Plain Papers for Young Believers

Table of Contents

1. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Righteousness and Sanctification
2. Plain Papers for Young Believers: The Two Natures
3. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Eternal Life
4. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Practical Righteousness
5. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Practical Sanctification
6. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Coming Events
7. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Canaan
8. Plain Papers for Young Believers: The Wilderness
9. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Waiting
10. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Walking
11. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Working for Christ
12. Plain Papers for Young Believers: The New Jerusalem
13. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Selfishness
14. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Pride
15. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Envy
16. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Anger
17. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Covetousness
18. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Deceit and Lying
19. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Worldly Amusements
20. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Relations With the World
21. Plain Papers for Young Believers: A Start in Life
22. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Marriage
23. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Backsliding
24. Plain Papers for Young Believers: Restoration

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Righteousness and Sanctification

The object of these papers is to set the more advanced truths of the gospel before young believers in a simple and practical way. In doing this, we go over well-trodden ground and must not, therefore, look for much that is new, but rather that a consideration of these blessed truths may be to the increased glory of God, both in the praises of our hearts and in the tenor of our lives.
The Word of God, in speaking of the work of Christ and what it has done for us, says, not only “being now justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:9), regarding Christ as the great Paschal Lamb, but also “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once” (Heb. 10:10), looking at Him as the great burnt offering, the One who died to fulfill God’s will.
Forgiveness, Justification, Sanctification
Now all Christians believe that their sins are forgiven. Many, however, do not know that they are perfectly justified before a righteous God, and still more have never heard that they are now perfectly sanctified by the same work that put away their sins. It is difficult to account for this, seeing that all are equally revealed in Scripture, but still it is the fact. This ignorance would not matter so much did the words mean pretty much the same thing; but not only are they distinct in themselves, but still more do they differ in their results. A man may owe a large debt; if this debt is forgiven, he is free from all penalty; if another pays it, he is justified from it. All this, however, does not fit or entitle him to enter the mansion of his creditor on familiar terms. But the work of Christ has done all these three things: by it we are forgiven, and thus saved from hell; by it we are justified, and can thus stand before a righteous God; and by it we are sanctified, and thus fitted to enter the presence of a holy God.
A Righteous and a Holy God
Righteousness is spoken of in Romans, sanctification in Hebrews. The scene in Romans is the throne, and a righteous God; in Hebrews, the sanctuary and a holy God. In Romans the point is the guilt of the sinner; in Hebrews, his defilement; while, with regard to the sacrifice of Christ (of which both speak), Romans sets before us its perfection as meeting the righteous claims of God; whereas in Hebrews we get its eternal character in being offered once for all.
On these two foundations our peace rests. Christ’s work must be perfect that we may have a standing at all, before a righteous God. It must also be of eternal efficacy that this standing may never be lost.
God’s Will, Christ’s Work, the Spirit’s Witness
Justification and sanctification alike stand on a threefold basis:
1. In Romans we are justified by the grace of God, by the blood of Christ, and by faith the operation of the Spirit (Rom. 3:24; 5:1-9).
2. In Hebrews we are sanctified by the will of God, the work of Christ, of which the Spirit is the witness (Heb. 10)
3. Righteousness and sanctification are both the combined work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Father’s will and grace gave the Son, the Son’s blood and work accomplished our redemption, and faith and the witness of the Spirit cause us to accept this work, and without which all were in vain.
God’s Righteousness, Not Mine
The righteousness is divine, not human. The righteousness of works had been sought for in vain for four thousand years, from the Gentile, the heathen philosopher, and the Jew (Rom. 1-3); but both the Jews, who had the law, and the Gentiles, who were a law unto themselves, had failed, and the trial is finally summed up in these words: “Therefore by the deeds of the law [lit.] {that is, by works of any kind] there shall NO FLESH be justified in His sight.” And now a new righteousness, apart from law (of every kind) is manifested, a righteousness not of man but of God. This new righteousness is not on the principle of works at all, neither our own nor the works (or law-keeping) of another put to our account, for then would righteousness still come by the law, and Christ would be “dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). It is most important to be clear on this. Righteousness comes to me through Christ’s death and resurrection, not through His spotless life. Indeed, it is only in dying that He takes up my cause as my Substitute. It is here I am first connected with Him. So truly is this the case, that through all the epistles we hardly hear of the life of Christ before the cross at all. I believe there are but ten verses in all that speak of it, and of these, five are the merest allusions (Rom. 15:3, 8; 1 Cor. 11:23; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 5:7). The only two passages that really speak of it are Philippians 2:7-8, and 2 Peter 1:16-18; and in neither of these is there any question of Christ as our substitute, but it is Christ as our example!
God is Just and Justifies the Sinner
Righteousness is twofold in Romans 3. God’s forbearance and grace had been shown in the remission (or passing over) of the bygone sins of Old Testament saints, in spite of His own words that the soul that sins shall die; but His righteousness had not been manifested (Rom. 3:25). He now shows, therefore, the righteousness of His own character by the cross of Christ, both in His past forbearance, and in now freely justifying the believing sinner. This last act is said to be the righteousness of God upon all them that believe. Hence, we get two things: first, that God Himself is just; and the next, that He is the Justifier of him that believes (Rom. 3:26). The finished work of Christ on the sinner’s behalf, accepted by God as seen in His raising Him from the dead, has set Him free to show His grace in righteousness. Mercy and truth, and righteousness and peace, have thus met together at the cross for the first time (Rom. 5:1), and God no longer forbears with the believing sinner, but justifies him freely by His grace (Rom. 3:24).
A Wonderful Contrast
The full perfection of the believer’s standing is seen by comparing these two passages:
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
“We have peace with God... and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).
The perfection of Christ’s work enables every believer to rejoice in the absolute certainty of entering that very glory from which he was hopelessly excluded by nature.
Standing and State
But so far we have only spoken of the believer’s standing before a righteous God; and if we say nothing now of the state that must accompany it, as treated of in the following chapters, it is not because we undervalue the importance of practical righteousness, but because we must reserve this great question for future consideration.
Seven Eternal Realities
In turning now to Hebrews 9 and 10, one thing that strikes us is the words eternal and forever. We get in these chapters seven divine assurances of the eternal value of Christ’s work. We find that Christ’s offering was once forever, and that therefore He is seated forever; hence we have eternal redemption, and are perfected forever (Heb. 9:12; Heb. 10:10, 12, 14). We also read that there will be NO MORE offering on Christ’s part, NO MORE remembrance of sins on God’s part, and hence NO MORE conscience of sins on our part (Heb. 10:2, 17, 18). On these seven eternal realities our faith rests. Now the sanctification spoken of here, like the righteousness in Romans 3, 4, and 5, is perfect and complete, absolutely independent of our state, so that even the Corinthians, who were in anything but a holy state, could be addressed as “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Of practical sanctification, as of practical righteousness, we hope to speak, but not here. Let our souls first fully enjoy and enter into the work of Christ for us. Let us glory in our perfect justification and holiness in Him who of God is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
Another Contrast
Compare here, as in Romans, two passages, and see what a testimony they give to the value of Christ’s work.
“The way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest” (Heb. 9:8).
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way” (Heb. 10:19-20).
The worshipper, who in Old Testament times was rigorously excluded from God’s presence, is now made, by the infinite value of the work of Christ, so holy, that he is able to come right into the holiest of all, standing in Christ without a spot.
Let us then glory in the work of Christ; nay more, let us boast in Christ Himself, through whom we are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; and above all, let none of us ever harbor even for a moment a wretched unbelieving thought of His perfect work. Doubts and fears are impossible for the one who understands for himself the full meaning of the truth of Hebrews 10. Never, never allow a doubt of a salvation in procuring which you have had no part, but which from first to last is the perfect work of the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: The Two Natures

Our last paper was to show how perfectly and eternally all that was against the believer is cleared away forever, so that he can stand without fear before a righteous God, and enter the very presence of a thrice holy God. We saw that in Romans the scene was laid in the judgment hall; in Hebrews it was in the sanctuary, and that while in the former the death of Christ perfectly took away every penalty attaching to sin, in the latter the same death eternally took away its defilement; the summing up in the one case being that the sinner who had “come short” now rejoices in hope of God’s glory; in the other, that the one who was “afar off” now has boldness to enter the holiest. But if any think that these magnificent truths exhaust the value of the death of Christ for the sinner, they are greatly mistaken.
Sins Taken Away, Life Given
So far we have only touched upon what it takes away from us—our sins, death, and the judgment of God. On the other hand, it gives us something, for out of death we get life everlasting. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This eternal life in us is in fact the new nature. We receive it when we are born again. When a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, the entrance of the Word of God for the first time into his soul in the power of the Spirit produces a new life; in scriptural language, he is born again “of water [see 1 Pet. 1:23] and of the Spirit.”
The New Nature Cannot Sin
This new nature is holy, it loves God, and it not only does not, but cannot sin (1 John 3:9), because it is born of God. It is this new nature that makes us desire the glory of God, that makes us love God’s presence; otherwise, although I might no longer be shut out, I should not care to enter in. It is this life alone that enables us to glorify God in this world. Had we nothing but the old nature, sin, we should still produce nothing but sins; for just as the new is holy and cannot sin, so the old is sinful and enmity against God; those who live in it, cannot please Him (Rom. 8).
Sin and Sins
The question of sins, as we have seen, is dealt with in Romans 3; 4, and 5, and they are shown to be all forgiven in perfect righteousness. But in what follows from the middle of chapter 5 to the end of chapter 8, the question is not one of sins but of sin (or the old nature). Hence we no longer read of forgiveness; for the old nature is not forgiven, but condemned and put to death. Nor do we now read of God’s righteousness, for it is no longer a question of justifying the sinner, but of his old nature being crucified with Christ. The righteousness, therefore, that we do read of (Rom. 6:13, 16, 19) is the practical righteousness of the new nature, not God’s, but mine. Now the old man is said to be crucified with Christ (6:6). I am also said to be crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20), for the old man was I; it was I myself. All my thoughts, words, and deeds flowed from this tainted source; they might please man, but could not please God. Our old man was judged and condemned at the cross of Christ. Tried by every test for 4,000 years he was found to be nothing but sin; and in raising Christ from the dead on the morning of the first day of the week, God began a new race in the second Man, and set aside the seed of the first forever. The cross of Christ is the end of the old man, and if I am to have a standing before God, it is by no cultivation or improvement of self (the Old Testament is the history of the fruitlessness of this), but in the possession of a new life, a new nature.
Sin Still in Us
But although God has done with my old nature, I have not. All that we have spoken of is a question of faith; I still feel the old evil thoughts within my heart, and shall until I leave this world. “If we say that we have no sin [no old nature in us], we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1). Inasmuch as I have died to it (Rom. 6:2), that is, have done with it at the cross of Christ, and am to have (practically) no more dealings with it, I am to treat it as it is in God’s sight. In short, I am to reckon myself “dead indeed unto sin.” I am not to yield any member of my body to its service.
My Personality Changed
In saying all this we find that there are three things connected with this subject — my personality and the two natures and that you get the I (the old man) or the I (the new man) or the I apart from either. We get the three all in one verse, Romans 7:20—a most interesting passage, for it shows the “I” (or the man himself) discovering that he is no longer connected with the old man, but the new. Let us paraphrase it thus: “Now if I [the old nature] do that I [the new nature] would not, it is no more I [myself, the man] that do it, but sin [as a foreign body] that dwelleth in me.” So also we read in Galatians 2:20, “I [the old man] am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I [the new man] live; yet not [it is not] I, but Christ [who] liveth in me.” That is, the new nature is inseparably associated with Christ “who is our life.”
“Is it Right?” and “Is it Wrong?”
The changing of the “I” from the old to the new man is most important. It does not always take place practically on our conversion. On the contrary, do we not often hear young believers say, “I want to go to certain things, but it would not be right now,” or, “I should like to have a dress like so-and-so, or as much money as someone else”? Now here the I is plainly the old nature, for the new does not seek worldly pleasures, neither does it covet; only there is also the sense of the new life. It is not necessarily that I do the wrong things, but that I look on myself as the same person, only with a new nature within me.
Now let us look at a man when the “I” has changed places. I have “a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better,” says Paul. Or take the case of a young Christian who could truly say, “I would rather not go to those questionable things; it would give me no pleasure.” Now in both these, the I is the new nature (for the old does not desire to be with Christ), and it does not love carnal things.
I Am a New Creature
It will be readily seen from considering the above that a thousand things that were snares and temptations, when I was still allied with the old nature, are no longer so when I am living practically in the power of the new, when I no longer think of myself as a man who has a new life in him, but as a new creature in Christ Jesus, who still has indwelling sin. In the former case, the new life, and in the latter case, sin is treated as the foreign body, as the part that is not I.
We have gone over this subject again and again, because of its great importance. It is a wonderful step for the young believer when practically he finds that his thoughts, his feelings, his pleasures are changed, not that he does this or that, not because it is right merely, but because he delights in it “after the inward man.”
The only way to attain to this truly happy Christian state is by daily seeking to please Christ, daily seeking to live the new life, always looking on myself as a Christian, never allowing such a thought as “Well, of course, I should like it, but now I am a Christian.” No, if I AM a Christian, what would like it, is not myself but sin that dwelleth in me. You must own that you still have evil thoughts and passions, but always look on these as intruders, not as yourself.
Volunteers or Regulars
No doubt among the readers of these pages there will be Christians to whom sin is as a foreign body in them, and others whose old nature is still practically themselves. To use a simile, we may compare the one class to volunteers, the other to regular soldiers. Outwardly both wear a soldier’s uniform, both carry arms, both are drilled, both are soldiers; and yet between the two lies an immense difference. If the volunteer is an artisan or a tradesman, when he has his uniform on, he is an artisan and a tradesman still. He thinks of his work or his shop and he feels that the volunteering is something put on, but that he himself is a civilian. Not so with the soldier of the line. He too may have been an artisan or a tradesman, but he is one no longer. It is not merely that he wears the uniform, but he himself is a soldier. A long course of separate life in the barracks, of constant association with fellow soldiers, and of daily drill, has so completely broken the old ties, that he can actually go back to the very shop where he worked and feel he is not of it. He does not belong to it; all his tastes, yes, he himself is changed. Now God has chosen us to be soldiers of the cross, not volunteers; not to put on Christianity as a cloak, but to be living Christian men and women; and the only way we can express what spirit we are of is by our bodies. Hence the whole question is, To what do I now yield my members? Is it to the old nature, the foreign body that still dwells in me? No; I will use them myself. I love truth, I love holiness, I love the Lord, and I will serve Him with my tongue, my hands, and my feet. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Think not, however, this is the work of a day. The old nature which has been yourself for the last thirty years, it may be, and has had sole control over all your members, is not to be turned out in a moment. It is only by keeping it in death day by day that our members get by degrees to forget the sway of the old master, and to become accustomed to the new. You will find the old and new occupation for lips, hands, and feet in Ephesians 4 and 5.
May the Lord make each of us true soldiers of Jesus Christ, men who have practically so broken the power of the old life as to be able to return to old scenes and associations as new creatures in Christ Jesus.
We have as yet said nothing as to the channel in which the new nature flows. As this paper is already long enough, we will therefore leave the unfolding of the new life for another time.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Eternal Life

In the last paper we considered the two natures that are in the Christian, and the relation of the man himself to them. We saw that the great point was for the man himself to let the new nature be the life in which he lives every day, and to treat the old nature as a foreign body to be kept in death. Before passing on to consider the channel in which the new life flows, let us pause a moment to make this still plainer by a well known simile.
The Two Tenants
Suppose a landlord has let his house to a bad tenant who drinks, gambles, swears, is a disgrace to the neighborhood, and never pays his rent; and suppose that at last (the law allowing him) he forgives all the back rent and puts a new tenant, a quiet, respectable, industrious man, in the house, with full authority to keep the bad tenant in custody in one of the rooms, not to let him go about the house, and, above all, never to allow him to open the door. We should then have a rough picture of the Christian. His body is the house, his old nature the bad tenant, his new nature the good tenant, and God the owner of the property; for our bodies are not our own, but the Lord’s. So to speak, we do not live in our own houses, but are merely tenants at will—a solemn and often forgotten truth.
The Comforter—the Holy Spirit
Now comes a difficulty. The bad tenant is a very strong old man; the new tenant is a weak young man, and, though he has full authority, he has no power to carry out the landlord’s wishes. He appeals for help, and the landlord sends from his own house a strong friend to help him to overcome the old tenant, and to keep him in custody. This strong friend is the Holy Spirit—”Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16), and hence we often read of His overcoming the old tenant, rather than of the new tenant’s doing so. See Galatians 5:17, 25. We must, of course, understand that this friend never interferes unless the new tenant wishes it.
Suppose now, I call with some boon companions at this house to spend a pleasant evening with my old friend who lives there. I hear there has been some change going on at the house, but I do not exactly know what. The door is opened by the old tenant, but he has a cowed look on his face; and when I tell him what I have come for, he says, “Well, of course I should like to ask you in, but I cannot, because the new tenant would not like it. You see he is responsible now to the landlord for this house, and he is very strict in having it kept quiet and respectable. I’m only out now because he is asleep, but if there was any noise in the house, he would soon shut me up again.” It is clear, in this case, the same man answers whom I have known all along, the only difference being that there is a new tenant in the house, of whom he is afraid. Now, suppose that I call again in a few months to try and induce my old friend to come and spend a gay evening with me. It is quite dark when I knock at the door, so that I cannot see who opens it; but, supposing it is my old friend, I say, “Come along to the theater with me.” “I never go there,” is the reply. “I know that,” I say, “for you are afraid now.” “No, I am not afraid; I do not care for it.” “Come now,” I say, “that won’t do; I know you like it well enough, but you are afraid of the new tenant.” “I am the new tenant,” answers the voice.
Now, in this case, I do not find the old man, but a new man altogether, answering all my questions, and declaring that he does not care for worldly pleasures at all. Here is quite a new thing, but this is also the true Christian position; that is, always to let your new nature answer the front door, never the old. Suppose now that I continue calling for some months, and invariably get the same answer. No wonder that I think that the old man must be dead, for he never answers the door. So he is, as far as any outward expression of his existence is concerned. The new tenant, however, could tell me of many a desperate attempt he makes to break loose from his close confinement, when nothing but the strength of the friend prevents him from being as bad as ever.
We must remember this is but an illustration, but still it may help a little in understanding the two natures. Let us now pass on to consider the new nature—the eternal life the Christian possesses.
Christ Is Our Life
The eternal life that is in us is the life of Christ. In the Gospel of John we read of it being in Christ; in the epistle, in us. It has been manifested once in all its divine perfectness, in the walk of the man Christ Jesus. In us it is only shown in broken bits, and very imperfectly. Now Christ is this life, and He is also its Object. This is expressed in Colossians 3:11. “Christ is all [as object], and in all” (as life). This life gives a capacity of communion with the Father and the Son (1 John 1), also necessarily (being the same life in all) with one another.
“With the Father.” This life on earth was the object of the Father’s perfect complacency. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” There were none then to share the Father’s joy, because Christ must be in all, before He can be all. We must have the life before we can understand or appreciate it. Now, however, we have fellowship with the Father in His pleasure in Christ. Again, “with the Son,” His Father was ever His object. We too have now an object outside ourselves. His will is ever our delight. In this we have fellowship with the Son. “With one another,” in our life, our hopes, our aspirations, our objects, our worship. Now, if God has given us no less an object than that which fills His heart, it is evident it must overflow ours. Therefore, if occupied with Christ, our hearts must overflow, and the overflowing of the heart is called praise.
The Conscience and Heart
Now the life of Christ was manifested in two ways, as grace and truth, or, in other words, as love and light. We, on the other hand, are complex beings, having both a conscience and a heart. The life is thus beautifully adapted to control the entire man, the conscience being guided by the light, and the heart ruled by the love. O beloved reader, well may we ask what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness! Consider for a moment our present glorious position—all our sins forever gone, justified and sanctified in Christ Jesus, and thus made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, having a new, a perfect, an endless life, strengthened by the constant presence of an Almighty Friend and Comforter, Christ’s love using and filling and swaying our hearts. His light guiding and controlling our consciences. Listen for a moment to these words, and think that we ought to “walk, even as He walked.” “Christ was at once a conqueror, a sufferer, and a benefactor. What moral glories shine in such an assemblage! He overcame the world, refusing all its attractions and offers. He suffered from it, witnessing for God against its whole course and spirit; He blessed it, dispensing His love and power continually, returning good for evil. Its temptations only made Him a conqueror; its pollutions and enmities only a sufferer; its miseries only a benefactor. Jesus did good, and that, hoping for nothing again. Never, in one single instance, as I believe, did He claim either the person or the services of those whom He restored and delivered. Jesus loved, and healed, and saved, looking for nothing again. Surely there is something beyond human conception in the delineation of such a character.”
One cannot leave a subject like this without a sigh, as one thinks of how far, how very far, we come short of such a glorious example, and of the purpose God has in leaving us in this world. We see many men, godless men, men who deny everything we believe, seeking to lead upright, noble lives. Not knowing God, they are seeking to live unselfish lives for others, to spend and be spent for mankind; and shall we, with the whole horizon of our life lightened up with these eternal realities, live for ourselves? or shall we live for Him who died for us and rose again? “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” May the Lord seal home to our hearts in living power the subject we have been considering, and give us each to feel the controlling power of the love of Christ that passes all understanding.
In our next paper, the Lord willing, we will consider some of the qualities of this eternal life or new nature.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Practical Righteousness

In the first of this series of papers we spoke about our standing in righteousness and sanctification before God. We saw that, by the work of Christ, as brought out in Romans, we are made the righteousness of God, so that we are justified from all things through our Saviour’s death and resurrection. We also saw that in Hebrews the same work is presented as perfectly sanctifying us and fitting us to worship within the sanctuary in the presence of a thrice holy God. We must, however, carefully remember, as we noticed at the time, that in both cases we were only considering our standing before God, and not our state. And having thus briefly considered the former, and subsequently spoken of the new life within us, we may now look at the two ways in which that life flows out of us, leading us to practical righteousness, and holiness, or sanctification.
Two Righteousnesses
If we look at Romans 3 we find the righteousness of God is the constant theme; but if we look at chapter 6, although we find righteousness continually spoken of, it is never the righteousness of God; the reason of the difference being that there are two righteousnesses perfectly distinct. One is God’s, the other is the believer’s; and while in chapter 3 the former is the theme (connected with our standing), in chapter 6 it is the latter (connected with our state). For an instance of these two, let us look for a moment at the first person who is clearly said to have both. We are repeatedly told that Noah was a just and righteous man, and also that he was a preacher of righteousness. We know that he was not a preacher of what we call “the gospel,” but that his preaching and practice were characterized by righteousness of walk and ways. This is analogous to the righteousness of Romans 6.
Noah Had One and Was Heir to the Other
If we now turn, however, to Hebrews 11, we there find that Noah “became heir of righteousness which is by faith.” Mark the language well. In the first place, he is an heir to it, which implies two things—the one, that he has not got it yet, and the other, that he has not worked for it—no man can work for what he inherits. Second, this righteousness is by faith. Turning to Romans 3:22 (so perfectly does Scripture explain itself), we see clearly that the righteousness which is by faith is the righteousness of God. We thus see that Noah lived in one righteousness, and became heir to another. The reason he was only heir to the righteousness of God is explained in Romans 3:25, where it is shown that God could not declare His righteousness, in passing over Noah’s sins, until an adequate propitiation had been made by the death of Christ.
By considering this case, we see that the righteousness in which Noah stands (or will stand) before the throne, is the righteousness of God, as seen in the perfect work of Christ; whereas that in which he lived and glorified God on earth was his own practical righteousness.
In Ephesians 4:24 we read that the new man is created anew in “righteousness and true holiness,” or practical RIGHTEOUSNESS and SANCTIFICATION. Walking in newness of life (Rom. 6:4) includes these two things (see Luke 1:75), as is seen in the end of Romans 6, when both are connected as the result of a godly walk (Rom. 6:19,22).
Practical Righteousness
Taking PRACTICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS first, we will briefly consider what Scripture says on the subject. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 we notice this remarkable fact: that it is the first thing mentioned in separation from evil. It is also the very first thing that we are called to follow after (1 Tim. 6:11 and also again in 2 Tim. 2:22). Thus on three separate occasions it occupies the first place. Nay, more, it is the first of the three things of which the kingdom of God is said to consist practically (Rom. 14:17). In 2 Corinthians 6:7, it is generally described as the Christian’s armor (consider this expression well), in Ephesians 6 as the breastplate, or that which protects the vital parts. Practically, it is said to give a good conscience (1 Pet. 3:16), which is also of all importance. God’s eyes are over the practically righteous man (1 Pet. 3:12), and that His ears are open to his cry, is seen not only here, but also in James 5:16, where the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Not in one of the passages that have been alluded to does the word “righteous” refer to our standing before God (or what is common to all Christians, and what each possesses in full perfection), but to the individual acts and character in which none is perfect, and no two are alike. Turning to Ephesians 5 we find further that this righteousness is the fruit of the light (Eph. 5:9, according to the best versions), an important point to which we shall refer again. In 1 John 3:7, we find that Christ only, is the standard of it, and in verse 10 that it is a proof of the new birth.
Righteousness in Daily Life
Such then is a brief review of the way in which Scripture speaks of this quality of the new nature. In what then does it consist? In perfect uprightness of walk and ways. How is it obtained? By living daily in the light of God’s presence. It is the fruit of light.
Do you suppose for one moment, that the man who walks to his daily business, and transacts it before God, can stoop to any of the thousand tricks of trade that pervade every calling — practices that are either commonly winked at or openly allowed, but which are not according to God’s standard of right? Impossible. He must do one of two things: he must forego all such ways and buy and sell and transact his business according to the perfect light in which he stands as a Christian, or, turning his back on the light and shutting his eyes to it, he must descend to the level of this world’s morality, and allow many a thing to pass in his business life that he would shrink from allowing privately. Alas, how few are found in all things to carry out the former practically! How many dwarf their souls, check their spiritual life, and grieve their Lord by slipping into the latter. O beloved reader, weigh for a moment your daily life as you read these pages; consider how it will all look before the judgment seat of Christ. Think not, because it may be you are not actively employed in business, that this has no voice for you. All have their temptations to unrighteousness, and often in most insidious forms. Live as Paul did, in the light of God’s presence and the nearing eternity, and do not allow yourself to stoop to any action, however advantageous to yourself, however commended and advised by false friends, which will not bear that light.
Be Righteous in All Things
It is fearful to think how many of us live in daily unrighteousness in what we call little things, and then venture to approach God in prayer, and the Lord’s table at His supper, without confession. His ears are open to the cry of the righteous. Do not forget that. Nothing so arrests the attention of the world, and makes it believe in the reality of Christianity, as righteous acts that are to one’s own disadvantage. For there is no disguising the truth, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” You cannot fear God and be heaping up riches for yourself. You may lose money, and many a seemingly good opening, if you walk strictly in practical righteousness; but in eternity I need not say who will be the gainer. If you enjoy and trust in “the grace of God” that has brought you salvation, remember and practice its lessons, and see that you live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Search out all the wonderful Old Testament promises made to the righteous man; and remember that you are not heir to these even spiritually, save as you walk in practical righteousness. Happy indeed is the man who, standing before God in the righteousness which He has provided, walks before his fellow man in that practical rectitude which can alone adorn the grace that has picked him up.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Practical Sanctification

In our last paper we spoke on the practical righteousness of the Christian—the state which answers to his standing in the righteousness of God through the finished work of Christ. We trust the subject has been made sufficiently clear to prevent any thinking that the one can in any way be substituted for the other, or that any Christian can do without both. None can be saved by practical righteousness alone; they must be made the righteousness of God in Christ. On the other hand, none can take their stand on the fact that, divine righteousness being now revealed, practical righteousness is of but little value for the Christian. This would, indeed, be a gross abuse of grace, and yet is there not some danger of our deceitful hearts becoming somewhat lax as to this? We fear there is, and that there is therefore great need in insisting on a sober, RIGHTEOUS, and godly walk, even among many who are well versed (in head at least) in divine truth; for a right standing can never excuse a wrong state.
Two Sanctifications
Turning now to sanctification, it will be seen that it also has a double aspect, connected, like righteousness, the one with our standing, the other with our state. Sanctification and holiness are the same words, and mean “set apart for God.” In one or two passages only, however, does the word mean merely “set apart” without reference to what we understand as holiness.
Every believer is not only justified, but sanctified, in Christ Jesus; that is, set apart for God by the work of Christ. We have already briefly touched on this in the first paper, and therefore do no more than allude to it now, as our present theme is not that first action of the grace of God which takes us like a stone out of the quarry, and sets us apart for His holy temple, and moreover gives us a new nature which is not only absolutely righteous, but absolutely holy; but is rather the question as to how that stone is cut and polished so as practically to answer to the glorious position it is one day to have; or, in other words, how this new life shows itself, not toward man in practical righteousness, but toward God in practical holiness of walk.
The Work IN Me is Not the Work FOR Me
Great confusion exists between practical sanctification and divine righteousness—the former, the progressive work of the Spirit of God in me; the latter, the finished work of Christ for me. As a matter of fact, sanctification of the Spirit (complete, not progressive) takes place together with belief of the truth (2 Thess. 2:13) which is salvation; and practical sanctification is always a result of this, never a means to it. In short, I must have this new and holy life before I can practically live it day by day.
Justified and sanctified perfectly when I believe, I have subsequently to walk in practical righteousness and holiness. But salvation must come first.
Practical Sanctification Twofold
Practical sanctification, the fruit of the new life, shows itself mainly in two ways—obedience and holiness—obedience according to the obedience of Christ, holy because the Father is (1 Pet. 1). Paul’s sanctification began the moment that another will took the place of his own. “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” From that instant a new power moved him, a new life energized him, a new object possessed him, a new person controlled him, the love of Christ constrained him.
Obedient as Christ
We are sanctified unto obedience. We have already seen that obedience is not for salvation (we have the blood of Christ for that), but is one of the first fruits of the new nature, and not only “unto obedience,” but “unto the obedience of Christ.” “Lo, I come to do Thy will,” is the sentence that explains every varied action of His perfect life. The divine will that sent Him into this world was the sole cause of every word and work; and when it was accomplished, Jesus returned whence He came.
See now the force of the words, “As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” We are sent into this world by Christ. But, you say, “I was in it before.” Yes, but you have died to it in Christ, and are now by Him sent back into it solely and expressly for His use, to obey Him as He obeyed God. Dear friends, what do you know about all this? Anything or nothing?
O that God would rouse us up to judge ourselves honestly in this matter, and that Christ would make His love a sufficient power in our hearts to lead us to live really for Him.
But how is practical sanctification or holiness obtained? First, by looking at and copying Christ—”by faith which is in Him”—certainly not by looking at ourselves. Moses’ face did not shine because he looked at it, but because he looked at God; and second, by becoming servants to God (Rom. 6:22), yielding our bodies to Him wholly, which is our reasonable service, that thus He alone may work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.
Holy as the Father
The second part of sanctification is holiness. This is certainly akin to purity (1 John 3:3) and is only perfected when inward as well as outward (2 Cor. 7:1). Without it we cannot see God, for it becomes His house (both earthly and heavenly) forever (Psalm 93:5; 1 Cor. 3:17). We are to be holy in all manner of conversation, which is not in word only (see 1 Tim. 4:12, where they are distinguished), but in deed also. It includes a cleansing from all pollution of the flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1), which embraces far more than that we call gross sins.
How this is to be attained, we have already seen. It is step by step, bit by bit. In one sense we have it already, for we have Christ in us; hence we need not despair, the good qualities are all there, and we have to bring them out. On the other hand, it is this that causes our responsibility; if they are all there, then why are we not more holy? Why so worldly?
Two Persecutions
Now with regard to persecutions, they are connected both with righteousness and holiness. We get the former in Matthew 5:10 and 1 Peter 3, and the latter in Matthew 5:11 and 1 Peter 4. We are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, because the world is unrighteous and does not understand the Christian’s high standard of right and wrong; but for following
Christ and bearing His image in obedience and holiness in the world that crucified Him, we are also persecuted and scorned. To such the Apostle says, “Happy are ye”! and calls on us to rejoice. Living godly includes both a righteous and sanctified (not sanctimonious) walk, and such shall suffer persecution; that is to say, not those who merely are alive in Christ, but those who “live godly.” Under which head are we found? May the Lord help us to live Christ, and not merely to be alive!

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Coming Events

The day is now past when the doctrine of a general resurrection and judgment at the last day is universally accepted among Christians. A closer examination of the Word of God, together with increased freedom from mere church tradition, has shown to many how ill-founded these views are, and that Scripture expressly speaks of at least two resurrections and of two judgments.
Before briefly considering these, it will be well to glance back at the great judgment of sin and sins passed upon the Holy One of God in our stead, and also at that resurrection which is the pledge and proof of the perfection of His finished work.
At the cross of Christ, God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, and “laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” numbering our righteous Substitute with the transgressors. It is in virtue of this judgment of sin that God can now freely justify every sinner that believes, and offer to every soul on earth the free forgiveness of all his sins in righteousness. It is in virtue of this death of Christ that the one who believes can say with perfect assurance, He bore my sins in His own body on the tree.
It is here the believer sees that not only what he has done is judged and atoned for, but that he himself, as far as his old nature is concerned, is condemned and crucified with Christ. For the cross is not only the judgment of my deeds, but of myself; not of sins only, but of sin, the root; and I as a man in the flesh am put out of God’s sight at the cross of Christ. Resting then in full assurance in the simple fact that all God’s judgments have passed on Christ in his stead, the believer understands the full meaning of that wonderful passage in John 5:24 (so obscured by mistranslation), where he is told that he shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life. But not only were all the believer’s sins thus judged at the cross of Christ, but in the resurrection of Christ he gets a new and endless life, a life out of death, the life of Christ. We who believe are raised with Him out of darkness, death, and sin, into light, life, and holiness. Thus, through the death and resurrection of the Lord, the believer gets immunity from all coming judgments of sins, and also an eternal, pure and holy life, so that he will never be judged and never perish, but is alive spiritually in resurrection life, risen from his state of death in trespasses and sins.
The next thing we find is that there is a present judgment of God on His children which is going on all through the Christian era, being exercised in the way of discipline or chastisement on those Christians who are not judging themselves but are leading careless and worldly lives, and in some way or other sinning against the light (see Heb. 12; 1 Cor. 11 to end). This judgment is not exercised on the unsaved because they, not being sons, are without chastisement. For Christians, however, it is an ever present reality which we do well to remember. The Christian is often astonished to find that he cannot do with impunity what he sees the unbeliever doing every day.
“If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” This is now, in this present time; but the value of this self-judgment is that it not merely saves us from God’s present discipline (1 Cor. 11:31), but keeps us from walking in such a way that we shall be ashamed when manifested before Him.
The next subject we have to consider is the resurrection of believers, including all “that are Christ’s” (1 Cor. 15:23), called also the resurrection of life (John 5:29), the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5-6), and the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14). This takes place at the coming of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:23) into the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17), which may take place at any moment (Luke 12:40), and for which we wait (Rev. 22:20). At this resurrection none of the wicked dead will be raised (Rev. 20:5). Although sleeping in the same tomb, side-by-side, the “sheep” only will hear the Shepherd’s voice; the others who heeded it not in life will not then hear it in death, but will lie in their graves for the thousand years of the millennial age. Such then is the resurrection of life, and although in some verses it may seem to be very closely connected with the resurrection of judgment (John 5:29), both being said to take place in the same hour (John 5:28), yet we find from Revelation 20:5 that this hour extends over at least a thousand years, and that the resurrection at the last day, that we hear Martha speak of (John 11:24), has now been clearly divided into two parts — perfectly distinct in character and time.
This resurrection of life takes place, as we have seen, at the coming of the Lord; but we also find from Revelation 20:4 that it will include those Jews who were slain subsequently at the persecution under antichrist for the witness of Jesus.
We will now briefly consider the manifestation of believers before the judgment seat of Christ, which is spoken of in Romans 14:10 and Corinthians 5:10. So great and solemn a subject, however, demands more than a few passing words, and we hope elsewhere to look at it more fully in its practical bearing on the Christian walk. It seems probable for several reasons that the manifestation of believers will take place after the rapture of the saints, and before the public return of Christ, when every eye shall see Him. In the first place, it cannot be before the rapture, for it evidently takes place in heaven; and Paul distinctly speaks of it as future, and as consisting of a review of all deeds done in the body. Second, inasmuch as it forms the only means of which we read of determining our places in the coming glory, according to our faithfulness down here, it will surely be all over before we are publicly displayed with Christ according to Revelation 19, when He comes in His glory to usher in the kingdom. We cannot, however, go further than this, and positively fix a time which has been left indefinite in Scripture, but can only say we believe that the saints will be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, when they are in heaven after the rapture, and before the Lord’s public second coming or appearing in power and glory on the Mount of Olives.
Although, when standing before this judgment seat, we shall be in the perfect likeness of the One who sits on it (1 John 3:2), and in the full enjoyment of His perfect love that casts out all fear, this manifestation will be a very solemn reality, and should lead now to earnest labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be acceptable to Him (1 Cor. 5:9; literal). Then will be seen the result of our trading down here (Matt. 25), of our building (1 Cor. 3), and of our labor generally for the Lord (2 John 1:8); and not only this, but we are to be manifested, that is, we are to hear God’s judgment on all our acts and ways — surely a most intensely solemn thought for each one of us. Then, for the first time, we shall form a true estimate of all; we shall understand the perfection of Christ’s grace all through, and see how wrong and mistaken we have been in many ways down here. To limit the judgment seat of Christ to a reward for works is largely to nullify its practical power.
It must be noticed in 2 Corinthians 5 that the judgment seat of Christ is there spoken of in a general way, so as not only to include the presence there of believers, but the fact that all must (at one time or another) be manifested before it. The effect of this on the believer is seen in verse 9. To the unbeliever it is a terror (2 Cor. 5:11), being to him nothing less than eternal damnation. To the Apostle this coming review of the believer’s walk and work was a very solemn fact, and led him to walk day by day in God’s presence, so that he could say, “We are made manifest unto God.” He did not wait for that day to see if he was walking so as to please God or no, but lived daily in self-judgment. What a moment it will be when for the first time we find out God’s judgment on our life. How many are first now that will be last then, and how many unknown and unnoticed down here that then will shine as the stars forever and ever (Dan. 12:3). The time is short, beloved reader. Consider then, earnestly, as you read these few lines, what work you are doing really for Christ that will stand the fire, and how far you are really filling to His glory the sphere in which you move. Do not wake up when it is too late.
We must now pass on to the next judgment — that of the quick, spoken of in Matthew 25, and often alluded to elsewhere (see 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5; Acts 10:42). It is often so associated with the judgment of the dead, as to lead a superficial reader to suppose that both were only parts of the same event, taking place at the same time, whereas (as we have already seen with regard to the two resurrections) they are two distinct events, separated by not less than 1,000 years; the judgment of Matthew 25 taking place before the Millennium (Rev. 19; Jude 14-15), while the last judgment does not begin till after the close of the reign of Christ.
This judgment of “the quick” (or “of all nations”) in Matthew 25, occurs in the presence of the saints who have descended from heaven with the Lord (Rev. 19; 1 Cor. 6:2), but does not directly concern them. All nations are gathered before the dread tribunal, and are separated by the scrutiny of God’s all-seeing eye into the “sheep” and the “goats”; the former consisting of those among the heathen who have received the Jewish messengers who will proclaim the gospel of the kingdom (Rev. 14:7) to all the world (Matt. 24:14), and the goats, those who have rejected them. The former will constitute the Gentile inhabitants of the millennial earth, and will inherit “the kingdom,” while the latter will be sent into everlasting punishment. The earth being thus cleared by the judgment of God, the millennial reign of Christ will be ushered in. It must be noticed that this judgment is of living people only, and only of those who have not heard and rejected the present gospel. These will not be brought before this tribunal, but will have been already swept from off the earth at the coming of Christ (2 Thess. 1:9).
We now pass on to the closing scene at the end of the millennial age, which consists of the last resurrection, called also the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29), and of the last judgment, also called the second death. The following passages speak of it: Revelation 2:11; Matthew 11:22; Hebrews 9:27; 1 Peter 2:9; John 4:17 and Jude 6.
After the final judgment of the devil (Rev. 20:10), all the wicked dead will be raised, and will stand before the Son (John 5:27), to be judged according to their works. The book of life will also be opened, because however bad a man’s works may have been, if he has been washed in the blood of Christ, and his name inscribed in the Lamb’s book, he will never be sent to hell. Hence, although all here are judged according to their works, it is expressly said that “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” The sole reason why every believer is saved from this fate is clearly not on account of his having never sinned, but because Christ bore the punishment instead, and thus his name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. Hence this solemn scripture clearly shows divine grace reconciled with man’s responsibility.
Such then is a very brief account of the various judgments and resurrections in their order as revealed in Scripture. To the believer the consideration of them is very blessed and very solemn; blessed, as bringing home to his soul the wonderful value of the work of Christ in delivering him from all terror of the coming judgment of God; solemn, when he considers that rapidly approaching moment when all his life’s work will be fully reviewed before God.
To the unbeliever such a theme is surely one of terror, and yet not without hope; for if the last judgment at the great white throne shows him the final, awful fate of every unredeemed soul, the first judgment of sin on the cross in the Person of our blessed Saviour opens a door of mercy to whosoever will. Grace still reigns and judgment waits; and it is for those who know this to seek to persuade every unsaved soul that will hear to flee from the coming wrath to the open door of mercy, ere it be closed forever.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Canaan

The whole history of the bondage, redemption, deliverance, walk, and warfare of the children of Israel gives us perhaps the most complete picture of the whole life of a saint of God that the Bible contains. There is hardly a sorrow in Egypt, a trial of circumstances in the wilderness, a warfare or other event in the land, but may in some way or other afford a valuable lesson to the Christian. We purpose, therefore, looking to God for guidance, just to glance briefly at the wilderness —history and Canaan conflicts, as being those parts that most concern a young believer.
It may seem strange to some that of these two we should first speak of Canaan, especially if this is to be regarded as our final rest in heaven. We trust, however, clearly to show that, on the contrary, this goodly land embraces the whole sphere of our spiritual blessings into which we are brought now, and without the enjoyment of which we cannot tread the wilderness path to the glory of God.
Let us in the first place consider such scriptures as Exodus 3:7- 8; Exodus 6:7- 8. These speak only of bringing out of Egypt into Canaan, no mention being made of the wilderness at all, thus showing that although they must necessarily cross it (an affair of a few days), their wanderings there for forty years formed no part of God’s purpose. In like manner we find in Colossians 1:13 that the same act that brought us out of the kingdom of darkness translates us into the kingdom of the Son. The wilderness may come in by the way to humble us and to prove us, or it may not. The dying thief had no wilderness journey, but passed straight out of Egyptian bondage into the paradise of God. Most of us have, however, a certain stretch of wilderness to cross; but it is important to see at the outset that this is only by the way, and in no way interferes with the fact that the sinner who one day was in Egypt, dead in trespasses and sins, the next may be raised up and sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (not as yet with Him).
As a matter of fact, the heavenly life and the wilderness life go on together, the latter in the strength given by the former. As “in Christ,” a part of Him (also as a priest and worshiper), I am in heavenly places now; as a pilgrim and a stranger, I am in the wilderness. Thessalonians, Ephesians, and Colossians touch most on the Canaan side, while Philippians and 1 Peter take the wilderness path. It is clear that Canaan cannot be confined to our final home in heaven, though doubtless including it (when the wilderness journey is actually over), but is mainly a vivid picture of the saint’s position in the heavenlies, now waging war like the Israelites of old, as soon as the Jordan is crossed, for the possession and maintenance of their rights, as well as the destruction of their enemies. This we read of not only in the Old Testament, but as regards the Christian in Ephesians 6.
In Deuteronomy 26:1 we read, “And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possesses it and dwellest therein.” This verse speaks of three distinct positions of the Israelite in Canaan; that is to say, of the believer and his heavenly privileges. First he enters the land; next, he possesses it, or makes it his own; and third, he dwells in it. Let us briefly consider these in order.
Those for whom we write are sufficiently familiar with the leading facts of the history of the Israelites to remember that, having been delivered from the judgment of God, not by the fact of their being His people but by the atoning blood of the Iamb, they next crossed the Red Sea, and then leisurely crossing the desert found themselves on the borders of the land. This they refused to enter, and were therefore doomed to die in the wilderness; while the next generation were not allowed to enter Canaan otherwise than by passing a second time through the waters of death in the Jordan.
Two facts at once arrest us here. First of all, the fact that neither the Red Sea nor the Jordan lies directly between Egypt and Canaan (Abraham, Jacob, and the Lord never crossed either in their journeys between the two); and second, that the children of Israel did cross the Red Sea by the direct guidance and leading of God. They never need have crossed the Jordan had it not been for their own unbelief. Let us try and see what meaning all this has for us. We have not only as sinners the judgment of God to face, from which the blood of the Lamb delivers us, but after this we still need deliverance from our three great foes-the world, the flesh, and the devil. Nothing now but the death of Christ can deliver us from the power of these, and of this both the Red Sea and Jordan are remarkable types.
In the waters of the former it will be remembered the pomp and pride of Egypt were drowned, and the strength of Pharaoh was broken, thus answering to the death of Christ which separates us from the world and Satan’s power (Gal. 6:14; Heb. 2:14). But Romans 6 finds no real counterpart here, for although the Israelites should have left their old unbelieving hearts behind, as a matter of fact they did not. This is clearly seen on nearing Canaan. If the flesh had been left behind them as truly as Pharaoh and Egypt were, no Jordan would have been needed; but, alas, it appears this was the hardest lesson of all to learn. Those, therefore, who thus refused to leave it behind them, but on the contrary betrayed their confidence in it by putting themselves under law, had all to perish in the wilderness, that it might be destroyed; and death was again presented to the generation born in the wilderness, at the Jordan. Only this time special care was taken that they themselves, represented by twelve stones, should be left at the bottom. And this is the entrance into Canaan. The death of Christ has not only put away the sins of every believer, not only freed him from the world and Satan’s power, but has also put an end to him, so that his old self is crucified and buried with Christ (in type by baptism), out of which he is risen in the power of a new life, and brought into the new and heavenly sphere of Canaan.
If, therefore, we put the Red Sea and the Jordan together, they present to us a full picture of the death of Christ, the former especially typifying what it delivers me from; in the latter, what it brings me into; or, in other words, death and resurrection. To cross the Jordan and enter Canaan is not the privilege of a few, but is the effect of the death of Christ for every believer, however few may enter into the meaning or power of it.
Let us now briefly consider the POSSESSING. This only belongs to those who fight for it; the condition of possession is stated in Joshua 1:3. We find that all Israel entered it together, but that many were careless about possessing it (Josh. 18:3), while two and a half out of the twelve tribes never dwelt in it at all, or at any rate, in that part beyond the Jordan.
This has great meaning for us, dear fellow believers. In Christ we all have died and risen, and entered the land; but how slow we are to POSSESS, to make our own, often after much exercise and conflict with our spiritual enemies, the blessings that are ours in Christ! We have to fight the Lord’s battles, but we are poor soldiers, though after all, the work is entirely His from first to last (Josh. 21:44). We have not space here to consider the various wiles by which Satan, at one time by fright as a roaring lion, at another by deceit as a wily serpent, sought to hinder this POSSESSION, but we earnestly commend the study of the book of Joshua in the light of Ephesians to our readers.
All that we can do here is, while just pointing out the outlines of this interesting subject, to bring home to each of our hearts the fact that it is only as we are thus possessing, thus abiding in communion with Christ, in the enjoyment of His love and peace, in the blessed sense of our portion in Him, that we can hope to walk to His glory down here. And in all this let us beware of possessing without dwelling; the two and a half tribes were valiant enough in possessing, that is, in making the land their own; but they did not enjoy what they obtained. So with many of us. We are keen and eager, it may be, in the pursuit of truth and a true position according to the mind of Christ, but how far are we dwelling in the power of what we know? How far does the atmosphere of Canaan so pervade our spirits, and its fruits so fill our lives, that we are found to the praise of God down here? Only the man who lives in Canaan can rightly cross the wilderness; the heart must be satisfied and happy in Christ to be content with His portion and path down here. If we would be strangers here, we must practically have a home with Christ in heaven for our hearts; and the man who does not dwell in a house in Canaan can never be content with only a tent in the wilderness. May the Lord give us each to feel more and more the importance of keeping up a fresh and happy inward life in real communion with Christ where He is, as this is the only real power to maintain a consistent walk to the glory of God.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: The Wilderness

We have seen that entrance into the heavenly country is the privilege of every believer, but that possession, and still more dwelling in it, only belongs to those who make it their own and live in the enjoyment of it.
In the same way it is true with regard to our wilderness life here below, that although all true believers are brought safely through the Red Sea, saved from the judgment of God, delivered from Pharaoh’s power and Egypt’s slavery, yet it is only as we are really following Christ that we practically find that this world is the “wilderness wide,” of which our hymn speaks, or that we are pilgrims and strangers in it.
Am I in it at All?
These things, beloved reader, are realities, and it will help us but little to know all the resources God provides for our wilderness journey if we are not in it in heart at all. Let us then seriously ask ourselves two questions. First, Am I in any sense a stranger in this world for Christ? and second, Am I passing through it as a pilgrim, or living in it as a citizen? Simple, heart-searching questions like these, honestly asked and faithfully answered before God, often speak to our consciences more powerfully than the most stirring address; and if we are conscientious and yet still clinging to this world, we shall find them very awkward and unpleasant questions to face. Do not shirk them, however, but if they do touch a sore point, let them have their full effect and show us just where we are really before God.
We noticed in the last paper that we must have a home and enjoyment for our spirits somewhere, and that the only way not to seek this now on earth is by truly having it as a present reality for our souls with Christ in heaven; or, in other words, the only way to be a stranger in the wilderness is to be even now at home in Canaan, in spirit, though as to our bodies we are still pressing on to our rest.
Communion with Christ in heaven alone gives the desire to follow Him on earth, while resurrection life in Him supplies the only power; hence, the Apostle prays both that he “may know Him,” and the power of His resurrection, before he asks to know “the fellowship of His sufferings.”
All My Resources are in God
The first thing that characterizes the wilderness is that all my resources are in God; my food comes from heaven, my water is given by God, my guide is the cloudy pillar; in short, every detail of my life is ordered by God. All around is nothing but the thirsty desert sand, capable, indeed, of receiving all I have to give, but utterly incapable of helping me an inch on my journey. In fact, from the moment I first passed beneath the sheltering blood of the Lamb, God has been and is my sole resource and stay until, in His good time, I actually reach the long-looked-for “rest of God.” These then are the two great lessons to be engraved on our souls as strangers here:
1. There is nothing of this world that can help my spiritual life.
2. All my resources are in God.
Seven Wilderness Lessons
1. The Song
We will now very briefly glance at seven things connected with the wilderness journey—not in the thought that in any way they embrace the details of it, or even its leading features, but simply because each one may give us food for a few practical thoughts which may be of service to any who with honest hearts are desirous of treading more closely in Christ’s footmarks.
The first thing we notice is that at the start all is smooth, pleasant, and joyful. What can be more delightful to the weary, worn-out Egyptian slave than to stand on the wilderness shore of the Red Sea, and after seeing the destruction of all the power that held him captive, to raise his joyful heart to God in a song of praise, the first song in Scripture, the song of a delivered soul brought to God, a song full of beauty and meaning, a song that no angel can sing, a song which shall echo through the countless ages of eternity; and then to turn around with his back to Egypt, his face to that glorious heavenly country which already by faith he counts his home, and start off with God for his Guide in all the happy freshness of a newborn soul. Surely we all know what it is thus to begin our pilgrimage.
2. Marah—The Power of the Cross
The second thing that we observe is that Marah is reached, a place of bitter water, water which can only be sweetened by a certain tree. What meaning has this, beloved reader? Did we not think we should find all smooth and pleasant when we first set out to follow Christ, and did we not very soon come across something very bitter and unpleasant, and discover that practically to be crucified to this world, to be dead to it, is not a very pleasant thing? Do we not remember too that it was only when we cast in the wood of Christ’s cross, and of His sorrows for us, that the waters became sweet; and, according to 1 Peter 4, we rejoiced, inasmuch as so early in our journey we had been made in any measure partakers of Christ’s sufferings? Oh! the power of the cross of Christ! No Christian can live three days in this world without meeting Marah in some way or other, but it is the Marahs which draw us near to Christ’s heart. It is the want of water here which makes us go for all our refreshment to, the Rock which is Christ.
To the soul, therefore, who knows what it is thus to have fellowship with Christ in rejection, these Marahs are sweet, each one marking a never-to-be-forgotten interview between the suffering servant and the loving Master.
“We know Him as we could not know,{br}Through heaven’s golden years;{br}We there shall see His glorious face,{br}But Mary saw His tears.”
3. Spiritual Refreshment
The third thing in the 15th chapter of Exodus is the spiritual refreshment Christ provides for true souls who have known what Marah means in the wilderness. In Elim we find the good shepherd leading his flock in the green pastures, and by the still waters. Here is an oasis in a desert. And what oasis does Christ provide for His pilgrims in this world? Truly that of Christian fellowship; these are our Elims. What a happy, blessed time we have when a few of us who are really seeking to follow Christ can get together beneath the sheltering palm trees, and draw fresh strength from the wells of the water of life. Many a one has called these happy Elims, “foretastes of heaven,” as they have enjoyed the “Sweet bonds that unite all the children of grace.”
Alas, that strife and discord should so often mar what our Lord has provided for our rest and refreshment.
4. Wilderness Food
The fourth thing we notice is in the next chapter, and that is the food for the wilderness. Our bread is the manna that is sent down from heaven. In the deliverance from Egypt Christ is fed upon as the lamb roast with fire, our Substitute and Saviour; in Canaan we get Him as the old corn of the land, our glorified and exalted Lord; and it is worthy of observance that we never find the Israelites of old loathing either of these two foods. It is the manna, Christ in His humiliation and rejection, that is considered “light food.” It is this “bread from heaven” that is the test for each of our hearts today, as to whether we have been so truly won by His love as to esteem a path of rejection with Him better than all the “leeks and cucumbers” of Egypt.
Surely too we may learn an important wilderness lesson from the fact that this precious bread was gathered freshly every morning before the sun was up; so those find now who spend “an hour with Jesus” before the bustle of daily life has begun, that the sweetest and most strengthening food is then gathered and stored. As has been so well said by another: “If I sincerely desire to grow in the divine life— if my one grand object is to be assimilated and devoted to Christ—I shall without doubt seek continually that character of nourishment which is designed by God to promote my spiritual growth. It is plain that a man’s acts are always the truest index of his desires and purposes. Hence, if I find a professing Christian neglecting the Bible, yet finding abundance of time—yea, some of his choicest hours—for the light and other secular reading, I can be at no loss to decide as to the true condition of his soul. I am sure he cannot be spiritual—cannot be feeding upon, living for, or witnessing to, Christ.”
5. Streams in the Desert
The fifth point that we may observe is the refreshing stream that pours out of the riven rock in accordance with the well-known passage in John 7:37. Surely if in the manna we have a picture of the humbled Christ as our food, here we have the indwelling Spirit that is with us throughout our wilderness journey, one of the blessed results and fruits of the death and glorification of Christ (John 7:39). The rock is Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). The waters, doubtless, here as elsewhere, are typical of the Holy Spirit, who is the refreshment and source of power and blessing, not only for ourselves, but others down here. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30). He is here to testify of Christ but He can only testify to ready and listening ears. He is here to guide us into all truth, but only those who have willing feet and subject hearts. This water too, unlike that in Exodus 16, is not for our own refreshment alone, but is to run out from us, so that we ourselves, as filled with the Spirit, are to be as streams in the desert. Thus far we have traced the believer—a song of joy in his mouth—the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings known to his heart—enjoyment of Christian fellowship—feeding on a humbled Christ—and refreshed by an indwelling Spirit.
6. Wilderness Conflict
Sixth, we come to Amalek, a picture of the flesh energized by Satan, who is ever hanging about our rear ready to snap up any that are weak and ready to halt. We feel that it is quite impossible in the limits of a short paper to do more than just touch on this most important theme. It will be noticed that the victory in this case (Ex. 17) was obtained by two means—the one the intercession of Christ on high, and the other, the resistance in the power of the Spirit (Joshua) down here. Now both of these are necessary if we are to overcome our adversary. In Peter’s case the intercession of Christ that his faith might not fail was fully answered, but on account of the want of his active resistance against the enemy, he failed. The resistance down here would be valueless were it not for the uplifted hands on high; at the same time we are to resist the devil, and the Spirit in us lusts (or fights) against the flesh, that we may not do the things that we would. Christ will not fail in His part, blessed be His name, but how often do we fail in practically resisting the assaults of the enemy.
7. Water for Defiled Feet
The last, or seventh, thing we have to notice is the provision made in case of defilement in the wilderness journey. We refer to Numbers 19, which answers in type to 1 John 1:9. This cleansing is by water, not by blood, but it is water which contains and brings home to our hearts the memorials of the death of Christ (the ashes of the heifer), teaching us that restoration to communion after getting astray, is not by a fresh application of the blood of Christ (which is quite an unscriptural thought), but a bringing home to our hearts by the Word of God (the water; see John 13), the power of the death of Christ which we in our self-will had forgotten. It is thus that Christ Himself, in His perfect love, washes our feet when defiled with the wilderness journey.
Just think the whole subject over, beloved reader, and you will find that Christ is with us in every step. We meet Him first in Egypt, in the blood of the lamb; next in the delivering power of the Red Sea; next in the power of His cross; then in His gracious provision for our refreshment; next as the Manna, then as the Rock; then as our great Intercessor up on high; and last, in His wondrous love in following us when we go astray, and restoring our souls by the washing of water by the Word; the end of all being to meet His own glorious Self on the cloud, when all the journey will be over forever, and we shall praise for evermore the grace that has carried us on eagles’ wings, and at last brought us to Himself.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Waiting

Lord’s coming in reference to His work among them, and the reward which He will get in them in the glory; while in chapter 3 we find the return of the Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints is placed in connection with a holy and God-pleasing walk (1 Thess. 4:1).
Having then shown that these are three scriptural distinctions, let us for a moment consider the Christian as waiting for Christ.
It is the Heart That Waits for Christ
Where this is spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 1, we notice one thing most particularly, and that is, that those who thus earnestly looked out for Christ, knew so little about the doctrine of the way and manner of His coming, that it had to be made a subject of a special revelation in the close of chapter 4. But they did not wait till that chapter before they looked out for Christ. We are thus clearly taught that waiting for Christ is not a matter of intelligence, but of heart. And this, beloved reader, shows us where we fail. For in these closing days God has wonderfully opened up His Word to us, so that there are thousands now who know a very great deal more of the Lord’s coming than did these Thessalonians of old; but of how many of all these can it be truly said, They are waiting for Christ?
How We Are to Wait
It is an important and deeply interesting fact that our Lord has detailed the precise attitude in which He wishes us to await His return, so that any uncertainty is not possible. In that wonderful passage in Luke 12, when Jesus seeks to prepare the hearts of His disciples for His coming departure, He also speaks of His return. Those who wait for Him during the long dark night are to be characterized by girded loins and trimmed lamps, and they themselves are to be like men that wait for their Lord. And then follows that wondrously blessed promise that those who are thus girded and watching here, shall there sit down at table while the Lord rises, girds Himself, and serves them!
Now the girded loins, in other words, are the Christian’s walk, carefully keeping his garments from the defilement around, and declaring by his tightly girded dress his position as a traveler, and as a pilgrim; while the lights or lamps burning, speak of his work, and his testimony in this world for Christ, both of which we hope to touch on in future papers, so that it is the emphatic, “Ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord,” that most occupies our thoughts here.
Like Men that Wait for Their Lord
One thing about this waiting is clear. Although it surely leads to self-examination and carefulness in walk and ways, it is a waiting with joy, not with fear. While a certain solemnity surely attaches to the thought of that sublime moment when we first behold our Lord, He would have our hearts anticipate it with joy. In order to do this, it is clear we must know something of Christ; for it is certain that it is just in proportion as we know Christ, not truth, that we long to see Him. And this leads us in many ways to walk more worthy of Him; as our hearts get more occupied with Christ, insensibly one thing after another stands revealed in its true light. We distinguish the substance from the shadow, our eyes get cleared from the mists around, our hearts freer for Him, our lives more separated, more devoted, more unworldly; in short, altogether we become—like men who wait for their Lord.
Worldly Christians Cannot Wait for Christ
To truly wait for Christ we must be unworldly. If we love this world and the things which are in it, how can we look out for the One who is to take us from it forever? But if we have learned to dread and dislike the world, to see through all its tinsel, and to discern the power of its god and prince that is behind, hurrying all on to destruction, we long to leave it, and thus doubly to welcome Christ—first, for His own sake, and next, for taking us away from it all to the Father’s house.
I shall never forget some time ago when I had to get a dear old lady from a boardinghouse, where she had been badly treated, seeing her sitting in the little dark underground room in which she had been kept, in a large armchair, with bonnet, boots, cloak, and gloves all on, earnestly awaiting my arrival. Although I could not come before twelve, so anxious was she to leave the place, that she had insisted on getting up between four and five o’clock that morning, and being fully dressed; and she had been sitting thus in that chair for six or seven hours, all ready and waiting to go. I cannot describe her look of intense joy and satisfaction when I entered the room just as she was thinking herself quite forsaken, and her delight when at last she found herself going away with me. What a feeble picture this is of what our attitude ought to be, and what our joy will be at Christ’s coming!
Christ’s Coming Draws Near
Everything, too, bespeaks its nearness. Vain though it must be for us to attempt to fix an hour, which the Lord says no one knows but the Father, still in many ways He has indicated His approaching return. First, in the remarkable spread of gospel preaching and work among young and old throughout Christendom, thus rapidly gathering in the number of His elect. Second, in the fact that the midnight cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him,” that was unheard prior to the last century, is now sounded everywhere; and, third, in that the signs of the last times, spoken of in 2 Timothy and elsewhere, are to be seen on every side of us. Many, however, think that unless it is quite sure that Christ will come in our time, it is no use waiting for Him, because it will be in vain. This is a great mistake. In no sense is it in vain. As regards ourselves, it exercises its purifying influence on our lives, draws us nearer to Christ, and keeps us more separate from the world. With regard to Him, it is just as precious to His heart as if He came. Unlike the queen who can only see those who are waiting at the moment she passes, He has watched and recorded the names of every “watcher” whose watchful heart has communed with Him through the long dark night— not one is forgotten. And if you thus patiently look out and watch for Christ, you will be among those in glory whom Christ will specially come forth to serve. Oh, may He speak to each of our hearts in power, that many sleepers may henceforth become watchers to His praise and glory.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Walking

We have spoken of the Christian’s attitude in waiting for Christ’s return, in the last paper, in which we also saw that two other attitudes are also closely connected with this event; namely, the Christian’s walk and work. We will now briefly consider the former of these two. In the first place, let us clearly understand that “walking” is not “working,” properly so-called. The distinction, indeed, seems so plain as to be hardly necessary at all, yet there is a great deal of confusion on this very point. People seem to think that if they are walking steadily and correctly, and are manifesting Christ more or less in their daily lives, they are doing all that can be required of them; and yet it may be that with all this, beautiful as it is in its place, they may be ignoring and leaving undone a large amount of Christian work that is ready for them. We will point out one or two scripture expressions on this subject.
Walking and Working
“To me to live is Christ” is a very comprehensive one, and includes both the walk and work, indeed, all that Christ did. Would that we knew more of its meaning!
Take, however, the exhortations to a godly walk in the Ephesians—to walk worthy of our vocation, to walk in love, and walk circumspectly; also those of Peter on the same subject, and compare them with “Always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58); “If any man’s work abide” (1 Cor. 3:14); “To every man his work” (Mark 13:34), and it will be at once seen that “walk” is not the same as “work,” though in some cases the word is so used as to include it: as, “Walk worthily of the Lord unto all well-pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing by the true knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10 JND).
We, however, are so one-sided in our actions and views that, far from maintaining the even balance of Scripture, we either are very active in works, often seeking in that activity to cover up the want of a really godly and Christ-like walk; or else we become so occupied with the passive side of the new life as to have but little Christian activity left. Some, indeed, press work, work, work, till it would seem as if Christianity were all work. Others say only walk, walk, walk, as if the Christian had no real work to do. What Christ wants is both.
Leaving the working, however, just for the present, let us briefly consider the walking. Now our walk is characterized by two great principles, for as we ought to walk even as Christ walked (1 John 2:6), and as He was light and love, even as God is (1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:8-16), these two principles govern our path.
Walking in the Light
Taking light first, we find that all believers walk in the light (1 John 1:6, 7), but not according to it (Eph. 5:8); that is to say, being brought out of darkness into His marvelous light, we are set in a position where no darkness affords an excuse for stumbling. The twilight is passed; we stand in the full blaze of the gospel day. Hence the exhortation in Ephesians is to walk according to the sphere in which we are set. When a Christian sins, therefore, it is not in darkness, but in and against the light, so that we are without excuse. But light is not merely a question of position; from it flow several important qualities of the Christian walk. Righteousness, holiness, truth, purity, are all fruits of light, and of cardinal value in the Christian life.
Fruits of Light
Righteousness is divine light applied to the affairs of daily life; holiness is divine light applied to the life with God; truth is divine light ruling my words; purity, divine light ruling myself (1 John 3:3). We have already considered the question of a righteous walk in paper number 4, and that of a holy or sanctified walk in number 5; both of these, let us remember, are directly connected with the Lord’s return in Revelation 22. In 1 Thessalonians 3:13, as we have seen, holiness is connected with the Lord’s return; but here, let us remark, it is inward, a holy heart before God. What a thought!—a heart really consecrated to God, where He is first in all things, separated to Him. What a source this is for the holy walk that follows in the next verse (1 Thess. 4:1).
“The lip of truth shall be established forever” (Prov. 12:19). But God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6), and “walking in truth” (2 John 4) goes far beyond these words, all-important as they are. With regard to speaking the truth, one has expressed a very beautiful thought to the effect that we should so “seek to speak that our words shall express exactly the fact, no more and no less; so that speaking, like painting, shall become an art, which shall in the most appropriate words, instead of colors, lay the matter before the hearer.” In the present day, especially, when exaggeration is so common, it is as singular as it is refreshing to find a young Christian so weighing his words as to be as accurate as a good picture. Is not our Lord’s reply when asked who He was, in John 8, a proof how perfectly true and transparent His words had ever been? “Altogether that which I also say to you” (John 8:25 JND). Surely the habit of consciously being in the light of God’s presence greatly tends to this true speaking. But truth in the inward parts is what God requires — true to God, to myself, and to others — to God, in all His Word requires from me—to myself, in really and truly being what I am, no more, no less, putting on no false appearances, not deceiving myself—true to others, not deceiving them, avoiding all hypocrisy. This true living is of all importance to a young believer, as many things may tend to make him unreal. If he has learned quickly much spiritual truth, and yet not been brought very really into God’s presence, he is very apt to desire to appear more than he really is, and prone to seek to be accredited for the truth he knows, rather than for the life he leads. The most dangerous position of all is when he has stepped into some right position before God without real exercise of conscience, and then supposes that the position entitles him at once to look down on others, and imagines himself far on in the school of God. Be severe with yourself, beloved reader; at all costs be truthful; underrate rather than overrate your spiritual state. This alone leads to a truer and holier walk. Walking in the truth is different (2 John 1), and means walking according to the revealed Word of God. This, it is needless to say, is of all importance. No walk, however sincere, can possibly be according to God that is not according to “the truth.”
Purity is a beautiful quality in a Christian’s walk. Occupation with what is defiling can never make us pure, but occupation with Christ does. We see that in 1 John 3, where Christ is the measure of our purity (1 John 3:3), our righteousness (1 John 3:7), and our love (1 John 3:16).
The Threefold Sphere of Love
Love is the second great characteristic of God, and therefore of the Christian’s walk. We are exhorted to walk in love— love to God, to our fellow believers, to our fellow men. Love to God shows itself in obedience. Obedience, to be worth anything, is the offspring of love. Thus alone Christ obeyed, and to His obedience are we set apart (1 Pet. 1:2-14). Turning instinctively to God for direction in every event of life, waiting till we get it, and then following it. Such is the path of Psalm 32, and that of the obedient child—a path of security, of happiness, of freedom from care, though not from carefulness. “To obey,” too, “is better than sacrifice,” and it springs from hearkening, which is better than “the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). It may not bring us much praise or credit, but it always pleases God, and even when we are slow of understanding, if the desire is to obey, the Lord will guide. This then is the proof of love to God, and a special blessing is reserved for those who thus walk (John 14:23). Love to our brethren is mostly shown in washing one another’s feet; this is the most delicate proof of real love that can be given, and the rarest (John 13). Love can be shown in the cup of cold water, in the offering of a sweet-smelling savor (Phil. 4:18), in caring for bodily or spiritual needs. The heart that is “at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathize,” will readily discover the appropriate way of showing love. Love to the world at large is most shown in pointing them to Christ. Caring for the suffering and the poor is an essentially Christian duty; but care for the soul comes first, though it may not always be made the most prominent.
Such then is a brief and most imperfect sketch of the Christian walk, all perfectly summed up in the three words, “as He walked.” This is the best direction of all — “as He walked” — in righteousness (Isa. 53:11), goodness (Matt. 19:16), truth (John 7:18), lowliness (Matt. 11:29), patience (Matt. 27:14), self denial (Matt. 8:20), humility (Luke 22:27), obedience (John 4:34), compassion (Luke 19:41), benevolence (Matt. 4:23, 24), love (John 13:1).
May the Lord exercise our hearts to a more godly, truthful, and lowly walk in view of the nearness of His return.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Working for Christ

In our last paper we briefly considered the Christian’s walk, his life, himself in short, as practically shown in this world. We now turn to consider his work, a subject as distinct, as we have seen, as a man’s life and habits are from his daily business, although he may carry the one into the other. Perhaps it can hardly be said which is the more important, when both are supremely so; still this at least is clear, that the walk must come first, and that work only is right which is accompanied by and flows from a godly walk.
Mary and Martha
There can be no doubt as to the importance of this question which some would exalt at the expense of the inner life, others vice versa. The latter often think they are taking Mary’s part, and that workers are only Marthas after all, forgetful that the most blessed work ever done on earth was done by Mary (John 12), who lavished her money and care on the Lord’s feet, at which also she laid her glory (1 Cor. 11:15). Who then are Christ’s feet now? The answer is not hard to give—not the poor, merely as such (John 12:8), but the poor of His flock on every side of us needing our love and care.
What Scripture Says
Let us just glance at what Scripture has to say on the object: We are created in Christ unto good works (Eph. 2:10); we are also exhorted to be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8-14); to be fruitful in them (Col. 1:10); to be perfect in them (Heb. 13:21); to be prepared or ready to every good work (2 Tim. 2:21; Titus 3:1); to be rich in them (1 Tim. 6:18); to be established in them (2 Thess. 2:17); to be zealous in them (Titus 2:14); to abound in them (2 Cor. 9:8); and to provoke one another to them (Heb. 10:24). Beloved reader, what do we really know of all this?
One thing we must be very clear about, and that is, because we have got salvation without working, we are not to lead idle lives ever afterward, put to shame by earnest though mistaken souls who are, alas, thinking to win heaven by their good deeds. On the contrary, every Christian has his work to do in this world for Christ.
What is My Work?
Do you know yours? or is it possible that having been a Christian one year, two years, ten years, twenty years, as you read this you find it impossible to answer the question clearly and decidedly, What is my work in this world for Christ? The night is far spent, but it is not yet gone; let us then who are “not of the night,” but “of the day,” wake up and cease to slumber in our privileges, and begin our long neglected work at once.
But what is my work? you say.
Ah, that is a sad question for us to have to ask if we have been Christians any time at all; but if sincerely asked of God, even though late, it will surely be answered. It is surely a most important question, for we are all members of Christ’s body, and the hand cannot do the seeing, nor the eye the walking, nor the feet the talking, nor the tongue the working. The head alone can rightly set each part of the body its appointed work.
“Are you then doing nothing for Christ?”
“Well, I try and live like a Christian.”
“That is well, but you have to work for the Lord too. What work do you do for Him?”
“I am afraid I don’t do any!”
So it is then true that if you died this moment, no soul on earth beyond the circle of nature would miss you? Alas! I have heard those who have been Christians for years confess such was the case, so useless did they feel in this world of woe and need. I am sure that many of us are quite unaware of the selfish and idle lives we often lead. We have got so accustomed to think that if we avoid gross sins, if we are pretty regular in our reading and prayer and in our attendance at meetings and services, that we have done all that can be required of us, that we are positively surprised to hear that we are not quite so satisfactory in the Lord’s eyes as in our own, and that for years we have been neglecting, utterly neglecting, the Lord’s work, our work, and it may be adding to our own sin, by hindering, finding fault with, or looking down upon, those who are more diligent than ourselves. Let no readers of these pages rest satisfied until they both know their work and are doing it.
God Will Guide the Willing
But again the question is asked, How am I to know what my work is?
The best way is to find out what gifts the Lord has bestowed upon you, and what sphere He has given you to use them in. This, well considered with prayer, will help greatly. God’s principle is, “If any man will do His will” (John 7:17); there must be first a willing mind (2 Cor. 8:12). If the Lord sees you humbly taking up what is nearest your hand in dependence upon Him, He will show you if He would have you continue in it; or if not, He will certainly lead you into what He has ready for you. Study the parables of the talents and the pounds, and see what bearing they have on this subject—also Revelation 22:12.
Christ Must Be the Object
We must be clear in our work that Christ is the Object— not that we are not to delight in it, and be zealous and active in it, but even in our hearts, the motive, the mainspring that produces the zeal and activity, must be Christ. Otherwise the work may be useful, and may be highly praised of men, but we shall get no reward, and our work loses its character of a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor to the Lord. It is the fragrance of Christ’s name that gives the value to all we do in God’s sight. Busy bodies are no more use to God than lazy bodies, and are often more hurtful to others.
There IS Work Ready for You
The variety of work is endless, and may range from pastoral care over hundreds of God’s people to giving a cup of cold water in Christ’s name. There is work suited to each and there is work suited to you. Take the most difficult possible position for active service—that of a young girl brought up in the seclusion of the family circle, which she has not yet left, it may be with no opportunities of visiting the poor (though this is very rare), what can she do? What can she not do? if she has a heart is rather the question. Has she unconverted relatives and friends, any for whose souls she particularly cares? Can she not do a real work for Christ by sending them regularly, it may be unknown to them, gospel books and papers, accompanying each with earnest prayers? And when that relative or friend is saved, none may know save the. Master and the workman to whose instrumentality it is due. Prayer, definitely continued for others, is a very real work for the Lord. But all work involves some amount of self-denial, and above all steady perseverance. How many lives of service have been given up through want of this one necessary quality!
Idleness Injures Everybody
The Lord’s work must be done; if we do not do it, He often has to set others to do our work; but, of course, if the hand is paralyzed, and the foot has to act in its stead, it cannot do the work as well, especially as it has its own besides. Idleness, therefore, is a great evil, causing not only some to suffer from neglect, but others, who are willing, to be overworked; and after all the work is not so well done. Consider then if ever you are tempted to criticize the work of another, whether that servant may not be doing double duty for some lazy Christian who will do nothing, and it may be that “thou art the man.”
Let us then encourage one another in the work of the Lord, and see that none of us are mere lookers-on, for a looker-on is generally a fault finder. Let us remember too that our labor is not in vain in the Lord, but that our loving Master is only too glad to give each one His full meed of praise for every bit of work done in His name, and that will therefore stand in the fire.
The time is short, and much has been wasted by all of us; before the Lord’s return then let each of us be found steadily at our posts working for Christ.
“With the first faint blush of morning,{br}Hasting from thy still retreat,{br}Labor on until the evening,{br}Heedless of the noontide heat.{br}{br}“Labor till the far horizon{br}Paleth with the setting sun;{br}Then the Master’s voice shall greet thee{br}With the welcome words, ‘Well done!’”

Plain Papers for Young Believers: The New Jerusalem

We will close this series of papers with a subject that is but very little studied in comparison with the intense interest it surely should have for every one of us. Even on earth we sing, “There is no place like home,” and to it our thoughts ever turn in all our wanderings. How much more then should our hearts enjoy the consideration of our eternal home—that Jerusalem of which Bernard wrote so long ago:
“With jasper glow thy bulwarks, thy streets with emeralds blaze.{br}The sardius and the topaz unite in them their rays;{br}Thine ageless walls are bordered with amethyst unpriced;{br}Thy saints build up its fabric, and the cornerstone is Christ.{br}Jerusalem the glorious! The glory of the Elect!{br}Oh dear and future vision our eager hearts expect.{br}E’en now by faith I see thee; e’en here thy walls discern;{br}To thee my thoughts are kindled, and strive, and pant, and yearn.”
Somehow I think that this subject was more thought of in other days than now; for it is but seldom one hears the heavenly Jerusalem spoken of, and certainly very rarely with that heart longing that a contemplation of its glories must raise. Let us consider a little the well-known passage that describes them.
The City
In Revelation 21:9 we find that the heavenly Jerusalem is itself the bride, the Lamb’s wife. This city, therefore, really is not so much the abode of the saints (though it is that) as the saints themselves. Where inhabitants are spoken of, they are probably the saints looked at as individuals. The city is divine in its origin—it comes from God—it is also heavenly in its character, not being situated on earth like the Jewish city, but being placed in the heavens over it, so that it has the appearance of coming down out of heaven. It will probably be over the earthly Jerusalem to which it will give light and glory (compare Isa. 4:5). It is clothed with the glory of God, according to Ephesians 1:18; 2:7. Although it is the bride of the Lamb that John sees, it is as a city he describes it, this being its appearance to the earth below. We are destined to know the deepest affections of Christ, as His bride; but to the world we shall be the center of heavenly rule, transmitting the glory and power of our Lord to the furthest parts of the redeemed world, and thus giving a deeper and fuller meaning to 1 Corinthians 11:7, for “the woman is the glory of the man.”
A Transparent Cube
The city is further described by the Apostle as a perfectly transparent cube, 1,500 miles in every direction, having the glory and brilliance of gold, and the crystal clearness of glass or jasper—a most beautiful figure as we shall see when we consider the city as a light bearer to the earth. This city is secure; she has a great and high wall (a symbol only) and twelve gates, or seats of judgment, of which angels are the doorkeepers (see also Heb. 2 and 1 Cor. 6:3), and at each of which a Jewish tribe is judged according to the Lord’s words in Matthew 19:28: “Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (See also Luke 22:30.) The foundations of this glorious city are the twelve apostles of the Lamb, according to Ephesians 2:20. Such is the new and heavenly capital of the government of God. It is vast, as we have seen, and perfect, as shown by the figure of a cube. The foundations are precious stones (that part most seen from the earth), showing all the varied glories of Christ.
Creation, Grace, and Glory
We get these glories figured by precious stones three times in Scripture. We find His glories shown in creation in Ezekiel 28:13. We get the varied glories in grace in the high priest’s breastplate, and we get them all in glory here. The pure white light of Christ’s glory is thus split up by the media through which it passes into its varied characteristics, as displayed among, and apprehended by, men.
This city differs from the earthly one in having no temple, for the all-pervading presence of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is there. Before passing on to consider it as a light bearer, we may here quote some beautiful words on this passage by another: “The wall which secured this city was the divine glory. As it is written of the earthly Jerusalem, salvation hath God appointed for walls and bulwarks. The city was formed in divine righteousness and holiness—gold transparent as glass. That which was by the Word wrought in and applied to men below, now, was the very nature of the whole place (see Eph. 4:24). The gates have the moral beauty which attracted Christ in the Church (see Matt. 13), and that in a glorious way. That on which men walked, instead of bringing danger of defilements, was itself righteous and holy; the street was gold, transparent as glass.” Such then is the general glorious aspect of our future home.
The City as a Light Bearer
Now let us see what is the object and purport of this vast city. A consideration of its construction will at once prepare us for the answer. It is a crystal cube, having in it the seat and center of glory, of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:3). Every ray, therefore, of the divine glory to reach this earth, must pass through this transparent cube. It is, therefore, plain that every ray this city gives of light and glory to the earth, comes from Christ alone, though it is all transmitted through the saints who will then form (not alas, now!) a perfectly transparent medium; they enjoy direct light, the earth, transmitted light. What a joy to think that we are then no longer to hinder and turn aside the light, as too often now, but perfectly to fulfill our high destiny of being light bearers of the glory of the Lamb.
Christ in Us, and God in Christ
Then will be fulfilled in all its perfection the wonderful thought of John 17:23, when Christ will be in us, and God in Christ, so that all the glory of God is seen in the Person of Christ who deigns thus to use His people, His beloved Church, to transmit these glories to the redeemed earth. There will be no night there, the gates need not be shut, for no defense against evil is needed, this glorious object being so much unlike that which has been established by God on earth, and soon invaded by evil and deceit; for “naught that defileth” shall even enter into it. All that have a place in the city are dependent on pure grace alone; the Lamb’s book of life is the register which will determine whether you or I shall ever gaze upon its glories. Thanks be to God, the answer is certain and sure for the feeblest believer.
Paradise Regained
In this wonderful panorama, we get again, in all their divine perfection, those things from which man was shut out in the earthly paradise, here reappearing in the paradise of God. This city is the source of the river of blessing; the tree of life grows there, its fruits doubtless for the inhabitants of the city, its leaves bestowed in grace to the nations for their healing. God and the Lamb, now united in glory, have their throne in the city, and those who compose it are their happy servants. God’s glory being seen in the Lamb, we get but one God; hence, they “shall serve Him: and they shall see His face” (Rev. 22:3-4). They too, like the Lamb (Rev. 11:15), shall reign forever and ever. Beloved reader, gaze as much as your longing eyes can bear on this glorious spectacle of our happy home on high, and then just quietly ponder all that these images mean.
Our Position in It
From them we gather that we shall have our home in the immediate presence of Christ, whose face we shall ever see, that we shall be used to transmit His glories to the millennial earth, over which we shall reign with Him, that we shall be constantly employed in His service, thus being in the relation of servants to Him, though in that of kings to all beside. We shall be secure from all evil; none of the defiling influences that will be seen on earth toward the close of the Millennium will ever mar our ceaseless joy. For all this we shall have a full capacity of enjoyment, never checked by any change of circumstances or of state within or without. Death, sorrow, pain will all be forgotten words, save as they remind us, as we gaze on His still pierced hands, of the mighty cost which has secured to us all these endless joys. Oh, how the heart longs and sighs for the realization of those glorious scenes. However, thanks be to God, they are all secure; and as surely, beloved reader, as your eyes scan these lines, shall you behold the King in His beauty, and enjoy to the full those realms of bliss we have been so feebly considering.
Never Fading Beauty
One word more, and we have done. In the first four verses of Revelation 21, we find another glorious fact. In the new heavens and new earth succeeding the Millennium, when all sin is forever done away, when Satan has been cast into the lake of fire to deceive no more—in the eternal state our glorious home remains unchanged, and is seen descending from out of heaven as fresh and beauteous as at the beginning of the Millennium in verse 10. It may seem strange to some that verse 10 should really date before verse 2. The explanation is that the first eight verses of this chapter close the subject of chapter 20, and in verse 9 a new scene opens in which the angel describes to John the appearance of the new Jerusalem during the
Too briefly have we considered it, but let not its glories be forgotten when this short article is laid aside, but let it be the means of awakening new and lasting desires for the moment when faith shall be changed to sight, and prayer to praise.
“Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest,{br}Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed;{br}And when I fain would sing them, my spirit fails and faints,{br}And vainly would it image, the assembly of the saints.{br}{br}“They stand, those walls of Zion, all jubilant with song,{br}And bright with many an angel, and all the martyr throng.{br}The Prince is ever with them, the daylight is serene;{br}The pastures of the blessed are decked in golden sheen.{br}{br}“There is the throne of David, and there from care released{br}The song of them that triumph, the shout of them that feast;{br}And they who with their Leader have conquered in the fight,{br}Forever and forever are clad in robes of white.{br}{br}“Oh fields that know no sorrow! Oh state that fears no strife!{br}Oh princely bowers! Oh land of flowers! Oh realm and home of life!{br}Thy loveliness oppresses all human thought and heart;{br}And none on earth, O Zion, can sing thee as thou art.”

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Selfishness

In the first series of these papers we have already considered various simple doctrinal subjects of great interest and value to the young believer, connected with his standing before God, his place in this world, his future hopes, in short, his portion, his path, and his prospect. In the present series we propose, with God’s help, to take up some of the special dangers or besetting sins to which young Christians (and old ones as well) are liable, and respecting which it may be helpful to see what Scripture has to say. “To be forewarned is to be forearmed,” and these papers are written in the earnest hope and prayer that they may be practically used in pointing out and guarding some against those sins and failings which so often ruin a walk otherwise consistent, and bring reproach upon the name of Christ. It is by our actions in small matters that the world judges us—not by the amount of our knowledge of scriptural principles, but by our application of them in daily life.
Selfishness is Anti-Christian
Let us then now briefly consider this emphatically anti-Christian sin of selfishness. We call it antichristian because it is expressly recorded of Christ our Lord that He “pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3). This strikes at once at the root of the matter, for when we read (1 John 2:6) that we ought to walk as Christ, and remember these are the words of GOD, and then turn to the scripture just quoted, we must at once see that all selfishness is truly anti-Christian. If, however, example is not enough, we have the precept as well. “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth [or good]” (1 Cor. 10:24). “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). Most touching of all, perhaps, to the heart that has tasted the love of Christ, to whom He is precious, is 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ constraineth us....He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.”
A Sign of the Last Times
Selfishness is shown in many and various ways. As one of the signs of the days it is said, “Men shall be lovers of their own selves” (2 Tim. 3:2), or in other words, “selfish.” This is the root from which every variety springs. The selfish man seeks his own things, not the things which are others, still less that are Jesus Christ’s (Phil. 2:21), as the Apostle so touchingly writes to the Philippians, complaining that this sin was a great and crying evil in his day.
It is found everywhere, even among believers, although it is a vice so repulsive in its nature, that the man of the world out vies the Christian in despising it when shown in grosser ways. The latter only, however, can know what it is to be truly unselfish in spirit in all things. How ashamed we feel when we consider how often our best actions are blighted by the foul spot of selfishness.
Self the Object
Pleasing ourselves, directly condemned in Romans 15:1, is a common form of seeking our own. It is seen in great and little things — in our choice of work for the Lord, in our choice of residence, of companions, of dress, of occupation, and in many petty ways in which we daily indulge, instead of denying ourselves. Oh, how ashamed we feel when we just sit awhile and think of our dreadful self-pleasing in little things—always looking out for number one. So contrary are we in spirit to our beloved Lord.
Seeking Our Own
Another phase of seeking our own (Phil. 2:21) is in eagerly pursuing some worldly advantage, being unscrupulous in money-making, or keen in money-saving. All this becomes much worse, terribly worse, if in any way hypocrisy comes in to aid our selfishness. Is it not fearful to think how the name of Christ is despised by men of the world through those who should be His “epistle,” who thus seek their own? for the worldly man well knows that Christians should be unselfish, though all the time he may be selfish enough himself. Paul was not like this—”Not seeking mine own profit” (1 Cor. 10:33). This line of conduct is powerfully described in Isaiah 56:11; “They all look to their own way, every one for his gain.” Surely it is a sign of the last times when one professing Christian is heard urging another to raise himself in the world by pushing others down. It may be there are not many bold enough to give such fearfully unchristian advice, but are there not hundreds who in the main practically follow it? Another form is seeking precedence of others. Such selfishness was displayed in Matthew 20:20, and gently rebuked by Christ. It is often seen, alas, in spiritual as well as worldly matters, and many have been the bitter parties or factions that have been developed from this form of selfishness. Let us judge ourselves as to this, seeking neither the chief seats in synagogues, nor the greetings in the markets.
Not Caring for Others
Neglecting the poor (1 John 3:17) is a flagrant form of selfishness strongly condemned by the Word. Often it is unintentional, and arises simply from a habit of considering ourselves instead of others. In some cases selfishness may give to get rid of annoyance, but it can never give with true sympathy. That rare and tender plant of Christian growth (see 1 Pet. 3:8 JND) cannot grow in the same atmosphere as self.
In many cases we do not mean to be selfish, but being careless in following Christ and having naturally ourselves instead of Him as our object, this vice shows itself in little ways in almost all we do. We trust that to many of our readers a word will be enough to point out this un-Christ-like sin, which perhaps unknown to themselves has been undermining their Christian life and taking away from the power of their words to others. If we look at one of the characteristics of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:5, “seeketh not her own,” and then turn and quietly look at our own lives by the side of it, the light of the Word like a sunbeam in a dusty room throws out into strong relief all the “little foxes” of small petty selfish deeds that have so spoiled the “tender” grapes of our spiritual life.
The Remedy
What then is the remedy for selfishness? One might answer, To think of others, as in the parable of the good Samaritan. This is a good and Christian habit—to find a neighbor in every one whom I can serve, and to love him as myself. It is most important to acquire a habit of thinking of the comfort, convenience, and wishes of others on all occasions, and seeking to please my neighbor for his good unto edification at all times; but there is a more excellent way yet, and that is for Christ to become the center of my thoughts instead of myself, so that all my actions naturally have reference to Him. In this way I not only become truly unselfish, but I become (not only negatively, but) positively like Christ.
Dear fellow believer, this is the sort of Christianity which is understood among men, and brings true glory to God. When a man gives up voluntarily the best place, to which he has an undoubted right, when he foregoes his own advantage, and to his own loss goes out of his way to show kindness to others, when he becomes poor, and not merely gives of his abundance, for the sake of Christ’s people whose needs he provides for, and when he not only spends, but is spent for others, then indeed does he become an epistle of Christ known and read of all men. None can pass a man unobserved in whom the brand of selfishness has been obliterated by the fresh brand of Christ (Gal. 6:17).
Oh, may His love constrain us thus to live to His glory!

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Pride

The sin of selfishness, of which we spoke last, may be specially characterized as the sin most unlike Christ; but the sin of pride is directly of the devil. The one is anti-Christian, and the other is Satanic. Such, indeed, is the calm language of Scripture. In 1 Timothy 3:6 we read that being lifted up with pride was the cause of “the condemnation of the devil”; and in Ezekiel 28 we read the detailed account of how the heart of one who was once “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” was lifted up because of his beauty, and his wisdom corrupted by reason of his brightness, and who therefore fell from heaven to hell.
Pride Springs From the Heart
Pride is in every human heart; it runs in man’s blood; all are afflicted with this disease, though by too many, alas, it is regarded rather as an ornament than a blemish. The Word of God says simply of “a high look, and a proud heart,” so much thought of in the world, that they are sin (Pro. 21:4). They are hateful to God (Pro. 6:16-17; 16:5), and to Christ, typified by wisdom (Pro. 8:13).
The root of all pride is in the heart; “Out of the heart of men, proceed... pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). How can a young believer get rid of a proud heart? There is indeed but one way, that is by sitting at the feet of Him who is meek and lowly in heart until we are ashamed any longer to cherish a quality so unlike Christ, so like Satan.
Spiritual Pride
Let us consider one or two varieties of pride spoken of in the Word. We find the type of one variety, spiritual or religious pride, in the Pharisees of old, who were not ashamed to come before God with words like these, “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are.” Surely no vestige of such an expression finds a place in the prayers of our readers.
We must remember that pride is one of the characteristics of the last days (2 Tim. 3:2), and therefore we have need to be greatly on our watch against it. Spiritual pride is perhaps the worst variety, because it is not ashamed to show itself in connection with Christ’s name, a terrible thing when we think that such profess to be followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Let this sin at least then be kept far from us, and let none who read these lines sin so fearfully against God as to use His truth to help them to commit the very sin of the devil—spiritual pride. When we really get into His presence, this can never be the case. “Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?” 2 Sam. 7:18. But when we are out of God’s presence, then boasting begins (2 Cor. 12:7).
Pride of Position
Another sort of pride arises from riches and position. We may see an instance of this in Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:13), in Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:30), in Belshazzar (Dan. 5:22), in Herod (Acts 12:21), and in many others. The question is, Is it seen in us? Do we in any of our acts betray this mean, this debasing, this un-Christ-like spirit to any who are poorer and humbler than ourselves? Surely not; for if spiritual pride is terrible, this is contemptible, and clearly shows that we have never really understood the place where God’s sovereign grace has set us. It is alluded to in James 3.
The Remedy
But it does not need riches to produce pride; this fatal seed is seen, alas, everywhere, and often those who are poorest are most proud; and this is especially the case among the Lord’s people. Many having become Christians and mixing freely on equal terms as Christians with those they never could have met on any other, instead of increasing in humility, have lost what little they possessed, and developed a proud heart.
When we talk of having very sensitive feelings, and being hurt by remarks of others, it is often only pride, and shows how miserably we are taken up with ourselves. Another variety of pride is shown in outward adornment, dressing after the fashion of the world, and in a manner unsuited to Christian position. Another variety is being puffed up by any gifts God may have bestowed upon me.
But I am sure that we have spoken enough of the evil; for the remedy let us look for a moment at the Lord Jesus Christ.
We find in the first place that He Himself expressly declares that He is “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). We find Him showing this in various ways — by taking our nature, sin apart (Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:16), in His choice of station in life (John 9:29). How many of us who profess to show His spirit, if left to ourselves to choose our place in this world, would have made such a selection? We are called to be conformed to the image of our Lord. Which among us is so? We may well ask this question when we see Christians trying to be more than their fathers were, and pushing their children still higher than themselves. We strictly obey the first half of James 1:9-10, but how many rich rejoice when they are made low?
Christ or Self
There is a line visible from heaven whether we on earth can distinguish it or no. On one side of it are those who, be what they may, would still be something more, or seem to be something they are not; who cannot enjoy what they have, because they desire more, and cannot be gratified because they are not satisfied. There are those who are ashamed of the position their Master chose, and who are proud of one He refused to occupy. Christ and those that bear His image are not on this side of the line. It is not that we are called to change our station, but we are called to change our mind. But we must pass on.
The Lord took a lower place even than being a carpenter, and became the servant of all (Matt. 20:28; Luke 22:27), even washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:5). On account of all this He was despised (Mark 6:3; John 9:29), and those who follow Him will be despised too. They will be called mean spirited, and will be pushed aside and trodden down by the proud and ambitious. It matters not. If they have but drunk at the pure spring of humility in Philippians 2, their souls will be so refreshed that they will be full of joy at bearing ever so little of the beauty of their Lord.
What God Thinks of the Humble
Hear what God has to say of them. He hears them (Psalm 9:12), they enjoy His presence (Isa. 57:15), He delivers them (Job 22:29), exalts them (Luke 14:11; 18:14), gives them more grace (James 4:6), while He resists the proud. Saints are exhorted to put on humility and be clothed with it (1 Pet. 5:5) (a beautiful word, meaning that on whatever side we are approached, humility is seen), to walk in humility (Eph. 4:1-2), but to beware of false humility (Col. 2:18, 23), which is only pride in disguise.
Nothing perhaps shows more the transforming power of the grace of Christ than when a man naturally proud and haughty becomes really meek and lowly in spirit; and nothing tells more strongly of the way in which the letter of truth held apart from Christ corrupts, than when we see a humble quiet person after coming among Christians became vain and puffed up—a sight, alas, which is not rarer than the former.
We plead then, in closing, that our dear readers will seek to cultivate the two graces of which we have already spoken— unselfishness and humility—and thus get a long way on in becoming like Christ, putting away from them, as hateful things, the anti-Christian sin of selfishness and the Satanic sin of pride.
But who is sufficient for these things? Thank God, the answer is not far to seek, “Our sufficiency is of God”; the meek will He teach His way. May we look to Him there in all meekness to put upon us more of the grace of Christ, and fit us better to become humble followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Oh, may that mind in us be found,{br}That shone so bright in Thee—{br}The humble, meek, and lowly mind{br}From pride and envy free.”

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Envy

Let us now consider briefly the examples of this dangerous sin that have been recorded for our instruction (1 Cor. 10). I say dangerous because we shall see that such is its character.
The First Example
is that of Cain. He, seeing that his brother’s offering was accepted (being with blood), while his was rejected, became envious of his brother; this led to anger, this to hatred, and this to MURDER; and in 1 John 3:12 this case is given as an express warning to us as Christians.
The next illustration we may take is in Genesis 26:14. The Philistines envied Isaac’s earthly prosperity, just as Cain envied Abel’s spiritual prosperity. (See Eccles. 4:4.) Their envy was shown by MALICIOUSNESS (vs. 15).
We pass on to Laban’s sons (Gen. 31:1), who became envious of Jacob; Laban also became full of ANGER against him, though God did not permit him to show it (Gen. 31:2,24). It is worthy of note that, though Isaac and Jacob were both envied for their riches, we do not find that Abraham (although equally rich) ever was, a fact that says a great deal for his character. The next example is that of Joseph’s brethren in Genesis 37:11; and the result is, first they stripped him and threw him into a pit to perish, and next sold him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver, acts which we can only characterize as INTENSE CRUELTY, springing solely from envy.
We now pass on to Numbers 11:28- 29, where we find the first instance of
Envy in a Child of God.
Joshua is one of the last we should have expected to find this evil in, but the seed is, alas, in all our hearts; and we actually find Joshua here trying to HINDER GOD’S WORK, led on by this fearful and dangerous spirit. It is, however, only just to add that it is possible that the envy was not for his own sake, but for Moses’, whose servant he was. We have only, however, to go on to the very next chapter to find an undoubted instance of envy, in no less a one than Aaron, the high priest, and in Miriam also. They did not like the growing nearness of Moses to God, and the difference of the way in which the Lord spoke to him and them; and envy led them to DESPISE GOD’S SERVANT. The Lord, however, did not leave Moses to fight his own battles, for Miriam became leprous, white as snow. The sin of Korah which follows closely in chapter 16, was also entirely prompted by envy (Psalm 106:16), and led to still more awful consequences. Envy in this case led Korah, Dathan, and Abiram into fearful LYING against and REVILING of Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:13-14), and brought upon them a most appalling death (Num. 16:32), so swift was God to visit their sin upon them.
Envy Leads to Murder
Let us now pass on to Saul in 1 Samuel 18:8. Envy here seems to possess Saul so fearfully that it obtains a complete mastery over him, leading him three times to ATTEMPT TO MURDER David. To one who does not know how rapidly and fatally the poison of envy works, it seems almost incredible that for such a trivial reason Saul could have sought to kill the very one who had just delivered Israel. Yet I am sure there is not one of us who knows anything of his own heart, but can trace the seeds of great crimes in the feelings prompted by envy.
In Ezekiel 35:11 we find in the case of Edom that envy leads to HATRED. In the case of Daniel (chap. 6:3, 4) it is, I think, clear that envy prompted the presidents and princes to their cruel course, which cannot be called anything but WICKED and UNSCRUPULOUS. We now pass on to the most fearful thing envy ever accomplished, in Mark 15:10.
Jesus, the Son of God, was delivered up to Pilate, from the wretched miserable feeling of envy, that had eaten away all that was even human in the hearts of God’s professed servants, the chief priests. Here envy led them to CRUCIFY CHRIST.
In Acts 13:45 we find the same horrible sin, leading the Jews through hatred of the success of the gospel to LYING and BLASPHEMING; and in Acts 17:5, a similar company led away by the same feelings were guilty of RIOTING and VIOLENCE!
The Sins That Envy Leads To
Let us now just sum up from the few examples that we have selected, the crimes which are actually recorded in the Word, as having been committed through the sin of envy. We have seen that through ENVY Christ was crucified— Abel was murdered—Joseph and David almost murdered— that it led at different times to hatred—wicked and unscrupulous conduct—lying and blaspheming—rioting and violence— hindering God’s work—despising God’s servants—lying and reviling—maliciousness—anger—and intense cruelty.
Surely, now that we have laid some part of the horrible form of this vice bare from Scripture, our readers must shudder to think that the root of all these crimes lurks in their hearts. James does not hesitate to say that envy is a root of every evil work (James 3:16). It is worse than wrath or anger; none can stand before envy (Prov. 27:4). It hinders growth in grace (1 Pet. 2:1-2); is a proof of carnal mindedness (1 Cor. 3:1-3); it is one of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:21); and one to which our spirits are especially liable (James 4:5), being produced by the prosperity and good deeds of others (Eccles. 4:4), and also by arguments and disputes (1 Tim. 6:4). Now to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Never let us give place to the devil, in allowing envy to sprout and germinate in our hearts; but let us ever check the first risings of an envious spirit.
A Cure for Envy
Seek to rejoice in the prosperity of others; seek to be unselfish, for, after all, envy is only a form of selfishness. Seek the good of others, not your own. Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession—Christ Jesus—who was not envious like Adam (Phil. 2), but emptied Himself (JND Trans.), and ended a life of self-abnegation on the cross.
Ask yourself the question, Shall I allow for a moment in my heart the feeling of envy, a feeling which prompted the crucifixion of my Lord?
There is no saying to what length even a child of God may not be led, who once willingly allows this feeling. It grows so very rapidly that, from only beginning to be envious of the success, prosperity, and position of another, we may soon begin to hate him, and then plot against him.
As with pride, so it is with envy; its most horrible and deadly form is when it conceals itself under a cover of zeal for the Lord, and under this or some other religious subterfuge, seeks the evil of another. Oh, what unmaskings of all such actions will take place at the judgment seat of Christ!
Seek, beloved reader, to be pure from this vice at least, after the fearful warnings the Word of God has given us (remembering especially that it is one of the five sins that hinder our love of the Word of God itself [1 Pet. 2]). Real occupation with Christ’s glory and interests instead of our own, effectually, though unconsciously, checks not only this but many other sins. It is only the self-seeker who is envious. The servant who can truly say, like his Master, “I seek not Mine own glory,” is surely delivered from a spirit of envy.
May the Lord preserve us from this sin, which is, alas, by no means uncommon among young as well as old believers.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Anger

Unlike the three subjects we have already considered— selfishness, pride, and envy—this is spoken of in two ways in Scripture. The one points out when it is right to be angry, and the other, when it is a grievous sin. Perhaps the most interesting as well as the most profitable way of looking at the subject will be to consider first a few examples of each.
We will begin with anger as a sin, and observe from the instances selected what are its results when indulged in.
The First Instance of Anger
is in the case of Cain. He was “very wroth, and his countenance fell,” the result being the MURDER of Abel.
In Genesis 27:41, in the case of Esau, we find another instance of how anger is akin to murder, as the Lord pointed out in Matthew 5:21-22. When anger is sinful it is always the result of some previous sin. When it is righteous, it is the result of a righteous and holy feeling. Bearing this in mind in going through these examples, it will be interesting to observe not only the results, but the causes of anger. In Cain’s case the cause was ENVY, in Esau’s, JEALOUSY. In Numbers 20:10-11, we find the meekest man in all the earth betrayed into anger by his IMPATIENCE, the result of his anger being DISOBEDIENCE, the punishment he received being exclusion from the promised land. Many might justify Moses on this occasion, but God does not. It is true that he was provoked, but followers of Christ here see that
Provocation is No Excuse for Anger.
It must be remembered that God’s anger is always righteous anger—ours surely is not. Hence we frequently have the expression “provoked Him to anger,” applied to God, rightly; but man who is dependent, should not give way to anger, but leave the matter with God as supreme. Jesus when on earth took the place of man; hence He bore all with perfect patience and meekness, committing His cause to Him who judges righteously. The punishment in Moses’ case may seem severe, but we must remember that Moses was a great saint, “Moses, the man of God”; and that a little sin in a great saint is worse than a great sin in a sinner. God cannot lightly overlook outbreaks of natural passion in His people, even when provoked; for He has given them power to restrain it.
In 1 Samuel 20:30 we find Saul angry with Jonathan and seeking to kill him, his anger being caused by HATRED of David. In Ahab’s cruelty to Naboth (1 Kings 21) we find that
Anger Leads to Murder,
being caused by COVETOUSNESS. In 2 Kings 5:11 we find the anger of Naaman stirred up by his PRIDE, and leading him to despise God’s message to him.
We might easily multiply these examples, for the seeds of them are in every human heart (of the actions of which the Old Testament is such a wonderful mirror), but we will only select one or two more. In 2 Chron. 16:10 we find Asa very angry with Hanani, because the latter had rebuked him for his DISOBEDIENCE. This leads Asa to put Hanani in prison, an act of gross INJUSTICE. In the case of Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:19), his wrath was caused by his being rebuked for committing SACRILEGE, for which sin he was immediately punished by God with leprosy. These last two instances show us how often anger is a result in our hearts of being rebuked or faithfully reproved for some sin that we have committed. Let us be on our guard against this. It is enough to have committed the sin; but it is far worse, when reproved of it by some servant of God, to add to it by a second, and possibly a third, as Asa did. We feel sure that if our readers will but carefully weigh these instances of anger, and compare them in cause and effect with their own history, they will find what a wonderfully accurate mirror of the human heart the Word of God is. In Esther 3:5 we find
Anger Caused by Pride,
in the person of the wicked Haman, and leading to the attempted destruction of an entire people. The same cause, PRIDE, in Nebuchadnezzar’s case, filled him with rage and fury, so that the form of his visage was changed (like Cain’s), and led to INTENSE CRUELTY on his part against his victims, which, however, God miraculously overruled. In Jonah’s case we find great anger caused by IMPATIENCE, which led him to speak against God. He appears to have so completely given way to it, that in chapter 4:9 he actually justifies his unrighteous anger to God. In the New Testament we find the anger of Herod leading him to murder the children of Bethlehem. We further see, in Luke 4:28, that the Jews stung with JEALOUSY of God’s favors to the Gentiles (vss. 24-27) sought to MURDER Christ on the very spot; and in Acts 7:54 we find the Jews again filled with HATRED AGAINST CHRIST, actually gnashing on Stephen with rage and stoning him to death.
Causes and Results of Anger
From these illustrations we find that anger is caused by envy, jealousy, impatience, hatred, pride, covetousness, and by the just rebukes of God’s people; that, if unchecked, it tends to cruelty and murder, also to disobedience, injustice, and despising God’s Word.
Turning for a moment to what is said about it in Scripture, we find that it is expressly forbidden (Matt. 5:22; Rom. 12:19); it is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:20); it is characteristic of fools (Pro. 12:16; 14:29; 27:3; etc.); it brings its own punishment (Job 5:2; Pro. 19:19); it is often stirred up by bad words (2 Sam. 19:43, etc.), but pacified by meekness (Pro. 15:1); that we should not provoke others to it (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).
We will now briefly consider some instances of
Righteous Anger.
In Mark 3:5 we find the Lord angry, “being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” How instinctively we feel in this case, the unselfishness of the anger. It is all for their sakes and for God’s glory. Righteous anger never has self in any shape or form for its cause. Moses was angry in Exodus 11:8, but it was for the indignities offered by Pharaoh to the Lord and His people, unlike his anger in Numbers 20, for which he was punished. We also find Moses angry in a similar way in Exodus 32:19 and Leviticus 10:16. In Nehemiah 5:6 we find Nehemiah very angry against gross injustice done by others, and to others, not against himself; hence, he did “well” to be angry. In Ephesians 4:26 we get the exhortation to “be... angry, and sin not”; that is, not to treasure up anger and malice in our hearts.
We have now before us the two sorts of anger, the one generally the fruit of some other sin, always having self for its ultimate cause; the other springing from zeal or indignation for the Lord, and having Him or His people for its cause. We thus find that the first anger, like other sins we have considered, is a selfish sin; and the surest way of being saved from it is to be free from oneself. This should be at conversion, but does not practically take place till
Christ reveals Himself in sufficient power to the heart to replace the wretched idol of self (2 Cor. 4:10). A Christian can only be happy in proportion as this is the case, for a selfish Christian is a most miserable object, and is indeed a contradiction in terms. The surest way, therefore, to overcome the sin of anger is not by cultivating a placid disposition, which is only dealing with externals, but by striking at the root, which is self, and replacing it with Christ. The true Christian is zealous for his Master’s interests, not his own, and may be righteously angry when His glory is concerned, but not for his own sake. May the Lord make us all more zealous for Him, and deliver us from serving and pleasing ourselves.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Covetousness

An insatiable sin, a sin that grows by that on which it feeds, a sin that leads to all sorts of other sins, the one sin of the heart directly forbidden by the ten commandments, a hidden secret sin coming from the heart. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed... covetousness” (Mark 7:21). Applied to money it is “the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10); it is never satisfied. It leads to injustice and oppression (Mic. 2:2), to departure from the faith (1 Tim. 6:10). It is abhorred by God (Psalm 10:3); it excludes from the kingdom of God, being classed with such sins as theft, idolatry, and adultery (1 Cor. 6:10). It is one of the sins of the last days (2 Tim. 3:2; 2 Pet. 2:1-3). Such is covetousness, and yet so deceitful is this sin that but few are aware of its dangerous and awful character. In the world, indeed, it is hardly accounted a sin at all; and it is therefore difficult for a worldly Christian to understand how coveting what is another’s is as bad before God as theft or drunkenness. The fact is, that it is only the standard of the Word of God that shows what sin is; and in a measure the world at large has profited by this. Theft and adultery are now everywhere admitted to be wrong, but in other ages they were not. It is only within the last century that drunkenness has begun to be classed as a sin by the world, while covetousness and other sins of the heart (though equally condemned by the Word) are, as yet, totally unrecognized as such.
Covetousness Is Theft by the Heart
Writing, however, as we do, for those who take the Word and not the world’s code of morality for their standard, we would earnestly warn them against this sin, which may be called theft by the heart. But, you say, it is very hard not to covet when I am poor and struggling, and see others so well off. This is true, but, though hard, you must get the victory; and by setting your affections on things above, you will find you are as rich and, it may be, far richer than they, so that the positions are reversed; and the rich man, discontented with his riches, covets the calm and happy mind of the humble Christian. God has made us so rich that it can be only through ignorance of our wealth or through earthly tastes that we covet at all; this we see in Psalm 73, the whole of which is written to prove this very point.
Examples of Covetousness
Before, however, saying more about it, it may be well for us to listen, as we have done before, to what the Word of God has to tell us by way of example concerning this sin, carefully observing to what sins it especially leads. The first sin, the parent of all other sins, was partly due to covetousness. Eve saw the fruit was good for food; she knew it was not for her, but she coveted, and she took, and fell. Covetousness is frequently the result of looking at things we ought not. If we let our eyes drop from Christ to the world, we shall soon find our poor hearts running after it; and covetousness, and a whole host of other sins, will follow. In Joshua 7:21 we find a fearful instance of covetousness in Achan. “When I saw...then I coveted... and took.” How like Eve, and how terrible in its results, causing not only his own death, and that of thirty-six others, but the defeat of Israel before their enemies; for God could not lead them to victory with a covetous man in their midst! Observe in both these cases, covetousness leads to direct DISOBEDIENCE to God. Have any of my believers any hidden sin, like Achan’s, destroying their happiness, eating away their spiritual life, and perhaps injuring and distressing others? Oh, let us judge ourselves, that we be not judged by the Lord.
Covetousness Leads to Many Sins
Passing on, we may notice it was the greed and covetousness of Samuel’s sons, Joel and Abiah that led the people to demand a king (1 Sam. 8:1-5). This king, Saul, was dispossessed of his crown and kingdom through direct disobedience to God, into which he was led by covetousness (1 Sam. 15:9-19). Passing down the stream of time we come to Ahab who, through covetousness of Naboth’s vineyard, was led to commit judicial MURDER, led on by Jezebel. Gehazi’s covetousness led him into a course of LYING and DECEIT, and brought upon himself the fearful plague of leprosy (2 Kings 5:20-24).
That covetousness was one of the besetting sins of Israel, we may see from Jeremiah 6:13. “From the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness.” But let us remember that this covetousness in Israel was not nearly so bad in character as it is among us; for, after all, what they coveted was merely an undue share of that which God had given to them all, for their blessings were earthly, and none could blame them for highly esteeming money and property. The Christian’s possessions are spiritual, but it is a very rare thing for Christians to be striving to get an undue share of these, as the Jews did of their temporal blessings. On the contrary, the object of the covetousness of Christians too often is the world and the things that are in it—things on which they should not set their heart or affections at all, still less envy those who possess more than they. What a tale, therefore, it tells of spiritual deadness, when a child of God, an heir of glory, is seen to covet the poor riches of earth!
Babylon, a type of this world in its prosperity, was full of covetousness.
Turning now to the New Testament, we find in the fearful history of Judas, that it was covetousness of money that led him to BETRAY his Master, a character of sin of which any of us may also be guilty, though of course not in the same way. The Pharisees are branded as covetous, and this led them to reject and despise the faithful, searching words, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Covetousness is also the sin of Balaam (2 Pet. 2:15); those whose hearts are full of covetous practices are said to follow the way of Balaam.
We have thus seen that the effects of this sin are uniformly bad, seeing that it leads to disobedience to God, rejection of His Word, lying, deceit, and murder. None are exempt from this sin; those who have little would have much; those who have much would have more. It is wonderful, therefore, to possess
The Sure Remedy for This Sin
is in simply having the enjoyed possession of so much, that not only can we not wish for more, but cannot even hold what we have. Such a portion is the Christian’s, and, were our hearts more true to Christ, we should be but little troubled with low covetous desires; for in Him we have more than we could wish, more than our hearts can contain. Hence, if we are really filled with all the fullness of God, what room is there for a covetous thought, however selfish we may be, if, as must be the case, occupation with Christ not only fills us, but transforms us. Covetousness is not absent so much because we are full, as because we have ceased to desire for ourselves, what we desire being for Christ’s glory, His interests having supplanted our own. Christ then is the cure for covetousness, by virtue both of His satisfying and His transforming power. We are sure that the lives of many Christians are miserable mainly from the effects of this one sin; for, unlike other sins which may make those who commit them happy for a time, this sin makes its victims wretched, so that there is no more unhappy object than a thoroughly covetous man; while, on the other hand, there is no happier object than a Christian who is satisfied with Christ.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Deceit and Lying

This is one of the special sins connected with the tongue, that unruly member which no man can tame. Over and over again it is emphatically forbidden and condemned by the God of truth (Col. 3:9; 1 Pet. 3:10; Pro. 24:28; Pro. 12:22).
No Deceit in Christ
When Peter speaks of the life of the Lord Jesus as an example for us to copy, he emphatically points out that no deceit was found in His mouth. Those who are deceitful are therefore evidently most unlike Christ. As we write for those who are professedly children of God, in looking at a few examples of this fearful sin in Scripture, we will only take those where a child of God, or at least, a professor, is concerned.
Lying Through Fear
We find in Genesis 18:15 Sarah telling a direct lie through fear. How often is this the case, resulting from having done or said something we are ashamed of. It may be a right thing, and we are thus ashamed of Christ; or, it may be a wrong thing, and we are ashamed of being found out. In either case a lie slips from our lips ere we are aware. The radical cure for this is not to do what we are ashamed of; or, if the thing is right, not to be ashamed of what we do. If, however, we have slipped into a sin, let us not add to it by another, but just as the lie is about to leave our lips, let the thought, GOD HEARS ME, instantaneously arrest it. A lie of this sort to screen oneself is, perhaps, the most contemptible kind, despised alike by Christians and men of the world. Having thus looked at it, let us resolutely avoid it, even in the smallest things, and never lend our tongues to such mean deceit.
Lying for Our Own Advantage
The next instance is in Genesis 27:19, when Jacob tells a direct lie for his own advantage—another despicable variety of this hydra-headed sin. Mark too, Jacob was a child of God, and the result is that through the next thirty years of his life he suffered from the consequences of his sin, by which too he gained nothing, for God would have given him all in due time. Have any of my readers fallen victim to this sin? Making haste to be rich, or improve their position, or in some way run in advance of God, have they ever, through selfish motives, told a lie? If so, I am sure they have suffered since; and there can be no real restoration until that lie is confessed not only to God but to man. Too often, alas, one lie leads to another, as in Jacob’s case; and once embarked on this fatal course, who can tell what the end will be? O beloved reader, I plead with you; never, never allow yourself to tell a lie for your own advantage. Think for one moment what a horrible denial such a sin is of all that Jesus ever was or did.
Lying to Cover a Sin
Passing over several, we come to David, who was guilty both of lying (1 Sam. 21:2) and deceit (2 Sam. 11) of the most fearful character, by which he sought to cover up an awful sin, thereby making it twice as bad. Oh, how often some previous sin is the cause of a long course of deceit and lying. Beloved friends, let us, above all things, seek to be straight with God, with our fellow men, with ourselves; and should we fall into a sin, never, never seek to cover it up by another, still worse than the first. A course of deceit positively blights the soul, destroying all simplicity, all joy, all communion. The result of these sins in David’s case was a course of sufferings almost unparalleled in their severity, from the hands of his own children. Let us not, therefore, think to escape the all-searching eye of God.
Lying From Habit
We find in 1 Kings 13:18 a prophet of God lying in a most wanton manner, without any apparent reason. We find such characters now, even among God’s people—some who apparently have no regard for the truth, and find it easier to tell a lie than to avoid it. The only remedy when the disease has so developed is to go straight to God, and cry to Him for strength and daily watchfulness to overcome it. One such case I remember. I noticed that a person was almost always silent, and one day asked the cause. He said that he had been so addicted to lying that he was determined now not to speak at all if he could not speak the direct truth; and, therefore, he seldom opened his lips, and always considered well before he spoke. Deep-rooted sins require some such radical measures.
Two Solemn Cases of Lying
In the New Testament the two solemn cases, one of lying and the other of deceit, in Peter and Ananias, stand out above all others. Peter, forewarned by the Lord, yet strong in his own strength, told three lies to save himself, actually going the length of denying the Saviour while He was standing dumb before His accusers. Such sins are, alas, not unknown even now. Many of us are ashamed of showing our colors, and when suddenly asked an unexpected question, through fear or shame, are betrayed into a lie, to the triumph of Satan and the grief of our Lord. Let us watch earnestly against this; and, if entrapped, let us follow Peter in his path of restoration. It is remarkable to see that the very one who fell himself, is so perfectly restored as not only to be able to charge home the very same sin to the Jews (Acts 3:14), but was also chosen by God to be the executor of His justice on the flagrant deceit of Ananias. This too was a wanton sin—a course of deceit being practiced merely to give others a false impression of his generosity, and to appear other than he was. This, alas, is another common variety of this sin. Anxious to stand well in the eyes of our fellow men, rather than in those of God, we do not hesitate sometimes to descend to deceitful practices to appear other than we are, and so get praise from men that we do not deserve. Surely, such a course needs only to be named to be condemned by every upright heart. All these instances have been selected from the lives of professing children of God, and will well repay careful consideration, giving, as they do, striking illustrations of the main causes of deceit and lying among Christians. Lies may be told without using the lips; we may act so as to deceive, and seek to excuse ourselves because we have not said what is untrue. This is a worthless subterfuge, and will not stand before God for a moment. All such refuges of lies will He sweep away.
The only way to be happy before Him, and to be in any degree like Christ, is to turn our backs firmly and resolutely on deceit in every shape and form by word or deed; and determine, in God’s strength, that we will earnestly seek to say and do nothing that is not absolutely true, thus saving ourselves from reaping the bitter fruits of shame and sorrow that will some day follow. May God help each one of us that is tempted by this sin to overcome it in His strength, and to learn to abhor and hate it because it is so hateful to Christ, and so dishonoring to His name.
“The lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Pro. 12:19).

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Worldly Amusements

We have seen in a previous paper that the Christian is not to identify himself with the world, as such, religiously or socially, and have had abundant Scripture proofs that all such associations are condemned by God. If such connections then with the world, many of them for good and unselfish objects, are condemned by the Word, it is easy to see there can be no justification of joining with the world merely for one’s own pleasure.
Clubs, Societies and Lodges
In the present day, when nearly all forms of recreation and entertainment have their special clubs and organizations, a young Christian is often very hardly pushed to join one or another. Some, indeed, may join willingly from various reasons, such as better to enjoy themselves, or perhaps thinking to do others good by a little Christian influence. Instances, however, are exceedingly rare where any good has been effected by this means; too often the result is the other way, and the Christian soon acquires the worldly tastes that characterize his associates. When this is the case, he has only himself to blame for taking the wrong step at the outset; for with the Bible (2 Cor. 6) in our hands, we must characterize as wrong, contrary to, and beneath true Christian walk, any alliance for pleasure with the world.
In this, reluctant as we are to lay down any law, or to make any path narrower than God has made it, we must repeat that for any to join a worldly club for any purpose of pleasure or amusement is beneath their calling as Christians, and contrary to the Word of God.
Recreation and Exercise Are Profitable
Recreation and exercise are recognized by the Word as profitable for a little (1 Tim. 4:7 JND), meaning, we believe, for a short time (that is, this life); but these can be taken and enjoyed without joining clubs. No doubt there is not the same scope or the same advantages that there would be, humanly speaking, where larger groups are brought together. Whether this is true or not, the child of God must here take his stand and, deliberately counting the cost, be prepared to suffer all inconveniences that may arise from his being true to Christ.
An old Christian may not think it much for a young man to refuse one club after another, that is pressed upon him, for he, if not too devoted a Christian, is at any rate too old to care for such things. But Christ knows, and Christ will not forget, what it costs at such a time to refuse resolutely for His sake, and His smile and approval is surely well worth the inconveniences that may follow. As the Christian grows in years, however, he begins to feel that to spend hours in mere recreation and amusement is no longer necessary; and he finds that he can combine some variety of work for the Lord with his recreation, so as not absolutely to spend all the time on himself. Long walks can often be combined with profitable visits, and change of scene and air with looking up the scattered saints of God, that seldom get a help; in many ways the believer who seeks to redeem the time, and who feels that “the Lord is at hand,” can and will seek to turn even his hours of recreation to good account.
A Christian in the World
But what shall we say if we look at the other side of the picture, no longer considering those who desire in all things to glorify Christ, but those who, though still His (at least professedly) are worldly in heart, who seek the world’s entertainment for its own and if not actively engaged, at least pleased spectators, surrounded with worldly friends, and being for the moment not only in but of the world? What a description we get of the world in Job: “They take the timbre and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways” (Job 21:12-14)! And can you feel happy in making one of such a company? Oh, how true it is for a believer when seeking his amusement in such a way, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness” (Pro. 14:13). The reflections next morning when the Word is opened, and we are alone with God, are not pleasant; and too often the amusements of the evening lead to the neglect of the Bible in the morning. This is repeated until the soul becomes deadened under the round of worldly gaity and want of spiritual food, while the outward course can only be characterized by “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4). Surely all would shrink from such a brand!
Satan’s Devices
But Satan is clever; he is subtle; and if we turn from worldly amusements, he will mix them with religion to suit us; and the deluded Christian, following his own will, and not guided by the Spirit, substitutes that which may sound pious, for that which is openly worldly, and thinks himself at last consistent. Alas, he has only made matters worse! At first sight it certainly does seem incredible that any true Christian could be found willing to listen to precious portions of His Word used or sung, even by the most talented of professional entertainers. The mixture seems so horrible that surely it is a masterpiece of Satan’s skill to lead Christians to believe that their presence at such occasions is commendable. In Christendom we often see the church adopting worldly customs on account of not discerning that in the Word of God the cross of Christ has clearly separated His church and this present evil world. The one who is following Christ could not go on with these things with a good conscience; he could not have pleasure in them. His happiness is in Christ and in Christ’s people. How then can he find it in that world that crucified his Lord? Besides, he is better employed. He does not stand about idle, waiting for Satan to send him off on some errand, for surely it is true that “idlers are the devil’s workmen”; but he is busy in work for his Master, seeking to send to a good account of every day that he lives, and to account to Him fully for every talent entrusted to his charge. We trust enough has been said to show that although recreative exercises are perfectly legitimate and needful for the young Christian, all distinctly worldly amusements, clubs, and other associations are not for the one who desires to be true to Christ, and to obey the Word of God.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Relations With the World

It is evident that the limits of this short paper will only enable us to consider this vast subject in the briefest possible manner. The Christian is in the world, but not of it. He is surrounded with those who know not God, and it is a most important thing for him to know how to conduct himself in relation with worldly people, both publicly and privately, in social life, business life, and religious life. Before, however, speaking briefly on this, we will just take up very shortly a few examples of relationship with the world, and its effects as seen in Scripture.
Worldly Marriages
In 1 Kings 11:1-8 we find the sad result in Solomon’s case of marrying strange wives, idolatrous women. No doubt, as many a child of God since, he trusted in his wise heart, in the splendid temple he had built, in his own long religious life, to lead him aright; but instead of that they led him astray. And so it is in nine cases out of ten. A Christian marries a worldly girl, an idolater; that is, one who has her heart set on earthly things called idols (1 John 5). He hopes, no doubt, to set her straight, but having committed a sin by marrying her, he is soon led by her into another; for not only has he all her influence to lead him wrong, but that of his own deceitful heart as well. It is, indeed, lamentable to think how many ships, starting on their heavenward voyage, have been shipwrecked on the quicksands of this life, through sailing in company with an enemy’s vessel. For, hard as it is to believe, the young and attractive are equally Satan’s slaves with the gray-headed sinner. Beware of worldly marriages, which are condemned and forbidden by God (2 Cor. 6); perhaps few sins so surely meet with heavy chastisement, too often lifelong. Most earnestly then would we warn young believers of this most fatal of all worldly alliances. Other false steps can be retraced at will, this NEVER. It may be these lines are read by someone whose affections are already engaged by some worldly person. We would warn you against such a marriage at your peril. Better far to have a broken heart for God’s glory, and one that He can heal, than to have a heart broken later on, as you surely will, through seeing with your eyes open, and discovering when TOO LATE, the fearful error you have committed.
In Jehoshaphat we find another case of worldly alliance; this was in joining to fight a common enemy (2 Chron. 17)— no great sin apparently. The king of Syria was a foe to both of them, and the victory of one would help the other. Nevertheless, what saith the Lord? “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.” Has this no voice to those Christians who, like Jehoshaphat, would join the world to fight some common enemy? There are common enemies: drink, vice, poverty, disease, are such to a great extent. It will then be seen at once that this one example strikes a fatal blow at all alliances of a social nature between believer and unbeliever. In this it is evident the Christian is not to join in improving or bettering the world. He must walk in his way, and the world in theirs. Indeed, if the Christian is true, they cannot work together; for the ultimate end of the one is the advancement of the world, and the good of mankind, that of the latter, the glory of Christ. In a place, therefore, where He is despised and still rejected by the world at large, it is evident that there cannot be much harmony in common pursuits.
In Jehoram we get another instance of the evils of a worldly match (2 Chron. 21:6). Many as are the instances of the unbeliever leading the Christian astray, we do not remember a single case where in such a marriage the Christian brought the unbeliever right. In this case the evil is worse still, for not only is the husband led wrong, but the child also is led astray (2 Chron. 22:3) by the evil counsels of his mother. This too will often be found to be the case, especially when the mother is the unbeliever; and thus the result of one false step may descend to generations.
Again, in Ezra 9, do we get fatal instances of these unholy alliances. But surely we have had enough to show us what are almost invariably the results of thus dishonoring God.
Worshipers Must be Christians
In Ezekiel 44:7, we come to another class of worldly fellowship, and that is in religion. One of the crying sins of Israel of old was that they brought in unbelievers in the temple worship, and the prophet is bid to “mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary”; and further, “No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into My sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.” Our sanctuary, we know, can only be entered by believers (Heb. 10) in reality; but surely this plainly shows that in outward worship we cannot place believers and unbelievers together before God. It is not for us, of course, to try the hearts, and a hypocrite may creep in anywhere; but surely divine worship ought to be confined to the children of God. Indeed, none else can worship; and it is an awful mockery to see those who have no pretensions to be saved (not even the lip profession) joining with God’s people in singing His praises. This is strangely like this very sin of Israel of old. We do not now speak of preaching the gospel. At all such services unbelievers have their right place; but these are surely perfectly distinct from the worship of believers, spiritually within the veil. In religion, therefore, we cannot place believers and unbelievers on a common footing.
Neither can we seek the aid or help of the world (pecuniary or otherwise) in the Lord’s work.
Nehemiah avoided the danger of worldly help in Nehemiah 6, and one reason why he was so blessed was because he was so separate to God. The people of Israel too at this time entered into a curse and an oath, not to marry unbelievers (Neh. 10:29). Would that everyone “having understanding” (Neh. 10:28) followed (without legality) the same course! Separation from worldly company is the result of having the Word as the enjoyed portion of the heart (Jer. 15:16-17). The joy of the world and delight in the Word cannot go together. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers [wicked], nor rejoiced.” We have now seen enough to show us, without quoting the many precepts in the Word on the subject, that worldly marriages are in every way to be condemned and avoided, that all philanthropic and social worldly alliances are expressly condemned, however good their object (of course it is understood that only real alliances are here spoken of; that is, believers and unbelievers publicly banded together). We have also seen that no religious mixture is to be tolerated, either in worship or service (such as giving money, for example); God’s people must be separate. The path is a narrow one still, and not less so because we live in Christendom. Indeed, now one needs to be walking closely with God to learn how to keep one’s feet separate from all such evil alliances, and have one’s heart wide enough for all right sympathies and feelings. May the Lord enable each of us, who desires to be true to Him, to discern the path of wisdom through this world, so as to be kept from all “unequal” yokes, learning at the same time to bear more of the equal yoke of Matthew 11:29, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Plain Papers for Young Believers: A Start in Life

Our readers are necessarily divided, with regard to this subject, into two classes— those who have started in life, and those about to start. It is for the benefit of the latter that we especially write. There is no doubt that the most critical moment for a young believer is when he is called upon to make a start for himself, to begin a voyage across the great ocean of life, with apparently no hand on the tiller but his own; we say apparently for reasons that will be seen further on.
The Start
To start is a very real thing, but may take place actually in a variety of ways. To young men, for whom we now write, it occurs when the well-thumbed lesson books are finally laid aside, and he goes to the factory or the office for the first time, or the apprentice gets his first instructions in the future trade, or the high school graduate leaves home to go to college. That which makes the act so serious is not the mere fact that the steps which were only yesterday directed to the well-known school, are now turned to the office, the factory, or the college, but that the boy has all at once sprung into the man. It is true that at times he seeks to blossom into the “genus homo,” even at school, but this is distinctly premature. But when once a boy enters a profession, a trade, or any other calling, and begins to fight the battle of life, he justly expects to be considered and regarded, at least, a young man.
The Dangers
Herein lies the chief danger for the young Christian. Up to this time he has taken all that his parents have told him for granted. He has steadily attended the well-known church, chapel, meeting, or Sunday School, where he first learned the value of the blood of Christ; and, shielded in a comfortable home from temptation, he has caught, hitherto, but stray glimpses of the sea of wickedness without. But now comes the time when his principles are to be tested. He is sent away to a strange city, he lives in lodgings, he is thrown among a set of godless, careless, and often immoral young men; he is surrounded on every side with new and strange temptations. Oh, how many dear bright young believers have made shipwreck of their faith on these fatal rocks which are met with on first sailing out of the harbor of home! The first month at a time like this, very often has a great influence on a young man’s life for years to come.
How to Meet Them
If being forewarned and therefore forearmed, he leave his home a bright, happy Christian, prepared to stand for God, and test, in a fiercer fight, the strength already gained in many a little skirmish at school; if he firmly believes in the truth that if the devil is resisted, he will flee from him and shows his colors at the first opportunity at his work and in his leisure hours; if on the first night in his lodgings he opens his Bible, and, after reading God’s Word, prays to his Father in heaven, the victory is as good as won. In the first place, he is at once saved from a thousand temptations by showing his colors, for the really vicious at once shrink away from an openly declared Christian, and will seldom long trouble a man who at once stands up against them. In the second place, the stand he has taken, to a certain extent commits him for the future, and makes his life comparatively easy in the days ahead. Third, he having honored God, God will honor, protect, and strengthen him.
We Have a Father to Guide Us
But now there is another matter, and it is this. We spoke of the young man starting on the voyage of life, his hand apparently holding the tiller, and guiding the ship. Now many a young man, and even a young believer, thinks that this is not only apparently, but is really so, and that he is the architect of his own fortunes, and that it is his will that is to direct his future life. Many accept Christ as their Saviour, who have but a very faint idea of what it is to accept God as their Father; and yet the one relationship is as true as the other. And if the one makes them happy for eternity, the other is certainly the secret of true happiness for time. There is a wonderful difference between the young man who goes forth rejoicing in his own strength and sagacity, and thinks that he can outwit the world, and the humble Christian who leaves home placing the tiller of the little vessel of his life into his Father’s hand, and trusts Him to guide him aright through the dangers and difficulties of each day. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Do not think that any detail of your new life is too small for God to guide you in. The choice of your business, of your future home, of your companions, should all be entrusted to Him; and He will greatly own and honor such confidence, and lead you in the very best path. For it is folly to suppose that if we have a loving and all-wise Father, He would or could do anything else. The poet’s words are indeed true:
“All that God does, or suffers to be done,{br}That we ourselves should do,{br}Could we the future of our lives as clearly scan,{br}As He does now.”
The Bible Our Chart
Start then in life with a definite trust that God will guide, and though you apparently are steering the ship, get all your orders from above, so that, after all, it is His hand, not yours, that is really holding the tiller. One other word and we have done. A ship requires a chart and compass as well as a rudder. Now the Christian’s chart is the Word of God, which shows him his course plainly down here, telling him that his first object should ever be, under all circumstances, the glory of God; that he is left here for this very purpose, not to please himself, but Christ. The compass is the conscience, instructed by the Word of God, that tells me in an instant when I am out of the true course.
Make a Good Start
We would again entreat every young man just about to sail out of the harbor, to make a good start. If he wavers at first, or yields a little for the sake of peace, he will not get it; but, on the contrary, he may be drawn on, little by little, from bad to worse, until no outward sign of Christianity is left at all. A bold front at first, saves a great deal of trouble and fighting afterward. Be sure, however, that the trust is not in your own strength but that every step is taken with prayer and dependence on God. As for the future, leave that with your heavenly Father, seeking only to live each day more truly to His glory than you did the day before. Such a course is worth a hundred sermons, for who can tell the mighty power of the unconscious influence exercised by a consistent Christian life?

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Marriage

Before closing this chapter, we would bring before you a few thoughts on the important subject of marriage. To young men marriage seldom comes as a beginning in life; for, generally, they have been out in the world some years before. But to girls, and especially to those who are not compelled to labor for a livelihood, marriage is often the portal through which they are introduced from the quiet seclusion of home into the vast world without. Many children of God have from time to time borne witness as to the vast importance for good or evil of this momentous step. It has been shown by instances drawn from real life, and by the direct Word of God, how this union, to be blest, must be in the Lord (that is, both husband and wife children of God), and of the Lord (that is, both naturally and spiritually suited to each other, and His guidance sought in the matter). We do not now allude further to this, save again to point out that more young Christians are wrecked, and the fair promise of their young lives blighted, by hasty and ill-assorted marriages, than by anything else. To those who read these lines who are yet unmarried, we would earnestly say, above all things honor God in this step. Let no inclination, no apparent worldly advantage, lead you to overlook the fact that as surely as you are God’s child, and as surely as He is your Father, so surely as you sow you shall reap; and if you, with your eyes open, disobey Him to please yourself, you must inevitably suffer deeply for it, whereas if you seek in this truly to glorify Him, He will uphold you.
How to Act in Married Life
We will suppose, however, that you have taken the step, and that no objection is to be made to your marriage, there still remains the question, How are you to act in your new relationship? In the first place, never let the new scenes and occupations interfere with the old duties—daily private reading and prayer. This is the anchor of your soul, and if you have already experienced the blessing of it in your youth, it is worse than folly to neglect it now. Next, as in business, so here—it is the first step which is all-important. Let it be plainly understood at the outset by your new connections and friends that you are a believer. Finally, have a definite object before you for attainment, and that is to glorify God in the new sphere in which He has placed you. Let nothing obscure this object, but let it quietly underlie all your actions, and you will be blessed in all your relations. Not that such a steady course is easy. You will have to strive through many crosscurrents, especially when your interests, or those of your children, seem to point one way, and God’s glory another. But if it is the constant habit of your life to know and feel that this is your object, you will be greatly helped at such times, and—by God’s grace—ever gain the victory.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Backsliding

We have three great enemies ever seeking to overcome us the world, the flesh, and the devil. And in proportion as we give place to any of these, we depart from God. These three we find in Peter’s case in Luke 22. In verses 45 and 50 he it led away by the flesh, in sleeping when he should have watched, in striking when he should not have resisted. In verses 54 and 55 he is led astray by the fear of the world: first, in straying far from Christ’s side; second, in fellowship with His enemies. And, last, in verses 57, 58, and 60, he is thrice led astray by the devil: to deny Christ, to swear, and to deny Him again.
One might, indeed, say such a course is foreshadowed in the first Psalm. The counsel of the ungodly, the dictates of fleshly reason, led to the smiting with the sword; standing the way of sinners is illustrated by standing and warming himself; while sitting in the seat of the scornful is found in verse 55.
The Path of the Backslider
And now, what about yourself? Listen to the following words:
There is no heart in the wide world so unhappy as his who has been drawn aside from the holiness and joy of obedience to paths of self-seeking and of sin.
“What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,{br}How sweet their memory still!{br}But they have left an aching void{br}The world can never fill.”
And such is the language, in poetry or in prose, of the soul whose earliest love has been left; who has, alas, in some way or other, forsaken the Lord for the enjoyment of the favors of the world.
“My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Such was God’s lamentation of old. How rightly He styled Himself
“THE FOUNTAIN OF LIVING WATERS”—the source and spring of blessing; and how solemnly descriptive is the expression, “broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” of the experience acquired by departing from Him.
He knows where the blessing is found. We, alas, often through seas of sorrow, have to learn that the cisterns to which we have recourse are, in truth, broken, and that they hold no water, and that there remains, as the only result of our declension, an aching void, a distracted and discontented heart — a state of soul, indeed, which had no parallel in the most wretched hours of our unconverted days.
Ah, beneath many a smiling face, behind many a ringing laugh, underlying much forced activity and unnatural effort, there is to be found a heart of misery, that seeks by these means to conceal the fact of its departure from God.
And yet how vain that effort—how hollow that laugh! The stag may continue to bound gaily over crag and moor, and the bird may soar awhile swiftly on high, but the gunshot wound is doing its work, and, sooner or later, the gay bounding will cease, and the strong wing will droop. So, too, the Word of God will prove effectual, though long slighted; and the wayward soul, though brought by paths of deep and searching trial, will find that the love wherewith it was loved was an “everlasting love”; such a love as could turn its eye, full and forgiving, on a poor failing Peter, and effect by its silent, yet wounded look, his entire restoration.
Thou Hast Left Thy First Love
Do you not own and feel the truth of these words? Can you not recall, with an aching heart, the bright and holy memories of the past, the once loved Bible, the place where “prayer was wont to be made,” the happy work for your Lord? It may be some poor, cold, formal task, professedly for Him, still occupies you, but all the time you hear His voice ever saying, “Thou hast left thy first love.” You have gradually not only left the things you once loved, but returned to those you once hated for Christ. The ensnaring novel, eating away your brain and time, the worldly song, the amusements of this world, are all binding their chains around you, and you are not happy. You try to be, but you cannot succeed. You envy the happy carelessness of the dead souls around you. They feel no remorse; the pleasures of the world contain no hidden sting for them. They have never known and loved the Saviour you have forsaken. The voice of conscience is not ceaselessly saying to them, as to you, “You are doing wrong. You are sinning against the light.” Consider now, where was your first step of departure? Was it not so small as to be almost imperceptible? You did not begin by throwing away your Bible for a romance; you did not at once exchange the meeting for the concert hall. No! the first thing was a gradual neglect of private reading and prayer. As your heart got cold, and you lost your interest in it, the devil whispered, “Give it up; it is no use going on with a form; wait till your heart gets warm again,” well knowing that in saying this, he was cutting you off from the warmth and light. And you obeyed him. You did not read or pray this morning when you arose, nor yesterday, nor the day before. O, beloved reader, truly yours is a sad case; but yet, there is abundant grace to meet it.

Plain Papers for Young Believers: Restoration

In Christian life we must distinguish between two things that differ: daily defilement, and positive backsliding. From the one we need cleansing, for the other we need restoration.
Touching a dead body unawares brought defilement to the Israelite under the law, and so any contact of spirit with this world and evil is defiling. There is no excuse, however, for it for we are called to walk in spirit above it all; and if we get defiled by inadvertence or carelessness, we have only ourselves to blame. Still these constant defilements, practically almost inseparable from our walk in this world of sin, are quite distinct from a gradual departure, first in our heart, but after in our walk, from the living God. We have already dwelt on the steps of failure. It is our happier task now to describe the return of a soul to full joy and communion.
In the first place, we must observe that daily defilements contracted and not cleansed, are a bar to fellowship with Christ, and thus tend to lead us astray altogether. No soul that is in communion with Christ strays away. Communion (maintained by the Word and prayer) must cease ere backsliding begins. And it is because many of us are content to go on for so long without enjoying real communion in our souls with Christ that we are in such danger of backsliding. Restoration, therefore, means restoring communion. The daily defilement, in fact any contact with evil, is met by the constant washing of the Word carried on by Christ, who as Servant forever (Ex. 21:6), loving His wife (believers collectively, Eph. 5), and His children (believers individually, Heb. 2), cleanses us by the washing of water by the Word, as shown in the lovely scene in John 13.
A special provision, however, exists for the restoration of a believer, after having fallen into sin, which is set forth by the type of the red heifer in Numbers 19. The essence of this type is that it presents the application of the cleansing power of the Word, in special connection with the death of Christ (typified by the ashes of the heifer in the running, or living, water), in whose death, on reference to Numbers 19:6, we also find that all that is of this world, from the highest to the lowest (cedar and hyssop; see 1 Kings 4:33), as well as all its glory (the scarlet), has been consumed. Thus our heart is reminded not only of the wondrous love of Christ in dying, but of the separating power of this death, which we in our sins had forgotten. (The water is called the “water of separation.”) We find that these ashes were sprinkled twice, on the third day and on the seventh day, the first doubtless showing the convicting power of the Word on the conscience, leading to true confession, and the other bringing the full sense to the heart, of the love that has put all our sin away.
In the history of the Apostle Peter, we get the first of these sprinklings, when the Lord turned and looked on His erring disciple. That look broke Peter’s heart; it brought all the enormity and heartlessness of his sin to his mind, and he went out and wept bitterly. The Lord, however, did not cease His work of restoration at this point. When He rose from the dead on the third day, one of His first thoughts was for poor, erring, brokenhearted Peter. He appeared first to Simon Peter. Then, in that secret interview of which we have no details, the Lord completed the work of grace He had begun. One thing which we may learn from the secrecy of this interview is that restoration is a secret work between the soul and Christ. Another point of great practical interest is to remember that, although there may have been years of backsliding, there is no need for years of restoration. There is no such a thing as gradual restoration to Christ. When once His love has melted and conquered the starving heart, all the coldness of years is gone in a moment. And what a moment for the soul when once more the long silent voice of our Beloved is heard speaking to our hearts again, the same yesterday, today, and forever; and then at last we know the deep meaning of those words, “He restoreth my soul.”
The active work of the Lord in our soul, however, is not the first work of His grace toward us.
We must remember that from Revelation 12:10, and from other scriptures, it appears that in some way Satan has access at any rate to the outer courts of God’s presence, and his hateful business is to accuse us to God day and night. But we have One there ready to answer every charge on our behalf, on the ground of His accomplished redemption. Hence it is written, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This advocacy of Christ may long precede His work of restoration which leads us to confession according to 1 John 1:9. The one is what He does for us in heaven, the other what He does in us down here, leading to true self-judgment. A soul truly restored has a deep sense of the love of Christ, just as we get a far greater view of the death of Christ in the red heifer than we have in the paschal lamb. Two things always accompany restoration — a deeper horror of sin and all that hinders communion with Christ, and a deeper sense of His changeless love.
It may be that now the eye of someone is reading these lines who has strayed from Christ. The heart has become cold, hard, and apparently dead; and yet it is not really dead, for some feelings have passed through it, even while reading these few lines. And still, as the gradual steps of backsliding are thought over, the distance that separates us from Christ seems so vast that return seems impossible. Do not, beloved reader, rise with this hopeless thought. You may be fully restored at this moment. All that is needed is that you should turn from your sin to Christ, and fully own and confess to Him all that you have done. He will not keep you waiting years, or months, or weeks, or even days. Let there be but true, full confession, and He is faithful and just now to forgive you, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
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