Extracts From Letters of J.N.D.: The Place of Testimony

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In these last days I look for His leading on His people unfailingly to their place of testimony, to their place of rest; we know that He surely will. I am very thankful that your mind has got so clear, though the difficulty for faith in the path I well know. They are those which attach to Christianity itself, and always have. It is a strait gate and narrow way- that is nothing new. As to the path being the path of faith, and the word, I have not had these forty years the smallest cloud; one must wait, of course, to see it. One difficulty- at any rate in the old country- is that multitudes are breaking loose from all the various systems, without the simplicity of purpose which subjects them to the Lord's discipline.
Everything established is breaking up on the one hand, and on the other, scripture being much more studied, the various dissenting systems are not found in it. To gather according to the word, that becomes the needed service, and this requires both grace and power; it requires the Lord, and I feel all the importance of this, and one's utter powerlessness, save as He works. Yet there is duty, and it is, in a good measure, what is taking back to the old country. If God give me sufficient strength, I hope to get to the West Indies in winter, and, if all be well, return, perhaps, by America, but at sixty-eight one cannot count on much strength. But God is working in the West, and, with God's grace, younger hands will carry on the work till He comes, who will perfect all.
I cannot regret that in getting clear, all has been called in question. The church of God, the Christian, has to rest on the word now, and that must be personal faith, faith resting on the power of God. This is the teaching of 2 Tim. 3. It is trying to a humble soul to be forced to judge for itself, where the church and clergy claim deference, but in the perilous times of the last days this is exactly the point of faith- the word contrasted with the church. Faith is always really individual, and of course the word of God its warrant, but, as against sin and heathenism, the matter is simple, when the church and religious authority comes in it is apparently less so. But this is specifically the point of faith in the last days, the perilous times, the form of godliness without the power; thus the scriptures, and hearing the apostles, become the only sure ground of walk; what bears the name of the church has to be judged, and we are to hear, if we have an ear, what it is said to them, and not by them.
As regards settled peace, the great secret is the full and abiding consciousness that in us there is no good, and looking ever at Christ as our only and our perfect righteousness before God. But there is another kind of peace, which we must not confound with this, the peacefulness of heart which flows from conscious relationship with God. When this is in simple exercise, we rest in the sense of His perfect goodness, and enjoy it, and this is very sweet to the soul. If we are not walking in heart or way in consistency with this relationship, then we have to think of ourselves, and, at any rate, by God's own discipline, we do not enjoy the light of His countenance in the same way. We must not confound this with righteousness. This is ignorance of divine righteousness, and tends to put us back under law, and make us doubt. This is not of the Spirit. The Holy Ghost dwelling in us cannot make us doubtful of our relationship with God. He is the Spirit of adoption, "crying, Abba, Father," but He does make us sensitive of the approbation of God, and what suits His presence.
Abel had testimony by his gifts (that is, Christ the Lamb) that "he was righteous," but Enoch, before his translation, had this testimony, "that he pleased God." You may find the two kinds of rest in Matt. 11:28,2928Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:28‑29). Our present relationship is a constant source of joy, and to be carefully cherished; our righteousness, on which it is founded, is unchangeable in the presence of God. The gracious Lord keep us walking diligently. May, 1868. J. N. D.
I rejoice with all my heart in the grace shown to you and to her, in the case of your dear child. I feel, too, deeply the anxiety attending the young being brought into a path in which they have to follow Christ, before they have tried and broken with this vain and empty world, which a young imagination, and a heart as yet unwearied by it, suppose may give some real joy. If Christ have taken a strong hold, the path is simple, and the young may be saved many a pang. If Christ's, they will surely learn the world is nothing, and its friendship enmity with God, but it is better and happier to learn it in the blessed company of Christ than in regrets on a dying bed, or a heart repentant at loss and unfaithfulness. I do not expect young Christians to have learned everything, but the Lord expects them to be faithful to the light they have got: "And to him that hath shall more be given."
As to going through the world as a trial and exercise of faith, we have all to do it. It is like the ordinary sinfulness of our hearts and ministering to it, a process through which we have all to go, to have our senses exercised to discern good and evil, and Christ becomes everything to us, and we more like Him. Oh! how surely we shall feel it that day- that all that was not a heart given to Him, was loss and wretchedness. I trust your child sees that in Christ our acceptance is perfect and full, as our sins are wholly put away; but with that, we are His, and in feeding on Him, looking forward to His glory, to give energy on one hand, and feeding on Him, as the patient and crucified One, to abide in Him, we find in a lowly, gracious, and, for that very reason, firm life, the bright hope of transforming glory.
As to judging of those around (worldly Christians), their state is judged in the scripture. But if we get near to the Lord, if we are in communion with God within, in the holy place, we see all saints with His eyes, as dear to Him, washed in Christ's blood, and His in the power of the Holy Ghost, and they are clothed by faith and desire with what belongs to Him, objects of Christ's delight, and the fruit of the travail of His soul; then intercession for them is easy, and faithfulness to them becomes easy, and gracious too. But we cannot judge aright if we are not there. Our judgment of certain things may be right, and our rejection of them in our ways, but we judge them without, as forbidden things, and that, so far, is all right; but within, while this judgment is only deeply strengthened, other thoughts and feelings come in with it, which can be had only there. The evil and loss for the saints, of the wretched path of worldliness, the dishonor done to the Savior, the ruin of their testimony, is far more deeply felt, but because they are seen in Christ, not merely because they are wrong. We may fear for them, but the heart will carry them to God, to Christ, because they are His. Moses would not have the people cut off on the top of the mount, he called the faithful to cut them off when below, and both for the same reason. He connected the glory of God with the people- an extreme case, no doubt, but which shows us that divinely-given love for God's people on high is the spring of severity, even if needed, below. God's glory as the plea for and against the people.
Tell ____ how unfeignedly rejoiced I am that the gracious Lord has given her the immense privilege of belonging to Him. May He keep her close to Himself, and give her grace to keep herself in the love of God. My kindest love to all the saints; may the Lord consolidate them in the faith, and in one heart, and keep you all very near Himself, till He come to receive us to Himself.
July, 1869. J. N. D.
I do not like the style of the tract I confess, it is what we call in French a style ampoule. I do not use a hard English word, but it sets out to say wonderful things in a wonderful way. But to doubt that Christ is glorified, is to doubt the plainest passage of scripture (see John 13:31,32; 17:531Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. (John 13:31‑32)
5And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:5)
; 1 Tim. 3:1616And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)), and practically many passages if the word 'glory' be not used, as, 1 Peter 3:2222Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. (1 Peter 3:22), Acts 2:3333Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. (Acts 2:33). The passage the tract alludes to, is plain enough too. Eph. 1:20-2320Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:20‑23), John 7:3939(But 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.) (John 7:39), is specific in its statement. The Comforter would not come till Jesus was glorified. But He is come according to promise. John 12:1616These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. (John 12:16) is equally definite. I might go on citing passages in numbers, for it lies at the basis of Christianity, but it is hardly necessary after these.
It is a mistake to deny actual union with Christ. It is true that it is not a natural union of flesh, but spirit is as real, and more real than flesh, though not material, and ‘of his flesh and of his bones' should not be inserted, because it is not found in the best copies. Dead and risen with Christ is the scriptural language. Union with Him in death is not exact, because real union with Him is only when He is glorified, and we have received the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the power of this union (see 2 Cor. 1:21,2221Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (2 Corinthians 1:21‑22)), but the reality of this union is definitely stated in 1 Cor. 6:1717But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:17). Christians may not have learned this, and then we must have patience. They lose a great deal, but God can reveal this also unto them.
The other point belongs to simple faith in the plain statements of scripture, and belongs to the basis of Christianity, because the baptism of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost was dependent on it, and it is part of Christ's glory, as the foundation of all we are entitled to (see Heb. 2), as defining the position. He is glorified, but all things are not yet put under Him
If you put these passages peacefully and graciously before our brother, he will, doubtless, see that it is so, and that may lead him on to the other point which, though plainly stated in scripture, is never connected with experimental acquaintance with that state.
1880. J. N. D.