Meditations on Subjects of Interest

 •  21 min. read  •  grade level: 8
1.-The Aim of Ministry
GOD'S object and end ought to be ours. The means ought never to supersede the end with us. What a strength and power in the words, " To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that 1 might bear witness to the truth!" Paul says, he labors to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. What an aim was this In my mind, responsibility to Church truth, so far from being lessened by the new, wonderful, and gracious evangelic work which has lately arisen, is the rather greatly increased. A man's aim gives a character to all his acts. A low aim can never carry a man high, but a high one has power to attract from a very low position; and when it is divine, it will be like the path of the just, becoming more positive and clear, the more it is pursued. No minister of the gospel ought to be. satisfied with a condition for any believer inferior to what would satisfy the heart of Christ, not only with regard to the infancy of such a soul, but to its fruitful maturity. " Feed my sheep," is the claim of true affection for Christ; but if His present organization for the Church, and His future glory in her, he now disregarded, or untaught, are not the most precious secrets of His love suppressed or overlooked? One, who, in ministering to God's people, proposes to himself God's end and object for them, and nothing short of it, while feeling increasingly the responsibility of the trust, knows also that he need only deal out honestly and faithfully what has been committed to him, and abundantly will the need be supplied.
Truth is so fallen in the streets in these days, that the call to each is to be valued for the truth, and not merely to be convinced of the rightness of a position. Truth, being fully revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ, there will be no further revelation of it. If any part of it be misrepresented, there will be an imperfect evangelization; for the Gospel is, that " grace and truth are come by Jesus Christ." Are we sufficiently alive to the responsibility of seeing that the truth of God so long undeclared, but now fully declared by our Lord Jesus Christ, should not suffer in our attempts to expound the fullness and greatness of it? What painful misrepresentations of our Lord's doings and intentions down here, do we find in the current religious publications of the day! Therefore, I am bold to say, that if a soul does not see how he is called to vindicate Christ in these days, I see little use in gaining his approval of my position. If we were called to vindicate God, we must at once retire from a work for which we are utterly incompetent; but the Lord Jesus has vindicated Him by declaring the truth; and it is only a veritable adherence to what He has done that we are called to. If the "Spirit of truth " be working in a soul, there will be exercise as to what is truth, and, in teaching souls, how necessary to be assured that they are learning the truth, that the Spirit is thereby guiding them into it.
Full truth alone can keep us from slipping off from our proper place; the more fully we know it the better we know our position; for truth is but the mind and judgment of Him, whom the better we know, the more are we bound to, for we thus find how absolutely He is for our blessing. The more one line of truth becomes diffused, the more does every other line require to be pressed, or there will be departure from the moral symmetry belonging to the Body of Christ on earth. The Lord keep us loving His truth-the unfolding of Himself! He is but a poor friend who would not like to know more, and all about me, or I must be very unworthy. How blessed to be allowed of God to set the seeds of His truth in the souls of His people; and how we ought to rejoice at every apprehension a soul gets of the truth of our God!
"This God is our God forever and ever: He shall be our Guide even unto death."
If the heart be in secret true to our God, it is marvelous how much of our own ways we are allowed to follow, in order to find out the folly of them,. without losing our place of confidence in Him. David is the man after God's own heart, because God was always His God. He was a man of many errors and failures, but in his extremities God was always His resource. If I have a false God I have no real resource; therefore, as long as the soul is really zealous for the truth of God, and maintains it, though it may yield to many vacillations in practical life, yet it will ever revert to Him, as the needle to the pole: the nature of God is not misrepresented; and the heart turns thither from its own perversions.
Peter may fail, but his faith in God must not fail; and, by it, he is restored. If the soul has a true Christ, be the vacillations ever so many, still, in the end, there it must gravitate. And, therefore, it is so necessary for souls to get a right idea and apprehension of Christ. If we have not, we are like the disciples when on the sea, and Christ on the land. If we have, though, perhaps, equally unbelieving with them, we have, at any rate, the assurance that he is in the ship with us. It is while running the race, that we discover the many impediments which our nature obstructs to our progress; and, as we discover them, if really desirous that our pace be not abated, we deprecate and shake them off: But in order to this the eye must be on the goal.- If it be, the swifter we run, the more we may have to discard; because the more sensible shall we be to the embarrassments occasioned by our natural activities; these always hamper the spirit. We know the fable of the sun and the wind. The blast may cause us to wrap up our coverings around us, but when the sun breaks forth we soon cast them aside. So with any moral encumbrance, or natural burden. The eye on Christ always affords evidence of our position, and is the only true means of deliverance. from every false way.
The soul that is looking at its difficulties seldom overcomes them. It is in keeping the eye above, or, rather, the heart there, that we conquer; and it is amazing, how disproportioned the same class Of difficulties will appear at one time, and another; simply, because the heart is either with the Lord (and when with Him the armor is always on), or, it is thinking of its trials. Our enemies are always morally diminished by our power to meet them. If we have power, and are sensible of it, we meet them calmly and confidently. As a babe, a bird might have terrified you; and, why not now? Because you feel you have power immensely above it. It is the sense of power that we want, and that is only obtained by keeping near the Lord. To keep near Him is the entire matter. " Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." " He that eateth me, even He shall live by me." Never despair! If you did not see where you fail, you would not know where to conquer. We fail in our weak point; but where the weakness is, there the strength of Christ is needed; consequently, our several trials are just suited to expose our weakness, in order that we may be supplied with His strength, so that even our failures work together for our good.
If we cannot conquer where we are, we could conquer no where.
There is no fear but we can overcome, unless we are in a false position; and then, overcoming would be to get out of it.
It must have been a very trying exercise to the Nazarite after be had defiled the hair of his Nazariteship, to begin all over again, N o matter, how long or how beautiful the hair, it must go.. Thus, is it with us. if we have done the Lord's work with mixture; all must come down; the Lord will rescue the true souls, but the ship must go to pieces.
I believe, that often where there has been much apparent blessing, there has been some, covert evil influence at work, and Satan has deceived souls, and prevented them from seeing the defiling thing, by means of the ostensible state, seemingly proclaiming progress and blessing. He sometimes refrains from a general opposition, in order that he may mature, under the cloak of spiritual advancement, a more deadly hindrance to the truth than would be effected by open hostility. When such is the case, the way to introduce real blessing, is to " begin anew." Many a one will admit how wrong he is himself, who will not admit how his work must have been affected by his failure; and it is remarkable, that our failures are sure to transpire in our works; that is, that our works will affect or afflict us in that very point where we have failed to minister, in consequence of our imbecility to supply the line of truth which would have provided against the failure. Let a congregation of saints be only instructed in their sensibilities, or moral beauty, and, sooner or later, the teacher will surely suffer from them himself; that lack of conscience which he had overlooked. His weakness or willfulness will betray itself in them. God does not hear the prayer, " 0 that Ishmael might live before thee I" Such a prayer was only an evidence of Abraham's distance from God at the time. We must take care not to administer help before faith is at work in the soul; for if we do, we spoil the soul for faith.
" Patient continuance in well doing " is wonderfully effective; and faithfulness in a little is a guarantee to: our being faithful in much. If equal to every occasion; whether small or great, we shall always glorify the Lord and His grace, and add to our own rest and joy in Him.
We know that we can delight in hearing the words of the Lord as a lovely song, and yet be unwilling to follow them; for the heart goeth after its covetousness. In a measure, I suppose we all know what this is, and we must be careful that we adopt the truth we hear, as well as enjoy it; that is, we must be conscious that we are submitting to its demand upon us. This is properly receiving it in an " honest and true heart." Truth, understood and received, always affects us most where we most need it; as heat in a room will always address the dampest part; and, therefore, if I have received truth, I must feel it acting oil my soul where my deft ciency is the greatest, and where, naturally, 1 least like it to act. If I am allowing my weak part to be probed by the Word, then I am learning, though I may not be very happy while the process is going on; yet the happiness that follows is of a different and a higher order. We must take care not to be content with expositions of God's truth apart from their demand on ourselves; for it is very possible to see their beauty and admire them, while totally failing to appropriate them.
The Word of God is the " sword of the Spirit." Faith is the shield which protects you from your adversary; but protection from, is not subjugation. Faith may protect me from my foes, but it will not rid me of them.
Nothing but the word of God will do that; and must have the right word to hit in the right place. The Lord Jesus not only protected Himself (He was always protected by His faith); but He baffled and put to flight the wicked one by the Word of God.
Accustom yourself to prove all things by the Word of God, and to test every action and judgment, and you will find that many things are done for which there is no scriptural warrant; and, on the, other hand, that much professedly for God, is unscripturally carried out. This is a day in which names of truths are retained, but their real definitions often marred or ignored. For instance, " What is a Christian?" Does the common definition of the word, in any way, approach to the scriptural one? The word is the test, as well as the sword; but if it probes and searches us, it also invigorates and strengthens.
There is nothing so difficult for any soul as to, keep on the line-yet if we at all get off the line, it happens to us as to a railway carriage-all is in danger and confusion. The line of one may not be that of another; the race set before each of us is one peculiar to one's own individuality; what might be suitable for one would be unsuitable for another, but with the Word in our hand, if read by the Spirit of God, it is easy to tell when any one-is off the line:- I observe when it is so-the soul is often like Peter in John 21 very hard at work " fishing," and "naked" too! There is a rushing and perturbation of manner, and a constant desire to vindicate oneself-but when on the line, there is no effort, all goes on in calmness and tranquility.
Nothing will keep us on the line, but the presence of a risen Christ walking with us in a world which rejected Him. I am afraid we know more of what it is to walk seeking to be useful, than in the consciousness of the influence which His presence superinduces. We may know the person who is under the rule of His presence, because such an one involuntarily manifests the interests which engage Him. If I am under the influence of one whom I revere, imperceptibly, and yet distinctly, I adopt and declare the great subject of his thoughts and ways. In fact, if I did not, it might be truly said that I did not revere him, and that his presence had no particular influence with me. The influence of personal presence is so peculiar that no art could conjure up anything like it. If the person be absent, no memory or effort of mind can recall it, but the moment he reappears, all the influence returns. We may recall the words of an absent friend, but not the peculiar interest which his presence afforded. Now-like the disciples going to Emmaus-your heart may burn within you, while the Scriptures are being opened to you, but the recognition of Christ's presence will have an effect far beyond what the most wonderful opening of Scripture could produce. They returned the same hour of the night to their brethren at Jerusalem. This was the fruit of the energy which they derived from recognizing the Lord's presence. I deplore it for myself, that the Lord's opening to me the Scripture is a more constant source of exhilaration to me than an actual recognition of Him, the risen Lord, with reference to all things here.
—The gourd-draws out the affections of Jonah; but the removal of it discloses all the insubjection which the presence of the gourd had cloaked or suppressed for a moment. If our hearts are more taken up with God's: gifts than with Himself, we shall find,: sooner or later, that the gifts have concealed us from ourselves, and that we have not grown (growth is the development of the. nature of Christ in detail) as we should have done if the Lord had been the resource of our hearts. Satan said of Job that he thought more of the gifts than of God, and though Job turned to God, yet he had to discover the nothingness of himself in God's presence; not to make him more miserable, but to establish his dependance on God more absolutely, and make him independent of himself and of everything but God. When the gifts go, you discover whether your heart is set on God or the gifts. The former cannot go; and if I know Him like. Abraham or Mary, I can, though widowed indeed, trust, in God to restore the Isaac, or raise the Lazarus.
I often see souls who have learned the grace of God, and are walking in full peace of acceptance, and even devotedly serving Him, who have their affections very little centered in Him. The best proof that I am loving. Him,-that my heart is set on Him, is that I am loving. like Him. The heart which has learned the grace of God. in our Lord Jesus Christ, learns for the first time that to a veritable man it may and ought fully to confide itself,, and, if it did, it would always be happy and never appointed; but this it generally has to learn slowly, and: by various ways. Nothing so thoroughly suits and. satisfies the heart of man as this sympathy and friendship. He seldom attains it to any perfection among men; He can and ought with the Lord; but for this the heart requires to be taught, by one process or. another, that it cannot find it fully any where else. Sometimes one is allowed to find a resemblance to it in humanity, if only used as, an illustration of what the Lord is i. e., it sometimes learns by the human, which is so close to it,: the variety and activities of His love. Human friend ship, used in this way, is to me what a go-cart is to a child learning to walk; but if, on the other hand, I so engross myself with the human, as to be in any degree independent of His sympathy and friendship, it is very evident that the very gourd He may have sent me, is a hindrance to my full blessing, and He must remove it; yet all the time (though I may have superseded the Lord's friendship by a lower one) I have become so accustomed to the delights of friendship even- in the lower one, and that be knows, my heart must seek for the higher, even Himself-the " widow indeed" trusted in God. There is a blank which never can be repaired in humanity, there is a sorrow which neither time nor toil can assuage. The Lord knows well what. human sorrow is; He never met with anything but sorrow in the heart of man; for joy comes from God; and to break down our nature, in order to fill us with the fullness of God, is the purpose of His love which passeth knowledge. He will see to your sorrow; where did He express so much feeling as for Mary when He walked to the tomb of Lazarus? What ought to distress us is, the discovery of how- dependent we are on other things beside Himself; and this is really the only barrier to our full, relief.
In every association, and the more so the closer it be, the tendency of human nature. is to descend morally rather than to ascend; therefore the great wrong, and loss to one who allies himself with what -is morally or spiritually beneath him. Such associations cannot long exist without affecting either the higher or the lower element; and the tendency of the higher sinking to the lower, is because there is in us a kindred- evil to any that we are brought in contact with, and this contact must occur the moment the communications are on equal terms. By equal terms, I mean where I can freely blend, accommodating myself to a lower order of -things than my light would approve of. When this inequality exists as to the things of God, it is, of all cases, the most to be deprecated, for, apart from the question of the sacrifice of
truth, 'the highest ideas. and sensibilities on the mast valued subject must remain unimparted and the consequence invariably is, that either both parties gradually decline, or the one emerges, and every day feels-the other more unsuitable and irresponsive to the better activities of the soul. We should bear this. in mind, whether as to natural or spiritual associations, for to deprecate such inequalities is not high-mindedness; quite the contrary; the more I know of the Lord or His truth, the less I must think of myself; but the more zealous I must feel for His honor.
But though always to be deprecated, it is too true that these inequalities exist, and are constantly entered on; and still more,-I observe that the Lord often permits us to do things and enter into alliances, which indicate the true condition of the soul, or at least meet a line in us not yet subdued. One of fine spiritual sensibilities will not find much interest in one below them. If I do, however, I may think or imagine that I feel so, my company reveals my real likings, and because I don’t judge myself on account of my real likings, the Lord allows me to bind Myself to that which truly indicates my predilections, and thereby carries on the discipline needful for me. The Lord must have seen Peter. carrying the sword, and yet he never rebuked him for it, until he had committed an overt act, and Peter might have alleged that He told him to take it: but it was needful for Peter that his own act should expose how little he was in sympathy with his Master's mind. It is humbling when the low state of our souls-necessitates such a course of action on the Lord's part, but it may be the only way to convince us of the subtlety of our hearts.
When an unequal association is entered on irrevocably (for it is not always possible, or even allowed to us to retrace a false step), the position, 'even if not actually Wrong,. is always perilous, and the only way to avoid a fall, towards which there will constantly be a tendency, is to lean on the Lord, and seek His strength to maintain, unflinchingly, the measure of light which we have received. Light is most generous and expressive, and always communicative of its power to aid any one in darkness. If I have light and am walking in the light, I shall know the gentle, insinuating, yet direct and effectual way in which light encounters darkness; but if' I assume darkness in-order to spare darkness,_ there is no doubt but that my light will be turned to grievous darkness. There is nothing more difficult than to maintain to a Christian below you in light and knowledge of the Lord's grace (though possibly above you in practice), that power of testimony to truth which would make his conscience feel that your presence was acting on him, and that you, on the other hand, are not surrendering the truth of God in order to be in fellowship with one below it. It is very searching (but let us not shrink from it) that light is often, as it were, absorbed by ourselves, and when it is so, there is no emanation, or testimony of its power. " If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining du candle doth give light." I understand by this passage that if I am myself under the influence of light perfectly, (i.e., if light has taken possession of me) then others will see it, as the shining of a candle. That it is not so with us, may account for our constant failure in setting forth a power of light. Not being under the influence of it ourselves, it does not emanate from us as the clear light of a candle. In conclusion, I may add, that the lower element gives way to the higher one, if the higher one abides in itself, though this must necessarily be with more or less painful action on the one in darkness; but the lower corrupts the higher, the moment the latter stoops to fellowship with it. May we seek to walk with the Lord in His elevation, and not oblige Him to descend in His ordering for us to our own level.
" Trying to right circumstances is waste of time. Christ did not seek it. Let faith be in exercise in the circumstances, and that will right yourself."
"Try the rough water as well as the smooth. Rough water can teach lessons worth knowing."