaths as a sign between Him and them, yet profaned them greatly. So that Jehovah was again provoked to destroy Israel in the desert as before in Egypt: His own name, against which they sinned so proudly and perseveringly, was their shelter and defense. “Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands; because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.” (Ver. 15, 16.)
“Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness. But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols; I am Jehovah your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am Jehovah your God. Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness. Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted in the face of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth.” (Ver. 17-22.) Jehovah was moved with compassion, but He must assert His authority, the right-ness of His judgments, and the special value of His sabbaths, as between Him and them. In vain! The children in the wilderness were as bad as their fathers who fell; and nothing but His own care for the name they profaned stood between Israel and destruction. But now the hand that was lifted up to the seed of Jacob's house for purposes of mercy and goodness was lifted up to them in the wilderness, before they even entered the land of Canaan, that He would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries. Compare Lev. 26 and Deut. 28; 32 On the other hand when it became a question of carrying out the long-suspended threat, Amos is explicit that the captivity and dispersion of the people befell them because of their idolatrous rebellion against Jehovah in the wilderness. “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, Ο house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacles of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith Jehovah, whose name is The God of hosts.” (Amos 5:25-27.)
Some have found difficulty in verse 25, and this from time immemorial amongst writers on the Bible as well as readers of it. But the solution is due to the simple principle that God in His government chastens His guilty people retributively and calls the scourges His own, even when the instruments may he wholly foreign to His mind and heart. Nay it is true even of the Holy One of God, of Christ Himself, who, when given up to utter rejection and suffering from man, is in this said to be smitten of God. (Psa. 69; Zech. 13) It is a great and serious mistake that the statutes which were not good, and ordinances by which they could not live, mean God's own in which they were bound to walk obediently. This would be indeed to make scripture hopelessly obscure, and God the author of evil. Not so: whatever be the issue for the sinner, the apostle is most energetic, in proving the misery even of a converted soul in his efforts after good and against his own evil under law, to vindicate that which in itself is holy, just and good. Assuredly then the Jewish prophet and the Apostle Paul do not contradict each other, but those who apply the expression “statutes that were not good” misunderstand the matter in hand. The true reference is to the bitter bondage of His people to the corrupt and destructive regulations of the heathen, even to the demoralization of their households, and the most cruel devotion of their first-born to Moloch, “horrid king.” Thus if they polluted God's name and sabbaths He polluted them in their gifts: so great was the degradation of Israel in departing from the true God. Verse 26 leaves no doubt on my mind as to the real force of verse 25. “Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me. For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation to their offering: there also they made their sweet savor, and poured out there their drink offerings. Then I said unto them, What is the high place whereunto ye go? And the name thereof is called Bamah unto this day.” (Ver. 27-29.) Bad as their idolatry was before in Egypt or in the desert, it was more culpable in them and more insulting to God in Canaan. False worship too perpetuates itself, but the truth stands only by grace. (Ver. 29.)
“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations? For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be inquired of by you, Ο house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I will not be inquired of by you. And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone. As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: and I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord Jehovah. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. As for you, Ο house of Israel, thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols. For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.” Thus their persevering and heinous sin in always most unnaturally dishonoring Jehovah, like fathers, like children, is pressed on their consciences, as the ground why He could not be inquired of through His prophet. (Ver. 30, 31.) But God would take care that they should not carry out all the apostate iniquity of their hearts. They should not be as the heathen after all, they should not succeed in throwing off the yoke of Jehovah to serve wood and stone. They had all the guilt of it in their minds, but God would not forget His own honor, and they should pay the penalty. “[As] I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you.” Is this only in the way of judgments? Of judgments without doubt, but with the view' and end of purging Israel. He will have His people separate from the Gentiles, whatever may seem the natural course of events, and whatever the desires not only of the Gentiles but of Israel. In the result, Jehovah only shall be exalted; and this when men least expect it. As surely as summer follows winter in the earth, so light shall succeed the darkness of man's day. For this are the ancient people kept of God spite of themselves and the enemy. For, let Satan reign as he may, God is above him and will rule openly as He does in secret providence.
But it is in verse 35 that we see one of the momentous and distinctive intimations of this new word of Jehovah. It is not a question of the temple or Jerusalem or the last reigning branch of her boughs out of which Are went and devoured her fruit, so that there is no more on her a strong branch for a scepter to rule, till Shiloh come. Here it is the people as a whole, Israel at least rather than the Jews; and of the deepest interest is the intimation of their special future. With them (not with the remnant in the land and city) will God rehearse the history of the chosen nation. After gathering them out from the people and the countries wherein they are still scattered, and this not by quiet, moral, or evangelic means, but with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with outpoured fury. He will bring them into the wilderness of the people, and plead or hold judgment over them face to face, as of old when He so dealt with their fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt. And there He caused them to pass in review, as a shepherd the sheep under the rod, and so brings into the bond of the covenant. It is sovereign grace, but reigning through righteousness. Hence the rebels are severed from the Israel of God, and transgressors against Jehovah (for even the Israelites are not confounded with sinners of the Gentiles) are no longer to be with His people. Out of the country of their sojourn He will cause them to go forth, but into the land of Israel shall not one enter. How strikingly in contrast with the destiny of the remnant of Judah, who are to suffer for their specific sins in the land! There they refused the Christ of God who came in the Father's name; there will they receive the Antichrist who is to come in his own name. Compare Zech. 11:16, 17; 13:8, 9; also Dan. 12, 1 for the remnant, and 2 for the body of the people among the Gentiles, as I understand each of these verses.
It was useless then for the Israelites as they were to think their worship acceptable to God. For the sin of witchcraft is rebellion, and idolatry stubbornness. If therefore they would not hearken to Jehovah, better be in the openness of their evil than keeping up a show utterly offensive to Him: gifts from men in such an idolatrous state only profane His name. But His purpose shall stand. “For on my holy mountain, on the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.” Who can allege with any semblance of a consistent interpretation that this word of promise in our prophet has been fulfilled or yet begun to be? The people and land of Israel will then be holy in the full force of the expression. Then, not before, will Jehovah be vindicated through Israel before the eyes of the nations. The gospel which has gone forth since the death and resurrection of Christ is in contrast with it; for there all are alike treated as sinners and lost, and those who believe not only find indiscriminate mercy, but are brought into one new man wherein is neither Jew nor Gentile. “In that day,” of which the prophet speaks, the distinction will reappear, and Israel, delivered from all their idols and every high place, will worship Jehovah their God on the mountain of His holiness, on the mountain of the height of Israel.
“I will accept you with your sweet savor, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall bring you info the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, Ο ye house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah.” They will then be accepted and know Jehovah, the promises to the fathers be accomplished, not only in us who now believe and go to heaven at Christ's coming, but in the children of Israel on the earth, who shall then indeed repent, only so really because of His mercy who acts freely above the evil of the creatures for His own sake: if He did not, to be a sinner were to be ruined without remedy or hope.

Notes on Ezekiel 20:45 and Ezekiel 21

What appears in our ordinary Bibles as the end of chapter 20 (ver. 45-49) goes rather with chapter 21 in the Hebrew and in some ancient versions. It is the conquest of Judea under the image of a forest on fire. The prophet is directed to set his face and prophesy about the south, which is expressed in three forms with great emphasis. “Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me saying, Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop [thy word] toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field. And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of Jehovah; thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree.” Judgment was going forth against all, the vigorous or withered. “The flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burnt therein. And all flesh shall see that I Jehovah have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.” The completeness of the judgment would prove the hand of Jehovah. “Then said I, Ah! Lord Jehovah! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?” The word was plain enough; but man finds difficulties in understanding what he does not like.
The next communication however is much more distinct and complete. “And the word of Jehovah came unto me saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop [thy word] toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel, and say to the land of Israel, Thus saith Jehovah; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.” Here figures are dropped and plain language spoken. The slaughter would be indiscriminate, not chastening but vengeance. It is no longer a conflagration, but the sword. “Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of its sheath against all flesh from the south to the north; that all flesh may know that I Jehovah have drawn forth my sword out of its sheath: it shall not return any more.” Sentence was gone forth irrevocably against Judea. “Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.” All were to take heed. It was no light matter nor affectation on Ezekiel's part. God meant it to be felt deeply-by the prophet first that others also might fear. “And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tidings; because it cometh: and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water: behold it cometh and shall be brought to pass, saith the Lord Jehovah.” The certainty of judgment, though only a national one, was intended to fill the heart of the prophet with anguish to the uttermost.
“Again the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith Jehovah; Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished; it is sharpened to make a sore slaughter, it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree. And he hath given it to be furbished that it may be handled: this sword is sharpened, and it is furbished, to give it into the hand of the slayer. Cry and howl, son of man, for it shall be upon my people, it shall be upon all the princes of Israel: terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon my people: smite therefore upon thy thigh. Because it is a trial, and what if the sword contemn even the rod? it shall be no more, saith the Lord Jehovah.” Then comes the direction: “Thou therefore, son of man, prophesy and smite thine hands together, and let the sword be doubled the third time, the sword of the slain: it is the sword of the great men that are slain, which entereth into their privy chambers. I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that their heart may faint, and their ruins be multiplied. Ah! it is made bright, it is wrapped up for the slaughter. Go thee one way or other, either on the right hand or on the left, whithersoever thy face is set. I will also smite my hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest: I Jehovah have said it.” They are now spoken of as great men, not figuratively as trees, dry or green. Jehovah would smite His hands together and cause His fury to rest.
Then, with a strikingly vivid picture of the Chaldean and his auguries, we have a fresh message of that which drew out His anger against Jerusalem. “The word of Jehovah came unto me again, saying, Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city. Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defensed. [Neither king nor people had confidence in Jehovah.] For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver. At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort. And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand.” (Ver. 18-24.) The king of Jerusalem would be more false even to Jehovah than the idolatrous king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had counted upon his respect for the oath of Jehovah; but he had none.
Hence Zedekiah is called a profane prince of Israel whose day is come when iniquity shall have an end. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.” (Ver. 26, 27.) Messiah shall come and reign: subversion and only subversion till then. His is the right.
The chapter closes with a message concerning the Ammonites. “And thou, son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah concerning the Ammonites, and concerning their reproach; even say thou, The sword, the sword is drawn: for the slaughter it is furbished, to consume because of the glittering: while they see vanity unto thee, while they divine a lie unto thee, to bring thee upon the necks of them that are slain, of the wicked, whose day is come, when their iniquity shall have an end. Shall I cause it to return into its sheath? I will judge thee in the place where thou wast created, in the land of thy nativity. And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee, I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, and skilful to destroy. Thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thy blood shall be in the midst of the land; thou shalt be no more remembered: for I Jehovah have spoken it.” (Ver. 28-32.) It was not a question of one only but of both. Jerusalem was the prime object of destructive vengeance, yet the Ammonites should not escape but fall in their turn. The rejection of God's government by law would issue in the utter blotting out of Israel; but grace would take up the matter and reserve for God in mercy to restore what was hopeless as long as the promises were tied to conditions, for the people had broken all instead of fulfilling any. They were to be carried captive, and the kingdom overturned till Messiah come; but the Ammonites should be judged in their own land. Yet is it a mistake to deny either their captivity or their restoration another day. (Compare Jer. 49:6.)

Notes on Ezekiel 22

Next follows a withering exposure of Jerusalem, violence and corruption, idolatry in particular, being charged home. Therefore did Jehovah put the city to shame, a mockery to men far and near. “Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? yea, thou shalt show her all her abominations. Then say thou, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, the city sheddeth blood in the midst of it, that her time may come, and maketh idols against herself to defile herself. Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed; and hast defiled thyself in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years; therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries. Those that be near, and those that be far from thee, shall mock thee, which art infamous and much vexed.” (Ver. 1-5.) Nay the dignitaries of law, who governed, set the example of iniquity in every form, degree and relation. Who can wonder that the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles when the Jews violated Godward as well as manward each command of the law which stood in their way? This is detailed in sufficiently humiliating terms in verses 7-12, closing with what is alike the cause and the consequence of all their other wickedness: Jews even had forgotten Jehovah.
“Therefore, behold, I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee. Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I Jehovah have spoken it, and will do it. And I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in the countries, and will consume thy filthiness out of thee. And thou shalt take thine inheritance in thyself in the sight of the heathen, and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 13-16.) Such is the expression of divine displeasure. Stout of heart and hand as they might seem, where would it all be in the day of Jehovah's dealing, whose word would as surely stand as the Jews would be scattered among the countries, that there if not in Jerusalem they might come to an end of their impurity, conscious of and confessing to others their inward pollution and knowing Jehovah as never before.
In the next section of the chapter is a denunciation, if possible, more tremendous. If the chapter before was the prophecy of the sword, this is no less of the furnace. “And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I Jehovah have poured out my fury upon you.” (Ver. 17-22.) Whatever may be the bloody horrors associated with the sword, the fire of divine indignation cannot but portend yet worse even for this world; and the prophecy of course goes no farther. But it was doing because of Jerusalem's sins, not the Gentiles' merely because of their power. Faith seizes this and bows before Him.
The closing verses drop these images and speak out in the plainest terms. “And the word of Jehovah came unto me saying, Son of man, say unto her, thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things; they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have daubed them with un-tempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, when Jehovah hath not spoken. The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy; yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.” (Ver. 23-30.) Guilty and being given up to judgment, Jerusalem resembled land without man's culture or God's natural supplies, a mere waste therefore morally. The conspiring prophets in its midst were like ravening and roaring lions; the priests not only perverted the law but profaned the sanctuary; the princes were no better than rapacious and bloodthirsty wolves, and this for unjust gain. Thus there was no distinction for the better, whether one looked higher or lower. The prophets glossed over men's sins and presumptuously claimed Jehovah's word for their misleading lies; while the people of the land, not preserved from evil in their lowliness, practiced all sorts of violence and rapine. Not a man did Jehovah find to build up the wall or stand in the gap before Him on behalf of the land; alas! there was none. “Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord Jehovah.-” (Ver. 31.)

Notes on Ezekiel 23

The prophet still continues the exposure of Israel's sin, especially of Jerusalem's. The holy city is here compared with Samaria, as two sisters of a common parent-the Jewish people; sisters too in their idolatrous iniquity. The evil is traced up to its earliest exhibition. The idols which beguiled them in Egypt exposed them at last to Assyria and to Babylon. In Egypt they manifested their lewdness, and their old age was according to the sins of their youth. Their symbolic names are here given as Aholah the elder, and Aholibah, her sister; the former meaning “her own tent,” the latter, “my tent is in her.” The reader will not fail to observe the striking appropriateness of these symbolic names. The worship of Samaria was of self-will, at best an imitation, but really independence of Jehovah. But in Jerusalem the divine service was ordered of Jehovah as His own appointment; nevertheless not one only but both were His. “They were mine, and they begat sons and daughters.” Jeroboam's usurpation did not destroy the title of Jehovah but rather drew out the special ministry of Elijah and Elisha as well as of others in God's grace, if peradventure they might be warned. The elder Aholah, or Samaria, speedily showed the old evil unremoved. (Vers. 5, 8.) The worship of the calves led to worse and brought finally judgment, through those who last of all allured her from Jehovah, and the Assyrian executed judgment on Samaria. (Vers. 9, 10.)
Was Jerusalem admonished? Did the sight of Aholah act for good upon Aholibah? On the contrary, “she was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she.” The younger and more favored sister followed the elder and was even grosser in the indulgence of her idolatry.” (Ver. 11.) Nay, on the sons of Assyria she doted. “Then I saw that she was defiled, that they both took one way.” Not content with Assyria, she desired after the Chaldeans and their idolatrous worship. And the sons of Babylon defiled her; but if she was defiled by them, her mind was alienated from them. So it ever is where the favor and the will of God are not. Evil nearness is quickly followed by mutual disgust. But alas! there is worse. “My mind, saith Jehovah, was alienated from her, as my mind was alienated from her sister.” Jerusalem was given over to a reprobate mind. (Vers. 19, 20.) From verse 22 the Lord Jehovah threatens Jerusalem— “Therefore, Ο Aholibah, thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy mind is alienated, and I will bring them against thee on every side; the Babylonians, and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them: all of them desirable young men, captains and rulers, great lords and renowned, all of them riding upon horses. And they shall come against thee with chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people, which shall set against thee buckler and shield and helmet round about: and I will set judgment before them, and they shall judge thee according to their judgments. And I will set my jealousy against thee, and they shall deal furiously with thee: they shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy remnant shall fall by the sword: they shall take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue shall be devoured by the fire. They shall also strip thee out of thy clothes, and take away thy fair jewels. Thus will I make thy lewdness to cease from thee, and thy whoredom brought from the land of Egypt: so that thou shalt not lift up thine eyes unto them, nor remember Egypt any more. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I will deliver thee into the hand of them whom thou hatest, into the hand of them from whom thy mind is alienated: and they shall deal with thee hatefully, and shall take away all thy labor, and shall leave thee naked and bare: and the nakedness of thy whoredoms shall be discovered, both thy lewdness and thy whoredoms. I will do these things unto thee, because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and because thou art polluted with their idols. Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore will I give her cup into thine hand.” (Ver. 22-31.) Those with whom she sinned should be her chastisers and they should deal in fury, punishing her without mercy, and with every mark of ignominy. The adulterous people should, according to the symbol, lose their nose and their ears, should have their sons and daughters taken away: fire and sword should do the work of destruction. Does a licentious woman pride herself on her dress and her jewels? Of all should Jerusalem be stripped, but not in vain. This wickedness should cease, and Egypt should be looked to no more. Judah should suffer no less than the rebellious ten tribes.
From verse 32 there is a taking up of the cup named in verse 31, and this figure is applied with all fullness to express the judicial dealings of Jehovah with Jerusalem.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Thou shalt drink of thy sister's cup, deep and large: thou shalt be laughed to scorn and had in derision; it containeth much. Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of thy sister Samaria. Thou shalt even drink it and suck it out, and thou shalt break the shreds thereof, and pluck off thine own breasts: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back, therefore bear thou also thy lewdness and whoredoms.” (Ver. 32-35.)
Thus the judgment of favored Judah should even exceed that of Samaria, as indeed her guilt was greater. The dregs should be drained, the shreds should be ground with their teeth, and their guilty breasts torn. From verse 36 to the end there is a comparison which closes the account of the two sisters. They were both licentious, both bloody. They carried their idolatrous adultery to such an extent as to burn their children to Moloch, and on that day to pollute Jehovah's sanctuary and desecrate His sabbaths. “Lo! thus have they done in the midst of mine house.” No means were untried to entice those without to the dishonor of Jehovah, iniquitously misapplying to them Jehovah's incense and Jehovah's oil. And as Jerusalem had sought strangers from afar, so she deigned to court the most vulgar drunkards from the desert. Thoroughly profligate were those two women, Aholah and Aholibah. Not God only, but righteous men should judge them with the judgment of adulteresses, and the judgment of those who shed blood, for such they really were. (Ver. 45.)
Their judgment however should not slumber. The adulterous woman must be stoned till she died. “For thus saith the Lord Jehovah; I will bring up a company upon them, and will give them to be removed and spoiled. And the company shall stone them with stones, and dispatch them with their swords; they shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses with fire. Thus will I cause lewdness to cease out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness. And they shall recompense your lewdness upon you, and ye shall bear the sins of your idols: and ye shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 46-40.)

Notes on Ezekiel 24

The new message of Jehovah has great peculiarity in it in this respect that the prophet is directed to note expressly the day, not as usually for a date of the communication but also as the precise beginning of the accomplishment of the prediction, the form of expressing it being as before from Jehoiachin's captivity. A higher power must have made known the siege commenced that very day.
“Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day. And utter a parable unto the rebellious house, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Set on a pot, set it on, and also pour water into it: gather the pieces thereof into it, even every good piece, the thigh and the shoulder; fill it with the choice bones. Take the choice of the flock, and burn also the bones under it, and make it boil well; and let them seethe the bones of it therein. Wherefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Woe to the bloody city, to the pot whose scum is therein, and whose scum is not gone out of it! bring it out piece by piece; let no lot fall upon it. For her blood is in the midst of her; she set it upon the top of a rock; she poured it not upon the ground, to cover it with dust; that it might cause fury to come up to take vengeance; I have set her blood on the top of a rock, that it should not be covered.” (Ver. 1-8.) Thus the caldron filled with the pieces of flesh and best bones, all boiled well, partly with the rest of the bones, is the awful figure which Jehovah afterward explains in allusion to their own fond boast (chap, 11) of security in Jerusalem. For as the flesh never trusts God for eternal life or an absolute remission of sins, so mere religiousness is apt to presume on the indefeasibility of God's promises without the slightest heed to His will or glory and to the evident dishonor of His name and word. But they deceive their souls, as the Jews did here, on whom should fall indiscriminate judgment. “Let no lot be cast upon it.” None should go un-punished. As the evil of Jerusalem even to blood (so much the greater offense in Israel, as they knew how God maintained the sacredness of life in man, His image, a truth which the Gentiles soon forgot and lost) was deeply ingrained and unblushingly committed, without care to conceal it, So would Jehovah deal in His retribution.
In verses 9-14 we see that Jerusalem should be taken and destroyed after no superficial sort; and this is described in continuance of the former allegory. For now Jehovah lets it be known that not only should the bones he burnt, but the city itself under the emblem of the caldron set no longer with water but empty on the coals, that its copper might glow, and its filthiness be smelt in its midst, and its scum be consumed. “With frauds it wearied itself; and the greatness of its scum goeth not off from it: into the fire its scum! In thy unclean-ness is incest: because I cleansed thee and thou wouldst not be cleansed, thou shalt not be cleansed from thy uncleanness any more till I have caused my fury to rest on thee. I Jehovah have spoken: it cometh to pass, I will do it; I will not go back, nor have pity, nor repent: according to thy ways and according to thy doings shall they judge thee, saith the Lord Jehovah.” Disciplinary measures had long failed, proper government according to His law was despised. Let the haughtiest and most cruel of earthly marauders come and execute the divine decree now fixed.
The prophet is next called to fear himself a stroke from God of the most intimate kind, if by any means the captives at the Chebar could be forced to feel the seriousness of the crisis and of that rebellious denial of the true God which had brought judgment on the Jews. “And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down. Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men. So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.” (Ver. 15-18.)
Nor did this sudden domestic affliction, with absolutely no token of mourning on Ezekiel's part, pass unheeded. “And the people said unto me, Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so? Then I answered them, The word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Speak unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the excellency of your strength, the desire of your eyes, and that which your soul pitieth; and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left shall fall by the sword. And ye shall do as I have done: ye shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. And your tires shall be upon your heads, and your shoes upon your feet: ye shall not mourn nor weep; but ye shall pine away for your iniquities, and mourn one toward another.” (Ver. 19-23.) The fresh oracular act is expounded; and the people are informed that God would teach them of their unexampled trouble which should leave no room for tears or ordinary mourning. So sweeping a destruction was begun, Jehovah Himself profaning the sanctuary by judgment as they had by their transgressions and abominations, that nothing would remain for them but pining away in their iniquities and groaning one to another. What a picture of despair when the sorrow lies too deep for tears, and an overwhelming sense of guilt compels men to abandon hope!
It is not right to speak of the sacred writers introducing their own names into their productions. Do those who so talk really believe that they were inspired in the true and full meaning of the term? If so, it was God who led and authorized them to do so, as the prophet here. “Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah. Also, thou son of man, shall it not be in that day when I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds, their sons and their daughters, that he that escapeth in that day shall come unto thee, to cause thee to hear it with thine ears? In that day shall thy mouth be opened to him which is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb: and thou shalt be a sign unto them; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 24-27.)

Notes on Ezekiel 25

We have now a message from Jehovah which, while connected with the foregoing denunciation of Israel and especially of Jerusalem, forms a natural transition to foreign nations that successively fall under divine judgment. (Chaps, 26-32) Ammon and Moab had an unhappy and humiliating origin which gave them a sort of spurious relation to Israel; Edom, if nobler after the flesh, was no nearer spiritually, yea, rather the bitterest of foes; and the Philistines, without any such connection, had the peculiar lot of hanging on the south-western skirts of the land, though Gentiles and the most cruel of the oppressors of Israel, till put down by David. Against all these the prophet has here a word from the Lord.
“And the word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against the sons of Ammon, and prophesy against them; and say unto the sons of Ammon, Hear the word of the Lord Jehovah; Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because thou saidst, Aha, against my sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity; behold, therefore, I will deliver thee to the men of the east for a possession, and they shall set their villages in thee, and make their dwellings in thee: they shall eat thy fruit, and they shall drink thy milk. And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the sons of Ammon a couchingplace for flocks: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet, and rejoiced in heart with all thy despite against the land of Israel; behold, therefore I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen; and I will cut thee off from the people, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 1-7.) The main question is as to the sons of the east, which some (Jews and Christians) regard as the Chaldeans. But Theodoret seems to me more right who views them as the Ishmaelites, who should, on the great overthrow of the actual state by Nebuchadnezzar, pitch their tents, and tend their flocks and herds, and in short pass their nomad life in the land of those who triumphed at the desecration of Jehovah's sanctuary and the desolation of Israel's land, and the captivity of Judah. Perhaps it may have been the former thought which influenced our translators in giving “palaces” where encampments or villages would seem correct. It was a greater blow thus to become a possession of the wandering Bedouins than simply to have fallen under the towers and strength and skill of the Babylonians. The sons of Ammon have been destroyed, for man irreparably, and spite of any passing history of Greeks or Romans.
But they are not alone. Moab was no less hostile. Their mountain fastnesses, their proud fortifications, should prove vain when God's time came; and it was soon coming. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because that Moab and Seir do say, Behold the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen; therefore, behold, I will open the side of Moab from the cities, from his cities which are on his frontiers, the glory of the country, Beth-jeshimoth, Baal-meon, and Kiriathaim, unto the men of the east with the sons of Ammon, and will give them in possession, that the sons of Ammon may not be remembered among the nations. And I will execute judgments upon Moab; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 8-11.) How true it is that God resists the proud; and we have heard of Moab's pride, which He the more resented because they ventured to say, as they would have fain believed, that “the house of Judah is like to all the heathen.” But not so either in their privileges or in their punishment, though, alas! too like in their sins. This however was not what Moab disliked, but the mercy God had shown them and their call to be at the head of nations as the witness of Jehovah; and therefore did He execute judgments in Moab that they might know Him. The God of Israel governs the nations.
Seir had been coupled with Moab; but Edom's implacable hatred must have a distinct place also. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them; therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword. And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to mine anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 12-14.) Should not Edom have been grieved for his brother? Bather did he seize their ruin by the Gentile stranger to avenge himself for his old grudge. But God was not mocked then any more than now, and in this case inflicts His vengeance on Edom by the hand of His people Israel; “and they shall execute upon Edom according to mine anger and according to my fury, and they shall know my vengeance” [not simply “that I am Jehovah"] “saith the Lord Jehovah.”
Had the stranger come from Crete and settled within the land of Palestine to the hazarding and oppression of Israel? Did they rise up to avenge their old enmity if they could not in their old grandeur? God was not unmindful. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred; therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethim, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast. And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.” (Ver. 15-17.) Here the menace of divine judgments is intensely strong. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God when He avenges His people on their foes.

Notes on Ezekiel 26

Another city in the west has an exceptional importance, the renowned city of Tire, which drew down upon itself Jehovah's displeasure and judgment. It is a lesson the more serious because Tire does not appear to have been animated by a spirit of hostility pure and simple against Israel. It was rather commercial greed which saw an opportunity of advantage in the disasters of the chosen people. This enticed the city into an antagonism to Israel which Jehovah resented. For His chastening of His people is no warrant for the selfish covetousness which would profit by their troubles or downfall. This then is here noticed by the prophet.
“And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first day of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people: she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste: therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I am against thee, Ο Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah: and it shall become a spoil to the nations. And her daughters which are in the field shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 1-6.) Did Tire say that Jerusalem was broken, I shall be replenished now that she is laid waste? the Lord Jehovah replies, “I am against thee, Ο Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee.” For doom is pronounced—her very dust to be scraped from her, herself to be like the top of a rock for spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, her daughters in the field (that is, I suppose, the colonies planted by her) to be slain by the sword. Thus should they know that it was Jehovah.
“For thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people. He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee. And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers. By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach. With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground. And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water. And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harp shall be no more heard. And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the Lord Jehovah have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 7-14.) The great imperial power of the world should put an end to the outshoots of Tire and invest that mart of nations with all the appliances of siege investment, and break down its walls and towers with his axes and engines of war, and his success is ensured, and the slaughter of the Tyrians, and the spoil of their wealth and merchandise. It may be that they (ver. 12) goes beyond Nebuchadnezzar and takes in Alexander the Great whose vengeance was still more complete and by whom the stones and timber and dust of Tire were laid in the midst of the water. Certainly there was no more recovery after that.
Further, the moral effect was immense among the nations. This is described in the concluding verses. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to Tyrus; Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, when the wounded cry, when the slaughter is made in the midst of thee? then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay away their robes, and put off their broidered garments: they shall clothe themselves with trembling; they shall sit upon the ground, and shall tremble at every moment, and be astonished at thee. And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed, that wast inhabited of seafaring men, the renowned city, which wast strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, which cause their terror to be on all that haunt it! Now shall the isles tremble in the day of thy fall; yea, the isles that are in the sea shall be troubled at thy departure.” (Ver. 15-18.) The trading powers would especially feel the utter ruin of a city so renowned and strong in the sea. The isles accordingly are specified as troubled at Tire's departure. For many of the wealthy fled, as the rest remained to be destroyed.
“For thus saith the Lord Jehovah; When I shall make thee a desolate city, like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep upon thee, the great waters shall cover thee; when I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth, in places desolate of old, with them that go down to the pit, that thou be not inhabited; and I shall set glory in the land of the living; I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 19-21.) The destruction of Tire was to be complete. Whatever was the importance of its position, (and its past success seemed to invite the rebuilding of such a commercial center,) all hope would be vain on man's part, for the Lord says, “I will make thee terrors, and thou shalt be no more. Though thou be sought for, thou shalt never be found again, saith the Lord Jehovah.” Thus should perish the splendor of a city whose fame spread far and wide amidst all lands, gathering wealth from, and spreading it to, alike the seas and lands of the Gentiles. Such should be the doom of those who meddle with Israel even in their desolation, for their own lust of gain.

Notes on Ezekiel 27

We have next an animated and striking picture of the commerce of Tire. “And the word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, Now, thou son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus; and say unto Tyrus, Ο thou that art situate at the entry of the sea, which art a merchant of the people for many isles, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Ο Tyrus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty.” (Ver. 1-3.) This lamentation soon passes into an allegory. Tire is addressed personally. Her position is set forth graphically as well as her self-complacency. From verse 4 the allegory of a ship is before us and this very strikingly in keeping with the peculiar character of Tire. “Thy borders are in the heart of the seas, thy builders have perfected thy beauty. They have made all thy ship boards of fir trees of Senir [the south of Anti-libanus]; they have taken cedars from Lebanon to make masts for thee. Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars,” &c. So the description follows, benches of ivory out of the isles of Chittim, embroidered fine linen or cotton from Egypt for sails, blue and purple covering from the isles or coasts of Elishah-such were the adornments of the vessel. From verse 8-11, we have the crew, the pilots, and the traders, the marines and the guards. “The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy marines: thy wise men, Ο Tyrus, that were in thee, were thy pilots. The ancients of Gebal and the wise men thereof were in thee thy caulkers: all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in thee to occupy thy merchandise. They of Persia and of Lud and of Phut were in thine army, thy men of war: they hanged the shield and helmet in thee; they set forth thy comeliness. The men of Arvad with thine army were upon thy walls round about, and the Gammadim were in thy towers: they hanged their shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty perfect.” (Ver. 8-11.) Thus those near at hand are supposed to be sailors and pilots, with mercenaries from Persia on the east, Lud and Phut on the west. Tire laid all under contribution and loved to gather the most remote under her banner.
From verse 12 we enter upon her foreign trade, beginning with Tarshish itself and ending with its ships in verse 25. In these early days, Tarshish seems to have given its name to vessels that sailed anywhere, at any rate, on long voyages, pretty much like our own term “East Indiamen.” “Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.” In verse 13 we have quite a different class of merchandise. “Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market.” Here we stretch to the far east from the west. Then in verse 14 we have north Armenia. “They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules.” Then we come down to the south. “The men of Dedan were thy merchants; many isles were the merchandise of thine hand: they brought thee for a present horns of ivory and ebony.” Next we come to Syria (if this be the reading, for fifteen MSS read Edom) which traded with Tire with emeralds (or carbuncles), purple embroidery, fine linen (or cotton) and coral and ruby.
Then we have the connection of Tire with Judah and the land of Israel. “They were thy merchants, they traded in the market wheat of Minnith and Pannag, and honey and oil and balm.” Damascus seems to have bought Tyrian wares and to have given in return wine of Helbon (or Aleppo) and white wool.
Verse 19 appears to put together peculiarly Dan, and Javan, from “Usal” (translated in our Authorized Version, “going to and fro.") It seems contrary to analogy that the copulative should begin the verse. Some therefore instead of translating it, “Dan also,” say, “Dedan and Javan.” Others decide for Aden. As it would seem that some places in Arabia are here meant, so perhaps the second Dedan. Arabia and all the princes of Kedar traded in lambs and rams and he-goats. Again, merchants of Sheba and Raamah traded with Tire, furnishing the markets with the best spices and with all precious stones and gold. Next we find the Mesopotamian traders. From these eastern sources, they had the most showy articles, purple, and damask, and embroidery, wound up with the ships of Tarshish, the great means of conveyance for the ancient world. Instead of the singular expression in our version, “The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market,” there is good authority for understanding “The ships of Tarshish were thy walls, thy trade.” A similar expression has been used popularly of our own country.
But no fullness from without, no glory even in the heart of the seas could resist the word of Jehovah. The day of Tire was come. “Thy rowers brought thee into great waters; the east wind broke thee in the heart by of the seas.” From verse 26 just quoted begins the prophet's description of the ruin of Tire. We return to the previous allegory. Tire is a ship that founders at sea. Nebuchadnezzar is the east wind that upset her. “Thy riches and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners, and thy pilots, thy caulkers, and the occupiers [or barterers] of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war [or warriors] that are in thee, even with all thy company which is in the midst of thee, shall fall in the heart of the seas in the day of thy fall.” (Ver. 27.)
Slowly had Tire risen to this immense and concentrated trade; how quickly all fell to ruin when Nebuchadnezzar struck the first blow and irretrievably when Alexander the Great struck the last. “The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots. And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships, they shall stand upon the land: and shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes; and they shall make themselves utterly bald for thee, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for thee with bitterness of heart and bitter wailing. And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and lament over thee, saying, What city is like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the heart of the sea? When thy wares went forth out of the seas, thou filledst many people; thou didst enrich the kings of the earth, with the multitude of thy riches and of thy merchandise. In the time when thou shalt be broken by the seas in the midst of the waters, thy merchandise and all thy company in the midst of thee shall fall. All the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at thee, and their kings shall be sore afraid, they shall be troubled in their countenance. The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shall be any more.” (Ver. 28-36.) This bitter and widespread mourning may remind the reader of the Revelation of another city, far more corrupt as being the corruption of what was incomparably more excellent in New Testament times, whose judgment still lingers, but will surely come, for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

Notes on Ezekiel 28

This, the third chapter of the series, closes the burden of Tire, adding a brief denunciation against Zidon, its mother city, but generally inferior in power and splendor to the daughter, not more than twenty miles apart. Each had its distinctive points: as the first brought out the short-lived pleasure of the great city of ancient commerce at Jerusalem's fall, and the second its all-concentrating traffic suddenly come to naught amidst the general consternation of men, so here “the prince of Tyrus” comes into relief, and the irremediable downfall of his pride.
“The word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God. Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel: there is no secret that they can hide from thee: with thy wisdom and with thy understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures: by thy great wisdom and by thy traffic hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches.” (Ver. 1-5.) It would appear that Ithobalus, as Josephus calls him (c. Ap. 21), or Ithbal the second, according to the Phoenician annals, ruled in the time of the prophet: probably he may have given occasion to this stirring and severe, yet withal, sublime sketch. It is the typical prince of the world in that day; and many of the expressions are borrowed for the after predictions of the Antichrist or man of sin yet to come. The prince was the head and center and personification of that pride and wealth found in Tire as a whole. Nor is there any character of pride baser, more blinding, more corrupting. It lives in selfishness, appeals to it, and is exalted by it in its grossest form. No wonder that the New Testament brands covetousness as idolatry, and characterizes the love of money as a root of all evil. The haughtiest station marked this prince. Did he say he was God, and sit in His seat (or throne) in the heart of the seas? He was man, not God, and must soon leave it, however impiously he set his heart as that of God. It is common to all who amass wealth to give themselves credit for wisdom. So did the prince: wiser than Daniel, he discerned what was hidden from others. Alas! what folly and poverty. Was he rich toward God? nay, he had amassed riches, and gold and silver had crowded into his exchequer. This was the aim of his wisdom, this its triumph, for it was his own doing. Self, not God, was in all his thoughts.
Had the prince of Tire then only thus perverted all he knew from his proximity to Israel? God would teach him that his responsibility was according to what should have been his profit, not pride, his doom only the more stern and sure and speedy. “Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; behold, therefore, I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness. They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas. Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no god, in the hand of him that slayeth thee. Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 6-10.) If he aspired to be God in pretension, he should feel what it is to be man in weakness when the sword of the terrible stranger should defile his brightness, and he should die the deaths of such as are slain in the heart of the seas, for it should prove then no impregnable shelter but his most ignominious grave. He should die the deaths of the uncircumcised, of men farthest from God.
There is more difficulty as to verses 11-19. Is it the same personage, or a different one? I am disposed to think it the same historically, but with a deeper reference to Satan's fall incorporated into it; and this may be one reason why the Spirit of God changes “prince” into “king.” The picture is beyond comparison more elaborate than the former sketch, yet not without links that connect both together. “Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.” (Ver. 11-14.) Creature beauty and conferred if not acquired advantage to the uttermost, inwardly as well as outwardly, were there; the highest and most delightful position in nature; the variegated lights of Him who is light in His own nature were there, though of course not in the fullness of grace or glory; the suited expression of joy and gladness was not wanting from the first. “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” (Ver. Id.) There was intelligence in judicial action and protection in him by God's ordinance; and this too in no distant sphere but where God displayed His authority; there was familiarity with His searching judgments. Nor was there a gradual slip or yielding to temptation from without: “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” (Ver. 15.)
Now we return to that which we have seen in the previous description of the prince. “By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, Ο covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.” (Ver. 16-19.) Can it be doubted however that in this denunciation God had before Him the fall and ruin of His arch-enemy? The want of seeing such allusions, past or future, above all of seeing Christ in the prophecies, often exposes souls little established in the truth to charge God's word foolishly. They conceive oriental exaggerations, where such as know the truth find the deepest ground for thankfulness of heart for God's grace in thus binding all His revelations in one harmonious whole.
The concluding section is the prophecy against Zidon. “Again the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Zidon, and prophesy against it. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against thee, Ο Zidon; and I will be glorified in the midst of thee: and they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall have executed judgments in her, and shall be sanctified in her. For I will send into her pestilence, and blood into her streets; and the wounded shall be judged in the midst of her by the sword upon her on every side; and they shall know that I am Jehovah. And there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel, nor any grieving thorn of all that are round about them, that despise them; and they shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 20-24.) God is now known in and by His grace in Christ Jesus our Lord. As before the gospel it was by His judgments, so will it be again when the acceptable year of Jehovah opens with the day of vengeance of our God. And how solemn the difference of the lines measured out to Zidon and Israel! The Zidonians should know He is Jehovah by the judgments by which He would be sanctified in their city; Israel should know Him Jehovah their God when He has gathered them in from the nations where they are still scattered and is sanctified in them in the sight of the Gentiles. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them roundabout them; and they shall know that I am Jehovah their God.” (Ver. 25, 26.)

Notes on Ezekiel 29

The next series consists of four chapters directed against Egypt, as the last three against Tire with its prince and king. The evil denounced is no longer commercial pride, but confident nature, and this especially in political wisdom. We shall see how God brings to naught the power which is thus characterized and set itself up in haughty independence of Him; for we have here the judgment of the nations, Israel included, before Babylon acquired its imperial supremacy.
“In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the month, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt: Speak and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales. And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers; thou shalt fall upon the open fields; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered: I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven.” (Ver. 1-5.)
Thus should God deal with the self-confidence of Egypt, whose king is compared to the sea monster that crouches in the midst of the Nile's branches. When its hour came, abasing destruction should fall not on it only but on all the fish that should cling to it for protection. The blow was to be fatal, and birds and beasts of prey should feast on it.
“And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am Jehovah, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. When they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand.'' (Vers. 6, 7.) The chosen people had repaired to Egypt for succor before now: what had been the issue? In vain the alliance of Israel with a nation who avowedly trusted in themselves, not in the Lord, save indeed to the sore wounding of Israel when Egypt was broken.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee. And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am Jehovah: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it. Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syrene even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.” (Ver. 8-12.) Egypt should be not only smitten, but most of all in what was its chief boast, its river. That granary of the world, and garden of the earth, should become a wilderness for forty years, and the Egyptians be scattered exiles: so great chastening should Nebuchadnezzar inflict.
But how evident the mouth and the hand of God! It was a measured sentence, and not more surely should the woe come than its worst should terminate according to His word. “Yet thus saith the Lord Jehovah, At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered: and I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their inhabitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom. It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations. And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them: but they shall know that lam the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 13-16.) How wonderful, and how punctually fulfilled! yet no wit of man could have forecast it in any of its parts. It was the reversal of its own experiences, and no other nation had a similar destiny or sentence. The more we ponder the word, the more we know its real history: not the prophecy from the history—no man ever yet learned truly thus—but the history from the prophecy, for God alone sees and speaks without error or change; and our best wisdom is to learn of Him, honoring His word: let who will prefer the sight of their eyes or the hearing of men with their ears. Dull as Israel were, they should thus know that He was Jehovah. Egypt though restored rose to dominion no more, became a kingdom but the basest, and no more an object of confidence to Israel.
The rest of the chapter connects with the beginning of it a prophecy wholly distinct in time but kindred in subject. “And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it: therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 17-20.) It naturally follows the burden of Tire, for it represents Jehovah as balancing the vast expedition of Nebuchadnezzar on that hardly won city whoso wealth in great part escaped his grasp with the conquest of Egypt, a rich booty to the conqueror and his greedy and before this disappointed host. No wonder the land of Egypt was to be long waste, though not forever.
“In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 21.) We have no account that so it was. But we need none. So Jehovah spoke; and so we are sure it was: Israel revived, and Ezekiel delivered His message in their midst, and they then knew who He is that would have them aware of what was coming before it came.

Notes on Ezekiel 30

The first of the two prophetic strains of our chapter is a good example of that which characterizes the word of prophecy, the binding up of present or impending disasters with the great day when God will interfere in power and judge (not first the dead but) the quick. There was the direct government of God then in Israel, which dealt also with the nations that meddled with His people, as there will be by and by an incomparably better display of it when the Lord comes to reign over the earth. Meanwhile we have only the course of providence regulating sovereignly and unseen, while the Jews are for the time abandoned for their apostasy and also now their rejection of the Messiah.
“The word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus, saith the Lord Jehovah; Howl ye, Alas for the day! For the day is near, even the day of Jehovah is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen. And the sword shall come upon Egypt, and great pain shall be in Ethiopia, when the slain shall fall in Egypt, and they shall take away her multitude, and her foundations shall be broken down. Ethiopia, and Libya, and Lydia, and all the mingled people, and Chub, and the men of the land that is in league, shall fall with them by the sword.” (Ver. l—5.) The intervention of Jehovah in the downfall of Egypt identifies itself in principle with the day of Jehovah which closes this age and expands over that which is to come. Not only should the African races fall, but the sons of the land of the covenant, which seems to point to such Jews as had gone to live there from the distresses of home.
“Thus saith Jehovah; they also that uphold Egypt shall fall; and the pride of her power shall come down: from the tower of Syene shall they fall in it by the sword, saith the Lord Jehovah. And they shall be desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities shall be in the midst of the cities that are wasted.
And they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and when all her helpers shall be destroyed. In that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the careless Ethiopians afraid, and great pain shall come upon them, as in the day of Egypt; for, 10, it cometh.” (Ver. 6-9.) Not only should the country renowned for its wisdom among the ancients but their allies or supports: from Migdol to Syene they shall fall in her, is the apparent force. Were other lands desolate? So should the Egyptians be in the midst of the general waste; no oasis in the desert, but desert all alike. Even remoter such, apt to think itself secure, should be terrified, and not without reason: great pain should be on them. It was coming!
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; I will also make the multitude of Egypt to cease by the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon. He and his people with him, the terrible of the nations, shall be brought to destroy the land: and they shall draw their swords against Egypt, and fill the land with the slain. And I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the wicked: and I will make the land waste, and all that is therein, by the hand of strangers: I Jehovah have spoken it.” (Ver. 10-12.) Here the instrument of divine vengeance is named distinctly: not as if God had the smallest sympathy with the terrible of the nations and their unsheathed swords, nor with the wicked into whose hand the country was sold, nor with the strangers that wasted it. But the hour to judge its proud wickedness was at hand; and the worst was the suited executioner to do the dread office.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause their images to cease out of Noph; and there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt: and I will put a fear in the land of Egypt. And I will make Pathros desolate, and will set fire in Zoan, and will execute judgments in No. And I will pour my fury upon Sin, the strength of Egypt; and I will cut off the multitude of No. And I will set fire in Egypt: Sin shall have great pain, and No shall be rent asunder, and Noph shall have distresses daily. The young men of Aven and of Pi-beseth shall fall by the sword: and these cities shall go into captivity. At Tehaphnehes also the day shall be darkened, when I shall break there the yokes of Egypt: and the pomp of her strength shall cease in her: as for her, a cloud shall cover her, and her daughters shall go into captivity. Thus will I execute judgments in Egypt: and they shall know that I am Jehovah.” (Ver. 13-19.) It is with the god of Egypt, as at first so now at last God's main controversy lies. This was before Him when the destroyer went through the land and smote the firstborn on the night of passover; it is before Him here when He adds that there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt. Fear should be in Egypt, desolation in Pathros, fire in Zoan, judgments in No (Thebes or Diospolis), fury on Sin (Pelusium), Hamon No cut off, daily distresses in Noph (the ancient Memphis). They all should be laid low and put to shame and pain. Upper, and Middle, as well as Lower, Egypt. The youths of cities famous for idol temples, Aven or On (Heliopolis), and Pibeseth or Pasht (Bubastis), should perish by the sword, and the women go into captivity. Tehaphnehes (Daphnis), the seat of royal authority and strength, should be shrouded in darkness, and her daughters go into captivity. What a picture of utter overthrow, the word and work alike testifying to Jehovah!
As the former message bears on the land and people and cities of Egypt, so the latter which follows on the king. “And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month, in the seventh day of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, 10, it shall not be bound up to be healed, to put a roller to bind it, to make it strong to hold the sword.” (Vers. 20, 21.) Had Pharaoh Necho pushed onward the power and conquests of Egypt? So much the more humiliating the reverses which should break the power of Egypt thenceforward. In vain did they hope for healing or recovery: Jehovah had put Pharaoh down beyond remedy. And this is pursued with greater detail in the next verses (22-26): “therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and will break his arms, the strong, and that which was broken; and I will cause the sword to fall out of his hand. And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand: but I will break Pharaoh's arms, and he shall groan before him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man. But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt. And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am Jehovah. (Ver. 22-26.) It was not only foreign mercenaries that should be scattered among the nations, but the Egyptians themselves: so thorough the rent and complete the demoralization and overwhelming the ruin caused by the king of Babylon. If it was Nebuchadnezzar, no less was it Jehovah's sword stretched by him over the kingdom of the south. Painfully did the men of Egypt learn in their dispersion, and know that it was Jehovah's doing.

Notes on Ezekiel 31

The prophet next gives us in striking figures the ruin of Egypt. The awful warning of the downfall of the Assyrian, the greatest of earth's monarchs in that day, is applied to Pharaoh's kingdom, like individuals, illustrates the principle of which scripture makes such frequent use: that the Lord abases the proud as He exalts the lowly.
“And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to his multitude; Whom art thou like in thy greatness? Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs. The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running round about his plants, and sent out her little rivers unto all the trees of the field. Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth. All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations. Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by great waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.” (Ver. 1-9.) After all, Assyria was beyond the powers hitherto known for magnificence, but as a kingdom, not as an imperial system. Egypt, disposed as it might be to take an imperial place, must fall after the same example. Political wisdom might be proud, but it could no more secure that object of ambition than force of numbers or extent of territory. God controls and governs, not only in what pertains to His things but in those of man. As the cedar of Lebanon among the trees, for tallness, size, and extent of shade, as well as beauty, so had the Assyrian been among the nations. God had grudged nothing that could adorn or aggrandize Nineveh or the people of whom it was the capital, yea, gave it to exercise enormous outreaching power and influence over countries round about, so as to be envied by all.
But the Assyrian coveted for himself the glory of a king of kings; and this lifting up of his heart in his height brought his doom upon him. “Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height; I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness. And strangers, the terrible of the nations, have cut him off, and have left him: upon the mountains and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, and his boughs are broken by all the rivers of the land; and all the people of the earth are gone down from his shadow, and have left him. Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, and all the beasts of the field shall be upon his branches: to the end that none of all the trees by the waters exalt themselves for their height, neither shoot up their top among the thick boughs, neither their trees stand up in their height, all that drink water: for they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; In the day when he went down to the grave I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the flocks thereof, and the great waters were stayed; and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him. I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth. They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen.” (Ver. 10-17.) Tremendous was the overthrow from such towering grandeur to the utmost degradation and impotence: a lesson for all that might aspire beyond their measure, a call to mourn and quake.
Had Egypt profited morally? On the contrary did not Egypt hasten to follow in the same steps? And if Pharaoh emulated the Assyrian's glory and affected as much or more, should he not justly know the same annihilation? “Whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt He in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord Jehovah.” (Ver. 18.) To the nether parts of the earth must Egypt go with the rest. The power and the policy of nature can give no exemption. In God alone is continuance, and He will display it in His people on earth, as in heaven, when they have bowed to learn themselves as well as Him. Till then, Israel's circumcision is made uncircumcision, and they are even more guilty than the Gentiles they despise.

Notes on Ezekiel 4-7

Following up the call in the close of the last chapter (ver. 22-27), the Lord directs the prophet to set forth the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans: “Thou also, son of man, take thee a tile, and lay it before thee, and portray upon it the city, even Jerusalem: and lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about. Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city: and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be a sign to the house of Israel.” (Ver. 1-3.) A still more remarkable command is next given. “Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon if thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year. Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, and thine arm shall be uncovered, and thou shalt prophesy against it. And, behold, I will lay bands upon thee, and thou shalt not turn thee from one side to another, till thou hast ended the days of thy siege.” (Ver. 4-8.)
It is well known that this has given rise to much debate and difference of judgment. First, the reading of most MSS. of the Septuagint misled the early fathers, who read the more common Greek version, as we see for instance in Theodoret; and the same error appears in the Vulgate, though Jerome well knew that there is no doubt as to the Hebrew, followed by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. Next the reckoning even of Jerome is from the ruin of the revolted house of Israel in the reign of Pekah, when the king of Assyria carried off the ten tribes to the east. But I do not doubt that their view is sounder who count the three hundred and ninety years of Israel from Jeroboam, to whom Ahijah announced from Jehovah the gift of the ten tribes rent out of the hand of Solomon, and that the forty years of Judah point to the reign of Solomon himself, which really determined the ruin even of that most favored portion of the people, little as man might see under the wealth and wisdom of the king the results of the idolatry then practiced. “They have forsaken me,” was the message of the prophet in that day, “and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon; and have not walked in my ways to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.” Thus the seed of David were to be for this afflicted, as they have been, but not forever. But if a brighter day awaits them, a long night of darkness first, and the coldest hour before the dawn; for they have added to their idolatry the still graver wickedness of rejecting their Messiah and of opposing the gospel that goes out to the Gentiles, so that wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. It seems no real obstacle to this that the house of Israel as a distinctive title of the ten tribes were carried off long before the termination of the period; because it is after the habitual manner of Ezekiel, however he may distinguish here as elsewhere, to embrace the whole nation under that name. Judah did not use for God's glory the long and peaceful and prosperous reign of him who in the midst of unexampled benefits turned away his heart after other gods; and the sentence of Lo-ammi was only executed when that portion of the elect nation which clave to the house of David, and even the last king who reigned of that house, by their treachery to Jehovah justified the backsliding tribes who had long before been swept away from the land.
How solemn is the testimony God renders to man viewed in his responsibility to walk according to the light given! It is not only that he departs farther and farther from God, but that he breaks down from the first; while every fresh means of recall but serves to prove his thorough alienation in heart and will. Thus no flesh can glory in His presence. May we glory in the Lord! Not the first man, but the Second has glorified God. Justly therefore has God glorified the Son of man in Himself, and this straightway after the cross.
Here it is another question. The prophet must set forth in his own person the degradation as well as the judgment impending because of the iniquity of the people. Hence another sign follows. “Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof. And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it. Thou shalt drink water also by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drink. And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung which cometh out of man, in their sight. And Jehovah said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.